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kottke.org posts about food

One of the Last Chino-Latino Restaurants in NYC

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2023

This is a sweet video profile of La Dinastia, one of the last old-school, family-run places in NYC where you can find Chino-Latino cuisine. From Lisa Chiu at ThoughtCo, a brief history of Asian-Latin food blends:

Cuban-Chinese Cuisine is the traditional fusing of Cuban and Chinese food by Chinese migrants to Cuba in the 1850s. Brought to Cuba as laborers, these migrants and their Cuban-Chinese progeny developed a cuisine that blended Chinese and Caribbean flavors.

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many Cuban Chinese left the island and some established Cuban Chinese food restaurants in the United States, mainly in New York City and Miami. Some diners contend that Cuban-Chinese food is more Cuban than Chinese.

There are also other genres of Chinese-Latin and Asian-Latin food blends created by Asian migrants to Latin America over the last two centuries.

See also Chinese Latinos Explain Chino-Latino Food and from The Village Voice in 2014, The Definitive Guide to NYC’s Chinese-Latin American Restaurants, many of which, like La Dinastia, are still around.

Pepperoni Hug Spot

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2023

I'm not going to make a habit of posting AI generated video and photography here (mainly because most of it is not that interesting) but Pepperoni Hug Spot is just too perfect a name for a pizza place to pass up. And it's got Too Many Cooks vibes.

Shin Oh's 3D Pixel Rooms

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2023

3D pixel illustration of a Malaysian hawker stall

3D pixel illustration of a Malaysian hawker stall

3D pixel illustration of a barber shop

These are lovely: voxel rooms of Malaysian hawker stalls and other shops by Shin Oh. She started making them after quitting her job due to anxiety and depression:

At that point in my life, I lost passion and interest in everything, I was feeling worthless, I felt like there was nothing I was good at," Shin shares. But, later in her career break she discovered voxel art, and this, she says, is when things started to change. Noticing that voxel art was making her "more focused, relaxed and calm" after six months she began to share her creations on social media, and receiving good responses, she felt herself regaining her "long-lost" self confidence. "Making voxel art is now my hobby and my job, it's a fun way for me to explore and express myself," Shin concludes. "Voxel art has saved my life."

(via present & correct)

Ingenious Banana Bruise Artworks

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2023

art of a girl with an umbrella in the rain imprinted on a banana

art of a sunset over a river imprinted on a banana

art of an open peapod imprinted on a banana

As it ripens, banana skin oxidizes and turns black. Bruising the skin speeds up the process, a fact that Anna Chojnicka exploits to create these bruised banana artworks (also on Instagram). Here's how it works:

I bruise the peel by pressing into it lightly with a blunt point. Speeding up and controlling the bruising process conjures light and shade in the image.

Over a few hours, the mark gradually goes darker until black. I start with the darkest parts of the image first, and then work my way backwards, finishing with the lightest parts last.

By managing the timing, it's possible to make intricate images with graduating shades. There's a short window of time when the image looks its best; I photograph the banana, and then eat it.

Chojnicka started the project in the early days of the pandemic while bored/delirious at home with a suspected Covid infection. The increase in art using found objects during the pandemic is fascinating: people couldn't spend a lot of time out of the house, so they reached for whatever they could find to express their creativity...in this case, bananas.

Pemmican: History's Power Bar

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2023

From Max Miller's informative & entertaining YouTube channel Tasting History comes this lesson on pemmican, a mixture of meat and fat/tallow that was invented by the indigenous peoples of North America. Pemmican's main attributes are its shelf-life (years), portability, and nutritional value, making it an ideal "power bar" to be taken on expeditions or long ship voyages.

See also Miller's videos on hardtack. (via open culture)

Cinema's Best Ending Credits?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2023

screenshot of the end credits of Martin Scorsese's documentary, Italianamerican

Catherine Scorsese appeared in many of her son Martin's films — Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Casino, etc. — and would often cook for the cast and crew.

Robert DeNiro said, "She made the best pizza I've ever eaten. I always wanted to serve it at TriBeCa Grill," while Harvey Keitel said, "In my memory, Catherine was the epitome of a warm, loving Italian mother. She enjoyed watching me eat as much as I enjoyed eating her cooking." And Pesci said, "Katie was one of the sweetest ladies I ever met. She was a true innocent. She never did anything bad; she never knew anything bad. In terms of her cooking, it's a toss-up as to who's a better cook, Katie or my mother."

In 1974, Martin made a documentary about his parents called Italianamerican:

Over dinner at their New York apartment on Elizabeth Street, Martin engages his parents in a lively and candid discussion about their lives, discussing such topics as their upbringing, family, religion, marriage, their Italian ancestors, post-war life in Italy, and the hardships of poor Sicilian immigrants striving to succeed in America.

During the film, Catherine cooks meatballs and sauce for dinner and a bare-bones recipe appears in the ending credits (which you can see here with the rest of the film):

The Sauce:

Singe an onion & a pinch of garlic in oil. Throw in a piece of veal, a piece of beef, some pork sausage, & a lamb neck bone. Add a basil leaf.

When the meat is brown, take it out & put it on a plate. Put in a can of tomato paste & some water. Pass a can of packed whole tomatoes through a blender and pour it in. Let it boil. Add salt, pepper & a pinch of sugar. Let it cook for awhile. Throw the meat back in. Cook for 1 hour.

Now make the meatballs. Put a slice of bread, without crust, 2 eggs, & a drop of milk, into a bowl of ground veal & beef. Add salt, pepper, some cheese & a few spoons of sauce. Mix it with your hands. Roll them up, throw them in. Let it cook for another hour.

As you can see, the recipe is pretty vague on measurements, but Catherine published a cookbook of her recipes shortly before she died, Italianamerican: The Scorsese Family Cookbook. The book has long been out of print and seems to be an expensive collector's item now, but some kind soul has republished the full meatballs and sauce recipe here.

See also burger recipes from Ernest Hemingway, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra and The Artists' and Writers' Cookbook.

Why Tipping Is Impossible to Get Rid of in America

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2023

Eric Huang is the chef/owner/operator of Brooklyn's lauded Pecking House fried chicken joint. In a recent Instagram post, Huang explains why tipping is a part of the experience at his restaurant.

We do NOT use a tip credit at Pecking House. If we do not take a tip credit that means we pay every employee at least $15/hour. We then pool the tips and divide them among the entire hourly staff, including all back-of-house employees. This helps to foster an equitable team culture where everyone feels they are participating in the restaurant's success.

So far, we've been able to pay every front-line employee an average of an extra $7 per hour on top of their hourly wages. We've been managing that while collecting a tip average of 18% on a check average of $26. So even an entry-level employee at Pecking House is making $22/hour if not more.

Almost no one in New York City does this. This is pretty damn unique. And while people have been generally enthusiastic about supporting restaurants as they weather a furious storm of inflation, this is an easy way for us to take better care of our restaurant workers. Because the pandemic revealed quite painfully that we are a sizable, important and vulnerable population. And this is all perhaps even more relevant given that certain Best Restaurants have been outed about certain abhorrent business practices. Their example should be motivating us to take a look at how we can change the restaurant industry for the better.

So when you add a tip at Pecking House, you're really helping to take care of the whole team and acknowledge their effort in creating your experience. I think we've all been guilty of having a great time and leaving a fat tip, but forgetting at that moment that the cook who made you that taglioni isn't seeing an extra penny. So for those of you who have been helping us out with 18% on $26, an extra $4, know that it's going to everyone. Except and rightfully so, the chef standing there pointing at stuff, not being terribly helpful, i.e. me.

From there, he goes on to explain why eliminating tipping doesn't work from the standpoint of the restaurant (customers spend less), its employees (they make less than they could elsewhere), or, surprisingly, its customers (they want the illusion of control/agency). And there's also a sort of tacit collusion that happens amongst restaurants — no one wants to eliminate this obviously unfair system because of the financial hit so none of them do. The whole thing is worth a read.

Back when I lived in NYC, a restaurant I frequented experimented for a few months with eliminating tipping. In practice, it meant that the bartenders and servers made less money and the chefs got paid more. As a regular customer who knew and liked everyone who worked there, I thought that was much more fair than front-of-the-house staff being paid more than the kitchen folks due to some antiquated racist bullshit. In the end, they had to revert to doing tips again because customers weren't spending as much money and it eliminated the restaurant's profit margin. Customers looked at the higher prices ($25 for the chicken instead of $21, $17 cocktails instead of $14) and ordered fewer and less-expensive items, even though they were paying exactly the same amount for them by tacking 20% onto the check at meal's end. It's just economic reality: lower posted prices with added fees will encourage people to spend more money because the posted price is what gets stuck in their heads.

It seems like the only way to get rid of tipping in the US is for every restaurant to do it simultaneously, either by mutual decision (ha!) or through some kind of legislation (double ha!). But because of the pandemic and the ubiquity of digital payment screens, tipping is more engrained in American commerce than ever so...??

See also The Failure of the Great Tip-Free Restaurant Experiment.

You Suck at Cooking

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2023

This YouTube channel has been going for seven years and 150 episodes now but I just recently ran across it via Open Culture: You Suck at Cooking. The emphasis here is on being dryly funny while cooking but the actual techniques are solid as well. If you follow their advice — well some of it anyway — you will get a tasty loaded baked potato or smashburger:

Update: I no longer mix things, I wangjangle them together.

See also The Katering Show and Hilarious Recipe Videos in the Style of Famous Directors.

Some Wonderful Things From 2022

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 30, 2022

looking out over the Atlantic Ocean

As 2022 recedes into the rearview mirror, I took some time to go back over my media diet posts to pick out some books, movies, TV shows, and experiences from the past year that were especially wonderful. Enjoy.

Everything Everywhere All at Once. I've seen this a few times now and I still don't know how the filmmakers pulled this off. A chaotic martial arts action comedy romance multiverse movie with heart? It is a miracle of a film. Definitely my favorite movie of the year and probably in the past 2-3 years.

Glass Onion. I don't know, maybe this shouldn't be here because I just watched it the other day, but whatever. This movie is fun. Janelle Monáe and Blanc's bathing costume were the highlights for me.

Fortnite. The one thing I worked on more than almost anything else during my sabbatical was my Fortnite skills. My kids play and I wanted to join them, so that we could have an activity to do as a family, one that was on their turf and not mine. I'm still not great at it, but I'm more than competent now and it's been a great addition to our routine.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. Seeing this painting in person is a whole other deal. I think I stood in front of it for a good 10 minutes and then circled back later for another look.

Station Eleven. You can see the ending of this coming a mile away and it still caught me by surprise when it happened. I didn't think I wanted to watch a TV show about a flu pandemic causing the end of civilization, but it was actually perfect.

Severance. It's comforting to know that TV shows on these massive streaming services can still be weird. I didn't love this as much as many other people did, Severance did keep popping up in my thoughts in the months after I watched it.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. If you've ever worked on a creative project with someone and that collaborative frisson felt like the highlight of your life, this book might be right up your alley.

Tár. Cate Blanchett is just ridiculously good in this.

My Brilliant Friend. The most underrated show on television? This was so much better than a lot of other shows I kept seeing praised but not a lot of people seem to be talking about it.

Kimi. Soderbergh does Rear Window + The Conversation. The direction is always tight and Zoë Kravitz is great in this.

Middlemarch by George Eliot. By far the best thing I read during my sabbatical and an instant addition to my all-time favorites list. For whatever reason, I thought this was going to be stuffy liht-tra-chure but it turns out it's hilarious? Almost every page had me laughing out loud. The writing is exquisite and Eliot's observations about human behavior are still, 150 years on, remarkably astute. And there's a scene near the end of the book that is almost cinematic — she painted such a vivid picture that it took my breath away (like, literally I was holding my breath).

Her Place. This Philly spot is getting a ton of attention and end-of-the-year kudos; it's well-deserved. The food is great but it's the casual family-style dinner-party vibe that really makes this place special. People will try to copy this concept — it'll be interesting to see if they can do it as well.

The Lost Daughter. Based on an Elena Ferrante book and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the acting and cinematography are the central strengths of this film. Olivia Colman & Jessie Buckley shine as an ambivalent mother at two different points in her life and the tight shots keep them smoldering the entire time.

Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman. Correctly lauded as a masterpiece.

Top Gun: Maverick. I was shocked at how much I liked this movie — a Top Gun sequel didn't have any right to be this entertaining. Straight-up no-frills thrill ride that's best on a big screen. Loved Val Kilmer's scenes.

Matrix by Lauren Groff. I find it difficult to pinpoint exactly what I liked so much about this book, but it has something to do with its surprising entrepreneurial bent, its feminist startup vibe. Groff's Marie de France is one of my favorite characters of the year.

Bar Kismet. The type of place where you instantly feel like a regular. And with the ever-changing food and cocktail menus, you'll want to become one.

Schitt's Creek. I was worried that I wouldn't jibe with the show's humor — nothing worse than a comedy that isn't funny — but it delivered so many laugh-out-loud moments that I lost count. The show really hits its stride after the first season or two when it makes you start caring about what happens to these annoying weirdos. I would have watched 10 seasons of this.

The Bear. Again, I didn't love this as much as some others did, but my thoughts kept returning to it often.

Saap. When someone says a restaurant in Vermont is "good", you always have to ask: "Is it actually good or just Vermont good?" Saap is great, period.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. I don't know how to think about the kind of stories that Chiang writes — they are simple and complex and deep and fantastical and familiar all at the same time. It's the perfect kind of sci-fi for me.

The US and the Holocaust. Essential six-hour documentary series about how the United States responded (and failed to respond) to Nazi Germany's persecution and murder of European Jews in the years before, during and after WWII. Another banger from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. I can't say that this book made me want to become obsessed with surfing, but maybe it made me want to become obsessed with something again. Beautifully written and personally resonant.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. All nonfiction books should aspire to be this compelling.

Mercado Little Spain. José Andrés' Spanish version of Eataly. I've only been there a couple of times, but omg the food. The pan con tomate is the simplest imaginable dish — bread, tomato, olive oil, garlic, salt — but I could easily eat it every day.

Photo of the Atlantic Ocean taken by me on my trip to Portugal this summer.

The McDonald's Macbeth Sandwich

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2022

I ran across this video this morning on Instagram and I haven't stopped laughing about it, so I thought I'd share it with you. It's an improv by Ross Bryant from a show called Game Changer in which he makes up a commercial for a new McDonald's product: the Macbeth sandwich.

It's perhaps a liiiittle bit of a softball prompt for Bryant, who is a member of The Improvised Shakespeare Company, but to pull it off, he needs to be fluent in both fast food advertising and Shakespeare. The accent, timing, and delivery are perfect — somehow in the space of a minute, he does two or three highbrow/lowbrow shifts and oh, just watch the damn thing. (via rachel lopez)

The New York City Sub-Culinary Map

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 09, 2022

The New York City Sub-Culinary Map

In the early 2000s, Rick Meyerowitz and Maira Kalman made a version of the NYC subway map where names of all the stations and landmarks were replaced with food. Here's a detailed view of lower Manhattan and part of Brooklyn:

detail of The New York City Sub-Culinary Map

See also Simon Patterson's The Great Bear and the City of Women NYC subway map.

My Sabbatical Media Diet

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2022

As you'll soon read in a comically long "what I did on my summer break" post I'm writing, almost everything I do on a day-to-day basis when I'm working on the site came to a complete halt when I went on sabbatical back in May - I stopped reading online, unsubscribed from all newsletters (save one or two), ignored Twitter, stopped paying attention to the news, didn't really read my email. Pretty much the only concession I made was to keep track of what I was reading, watching, and listening to. So here you go, my media diet over the past seven months.

Russian Doll (season two). A worthy second act of Natasha Lyonne's surprising hit. The NYC subway is the best time machine since the police box and the DeLorean. (A-)

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. Another Burkeman banger. If The Antidote was a self-help book for people who don't like self-help books, this is time management for people who don't want to organize their lives like a Toyota factory. (A-)

Middlemarch by George Eliot. By far the best thing I read during my sabbatical and one of my favorite books of all time. For whatever reason, I thought this was going to be stuffy liht-tra-chure but it turns out it's hilarious? Almost every page had me laughing out loud. The writing is exquisite and Eliot's observations about human behavior are still, 150 years on, remarkably astute. And there's a scene near the end of the book that is almost cinematic — she painted such a vivid picture that it took my breath away (like, literally I was holding my breath). (A+)

All of This by Rebecca Woolf. You're about to split up with your husband and then he gets cancer and dies. That is a complex emotional landscape; Woolf describes how she navigated her relief and grief as her life was torn apart and put back together again. A brutally honest read. (B+)

Conversations with Friends. Not quite up to Normal People's high bar but still pretty entertaining and affecting. (A-)

Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation by Hannah Gadsby. Unexpectedly resonant — one of a number of things I've read recently by people who have discovered they're on the autism spectrum as adults. (B+)

Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante. Didn't like this one quite as much as her excellent Neapolitan novels. (B+)

Old. Decent M. Night Shyamalan effort. The Sixth Sense remains the only film of his I've actually liked though. (B-)

The Mt. Qi Pork Hand-Ripped Noodles Meal Kit from Xi'an Famous Foods. I find most restaurant meal kits to be expensive and the resulting food unsatisfyingly unlike what you'd get at the restaurant. Not so with this one...I feel like it's an incredible bargain (when paired with some bok choi or something it feeds 4-6 in my experience) and it tastes exactly like what you get at the restaurant. I've recommended this to several folks and everyone loves this kit. Note: neither the ingredients or the finished product freezes well — order this when you can make and consume the whole thing over the course of a few days. (A)

Apple Watch. I haven't worn a watch since the early 90s, so it took me awhile to talk myself into this. But I wanted a good way to track my exercise and perhaps use my phone less. The Watch has succeeded on the first point but not really on the second, and I'm convinced that this thing has no idea how to accurately track calories on mountain bike rides. (B+)

Blade Runner 2049. Always up for a rewatch of this. I (sacrilegiously?) prefer it to the original. (A)

Gattaca. I always use the title of this movie when I need to remember the four nucleotide bases of DNA. Which, admittedly, is not super often. (A-)

Against the Rules (season three). Timely and fascinating exploration of the role of experts in our society by Michael Lewis. (B+)

Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman. Finally got around to reading this after finding it on a local bookstore's table of banned books. A masterpiece. (A+)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. I guess I am having a little trouble with caring about Marvel stuff after Endgame. Also, Sam Raimi's horror thing doesn't jibe with my dislike/indifference of/about horror movies. (B-)

Everything Everywhere All At Once. Second time. I love this movie so hard. (A+)

Top Gun: Maverick. I was shocked at how much I liked this movie — a Top Gun sequel didn't have any right to be this entertaining. Straight-up no-frills thrill ride that's best on a big screen. Loved Val Kilmer's scenes. (A)

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. I was a little wary of watching this; from what I'd read, it seemed like it was a bunch of Bourdain's friends and loved ones blaming Asia Argento (who was not interviewed for the film) for his death. It's a delicate balancing act, but the film doesn't actually do that, IMO. And the stuff about his early-mid career is great and was personally resonant. (A-)

Slow Burn: The L.A. Riots. I was 18 years old and a busy freshman in college when the 1992 LA riots happened, so this was fascinating to listen to. Joel Anderson was the perfect host for this — authoritative, probing, and skeptical in all the right places. (A)

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann. Nearly unbelievable family stories combined with fascinating insights on what it's like to be an uncompromising artist. (A-)

Red Notice. Fun but forgettable. (B)

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. Read this after my kids and I watched the Disney+ series. (B+)

Obi Wan Kenobi. This could have been terrible or messed too much with the original trilogy timeline/vibe, but they pulled it off. (B+)

Operation Mincemeat. If you like war dramas, this is a war drama. (B)

Last Night in Soho. Not my favorite Edgar Wright film. (C+)

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi. A friend recommended this after I read Maus. Another masterpiece about the effects of authoritarianism. (A)

The Card Counter. Good performances but ultimately not that memorable. (B+)

The Grand Budapest Hotel. A rewatch after many years. Anderson's most commercially successful film but not my favorite. I love that there are hundreds of reviews of the hotel on Tripadvisor. (B+)

Thor: Love and Thunder. Natalie Portman is a great actress who sometimes seems like she's a bad actress — see also Star Wars. Maybe superhero sci-fi is not her bag? Also, I think they went a little overboard on the stuff that made Ragnarok so much fun...it just didn't work as well here. (B)

Persuasion. Oof. A poor adaptation of Austen through the lens of Fleabag. (C-)

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Hinton was in high school when she wrote this so it's a little uneven, but the voice is amazing. (A-)

For All Mankind (seasons two and three). Not as good as the first season IMO. It's tough for alt-histories as they get farther and farther from where the timelines split. That said, I am a sucker for such an artfully placed Radiohead song. (B+)

Schitt's Creek. Late to this but what a delightful show! Was very sad when it ended; I wanted to spend more time with these people. P.S. If you're in the US and missed this on Netflix, it's available on Hulu now. (A)

The Bear. I'll admit I didn't love this at first — I got my fill of the edgy/grungy aesthetic in the 90s — but it crescendoed nicely. (A-)

Saap. Nisachon Morgan, the chef of this unassuming Thai place in the tiny town of Randolph, VT, won the 2022 James Beard award for best chef in the northeast. A friend of mine has been a regular there for years, so we stopped in for a meal. Let's just say the Beard Foundation got this one right. (A)

The Gray Man. Gotta be honest — I think I got this confused with Red Notice. (B-)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Still incredible that this was written in 1931 — it's strikingly modern in many ways. (A-)

Deception Point by Dan Brown. Total beach read. Tom Clancy did this sort of book much better though. (B)

Lightyear. Solid Pixar effort. (B+)

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. I don't understand the poor reviews of this series and its (unfair) comparison to the sexier House of the Dragon. It was engaging throughout, though maybe a little slow in places (I didn't care much for the Harfoots plotline.) And it's a setup for an epic tale that lasts four more seasons...there's bound to be a lot of table-setting. (B+)

The Great Canadian Baking Show. Not as good as the original but worth a watch if you're in Canada (either physically or via VPN), if only to catch how judge Bruno Feldeisen pronounces "sponge" and "layers". Seasons one and two feature the delightful Dan Levy as one of the hosts. (B+)

Junior Bake Off. I understand that they're children, but Bake Off just isn't as fun when the baking is, uh, not great. (B)

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. With five different stories spanning hundreds of years, this was challenging to listen to as an audiobook at first. But it paid off well in the end. (B+)

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Love anything and everything that Chiang writes. (A)

Source Code. I'm not sure this aged super-well but it was entertaining. (B)

Escape into Meaning: Essays on Superman, Public Benches, and Other Obsessions by Evan Puschak. Not quite the target audience here — I feel like this book would have hit me straight between the eyes in my late 20s or early 30s. (B-)

The US and the Holocaust. Essential documentary by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein about how the United States responded (and failed to respond) to Nazi Germany's persecution and murder of European Jews in the years before, during and after WWII. (A+)

The Holocaust: A New History by Laurence Rees. I've watched and read a fair bit about the Holocaust over the years, but watching The US and the Holocaust and reading Maus spurred an interest in learning about how the Holocaust happened in detail. After some research, I settled on this book by Laurence Rees, which provides a good overview on how the Nazis harnessed European anti-Semitism to gain power and then used it to murder six millions Jews. It was unsettling to read but important to know this history so that we do not let it repeat. (A)

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. The perfect little murder mystery. Like a magician revealing her tricks, Christie lays bare how murder mysteries are structured — and it takes nothing away from the thrill of the story. (A-)

Renaissance. Not my favorite Beyoncé album — it's a little all over the place and the disco/house vibe isn't exactly my jam — but there are some definitely bangers on here. All Up in Your Mind is my favorite track...I just wish it were longer! (B+)

Star Fluxx. A friend recommended this after I asked him for card/board games that would be good to play with my now-teenaged kids. Part of the game play includes changing the rules of the game as you go...we've been enjoying it. (B+)

Unspoken Words. Ambient-ish electronica from Max Cooper. My favorite track from this one is Everything. (A-)

See How They Run. Fun murder mystery with a few laugh out loud moments and great performances by Saoirse Ronan and Sam Rockwell. (B+)

Cool It Down. First new album from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the first time in nearly a decade? Yes yes yes. Spitting Off the Edge of the World is sublime. (A-)

Downton Abbey: A New Era. Sometimes, nothing but a low-stakes British period drama will do. (B+)

Night and Fog. An illuminating but difficult-to-watch companion to my other explorations of the Holocaust. (A)

Munich — The Edge of War. Solid historical drama that takes place around the events of the Munich Agreement that gave the so-called Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in exchange for postponing WWII for about a year. (B+)

The Worst Person in the World. Really interesting and affecting in parts and a great performance by Renate Reinsve. (A-)

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan. I can't say that this book made me want to become obsessed with surfing, but maybe it made me want to become obsessed with something again. Beautifully written and personally resonant. (A)

Enemy. Good acting and direction but this is the type of film that I don't think I care for anymore. (B)

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe. Compelling and well-researched. The Troubles happened during my lifetime and I saw bombings on the news as a kid, but I didn't have any more than a vague sense of what it was all about until I read this. (A)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. I thought Coogler and co. did a good job in paying tribute to Chadwick Boseman while moving the story forward. But the kids and I agreed that we missed some of the fun and lightheartedness of the first film. (B+)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We listened to the audiobook in the car over several months — the British Stephen Fry version not the (IMO) inferior Jim Dale versions. (B+)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The rules are, when you finish the audiobook, you watch the movie. (B)

Her Place. A unique dining experience that's not unlike going over to someone's house for a dinner party. There are two seatings a night, at 6:00 and 8:30; all parties are seated at the same time. It's a set menu with no substitutions and everyone in the restaurant is served at the same time. Every course or two, the chef quiets the diners to explain what's coming up, who cooked it, where the ingredients are from, and anything else she thinks is relevant. It's operationally smart and creates a great dining environment. Esquire just named it one of the best new restaurants in America. (A)

Tim Carmody's wedding. Tim has been my friend and a vital part of this website for more than a decade, so it was a real pleasure to be able to join him and Karen McGrane for their wedding. We got to walk through a 20-foot-tall model of a human heart at the Franklin Institute! What a metaphor! (A)

The Handmaid's Tale (seasons four and five). The first two seasons of this show were great. And then...well, they turned June into an antihero and a superhero, neither of which was very compelling. I dunno, maybe I just can't get past how Elisabeth Moss can play someone escaping a cult-driven society while belonging to a cult herself. (C)

You're Wrong About. I've given it a chance over the past several months but the new iteration of You're Wrong About isn't as good as the Sarah and Michael version. The show is still interesting and guests are fine, but the podcast is missing that comfortable witty banter, pacing, and Michael's sharp editing (the double intro and outro are awkward and should be discarded). One odd thing for a show that is literally about explaining things: since the format changed, they often don't plainly describe the subject matter at hand — it's just assumed that we all know what they're talking about (the eugenics and Henry Lee Lucas episodes for example). (B)

Le Relais de l'Entrecôte. If I ever own a restaurant, it's gonna serve one thing, really fucking well. (A)

Arnaud Nicolas. Absolutely mind-blowing charcuterie. (A)

Trains in Europe. Specifically in Switzerland & France and to a lesser extent in Portugal & Italy. *sigh* (A)

The Strasbourg astronomical clock. A mechanical wonder located in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame in Strasbourg, France. I stayed for quite awhile, examining all the details. (B+)

Venice. This city seems fake, like you're on a movie set or something. Even though Venice is unbelievably crowded in the touristy areas and the food is often so-so, it's so so so relaxing and quiet to walk around a city without cars. (A)

Switch Sports. Nice to have a sports game on the Switch, but I miss the golf and a couple of games from Wii Sports Resort. (B+)

Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. Couldn't get into this one. (C+)

Benfica vs. Newcastle United. My very first time watching a football match in a European stadium and wow, what a stadium and experience. Great crowd for a preseason friendly and an 89th minute winner by the home club didn't hurt either. Almirón, who is making some waves in the Premier League this season, scored two goals for the away team. (A)

Bar Kismet. Reminded me of my dearly departed favorite place in NYC. Great food, great casual atmosphere, creative cocktails, friendly service. (A)

Snowden Deli. My new favorite place for smoked meat in Montreal. (A-)

The Wok: Recipes and Techniques by Kenji López-Alt. Have only scratched the surface of this one, but it's upped my wok cooking game already. Also, does anyone else's entire family groan when I weigh in on some food question with "well, Kenji says..." or is that just me? (A-)

Legacy of Speed. Great story about athletics, politics, and activism. (B+)

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson. Conventional overview of the discovery of CRISPR and what it means for the future of humanity. I think there's a better book to be written about this though. (B)

Slaughterhouse-Five: Or the Children's Crusade, a Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut. Despite it being a modern American classic, I had very little idea what this book was about. I was not expecting....Tralfamadorians. (A-)

Ejaculate Responsibly: A Whole New Way to Think about Abortion by Gabrielle Blair. A clever & compelling common-sense reframing of the abortion debate that places much more of the responsibility for birth control on men (for a whole host of reasons enumerated by Blair). Fellows, this is worth your attention and consideration. (A-)

Enola Holmes 2. Fun and entertaining but could have been 20 minutes shorter. (B)

Tár. Incredible performance from Cate Blanchett. I'm not going to weigh in on what I thought the film was about, but do read Tavi Gevinson's take in the New Yorker. (A)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

My Recent Media Diet, Spring 2022 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   May 07, 2022

Well hey there, it's been a few months, so it's time for another roundup of what I've been reading, watching, listening to, and experiencing recently. In addition to the stuff below, I have a few things in progress: the second season of Russian Doll, Oliver Burkeman's Four Thousand Weeks, and I just started dipping into Rebecca Woolf's forthcoming memoir, All of This. Oh, and I'm listening to Russell Shorto's The Island at the Center of the World on audiobook and the third season of Michael Lewis' Against the Rules podcast. All always, don't sweat the letter grades too much.

Everything Everywhere All at Once. This movie is a little bit of a miracle: action, comedy, heartfelt, and a little bit of a mess, all together in a perfect balance. This is the best movie I've seen in ages. (A+)

Encanto. The kids and I liked it fine. (B+)

The Expanse (season six). I'm going to miss spending time in this world with these people. (A-)

Matrix by Lauren Groff. Was delighted and moved by this work of historical fiction about Marie de France. (A)

Station Eleven. I loved the slow burn and resolution of this show. I didn't think I wanted to watch a TV show about a flu pandemic causing the end of civilization, but it was actually perfect. Both actresses who played Kirsten were fantastic. (A/A+)

The Last Duel. Every director is entitled to their Rashomon I guess? And I'm not sure Matt Damon was the right choice here... (B)

Pig. Had no idea what to expect from this one. Even so, Taken + Truffle Hunters + Fight Club + Ratatouille was a surprise. (B+)

Strafford ice cream. This Black-owned dairy farm makes the richest, creamiest ice cream I've ever had. So glad I randomly bought a pint of it a few months ago...I'm never going back to anything else. (A)

Severance. Fantastic opening credits sequence and while I wasn't as enamored as many were after the first few episodes, the show definitely grew on me. (A-)

My Brilliant Friend (season three). I don't know why there's no more buzz about this show. The acting, world-building, story, and Max Richter's soundtrack are all fantastic. And the fight against fascism! (A)

The Gilded Age. Exactly what I wanted out of a period drama from the maker of Downton Abbey and Gosford Park. (B+)

Exhalation. Second time through, this time on audiobook. I love these stories - Chiang is a genius. (A)

The Book of Boba Fett. This turned into season 2.5 of The Mandalorian and I am totally ok with that. (B+)

Other People's Money podcast. As a snack-sized in-between season for his excellent Against the Rules podcast, Michael Lewis revisits his first book, Liar's Poker, written about his experience working for Salomon Brothers in the 80s. (A-)

The King's Man. Not as fun as the first movie but more fun than the second one? But they all could be better. (B)

Turning Red. I loved Domee Shi's short film, Bao, and this film is similarly clever and heartfelt. (A-)

Drive My Car. Really appreciated the cinematography of this one; wish I could have seen it in the theater. (A-)

Jennifer Packer at The Whitney. I was unfamiliar with Packer's work before seeing this exhibition, but I'm a fan now. (A-)

Licorice Pizza. I'm really flabbergasted at the two pointless racist scenes in this film. PT Anderson is a better filmmaker than this. It's a shame because I enjoyed the rest of the film — the two leads are great. Can't recommend it though. (D)

Death on the Nile. These movies are fun. Sometimes all you want to do is watch Kenneth Branagh chew scenery as Hercule Poirot. (B+)

Moonfall. Not as fun or coherent (I know, lol) as some of Emmerich's other movies. The acting in this is...not great. (C+)

Hawkeye. Fun but I don't know how many more Marvel things I want to keep up with. (B)

Spider-Man: No Way Home. Tom Holland's Spider-Man is always fun. (B+)

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Better than the overcomplicated sequel and Mikkelsen was a better Grindelwald than Depp. The story wrapped up so nicely that who knows if there will be a fourth movie. (B)

The Tragedy of Macbeth. Brilliant cinematography and set design. (B+)

The Batman. Oh I don't know. I guess this was a pretty decent detective story, but I'm not sure why Batman needed to be involved. (B)

The Northman. This would have been much better had it ended 20 minutes sooner. Not sure we needed another movie that concludes with ultimately pointless violent masculine revenge. (B-)

Kimi. Soderbergh does Rear Window + The Conversation. The direction is always tight and Zoë Kravitz is great in this. (A-)

The Mysterious Benedict Society. The kids and I enjoyed this solid adaptation of the first book of a popular series. (B+)

Armageddon. The pace of this movie is incredible — it just drops you right into the action and never stops for more than 2 hours. Also, the top question when searching this movie title on Google is "Is Armageddon movie a true story?" *sigh* (B-)

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

The Invention of Coca-Cola, Miracle Brain Tonic

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2022

Spurred by a near death experience in the Civil War (after sustaining a saber wound to the chest) and looking for a way to manage the resultant addiction to morphine, pharmacist Dr. John Pemberton invented the drink that would become the globally famous and lucrative fizzy drink, Coca-Cola. I'd heard bits and pieces of this story over the year — it's part of America's consumerist mythology and therefore hard to ignore completely — but had never really had the whole thing explained to me. (via open culture)

The Fluid Dynamics of Oreo Cookie Twisting

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2022

Oreo cookies that have been twisted apart, with the creme sticking to one side of the cookie

You may have noticed, while twisting apart Oreos (aka the world's favorite "trilayer laminate composite") to get at the creme inside, that the creme tends to mostly stick to one half of the cookie. MIT graudate student Crystal Owens decided to study this phenomenon and has co-authored a paper about the failure mechanics of the Oreo's layer of creme in the journal Physics of Fluid. From Ars Technica:

"I had in my mind that if you twist the Oreos perfectly, you should split the creme perfectly in the middle," said Owens. "But what actually happens is the creme almost always comes off of one side." The experiments showed that this creme distribution is not affected by rotation rate, the amount of creme filling, or the flavor. Rather, the pre-existing level of adhesion between the creme and the chocolate wafers seemed to be the determining factor. Cookies from the package within any one box typically separated with the same preferred orientation most of the time. This suggests that it has something to do with how the cookies are manufactured and then oriented during packaging, as well as how they are stored.

They even built a 3D printed "oreometer" so that people can study this phenomenon without using an expensive rheometer.

As a very amateur kitchen scientist myself, the Oreo situation reminds me of what happens when you try to tear three connected pieces of paper towel apart in one move by pulling on the outside pieces in opposite directions: the middle piece of paper towel almost always ends up attached to one of the outside pieces. In fact, in extensive testing over the past 3-4 years, this maneuver has only separated all three pieces a few times.1 (thx, eric)

  1. There's always a lot of hootin' and hollerin' and victory laps around the kitchen when a perfect pull happens. It's a rare event!

The Del Monte $20 Bill

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2022

A misprinted $20 bill with a Del Monte banana sticker on it

Somehow, during the printing process at a US Treasury Department printing facility, this $20 bill got a Del Monte banana sticker affixed to it...and then the seal and serial number was printed over it. The bill, known as the Del Monte Note, was sold at auction in January 2021 for $396,000.

Michelin Star Onions

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2022

I don't know why I thought that chefs at really high-end restaurants cut onions the same way I do at home (except perhaps more carefully), but it turns out that they absolutely do not. The rationale behind the fussiness makes sense: the pieces need to be small enough to "melt away" when you're making sauces. (via digg)

Better Names for Food

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2022

several foods illustrated with proposed 'better' names for each

Nathan Pyle has come up with some alternate names for everyday foods: wheat wands for breadsticks, leafbucket for salad, fried beans 2.0 for refried beans, guac cartridge for avocado, and breadcocoon meatapillar for corn dogs. Click through for more.

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2022

two photos, one of a fish next to a power strip and the other of a computer mouse submerged in a pot of soup

From Demetria Glace and photographer Emilie Baltz, The Leaked Recipes Cookbook is a collection of over 50 recipes from the world's biggest email leaks and hacks.

This book compiles major email leaks of the past 15 years through the theme of cooking. Part reportage, part cookbook, it showcases over 50 recipes for breakfast, dips, main dishes, sides and desserts. The recipes come from emails released after having been hacked, leaked, breached and uploaded by governments as part of large-scale investigations. Indulge in once-confidential instructions, shared by staff from the world's most influential companies, government workers linked to Hillary Clinton's emails and more.

Mmm, Butter Emails. (via a thing or two)

How to Make Potatoes While Dread Presses In from Every Direction

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 25, 2022

John Green shares his technique for roasting potatoes while fighting "the creeping sense of dread" that many of us may be experiencing right now.

All right, let's make some potatoes. You want enough potatoes that they will sustain the sack of flesh that contains your soul for several hours. And ideally you want these little red potatoes, which you then cut into sixths — or eighths if they're too big. Don't overthink the size of your potato wedges but also don't underthink it. This is the key not just for cooking but also for most things.

(via @jackisnotabird)

Starbucks Is a Bank that Sells Coffee

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2022

Starbucks sells coffee. But you can also think of Starbucks as a bank — and an unregulated one at that. As part of their rewards program, millions of Starbucks customers have preloaded money onto Starbucks cards, essentially loaning the company more than $1 billion at 0% interest.

Starbucks has around $1.6 billion in stored value card liabilities outstanding. This represents the sum of all physical gift cards held in customer's wallets as well as the digital value of electronic balances held in the Starbucks Mobile App.* It amounts to ~6% of all of the company's liabilities.

This is a pretty incredible number. Stored value card liabilities are the money that you, oh loyal Starbucks customer, use to buy coffee. What you might not realize is that these balances simultaneously function as a loan to Starbucks. Starbucks doesn't pay any interest on balances held in the Starbucks app or gift cards. You, the loyal customer, are providing the company with free debt.

See also McDonald's is a real estate company.

An AI Makes Breakfast

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2022

Janelle Shane trained an AI on a few breakfast cereal names and it came up with some cool new cereal concepts on its own.

Ai Cereals

I mean, I would go to town on some Orb Crumpets. And don't these sound delicious?!

Original Cool Ranch Cheese and Dried Cranberry Oatmeal — all the wholesome, cheesy oatmeal with a choice of mild, sweet or salty!

Ingredis Fiberwaste Cream Cheese Cheerios — kids grab a box and put them in their mouths, making fun flavors taste even better !!! !!! !!! !!!

Fibrewaste is probably an element in many American grocery items, so kudos for this brave truth in advertising on the part of our robot friend. (via waxy)

How Cascatelli, the Hot New Pasta Shape, Is Made

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2022

Back in March 2021, I wrote about cascatelli, the new pasta shape invented by Dan Pashman. Eater recently visited the Sfoglini factory to see how cascatelli (and all of their other pastas) are made. Interesting tidbit from the video: Sfoglini originally thought they would sell 5000 boxes and be done, but cascatelli is now the company's third-best-selling pasta with no signs of slowing down. (thx, david)

My Recent Media Diet, the Belated End of 2021 Edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 18, 2022

"Recent" is increasingly becoming a lie with these media diet posts...the last one I did was back on Sept 13, right before my life went to hell in a handcart for a couple of months.1 So let's get to it: a list of short reviews of all the movies, books, music, TV shows, podcasts, and other things I've enjoyed (or not) in the last few months of 2021 (as well as a few 2022 items). As usual, don't pay too much attention to the letter grades — they are subjective and inconsistent. Oh and some of this stuff might have already popped up in my end-of-2021 review, but I'll try and say something different about them here.

The Great British Baking Show. I already covered this in the last media diet (and the year-end review), but I wanted to include it here as well because it's become a real favorite. Rahul 4eva! (A)

Project Hail Mary. After my whole family read this and couldn't stop talking about it, I had to read it too. And......it was alright. I guess I don't quite get the acclaim for this book — reminded me of a sci-fi Da Vinci Code. Looking forward to the movie being better. (B)

The French Dispatch. Maybe my favorite Wes Anderson movie since The Royal Tenenbaums? (A)

The Hunger Games. I watched all four movies in this series because I needed something familiar and also mindless to switch my brain off. (B+)

Ted Lasso (season two). Not quite as good as the first season and definitely not as beloved because they had some new ground to cover, but I enjoyed the season as a whole. And put me down as a fan of the Coach Beard Rumspringa episode. (A-)

Izakaya Minato. I don't exactly know what it was about this meal, but I'm still thinking about it more than 3 months later. Really fresh, clean, creative food. (A)

Magnus on Water. Amazing cocktails, great service, and the outdoor seating area was just right. (A-)

The Lost Daughter. Gah, so good! Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, and Jessie Buckley are all fantastic and the direction and cinematography (all those tight, almost suffocating shots) were just great. Gonna be thinking about this one for awhile. (A+)

Therapy. I've got more to say about this at some point, but I've been seeing a therapist since September and it's been really helpful. (A)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I enjoyed this quite a bit, more than Black Widow or The Eternals (haven't seen latest Spidey yet). (B+)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings soundtrack. Really, really good — been blasting this in the car a lot lately. (A)

Dune. Felt good to see a serious blockbuster in the theater again. And to be able to rewatch it on HBO Max a couple of weeks later. (A-)

Ravine. I've only played this a couple of times with the kids, but it got high marks all around for fun and quick rounds. (B+)

The Power of the Dog. A slow burn with a great payoff. Wonderful cast & direction. (A)

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. I loved the first half of this book — lots of pithy observations about social media. (B+)

Don't Look Up. Everyone is comparing this to Dr Strangelove and while it's not quite on that level, it certainly does some of the same things for climate change that DS did for nuclear war. (A)

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut. A super interesting mix of historical fact and narrative fiction about the swift technological changes that took place in the early 20th century that altered history in small and large ways. (A-)

Wingspan. Bought this game after reading Dan Kois' review and our family has been enjoying it. (B+)

Pirates of the Caribbean. Still fun. I remember being very skeptical before seeing this for the first time back when it came out, but as soon as Jack Sparrow stepped off his sinking ship right onto the dock, I knew it was going to be good. (A-)

Clear and Present Danger. I don't actually remember watching much of this...must have switched off my brain too much. (-)

Spies in Disguise. I read the plot synopsis of this on Wikipedia and I still don't remember watching any of it. I think the kids liked it? (-)

The Courier. Solid spy thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Based on a true story. (B+)

Finch. Charming but nothing much actually happens? (B)

Eternals. Now that the Infinity Saga is done, I'm not sure how much interest I'm going to have in some of these new characters & storylines. (B)

Mad Max Fury Road. Seventh rewatch? Eighth? I just plain love this movie. (A)

No Time to Die. I am not really a James Bond fan but I liked this one. (B+)

Succession (season three). This got off to a bit of a slow, meandering start, but the last few episodes were just fantastic. (A)

Omicron variant. You think you're out but they keep pulling you back in. (F-)

Swimming with bioluminescent plankton. Thought the water was going to glow as I swam through it, but it was more like sparkly fireworks. Magical. (A)

Xolo Tacos. We stumbled in here for dinner after nothing else looked good and were rewarded with the best tacos on Holbox. The carne asada taco might be the best taco I've had in years and we ended up ordering a second round. (A)

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney. I liked this one slightly less than her first two novels. But only slightly. (A-)

Free Guy. Fun entrant into the video game movie genre. (B+)

Hacks. It was fine but ultimately didn't understand why so many people on my timeline were raving about this. (B+)

NY Times Crossword app. I've never been much for crossword puzzles, but the Times app does all the fiddly work (e.g. of finding the current clue's boxes, etc.) for me so I've been enjoying dipping my toe into the Monday and Tuesday puzzles. But the Minis and Spelling Bee are where it's at for me. (B+)

The Hunt for Red October. Still a great thriller. (A-)

Avatar: The Last Airbender. After watching The Legend of Korra, the kids and I went back to watch Avatar. The first season and a half is kinda uneven, but overall we really liked it. The beach episode has to be one of the weirdest things I've ever seen on television and the one where Aang is hallucinating from the lack of sleep made my kids laugh so hard I thought they were going to pass out. (A-)

The Matrix Resurrections. I am someone who didn't dislike the second and third Matrix movies as much as everyone else seemed to, and so it is with this one as well. Wish I could have seen this in the theater, but Omicron. (A-)

The Wrong Trousers. The last five minutes is still maybe the best chase scene in movie history. (A)

Preview of the next media diet: I am enjoying the hell out of Lauren Groff's Matrix, want to read The Lost Daughter, just started the last season of The Expanse, listening to the audiobook version of Exhalation, want to check out Station Eleven on HBO Max, and plan on watching Pig, Drive My Car, and Licorice Pizza. Oh, and I need to dig into the second seasons of The Great and For All Mankind. And more GBBO! We'll see how much of that I actually follow through on...

Past installments of my media diet are available here.

  1. Nothing serious, I am embarrassed to say. I just got really into the weeds with a number of things and I kinda fell to pieces.

Otherworldly Single Malt Scotch

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2021

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

For his series Vanishing Spirits: The Dried Remains of Single Malt Scotch, photographer Ernie Buttons photographed the creatively lit bottoms of glasses emptied of their single malt Scotch whisky. The results look like alien worlds.

These remind me a lot of Christopher Jonassen's frying pan worlds and Nadine Schlieper's & Robert Pufleb's photos of pancakes that look like moons. (via moss & fog)

The Worst Michelin-Starred Meal Ever

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 08, 2021

Four people laughing and befuddled at a terrible meal

Geraldine DeRuiter, aka The Everywhereist, documents a high-concept fine-dining meal that, for reasons yet unexplained, went all kinds of wrong.

It's as though someone had read about food and restaurants, but had never experienced either, and this was their attempt to recreate it.

What followed was a 27-course meal (note that "course" and "meal" and "27" are being used liberally here) which spanned 4.5 hours and made me feel like I was a character in a Dickensian novel. Because — I cannot impart this enough — there was nothing even close to an actual meal served. Some "courses" were slivers of edible paper. Some were shot glasses of vinegar. Everything tasted like fish, even the non-fish courses. And nearly everything, including these noodles, which was by far the most substantial dish we had, was served cold.

Even forearmed with this overall description, some of the individual moments in the meal play like (bad) theatrical surprises:

"These are made with rancid ricotta," the server said, a tiny fried cheese ball in front of each of us.

"I'm... I'm sorry, did you say rancid? You mean... fermented? Aged?"

"No. Rancid."

"Okay," I said in Italian. "But I think that something might be lost in translation. Because it can't be—"

"Rancido," he clarified.

Another course — a citrus foam — was served in a plaster cast of the chef's mouth. Absent utensils, we were told to lick it out of the chef's mouth in a scene that I'm pretty sure was stolen from an eastern European horror film.

Not just bad. Memorably bad. Award-winningly bad. Which is, as DeRuiter writes, something of an achievement in itself.

Update: You can scroll down to the end of this piece to read a "Declaration by Chef Floriano Pellegrino" that responds to DeRuiter's review.

Being able to draw a man on a horse does not make you an artist

Update: DeRuiter wrote about her post going viral and the response from Pellegrino.

But a restaurant is not a museum, or an art gallery. If anything, the stakes are even higher, because you aren't simply creating, you are creating something for someone. Every meal that comes out of the kitchen at Bros. is for a paying customer. It is for someone who has a minimum expectation of what a meal should be. A meal might be innovative, or cutting edge, or require a great deal of technical skill (and indeed, many of the dishes at Bros. were). But if it is insubstantial, or contains something that the customer is allergic to, or it simply doesn't taste good, then what the hell does it matter if the chef thinks that he's created art? He's still failed at being a chef.

But beyond that, it's a baffling sort of gatekeeping, to tell someone that the reason they didn't enjoy a meal is that they didn't understand art. That the reason the meal was awful was because we don't appreciate the avant garde. It's a sort of culinary gaslighting.

I have been lucky enough to have eaten at a few restaurants whose food & dining experience could be considered art and the one thing they all had in common was that they were able to ask tough questions of the diner and deliver some of the most surprising & delicious food I have ever tasted.

Julia: A Documentary Film About Julia Child

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 15, 2021

Directed by Betsy West & Julie Cohen (who previously did RBG), Julia is a documentary film that chronicles the life of Julia Child, perhaps the first and still most famous celebrity chef.

Using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives, and cutting-edge, mouth-watering food cinematography, the film traces Julia Child's surprising path, from her struggles to create and publish the revolutionary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date, to her empowering story of a woman who found fame in her 50s, and her calling as an unlikely television sensation.

The film opened in theaters a couple of weeks ago and is getting great reviews (98% on Rotten Tomatoes).

"Caffeine Was an Amazing Aid to the Rise of Capitalism"

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2021

In this video, Michael Pollan explains how caffeine is woven into the fabric of modern society. Here's the short version of how that came to be: People used to drink a lot of alcohol because water was unsafe, so folks were often in a sort of low-grade stupor. When coffee hit Europe, it provided the stimulation, focus, and energy necessary for people to work better and longer. Voila, the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.

You can read more about caffeine in Pollan's latest book This Is Your Mind on Plants (excerpt here) or in his 2020 audiobook called Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World.

The Avocado Test

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2021

the avocado test

That's Meredith Southard's cartoon for the New Yorker, a play on the marshmallow test. It's funny because it's true. I have an avocado in the fridge that I'm planning on using for lunch — but maybe it's all brown inside?! So excited to find out if I'm actually eating lunch or not in a few minutes.

How to Cut & Serve Every Different Kind of Cheese

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

Join cheesemonger Anne Saxelby as she shows us how to cut, serve, store, and accompany more than two dozen cheeses that cover the entire spectrum of cheese-dom, from Parmigiano-Reggiano to Cheddar to Roquefort to Burrata. This video is like a private cooking class with a very thoughtful & knowledgable host — and it made me incredibly hungry. A good pairing might be Saxelby's recent book, The New Rules of Cheese.

But..... at the first mention of the word "fridge", I could not help but think of this classic interview with French marketing consultant Clotaire Rapaille: In America, the Cheese Is Dead.

For example, if I know that in America the cheese is dead, which means is pasteurized, which means legally dead and scientifically dead, and we don't want any cheese that is alive, then I have to put that up front. I have to say this cheese is safe, is pasteurized, is wrapped up in plastic. I know that plastic is a body bag. You can put it in the fridge. I know the fridge is the morgue; that's where you put the dead bodies. And so once you know that, this is the way you market cheese in America.