It is fairly clear that I was sceptical of the merits of Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. After the fact, I thought I should probably give Nathan the right to reply and asked him if he'd do an interview with me, which he graciously accepted. You can listen to the interview below. It's also available in iTunes.
Having spoken to him and read the new excerpts I'm more convinced. I understand what he's trying to do and it's a massive task: it's codifying a particular method of cooking, from soup to nuts. He knows it's a risk, but credit to him, it's a risk that he's taken on entirely himself, even setting up his own publishing company.
I do still have an issue with the price, which is now at $500 on Amazon, compared to $421.87 when I wrote my original piece two weeks ago. I accept Nathan's argument that restaurant meals are easily that expensive and the pleasure is fleeting, whereas this will be around forever. However, restaurant meals at that price are meant to be rareified and I can't overcome my inherent bias that books are meant to be democratic and accessible to all. At that price they're certainly not, and I can't imagine many cash strapped British libraries are going to put in their orders anytime soon.
The level of research that has gone into the book is clearly outstanding. Particularly interesting was learning more about the content of the book. I was pleased with the passion with which he spoke of the coffee chapter and delighted to hear that James Hoffman of Square Mile Coffees had consulted on the chapter and praised it so highly. I also think the way they've thought about recipes is very clever, see page 6 of this pdf for more - it's an example of the way they approached the whole task with a blank sheet of paper.
I did feel a bit guilty when I asked Nathan if in the water chapter they'd dealt with it as a drink. There is a pause after I ask the question and he admits that is something they forgot. Hopefully, Nathan was not reminded of Dr Johnson as I fleetingly was.
Finally, before we get to the main event, I really have to apologise for the appalling sound quality. I need to sort out a more sophisticated way of doing these podcasts.