From the fires that blessed and cursed primitive man to that replicator in Picard's quarters that always delivers tea Earl Grey hot, food and innovation are bound eternally.
Shifts in diet and drink come along for two reasons. Either a technology allows an innovator to offer something new to the world, like Birdseye and his frozen peas, or a problem rears its head so menacingly that great minds hustle to solve it, the way brewers solved the dilemma of shipping beer from England to India without it spoiling. The same combination of necessity and foresight that fuel the geniuses of our dear tech sector continue to inspire culinary geniuses too.
I'm no culinary genius or tech innovator, but whatever spare time I have away from my computer, I spend in my kitchen, chopping, roasting, frying, whisking. I don't use lab equipment or supercooled gases, teasing out the attributes of each ingredient at the molecular level. I just put dinner on the table. But I've come to realize that everything I do in there is a science project, from achieving the right Maillard reaction on my chicken skin to ensuring the healthy—but not too healthy—colonization of yeast in my bread dough. And like any tech, for those wonderful software reactions to work, you need the right hardware. I may not own every kitchen gadget you see piled up in the aisles of Bed Bath and Beyond, but I love my stick blender, my deep fryer and my mandoline, and you can have my fire-engine red Kitchen-Aid stand mixer when you pry it from my dead hands.
In this spirit, I introduce you to Taste Test, a week long celebration of that beautiful intersection of innovation and cuisine. Since technology—and very often crazy gadgets—are at every watershed moment in the history of gustation, it makes sense that we honor it on Gizmodo. Besides, nerds like to cook (and eat).
Here's just some of what's to come:
• Guest editor Nick Kokonas—who founded Alinea in Chicago with chef Grant Achatz—will introduce us to the innovative minds they recruited to solve the trickiest problems of modern cuisine (like how to build a "bacon bow")
• Wylie Dufresne will walk you through his kitchen in New York, showing off some of his most intense, and perhaps dangerous, gear
• Food Network's geek-in-chief Alton Brown discusses topics ranging from the culinary innovations that changed human history to home hacks that look silly but save time and money
• Wired's Mark McClusky will tell us how to cook with magnets
• St. Louis Post-Dispatch food reporter Georgina Gustin will set us straight on what is (and isn't) evil about modern food production
Meanwhile, on the Giz staff:
• Dan Nosowitz has volunteered his kitchen—and his iron stomach—for a series entitled MacGyver Chef, where he cooks fish in a dishwasher and attempts other feats of unorthodox food prep
• Mark Wilson will reveal the mysteries of self-heated food
• Joanna Stern will revisit the Easy-Bake Oven of her youth
• And after Matt Buchanan explains every different way there is to make coffee, he'll embark on his own quest for the perfect cup
And as with any theme week, there will be lots of crazy surprises popping up, so keep your eyes on Giz. And remember, just because food and technology have had a long fruitful relationship doesn't mean all innovation makes food taste better. Calling it is our job—as editors and as readers. It's a tough one, but hell, somebody's got to do it. ¡Que aproveche!
Taste Test is our weeklong tribute to the leaps that occur when technology meets cuisine, spanning everything from the historic breakthroughs that made food tastier and safer to the Earl-Grey-friendly replicators we impatiently await in the future.