Nathan Myhrvold, who used to be Microsoft’s chief technology officer, has just published a £395, six-volume, 2400-page paean to the type of cooking sometimes known as ‘molecular gastronomy’. Modernist Cuisine is a luxurious and slightly self-congratulatory piece of work: a section of the accompanying website outlines every detail of the printing process (stochastic screening using Chroma Centric inks, if you’re interested); publication was delayed in order to redesign the slipcases, which had ‘failed a rigorous series of drop tests’. It’s full of amazing food-porn photographs of dishes being cooked, as well as essays on such topics as ‘Vaporisation and Condensation’ and ‘Sublimation and Deposition’.
The Guildhall Library has just finished cataloguing Elizabeth David’s archive of cookery books and memoranda, down to the last wine-stained post-it note and quite right too. It is impossible to know what will interest later generations. The Belfast Women's Institute will go down to history as perpetrators of the ‘most revolting dish’ David ever came across. A nasty confection involving macaroni, tinned pears and raw carrot it nevertheless evokes some sympathy in me, and a certain queasy nostalgia for my mother’s more elaborate efforts.