Myhrvold’s ‘Modernist Cuisine’ Inspires and Confounds –
Over the past ten years much has been written about Intellectual Ventures, the IP acquisition and licensing business, and its enigmatic founder, Nathan Myhrvold.
A recent cover story in The New York Times Dining Section, of all places, may provide the clearest insight yet into IV and its CEO.
The article, “The Conjurer,” (sic) looks at Modernist Cuisine, $625 ($467.62 on line), Myhrvold’s epic, six-volume team project intended to deconstruct food and food preparation and discover why ingredients and techniques work the want they do. Strangely, some of food reporter Michael Ruhlman’s frustrations about the book could be directed at IV:
“For nearly two weeks I lived with this extensively hyped work — immersion circulators humming on my counters, a pressure cooker hissing, food sealer and grinder hot from use beside them — and I remain frustrated that I lack so many tools and ingredients required to actually use this behemoth.
“I was left wondering how a book could be mind-crushingly boring, eye-bulgingly riveting, edifying, infuriating, frustrating, fascinating, all in the same moment. Every time I tore myself away from these stunning pages to emerge for air, I had to shake my head so hard my cheeks made Looney Tunes noises.”
Modernist Cuisine, equal parts science, artistry and bold perspective could be a work of genius or maybe just a very comprehensive work.
Blending Ingredients for Maxium Effect
Ironically, Myhrvold’s book research team shared the same 18,000 square foot laboratory built to conduct IV’s invention experiments.
It’s difficult to know if Myhrvold is just two chess moves ahead of us or really twenty-five. Is he as good as a Grandmaster, playing several related games simultaneously, or just one big one involving lot of pieces?
Modernist Cuisine, like Intellectual Ventures, may prove to be part of the oeuvre of a restless visionary not easily comprehended, or the grand design of a canny investor with the passion to turn turnips into soup.
Pictured above: The Modernist Cuisine team with Martha Stewart
Illustration source: ModernistCuisine.com