Tuesday, July 5, 2011

tuesday afternoon reading

"what can I tell you about nathan myrhvold's modernist cuisine, the forty-pound encyclopedic survey of the pseudo-art form of which ferran adria is the presiding 'genius,' with its 1.1 million words spread across 2,438 pages, its 3,216 photographs and 1,522 recipes? well, I could tell you that I found some of the images--such as a series that shows a row of eggs at the instant a bullet passes through them--to be the most high-octane examples of the food pornography required to titillate the jaded palates of the developed world. I could inform you that being instructed to understand the revolution of modernist cuisine by analogy with impressionism, and talked through a sophomoric analysis of that development in painting, was a destabilizing experience. one expects in life to be talked down to from time to time, but to be patronized by a cookbook? and I could aver that for sheer self-indulgent daffiness, myrhvold's own account of being pulled a 'god shot'--the ultimate and sprititually transfiguing shot of espresso--by daniel humphries of victrola coffee at a seattle trade fair, takes the proverbial biscotti.

"still, I wonder if there's any point, because modernist cuisine, despite its $625 price tag is riding high in the amazon charts, and nothing I say will dissuade the gadarene swine from charging over this cliff-size tome. nothing perhaps except for this: one human constant you read little about in these books concerned with cookery is hunger. gabrielle hamilton is an honorable exception, admitting [in blood, bones & butter] to a fluctuating blood-sugar level that can precipitate her into dreadful tantrums. but even hamilton's hunger is foodie hunger: 'I do not get vague or generic appetite, which will be satisfied, more or less, with just anything that is handy. I will skip a meal rather than eat the corner joint's interpretation of eggs benedict...I don't eat that kind of shit.' this is alien to me--and I imagine to the bulk of humanity as well. surely the tastiness of the food is in direct correlation with the extremity of the hunger: when you're starving you will, indeed, eat any old shit."

--from "gastronomania: the beatification of our daily bread [a review of modernist cuisine: the art and science of cooking, by nathan myrhvold, chris young, and maxime biler; blood, bones & butter: the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef, by gabrielle hamilton; and ferran: the inside story of el bulli and the man who reinvented food, by colman andrews]" by will self in the july 2011 edition of harper's magazine

this strikes me as the second most singularly wise thing written about food. this is the first.

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