Amazin' Avenue community members are familiar with the views of the countless baseball Luddites who worship David Eckstein's grit, Derek Jeter's range at shortstop, and CC Sabathia's win total. I recently was describing the sabermetric/traditionalist controversy to my friend Steven, an economist who embraces rationality and is familiar with baseball, but hasn't really kept up with the sport since Chris Sabo played for the Reds, and he pointed out that this sounds a whole lot like a debate going on in a world that he's more familiar with: cooking.
In recent years, the culinary world has undergone a revolution of sorts with science-type folks entering the field and attempting to apply their methods to cooking. Mainly, the modernists attempt to quantify EVERYTHING and frequently have their recipes down to the microgram, the end results of multiple experiments and research.
This movement, fancily named molecular gastronomy, has stirred up quite a heated debate between the modernists and traditionalists. The throwdown even has a flash point, the recent release of Modernist Cuisine, a $600, five-volume tome that describes the methods and recipes in amazing detail.
The books have breathtaking photography and a warm, witty narrative voice, but there are also minutely detailed charts and matrices, strange symbols, non-dumbed-down chemical and biological notation. To anyone who's spent time reading scientific journals, the format is familiar; to most readers (including myself and, let's be honest, more chefs than are likely to admit it), it skew towards the intimidatingly impenetrable.
The traditionalists have attacked the book and the modernists for gutting the soul of cooking; for taking it away from the common man. You can't quantify recipes like this because it takes away from the chef's genius and ingenuity. And, my personal favorite, the old ways, like cooking over the family's old wood-burning stove, are just more real. (For even more unfiltered arguments about this, check out the Amazon review page on the book).
It all sounds eerily familiar doesn't it? We've heard it all countless of times from the likes of Murray Chass and Joe Morgan. Give me wins/spaghetti and meatballs over your cockamamie VORP/foamed potatoes any day! There are Luddites in all walks of life and no matter how virulently they cling to their beliefs, their worlds are changing. Chefs and the hungry masses are more open to foaming their potatoes. Baseball general managers and fans are paying more attention to UZR. And the world progresses. It's a good thing.