I just finished the first section of Modernist Cuisine which goes over the history which eventually lead to this book being written. This is my first impressions as I begin to immerse myself in this six volume tome.
The first thing that strikes me is that the books are huge, beautifully illustrated works of art. Except for the last volume, which is more of a quick kitchen reference, each book is in itself a coffee table book which can be left out for guests to leaf through and admire. This is where the first fault becomes evident. In its attempt to be a work of art it forgets that its utilitarian purpose is to be read. This is made difficult by the size and weight of each volume (the whole set weighed in around 47lbs.) which requires a coffee table or desk to read. While not a deal breaker it does put a crimp on being able to read a couple of pages before I go to bed each night. The book more than makes up for this short coming by sporting easy to read text and an easy to follow writing style.
As I had stated, the first section revolves around the history of cooking leading up to the modernist style. While very well written and packed full of informational tidbits such as short exposes on most of the important figures in modernist cooking today, it does show the inherent short comings of history being written by an impassioned insider instead of an objective historian. The text often comes off as defensive, lamenting on how the movement is often misunderstood and then aggrandising itself by drawing comparisons to the Impressionist art movement. This would be a completely valid comparison if done by an impartial observer but comes off a bit self serving when written by someone who can be considered a participant in said history. To the author’s credit, he does acknowledge it is a history as far as he saw it and others may have different versions to tell. The text also seems schizophrenic at times. At one point it seems to lament on the lack of legal protections for recipes but then tells us that a good modernist chef rejects secrets and instead seeks to share their knowledge with others. A more objective writer might have balanced the discussion of intellectual property by musing on whether or not the lack of legal protections has in fact fueled the creativity that is the hallmark of the modernist movement.
Once past these few glaring injections of the author’s ideologies, the book is actually shaping up to be a great read and a good start to what could be the seminal cookbook on modernist cuisine. It will also probably be the first one I read cover to cover instead of just rifling through to find some ideas for dinner. The next few chapters consist of a microbiology primer and fundamentals of food safety. I will post another review when I am done with those.[read this post in: ar de es fr it ja ko pt ru zh-CN ]