A bit of further reflection on the Modernist Cuisine kerfuffle suggested two angles that the Cod had overlooked. There are two things Americans hate, it turns out. The larger conversation, which is animated, is about the cost. A commenter "Larry" left this comment both at Eater and on an earlier post here:
The emperor parades his new clothes. Probably the most self centered epic of our modern times. Wall street was revealed to be greedy and excessive beyond America's wildest dreams. Meanwhile in no where town this guy was working on a cookbook to match. Just a little late getting it out. You know what most Americans want? The want to be able to afford to buy food. They want be able to eat everyday. No one wants a $625.00 cook book filled with equipment and ingredients that are completely out of touch with main stream America.
Meanwhile, Myhrvold's running partner, Paul Allen, has bought himself the Portland Trailblazers, the Seattle Seahawks, and a yacht bid enough for them both to play on. He seems to get less flak than Myhrvold, b/c he's spending his money on yachts and pro sports franchises, like a tycoon should! Conclusion: Americans hate books. More preciseley, Americans hate books that are not produced as fungible commodities, like soap and dental floss. Modernist Cuisine makes a gesture to the age when authors sought patrons, rather than a market,* with the wrinkle that Myhrvold is his own patron.** It says something that cutting a bunch of pots and pans in half in the service of your six volume cookbook that comes in its own Lucite case is more vulgar than, say, a Mercedes 6x6 truck luxed up for wolfhunting is not.
Besides books, the other thing Americans hate is postmodernism. If you hated "molecular gastronomy," popular, but misleading, and wanted a term for the kind of cooking that has happened since Nouvelle and New International, the kind of stuff that Adria and Achatz do, "postmodern cuisine" seems obvious. It has the advantage of being roughly contemporaneous with other art forms, and may, indeed, capture something of the paradigm shift between a cook like Thomas Keller and a cook like Grant Achatz. But "postmodern," with the possible exception of architecture in Miami for a little while in the 1980s, is a thing that people know they don't want. So, we are stuck with "modernist cuisine" which will likely chase "molecular gastronomy" as the term used by people who like this sort of cooking. Being able to buy a word in the dictionary may not be a sexy as a yacht, but it's sexier than a football team coached by Pete Carroll.
*Ironically, it looks like $625 is a price point where you can sell some cookbooks. (Amazon is sold out.) It's definitely a status symbol, and if you got a Big Green Egg last year, you might the kind of person who would skimp and save and maybe even skip that meal at Per Se you've been planning, so's you can be the first attorney on your block w/ this jawn.
**Is a return to a patronage system the next step in the corporatization of higher education? Would the Koch brothers be less trouble if they controlled a university press instead of a state legislature?