So I did it. I read the whole thing – all five volumes. “But the last one is just recipes.” Yes, I know – I read all of them. And I’ve been able to cook over 30 of the 1522 recipes, which, granted, is just scratching the surface but it has given me some perspective. So, have I learned anything?
I can’t list everything I’ve learned or picked up from The Work (as I like to call it), but some of the main takeaways from Modernist Cuisine off the top of my head:
Concentration And Purity Of Flavor: Taking humble neutral ingredients, like milk, oil and water, and infusing them with flavor so they add extra punch to whatever you’re making. An example is using a centrifuge to extract clear juices from fruits and vegetables to use in place of water for stock. Also, keeping flavors intact by cooking food just to the point where it’s warm but not transformed to a cooked flavor.
Technology Is Your Friend: Why spend all day on a stock when a pressure cooker can make it in an hour? Why spend hours waiting for something to freeze when you can dip it in liquid nitrogen? Or, on the other hand, DO spend days cooking a tough piece of meat using sous vide. Instead of boiling, slow cook an egg and get a yolk like a custard. These innovations can create extra time or new textures and flavors that can’t be done with traditional techniques.
Science!: Now I can troubleshoot much better when something goes awry and can predict how something might turn out because I understand food’s physical properties. This has also made me a bore when going to restaurants. I try to keep it to myself.
Wash Your Hands Properly: enough said.
They say that over 40,000 copies have been sold. I wonder how many people have read the entire set. Of those, I wonder how many aren’t in the food industry. Perhaps I am an island…
But either way, what’s next? I remember someone once told me you read a book three times: once to read it, a second time to study it, and a third time to enjoy it. Well, I guess I better get back to it. Again.