Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold
How some bored, rich nerd literally wrote the book on molecular gastronomy.
A Walletbreaking Work of Staggering Hubris
Nathan Myhrvold is not a chef, per se. He's a multi-millionaire dot-commer who made his riches at Microsoft. He's a dabbler in other words, and his absurdly expensive, absurdly long, and lavishly illustrated book, Modernist Cuisine, may very well be the last word on the subject of molecular gastronomy.
Being a nerd, Myhrvold has unconsciously chosen or has allowed to be chosen a retro typeface that bears an unfortunate similarity to one used extensively on Star Trek.
The sheer outer-worldliness of the topic threatens to bring an air of Shatneresque over-acting rather than sophistication to a trend that most connoisseurs have already judged as passe. Frankly, molecular gastronomy has a few glaring, and likely insurmountable problems in sustaining itself as a mark of high class.
For one, the highest practitioners of the form, craft, and science of anything that can fall under the definition of molecular gastronomy are not three-star Michelin chefs, but food scientists employed by the Jelly Belly Corporation and McDonald's (Nothing so outre and technically accomplished has ever come out of the kitchens of Alinea or El Bulli as has been extruded by the inventors of Fart-flavored Jelly Beans and Chicken McNuggets [an uncanny concoction of extruded protein glue that, if it does not call itself art, must at least hesitate to call itself food.]) This is hardly the fare of which elitist dreams are made of.
Dippin Dots -- the Oyster and Pearls of Molecular Gastronomy.
Alice Waters caught a fair amount of flack for her offhand comments that under-privileged youth could find the coin to eat sustainable fare if they had but spent less money on sneakers. As galling as it is to any sane person's sensibilities for someone like Waters to scold peasants for eating like peasants of today and not peasants of a hundred years ago, it is not, in fact, slow-food California Cuisine, but Molecular Gastronomy that is the highest offender in terms of upper-middle-class white people co-opting the culture of the poor and lording it over them by pricing it out of their range. In this sense, cuisine is analogous to music, and Molecular Gastronomy is the equivalent of MC Paul Barman, an undeniably talented but possibly the worst hip-hop artist of all time.
Twinkies and Chicken McNuggets are Run DMC
Moto entrees are MC Paul Barman
So where does Myrhvold's Modernist Cuisine fit in? Let's examine it: Is it over $500? Check. Is it beautifully and expensively photographed? Check So at a price of more than five Air Force Ones, Myrhvold is five times as great as Michael Jordan! In this respect, where Myrhvold falls under the rubric of Hip-Hop is the aspirational entrepreneurialism of Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and Kool Moe Dee.
Modernist Cuisine is the Gucci watch, the Cristal, the garish, crass, but undeniable bling that is the essence of what it means to be a Hip-Hop artist of any consequence. For people of a certain diminishing population of upward mobility (tech nerds, bankers, TV sitcom comedians who like to eat, etc...) there is a hesitance to splurge in an era where conspicuous consumption is not only unbecoming, it might get you stabbed.
Well, get over it!
If you've ever spent $10 on a sandwich (I'm not talking a foot-long sub here, I'm talking a single-serving sandwich, usually accompanied by some freshly-squeezed orange juice), there is no denying you are a yuppie who can afford to buy this book.
People who can afford this book: Patton Oswalt, members of Food Club
If you have read this far, you should not fool yourself that you are not one of the 0.01% world's population who can plunk down $600 on a book without fear of starvation or homelessness. Let the other 99.99% of the world laugh at you, shake their heads at your ridiculous, borderline unconscionable extravagance. You are the chosen ones. You must buy this book.