When Myhrvold was 9 years old, he persuaded his mother to let him cook Thanksgiving dinner. She agreed, not realizing his inspiration was The Pyromaniac's Cookbook, which he had discovered at the local library a week earlier. Myhrvold nearly set the dining room table on fire, but the incident only encouraged his culinary pursuits. He saw the holiday blaze not as a disaster but as a hands-on lesson in the physics of flaming dishes. Forty-two years later, Myhrvold's fascination with experimental cooking techniques continues.
Smoking is usually associated with sausages, ribs, and salmon, but there's no reason you can't smoke plant foods as well. With vegetables, the goal of smoking is to flavor rather than preserve, though some preservation inevitably results from the dehydration that occurs. Traditional examples of smoked vegetables include the charred, mashed eggplant in baba ghanoush and the smoked Mexican chili peppers known as chipotles. The trick is getting flavors in the smoke to condense in a film on the vegetables without heating them so much that their texture is significantly altered. New cold-smokers allow vegetables like this onion to remain at refrigerator-like temperature while smoke is piped in from a fire.