Being on the academic, rather than the athletic, side of the University of Oregon, I’m not gifted with my own private hydrotherapy pool, hand-woven Nepali rugs in my office, or the use of a barbershop with imported Milanese utensils — all appallingly featured in the University’s new football center that has attracted lots of much-deserved derision. (See e.g. here for an article on it.) I do, however, get something I like better: access to very good libraries. (Yes, the coaches have access to the libraries as well. For all I know, they use them as much as I do…)
Somewhat randomly, I checked out a few days ago a book that’s been on my list of things to read for over a year: one of the volumes of Modernist Cuisine, a 2,400 page foray into the structure of food and its transformation by cooking and other manipulations, that includes gorgeous pictures, recipes, and essays. There’s lots of science, reflective of its authors fondness for “molecular gastronomy.” Here, red cabbage as a pH indicator:
As the library’s summary notes, it’s full of “science-inspired techniques for preparing food. The authors and their 20 person team at The Cooking Lab have achieved new flavors and textures by using tools such as water baths, homogenizers, centrifuges…” If you ever wanted to know how to use ultrasonic baths to manipulate the texture of French Fries, here’s where to look!
I’ve checked out Volume 3 (Animals and Plants), which is mostly about meat. There are lots of nice diagrams of the microstructure of muscle, and disturbing pictures of skinned rabbits. Being vegetarian, I prefer the plant-based sections! It was also nice to see, amid instructions for making potatoes look like rocks, a recipe for dosas, the simple and delicious lentil-and-rice-flour pancakes that are ubiquitous in South India. “Exotic” is a relative term!
Coming up (next week?): What can Modernist Cuisine tell us about studying the humanities? Where can you buy a cool-looking purple onion? Stay tuned…