Modernist Cuisine

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is an encyclopedic reference that highlights the key techniques of 21st century cooking - including experimental developments by chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and El Bulli's Ferran Adrià. Costing £395, the set of five books plus index has 2,438 pages, weighs more than 18kg and was assembled over four years by a team of 36.

The books are housed in a clear perspex box and are printed to fetishistic levels of detail, above and beyond the standards of artbook photography. The high-definition photographs are beautiful and amazing: the food is shot against crisp white or black backgrounds and often captures processes or moments that occur in the blink of an eye - a bullet passing through eggs or
perfectly ripe strawberries plunging into crystal clear water - giving an air of hyperreality. Some of the images show cross-sections of pans which are literally incredible - the noodles sizzling in half a wok for example - but although Photoshop was used in the making of the book, these cutaway pans are apparently real, with heat-resistant borosilicate glass glued to the cut pots with silicone caulking. The deconstructed burger revealing its constituent parts is also impressive - anyone for 'Crimini mushroom ketchup with honey, horseradish, fish sauce, ginger, and allspice'?

One thing that irks me - and, if I had a spare £395, would stop me from buying a copy - is that I have an aversion to Eurostile, the typeface used on the covers of the books. Designed in 1962, by the Italian type designer Aldo Novarese, Eurostile is a typeface that, for me, is forever associated with the retro-futurism of The Human League on albums covers such as Reproduction and Travelogue. Although I loved those albums I hated the typeface and it was a relief when the band started to use the truly modern Helvetica on the 1981 album Dare. Perhaps I'm biased, but Eurostile does not seem to represent the forward-thinking ideas contained in this book and, with so much attention to detail lavished elsewhere, a more fitting typeface could have been chosen. Or maybe I'm missing the point.

The first edition is almost sold out with a reprint being considered.




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