Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘food’

28 SEPTEMBER, 2010

5 Cross-Disciplinary Cookbooks

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What Dracula, liquid nitrogen and hackers have to do with IKEA furniture.

Cookbooks are no longer the fascination of foodies alone. After featuring the designerly The Geometry of Pasta, we began noticing the deluge of incredibly exciting and cross-disciplinary treats disguised as cookbooks being released this season, spanning domains as diverse as art, molecular science, travel photography, hisotry, classical literature, and geek culture. Here are 5 of our favorite new cookbooks inspired by more than just food.

RECIPE FOR MURDER

From culinary journalist Estérelle Payany comes Recipe for Murder: Frightfully Good Food Inspired by Fiction — an absolutely delightful anthology of signature recipes delivered by 32 of literature’s greatest hero-villains.

The book features original artwork by illustrator Jean-François Martin, whose work has graced the pages of The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, The Los Angeles Times, and a slew of other beacons of modern journalism.

From caramel apples from Snow White’s stepmother to The Big Bad Wolf’s pig-in-the-blanket special to Brutus’ Caesar salad, this scrumptious gem of a book, fresh out of the Flammarion & Rizzoli publishing oven, delivers unexpected home-style recipes by way of your favorite fairy tales and literary classics.

Images © Jean-François Martin; courtesy of Flammarion & Rizzoli via Artslope

via @AmritRichmond

COOKING FOR GEEKS

If curiosity is your favorite ingredient and you’re more interested in the science of what happens to food beyond the blind following of recipe instructions, then Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food is your new favorite pastime. Part science book, part playground for culinary experimentation, the book offers more than 400 pages of recipes, tips and — our favorite part — interviews with some of today’s most iconic geeks across all disciplines: Writers, hackers, food scientists, knife experts, chefs, researchers and more.

Not surprisingly, this treat comes from an author with a fittingly cross-disciplinary background and indiscriminate curiosity — Jeff Potter, who studied computer science and visual art at Brown University, has used cooking with friends as a sanity anchor throughout his prolific career as an entrepreneur.

THAI STREET FOOD

Thai Street Food from scholar David Thompson takes us on an exciting journey into one of the Far East’s most widely adored cuisines with recipes that are both authentic and approachable.

It also doesn’t hurt that the book features some of the best food photography we’ve seen in years, making it as much a self-standing photography coffeetable book as it is a practical cookbook.

OAXACA AL GUSTO

Legendary British writer and researcher Diana Kennedy may be best-known as the Julia Childs of Mexican cuisine and in her latest book offers an ambitious exploration of one of the world’s most colorful cuisines. Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy features over 300 rare recipes and exclusive photographs of Oxaca’s little-known yet outstanding foods and their preparation, often guarded for centuries in family recipe books.

Among the highlights is a special chapter devoted to the three pillars of the Oaxacan regional cuisines — chocolate, corn, and chiles.

MODERNIST CUISINE

Nathan Myhrvold may be better-known as Microsoft’s former Chief Technology Officer, who studied quantum science alongside legendary physicist Stephen Hawking, but his true passion lies at the intersection of science and food. Myhrvold trained as a chef at LaVarenne in Burgundy, France, and has spent the past three years in a laboratory in Bellevue, Washington, perfecting — with his seven full-time chefs — the elaborate cooking techniques of gastronomy’s recent mega-obsession: molecular cuisine.

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is the pinnacle of his experimentation, a 2,400-page, six-volume behemoth with over 1,000 recipes that transform the kitchen into a lab. Needless to say, expectations for the ambitious undertaking have been gargantuan, which made gastronomers all the more unsettled by the recent announcement that due to packaging concerns, the book — which weighs over 48 pounds — won’t be available until March, nearly four months past the publication date originally promised.

Modernist Cuisine isn’t for everyone — besides the hardcore foray into ingredients like methylcellulose and agar approached with cooking techniques that involve liquid nitrogen and rotary evaporators, the book comes with a hefty $625 price tag. (Though Amazon is currently running a preorder discount of 20%, which clocks in at the non-negligible sum of $125 in savings.)

BONUS

Granted, this book isn’t for sale yet, but it’s too cool for us not to mention — IKEA has recently partnered with legendary art photographer Carl Kleiner to produce Hembakat är Bäst (Homemade Is Best), a new baking book featuring absurdly beautiful, artful photographs of deconstructed ingredients accompanying the recipes. Arranged by color and touched with the magical art direction wand of brilliant minimalism, the ingredients are photographed before their preparation into pastries, presenting a peculiar retroappreciative approach to food as art.

No word yet on when and where the book will be available, but it’s now firmly planted on our to-hunt-down-and-devour list.

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18 AUGUST, 2010

4Food: Dejunking Fast Food for the Digital Age

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Holes that fill a market gap, or what the iPad has to do with taking down Monsanto.

We all know the story — fast food is awful for us, dreadful for the environment, and one of modernity’s most gruesome addictions. Yet in a culture of constantly shrinking time budgets and an ever-increasing marketability of convenience, it’s increasingly difficult to reconcile our moral and nutritional ideals with our fast-paced workaholism. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, at least not if it’s up to 4food — an innovative restaurant concept aiming to de-junk fast food for the digital age.

Founded by British serial entrepreneur and ex-music-exec Adam Kidron, former CEO of Urban Box Office, and rock musician Michael Shuman, 4food is equal parts good food and digital age fixtures. Not only are orders placed through iPad-based “Dynamic Menu Boards” or pre-ordered online, but they’re also fully customizable to your lifestyle and nutrition goals. The entire operation is designed with sustainability and ethical conduct at its core — from the local, organic, Monsanto-unaffiliated ingredients to the fairtrade worker compensation to the in-store recycling and composting programs.

We bring fast food that’s fresh, delicious, and nutritious to all ages, lifestyles, incomes, and ethnicities. No fads, fillers, or anything artificial. We’re revolutionizing counter culture, in real-time.”

The restaurant’s signature product is the W(hole)burger™ — a donut-shaped beef, lamb, pork, turkey, veggie, salmon or egg patty, paired with one of 25 ethnically and nutritionally diverse Veggiescoop centers, each with unique nutritional attributes. The “holes” from the patties are made into skewers for a perfect bunless, low-carb, shareable meal.

4food’s manifesto is a fantastic epitome of what every eatery should aspire to do and be:

  • De-junked fast food is made of quality, natural ingredients and customizable to your taste and nutrition goals.
  • Our foods don’t contain any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats or oils.
  • No artificial sweeteners. No preservatives. No artificial flavor enhancers.
  • None of our food is fried.
  • If it’s soy, it’s not Monsanto* — wherever possible we purchase whole ingredients that have neither been genetically engineered nor modified.
  • Our chefs use simple and straightforward cooking techniques to prepare and cook your food to order.
  • Our cows, pigs, and sheep are humanely raised while grazing and eating vegetarian diets.
  • Our poultry and fish are fed heritage foods with no artificial growth hormones or antibiotics.
  • You know (because we tell you) where all of our ingredients come from.
  • We provide personalized nutrition facts, advice, and menu recommendations every day in—store, at www.4food.com, and printed on every receipt.
  • We charge reasonable prices, when the rights of farm workers to earn a living wage, the integrity of our food preparation, and the quality of our ingredients are taken into account.
  • Your purchases provide real world job training to individuals transitioning back into the work force—to earn more than minimum wage.
  • We compost in-store and recycle. We employ sunscreen systems, LED lighting, and purchase renewable energy credits from alternative energy generators. We’re committed to increasing our use of sustainable power as we grow.
  • We incentivize you to market your custom W(hole)burgers™ online, so that we don’t have to. The money we save on marketing enables us to purchase better quality ingredients and keep our prices down.

4food is part Apple store, part European coffeehouse, part Michael Pollan‘s wet dream. The first restaurant opens its doors at 40th & Madison in New York on September 7.

via Creativity Online

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11 AUGUST, 2010

What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets

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From Bangladesh to Brazil, or what photojournalism can reveal about food and cultural context.

In case you ever wondered, the most popular Brain Pickings post to date is our review of photographers Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio’s Hungry Planet — a grounding portrait of what the world eats, from the $376.45 an Australian family spends on food per week to the $1.23 weekly budget of a same-sized family in Chad’s poorest refugee camp. This week, Menzel and D’Alusio are back with their much-anticipated new book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets — a fascinating project telling the global story of our relationship to food through portraits of 80 people from 30 countries and the food they eat in one day.

I want people to understand their own diets better — and their own chemistry and their own biology. And make better decisions for themselves.” ~ Peter Menzel on NPR

38-year-old Maasai herder, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 103 lbs, typical daily caloric intake: 800 calories. Food staples: Maize meal and milk.

Image copyright Peter Menzel, menzelphoto.com

40-year-old Egyptian camel broker, 5 feet 8 inches tall, 165 lbs, typical daily caloric intake: 3,200 calories. Some food staples: Eggs with butter, fava beans, country bread, potato chips, feta cheese, soup, rice, black tea.

Image copyright Peter Menzel, menzelphoto.com

From a Japanese sumo wrestler to an American competitive eater to a Massai herdswoman, the book offers an exploration of demography through photography, contextualized by compelling essays from some of today’s leading food activists and thinkers, including indispensible voices on the issue like Brain Pickings favorite Michael Pollan.

20-year-old US Army soldier, 6 feet 5 inches tall, 195 lbs, typical daily caloric intake: 4,000 calories. Food staples: Mostly instant ready-to-eat meals.

Image copyright Peter Menzel, menzelphoto.com

36-year-old Latvian vocal teacher and composer, 6 feet tall, 183 lbs, typical daily caloric intake: 3,900 calories. Some food staples: Egg, rye bread with ham, cheese and butter, chicken, potato with mayonnaise, cookies.

Image copyright Peter Menzel, menzelphoto.com

Alongside each of Menzel’s photographs, text by D’Alusio outlines the specifics of the daily diet depicted and places it in a cultural context that explains why, for instance, a Brazilian fisherman of average build can consume 5,200 calories per day and an American truck driver who consumes a comparable amount is clinically obese. Ultimately, the project aims to illuminate the relationship between food and where we are, in life and in the world.

16-year-old Chinese acrobat, 5 feet 2 inches tall, 99 lbs, typical daily caloric intake: 1,700 calories. Some food staples: Yogurt, pork ribs, noodles, eggs, broth, green tea.

Image copyright Peter Menzel, menzelphoto.com

45-year-old Tibetan head monk, 5 feet 5 inches tall, 158 lbs, typical daily caloric intake: 4,900 calories. Some food staples: Butter tea, dried cheese curds, barley flour cake, noodle soup with potato.

Image copyright Peter Menzel, menzelphoto.com

Part Food, Inc., part FridgeWatcher, the project is a potent antidote to Neil Burgess’s recent rant about the death of photojournalism — What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets is a bundle of storytelling and humanity that unravels itself before your eyes, leaving you hungry to better understand the correlation between food, environment and quality of life.

via NPR

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