Hefty new cookbook stirs up food world passions

Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:55pm EDT
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A new widely anticipated six-volume cookbook with 1,500 recipes and a $625 price tag has won rave reviews but also a dose of skepticism.

Many food critics have praised "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking" by Nathan Myhrvold, with its scientific principals and space-age gastronomic tools, as the most important culinary publication in history.

But others wondered whether the 40 pound (18 kg), 2,400 plus tome needlessly complicates the fairly basic concept of cooking and eating.

In its review the New York Times said it "was left wondering how a book could be mind-crushingly boring, eye-bulgingly riveting, edifying, infuriating, frustrating, fascinating, all in the same moment."

Myhrvold, a multimillionaire and one-time technology officer for Microsoft, shrugged off critics at an event this week to promote the book.

"Wine is not grape juice, and cheese is not cream," he told Reuters, referring to the history and tradition of cultivating and reformulating core ingredients into foods now deemed staples.

Myhrvold left Microsoft Research in 1999 to explore his lifelong interest in cooking and food science. He spent about five years working with co-authors Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, along with a team of 36 cooks, editors, photographers and technicians on the cookbook, which sold out its first printing before it could even be shipped.

Tim Zagat, co-founder of the Zagat guidebook empire, described "Modernist Cuisine" as "the most amazing cookbook I've ever seen in my life."   Continued...