Seashells and ipods: LIFE Magazine's Molecular Gastronomy Slideshow


So it's 4pm and it occurs to me that I haven't eaten all day. Some restaurant critic, right?

But hey, it's been a busy day. Deadlines to meet, phone calls to return, a review to finish off. I've been chewing over words for the past seven hours, but just haven't managed to put any actual food in me--a situation I know I'm going to have to remedy in a big hurry.

Trouble is, I'm still working. I've got no food at home. (Those of you who saw the first installment of our "Secrets of a Food Writer's Fridge" project yesterday have already seen photographic proof of the relative barrenness of my refrigerator.) And my office is even worse.

But still, I'm starving. To the point where it's become a distraction. So what do I do? I go cruising for food porn, of course. Like a single man feeling lonely on a Tuesday night, I hit the internets and go looking for something to scratch my itch. Most times I do this, I'm lucky if I can find some hardcore burger shots, a few tacos, a little exotic Asian action. But today is different. Today I strike the motherload.

It seems that LIFE magazine, with the help of guest editor Grant Achatz, has finally discovered molecular gastronomy. But rather than writing some tiresome piece about the science, the style or the effect of modernist cuisine on modern tastes, they instead did one of the things that LIFE has always done best: they took a bunch of pictures from some of the best restaurants and the best food photographers in the world and assembled them into a slideshow.

And these pictures are...gorgeous. I mean, it's not even really food porn so much as it is art--high-concept, deep, challenging and bizarre. In many cases, it's hard even to recognize what you're looking at as food (which kind of sucks because, like I said, I was hungry), and in most cases, without the little bits of text at the bottom of each photo, I would have absolutely no idea what I was looking at.

But still, with plates from Alinea, wd-50, El Bulli, the two-table Tokyo restaurant Aronia de Takazawa, and the Fat Duck, this slideshow represents not just the cutting edge of cuisine, but of food photography as well. Seriously, when you first click through the slideshow for the first time, do it without reading any of the text and see how the pictures strike you. Imagine making a dinner out of any one or two or three of them. Then go back through and see what they actually are, who constructed them, and why.

It's an affecting display, if nothing else. But one thing I have to admit? After flipping through the snaps a dozen-odd times, all I could think about was how much I wanted a big-ass cheeseburger. Beautiful as all those plates were, not one of them looked as though they'd take the edge off my all-day hunger. Honestly, most of them were so lovely, so strange and distracting, that I'd be afraid to eat them at all.

And that's assuming that I could figure out how to eat them in the first place. I mean, swear to god--one of those pictures was of a glass shelf, a seashell and an ipod. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?

Check out the whole LIFE magazine molecular gastronomy slideshow here.

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