Site Meter

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The temple of fresh food
The other day while shopping at Whole Foods, the place aptly named since it can eat your Whole paycheck, I ran into a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  She’s a very talented artist and teacher and incredibly modest as well.  I’ve been to a number of her shows in New York City and taken a number of figure drawing classes with her as well. She is, as they say, good people.

We chatted a bit as one does with friends who are missed, about the time passing too quickly, updating one another on our busy lives, our husbands and children and in her case, grandchildren reaching milestones and then some.

She happened to mention that her adorable grandson, now in first grade, is attending a particularly interesting New York City Public School on the lower eastside in the heart of Chinatown. He spends every Monday through Friday in school until 5:30pm, in large part because he is learning Mandarin.  The parents who participate, contribute on top of whatever is received by the city of New York to fund the program.

In this multi-global world, seriously starting to master Mandarin in the first grade sounds like a smart idea. In fact, when I told my husband about it that evening he replied, “Good for him. He’ll be able to communicate with our future masters”

So if what he says is true, in my minds this all begs the question – Will Chinese people seek out American cuisine on Sunday nights when they too, don’t feel like cooking?  Do I detect the aroma of a business opportunity?  I believe McDonalds is hoping so.

My husband and I are both good cooks. We love good food and I take no small measure of pride in my collection of cookware. I’m a firm believer in quality when in comes to my pots and pans and chefs tools. They include an international cavalcade of brands with Braun (appliances) and Wusthof (knives) from Germany; Sabatier (tools), La Malle (copper and tin bake ware), and Robot Coupe (the father of the Cuisinart Machine) from France: Paderno (amazing stainless) from Italy and of course Amercia’s own Cuisinart brand. There’s more but you get the idea.

Chef Boy-ar-dee
I also have a rather extensive collection of outstanding cookbooks as well as years of back copies of Gourmet, Cooks and Bon Appetit Magazines. All of which are being culled for their most memorable recipes into my new electronic recipes card collection on Bento. The program is pre-formatted for the user to fill in the blanks with typical recipe data including the prep time, ingredients, now many it serves, and directions. Since my household has gone gluten-free in the past 18 months, my favorites and regulars have evolved to reflect this change. 

Chef Chef
But I am also conducting this electronic transfer for other reasons #1 I don’t want to end up on “Hoarders”. #2 My son has requested a cookbook from me before he leaves for college. I’ll just copy his favorites to a disc and he’ll be good to go and #3 I just love using my laptop in the kitchen instead of a cookbook. It plays music while I prep!  I embrace technology as best I can.

Chef Nathan
But I have nothing on Nathan Myhrvoid, the former CTO and chief strategist for Microsoft who cashed out his millions in 1999 and decided to pursue his passions without the need to actually earn a living. Nathan is 51 years old, holds a Ph.D. in theoretical and mathematical physics from Princeton and did a postdoctoral fellowship with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge and he loves to cook. Nathan is not just interested in the “how to” of cooking; he’s interested in what has been called “molecular gastronomy”.  So you may know how to make a hollandaise sauce but he wants to understand why it works. That’s the physics of cooking and what intrigues Nathan.

I share this as his new cookbook hits the streets. It is a six-volume set with over 2,400 pages, retails for $625, and weighs over 50 pounds. Entitled, “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking”, Nathan will make you look at cooking in a whole new way.  No novice to the professional kitchen, he moonlighted in the kitchen of a leading Seattle restaurant for two years. He has hundreds of patents issued and pending and is supposedly a world champion barbeque chef. This month there have been articles about Nathan in both Wired and Time Magazine.  He’s clearly a modern renaissance man.

Nathan has, according to the experts, perfected the French Fry. All it takes is two hours of prep and voila! perfection. Oh, you’ll also need ultrasound equipment to cavitate (create bubbles) the water for 45 minutes on each side of the potato slice, a vacuum chamber and deep-frying equipment that can be precisely controlled. Other recipes call for centrifuges and rotor-stator homogenizers. The $625 cookbook is the smallest investment required to cook like Nathan.

One of my favorite tales involves the egg. A group of his chefs (he employs 20 in his kitchen) were working on a part of the cookbook involving thickeners.  They were determined to unearth everything food scientists knew about how eggs cook. It took two weeks of experimentation but they were then able to produce a graph, which provided temperatures and the ratio of egg to liquid to plot anything from a firm Flan to a runny Crème Anglaise. You can’t find all this information in just one place and that’s just one of the over 1500 features in Modernist Cuisine. You’ll also have to purchase some new staples for your pantry, like liquid nitrogen.

Most new cooking techniques and tools; the microwave, the pressure cooker, the crock pot, have been accepted because they have made cooking easier and faster but Nathan believes there should be techniques and tools that make food better by cooking more precisely.

For those of you who may be interested in learning more about the wizardry of Nathan Myhrvold, I have some good news. His cookbook is being offered on Amazon for a mere $450.  If you’ve got the $100,000 or so on top of that for the upgrade on your kitchen appliances, I say go for it and then invite me over to sample your perfect French Fries.

No comments:

Post a Comment