Food (and cooking) probably has more myths than almost any other subject (can even put the combined conspiracy theories of Michelle Bachmann and FauxNews to shame). It has more wacky nonsense ideas than even Orly Taitz could invent. Food is loaded with nonsense, once again a mixture of insanity (or just ignorance) and cynical manipulation (selling you snake oil for a hugely inflated price).
At the same time relatively little of science or scientific method has traditionally been part of the food conversation, but in the constant search of novelty it seems to all the fashion these days. I draw a line with Alton Brown popularizing food geek on FoodTV but on the even bigger money making side we have “molecular gastronomy” fad, leading to all sorts of expensive must-have kitchen devices and ingredients. The Internet, of course, fuels a lot of this because: a) we can get lots of information (most of it wrong), b) we can find all sorts of unusual things to buy even Whole Foods or Sur La Table can’t match, c) we can spend lots of money but then have lots of oneupsmanship topics on the tip of our tongue to impress (aka irritate) other foodies, and, d) we have lots of other foodies to talk to, in blogs and discussion panels, given we’ve bored all those near us to death with our ramblings.
So by a series of chance events (and a little xmas gift money to spend) I’m the midst of my own fog of simultaneously reading. I suppose it started by chance viewing of Cook’s Country TV show (almost as high as AB on the geek scale) but also some pop science TV show on gastronomy that revealed my personal dream (were I equally rich and could blow my fortune on toys) as Nathan Myhrvold’s 22lb opus, five volume, Modernist Cuisine, (imagine hiring your personal staff of cooks and scientists and photographers just to play in a kitchen with every imaginable toy). Not having $451.47 to spend (nor even $103.23 for the home version, at least just with only one book) I started looking for other books.
As usual the brilliant marketing ploy known as Kindle (with all those free samples) sucked me into blowing my xmas gift money, but as a consequence I’m getting various points of view. You see, not everyone is excited by all this and things much of it is just a way to separate fools from their money, in short people with more money than brains who will believe every culinary rumor they find on the Internet. So here they are:
Michael Specter: Denialism (boy does he hate Whole Foods)
Robert Wolke: What Einstein Told His Cook (does he have fun debunking some trendy myths and even old scams)
The Super Chefs/Scientists
various: the kitchen as laboratory (whatever you call it, lots of chemicals and weird stuff in the kitchen)
The Thorough Geeks
America’s Test Kitchen: The Science of Good Cooking (more experiments and tips that you can possibly assimilate but some very interesting unconventional ideas Grandma didn’t teach you)
It’s really fun mashing all these up together and flipping (just like channel surfing, being the typical male who can’t watch the same program for more than 20 milliseconds) while grinding away on exercise equipment burning up all the calories any of these books would load on me. I guess like my virtual Pacific Crest Trail hike (as an incentive to do boring exercise) I’m now on my virtual gastronomy tour, but it’s also fun getting some contrasting (and contradictory) opinions. Who said politics or religion are the only things to argue about?