Ferran Adrià may be the mad genius of the kitchen, but he’s got nothing on MIT Media Lab scientist Hugo Liu.
Two years ago, Liu created the Synesthetic Cookbook, a recipe-generating database that could tell you what to cook tonight based on your ingredients (ho-hum) or your emotions (!):
[I]t can also be searched according to terms that range from the descriptive (‘silky’) and the playful (‘aha’) to the referential (‘Popeye’) and the temperamental (‘brooding’). Looking for something that’s ‘exotic’ and ‘melodic’ and ‘citrusy’? The cookbook suggests barbecued pork ribs with a currant glaze or jackfruit pudding.
Is it available on the Web? No. Which only makes it slightly less cool. (Although you can see it in action at Liu’s website. Check out his Aesthetiscope while you’re at it. It does for color what the Synesthetic Cookbook does for food.)
Liu’s latest project, as documented in the Los Angeles Times by Regina Schrambling, is a database that goes beyond serving up existing recipes. Gulp Fiction actually generates new ones. And through the combination of the brilliance of its programmer and the blindness of computers, it seems to have located the poetry that lies at the heart of recipes:
A request for ‘sad’ oatmeal produces a recipe with red wine, beer, gin, vodka, brandy and soda … ‘pensive’ deviled eggs call for apricot preserves.
… while its directions are lyrical and almost hypnotic, they are also whimsical to the point of nonsensical: ‘Sift the salt. Wash the bay leaf. Red the white pepper. Cheese the mayonnaise.’
But are the dishes actually cookable? Whip up a batch of Ceremonious Ice Cream (flavored with matcha, rose petals, and cherries) and see for yourself.