Wednesday, 9 March 2011

DInner, deconstruted

What do you do when you're richer than any human could possibly want in a lifetime? If you're former Microsoft CTO, Nathan Myhrvold, you start out advocating searching for dinosaur vomit. After all, birds will sometimes spew, and what are birds, if not modern dinosaurs? But a man has to have a hobby between encouraging people to dig for Dino-Pellets. Nathan's is running a food science lab of his own making, which has just released a 2000+ page, 6 volume set on their years of research. It's called Modernist Cuisine.

Quite a few people have written about the kitchen lab, such as this current Network Today article, and this older New York Times article that shows that its been on their radar for a while. But I've noticed people have focused on the equipment Nathan's lab has, more than the really interesting bit - he's employed a scientific hypothesis testing framework for organizing his romp through the gastronomic world. Here's an example from the above NY Times article:
The conclusions have often been backed up by careful scientific exploration. For example, confit, the French technique of cooking slowly in fat, is supposed to impart a unique taste and texture as the fat penetrates the meat.

But Dr. Myhrvold said: “There’s no way it could penetrate. The molecules are too big.”

He said double-blind taste tests proved that the same tasty results could be achieved by steaming and then rubbing some of the fat on the outside.
This isn't new to the world - people have used it before -  but even normal advocates for culinary science are applauding him for how far he's take the process with this work. Cooking, sadly, is filled with too much woo - such as the load of misinformation surrounding organic vegetables (Isn't it enough to eat them because they're sustainable?), or the linking of cost with quality (the best thing you can do to improve someone's wine tasting experience is to tell them it's an expensive and rare wine). Some rigour is nice to see.

Sadly, such a book is not for the likes of me - it's 625 dollars for the full set. I'll have to be content with this really cool hamburger deconstructed infographic from the WSJ that came with their own story about Modernist Cuisine.

photo from the WSJ infographic mentioned above

1 comment:

Arvay said...

"Isn't it enough to eat them because they're sustainable?"

Bravo, my friend! Bravo!