Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Photography
Crystallized Vitamin C, page iv
“Many of the ingredients pictured in The Photography of Modernist Cuisine look somehow different than we normally envision them, but that is especially true for vitamin C,” Myhrvold says. Photographed in solid form that’s seen through a microscope, the image showcases the nearly infinite variety of the vitamin’s crystals.
Rambutan, page 14
This tropical fruit, native to Southeast Asia, was one of the first to undergo what Myhrvold calls the “stacked focus technique”: a digital combination of multiple shots at varying focal points to extend the depth of field. The soft-spined exterior covers “translucent flesh that has a sweet, floral, lightly acidic flavor akin to that of a lychee.”
Enzyme-Peeled Grapefruit, page 20
“The tender flesh of a grapefruit is delectable, but hard to get at through the tough membrane that covers each segment. The Modernist work-around is to soak a segment in a mixture of natural enzymes,” Myhrvold explains. “The membrane then sloughs away like old skin off a snake.”
Red Cabbage, page 38
“The undulating surface of this red cabbage leaf looks like something that could have inspired some of architect Frank Gehry’s works,” Myhrvold says. Even though it’s called red cabbage, “its true color lies more squarely in the magenta-purple realm, indicative of the plant being rich in anthocyanins.” To prevent the cabbage from turning bluish when cooked, Myhrvold recommends adding vinegar or lemon juice.
Broccoli Cutaway, page 112
This whimsical image—the first in a series of many “cutaway” shots—required immense engineering. “We had to solve many technical challenges: how to cut the pot in half, perch the cut broccoli florets in a stable but natural-looking configuration, capture side-on shots of boiling water, and composite all the elements together,” Myhrvold says. “But the result was so successful, so magical at revealing cooking as it happens that we went on to make dozens of such cutaways.”
Levitating Sandwich, page 154
This flying carpet of a sandwich follows Myhrvold’s earlier explorations of levitating cheeseburgers and grilled Camembert and Gruyère with sautéed mushrooms and a fried egg. “The visual style of these images is not only functional—like the exploded diagrams in repair manuals—but also engaging, as it reveals familiar objects from unfamiliar points of view,” he says.
Blooming Onion, page 172
The onion allowed Myhrvold to illustrate the science of deep-frying. “Oil is not limited to water’s boiling point—in fact, some kinds of oil can achieve twice that temperature before vaporizing. The turbulent bubbling shows that the water in the onion quickly boils at the high temperature,” he explains. “But what we love most, of course, is the crisp, browned surface that frying creates on food.”
Crème Brûlée, page 190
“Crème brûlée is a perennial favorite in large part because of its crust of blowtorched sugar. As the flame dances over the crystals, they melt, caramelize to a golden brown, and re-solidify as a sweet, smooth glass, entrapping a few air bubbles that add a pleasant crunch,” Myrhvold says. “This image is a composite of two photos taken near the beginning and the end of the transformation.”