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The Art and Science of Cooking

Author: Dr. Weiss, with quotes from Dr. Ian Thompson | Category: Of Interest | September 28, 2014

Nathan Myhrvold ( began college at age 14, received his PhD from Princeton in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics under Stephen Hawking at age 23, and then went on to co-found a computer startup that Microsoft purchased for $1.5M when we was age 27. In 2000, he co-founded the hugely successful Intellectual Ventures. I don’t know what you think, but I would call this “the fast track”.

While he still is an active and prolific scientist and inventor, his primary passion is cooking. Not the type of cooking you and I do. Not even the type of cooking we see from the master chefs on TV. No, he is part of a new field (Molecular Gastronomy) that he has captured in his six-volume (2438 page) masterpiece entitled “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking”. I hesitate to call this a cookbook; it is more of a treatise. And I hesitate to call the content recipes; they are more protocols. Whatever you call it, it is one thing for sure; an amazing piece of work in terms of content and beauty. (See example images from the book).

The technical information in this book is astounding, but is it approachable? Some of it, perhaps. Other parts, not so much. For example, how many cookbooks do you know that discuss Fourier’s Law of Heat Conduction, complete with Partial Differential Equations? How many cookbooks do you know of that provide a graph of heat dissipation in a barbeque in three dimensions? That will certainly come in handy for their 

burger protocol, which by the way, is a 30 hour protocol.

What about equipment? You will need pots and pans for sure, but you will also need a benchtop, high-speed centrifuge, an immersion circulator, liquid nitrogen, a pH meter, well, you get the idea.

Our very own Dr. Ian Thompson, Executive Director of the CTRC, is a proud owner of this cookbook. Every time I see him, I can’t resist asking how the molecular gastronomy is coming along.

“I bought a sous vide sealer and ‘water bath’ and made a few things. Donna thought they didn’t taste very good (and she was right), they took up too much room in the kitchen (and she was right again), and when I tried to seal things, the vacuum sealer pulled the syrupy liquid (for carrots) into the machine and made a mess. I think both units are now hidden somewhere in the garage.”

He also told me the following about one of his recent efforts:

“I did ask Donna whether I could buy one of those industrial-size centrifuges for the kitchen so that I could make green pea butter. I think about 2% of green peas are fat – if you get enough of them, puree them properly, and then spin them in a high-RPM, industrial-capacity centrifuge, you can get the ‘band’ of butter that you can identify and make a few mcg of green pea butter. She was again not terribly impressed with my idea of knocking out the kitchen wall so that I could put my centrifuge close to the cooking area.”

“Oh well. Back to my cassoulet.”

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