HEADLINES / TRENDS l STATS l RESEARCH l MEDIA l PEOPLE

April 2011

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Science + Art + Food = Modernist Cuisine

At year’s end, when food writers compile their “best cookbooks of 2011” lists, it will be difficult to include Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (The Cooking Lab). There’s no deficiency with Modernist Cuisine; it’s just that—at 2,438 pages, a $625 price tag, 46 pounds, five thick volumes and a ring-bound volume of recipes—this encyclopedic work defies categories.

Modernist Cuisine is the culinary tour de force of Nathan Myhrvold, PhD, founder and chief executive of the patent development company Intellectual Ventures and the former chief technology officer of Microsoft. With a scientist’s eye and patience, Myhrvold spent millions, and he and his team, chefs Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, took three years creating the work. Stop-motion style photography and illustrated photos of kitchen tools and appliances that have been cut in half spotlight the work’s singular character and its painstaking attention to detail.

Modernist Cuisine touts the use of new ingredients, equipment and ways to look at old food dogma, as in cooking with extreme heat to ensure food safety. “There’s a little bit of a paternalistic attitude in the food-safety world: ‘We don’t need to worry consumers about it; we’ll just tell them to cook the hell out of it,’” Myhrvold says in an interview. “I suppose it is safer, but it does ruin the food.” One of the cooking techniques he embraces is sous vide, in which food is vacuum sealed and cooked at precise temperatures that are lower than convention calls for.

Health and safety issues get a fair amount of coverage, with segments on proper hygiene, cooking times and storage methods.

Some of Modernist Cuisine’s exotic ingredients have raised eyebrows about nutritional value, Myhrvold acknowledges, but he stands by them. “People have asked me whether some of the unusual ingredients we have in the book are really safe,” he says. “We use a gelling ingredient
called agar. It sounds exotic and processed and weird to people, but agar is made from seaweed and has been used in Japan for 1,000 years.”

One of Myhrvold’s favorite recipes, a vegan take on pistachio gelato, illustrates just how compatible taste and nutrition can be. Pistachio is a very mild flavor that is overwhelmed by the richer dairy cream and egg yolks in conventional versions. The Modernist Cuisine way employs a cream made only from the paste and oil of crushed pistachios, with some sugar, for a far more intense flavor.

With many Modernist Cuisine recipes calling for pricey, unusual equipment such as centrifuges, the work isn’t for everyone. Still, says Myhrvold, the average home cook can tackle about half of its 1,500 recipes.

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Tart Cherries Spur
Post-Workout Recovery

Looking to recover faster after intense exercise? You may want to check out tart cherry juice, according to a team of British researchers writing in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Scientists at London South Bank University gave 10 seasoned athletes one ounce of cherry juice concentrate twice a day for seven days before and two days after strenuous strength training.

The participants regained 90% of normal muscle force within 24 hours, compared with 85% when drinking other types of juice. Calling this a “significant” difference that could benefit subsequent workouts, the researchers believe that the antioxidants in tart cherries helped reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.

 

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Calendar

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 2011

THE IDEA: Raising public awareness of oral cancer, which has a poor survival rate because it is often discovered at an advanced stage

SPONSORED BY: The Oral Cancer Foundation

ACTIVITIES: Walks, seminars and other events in addition to screening week, April 11-15

CONTACT: ww.oralcancerfoundation.org, 949-646-8000


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Quote

My grandmother, she started walking

five miles a day when she was 60.

She’s 97 today and we don't know where she is.


—Ellen DeGeneres

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WORD

GENE

The basic unit of heredity. Combined into long strands called chromosomes, genes determine external traits, such as eye color, and internal ones, such as enzyme function. Small differences within a gene, known as alleles, account for each individual’s unique characteristics. (To learn about the interaction between nutrition and the rapidly developing field of genomics, see “Gene-Based Cuisine”.)

 

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Low D Levels Linked to
Poor Lung Function

Reduced lung function can occur as the result of various respiratory ailments including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Now a team of Australian scientists has found an association between lung difficulties and low levels of vitamin D.

Researchers at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in West Perth compared lung development among mice deficient in vitamin D to that in mice with adequate levels of the sunshine vitamin. They found that the D-deficient mice had substantially lower lung volume and higher levels of airway resistance, both signs of poor lung function. The team’s findings were published in the online version of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

“For the first time, we have demonstrated a direct role for vitamin D in causing decreased lung function,” says lead researcher Graeme Zosky, PhD, head of the institute’s Lung Growth and Respiratory Environmental Health Group. “The differences we observed in lung volume and mechanics raise serious concerns regarding the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in communities around the world.”

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