Modernist cook Nathan Myhrvold’s passion for cross-section photographs has led to many a flameout. Photo by Ryan Matthew Smith of The Cooking Lab LLC via Smithsonian.
The June issue of Smithsonian magazine features this fun article about molecular gastronomy and its reigning evangelist, Nathan Myhrvold, author of “Modernist Cuisine.”
I owe you two explanations: molecular gastronomy, or modernist cooking, is the deconstruction and reassembly of food and its ingredients. The article gives the example of Mexican street-food corn reimagined as brown butter powder, freeze-dried corn kernels, and powdered lime oil. It’s the stuff of which dishes are made, just built and presented in unusual ways — think foams, gels, flakes.
Second, “Modernist Cuisine” is the molecular gastronomy bible. It includes a book of recipes that weighs 43 pounds, and five tons of food were used to write the tome.
The article coincides with the publication of the book, and along with describing food reinterpreted through molecular gastronomy, it shares Myhrvold’s take on cuisine and eating, which includes a repudiation of Michael Pollan‘s motto: “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
Following are some choice quotes from the piece (i.e., stuff that made me giggle or say, “Oh really”):
- “If you own an industrial centrifuge and don’t mind leaving the kitchen for an hour while it runs, in case it flies apart with the force of a small bomb, you can see what comes out when you spin frozen green peas at 40,000 times Earth’s gravitational force.”
- “It (modernist cooking) creates, says Myhrvold, ‘a world where your intuition fails you completely,’ where food doesn’t look like what it is, or necessarily like food at all.”
- “Call it soulless, if you will — you won’t hurt Myhrvold’s feelings, because he knows that most of what you believe about cooking is mistaken.”
The culinary feats of “Modernist Cuisine” may not suit the casual cook. Chef Grant Crilly splatters a puree of peas with an immersion blender. Photo by The Cooking Lab LLC via Smithsonian.
Molecular gastronomy is an interesting counterpoint to the slow food movement, and if you love to eat, I think you may like to learn about it. Have you tried modernist food? Do share! I have not, but I’m really interested in such an experience.