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This Technology Tricks You into Thinking a Gelatinous Blob is a Fancy Steak

This Technology Tricks You into Thinking a Gelatinous Blob is a Fancy Steak

Project Nourished is a virtual reality dining experience that lets you eat a meal without consuming all of those calories

Would virtual reality food be fun or is the technology not at all necessary?

Virtual reality dining sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, but the future, complete with super cool-looking virtual reality glasses, is (almost) here. The technology is the brainchild of Project Nourished, which tricks you into thinking you’re eating gourmet food (steak, sushi, or pretty much anything you want) when you’re actually consuming gelatinous blobs that contain the nutrients and vitamins we need in a day.

This virtual reality experience goes one step beyond Soylent, the tasteless, beige shake that also has all the necessary nutrients and vitamins for a human adult. But this innovation actually makes “fake” food feel real, and without all of the unwanted sugars and unhealthy fats.

Project Nourished combines the technology of the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset with hydrocolloid gums (water-soluble additives that improve mouthfeel, extend shelf-life, encapsulate flavors, emulsify beverages, build viscosity, and retain moisture) to transform your gloop into a five-course meal. Keep in mind that Project Nourished is nowhere near a reality, and as of now it only exists as an idea on a website, imagined by designer Jinsoo An. But An believes that, in the future, the technology could help curb obesity, diabetes, and eating disorders.

Even if Project Nourished is in its infantile stages, it does have its detractors already, like Modern Farmer, which has declared the project as a “horrible technology [that] attempts to ruin the pleasure of food.”

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse

Julia Child&rsquos Bouillabaisse &ndash We are on week 10 now. Getting close to Julia&rsquos 100th birthday celebration!! Only 5 more weeks to go. Her birthday is on August 15 and she would have turned 100 then if she was still with us. She had such great wit, talent, and knowledge.

Very quick on her feet since she did not have all the editing and technology of today for her cooking shows. Again I enjoyed watching Bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise on my DVDs. She just loves hacking at a fish with a big knife.

Amazing!! Anyway, we and I mean we all made this Bouillabaisse the other night. I was busy trying to set up a few other things and Ken and Amber jumped in for me and I thank them very much. It turned out fabulous!! I had the advantage of some purchased fish stock that I had in the freezer.

Keep your eye open for it at your local fish market. You just might luck out. Easier than trying to find the fish carcasses I would think. She recommends using a portion of gelatinous fish such as halibut, eel, and some of the firmer fleshed flounder.

You can add a variety of fish and I have included a list below, some I have never heard of!! You can also add things like lobster and crab but Julia does say that this was a fisherman&rsquos stew made from the unsaleable fish of the day.

It does not need to be fancy. With watching, reading, and learning this is what I have come up with for Julia&rsquos Bouillabaisse.

TIL: Crème Légère has 2 meanings

I finally solved a mystery about "crème légère," an ingredient name that had thoroughly confused me.

On the one hand, in grocery stores, it meant a liquid product that was simply cream with 15-20%-ish milkfat that, according to internet advice in both English & French, doesn't whip (not enough milkfat).

On the other hand, high-end "entremets"-style pastries advertised their whipped-cream-like body as being "crème légère."

It turns out there are 2 completely different products going by the same name in the same country, and there isn't any of the "grocery store" version in the "pastrymaking" version.

In pastries, "crème légère" refers to a mix of "crème pâtissière" (a form of milk and egg custard) mixed with ordinary sugared whipped cream ("crème chantilly") that's been made of ordinary liquid heavy whipping cream ("entière").

It's the "lightening" of the mouthfeel of the "pastry cream" (again, not cream as in high milkfat at all, but a milk and egg custard made thick by egg yolks' reaction to heating and re-cooling) that seems to earn this preparation the name "légère," not a comment on the amount of milkfat in the whipped cream part of the preparation.

"Légère" at the grocery store, however, is a milkfat commentary and lets you know how rich you'll be making any coffee/soup you pour such liquid cream into.

Now I know, and now you know, too.

So legere must mean light, or lighter, or ligtened? I didn't know either meaning until today, although I do like to do the half whipped cream thing with creme pat. Thanks!

Yup, "légère" is French for "light!" "Allegé(e)" is French for "lightened."

Also confusing thing I recently sorted out: the "é" in "écremé" is as in the Latin "ex" or as in "un-." So "demi-écremé" isn't "half-and-half," it's "half-skimmed" (about 1.5-2%) and is a milk, not a cream, description at the grocery store (and "lait écremé" is "skim milk," not "milk with a little cream added").

Last week I told a friend that if I ever have a chance to spend a significant amount of time in France, I have a little goal to work my way through every single ingredient over there with "crème" in its name that I haven't yet worked with, or which is prohibitively expensive to work with elsewhere, and figure out if there's anything among their ridiculous selection that I actually think America is missing out on (in availability or affordability).

Hence trying to get straight what's what, and see if there's anything that's actually already common in America (hey -- the opportunity could come up one day!).

Looks like crème légère the liquid is easily substituted by a mix of heavy cream & half-and-half (and is sold in some places here), so not important, and crème légère the pastry ingredient is just something fancy one can say when describing how they made a pastry with milk & half-and-half. :-)

That said, they do also thicken their things like "crème légère" (add the word "épaisse" to the label), which involves adding fermenting agents, so some of those seem pretty foreign, as is the concept of letting cream sit around and "mature" into something ever-so-slightly sour and thick over its "plain liquid" state sold in America (the basic idea that seems to go into adding the adjective "fraîche" to the cream's label), which they might leave mostly-runny ("liquide") or might thicken with fermenting agents ("épaisse").

Furthermore, they really seem to prefer the "matured" or "fraîche" version over the "plain" versions of liquid cream sold in America, so a lot of the fat-content & aging-time & how-pasteurized & how-thick variations seem to be among "fraîche" varieties, whereas America's few dairies making "crème fraîche" (e.g. Vermont Creamery) seem to pick just one such variety that they've market-tested for success & sell it as "crème fraîche" (looks like it's an "entière" & "épaisse" w/ 39% milkfat and with lactic fermentation cultures added).

So here, for example, is "crème fraîche légère épaisse" ("matured lower-fat fermentation-thickened cream") in a tub -- although some articles say that you can't actually get such low-fat cream (15%) to thicken on its own w/ fermentation alone, which explains the 3% of the content that's potato starch, tapioca starch, & pectin in addition to the lactic fermentation product:

On the other hand, no one seems to have bothered to write "épaisse" on this, which I suppose is implied by it being sold in a tub, or "entière," which is implied by the marketing "real." This one is a "crème fraîche entière épaisse" ("matured full-fat fermentation-thickened cream") with nothing but cream & lactic fermentation products in it:

French dairy also seems to have quite a few additives in it at the commodity end of pricing -- I've seen a lot of stabilizers & milk powder in the fancy yogurt at one grocery store. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing if the additives aren't inherently unhealthy -- certainly better for the earth than dumping billions of gallons of whey into lakes & rivers while making strained "Greek" yogurt.

Sous vide

Meat eaters, especially, will love the sous vide (French for "under vacuum") cooking method. It involves vacuum-sealing food in a bag, and then slowly cooking it in a tepid water bath. A sous vide machine is a water circulator that heats water to a precise temperature and maintains it there. Vacuum-sealing your food aids in the heat transfer process. Everything is cooked at less than 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), which is the boiling point of water, and often for at least an hour.

The result is tender, succulent meat, as the sous vide method breaks down connective tissue and retains moisture—because the food cooks evenly from the inside out. The precise time and temperature required depends on the item you’re cooking. In addition to cooking meat extraordinarily well, sous vide is great for cooking soft-boiled eggs, fish, and veggies.

Because of the low temperature setting, it’s a good idea to give your food a quick sear on the stove before you chow down—both as a safety precaution against nasty pathogens and to caramelize your dish.

To use a sous vide, you need pot or container deep enough to accommodate the machine. You attach the sous vide to the pot, fill the pot with water, and set the sous vide to the desired temperature.

Many restaurants use the sous vide method, and it’s starting to reach home kitchens as well. Laboratory-grade circulator machines are a viable option, as is the $800 PolyScience Sous Vide Professional Chef Series, which I tested. Unfortunately, the Sous Vide Professional is bulky, has an awkward clamping mechanism that makes attaching it to your water vessel difficult, and couldn’t fit into my largest (1-foot-deep) pot. So instead, I opted to use a deep storage bin and the Sous Vide Professional fit into it well, with enough room to properly circulate the water.

PolyScience's sous vide works great, too, but I had to use a bin (like this one) instead of a pot.

Beginners will much prefer the Nomiku, a $300 sous vide circulator that debuted in 2012 through a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s now available for preorder, and I arranged to take one for a test run. I used it after trying the Sous Vide Professional, and was blown away by how much easier the Nomiku was to use. Because it's compact (about the size of a hand blender), you'll probably find it compatible with pots you already have in your kitchen—it fit my biggest pot without a hitch, and my medium pot as well. Its interface is extremely user-friendly: Plug it in, press the screen to power it on, and turn the dial until you reach the temperature you want. The Nomiku displays the water’s current temperature and its goal temp.

So, is pressure cooking healthy?

What do you think? For me, it’s a resounding yes.

It may not be ideal for all things. Vegetables, for example, easily turn to mush in pressure cookers if you’re not super exact and attentive about timing.

But it can dramatically reduce cooking times and increase the digestibility of legumes and grains, so I’ve got no problems with that. I even found a recipe for pressure cooker risotto I’m dying to try. (I really dislike the constant stirring necessary for the “real” stuff.)

And, it can be an excellent choice for last-minute meals. If I miss putting my roast or roundsteak into my crockpot at mid-morning, I can easily begin pressure cooking that same meal later in the afternoon and still have a “fast” dinner on the table that didn’t require us eating out (or eating scrambled eggs!) because of my poor planning.

The Candy Professor Answers Readers’ Questions

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

I’m curious about how differing countries and/or regions have differing “sweet tooths.” Years ago, when traveling through Holland, I was taken aback at their love of salted black licorice. (I had to try it, though I wasn’t a fan.) I’ve heard of fish-flavored gum in Japan, but I have yet to see (or acquire) it. What are some geographic candy fixes you’ve seen/heard/read about?

It’s not only in different places that “sweet tooths” differ, but also in different times. I haven’t studied the international candy scene quite so much, but I have marveled at the American candy concoctions of a century ago, many of which would seem quite odd today. Peach and pineapple were popular flavors in candy bars. And hard candy flavors like clove and violet were all the rage. Black licorice was also extremely popular, much more so than today where it’s a love it/hate it thing.

From my children: Why are M & M’s called M & M’s?

M & Ms: maybe “Melt in your Mouth”? Actually, M & M stands for Mars and Murrie. Journalist Joel Glenn Brenner uncovered the true story in her outstanding book “The Emperors of Chocolate.” Mars was Forrest Mars, the son of Frank Mars, the founder of the Mars candy dynasty. Murrie was R. Bruce Murrie, the son of one of Milton Hershey’s best friends, William Murrie, who was the president of Hershey Chocolate Company. When Mars took Murrie into business with him to produce M & Ms in 1940, he secured a supply of Hershey chocolate for their factory even as the looming war threatened shortages. It was Hershey chocolate machines that were modified to produce the first line of M & Ms. Today Mars and Hershey are in a drag-out war for candy bar market share, but in 1940 M & Ms came about through candy cooperation.

I’ve always been curious about the origins of s’mores. They’re pretty good, but to me they have always seemed more like a marketing scheme than a recipe. Is there any accuracy to my hunch?

Actually, s’mores are homegrown! The first written reference is in a 1927 Girl Scout manual called “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts.” Scouts, boys and girls, were fanatical marshmallow eaters and devoted marshmallow roasters in those days, as were most Americans. But we don’t know who was the first happy camper to look at the marshmallow and the cookie and the chocolate and think, aha! Anonymous genius. You can read more about the history of marshmallow roasting on my blog: High Society Marshmallow Roasts

What is the most recent successful new candy bar? It seems that all the manufacturers are making spinoffs of existing products. Example: M & M’s now available as coconut, wild cherry, pretzel, mini, almond, dark chocolate, peanut butter. The same approach is evident elsewhere on the shelves, such as many varieties of Colgate toothpaste. But is there that much brand loyalty to candy? Clearly people want something new because they make new things, but they use the same taste and texture combinations and the same names. Why?

I’m not sure it’s brand loyalty so much as the enormous expense of launching something brand new vs. the relative ease of leveraging a familiar name or look. Everybody already knows Reese’s, so a new type of Reese’s candy is already familiar, and already has space on crowded store shelves. For smaller candy makers,  who are more likely to come up with wild and crazy new candies, the price of entry into the national market is a huge barrier. If you’re looking for a sugar surprise, try smaller, local stores where candy innovations may have a chance on the shelf.

I couldn’t find much mention of gummy bears on your very interesting blog. They are my favorite, and I𠆝 love to try to reproduce them at home. Surprisingly there also aren’t many recipes for gummy candies on the Internet. I’m wondering if they were invented exclusively by factory production — linked perhaps to some sort of advance in gelatin or molds — or if they came out of a previous domestic tradition?

Gummy bears are one of those technological candy wonders. They were invented in Germany in 1920s by Hans Reigel, owner of Haribo. It wasn’t until the 1980s that gummy candies were made in the U.S.  The traditional technique involves molding the candy in starch and letting it sit for five days or so. In today’s factories, special machines extract the moisture in a vacuum chamber, that’s how they get to be so gummy. I suspect most of us don’t have one of those lying around! Black Forest/Ferrara Pan has a great virtual tour of the process.

What is the history of Halloween trick-or-treating? How and where did it begin, and how and when did packaged commercial candy come into the Halloween picture? Also, on the topic of seasonal candy, is there any non-American equivalent to the phenomenon that is Marshmallow Peeps?

Halloween trick-or-treating as we know it today first appeared in the 1930s and 1940s in various parts of the country. This involved going to the door, saying trick-or-treat, and hopefully getting a treat. In the early years, it was a little more confrontational, and many tricks resulted when treats were not forthcoming. By the 1950s, it was much more ritualized and the trick element faded. As for packaged candy, it gradually displaced the more mixed bag of coins, nuts, cookies, candies and the like that were the original treats. I invite you to read my longer post on this topic: Halloween and Candy: They Weren’t Always Best Friends<>

“Nutritionally there is little difference between a gummy bear and a bite of fruit leather,” she said.” An interesting comment to be sure, and one that seems almost reflexive among nutritionists. I assume it’s referring to the highly refined, commercial versions, such as those of Stretch Island Fruit Company, which use fruit concentrates as foundational ingredients. But what about authentic fruit leather made from whole fruits? Any insights would be most appreciated. We’re a very tiny company producing handmade authentic fruit leather seeking to better understand many nutritionists’ concerns with fruit leather. There’s no doubt fruit leather offers a concentrated source of fructose and other sugars however, authentic fruit leather also contributes complex carbohydrates, several vitamins/minerals, and a panoply of beneficial phytonutrients. Gummy bears beware.

I’m not sure what is meant by 𠇏ruit leather.” As you and another reader point out, it can mean anything from fruit puree to corn syrup plus flavor. So let me clarify and say that there are many “snack” items in my local grocery store with the word 𠇏ruit” on them and promises of “real fruit juice” and the like. And on further inspection, what this usually means is white grape juice concentrate, which is a fancy way of saying sugar. Yet these 𠇏ruit snacks” are virtuously shelved with the rest of the food, far from the candy.

Can you clarify the statement that there is no difference between fruit leather and candy? When I make fruit leather it is dried fruit, water, sugar. When I buy candy corn it is corn syrup, chemicals and more chemicals. Surely there is some difference in how that impacts the body. Obviously all packaged foods (those fruit squeezes from Whole Foods–ugh) are filled with chemicals but there is a difference it seems to me between homemade and manufactured.

I think reducing the amount of processed and refined foods that we eat is probably a good idea. But there are some things that are difficult, or time consuming, or physically impossible to make at home. Like candy corn. So I’m really thankful that candy corn exists, and I’m also really thankful that I have the choice and the means to eat mostly unprocessed and homemade food.

It’s Halloween, which means dire warnings about poisoned candy, drug laced candy, or candy bars with razor blades being given out to kids. One hospital in Tucson used to offer to X-ray your kid’s candy for you! All this in spite of extensive research and reporting to the contrary. NPR did a piece on this a couple of years ago and as far as they could tell, the only documented case of poisoned Halloween candy was fifty years ago, a man trying to kill his stepson got the neighbor’s kid instead the kid who supposedly got heroin in his candy actually had gotten into his uncle’s drug stash by mistake. Why do you think the American public wants so badly to believe in this? This is a story far older than the current mommy paranoia culture.

One of the things I have learned in my study of candy in American history is that since the 1880s, wherever there is candy, there is “poison candy.” So the poison Halloween stories are part of a long tradition of suspicion about whether candy can really be “good.” Sociologists have also connected the “Halloween sadist” stories with changes in American society in the �s: deindustrialization, loss of jobs, rising drug problem, inner city violence, a rising sense that the comfortable and righteous American of the 1950s was falling apart. The strangers handing out candy at Halloween were starting to seem a lot…stranger. I think those fears express a deep mistrust. Even if we can “rationally” understand that those razor blade apples don’t really exist, the deeper undercurrent of un-named fears still makes us worry.

The consequence of all those stories is that we can only give out or accept �tory sealed” treats: pre-made, tightly wrapped, and preferably of a recognized national brand. We don’t trust our neighbors, but we do trust our national brands. It’s a sad irony of our contemporary society.

And what is your take on the parents who want their kids to trick-or-treat, then throw the candy out, sell it to the orthodontist, or tell them the Candy Fairy took it to the poor children and left them a nice coloring book instead?

This Halloween candy ballet is the most dramatic expression of our very confused relationship to candy: we give out pounds of it to the kiddies, and then we take it away before they can eat it. It is simultaneously the very best thing, and the very worst thing. This is at best a mixed message for the kids caught in the middle. I think oftentimes parents are more worried about the short-term (I don’t want Petal eating 6 pounds of candy in the next 36 hours) and forget that the short-term is where kids learn lessons for the long-term. Forbidden fruits… I’m not saying that we should just set kids loose to graze in the candy fields, but I think that restriction and elimination are not very good ways of teaching kids to have a healthy relationship with treats.

How do you explain the exponential increase in sugar consumption in the United States. U.S. Department of Agriculture reports U.S. consumption of sugars added to food items increased by 23 percent between 1985 and 1999, and seems to be somewhat correlated to the rise of income levels in that period. The last time I looked, I believe Americans were consuming more than 160 pounds of sugar a year, almost double the amount consumed in the 19th Century.

Is this necessarily a bad thing as interest groups and some nutritionists say? It has become a matter of religion for some groups that America’s sugar consumption needs to be reduced dramatically to reduce levels of diabetes and other diseases they contend are related to sugar. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been particularly shrill on this issue. As America moves toward national health, do we need a national sugar policy? Is there a provable direct link between sugar and disease?

That is a lot of sugar to be sure. And when you add in all the white flour and starches that turn into sugar pretty quickly in the body, I personally believe that there are health consequences. But I think we need to be looking at the whole food picture. Demonizing one food, be it candy or “liquid candy” (soda and soft drinks) makes it easy: just get rid of that one bad thing and we’ll be fine. On the other hand, re-learning what it means to eat real food and transforming our food system to support more whole and fresh foods is a much more difficult proposition.

I would assume that the candy-phobic parents you encountered during the play date were educated and reasonably well-read. Apart from the missing halo over candy, what do you think accounts for their and others’ selective judgment about sugar intake? At the same time, I don’t think that the candy industry is suffering — it’s still a multibillion-dollar industry.

Apple juice, grape jelly, lollipop: all sugar, only one called �ndy.” Fruit juice, vitamins, and organic ingredients added to what I would otherwise call candy seem to create the sense that these snacks, often acquired at “health food” stores, are “good for you.” I think in the case of these highly processed foods, the illusion of fruit virtue is the counterpart of the belief in candy vice.

I’m very interested to watch how the candy industry is responding to consumer desires for “healthy” treats. This is the buzz in candy right now, and all kinds of re-packaging and new products are in the pipeline. For the biggest companies, the commitment is less to candy than to profit, so if they have to stop calling it �ndy” to boost sales, no matter. I do believe, though, that there can and should be a place for just regular candy, especially the ones I like!

Surely having homemade anything (including candy) from local (hopefully organic) ingredients is better than the processed stuff that has been formularized by nutritional scientist to be addictive?

I’m not saying that old fashion candy isn’t addictive – just look at how quickly one gets through home-made (organic) chocolate cake. But I find that there’s less gorging-my-face factor. It’s the same with old-fashioned hard boiled sweets – they last far longer and I believe (have not measured) that I probably eat less to get the same amount of enjoyment. Fudge would stick around in the mouth for much longer too.

The thing about processed sugar is that it’s addictive. My first cupcake is always 𠇎ww.. too sweet”…. but then the second and third is “just divine”. And then it’s mostly uphill/downhill from there depending on which way one looks at it. The compulsion to quickly replace the explosion of taste has begun.

I don’t think I’m an exception to this and I believe that in this day and age, candy is evil-ler than what it used to be in the ‘ye olde times’. I understand that it’s a lack of education where parents see sugar in candy but not in fruit juice, but the vilification of processed candy in this day an age, is not completely unjustified.

One of the amazing things about American candy over the last century is how inventive and creative it has been. And most of it could not be replicated at home: it has been a product of technology and science as much as cookery. I think the �ictive” qualities of certain foods are complicated: we are in a murky terrain of desire, availability, marketing, physiology, psychology. And we also are confronted with an incredible array of processed foods, candy being out there at the edge of that processed food universe. So instead of banishing candy, I would like to re-consider that whole processed food thing, and then enjoy candy for what it is.

Perfect timing! I’m trying to make toffee-like candies with sweetened condensed milk for a Costa Rican meal. I punctured the can in two places and put the whole thing in simmering in water. The water came almost the whole way up the sides of the can. I cooked the first one for 6 hours and the second one for 8… but it still wasn’t toffee-like. Would it happen faster if I didn’t puncture the can? I’m afraid of the �ngers” of doing that way. Or should I just keep cooking it?

Sounds delicious. But I am not the person to ask about cooking! Good luck!

Crazy for crepes

The crepes craze, which began in the 1960s, became intense in the 1970s. By the late 1980s it had all but disappeared.

But before crepes achieved popularity, they were almost unknown in the U.S. The exception was Crepes Suzette, thin, delicate pancakes with an orange-butter sauce and liqueurs that were often dramatically lit aflame at the diners’ table. Like Cherries Jubilee, Crepes Suzette usually only appeared on high-priced menus, such as the Hotel Astor [1908 quotation].

Before 1960 even fewer restaurants served savory crepes, and those that did would also seem to have been expensive restaurants. In 1948 the Colony in New York City served Crepes Colony with a seafood filling. And in the late 1950s New York’s Quo Vadis offered Crepes Quo Vadis, filled with curried seafood and glazed with a white sauce, as hors d’oeuvres.

Although few Americans had ever eaten Crepes Suzette, it’s likely that the fame of this prized dish helped pave the way for the creperie craze, with restaurants primarily featuring crepes. Crepes were regarded as an exotic luxury dish that, by some miracle, was affordable to the average consumer, sometimes costing as little as 60 or 75 cents apiece around 1970.

Crepes enjoyed a mystique, offering a link to European culture and a break from the meat and potatoes that dominated most restaurant menus in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

At a time when America was seen as the world leader in modern ways of living – including industrially efficient food production — Europe was imagined as a romantically quaint Old World where traditional ways were preserved and many things were still handmade.

American creperies catered to their customers’ wish for a taste of Europe. With country French decor, servers in folk costumes, and names such as Old Brittany French Creperie and Maison des Crepes [pictured at top, Georgetown], diners were imaginatively transported to a delightfully foreign environment quite unlike the brand new shopping malls in which many creperies were located. Another exotic touch employed by quite a few creperies was to use the French circumflex mark in crêpes (which I have not done in this blogpost).

Filled with creamed chicken, ratatouille, or strawberries and whipped cream (etc.), crepes soon became a favorite lunch, dinner, and late-night supper for college students, dating couples, shoppers, and anyone seeking “something different.” Along with crepes, menus typically included a few soups, most likely including French onion soup, a spinach-y salad, and perhaps a carafe of wine.

San Francisco’s Magic Pan Creperie led the trend and, after being acquired by Quaker Oats in 1969, spread to cities across the country, with the chain eventually totaling about 112. The first Magic Pan, a tiny place on Fillmore Street, was opened in 1965 by Paulette and Laszlo Fono, who came to this country in 1956 after the failed anti-Communist uprising in their native Hungary. A few years later they opened another Magic Pan in Ghirardelli Square and Laszlo patented a 10-pan crepe-maker capable of turning out 600 perfectly cooked crepes per hour [pictured here].

As Quaker opened Magic Pans, they invariably received a warm welcome in newspaper food pages. It was as though each chosen city had been “awarded” one of the creperies, usually situated in upscale suburban shopping malls such as St. Louis’s Frontenac Plaza or Hartford’s West Farms Mall. When a Magic Pan opened in Dallas’ North Park shopping center in 1974, it was called “as delightful a restaurant as one is likely to find in Dallas.”

Among Magic Pan amenities (beyond moderate prices), reviewers were pleased by fresh flowers on each table, good service, delicious food, pleasant decor, and late hours. Many of the Magic Pans stayed open as late as midnight – as did many independent crepe restaurants. [Des Moines, 1974]

In hindsight it’s apparent that creperies responded to Americans’ aspirations to broaden their experiences and enjoy what a wider world had to offer. It was a grand adventure for a high school or college French class or club to visit a creperie, watch crepe-making demonstrations, and have lunch. [below: student at the Magic Pan, Tulsa, 1979] But what one Arizona creperie owner called the “highbrow taco” did not appeal to everyone. The operator of a booth selling crepes at Illinois county fairs reported that hardly anyone bought them and that some fairgoers referred to them as creeps or craps.

I would judge that crepes and creperies reached the pinnacle of popularity in 1976, the year that Oster came out with an electric crepe maker for the home. Soon the downward slide began.

Quaker sold the Magic Pans in 1982 after years of declining profits. The new owner declared he would rid the chain of its “old-lady” image, i.e., attract more male customers. Menus were expanded to include heartier meat and pasta dishes.

Even though new creperies continued to open here and there – Baton Rouge got its first one in 1983 – there were signs as early as 1980 that the crepe craze was fading. A visitor to a National Restaurant Association convention that year reported that crepes were “passé” and restaurants were looking instead for new low-cost dishes using minimal amounts of meat or fish. A restaurant reviewer in 1986 dismissed crepes as “forgotten food” served only in conservative restaurant markets. Magic Pans were closing all over, and by the time the 20-year old Magic Pan on Boston’s Newbury Street folded in 1993, very few, if any, remained.

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What is the weirdest thing you could cook with alcohol in it?

Helloo, I need ideas of foods that can be cooked with an alcohol twist, I was thinking of something like alcohol mochi or like mango rice with rum. Any ideas would be highly appreciated thank you!

Weird as in "most people maybe haven't tried this but it's actually quite normal and delicious" or weird as in "jesus christ dude why is there jaegermeister INSIDE the hamburger patty?"

Beer can chicken, it's a relatively common and normal thing. But when you really think of it, your violating a carcass by shoving a can up it's ass

Plus you're smoking meat in clouds of burned paint/ink and plastic coating.

It’s also completely pointless and no beer actually gets in the chicken.

Are you thinking of actually tasting the alcohol or just having it as an ingredient?

If the latter, you can technically put alcohol in almost any cooked savory food—for example, a lot of Japanese marinades and pan sauces include sake. You can also add them in glazes, broths/soups, pastas, etc. as I said, almost any cooked food. Same goes with baking—bananas foster would be a signature dish with alcohol, but you can brush them on cakes (in a dilution like tiramisu), add them to mousses, etc.

Fruit flavored gelatin and Everclear grain neutral spirits.

This isn't exactly cooking but. I make a Kahlua shake with a couple of vodka shots added to give it a kick.

I've made pulled pork with a shot of whiskey in it. I imagine you could find a way to incorporate whiskey or bourbon into hamburgers pretty easily.

You can use a variety of liquors with ice creams, cheese cakes, etc.

None of that's really that weird though.

If you cook in alcool you'll basically remove the alcool content and be left with flavour. That's the basis behind Boeuf Bourguignon (beef stew in plenty of red wine) or carbonade Flamande (beef stew in plenty of beer).

If you want to taste the booze then Iɽ go for Baba au Rhum (kind of cake dipped in syrup, covered with wipped cream and soaked or with a sprinkle of rum, depending on your taste). Crêpe Suzette is also nice. Crêpe is covered in sugar and Grand Marnier which is lit on fire. Super fancy if you can pull it of without burning your hair, clothes etc..

Poires aux vins are nice (poached pears in red wine with cinnamon, lemon and sugar).

Lots of Asian dishes have alcool in the sauce too. Japanese teriyaki sauce contains sake and mirin, and lot of Chinese dishes use Shaoxing wine. But of course it cooks away as you heat the sauce.

You can also have an expresso to which you add some liqueur (whisky, grappa or Calva work well).

Sorry none of these seem weird though. My SO makes a white wine cake (kind of like a sponge cake flavoured with white wine). It's maybe weirder because not traditional, but very good none the less.

The Rebel Physicist on the Hunt for a Better Story Than Quantum Mechanics

For a century, quantum theory has been scientific orthodoxy. The Italian physicist Angelo Bassi is certain it isn’t the full story — and that he can prove it.

Credit. Illustration by Christiana Couceiro

‘T he thing that amazes me is that quantum mechanics is only 100 years old,” the physicist Angelo Bassi said. We were in conversation across a picnic table on a drab Soviet-era campus in Zagreb, an early-autumn breeze swishing through the yellowing leaves of some nearby trees. “It’s a baby, it’s nothing — 100 years in the history of science. How can you just stop there? It doesn’t make sense any way you look at it.” We sat in the shadow of a rust-stained beige building where Bassi was about to speak at a workshop for physicists who specialize in the century-old subject.

Despite the theory’s advancing years, even college-educated adults tend to have only a hazy sense of what quantum mechanics says. And for good reason. Although physicists use it to predict the behavior of the fundamental particles, like electrons, that make up atoms and the photons that make up light, and in spite of its having been the basis of many of the 20th century’s signature technologies (including nuclear power, lasers and computers), the theory has confounded even the cognoscenti from its beginnings in the 1920s. That’s because, while it’s spectacular at making predictions, it doesn’t describe what’s actually happening underneath nature’s hood to make those results come about. It would be one thing to concede that science may never be able to explain, say, the subjective experiences of the human mind. But the standard take on quantum mechanics suggests something far more surprising: that a complete understanding of even the objective, physical world is beyond science’s reach, since it’s impossible to translate into words how the theory’s math relates to the world we live in.

Bassi, a 47-year-old theoretical physicist at the University of Trieste, in northeastern Italy, is prominent among a tiny minority of rebels in the discipline who reject this conclusion. “I strongly believe that physics is words, in a sense,” he said across the picnic table. And whereas all the other talks at the workshop focused on the empirical implications of quantum mechanics, Bassi’s would make a case for what a vast majority of his colleagues consider a highly implausible idea: that the theory upon which nearly all of modern physics rests must have something wrong with it — precisely because it can’t be put into words.

Of course, much about quantum mechanics can be said with words. Like the fact that a particle’s future whereabouts can’t be specified by the theory, only predicted with probabilities. And that those probabilities derive from each particle’s “wave function,” a set of numbers that varies over time, as per an equation devised by Erwin Schrödinger in 1925. But because the wave function’s numbers have no obvious meaning, the theory only predicts what scientists may see at the instant of observation — when all the wave function’s latent possibilities appear to collapse to one definitive outcome — and provides no narrative at all for what particles actually do before or after that, or even how much the word “particle” is apropos to the unobserved world. The theory, in fact, suggests that particles, while they’re not being observed, behave more like waves — a fact called “wave-particle duality” that’s related to how all those latent possibilities seem to indicate that an unobserved particle can exist in several places at once. The act of observation itself is then posited to somehow convert this nonsensical situation into the world we see, of objects having definite locations and other properties. This makes human beings, who are after all the ones making the observations, in essence responsible for conjuring the reality we experience out of a murky netherworld that quantum mechanics implies is simply unknowable.

Arguments about quantum theory have a tendency to turn into untestable philosophical speculation. But what makes Bassi exceptional, even among the rebels, is his conviction that experiments will soon show that quantum mechanics is in fact only approximately correct, the mere tip of a deeper and more fundamental theory that will describe the objects and mechanisms that make fundamental particles act the way they do, without any reference to the role of human observation. And what makes him even more exceptional is his success in getting such studies off the ground. Bassi’s research is focused on a possible alternative to quantum mechanics, a class of theories called “objective collapse models” that doesn’t rely on human observation to collapse a wave function’s possibilities to a single outcome, but that invokes instead an objective, physical process to do the job whether anyone’s looking or not. And Bassi is now leading the most ambitious experiment to date that could show that objective collapse actually happens.

If he is proved right, the implications for physics, technology and, yes, even philosophy, would be immense. Such an outcome would speak to questions of what we can hope to understand about the world, and conversely, which questions are destined to remain forever off-limits.

A few days before Bassi’s talk in Zagreb, I attended the first class of his quantum mechanics course on the University of Trieste campus, which crowns a high hill overlooking the crescent-shaped city and the Adriatic Sea. Bassi wore a long-sleeved black T-shirt and skinny jeans that, with his lanky frame and large hands, gave him, as he paced and gestured at the front of the room, the aspect of an ungainly mime.

He was speaking Italian. I don’t speak Italian, but when he chalked “F = ma” onto the blackboard, I could see he was reviewing Newton’s laws of motion, also known as classical mechanics. Classical mechanics does a fine job explaining the movements of things much larger than atoms, like bacteria, baseballs and planets. And even though making such predictions requires math, understanding the theory’s meaning doesn’t. Bassi drew a dot on the board, and then a curvy line with an arrow at its end: a particle moved by a force through space. Add to that picture the premise that baseballs and the rest are just collections of such particles and you can say in four words, as Bassi repeatedly did to me, how classical mechanics says the world works: “particles subject to forces.”

Bassi then wrote Schrödinger’s equation on the board — quantum theory’s upgrade to “F = ma,” a moderately more complicated combination of letters and numbers that still applies to baseballs and the rest, but also to molecules and atoms. Schrödinger himself, as disconcerted as anyone by quantum theory’s lack of description, figured that it was simply incomplete — a conclusion his contemporary Albert Einstein shared, pointedly asking one colleague if he truly believed that the moon wasn’t there when no one was looking. But to most of the other founders of quantum mechanics, in particular the highly influential Niels Bohr, the theory’s limitations simply signaled that physics had reached a dead end, that it could go no further in revealing the true nature of nature, and that it would have to content itself instead with its bread and butter of making predictions. “Shut up and calculate,” a theorist once quipped to sum up this stance, which has become, more or less, physics orthodoxy today and the way the subject is taught in most textbooks and universities.

Still, a veritable zoo of conjectures for what quantum mechanics might really imply about the world has been floated by physicists and philosophers over the years, including some that postulate parallel universes and others a special status for the human mind. And the theory’s completeness is still questioned by a handful of skeptics, including the Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, whose own textbook on the subject expresses his hope that a better theory will emerge and reveal the story quantum mechanics refuses to tell.

Schrödinger coined a term — “entanglement” — for the way quantum mechanics itself may account for its reluctance: the wave functions of any two interacting objects, including observer and observed, get wove into one. This puts a researcher probing the subatomic world into a position similar to that of one water droplet trying to deduce the dimensions of another by touching it: Since the end result is one big droplet, the observing droplet can work out the volume of the observed (by subtracting its own initial volume from that of the big droplet) but can’t glean its original shape. Entanglement could be responsible for keeping objective reality behind a veil.

Nonetheless, Schrödinger also came up with his famous cat paradox to argue that quantum mechanics can’t be the whole story.

He imagined a cat locked in a box with a vial of poison and a radioactive substance that, his equation predicts, has a 50 percent chance of emitting a particle that breaks the vial and kills the cat in the time before a researcher is scheduled to look inside. Now, before that observation, quantum mechanics represents the particle with a wave function that encapsulates its two potential destinies (emitted or not) and that suggests that the particle has realized neither. At the same time, entanglement interweaves that wave function with those of the vial and cat, uniting their fates. This leads to a patently absurd description of the situation in the box before it’s opened: The particle is neither emitted nor not the vial is neither broken nor not and the cat is neither dead nor alive. Clearly, concluded Schrödinger, something is missing in this picture.

But what’s missing, says the orthodoxy, is an understanding of what physics is really about. “Physics,” Bohr wrote, “is to be regarded not so much as the study of something a priori given, but as the development of methods for ordering and surveying human experience.”

If all we ask of physics is that it describe human experience, then the paradox goes away. Quantum mechanics predicts, correctly, that the researcher, upon opening the box, is as likely to find the happy outcome as the alternative. And that’s it. To ask the cat’s condition before that is, from the orthodoxy’s perspective, as inappropriate as asking which way is north from the North Pole.

Of all the weird things about quantum mechanics, this limitation on the knowable is the weirdest, and the most profound. It suggests that scientists’ most accurate model of the world can’t describe whatever goings-on underlie our observations — or even be specific about what “observations” actually are, and what their effects are. Do they affect the cat? Or do they only happen in the observer’s mind? And although most physicists today have given up hope of answering such questions, Schrödinger, like Einstein, never did. He called its lack of description a “much overrated provisional aspect” of the theory he helped invent, one that resulted, he believed, from an all-too-human desire of his fellow physicists to believe they had found in quantum mechanics a lasting truth.

Weinberg, who wrote a book titled “Dreams of a Final Theory,” mused by phone with me about the possibility that quantum mechanics really is the truth, such that the ultimate theory that physicists dream of would only address human experience and say nothing about nature beyond that. “That would, to me, be horrible,” he said. “In fact, I might almost conclude that if that’s what it is, the hell with it.”

Still, largely because quantum mechanics has passed so many extraordinarily precise tests, collapse models are generally dismissed when considered at all, and few physicists think Bassi will succeed. Even Weinberg, on the phone, characterized his quest as “interesting” but “to some extent whistling in the dark.”

The day after his lecture in Trieste, Bassi was driving me in his blue, weather-beaten Peugeot to his hometown, Colloredo di Prato. As the saw-toothed Alps sliced by in the sky out the passenger window, I asked what things were like when he was growing up.

“There was this moral aspect of working,” he said, “which now in a sense is lost.” Young people now, he said, are too concerned with “success” and “being known.”

“Success is nothing,” his father taught him. “Proper work is what counts.”

Although Colloredo di Prato and Trieste are just an hour’s drive apart, they are, he told me, “really two different worlds.” Trieste, created ad hoc as a port, is a city of merchants, of buying and selling. His home region, farther inland and with a longer history, is instead a place of artisans and farmers, of making and growing. And you could just as well say “really two different times” about Bassi’s early childhood, which was practically preindustrial. His first home was a two-story brick-and-fieldstone apartment block — the same his father grew up in — where a handful of families lived and shared a courtyard for their horses, pigs and cows. A stone outhouse still stands there today, and although indoor plumbing had come by the time Bassi was born, television hadn’t. His first memories include running old-fashioned errands with his mother, to the local grain mill and cheesemaker. One of his first friends was a chicken. Bassi’s older sister, Ivana, fondly recalls the way little Angelo would sit in the middle of their country street and “pamper his beloved hen.”

His father was a blacksmith, his mother a nurse. His father died four years ago, but Bassi calls his mother every day, and they speak, as they always have, in Friulan, the once-dominant language of the area that is now fast being displaced by Italian.

Standing in his childhood courtyard, surrounded by the plaster-patched stone walls of empty haylofts and abandoned apartments, it is tempting to draw a line between Bassi’s Old World upbringing and his unfashionable views on physics. Not to mention the church, not a hundred yards away, whose bell tower still looms over the whole charming but decaying scene. Bassi is a practicing Catholic and a believer in God, something he says is “unusual” but “not rare” among his colleagues at the university. Einstein called his own belief that reality could be understood “religion,” and I wondered if there’s a connection between Bassi’s religious faith and that in what has become essentially a far-right position in physics. I asked him at the picnic table in Zagreb.

“Yes, it is like that,” he said. “The idea that there is truth and simplicity behind phenomena, if you wish, you can relate it directly to a faith in God that is a unity that gives rise to everything.”

“But it is also an intimate feeling,” he added. “It is not necessary that I want to link the two things.”

This feeling, he told me, is backed up by his experience.

“The simple things in life are the more genuine ones,” he explained. “When a person is simple, he’s a better person.”

The idea that the universe is simpler than it appears is supported by the way advances in physics, from Newton’s to Einstein’s and beyond, have accounted for more and more phenomena with fewer and fewer equations. But as the Cornell University physicist N. David Mermin — an arch advocate for the orthodoxy and likely the wit behind the phrase “shut up and calculate,” who has avowed that the moon is demonstrably not there when no one is looking — argues, taking an assist from the 18th-century philosopher David Hume, historical precedents and inductive reasoning can’t prove anything, not least what reality is really like. I appreciate this argument’s humility, and said so to Bassi across the table.

There is actually “arrogance,” he countered, in the orthodoxy’s assumption that quantum mechanics is correct.

“That attitude blocks research, at the end of the day,” he said. “Even if the world is ultimately not understandable, there is no reason to believe we have hit the bottom with quantum mechanics.”

Bassi told me he started in physics with far more interest in the enlightenment that theories provide than in their utility. Many starry-eyed students start off the same way, but quantum mechanics has a way of dumping water on their dreams. (As someone who finished his physics Ph.D. only to switch to a career in finance once both enlightenment and employment seemed out of reach, I write here from experience.)

“When you are a student, of course, you believe the teacher,” says Detleff Dürr, a mathematical physicist at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and a mentor to Bassi. “You think to yourself, OK, there is something in nature, something which is really beyond our understanding.”

Nonetheless, an incoming student with an inclination to question the orthodoxy could not have picked a much better place and time than the University of Trieste in the 1990s. Giancarlo Ghirardi, who taught Bassi’s first class in quantum mechanics and later became his Ph.D. adviser, and who died in 2018, is remembered at the university as a dedicated and talented teacher. But outside Trieste, Ghirardi is best known for being one of the architects of objective collapse models, which have the potential to settle the debate over what quantum mechanics means.

Broadly, there are two takes on that question. One is the orthodoxy, also called antirealism (although generally only by the nonorthodox physicists tend to recoil at being labeled anything other than some version of realist. Mermin, for example, prefers the term “participatory realist”). The antirealists are the intellectual heirs of Bohr who believe that physics can only describe the human experience of reality, and that quantum theory’s paradoxes result from misguided attempts to use it to discern the nature of reality itself.

Then there are the realists (as they happily call themselves), who are, loosely, the scions of Schrödinger and Einstein, and who believe that physics can and should describe the world as it exists apart from us — by explaining, for example, what’s going on with that cat in the box. Two ways of reconciling quantum theory with realism have gained traction. One, popularly known as “many worlds,” argues that all the possibilities encoded in wave functions actually happen, so that Schrödinger’s cat both lives and dies (and, more generally, that everything that can happen does), albeit in different branches of a vast and ever-growing multitude of universes. The other, called Bohmian mechanics, salvages Newton’s “particles subject to forces” picture, and assigns the cat a single fate, but only by giving particles seemingly supernatural powers, such as the ability to influence one another’s movements across cosmic distances instantaneously and to effectively conceal many of those movements from experiments.

Both of these options are strange and both have the embarrassment of forever-invisible features — such are the contortions physicists must make when imagining realities consistent with quantum theory’s bizarre predictions — but both also illustrate possible ways that quantum mechanics might actually describe as well as predict. The real problem is that these alternative realities are at odds with each other and with those of other competing interpretations. And that, since mere interpretations of quantum theory make no new predictions, experiments can’t choose between them, so that which a person favors is pretty much a matter of taste.

“I always considered it rather an empty game,” says Stephen Adler, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and another Bassi mentor and collaborator. “Physics is an experimental subject. If they can’t be distinguished experimentally, I don’t care what your interpretation is.”

Ghirardi and his colleagues arrived at objective collapse models by performing a delicate conceptual transplant that excised quantum theory’s references to observation and replaced them with a new mathematical term added to Schrödinger’s equation. By inducing objective collapse, the new term transformed the theory from one that describes what observers see into one that describes the world as it is (assuming, of course, that the theory is right). The hard part was finding a way to do this that didn’t cause the new theory to contradict any of quantum mechanics’ many unerring predictions. The trick, it turned out, was to endow fundamental particles with some funky new properties.

“You should remove the word ‘particle’ from your vocabulary,” Bassi explains. “It’s all about gelatin. An electron can be here and there and that’s it.”

In this theory, particles are replaced by a sort of hybrid between particles and waves: gelatinous blobs that can spread out in space, split and recombine. And, crucially, the blobs have a kind of built-in bashfulness that explains wave-particle duality in a way that is independent of human observation: When one blob encounters a crowd of others, it reacts by quickly shrinking to a point.

“It’s like an octopus that when you touch them: Whoop!” Bassi says, collapsing his fingertips to a tight bunch to evoke tentacles doing the same.

If objective collapse were to be confirmed, the orthodoxy’s belief that the laws of physics must inevitably reference us in them will lose its main motivation. The way the world works will once again be expressible in words. “Jelly that reacts like an octopus” will be the new “particles subject to forces.” New, exotic phenomena will be identified that could spawn currently inconceivable technologies. Schrödinger’s cat will live or die regardless of who looks or who doesn’t. Even the unpredictability of the subatomic world could turn out to be illusory, a false impression given by our ignorance of octopoid innards. The only problem, in the 1980s when collapse models were conceived, was that the deviations they predict from quantum theory are so tiny that no feasible experiment could have hoped to detect them.

But technology had come a long way by 2004, when Adler asked Bassi to collaborate with him on calculating observable consequences of collapse. Since then, Bassi has built a career out of dreaming up ways to discern evidence of an octopus-based reality. As a theorist, Bassi doesn’t do the experiments himself, but pushes progress in other ways, such as inspiring experimentalists like Catalina Curceanu, a lead researcher at Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics, into action.

“I got really, really fascinated by the heresy that somebody wanted to change the Schrödinger equation,” Curceanu told me.

Her institution runs a lab beneath Italy’s Gran Sasso mountain, and her experiment repurposed dark-matter detectors to look for the X-ray radiation Bassi’s team computed should be emitted by oodles of tiny octopi going: Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!

In other cases, Bassi’s team has scavenged data from experiments having nothing to do with collapse, conducted by people having no clue as to how their results would be repurposed. Thus far, none of the telltale vibrations that collapse models predict, or effects such as radiation that should result from them, have turned up. Yet, each new analysis has provided useful information by putting bounds on how loud the Whoops! might be, as well as at what frequency or pitch.

The game of listening ever more carefully for a noise and setting ever lower limits on its volume sounds just as potentially endless as the original stalemate over what quantum mechanics means. And it would be, but for one key fact: For objective collapse models to be consistent with the fact that macroscopic objects have definite positions and other properties (including cats always being either dead or alive), the noise must be louder than a particular level, a kind of minimum murmur. The gap between this minimum and the maximum set by vibration-detection experiments is a measure of how much of the listening game there is left to play. Bassi keeps track of it with a sort of two-dimensional, multicolored scorecard called an “exclusion plot” — volume on one axis, frequency on the other — wherein noise levels ruled out by experiments are shaded and the remaining white space indicates the region yet to be explored. Bassi calls this area a “grand desert,” and puts the plot in many of his papers, each time with a little less desert left.

The desert remains grand: about 10 orders of magnitude wide, which, in terms of distance, implies a range between the breadth of a grain of sand and that of the United States. Scouring it all could take decades, or longer. But another way that Bassi is working to accelerate the game is by getting the first experiments actually custom-built to detect objective collapse off the ground, including one called TEQ (TEsting the large-scale limit of Quantum mechanics).

“TEQ,” explains Hendrik Ulbricht of the University of Southampton, England, “is a European project that was funded with quite a lot of money, actually, to just test collapse models, to do nothing other than look for this noise.”

Bassi orchestrated the fund-raising effort that led to a 4.4-million-euro grant from the European Commission for TEQ, and Ulbricht is the experimentalist who’s building the apparatus and who will run the testing in his lab starting in late 2021. The idea is to scan a new swath of desert by levitating a hundred-nanometer-size glass bead with a swirling web of electric fields inside a high-tech refrigerator and monitoring the bead’s motion with lasers. The whole steel-and-glass contraption, when finished, will stand about four feet high and, if it works as planned, will either detect history-making Whoops! as vibrations of the bead in excess of what quantum mechanics predicts, or otherwise lop two more orders of magnitude off the desert, shrinking its size from that of the United States to that of New York City, as measured from the top of the Bronx to the bottom of Staten Island.

Bassi is the project’s principal investigator, essentially its C.E.O., an unusual role for a theorist but one that works “really nicely,” Ulbricht said, because Bassi’s punctiliousness enforces a discipline on the eight other research groups in addition to Ulbricht’s that are collaborating on the project and which are scattered all over Europe.

“Have you seen his laptop?” Ulbricht asked me when I visited his lab, his brows raised with wonder at Bassi’s apparently awe-inspiring filing system. But what Ulbricht finds particularly distinctive about Bassi’s approach are his different ways of dealing with physics and people.

“When we talk about physics, he turns into an investigator and he really asks questions where you sometimes feel it’s unpleasant,” he told me. “He’s investigating and he really wants to know: ‘Is it this or that?’”

“At the same time,” Ulbricht said, “he’s very gentle and he knows where to stop. He could, I guess, just easily prove me wrong and say what I’m saying doesn’t make sense. But when he feels that he’s reached a point where I cannot be pushed any more, then he stops to talk about the weather or something.”

Bassi’s friends cite a similar, almost wave-particle-like duality.

“If he has a clear idea of the way he likes it,” says one, “it has to be exactly the way he likes it. There’s no compromises.”

That applies to most things, from physics to food. “Even though he’s Italian, he hates lasagna,” says another friend, “because it mixes all the ingredients. For Angelo, it must be a steak here, potato there and maybe a little topping over there. He’s very precise.” But when it comes to people, both friends agree, Bassi is much softer, very polite and “very socially aware” — the kind of person who makes sure that no one at a dinner party is left out of the conversation and who is chatty and playful as a rule. His version of small talk is a steady stream of droll complaints about things that aren’t exactly the way he likes them and good-natured digs aimed at others’ idiosyncrasies, like when I told him my typical breakfast is a bunch of ingredients blended into a smoothie.

“We are no longer friends,” he said with a serious stare.

When I visited him, it was just after his honeymoon. He had married a lawyer from Trieste named Chiara.

“How much does this guy talk?” Chiara told me was her first reaction to Bassi’s nonstop commentary. She, like every other acquaintance of Bassi’s I spoke with, describes her new husband as an open book. And, after a week spent probing him with all manner of questions, observer to his observed, I can’t disagree. Bassi gives every appearance of being, or at least trying to be, as transparent as he believes physics should be.

Schrödinger — who, by the way, speculated that subatomic particles might actually be “structureless jelly” — equated the birth of science to the emergence among ancient Greek philosophers of the idea “that the world around them was something that could be understood, if one only took the trouble to observe it properly.”

That’s how Bassi sees TEQ. He once told me that he’s “100 percent sure” that TEQ or some future experiment will find quantum mechanics wanting, an opinion that he fully admits is based on his philosophy rather than facts. Ulbricht, for his part, is agnostic about what TEQ will find, but he takes issue with a common criticism that it’s motivated only by philosophy, since collapse models are widely perceived as Rube Goldberg-esque contrivances designed to satisfy a craving for comprehensibility in a world made unfathomable by quantum mechanics.

“We have to actually bring it back from philosophy,” he said. “There is a clear prediction of what quantum mechanics says and there’s a clear prediction of what collapse models say. What these experiments can deliver is that they can decide.”

Ulbricht’s pragmatism is in fact more representative of the TEQ team’s generally than any sort of overthrow-the-orthodoxy evangelism. Mauro Paternostro, a theorist at Queen’s University Belfast who helped Bassi and Ulbricht get TEQ off the ground, is as convinced that quantum mechanics is correct as Bassi is that it isn’t. And the collaboration even includes card-carrying members of the orthodoxy, including Caslav Brukner, a physicist at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information who dismissed the realist’s dreams by telling me, “That story is already over.” Still, he wrote later by email, “we need to extend the parameter regime over which our existing theories are tested.” In other words, someone needs to double-check the desert before turning out the lights on realism for good.

Ironically, Bassi’s fingers could be on the switch if experiments rule collapse models out. On the other hand, he confessed to me, had he studied under a Bohmian like Dürr instead of Ghirardi, he, too, would likely have become a believer in Bohmian mechanics. In that alternative universe, he would not expect experiments to detect deviations from quantum mechanics, and he’d likely accept that theory’s quirks as simply reflecting a peculiar underlying reality that can’t be directly observed. Which makes Bassi’s beliefs at least partly a matter of chance — and maybe, as they are for many people in many fields, partly an adaptation to his work. I asked him at the picnic table how important he thought his beliefs are to doing his job.

“The working conditions, in some sense, are really miserable,” he replied. “You are not famous, you don’t get money, you have to fight every single day, you have to do a lot of administration and horrible things. So you have to believe, in the sense that you have the passion for all that.”

I remembered an old Einstein passage about people pursuing science in order to “escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness,” as well as Mermin explaining to me by email how the more favorable view of people he developed as he aged made it easier for him to accept that it’s humanity all the way down, even in physical science. I summarized all this for Bassi, still hoping at the end of a weeklong investigation to get to the bottom of his impulse to separate human nature from the physical kind, like two different foods on a plate. He had, after all, repeatedly lamented in our time together the way people’s hunger for power perpetuates the orthodoxy, as experts prop up their authority by keeping everyone else in the dark. So maybe, I ventured, he’s seeking something less sullied in physics?

Bassi was bewildered by the question. That people are deeply flawed is a fact, he reaffirmed. But that reality and other painful aspects of life are, he continued, inseparable from life itself. Understanding, not escape, he said, is his motivation. In fact, for him it’s the other way around: Everyday life, with family and friends, is his refuge from work. He reminds himself of this, and of his belief that people and relationships are more important than science and accomplishments, by murmuring a mantra to himself several times a day: “It’s only physics. It’s only physics. It’s only physics.”

Inside the rust-stained beige building in Zagreb, Bassi stood at the front of a dimly lit amphitheater with 15 or 20 workshop attendees scattered among the seats.

His lecture was simple, by science-conference standards it presumed no familiarity with collapse models, or even with basics like Schrödinger’s cat — a strategy, he explained to me later, designed to encourage people to think anew about old problems. His PowerPoint included a spooky cartoon of a dead and alive cat, the requisite reams of equations and, of course, his magnum opus: the exclusion plot with its grand desert.

At the end, nearly everyone had a question or comment. A lively discussion ensued until one German physicist stood and asked a question that Bassi gets regularly and that he finds irritating: “What is your Plan B?” — you know, if collapse models are ruled out.

The question annoys him for its implication that ruling out a bona fide possibility would not be a valid contribution to science. But also for its emphasis on success and its insinuation that Bassi and his physics are somehow synonymous, such that if collapse models fail, he, too, will have failed. After all, people should appreciate that proper work is what counts, simply doing a job well that needs doing.

But sometimes with people it’s better to avoid words. Bassi just smiled at his inquisitor and pointed to his wedding ring. The room erupted with laughter.

This Technology Tricks You into Thinking a Gelatinous Blob is a Fancy Steak - Recipes

Freshly grated real Wasabi, in my opinion, is much more subtle and deep (and slightly sweeter) than the ersatz stuff that comes in tubes or as powder. My guess is that the benchmark for most people is the fake stuff and thus they find real wasabi strange and probably too mild.

What I also learned in high class sushi places is that you NEVER dunk the rice into a mixture of soja-sauce and wasabi (no matter if real or not). If you absolutely must you can use some soja on the fish only. Another nice aspect is that it's completely proper to eat sushi with your hands.

Of course it could still have been frozen beforehand and I wouldn't know.

They could just pitch these as cheaper substitutions and it wouldn’t be so annoying.

A big problem with truffle oil is that it's too easy to overdo it, which is something you're less likely to do with a $200 black truffle. It's also too easy to add truffle notes to things that aren't really improved by truffle notes. And those two problems compound each other.

It can work pretty well on french fries, though!

True. (And TBH I prefer a decent beer to an equivalent tier of champagne) People get wrapped up in the status element of the luxury good and lose sight of the actual use˾njoyment function of the good itself. If we were more comfortable letting the cheap stuff sing in its own right instead of trying to imitate the expensive things we might open a lot of doors for new innovations.

Your point about truffle oil makes me think of all those 50s cookbooks doing all kinds of weird stuff with gelatin since gelatinizing stuff wasn’t some absurdly laborious and expensive process anymore. It seems like it took a while for people to realize that entombing all foods in gelatin just because you can is actually. . . Not very good. Haha

Still vanillin is artificial, but hardly a terrible thing in its own right. As you said there are recipes where the flatter note of vanillin works better than the more subtle and complex floral notes of true vanilla. I’d argue however that truffle oil is always disgusting, and the issue of it being somehow fake or fraudulent is secondary to how nasty it is.

Still, in an application like ice cream real vanilla in generous amounts is so much nicer than artificial. Of course ice cream producers figured out that most people aren’t able to tell the difference, lacking experience with a reference point. They realized that black flecks in the mix were what people really looked for, so a market emerged. After vanilla extract is made the bean is totally devoid of flavor, but it’s now ground into flecks and sold as an additive and can be legally listed as “vanilla bean” in the ingredients.

On a semi-related note a friend recently told me that “most cinnamon is fake!” It turns out he learned that a lot of cinnamon used is cassia cinnamon, not Ceylon cinnamon. I had to explain to him that they’re both cinnamon, and both great in different applications. If you want bright, spicy cinnamon then cassia is the way to go. If you want floral cinnamon then cinnamomum verum is the way, and if you want something in between with a natural sweetness, Vietnamese cinnamon is it.

Maybe it’s just that I spent a lot of time in Mexico growing up, but I think ceylon cinnamon is better for every purpose I can think of. I wouldn’t describe it as “floral” though.

My impression is that cassia cinnamon is usually used because it is cheaper.

It's a well known fact of cooking, natural vanilla denatures above a rather low temperature (around 50°C or so, if I recall correctly) but artificial vanilla doesn't.

So if you're using vanilla in. crème anglaise (apparently that's the English name for it?) you should use artificial vanilla or pay much attention to adding the vanilla only after it has cooled down enough, but if you're doing ice cream then natural vanilla is a good choice.

A bit of a shock when a steak sandwich came slathered in it, and the menu made no mention of this

Fortunately the person who ordered it didn't mind, but I would've sent it back

On the other hand the frozen sliced reindeer meat is 100% reindeer. The canned stuff is meatballs, which is difficult to make from reindeer or moose -- the meat contains no fat whatsoever. Thus the pork mix.

As for wasabi, what my wife says (she's Japanese) is that wasabi isn't there for its own flavor - its only job is to enhance the flavor of the food it is served with (she talks a lot about tasting the nuances, which is what Japanese food is about - it's not about taste explosions like in so many other cultures). So if you use so much wasabi (⟺ke' or not) that it only functions to open up your sinuses you're doing it wrong. Same with soy sauce and the like - it's not something you add just to make whatever you're eating taste like soy sauce. And she's horrified when she sees people around here (we're not in Japan) dip vegetable tempura into soy sauce. It destroyes the taste. You're supposed to only add a little salt, the same as a little salt enhances the flavor of eggs. (Add too much though and you only taste salt).

If you have venison in a resteraunt, it's often rare steak dishes. It's cooked rare because it's so lean, and dries up when cooked for longer. Usually the meat is trimmed, because the fat/grisle isn't as good as beef (in ye old times, venison fat was used for tallow candles instead of lard) But, not every cut is steak.

If you make sausages or minced meat dishes (meatballs, etc.) from venison, cutting it with pork or pork fat makes it much more suitable for most recipes.

Lying to consumers is not ok, but combining venison and pork is legit. My guess is that it's traditional.

FWIW, tempura dipping sauce is usually ginger/mirin⿚ikon/sugar/soy sauce, and is far sweeter than soy sauce alone—a wonderful combination for tempura.

Is this because brewed soy sauce isn't Halal?

ED: why the downvotes? That's a legitimate reason for why vinegar in most chip shops is actually "non-brewed condiment".

This comment is so ignorant.

The biggest mistake we make with food and drink is to “want the best” instead of wanting the best for us. There is subsitute for trying lots of different types of food and drink and choosing what you like the taste of most, not what’s most applauded by experts or in vogue.

IMHO eating wagyu as a steak is a waste for essentially the reason you state. The fat softens at that temperature and because there is so much of it, the texture suffers. I'll take a long aged, lower fat, dry cured cut over that any day of the week. Where wagyu really shines is yakiniku. When it is cut thin, the fat has somewhere to go and the flavour and texture are amazing. This is one of the reasons why if you buy wagyu steak at a teppen yaki place, they will typically cut it fairly thinly.

Wagyu is not actually that expensive in Japan. I mean it's expensive, but not the ludicrous prices that people pay overseas. IIRC 100g of Shizuoka bara (stomach -- think the same cut as bacon) is about $6. Sirloin is up around $16. That's still nearly $70 a pound, but if you aren't making a steak or a roast (for which it is really completely inappropriate) it's fine. When I do yakiniku at home with my wife, between the two of us we eat 300 grams of meat and that includes the pork (Shizuoka black pork is amazing).

I really like wagyu, but there are other traditions for preparing beef that are just as good (in a different way) and not as expensive.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I typically make a roast here using thigh meat (momo) and bard it with stomach. That is a fantastic combination and I can make a 1 lb roast for less than $20.

The ones I've gotten that still have the tops on them, and the outer skin, absolutely are IME, what you are referring to are generally sold as “baby-cut” or “petit” carrots, rather than “baby" carrots.

In the UK the closest I've seen or heard of are both 'real' (whole) carrots:

What?! Citation sorely needed. I do, and in my experience ɻig' (I would've said 'normal') carrots are stocked more abundantly than any other.

I think they've already failed at being "New York style".

> you may find that what is sold as chocolate actually has no cacao in it

In the western world, most people seem to want little to no cacao but sugar instead.

Nah really just the US has the giant value bags of Hershey's product with almost no cacao solids. The commonwealth western nations are still sweet but have higher minimums.

Don't believe me? A good benchmark is kitkat bars. Try the regular from US, Canada, England, and Japan. Only the US one tastes overwhelmingly of sugar and not chocolate. Japan's chocolate is far less sweet but they don't seem to emphasize solids as much as UK does.

30% sugar tastes bad: it gives a sort of mouth-wrinkling shock to my taste receptors my sugar tolerance is decreasing.

Given that sugar is addictive and most producers seem to have the attitude that the more sugar you sneak into the product, the cheaper it is and the more it sells, maybe Nestle (Kitkat's producer, right?) tests for regional tolerance and puts in the maximum amount of sugar, where the person still doesn't feel an overwhelming sugar shock when tasting? Just speculation, but it's a possibility Iɽ investigate if I were an evil food industry mogul.

As for myself, I just hate how shop-made cakes are mostly sugar - it feels like my mouth is burning. I don't understand why they do it. Nearly everyone I know prefer home-made cakes (made from basic ingrediants, not mix bags).

Since we're trading anecdotes, I was told that in Egypt people drink sugar drinks, like Cocacola, like you would drink alcohol in the West. Islam forbids drinking alcohol, so they use the next most boring drug: sugar. The picture that was painted for me was a group of grown men sitting around a cafe-bar drinking Cocacola.

I've done this with Oregon white truffles (tuber oregonense) that I harvested with the help of my dog. Kept the butter frozen for over a year, and it still had the truffle aroma when I pulled it out of the freezer.

I actually think the infusion method adds a lot more flavor˺roma than adding pieces of truffle, but the pieces are clear evidence that what you bought actually came in contact with real truffles--it's pretty much just marketing.

Truffle oil can be produced using any oil. Common versions use olive oil, or a more neutral flavorless oil such as canola or grapeseed oil.[6]

Some truffle oils are made with truffle residues incurred during collection or preparation for sale. Many truffle oils sold in retail markets are not made from truffles[1] but instead use manufactured aromatic compounds including 2,4-dithiapentane (one of many aroma active compounds that can be found in some truffle varietals) with an oil base. There are no regulations regarding the labeling of 2,4-dithiapentane and it can legally be called truffle aroma, truffle flavor, truffle concentrate or other similar terms, even though it is not extracted from truffles. In the United States, the ingredient may use the modifiers "organic" or "natural" as long as the components meet the federal requirements for those terms. Truffle oils range from clear to cloudy, and yellow to green, depending on the base oil used. Some include a piece of truffle in the bottle.[2] These pieces can be from any of over 200 different truffle species and may be listed as "black truffle" or "white truffle" even if not one of prized culinary varietals such as the black Périgord or white Alba truffle.

This is historic and no longer the case:

Truffle oil is frequently used as a bait for truffle-hunting dogs and pigs. Modern Italians often use a strufion, a ball of rags scented with truffle oil.[7](p87) Truffle oil has been used for this purpose since at least 1756, made by boiling truffles in olive oil and given to hunting dogs.[9]

It's really not difficult to find here, and it is absolutely made with real truffle (the broken pieces that can't be sold as truffles). I don't have any at home because I don't care for it, but one I can find at my usual supermarket for example contains "TUBER AESTIVUM (1.1%)". This is known to be a so-so variety of truffle at best. The next-level product (at almost 40 €/L) specifically says that the truffle in its ingredients is "Périgord truffle (Tuber Melanosporum) 1%". This is probably a good enough truffle oil if you like that.

Looking up the products here in Belgium though, it seems like only "truffle taste" oils are available in the regular supermarkets, but that is also clear from the product names ("Bereiding van Olijfolie van Eerste Persing 99,7% met Truffelsmaak").

The taste is substantially better than the fake stuff, but it doesn’t really matter if you’re eating at a cheap place that doesn’t properly prepare the nigiri rice.

$60 here in Boston, as of yesterday. Pricing was like $120/lb.

But I found the degree of snobbery people show on HN (especially for Japanese products) amusing.

Is there a name for the specific phenomenon of speaking highly of something solely because it's semi rare or exclusive, especially in the area you're in? Is it a subtle form of bragging?

I might have been interested in following my dad's line of work (EE), had I had any clue what it involved. In hindsight, he seemed to have a much nicer office than any I've worked in. Unfortunately, even if Iɽ wanted to, the company shut down that division 20 years ago, and then spun off that whole sector of the business.

That's how it is with technology: easy come, easy go. We may never have a "9th generation" software engineer, short of the point where everyone in the world is a software engineer.

I recall reading about a past attempt in Oregon that failed, a while back. Apparently it's not easy.

I'm a happy customer of The Wasabi Store: their wasabi is the real deal and it is delicious.

I don't know if Chinese wasabi is more real or not, but quickly learned it had at least 10x more sinus-cleaning power than US wasabi.

That was also the first place where I had 'not possible to be any fresher' sushi - orders were placed at the fish tanks on the first floor, restaurant was upstairs.

You really don't want "fresh" sushi. Freshly-caught raw fish has all sorts of parasites and bacteria in it, which is why almost all sashimi-grade fish is flash-frozen to kill the parasites.

In addition, like most things, sashimi tastes better with age -- which is why most sushi restaurants will dry-age their fish (which also ends up tenderising it).

Freshly caught fish can be quite tough, because the muscles go into rigor mortis. Usually fish is kept for a few days before it's ready to eat. I agree with the other commenter which said the fish tanks where there to be misleading.

While I won't question your description of the freshness, I would point out that that set up would also work as a hack to suggest freshness regardless of where the ingredients that actually go into your food are sourced.

They are nice people who grow delicious wasabi! (No affiliation, just a happy customer.)

(Sorry if they address this in the video but tldw)

Also, if it's a mildly expensive steak in your local Japanese restaurant, it's neither Kobe nor Wagyu, as people have been pointing out since the 80s.

Maybe we should have a Hacker Olds for stuff like this and the random Wikipedia articles.

Grown in Half Moon Bay. Other US growing locations are Oregon and Washington State.

Of course I don't live in Japan, or for that matter where I have access to that sort of steady flowing clean water. But still.

no idea if this is some kind of trickery or ruined this way

You're welcome to eat it however you like, but the ginger is generally speaking the palate cleanser while wasabi is historically both flavor enhancer and an antibacterial agent.

What does this mean, really? This always strikes me as snobbery signaling. Perhaps it's traditional, but does that make it "proper?" Why do only some cuisines have such constraints on what is "proper" or "authentic?"

Imagine you order a medium rare steak and it’s overcooked and much too salty. If you criticized it you wouldn’t expect someone to say “well maybe it’s not traditional, but don’t be a snob”.

However, what I was really saying was that the overall standards of the restaurant were low in terms of food quality and freshness, like fast food or a TV dinner served on fancy plates. In most cases the interpretation of the cuisine was perfectly adequate, and only the preparation and flavor lacked.

A medium steak can be done "properly" and still suck, it's still a steak

Certainly, you can do things any way you want, and cooks can evolve dishes any way they want. Despite this, terms like "proper [dish]" and "authentic [dish]" still have a use.

A "proper" dish X is the dish that a professional chef expects when they hear X—the culinary-jargon interpretation of the term X. (So: "proper" nigiri sushi is "the nigiri youɽ prepare if your practical exam in a culinary academy was to make nigiri.")

As stated above, this is a pretty objective concept "proper" X will continue to refer to the same exact dish no matter what country you're in, or how long it's been since the dish was invented. (Tweak the dish? New dish, new name. We have a flat global culinary namespace. Yes, regardless of language, because it has to avoid collisions once translated into French. It's much the same as zoology's binomial nomenclature's flat global Latin namespace.)

An "authentic" dish X is the dish that a chef conversant with the culinary heritage that originated the dish X, would make, if you ask them for X. (This is not to be confused with authenticity of ingredients. A Ukranian immigrant making borscht with American beets is using inauthentic ingredients to make authentic borscht.)

(Amusingly enough, often an "authentic" dish X is the least "proper" X, because the dish has evolved in its cultural homeland since it was invented, and so the global culinary profession's concept of the dish has diverged from its homeland's evolving conception of it. The avant-garde and the authentic can overlap. But the avant-garde cannot, by definition, be "proper.")

. and then there's the term "traditional", which just means for a dish X that the chef who made the dish is a traditionalist—nostalgic for some bygone era (where the era they're nostalgic for is left unspecified, can change from chef to chef, and can change over time!) This term is, by contrast, pretty useless. Saying "give me a traditional X" is kind of like saying "give me a [git ref HEAD

1] X." Might work for you now, but won't work later. Chefs don't tend to use the word "traditional" much. (Instead, they'll speak of a culture having a particular culinary tradition, but will identify a specific period of that tradition if they want to pinpoint a particular dish they want to make.)

Italian dishes tend to be extremely precise in terms of what ingredients may be added, to the point where many people would disagree you're making an authentic Carbonara sauce if you add garlic to the sauce, or even use pancetta instead of guanciale.

On the other hand, a culture like the US usually only requires that dishes follow a rough template - a meatloaf is a meatloaf provided it's predominantly ground meat molded into a loaf shape and baked.