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Ex-Microsoft CTO Writes $625 Cookbook

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the one-helluva-ramen-packet dept.

Microsoft 176

carusoj writes "Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's first CTO, made his mark in the tech world. Now he's cemented his place in the world of cooking and food science with the publication of a groundbreaking six-volume, 2,438-page cookbook. Some of the techniques in Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine are intimidating, to put it mildly, calling for such daunting ingredients as liquid nitrogen and equipment such as centrifuges and rotor-stator homogenizers. But Myhrvold and his co-authors insist that the majority of recipes can be made in a conventional home kitchen — with a few recommended, inexpensive extras such as a digital gram scale and water bath for sous vide cooking." Dear Bosses: When you see the centrifuge on my March expense report, please note that this is a legitmate business expense. If you're still curious, we ran a story a couple years ago on Nathan's Kitchen Lab.

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176 comments

Blow it out your ear (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35429982)

you disconnected, deluded crackpot.

digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

acidfast7 (551610) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430028)

Every European kitchen I've cooked in had a gram scale (they're less the 10€ for an inexpensive model and 30€ for a decent one.) I don't understand how I got by living in the US without one ... I'm never giving it up now. Especially with baking, it's really not optional.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430178)

And doesn't everyone have LN2?
Though I'm partial to the CO2 ice cream I saw a while back (still trying to replicate that one at home).
-nB

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430506)

LN2 ice cream is the best. Start with a good ice cream recipe, then mix 50% (by volume) LN2 into the mix while stirring. Very smooth...

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430198)

For whatever reason, American cooking and recipes tend to use imperial volumetric measures(cups, half cups, teaspoons, etc.) rather than weights for most ingredients.

The imperial vs. metric thing is unsurprising enough; but I don't know why volume rather than weight is the typical criterion. Scales are certainly available, but you can traverse entire shelves of US recipes without be called to use one. Sometimes, ingredients that are commonly packaged by weight will be called for by weight; but generally in amounts that you can trivially infer from the packaging, without any measurement.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430374)

Actually, they don't use imperial measurements, they use their own version of English measurements from before the Imperial version was standardised. This is most noticeable in their wimpy definition of a pint.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430602)

This is most noticeable in their wimpy definition of a pint.

Except their definition of fluid ounce is also different. Stick with liters to stay sane!

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

mcneely.mike (927221) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431366)

This is most noticeable in their wimpy definition of a pint.

This is to go with their wimpy definition of beer.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

DaGoatSpanka (839005) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430380)

For general cooking, measurements don't need to be so exact you have to measure it to the gram.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430828)

For general cooking, measurements don't need to be so exact you have to measure it to the gram.

For some ingredients, like flour, the density can vary significantly. If you're measuring using a normal spoon the heaping varies a lot too.

I don't really know what difference it makes, I don't bake very often (once a month, maybe) and my earliest memory of "helping mummy" to cook was weighing the ingredients.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431092)

For some ingredients, like flour, the density can vary significantly.

That's why when the amount is particularly important you are usually supposed to sift the flour. Even so, most of the time it doesn't matter that much.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431686)

... but it's better to have more sensitivity than you need.

If you're measuring 200g of flour, say, you'd be happy with anywhere from 190 to 210 -- it's not a worry that the scale gives you more precision than you need.

The nicest thing about digital scales is that they usually have a "tare" button, so you can plonk your mixing bowl on top, tare, add an ingredient, tare, add the next ingredient, and so on.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432182)

If you generally cook stir fries, roast, pizzas etc then no, you don't. It's very important if you're baking, though. Too much/little flour/egg/water/salt/yeast/sugar etc, and at too high/low a temperature for too short/long a time can ruin whatever you're attempting!

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430538)

Also, through the wonders of technology, most digital scales have a button that switch between ounces and grams.

What will they think of next?

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (3, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430644)

There's no mystery here. That's just how it's always been done, and for very good reason: To measure a volume, all you need is a cup with a line drawn on it. Meaduring weight or mass with the same precision requires a scale. Since humans generally prepare food at SATP, these are pretty reliable metrics.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (4, Informative)

Sax Maniac (88550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431048)

Digital scales are quite handy for cooking. I use them more and more often, the more I cook. First, it's really great for things like flour or other loose/granular things where the volume varies wildly, and you want a consistent result. All you have to do is weigh out a few cups of flour, and compare it against the box weight, to see how inaccurate volume can be at times. Cakes and breads dramatically improve with a scale.

Once you figure out the weight of something, you can reuse it, since we tend to the same make recipes a lot. I annotate my most-used recipes with weight. Using a scale also saves dirty measuring cups and spoons, since you can tare the scale, add the new ingredient, and repeat indefinitely.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (5, Insightful)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430730)

Traditional cooking is more of an art than a science. It's a lot easier to eyeball volume than it is weight. I rarely cook from recipes, but when I do I rarely ever use measuring devices. I know what a cup of liquid or a teaspoon or tablespoon of this or that looks like. A pinch or a dash is a perfectly fine measurement for cooking. In other words, it just makes sense.

This new style of chemical cooking is exactly that, chemistry, and things need to be very precise to get the wanted result. You need a scale to properly measure the ingredients to make gels, bubbles, etc. correctly.

As a side note, baking is less cooking and more of a science. Sometimes you will see bakers using scales and you need the right proportions of leavening, salt, etc. to gain the desired effect. It's very easy to make flat bread if things aren't done correctly.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432388)

Yep, hence the baker's percentage: all the ingredients of the recipe specified as a percentage of the flour weight, including water.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430746)

This is not an Imperial/English/metric thing.

My English grandmother used to use an analogue scale (since replaced with a digital one) with Imperial measurements for baking. Assuming she knows how, I expect the digital scale is set to lb/oz.

I much prefer a digital scale: I put the mixing bowl on the scale and hit "tare". Not needing a weighing boat means one less thing to wash up.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431104)

That is why I find the difference so curious. I'd be totally unsurprised to find that Europeans were measuring their volumes in milliliters and Americans in cups. The fact that kitchen scales(metric or imperial) are comparatively rare in the US and comparatively common in Europe is what is less obvious...

digital and analogue scales (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431902)

I figure a digital scale would be more precise than trying to read the exact position of the dial on an analogue scale (for me, it's small packages rather than cooking ingredients; it's particularly important there since postal pricing increments at each weight level rather than being simply proportional.)

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430854)

For whatever reason, American cooking and recipes tend to use imperial volumetric measures(cups, half cups, teaspoons, etc.) rather than weights for most ingredients.

For whatever reason? It's for an obvious reason; It's way easier! You can eyeball most measurements and you don't need a digital scale (lol, never seen one of those used in home cooking ever)

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

aliquis (678370) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431020)

Here in Sweden / Europe regular recipes use volume measurements to.

But the professionals don't agree with the response you got from someone else. Volume isn't good enough, with weight you get a better measurement and therefor increase the likelihood of a good result.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431076)

It's mostly because we are morons.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432088)

Imperial measurements are way more efficient at converting portion sizes, than say metric measuring.

Try this next time you see a 100% metric recipe for 6 people (say 1gram). Convert it, in your head, for 8 people. Or one for 6 and covert it to 14. Most imperial measurements are divisible by 2,3,4, 6 or 8 quite easily. Which makes for measuring without the need for a calculator in the kitchen. Look, I'm a big fan of Metric in a lot of cases, but in the kitchen is a rare exception.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432148)

Well duh - they're not called "Imperialist infidel scum" for no reason...

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430200)

And as far as digital scales go, you might be also interested in this [wmf.com] [wmf.com] digital spoon scale.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430292)

Being a US citizen who knows which end of the knife is the pointy bit, I'd safely say that a fair amount of people think that making instant pudding or oatmeal is cooking.

Once the boomers die off, we're going to be a nation of people who think making bread is a mystery best left to professional bakers when in reality it's probably one of the simplest things in the world to make.

I wouldn't trust the average person from my generation to be able to successfully preheat an oven, make cornbread in a skillet ( from a mix or scratch ), or even brine a pork chop, let alone figure out how to use a digital scale.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430528)

They're becoming much more popular in America, too. More recipes are being published with weights rather than volume measurements, too, although not nearly enough.

I think many of the recipes in the book actually need a scale with more precision than one gram. Some of the ingredients used, such as xantham gum, can have radically different effects on a sauce at 1% concentration than at .5%. For 100g of sauce, you need a tenth of a gram precision.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (3, Interesting)

Artraze (600366) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431002)

Agreed. If you can't do a least one tenth of a gram, you'll be back to volumetric measures for salt, spices, additives, etc. And while volumetric measure for them is generally more reliable than, say, flour, accuracy for them can be more important (as you mention). I think that hundredth of a gram is ideal, particularly if you're experimenting with smaller batches. Incidentally, just last night I needed to weigh spices in the range of 0.5 - 4 g. (I personally use an old digital lab balance precise to 1mg, but that's only because it was free; measurements better than 10mg aren't really feasible or worthwhile in the kitchen.)

I think the gram precision thing is more an issue of dynamic range... Most people are using their scales for weighing out flour, confectioners sugar, etc. These things are usually needed in the 500g range, and coupled with the weight of a measuring bowl, you need a scale that can handle 1kg or so. That means a gram scale needs a range of 0.1% and a hundredth gram scale would need 0.001%. That's expensive, and so most cooks would rather just buy something cheap for flour that does ~5g and stick with volumetric measure for spices. Of course, they could always get two scales, but that would be crazy ;).

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432370)

I think many of the recipes in the book actually need a scale with more precision than one gram. Some of the ingredients used, such as xantham gum, can have radically different effects on a sauce at 1% concentration than at .5%. For 100g of sauce, you need a tenth of a gram precision.

The obvious answer to that (if you can't just make an industrial-sized batch) is to make a supply of stock diluted to a low enough concentration that the ingredient can be accurately measured. Then reduce the amount of water or oil or whatever it is you diluted the stock with.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430614)

Most things have a rather uniform density, so the volume:weight correlation should hold. The only thing I can think of that doesn't is flour, in which most recipes call for "sifted" flour.

Just speculating, but I'm guessing that most American recipes were originally taught with being written down. My grandma, (and I imagine every one that cooked in the family before her) would "cook by touch". A 'cup' was a cupped hand, a tablespoon was a table spoon, a teaspoon was a tea spoon. Hell I've seen actual measurement spoons for a pinch and a dash. I mean seriously? Eventually those recipes were written down standardized using volume.

Also, do you add liquids by weight too?

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430792)

Also, do you add liquids by weight too?

I can't speak for the parent, but when I'm baking I certainly do. Home volume measures just aren't precise enough to get really controllable, reproducible results. Besides, if you're already weighing out your flour, it's easier to hit the tare button and weigh in some water than it is to get a measuring cup.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (0)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431194)

There are some Indian spices I cook with that I can't imagine would be measurable on a cheap kitchen scale (1/4 - 1 teaspoons), but make a huge difference. My girlfriend once made something with 1 tablespoon of parsley instead of 1 teaspoon. Ground parsley does not weigh that much at all. The weight difference between a tsp and Tbsp are rather slim, but you certainly can taste it.

Unless it's the 1st time I'm trying something or I'm baking, I really don't use recipes anymore. For most things, I just go by taste.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432272)

I find that very hard to believe. Parsley is, like Basil, one of those herbs it's pointless to buy dried as it has no flavour - it escaped with all the water when it was dried.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

Vidar Leathershod (41663) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431674)

I honestly think you are trying way too hard. My wife is an excellent baker. We have no scale. Well, we have the scale for seeing how many pounds the food has added to my own weight, but anyways...

She uses cups, tablespoons and teaspoons, fractions of a teaspoon, as well as U.S. Standard pints and quarts. We have some British recipes that use "gills", which we convert, along with the required imperial conversions. I'd have to ask when I see her, but I am most positive that things get adjusted based on other environmental factors. All I know is that the product is consistently excellent, and I know what the taste and texture will be unless the thermostat in the oven breaks (again), in which case everything suffers from the burning wrath of GE.

*Product may include: Cakes, Pies. Pastries both Savory and Sweet, Cookies, and Breads, including Popovers/Yorkshire Pudding, muffins, Cheesecake, Meringue, and myriad other delights.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430968)

Also, do you add liquids by weight too?

1ml of water weighs 1g, very easy. I'll usually weigh water rather than measure volume, it usually means less washing up is produced.

Old kitchens in England (e.g. in a preserved old house or castle) seem to include a balance, though it could be there for buying things rather than cooking things for all I know. Or it could be that in large quantities it becomes easier to weigh things than measure their volume.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (2)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430982)

Vegetables are the worst offenders in my opinion. Terms like "chop finely" or "chop roughly" are somewhat subjective, and changing the grain of your chop can have a *huge* impact on the volume of vegetables in a recipe. Especially stuff like broccoli or cauliflower, where florets occupy a large volume, but have a low density. I much, much prefer recipes that use weight rather than volume for measurement. I'm not too chuffed whether the weight is metric or imperial, my digital scale switches between them trivially.

Re:digital gram scale as an extra? (1)

crunchygranola (1954152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432396)

Most things have a rather uniform density, so the volume:weight correlation should hold...

For pure chemical foods this should hold (sucrose and other sugars, sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, etc.) pretty well, but organic materials (spices, flours, etc.) do have significant variation.

In brewing, by the way, accurate measurements of many ingredients is very important. Accuracy seems to make a bigger difference when making beer and wine than most types of recipes. (But then brewing is microbiology, not cooking.)

Piracy (1)

ewg (158266) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430082)

Destined to be pirated around the globe, just like his former employer's software.

Re:Piracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430132)

Destined to be pirated around the globe, just like his former employer's software.

Just like everything else.
Your point being?

Re:Piracy (3, Insightful)

Locutus (9039) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430642)

first he has to sucker the world+dog into believing it's something they must have and no other cookbook is useful because the recipes are incompatible. Using exotic equipment is a good start at making it incompatible. It'll cost a few billion in marketing to get the drones to believe they must have it and nothing else will work.

LoB

normal part of hte process (2)

l2718 (514756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430136)

It always takes time for technological advances to make their way from the workshop to the home. The first servo motors were expensive devices; today we take it for granted that a DVD player will automatically retract the platter. Same here: applying the scientific method to cooking starts as a high-end expensive hobby, but eventually the lessons learned and some of the technology will become household items.

Harold McGee for the basic science... (1)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430140)

Harold McGee for the basic science and this book for advanced stuff. Although, $625 is a bit steep.
(and of course, watch Alton Brown on FoodTV)

Re:Harold McGee for the basic science... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430590)

Even Harold McGee is excited about this. As he points out, his book was/is science and Nathan's book will be with plating and recipe ideas as well.

Re:Harold McGee for the basic science... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431038)

Harold McGee for the basic science

This, exactly this.

For anybody who doesn't know what this is [wikipedia.org] , it's pretty much an awesome text on the science and chemistry of food. Pretty much covers the gamut of the actual processes and reactions that happen when you cook.

Brilliant book, and definitely something for every food geek. I also recommend Herve This [wikipedia.org] or looking into molecular gastronomy [wikipedia.org] .

I can't see a lot of people actually using liquid nitrogen for cooking, but it's definitely on the cutting edge of some really cool science-based cooking techniques.

Some interesting cooking with centrifuges. (2)

surzirra (1977164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430222)

I read an article in a magazine [scientificamerican.com] about using centrifuges to "[concentrate] the flavor molecules in a powerfully aromatic liquid layer that is ideal for cooking." I also love Sub Zero ice cream.

Despite the coolness and interesting factor, I doubt I will be going out and buying a centrifuge or a bottle of liquid nitrogen for my next meal.

Copy-pasted recipes from Bing (i.e. Google) (0)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430234)

Seriously, I really hope he actually wrote and did not copy-paste texts from Bing (i.e. Google). Cook book authors tend to reuse others' recipes.

Re:Copy-pasted recipes from Bing (i.e. Google) (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431172)

Seriously, I really hope he actually wrote and did not copy-paste texts from Bing (i.e. Google). Cook book authors tend to reuse others' recipes.

I see you've already visited the web page by your comment below, but for anybody thinking you could just grab these kinds of recipes from a web search -- this stuff is more like a lab experiment than your standard recipe.

This is the research-science branch of preparing food. When you read just who is praising this book [modernistcuisine.com] you quickly realize these are the guys who are doing this in high-end restaurants.

I'd love to flip through this set, but, alas, I fear the pricetag is a little more than I'm willing to spend for something I likely will never be able to employ most of the techniques.

Kudos to the authors for putting this together.

Re:Copy-pasted recipes from Bing (i.e. Google) (2)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431322)

Don't you know? Myrhvold has patents on every recipe there, and plans to sue anyone who uses them without a license.

Re:Copy-pasted recipes from Bing (i.e. Google) (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432492)

Seriously, I really hope he actually wrote and did not copy-paste texts from Bing (i.e. Google). Cook book authors tend to reuse others' recipes.

Oh no, recycled recipes.

the real process (3, Funny)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430290)

What the article didn't tell us is that after the first rejection of the manuscript by the publisher, Myhrvold was overheard in his office screaming, "F*****g Wolfgang Puck is a f*****g pussy. I'm going to f*****g bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to f*****g kill Food Network!" A few chairs were seen outside in the parking lot later that afternoon as well,. . .

genetically altered mutants deciding our fate? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430302)

even more gist for the ongoing 'what's bad for us' 'hearings'? monkeys behave with more civility, & now feature => attention span than most of US? what's next? improved vaccination 'hearings'? we'll wait, maintaining our god given right to remain silent? fauxking mutants$&$&= ---- eot

Look on the bright side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430354)

His 2,438-page cookbook is still smaller than the 6,325 page OOXML specification.

Unfortunately mine runs windows (-1, Offtopic)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430388)

I have a centrifuge and tried the recipe, but unfortunately since the centrifuge is controlled by a Windows machine my centrifuge was prone to viruses and I ended up with Stuxnetmeal, about as appetizing as a Microsoft GUI.

Smell that, thats the smell of burning karma. Delish!

Re:Unfortunately mine runs windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430536)

karma fail.

Groundbreaking? (1)

teeloo (766817) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430402)

I don't see how this breaks any new ground. Ferran Adria has had all his work documented in his El Bulli volumes since the 80's and he is widely recognized as being the most influencial chef of the last decade, if not of all time. Even Heston Blumenthal is a prior advocate of using science in cooking, with his "Kitchen Kemistry" TV series. I'm sorry but Nathan Myhrvold is a barbecue champion, and is a nobody in the gastronomic world. This project smells of something an American would do -- that is, "bigger". I don't see how anyone can just make a recipe book without having the recipes stand the test of a public trial (that is, served in a real restaurant at the mercy of real critics).

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430622)

For someone actually capable of relevant name-dropping, you certainly take ignorance to another level.

Re:Groundbreaking? (2)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430728)

Funny you should mention Ferran Adria. He seems to like the book [nytimes.com] , as does David Chang:

Ferran Adrià of El Bulli has said, “This book will change the way we understand the kitchen.” David Chang, the chef and owner of Momofuku, called “Modernist Cuisine” “the cookbook to end all cookbooks.” As Mr. Chang explained, “Only someone like Nathan could do something this comprehensive and rigorous, and we will probably never see another cookbook like it again.”

Blumenthal likes it too [amazon.com] (and Wylie Dusfresne, too):

"A fascinating overview of the techniques of modern gastronomy." --Heston Blumenthal

Myhrvold has always acknowledged the contributions of people like Blumenthal, Dufresne, and Adria to modernist cuisine and to the techniques he describes in his book. That's probably why he co-authored the book with one of Blumenthal's protoges.

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431174)

If talented director X lauds director Y, do that mean that director Y's films are intrinsically valuable? I'm inclined to believe half of it is quid pro quo back scratching, friendly overture, or pure puffery more than it is sincere endorsement. I rather expect that regardless of how many pages he's filled, Myhrvold has more to learn from Adria than Adria has to learn from Myrhvold.

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431514)

I rather expect that regardless of how many pages he's filled, Myhrvold has more to learn from Adria than Adria has to learn from Myrhvold.

I expect so, too. I expect that Myhrvold would agree. Nonetheless, Myhrvold is documenting new techniques that Adria will use - and likely expand on. More importantly, Myhrvold is making those techniques more accessible to newcomers to the field than Adria has. The fact that Adria could have written a better book on the subject doesn't mean Myhrvold's book lacks value.

Re:Groundbreaking? (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431582)

I rather expect that regardless of how many pages he's filled, Myhrvold has more to learn from Adria than Adria has to learn from Myrhvold.

So? Learning from the pioneers and exhaustively documenting everything is part of science -- and, make no mistake, this is about the science of cooking.

Hell, look at the index [modernistcuisine.com] which he's made available in PDF. It's 60 pages, and as someone who cook a fair bit, I'm reading through it and see all sorts of interesting teasers and how-to's that extend beyond just molecular gastronomy. It seems to cover the entirety of cooking -- hell, it's got an index entry for Mathematica. :-P

I don't think any of the reviews of this book are just "quid pro quo back scratching, friendly overture, or pure puffery" -- looking at the information on this book, I really do think it's exactly what those quotes say. This is like Knuth's Art of Computer Programming, but for food. Yes, that sounds like hyperbole, but I've never seen any books which have all of the stuff he's got in there, and I've got some cookbooks that are used in culinary schools.

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432232)

I can't help but feel that such a thing must necessarily be, at best, an embarrassment of riches. While I understand that I am making criticisms sight unseen, the utility of focus is one of the first things a non-fiction writer is taught. Very few people are Edward Gibbon or Sima Qian. Myrhvold may very well be in that class, but its unlikely. I can't be any more definitive in good conscience without actually studying the work itself.

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430766)

As an American I'm inclined to agree. I think it's just because he was a big deal at MS that people even care, which is entirely the wrong reason. Unfortunately most Americans who aren't chefs or food critics don't know Ferran Adria is. They probably think molecular gastronomy begins and ends with Alton Brown, if they know what that is either. It doesn't help that all the food-related TV here has devolved into petty "reality TV" BS about who can do simple things the fastest. Most Americans are content to eat almost exclusively from chain restaurants and their freezers, and they will never even know what they're missing.

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431310)

Except, every person you cite here (and pretty much everyone else of importance in this kind of cooking) are saying nice things [modernistcuisine.com] about this collection.

This guy didn't just walk in off the street and say "me too", he's got some credibility on this one. He's really done actual research and documented things, and it sounds like this goes deep into the science. And, yes, it sounds like his recipes have been put in front of some world class palettes and passed muster.

Ignore the fact that he's former Microsoft ... reading about this, I get the impression he's done everything right and deserves respect on this one.

Re:Groundbreaking? (1)

c (8461) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431424)

> I don't see how anyone can just make a recipe book without
> having the recipes stand the test of a public trial (that is, served
> in a real restaurant at the mercy of real critics).

Bullshit. It's a cookbook.

Critics get food just as wrong as they get music, movies, or just about any other subjective issue, and food critics are looking for entirely different things from what a cook following a recipe might care about. Poor table service, for example, is not a factor in a cookbook. Hard-to-follow recipes, on the other hand, are mostly irrelevant to the dining experience.

The only test that really matters is whether the people who buy the book like the food they make through following it and/or the techniques they learn from it.

I hate that guy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430420)

There's something about him that drives me crazy. Maybe it's the patent hoarding. Or the smug "smartest man in the room" press that covers him. Everyone seems to hate Gates (I don't), but at least he's using his fortune to make the world a better place. Myhrvold is making solutions for billionaires and pricing them accordingly.

His Credentials (2)

crackspackle (759472) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430586)

Aside from being Microsoft CTO, from the article:

Myhrvold's academic tech credentials are supreme. He's earned degrees in mathematics, geophysics, and space physics from UCLA, and PhDs in mathematical economics and theoretical physics from Princeton University. In his post-doctoral work at Cambridge University, Myhrvold worked on quantum theories of gravity with cosmologist Stephen Hawking.

Myhrvold worked for two years as a stagier at Rover's, a top French restaurant in Seattle, and he trained at the Ecole De La Varenne. Myhrvold's culinary adventures also include a stint as Chief Gastronomic Officer for Zagat Survey, which publishes the Zagat restaurant guides.

After leaving Microsoft in 1999, Myhrvold went on to become CEO of Intellectual Ventures, a patent company he founded (along with three others) to shepherd inventions and commercialize intellectual property.

First off, how the hell does one do all this ? Second, with all his knowledge, why become a patent troll ?

Re:His Credentials (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430810)

Having worked with and for Nathan and seen his interactions with Bill and the rest of the organization, he has always been 'afraid to lose' -- at least on paper and particularly against Bill. See a pattern? 'worked with Stephen Hawking', 'for Microsoft under Bill'? Near the best, almost the best, measured against the best, and then documented as the best by sheer weight of paper. I'm not saying he isn't prolific, driven, or intelligent. I'm saying, it doesn't come to much beyond inflating his sense of himself.

Re:His Credentials (-1, Troll)

skids (119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431372)

Well, we now know what he was doing in his luxury office instead of helping the company produce decent code, at least.

New fields (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430612)

He has conquered the technical world, he has conquered the cooking world, now he needs to buy a ring and conquer the physical world by becoming the ULTIMATE FIGHTING CHAMPION!!!

Iran should buy a few copies (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430632)

Iran: "We are not using these centrifuges to enrich uranium. We are just trying out some recipes in this cookbook."

International Atomic Energy Agency Inspector: "Well, I do have to admit that the concentrated flavor molecules in this powerfully aromatic liquid layer is ideal for cooking."

Too much free time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430680)

Do I care that Mr Over-privileged, Don't-exert-yourself, PATENT TROLL (founder of infamous patent extortion corp Intellectual Ventures) is publishing an over-priced cookbook? He can stick it up his arse and die.

What a genius (1)

stretch0611 (603238) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430838)

1) He writes an (admittedly large) expensive $625 cookbook.
2) He gets free advertising on slahsdot.
3) Profit ($$$)

No need to question any steps here...

Re:What a genius (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432016)

1) He writes an (admittedly large) expensive $625 cookbook.
2) He gets free advertising on slahsdot.
3) Profit ($$$)

No need to question any steps here...

Well, those who wouldn't ever ponder buying this book won't be swayed by the 'advertising' on Slashdot. And, I doubt it's likely to be a significant number of people.

Those who might buy it are actively drooling over it. And, if you read his account of supply shortages [modernistcuisine.com] it sounds like a large number of people are already trying to get hold of it. And this was mid February, so long before Slashdot posted anything about it.

The market for this kind of book is pretty much high-end cooks and food geeks. And, it covers more than just the people on Slashdot, though there's likely a few here who are pondering it.

Explains why Windows is an overcomplicated OS. (-1, Troll)

DougReed (102865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430940)

Look at this. Is it any wonder Windows replaced /etc/init.d with a database, daemons with Services, and the syslog with EventViewer? Obviously unnecessary complexity is essential to any good modern unmaintainable OS design. Between David Cutler's idea that people belong to files and this guy... no Wonder Windows is such a mess.

I'm making dinner honey. It will be done in 2 weeks.

$0.99 ebook please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430972)

$0.99 ebook please

Seems expensive items ($9 for ebooks) donÂt sell very well. Setting the price at $0.99 allows lots and lots and lots of impulse purchases which more than make up for the lower price according to recent web articles.

Freakanomics Radio (1)

RockGrumbler (1795608) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431012)

There was just recently a very interesting podcast about Nathan Myhrvold , his company, and his approach to cooking compared to the slow foods movement.

http://freakonomicsradio.com/food-and-the-new-physics.html

Heston Blumenthal does it for a living (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431210)

Heston Blumenthal has been doing this for years. His restaurant (The Fat Duck) at Bray (West of London - hint, not cheap and a long, long wait) is world famous. Not so well known is that he also has a first class gastro-pub at Bray, and that the Little Chef first on the left on the Westbound A303 has a Blumenthal menu available - it fills up very early at weekends.

Re:Heston Blumenthal does it for a living (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431774)

... and his Big Fat Duck Cookbook is £150 RRP.

But it's a fabulous object to have around your home; like a family bible or something.

Re:Heston Blumenthal does it for a living (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431796)

Heston Blumenthal has been doing this for years.

And, if you read the article, he's got two people who worked with Blumenthal onstaff:

As the scope of his writing project expanded, so did Myhrvold's team and his digs. His first hire was Chris Young, who holds degrees in biochemistry and math and opened the experimental kitchen at Chef Blumenthal's legendary Fat Duck restaurant in England. Young then recruited fellow Fat Duck alum Maxime Bilet.

And, the guy himself has some pretty respectable credentials in the world of food:

Myhrvold worked for two years as a stagier at Rover's, a top French restaurant in Seattle, and he trained at the Ecole De La Varenne. Myhrvold's culinary adventures also include a stint as Chief Gastronomic Officer for Zagat Survey, which publishes the Zagat restaurant guides.

So, it's not like he's some putz off the street who doesn't know his way around a kitchen, or that he doesn't have some exceedingly talented people with him.

The more I read about this series of books, the more I wish I could afford it. And, at 50lbs of heft, this is an enormous set of books. But, it seems to be chock full of the science covering absolutely all aspects of how food cooks and what happens under what circumstances.

No Word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431282)

No word on the requirement for a douchebag as well or if the purchasers ego can be substituted.

Sous Vide (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431298)

It seems like sous vide cooking is quite the fashionable thing. I recently bought the cheapest slow-cooker in the shop, and was disappointed to discover that it just outputs a constant low heat, rather than containing a thermostat. Investigating the possibility of hacking a thermostat into it, I found a few references to people building a home-made sous vide bath using a slow-cooker, a temperature probe, and a temperature controlled switch.

Isn't it high time a consumer kitchen goods company made an affordable sous-vide bath? They hardly seem like the most complicated things to design or manufacture.

Re:Sous Vide (1)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431664)

There are a couple of solutions available. Sous Vide Supreme [sousvidesupreme.com] offers an all-in-one waterbath with a PID temperature controller, but no active circulation (relies on convection), for $400 or $300 depending on size. The Fresh Meals Magic [freshmealssolutions.com] is an immersible PID-controlled heater and air bubbler (to provide circulation) for $300 (up to 18 L capacity), or you can get a PID controller for $160 to use with an analog rice cooker or a slow cooker. The PID controller basically acts like a smart dimmer switch to control the amount of heat the cooker puts out. For $800 you can get a Polyscience immersion circulator [williams-sonoma.com] .

Re:Sous Vide (1)

slim (1652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431868)

Hmm, I was speculating that you could make a mass-market unit of, say, 3 litres, for under $100. Essentially it would be a crockpot with an accurate thermostat in it -- not difficult or expensive to make.

Maybe the obstacle to this is the risk of litigation if someone gets food poisoning due to misuse.

Re:Sous Vide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35432266)

Or if you're handy with a crimper, you can put together a decent setup for quite a bit less:
http://makeprojects.com/Project/Universal-temperature-controller-for-70/609/1

I started with the even cheaper version using a coffee cup immersion heater, but just added the relay to make the PID controller regulate an old rice cooker instead. My first 140 degree steaks were delicious.

Re:Sous Vide (1)

ddd0004 (1984672) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431688)

Sous Vide, huh? Maybe that's what I need to invest in. My mac and cheese with hot dogs cut up into it just hasn't had the kick it once did. I'll have to check if it will do ramen noodles too.

no joy of cooking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431362)

i read the article in wired on this. sounded like cooking food in the most pretentious and assholish way possible. but thats how patent trolls roll.

one trick-pony (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431744)

he hasnt done much interesting and creative since daparting MSFT. Makes a noisy splash with all his companies.

about as useful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431828)

as anything else Nathan Myhrvold has ever done.

don't forget the royalties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35432360)

If you think the book is expensive, wait till you pay the royalties for using his intellectual property each time you use one of his food process methods.

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