At Augusts International Food Bloggers Convention (IFBC) in Seattle, the Modernist Cuisine team prepared a dish they (rather modestly) described as carrot soup for the kickoff reception. Before heading downtown with the team, I caught Maxime “Max” Bilet and Anjana Shanker at The Cooking Lab and asked them to describe the dish they were preparing for the reception.
Max and Anjana describe their carrot soup.
The process to which Max alludes is one of many in the book that involve the use of a pressure cooker to achieve unique tastes and textures. Anjana explained that the carrot soup presented at the reception would have a better and more complex flavor than its more familiar, ungarnished form. To demonstrate, she walked me through the plating process and described the various roles played by the additional ingredients.
Anjana plates the carrot soup.
The final product was indeed a bit hit at the IFBC kickoff reception. The turnout at the Modernist Cuisine table was fantastic. The team received many compliments on both the carrot soup and the BLAD (sample pages from Modernist Cuisine) they handed out.
IFBC Kickoff Reception
But as the reception wound down, one thing stood out for me and perhaps the other fortunate tasters at the event: Calling it carrot soup just didn’t do it justice!
Dr. Nathan Myhrvold’s presentation at the International Food Bloggers Convention (IFBC) today appeared to be a big hit with the food bloggers in attendance today. Despite the rather scientific nature of the book and the presentation, the audience seemed engaged throughout. The high speed, high definition videos and high resolution photographs elicited cheers from the audience who demanded to see some of them again.
After the presentation, the audience had questions ranging from the definition of an emulsion to the source of the parasites pictured in the book. After the conference organizer stopped the question and answer session in the interest of time, bloggers lined up to talk to Nathan until the next presentation began.
Look for a more detailed account of Nathan’s presentation in a few days. Meanwhile, here are a few photos.
Is food blogging its own unique art? The short answer is yes, as I discovered during Kathleen Flinn’s “Writing With All Five Senses” workshop today. This IFBC workshop was packed with professional food bloggers who seemed to have no problem with the seemingly simple exercise of describing a lemon. A few bloggers read their descriptions aloud for the group. The ones that drew applause were reminiscent of romantic poetry, complete with sensual double entendres and emotional descriptions about…the experience of seeing a lemon. “I think porn writing and food writing at their best are very similar,” said Flinn after a particularly suggestive description.
Each exercise (touch, smell, sound, and taste) elicited emotionally descriptive and evocative musings from the audience. I eventually stopped trying to compete and just listened to what the others were writing. That, as it turned out, was the overarching message of the workshop.
“Pay attention to every moment of your life,” said Flinn in her summation of the session. “You must love something about food to be a food blogger. Challenge yourself to embrace even more something you love, because it is so easy to get caught up in feeding the beast.”
This reminded me of something one of the chefs at The Cooking Lab told me yesterday. As I watched the chefs prepare dishes for this week’s IFBC events (look for videos of this here later), I asked Max if the average person’s palate was sophisticated enough for them to distinguish and describe the complex sensations associated with what I was eating. “Well,” he said with a polite smile. “We may have to learn how to describe all of the flavors and textures we experience when we eat, but we are born knowing how to taste.”
As the subtitle of Modernist Cuisine suggests, cooking is as much art as science. This is true of eating as well. But while science can help a chef express his or her artistic vision of a meal, the eater needs to neither know the science behind it nor have the words to describe it to enjoy the result.
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