Unboxings seem to have become passe on the Internet, but since there are only 6000 copies of Modernist Cuisine in existence as of this writing, and (most likely) not all of them have been delivered yet, I thought I would get more bang for the pulled back muscles, bloodied toes, and hernia from lifting Modernist Cuisine en masse by posting just that*.
Hey, at least it’s not in video form.
After months of deliberation as to whether I should actually purchase Nathan Myhrvold’s magnum opus, and almost two months of waiting after pulling the trigger and pre-ordering a copy in mid-February, a large, cumbersome cardboard box was left on my doorstep (apologies, UPS guy). The weeks leading up to this momentous occasion were gut wrenching.
When I placed my pre-order, Amazon listed my expected delivery to be in March — immediately after the book launch date. Having followed the Modernist Cuisine blog, I knew better than to expect to get one of the first couple thousand copies, so when the expected delivery date came and passed, I wasn’t worried. Shortly thereafter, Amazon informed me that when they had a new estimated delivery date, they would let me know. No problem.
In late March, the Modernist Cuisine blog let the world know that all of the first printing books were somewhere between the printer in China and 6000 early-purchasers’ shelves, with delivery of all the books expected by mid-April. Amazon was slated to get a substantial delivery of books by 29 March to their service center in Arizona — the most likely center where my book would come from. I started to get anxious.
The end of March came and went. “How long does it take to fulfill 600 orders at an Amazon facility?” I wondered. Worst case, not more than a couple of days, I figured. I stoically prepared myself for the long wait till mid-April, doing my best to ignore that creeping fear that I had not ordered early enough to receive a first printing (I don’t care that it’s a first printing — I just didn’t want to wait for the second printing to start delivery, which I was guessing would probably be in June).
On 5 April, I received exciting news in my inbox:
We now have delivery date(s) for the order you placed on February 17 2011:
Nathan Myhrvold, et al “Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking”
Estimated arrival date: April 11 2011 – April 15 2011
15 hours later, I got a shipping notice from Amazon. Delivery would be the next day!
Sensing how excited I was to receive the package, UPS decided on an afternoon delivery. Around 3:30 Thursday afternoon, the UPS guy ding dong ditched 21 kg of books on my doorstep. Lifting the box to get it inside involved maneuvers I’d previously only seen in clean and jerk weightlifting. Once inside, the unboxing began.
From China to my doorstep
The box knows of which it speaks.
As it turned out, the food theme extended beyond the content of the books. The packaging around the books was like an onion — layer after layer of cardboard. Inside the first box was another box. Inside that, a small box containing volume 6 of Modernist Cuisine. Under that box, white shipping paper surrounding the plexiglass bookcase for the remaining five volumes of Modernist Cuisine.
Inside we find... more cardboard.
...And more cardboard...
The conundrum at this point was how to get around 21 kg of books out of its packing material. Wedging my fingers under the books didn’t seem like it would work. Instead, I opted to lift the box-within-a-box out onto the rug, tip it on its side, and slide the paper-wrapped bookcase out onto the rug.
Well, at least it's not more cardboard.
That which will consume all my forseeable free time.
First impression: The books are a lot taller than I expected. The first five volumes are the size of coffee table books. Fitting them and their slipcase on a non-adjustable bookshelf would be challenging. Fortunately, I have an adjustable bookshelf. I find myself wondering what the weight limit of the individual shelves is, though.
Second impression: They’re not immaculate. My copies have wrinkles and folds on the spines of volumes 2 and 3. While this doesn’t affect the usability of the books, when you fork out $461 for books, you really want them to show up in mint condition. No doubt I’ll get over it.
Third impression: The ink and glue are still outgassing. Reading Modernist Cuisine may put you to sleep, but it won’t necessarily be due to the writing. I’m going to have to read these books in well ventilated areas until the smell goes away. Also, the books were bound before the ink completely dried, I think. I’m finding some pages are sticking together in spots. So far, separating them hasn’t caused any problems, but I still catch my breath when I come across such pages.
Fourth impression: Food porn!
Fifth impression: These books are information dense. Word for word, there’s more information about cooking in Modernist Cuisine than there is in the culinary school textbooks On Cooking, or the CIA’s the Professional Chef. Scanning the tables, I found myself wishing they were available as PDFs so I could print them out and keep them in my kitchen for quick reference. I’ll probably end up transcribing them onto a spreadsheet to do just that.
As you might suspect, I am thrilled to be a proud owner of Modernist Cuisine. I look forward to applying the information contained therein to my cooking. Whether or not it’s actually worth $461 remains to be seen, but my initial impression is, yes.
One thing I am pretty sure of is that like all expensive purchases (houses, cars, etc), this one will lead to more spending. An immersion circulator is the first order of business.
Oh, and by the way, all the packing material that came in the box make great toys for young children.
* Injuries sustained from ordering, unboxing, and reading Modernist Cuisine may be exaggerated for literary effect.