New York Times:

[in 1986] Frito-Lay had a formidable research complex near Dallas, where nearly 500 chemists, psychologists and technicians conducted research that cost up to $30 million a year, and the science corps focused intense amounts of resources on questions of crunch, mouth feel and aroma for each of these items. Their tools included a $40,000 device that simulated a chewing mouth to test and perfect the chips, discovering things like the perfect break point: people like a chip that snaps with about four pounds of pressure per square inch.

To get a better feel for their work, I called on Steven Witherly, a food scientist who wrote a fascinating guide for industry insiders titled, “Why Humans Like Junk Food.” I brought him two shopping bags filled with a variety of chips to taste. He zeroed right in on the Cheetos. “This,” Witherly said, “is one of the most marvelously constructed foods on the planet, in terms of pure pleasure.” He ticked off a dozen attributes of the Cheetos that make the brain say more. But the one he focused on most was the puff’s uncanny ability to melt in the mouth. “It’s called vanishing caloric density,” Witherly said. “If something melts down quickly, your brain thinks that there’s no calories in it… you can just keep eating it forever.”

This New York Times piece on junk food is incredible. I’m posting my favorite bits, but the whole thing is worth a read.


New York Times:

In what would prove to be their greatest achievement of all, the Lunchables team would delve into adolescent psychology to discover that it wasn’t the food in the trays that excited the kids; it was the feeling of power it brought to their lives. As Bob Eckert, then the C.E.O. of Kraft, put it in 1999: “Lunchables aren’t about lunch. It’s about kids being able to put together what they want to eat, anytime, anywhere.”

Kraft’s early Lunchables campaign targeted mothers. They might be too distracted by work to make a lunch, but they loved their kids enough to offer them this prepackaged gift. But as the focus swung toward kids, Saturday-morning cartoons started carrying an ad that offered a different message: “All day, you gotta do what they say,” the ads said. “But lunchtime is all yours.”


Egg baked in tomato sauce at Plow.

(via paul octavious)


As many of you have heard (because I have posted about it before, a lot) Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins opened up a tea house called Madame Zuzu’s in my home town of Highland Park.

Today I will journey to Madame Zuzu’s with Eli and David from Cards Against Humanity and report back here and on Twitter. What do you want to know?


The Onion:

Man At Very Top Of Food Chain Chooses Bugles

SOUTH BEND, IN - Despite having no natural enemies and belonging to a species that completely dominates its ecosystem, local IT manager Reggie Atkinson opted to consume the processed corn snack Bugles Monday. “I was in the mood for something salty and crunchy, and it’s a little early for dinner,” said the ultimate predator, whose ancestors’ bipedal locomotion, toolmaking abilities, and advanced spatial recognition developments allowed them to hunt animals 10 times their size. “These are original, but the other flavors are pretty good, too.” Acting on an impulse from an incredibly complex forebrain that has evolved over millions of years, Atkinson then took note of the Bugles’ amusing conical shape and placed one on each of his opposable thumbs like little wizard hats.


Here’s a video I made at Metropolis coffee this morning.


Some chocolate porn from the Sweets and Snacks expo.


Soft eggs with buttery herb-gruyere toasts.



The “Infinite Zest” (actually lemon zest) cake that members of my Great Big American Novels class made (from scratch!) as an entry for Goucher’s Edible Book fest. It is iced with the design of a tennis court, includes a footnote, is dated to the “Year of the Betty Crocker Super Moist (Cake Mix),” and has cupcakes topped with lovingly hand-rolled “joints” made with grass from the quad. It won “Most Literary,” and was delicious. The whole cake disappeared quickly, but no one ate the joint cupcakes, perhaps for fear that they had been laced with DMZ. (They hadn’t. As if Goucher students would share that stuff.)

Infinite Zest.




The manufacturer of Marmite says its supplies of the yeast-extract product ran out this week, four months after earthquakes forced it to close the only factory that made New Zealand’s version.

"Don’t freak. We will be back soon!" the company, Sanitarium, says on the Marmite website. But there are signs of freaking in this country of 4.4 million people, which eats its way through 640 metric tons of the savory spread every year.

640 metric tons of Marmite would be a great Cards Against Humanity card.


“Perhaps no American city has embraced beer in recent years as heartily as Chicago. Places like Portland and San Diego have well-deserved reputations as craft brewing hotspots, but the Windy City – home to a pack of upstarts, several established players and two of the country’s premier institutions of beer knowledge – seems well on its way to replacing its northern neighbor, home of baseball’s Brewers, as the mecca of American beer.”


Goose Island brewery in Chicago has a "beer-fed pork" program:

When we finish brewing a batch of beer, farmers come and take our left over spent grain to feed their pigs. We then buy those pigs and serve them to you alongside your beer. Recycling has never been more delicious.


Baked Avocado and Egg

  • Preheat oven to 425° with cast iron pan inside
  • Slice avocado in half, de-pit
  • Remove pan from oven, add the avocado, crack the egg into the middle
  • Top with salt, pepper, paprika (or whatever)
  • Bake until white sets

P.S. If you have strong feelings about cooking avocado, you could just poach the egg and add it to a chilled half-avocado.


Congress ends corn ethanol subsidy

Detroit News:

The United States has ended a 30-year tax subsidy for corn-based ethanol that cost taxpayers $6 billion annually, and ended a tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol.

Congress adjourned for the year on Friday, failing to extend the tax break that’s drawn a wide variety of critics on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Critics also have included environmentalists, frozen food producers, ranchers and others.

The policies have helped shift millions of tons of corn from feedlots, dinner tables and other products into gas tanks.