[extropy-chat] The Extropy of Cooking

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Mon Jun 26 07:46:24 UTC 2006

On Jun 25, 2006, at 11:41 PM, Lee Corbin wrote:
> Oh, I know!  BARBEQUE!  What a thrill for an IQ 300 type who
> just never gets out. I note already how most of our geniuses
> are become pastry chefs, handymen, insurance salesmen, and
> motorcycle repair folks...

Perhaps interestingly, cooking -- of the fine cuisine type -- is what  
frequently occupies my time when I am not doing the brain intensive  
exercises that fill the rest of my day.  I cook a proper dinner 5-6  
days a week.  An incredible amount of culture flows from food, and  
expressing it as a fine art gets its energy from a different place  
than the usual technical intellectual pursuits.  In other words, it  
is both thoroughly relaxing and as deeply expressive as any human art  
form that exists.  And it is functional too -- we all have to eat.

Any fool can eat well, but being able to fabricate rich experiences  
from the organic substrate of life is a broadly useful metaphor with  
respect to living well.  There are few things in the human experience  
toward which so much effort has been spent with such universal  
benefit.  Well executed food from fine ingredients has the  
characteristic that most humans can identify the quality of it even  
if it does not appeal to their taste, in the same sense that most  
humans can recognize the qualities of a Brandenburg Concerto even if  
they are unable to recognize the subtleties of its construction.   
Living well is a positive sum game, and food is an important part of  

On the topic of microwaves, really top-notch food cannot be built  
with only one cooking implement as a general rule, though there is  
nothing wrong with microwaves.  There are some really fabulous  
recipes that require a remarkably narrow amount of expertise, but the  
expanse of possibilities that intersects more than one of these  
narrow domains is truly unimaginable, though requiring more skill.   
All of which can be automated eventually. The last frontier of  
cooking is not really preparation, but access to high-quality  
ingredients from every corner of the globe, which can still be dicy  
and for many ingredients there is no meaningful substitute.  I have  
an herb garden that could be its own botanical exhibit (California  
can grow damn near anything), but could not buy a bit of legal  
Seville Iberico ham if I had to here (though in this specific case,  
there are somewhat functional imported Italian substitutes).  Not  
surprisingly, there is a thriving black market for restricted  
ingredient imports and exports.  But I would not know anything about  

Make no mistake, automatic preparation and pre-processed ingredients  
get better every year, a trend that will eventually approach what a  
competent cook with an excellent ingredient access can do now, but it  
would require good AI and fancy machinery before there was practical  
obsolescence -- cooking is a very complex art, especially at the very  
high end.  Even though the process is the theoretically the same, the  
ingredients you can get vary every single time and have to be  
compensated for.  The adage that cooking is 50% execution and 50%  
ingredient quality is true.  Both sides are being attacked, but they  
have a long way to go still.

On the topic of barbeque, it is very much a science.  A well-behaved  
marinade requires the right balance of salinity, pH, emulsifiers,  
lipids, water, and sugars depending on the effect you are trying to  
get and the material you are working with.  Consistently excellent  
results from experimentation are simple once you understand the  


J. Andrew Rogers

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