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Posts Tagged ‘molecular gastronomy

“There is not a thing that is more positive than bread”*…

A plate from The Book of Bread, by Owen Simmons (London: Maclaren and Sons, 1903).

A remarkable volume, published at the turn of the 20th century, anticipated the rise of molecular gastronomy in the 1990s and 2000s…

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, writes Owen Simmons at the outset of The Book of Bread (1903), a work he hopes will definitively establish “the link between the bakery and the laboratory” and speak to “the needs of the baker and of the miller”. And the text, at times, does indeed read like a lab manual for commercial bakeries: Simmons was a breadmaker’s breadmaker, co-founder of the National School of Bakery in London and frequent contributor to The British Baker. The book contains equations for the conversion of starch into alcohol (by way of maltose, dextrin, and glucose), chemical explanations for why viscoelasticity is “injurious to the proper manufacture of several kinds of biscuits”, and intricate discussions of nitrogenic proteids, which, once transformed into peptones, “nourish the yeast by percolating its cellulose”.

In addition to its scientific learning, the preface notes two unique aspects that set The Book of Bread apart from competitors: a tabulated appendix, featuring the results of more than 360 baking experiments, and its “most expensive illustrations”, which will force readers “to admit that never before have they seen such a complete collection of prize loaves illustrated in such an excellent manner”. An early entry in Martin Parr and Gerry Badger’s history of the photobook, the attention lent to loaves left the writers in awe: “Here, at the beginning of the twentieth century, one of the humblest, yet most essential of objects is catalogued as precisely, rigorously and objectively as any work by a 1980s Conceptual artist.” Kenneth Josephson’s later photographic experiment, The Bread Book (1973), seems to directly reference Simmons’ work…

More at “The Book of Bread,” in @PublicDomainRev.

Browse the book at the Internet Archive.

* Fyodor Dostoevsky


As we contemplate carbs, we might recall that it was on this date– National Cheese Lovers Day— in 1964 that, with the aid of a $36,000 grant from the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation, work began on what would be the World’s Largest Cheese, which was displayed, starting later that year, in the Wisconsin Pavilion at the 1964-65 World’s Fair.  The 14 1/2′ x 6 1/2′ x 5 1/2′, 17-ton cheddar original– the product of 170,000 quarts of milk from 16,000 cows– was cut and eaten in 1965; but a replica was created and put on display near Neillsville, Wisconsin… next to Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow.

In 2018, Wisconsin added a second record– World’s Largest Cheeseboard.   Weighing in at 4,437 lbs, and measuring 35 feet long and 7 feet wide, it featured 145 different varieties, types and styles of Wisconsin cheese.

The replica on display (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 20, 2023 at 1:00 am

Our robot overlords at work…

The research firm Nanex presented the stunning animation below as part of a presentation at Wired‘s Business Conference. It represents one half-second of trading orders for just one stock–  Johnson & Johnson– routed through just twelve exchanges. 

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This kind of high-frequency trading accounted for approximately 50% of all US equity trading volume in 2012. The central point of the presentation is that the rush by traders to speed-at-all-costs has created a system largely populated by “ghost bids” (meant to bait other traders into inadvisable trades) and a resultant degree of confusion that means that, in a bid-and-ask system that’s meant to clear trades both efficiently and effectively, “it is impossible to verify that a trade received the best price.”

The financial industry’s response?  It’s turning to lasers for even faster trades…

See the full Nanex presentation here (and read the underlying research here).


As we ponder Asimov’s Three Laws, we might send tasty birthday greetings to Nicholas Kurti (nee Miklós Mór Kürti); he was born on this date in 1908.  Born in Romania, educated in Paris and Berlin, Kurti fled Hitler’s rise to settle at the Clarendon laboratory at Oxford, where he became was one of the premier low-temperature physicists of his era (he conducted record-breaking nuclear cooling experiments that came within a millionth of a degree of absolute zero).

But Kurti, an enthusiastic advocate of applying scientific knowledge to culinary problems, was also renowned as a chef; with chemist Herve This, he founded the “discipline” of “molecular gastronomy.”  In 1969  Kurti gave a talk at the Royal Society (of which he was a member and officer) titled “The Physicist in the Kitchen”, in which he delighted his audience by using the recently-invented microwave oven to make a “reverse Baked Alaska”, aka Frozen Florida (cold outside, hot inside).  Nineteen years later, with his wife, he edited the first Royal Society cook book: But the Crackling Is Superb: An Anthology on Food and Drink by Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society.

I think it is a sad reflection on our civilisation that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our souffles.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 14, 2013 at 1:01 am

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