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Three Kinds Of Heat

Kind The First: KC Green has been fired from his webcomic. That’ll teach him engage in vaguely autobiographical journal-style ventures! In the meantime, other creators are now chronicling Green’s life for him.

Kind The Second: The catgirl bloodbath continues at Something*Positive, with desperate survivors crying out for a savior. And lo, into this hour of despair stepped a man burning with the righteous power and fury of a thousand suns to save them in their hour of need. Ladies and gentlemen, TV’s Wil Wheaton continues his unbroken string of [web]comics badassery.

Kind The Third: I’ve mentioned my buddy Brett previously; our obsessive tendencies run in parallel directions, but there are some places where we’re never going to agree. Case in point — molecular gastronomy. He’s in favor of it, I find it offends me on an almost lizard-brain, instinctual basis.

I think it’s partly because the mad scientists that engage in dehydrating, rehydrating, inflating, foaming, and other-ing what used to be be perfectly respectable food remind me of the 1950s-era industrial boffins that gave us the vast pile of excessively-processed “food product” that we’re only now beginning to crawl out from under.

Partly it’s because while I am by no means a chef (or even qualified as a line cook), it remains a fact that had I the time to practice my craft and access to the correct ingredients, a dish of surpassing deliciousness would be within my powers. Indeed, I bake more than 50 iterations of italian flatbreads, french breads, sourdoughs, and other various rustica each year, and I’m as a result slowly getting better; by the time I die, people may say, Sure gonna miss Gary’s bread. I do not require a laboratory and millions of dollars of chemical apparatus to ply that craft.

But mostly, I think it’s because the incredible precision required to topologically alter something like (say) an acorn squash into something like (say) a balloon containing vaporized essence of burdock is to my way of thinking, the antithesis of cooking. Cooking is not precise — every squash is a little different, every day the humidity is a little higer or lower, every burdock root a little more or less burdocky. Even baking — which is much closer to science than cooking — is fundamentally imprecise … exactly what are those little bastard yeasts going to do this time that they didn’t last time?

Only by getting your hands on the ingredients and by use of all your skills and senses can things be made consistent, but MolGas depends on tolerances so tight, in conditions that resemble a Class 1 clean room more than a kitchen, the results might be called identical from day to day. You lose out on the natural variations that are the very hallmark of food, and you do so with tools like constant temperature control equipment (click on the picture for PolyScience). In my world, you don’t prepare food with “constant temperature control equipment” … you start by learning to control fire.

This is the gulf that mere friendship cannot bridge.

None of which is to say that the comic in Lucy Knisley‘s LJ that Brett pointed me towards, which recounts her visit to Alinea, one of the defining outposts of molecular gastronomy, doesn’t make the meal sound amazingly delicious. The flavor combinations have my imagination singing, and I wish I could sample them myself (even though the meal would be produced by insane cyborgs).

Heck, I’ll even break out my red robot socks for that meal.


Gary, I’m just going to have to explain it all to you again, I see…

So you’re saying cooking “shouldn’t be like that”, and that it’s an art meant to be done so and so… But once you say art, your arguments against become invalid. Some artists are casual, even sloppy and organic. Some are precise, austere and aesthetically clean. It’s just using the tools and materials differently. Also, you kinda exaggerate MG cooking as being all serious, sometimes it’s just being precisely aware of something’s chemical properties.

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