Friday, July 31st, 2020

Cooks, in Theory

by Amy Ambrose

"If the dish doesn’t look right at any point in preparation, you must consider it a failure and try again another day.”
— Silvio Micali

Cooks, in Theory is a weekly meetup for the Simons Institute community in which we cook a meal together over Zoom. 

One of the highlights of this month’s Cooks, in Theory series was Silvio Micali’s presentation on “(Foundations of) Primo con Pesce,” incarnated in this case as linguine al salmone fresco.

This meal was a hit, perhaps because of Silvio’s classic lecture format, Zoom-cast to us from the comfort of his study. Our chef began with a splendid and detailed description of what to expect. The explanation was thorough, thoughtful, and refined, with the word “surrender” sprinkled throughout, as in “You have to wait until the parsley surrenders, before adding the garlic.” Midway through the lecture, we felt ready to begin chopping and boiling.

The colors, the flavors, and the science behind it all — nothing short of a vicarious Italian vacation in the midst of global quarantine. Like good vacations, there was reminiscing about previous meals with Silvio, Silvio’s signature dishes that got at least one person through qualifying exams, and so on. And like vacation, the experience brought out the philosopher in some:

"I admired you for getting me a PhD, which is nothing compared to getting me to cook.”
— Yael Tauman Kalai to Shafi Goldwasser

"Since this is a forum of theoreticians, I want to raise an open question: 
Now that we know that Silvio Cooks Salmon, 
can we settle the question,
Did Levin Cook Karp?” 
— Hugo Krawczyk

Recipe available upon request. And if you would like to receive connection details and information on upcoming Cooks, in Theory sessions, please email Raquel Romero at rmromero [at]