Sunday, March 20, 2011

Modernist Cuisine

Modernist Cuisine is a 6 volume magnum opus about the new cuisine that has sparked chef's imagination since Ferran Adrià came onto the scene with his wildly inventive cuisine at elBulli his restaurant a few hours north of Barcelona. 

Much has been written about this $625 tomb, but my favorite review is John Lanchester's New Yorker review which is very fair, thorough and often times very funny, like this excerpt:

The discussion of poo-eating in “Modernist Cuisine” is exhaustive, convincing, and gag-inducing. According to the microbiologist Philip Tierno, “We’re basically bathed in feces as a society.” “Bathed in feces”—not words you often read in a cookbook, but apparently poo-eating accounts for about eighty per cent of all food-related illness. Also, cat litter in the kitchen? Bad news. Toxoplasma gondii, a species of protozoa present in cat litter, kills three hundred and seventy-five Americans a year, and perpetuates itself through cat feces in a freaky way: when rodents eat toxoplasmii, their brain chemistry is changed so that they develop an attraction to the smell of cats. There’s no happy ending.

The discussion of pathogens is fascinating, but it’s something of a relief to move on to the cooking.

In the end I can't imagine spending that much on a book that is thin on recipes and large on discussion about su vide (cooking in plastic bags which as readers of this blog will know I'm not a big fan of) and has recipes that involve things like liquid nitrogen (not something I have in my pantry) don't make it something I'm itching to get.  Nonetheless it is interesting and I appreciate the thoroughness of it, but not enough to spend $625 on.  Regardless you should read Mr. Lanchester's review it's priceless.

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