NY Times Tackles Modernist Cuisine

Michael Ruhlman tackles the 1,500 page “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking” — a self-published six-volume masterwork by Nathan Myhrvold.

I was left wondering how a book could be mind-crushingly boring, eye-bulgingly riveting, edifying, infuriating, frustrating, fascinating, all in the same moment. Every time I tore myself away from these stunning pages to emerge for air, I had to shake my head so hard my cheeks made Looney Tunes noises. […]

To do it critical justice would require numerous reviewers, versed in physics, chemistry, microbiology, nutrition, mechanical engineering; a chef who practices this rarefied spectrum of the craft; a traditional chef, and a food journalist.

I will get this out of the way fast. The text, and there is a lot of it, is proficient and as compelling as my high school science textbooks. But artful prose is not the point. While the quantity of aspirin required to read this straight through can be measured in thousands of milligrams, the goal was clarity and thoroughness, and the information is indeed clear, sound and, if anything, too thorough. Buried in the verbiage is a treasure of insights, some truly original, some familiar but described from new and compelling angles. Sometimes overly proud of itself, at other times it is recklessly (and admirably) opinionated.

The six-volume Modernist Cuisine is available now for the low, low price of $460. My guess is this would make for a useless cook book, but look purdy as a coffee table book.

Update: Nathan Myhrvold responds to the review. It’s a nice counterpoint to Ruhlman’s often schizophrenic review.  “It seems that he found it useful in the ways that I most want it to be used – as a reference work that opens up new culinary vistas,” he says.

My big regret is that I’ll never be able to afford the price tag on this to judge for myself. The pictures, I’ve seen sure are pretty though. [thanks to @chrisamirault for the pointer]

Comments on this entry are closed.