Stephen J. Dubner interviewed both Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters and Modernist Cuisine cookbook author Nathan Myhrvold in a podcast for Freakonomics Radio called "Waiter, There’s a Physicist in My Soup!" We got very excited because we were promised we'd "hear the chieftains of the two camps square off," and of course, we here at Eater love a good fight. That's not really what happened, though.
It turns out that not only do Waters and Myhrvold never actually address each other directly during the interview, Waters is never asked about Myhrvold's work or Modernist Cuisine specifically. (Myhrvold tells Dubner he "loves Chez Panisse.") Instead, the "godmother of the slow-food movement" is asked what she thinks of molecular gastronomy: "I can’t say that I care a lot about it. I can’t say that."
And why doesn't she care about it? "Because I’m trying to get back to a kind of taste of food for what it is." Well, that clears it up. When asked what she thinks molecular gastronomy is trying to do, she responds in pretty predictable Waters fashion:
In my view it’s to, you know, make it into something you can’t imagine. You know, surprise you. That’s not to say that I haven’t been delightfully surprised. It’s not that. It’s that I am so hungry for the taste of the real that I’m just not able to get into that which doesn’t feel real to me. It’s a kind of scientific experiment, and I think that there are good scientists and crazy old scientists that can be very amazing. But it’s more like a museum to me. It’s not a kind of way of eating that we need to really live on this planet together.
So which is Myhrvold? A good scientist or a crazy old scientist? And is his work very amazing? We don't know, Dubner goes on to ask her about Big Macs. But! This is just part one of two, so we may get our debate in the next half.