The book that launched a thousand one-eyed salutes in the pants of food geeks across the globe was the literal elephant in the room during dinner at the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory (IVL). This lab nee motorcycle machine shop is where every parametric recipe and epic image present in Modernist Cuisine was developed, created, tested, replicated and documented by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet along with a team of dozens of stagiares.
The price, by the way, does not deserve the infamy it has thus far received. After all, it is composed of five separate books. Modernist Cuisine has been lauded, maligned and coveted from here to Timbuktu. I’m not going to wax on like a bilious moon about the particulars contained within the books; if you want poncy and thorough accounts look here or here. Instead, I’m going to talk about the man whom I have grown to immensely respect and his primary research on food at the IVL.
In looking over the 30 pages of hieroglyphics I jotted into my Moleskine over the course of the dinner, I discovered that I wrote seven caricaturizing descriptions of Myhrvold, ranging from Doogie Howser to Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. Perhaps the most universally-relatable is that of Willy Wonka. When I first walked through the lab toward the meeting room that would be the setting for a too-short Powerpoint presentation joyfully narrated by Myhrvold, I was temporarily paralyzed by the fear that I might meet the same fate as Violet, and so I resolved not to touch any of the various unrecognizable doodads- including what I am convinced is a time machine- within terribly-tempting reach. read more.