10 Biggest Food Lies | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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Episode 805
February 29, 2024

10 Biggest Food Lies

10 Biggest Food Lies

Tamar Haspel of the Washington Post is here to share 10 truths about food that nobody wants to believe. From diet soda to organic vegetables to farm-fresh eggs, nothing is sacred. Plus, Amanda Herbert brings us inside history’s wildest dinner parties; Adam Gopnik reveals what your drink of choice says about you; we make Thai Coconut and Chicken Soup; and Cheryl Day returns to take your baking calls.

Questions in this episode:

“I like to bring treats into my office. Do you have suggestions for how to miniaturize baked goods like pies?"

"I’ve been trying to make my own bursting boba but it isn’t coming out right. What should I do differently?"

"My browned-butter chocolate chip cookies keep coming out too puffy. How do I get them to flatten?"

"What's the best way to incorporate chocolate chips into your pancakes?"

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Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Have you ever eaten a farm fresh egg? And do you remember what it tasted like? Tamar Haspel says it was probably just like any other egg you've ever had before.

Tamar Haspel: We had a bunch of people and some of whom were food professionals. And we literally blindfolded them and and we spoon fed them soft boiled eggs, and the net was nobody could tell them apart.

CK: Today, Tamar Haspel of The Washington Post is here to stop the lies we tell ourselves about food. From the truth about diet soda to organic vegetables, nothing is sacred. But first, we're talking about fame. When you hear the term celebrity chef you might think of Julia Child or perhaps Martha Stewart. But centuries before The Art of French Cooking, there was a chef in England named Robert May. And instead of earning a reputation for Quiche Lorraine May was known for filling his pies with live animals. For more on Robert Mays circus like approach to cooking, we're joined by historian Dr. Amanda Herbert. Amanda, welcome to Milk Street.

Amanda Herbert: Thank you for having me, Chris. I'm delighted to be here.

CK: So, before we get to live frogs jumping out of pies, etc. This is we're talking about someone who's a chef to the very rich and famous. So, let's talk about who was this guy, what was his background? Where did the train etcetera.

AH: So, Robert May was born in Buckinghamshire in 1588. And his father was a cook in a great house. And young Robert worked under his father as a child, and had so much talent supposedly in the kitchen, that the owners of the household, sent him to France, in order to learn about the best of cooking. And he became so well-known and so famous that he spent most of his career sort of as a traveling celebrity chef. He worked in 13 kitchens, across the UK, in Sussex and Essex and Kent, and made a name for himself as someone who practiced I guess what today we would call extreme dining.

CK: Yeah, so let's just talk about his extreme dining. I mean, I, I remember, reading about, you know, chickens that were baked in a pie, but they were still alive. And then they would come alive when the pie was opened they would, they would run down the table and off. This is dining is the wrong word. I mean, one of the ones I loved the most was a dead stag deer with arrows stuck in it. And you pulled out the arrow and wine would flow out. (absolutely). I mean, that's literally could you explain that to me? I mean, that just seems it's not that it's just gruesome. It's quite odd, isn't it?

AH: It is. So, what May said was that the chef's should construct a deer out of pastry, he uses the word paste, which, for 17th century people it can be anything from like a dough to a thick, almost like a piece of rock by the time you get to it,

CK: I think even Fannie Farmer in 1896. Pastry was referred to as paste still yeah

AH: Yes, exactly. So, it would have been a really hearty material, it would have been very thick, very dried, very stiff. And the idea was to construct a deer out of paste so that it looked as if it had just died. And that this would be placed on the table with arrows, real arrows sticking out of the side of the paste deer. And May says in his commentary, that you should encourage the ladies to pluck an arrow and that when they do as you said, wine will gush out as blood from a wound is what May says in the in the book where he describes it. And he says that this will delight and horrify the visitors and the the eaters, and I imagined it did.

CK: What are some other examples? But let's just talk about live dishes that included live animals in them will tell me about the frogs and some of the other ones.

AH: Yeah, you were never sure if your food was alive or if it was dead. I think that is correct so one of the things that May says is that he loves to create these pies where he'll blind bake a pie crust, top and bottom and then put live frogs or live birds into the finished blind baked pie crust. It will then be taken to the table with great ceremony. And just as the diners get ready to cut into the pie, the birds and the frogs will erupt out of the crust and scare them. And what's more, as he says the frogs will then hop along the table scattering the rest of the food, the birds will fly up towards the ceiling to try to escape. And the flapping of their wings will cause the candles on the table to go out plunging the room into sudden darkness.

CK: Now, some of the just to give him credit, though, I looked at some of the other recipes, and some of them were very modern and, you know, straight out of the 21st century, a salad of beets, baby spinach, sorrel and dried currants with a dressing of oil and vinegar, a blackened broiled lobster dressed with butter, lemon and nutmeg. So, not all of it was, you know, the dead paste deer. Some of this food was actually sounded pretty good, I think.

AH: Yeah, absolutely. I would eat any of those things. I would not eat the dead roasted dead deer. But but yeah, those foods sound like anything you'd get on a modern dining table, which is one of the things I love about studying 17th and 18th century recipes is that you have these moments of feeling very familiar, familiar tastes familiar combinations. And then you turn the page and you're faced with something you would never contemplate eating.

CK: So, what about there's also architectural choices, some really amazing sort of set pieces, some of them with little cannons packed with real gunpowder. Could you talk about those?

AH: Absolutely. So one of May's dining fantasies, as he calls them is to create a battle pn the dining table. He has his staff prepare again out of paste or pastry or dough, a castle, and then also a ship. And then he fashions tiny cannon, packs them with real gunpowder, and outfits, both the castle and the ship with these gunpowder filled pastry cannons. And then on a signal, the kitchen staff will light the fuses. And the gunpowder will explode, the pastry will explode. And he says in fact, it'll fill the room with the stink of the powder that kind of sultry gunpowder smell. And surprise, everyone who's watching.

CK: The other thing I loved about this I didn't expect to read is that Robert May and other people at the time were very smart about promoting their work.

AH: Absolutely. So, May is encouraged to write a book as he nears the end of his life. He had this fabulous career. He is a household name for a lot of very elite people in England in the 17th century. And the book is called The Accomplished Cook and it comes out in 1660 or so it comes out at the end of the English Civil War. And so, it's just as the nation is kind of emerging from this enormous period of strife. And he writes the book, and he's encouraging people to kind of embrace fine dining, once again. Now most people like Robert May didn't typically write books, and they certainly never had their pictures and books.

CK: Yeah, he's got an illustration right up front.

AH: Yes, he's in fact, the first food worker to have his image in a book in the English language tradition, which is pretty amazing.

CK: There are cookbooks in the American canon American Cookery from the 1790s, I think, does this book sort of go out of fashion and disappear come the 18th century? Or is it you know, part of the canon of European cooking for a long time?

AH: I think that The Accomplished Cook becomes part of the canon but an unacknowledged part of the canon. You see, bits and pieces of May’s recipes showing up in many different cookery books for the next 100 200 years. But the recipes aren't credited to May. Now. It's pretty typical of the period, people don't have the same sense of copyright that we do today. And so, I don't know that people are unnecessarily making a lot of frog and bird pies. I actually sincerely hope they're not continuing to make live frog and bird pies but there is a survival of some of May’s works. And you do see that cropping up in recipe books on both sides of the Atlantic.

CK: Do you get a sense looking at the book about his attitude towards what he was doing for him this was all about craft and culinary technique. And the bigger picture just never enters into the book in any way.

AH: Yeah, I wonder about that a lot. What May's own thoughts and feelings might have been, he's a working guy, and he makes his living with his hands every day. And yeah, he has very fabulously wealthy clients, but that's not his life. And when he is staging these elaborate feasts, to scare very elite people to get their clothes dirty, to have them choke on the smoke and be terrified and delighted in equal measure. There's a little part of me as a scholar that wonders if he's laughing a little bit behind the scenes when he sees all of these very fabulous fancy rich people kind of get their do around the dinner table.

CK: Amanda it's it's a pleasure from live frogs jumping out of pies to pies made of partridges, thank you so much.

AH: You are so welcome. Thank you so much for having me.

CK: That was Dr. Amanda Herbert. She's an associate professor at Durham University, also author of the Gastro Obscura article, the fantastical feasts of England's first celebrity chef. Now it's time to answer your baking questions with our special guest host, Cheryl Day. Cheryl is the author of Cheryl Days Treasury of Southern Baking. So, Cheryl, you told me about your neighborhood when you first got started with the bakery. But could you describe it a little more? It just sounds like a really cool neighborhood.

Cheryl Day: It's always been cool. But to be fair, and to be honest, when we first opened up there, gosh, 22 years ago, it needed some love. And so, we came in and we made friends with our neighbors. And learned early on that when Griff got his hair cut at the Boys to Men barber shop across the street, that if he took cinnamon buns, and you know, maybe some chocolate chip cookies and other treats, there was this I mean, there's this connection, I think, between food that it just instantly connected us as part of the community, which is exactly what I wanted. But yeah, it's a great neighborhood. Nowadays, it's come a long way. It's gotten a little bit more highbrow. The other day, I looked out the window and I saw I just thought it was the funniest thing. I took a picture Chris, there was a couple and she had on Chanel sneakers. And I was like I never in a million years thought I'd be seeing that in front of Back in the Day. But here we are.

CK: I love The Boys to Men barbershop is that the name?

CD: Boys to Men barbershop. Unfortunately, they're no longer open but the signs still there. And it's just really fond memories of how it all started, you know, for us, and it's still just a great neighborhood to make connections with people. And I absolutely love it.

CK: It's those old neighborhoods have those great store names. All right. All right. Let's take a call. Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi there. This is Caroline.

CK: Caroline, how can we help you?

Caller: Well, I like to bring little treats into the office. And it's not necessarily very convenient to bring in like an entire pie. I didn't know if y'all had any suggestions on how to miniaturize some of the like, classic, you know, like a pecan pie. I'm especially kind of wondering what to do with the crust. So, if y'all just had any advice, I'll be happy to take it.

CK: I would, I mean, the easiest thing to do is do like bars, right? Because they're easy to make and easy to cut up, etc. But if you want to do a pie, just roll out the dough, get like a biscuit cutter or something similar, cut out rounds and fit them into muffin tins, right, and then fill them you know, like halfway and bake it off. Obviously, the time would be very different it would be much faster. But that's what I would do. Just use a muffin tin. Cheryl?

CD: That is a great idea. But the start of my career baking for my office first. And so, I know how much that's appreciated. Plus, it takes time. I have a short cut pie crust that's very much like the shortbread crust. It's just literally flour, brown sugar, a little bit of salt, a little bit of melted butter very much like making a cookie crust, but it's very flaky. And then rather than having to roll out all those little mini things, you basically just scoop around of the dough and press it and make what we call I'm sure you know tassies You're in the south, and all.

CK: Wait wait, hold on wait a minute, I’m from the north, guys translate this for me what’s a tassie?

CD: Caroline, do you want to translate tassie

Caller: The way I would describe a tassie is like a teeny-weeny little pie.

CD: Exactly. It's a little tartlet. (Okay,) I actually get the little mini muffin tins that you can buy and do like 24 at a time. And then you can press those down and you'll make like a little insert blind bake those off and then you have little tartlets or tassies that you can fill with whatever you like, and they're adorable and delicious.

Caller: Well, I appreciate honestly, both of those methods sound delicious. I might have to try both. Cheryl, would you spray any cooking spray on the muffin tin? Would you worry about sticking?

CD: Yeah, you can definitely spray it first. I mean, it's a very buttery recipe, but that's not going to hurt. Definitely. So yeah, get a little cooking spray and spray the bottom and then start filling those little rounds up. Does that make sense?

Caller: Yes, it does. Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.

CK: I’ve got to say, I mean, as a northerner southern speak is so I mean, it's a foreign language, but it like, my favorite thing that people say. I don't know if you've ever said it to me Cheryl, but you said bless your heart. I just know, that always makes me nervous when someone says that. Yes. Bless your heart.

Caller: I hope no one says bless my heart when I tried the Brule pie. That’s when you know we're in trouble.

CK: But they’re trying to be nice, yeah.

CD: I think it's going to be great. Caroline,

CK: Caroline, thank you so much. Take care.

Caller: Thank you both.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio if you have a baking disaster. Give us a ring our numbers 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or drop us an email at questions at Milk Street Radio.com

CD: Welcome to Milk Street was calling.

Caller: Hi, this is Chelsea Abramsky from Hamilton, Ohio.

CD: Hi, Chelsea. How can we help you today?

Caller: So, I have a question. I've been trying to make my own kind of like bursting boba. But I've been having a hard time getting them after I placed them into the cold oil to be steady enough to make it through the strainer to clean them off. And I've tried different things from like augur, to gelatin to pectin, they all kind of don't work. I'm not really sure what I'm doing wrong.

CK: You know, I've been doing this for a really long time. I've always found a way to make up an answer if I didn't know the answer. But you've really got me on this one because I can't even pretend, I've never made these so

CD: I’ve never made bursting boba either. Cheers to you, Chelsea.

CK: So, on the off chance we can be helpful. Could you give us like, step by step how do you make it?

Caller: Yeah, so essentially, what you do is you pick your flavor of choice, like a Gatorade, or something heat it up into a pan to following the directions for just like basic gelatin. And in the meantime, for like, an half an hour an hour, you put a glass of vegetable oil in the freezer, and you let it chill, then you take it out and I didn't put it in like an ice bath to keep it cold. I have the plastic get to a hypodermic needle and I put the straw up the Gatorade solution up into it with all the pectin and everything. And then I just kind of like slowly push the lever down to allow it to drop into the oil. So, it forms a perfect little bubble. And then eventually, it flows down to the bottom of the glass when it gets heavy enough. And it looks kind of like fish eggs at the bottom there. When I pour it out into like a strainer. They usually either break up now I've found like the auger works the best. But usually only lasts for like a little teeny tiny bit. And if I tried to like kind of rinse the oil off, it kind of breaks them up even more.

CK: You don't have trouble with the spheres forming when you put them drop them into the cold oil right?

Caller: No, It’s perfect.

CK: It's just that they're not resilient. They're not tough enough when you strain them out. (Yeah) my relatively uninformed reaction is you don't have enough thickening. So, I would wonder whether you needed to use more gelatin or do you also chill the liquid with the gelatin down a little bit before it's put in as is still pretty hot when it goes into the oil?

Caller: Well, you’ve get to work quickly before it starts setting.

CK: It takes a while to set though, right? I mean, the gelatin before it will take a while. I would just wonder whether it maybe it needs to be a little cooler before it goes into oil. But I think the big thing is insufficient amount of gelatin.

Caller: I know like if I tried to use like pectin or gelatin. Sometimes if I put too many drops in the bottom, like into the glass they sometimes they're just so fragile. They'll just make a whole big bubble and just not fill the fire at all the auger does it best.

CK: One other thing there's two kinds of pectin, there's low sugar pectin or regular pectin. And the low sugar pectin comes in a pink box. This may be a lower sugar situation than it's usually used to. So you might want to try that and that might thicken up better but just sounds like yeah, either use low sugar pectin or double the gelatin amount. (Yeah) Because it doesn't sound like it's having a trouble forming. It's just not keeping its shape.

Caller: Yeah so the thing is, is that it's it's too much of gelatin, it could just completely so they will apply into like a marble.

CK: You know, that's exactly right. Like a lot of gelatin desserts will keep setting like if you put the refrigerator for two or three hours and you want to serve it. Yeah, if you let it sit in it for eight hours, it'll get a lot firmer. Yeah. So, you're right. gelatins really tricky because it'll just play the low sugar pectin and see if that works.

Caller: Okay,

CD: There you go. That's a great stab at that.

CK: See I pulled something out. It may not work. That sounded good anyway.

Caller: Yeah, sounds good though

CK: Well, let us know because this is a new one on me.

Caller: I’ll try it out.

CK: All right. Take care.

Caller: You too. Thank you. Bye bye.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Coming up from diet soda to organic farming, Tamar Haspel reveals the most controversial truths about food that's after the break. This is Milk Street Radio I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Diet soda is bad. Organic Farming has all the answers. According to my next guest, we tell ourselves all kinds of lies about food. Tamar Haspel, is here to discuss her Washington Post article 10 Things I Know That Are True About Food that People Do Not Want to Believe. Tamar, welcome to Milk Street.

Tamar Haspel: Thanks for having me. I'm a big Milk Street fan. I have several cookbooks on my shelf,

CK: That’s first thing we ask as a pre-interview is do you subscribe to Milk Street. So, first of all, you're going to be one of the most unpopular people ever. (I’m used to it) I mean, after we go through the 10 things I know are true about food. Now, the first thing is gene editing can be used for good. And one of the examples caught my eye because when I was a kid, we had this beautiful chestnut tree outside of our house. And of course, it died and was cut down. And when I was growing up, you know, chestnut trees were dying, right and left. So I guess gene editing might be able to bring them back.

TH: It's possible. Scientists have been working on this for quite some time. And the reason all the chestnut trees died is because there was a blight. It's a kind of fungus. But these scientists figured out that they can take one gene from wheat. And that gene allowed the tree to metabolize oxalic acid and it was oxalic acid from the fungus that killed the trees. And you know, I believe they're still working out all the kinks. The trees are not out in the wild. But I am holding out great hope this will give American chestnut trees a second life.

CK: Well, you also had an example closer to the food industry. You say chickens that produce only female eggs (right) And you parenthetically remarked, so 7 billion male chicks don't have to be put through a grinder for every year Yeah, that's just, that's, that is amazing.

TH: Saving all of those lives. And not to mention, yes, of course, the chicks themselves. But think about the people whose job it is to throw chicks into a grinder and think about the toll that that must take on your humanity. And so much of improving our food system is also improving the lives of the people who work in it.

CK: Okay, number two, diet soda is fine. You say that some of these studies like sucralose, that's used in Splenda. You say that the sucralose dosage that was used in the tests was the equivalent of 50,000 cans of diet soda.

TH: Yeah, that was the one of the most recent studies that found and I don't know if you remember the headlines that sucralose is Geno toxic. That was that study that used a really high dose, but you have to step back and say okay, why would a scientist use that high of a dose that no one would ever in their wildest dreams ingest in their entire lives, to see if something bad happens. And one possible explanation, and it's the one I'm sticking to, is that they're trying to establish that there's something wrong with this product. And the nutrition community has a long and storied history of hating artificial sweeteners. And I find that view to be really puritanical and holier than thou, given that we have reams of research on this stuff. And all indications are that they're safe.

CK: Okay, number three subsidies didn't create are terrible diets. This is, I thought this was really interesting, you say, well just go ahead and tell that story because I didn't understand this.

TH: So, people believe that the fact that we eat a lot of crappy food is because the ingredients in crappy food are really cheap, which they are. And they're cheap, because the government has subsidized them, which they have. And if we rejiggered our subsidy system, which I am wildly in favor of, we could have cheap broccoli and expensive corn and soy. And this is a fundamental misconception about the nature of growing vegetables versus the nature of growing row crops. So, to grow an acre of broccoli, the expenses that go into that are depending on of course where you are and how you do it, you know, 5000 $6,000 per acre, whereas if you're growing corn and soy, the corn, for example, costs, you know, 700, sometimes even less. One of my favorite metrics, when we talk about this stuff, is calories per acre. And corn is 15 million calories per acre. That which is huge, like spinach is a million and a half or 2 million. So, corn and soy have been developed and researched and planted not because of subsidies, but because they are the most efficient cereal grass in the case of corn and legume in the case of soy. You know what the peak year for corn acreage was in the United States? (No idea) It was 1934. growing corn predates subsidies. And all of the economists I've talked to say, you know, the maximum price impact would be around 10%. I mean, there are all kinds of levers that move that affect the prices of commodities. It's hard to tease out subsidies. But the people who study this say it's a very small effect.

CK: All eggs taste the same. Now for 20 years, I had my own chickens, hens and had my own eggs. And I have to say, the two things you notice was the yolk stand up, (right) and the yolks are deep orange than a pale yellow. But what about taste, though, I that surprise is what

TH: We set out to find out because like you I have kept chickens for probably 15 years. Now I have two in my yard as we speak. And when we first got them, I was very excited to have eggs that came from chickens that had good lives. And you know, I go out my bathrobe and get breakfast. And by the way, I'm still excited about that. But after a while it occurred to me that they just taste like eggs. So, there was nothing for it. But to have a blind taste test and literally blind because as you noted, the color is different. So people can't be able to see that if you're trying to isolate taste. And so we had a bunch of people and some of whom were food professionals. And we literally blindfolded them, and we spoon fed them soft boiled eggs, and at least two shirt friends will never be the same. But the net was nobody could tell them apart. And everybody who's ever done a blind taste test on eggs has concluded the same thing, which is that they all really just tastes like eggs.

CK: You know, speaking with you is both thrilling and on the other hand, totally depressing.

TH: I'm a real hit at parties Chris

CK: So okay, so skipping over a few of these, this one really got to me organic is not the answer. And you say that yields are lower, we take more land. But my understanding let me push back here. Isn't the the cost of all of the fertilizers and other things you have to use for non-organic, doesn't that more than make up for the issue of land use or doesn't?

TH: It mitigates it to some extent but because land use changes are one of the biggest ways agriculture has an impact on climate change. It's really really difficult to make up for the fact that organic crops yield lower. And I, you know, I want to state from the get go, I am a fan of organic, I have met organic farmers doing wonderful work. And I love the fact that they can charge a premium for their product and like-minded consumers can support them. And that makes organic farmers some of the most profitable that we have, which means they have some wiggle room to experiment with these things. And this is all good. But it works when it's a niche, which is it's going to stay because of the prices as soon as too many people get into it, then the prices go down and it's not viable anymore. It's a small part of our agriculture. It's a valuable part of our agriculture. But it's not the answer to feeding the world because the crops invariably have about a 20% yield penalty, which means you need 20% more land to grow the same amount of food. But I wish people would just be okay with the fact that organic yields less and embrace it for the things it's good at. And the things that you mentioned, decreasing inputs is one of them. But it's not going to be the way that we feed everybody.

CK: And number eight, tilapia is good. And you you write, and if you really can raise fish on poop, it's the most sustainable food.

TH: So, you know, of all of the columns I've written. I believe that the one on tilapia has gotten, you know, the most clicks. People love to hate on tilapia because they think it's a trash fish. And there were all kinds of rumors that you know, it gets fed poop in these farms. And like I said, if we really could raise food on poop, that is the most sustainable food we can have. And of course, once a tilapia digests poop it’s not poop anymore. It's tilapia.

CK: That's a great marketing line. I just want poop goes in, comes out.

TH: It's, you know, it's a white fish. So, we took tilapia and we took a bunch of other white fishes, and we invited people in. And this was the food people from the Washington Post, including Tom Sietsema, the restaurant critic, and the food was prepared by a chef who specializes in fish. And nobody can pick tilapia out of a lineup, it tastes like all the other fish.

CK: And finally, number 10. This is a good one, carbs are uniquely fattening. I love this one. So, explain this.

TH: I really hoped we would run out of time before we got to this one. You know, this idea that carbohydrates are uniquely fattening because they drive insulin spikes, and it is insulin that is instrumental in shuttling blood glucose into fat stores. So, if you don't have carbohydrates, then you don't store fat. And just stop for a minute and think about that. So, humans evolved in some places where we evolved to eat animals when we were able to kill them. What kind of evolutionary strategy would build a human so that they couldn't put on fat stores when they killed and ate an animal? And then let's look at the evidence on the ground, you know, go to PubMed, and start looking at whether glucose excursions correlate with subsequent intake and they just don't.

CK: So okay, we've gone through most of the 10 things.

TH: When you first read the list, how many of them did you think she doesn't know what she's talking about?

CK: No, I immediately agreed with all of them. (Really?) Yeah, I'm kind of mad that all eggs taste the same, even though I knew in my heart, you were right. So no, I agree with all of this. It's just the problem is, do people listen to any of this?

TH: Well, it's so funny because I write these things. And they go out and on the Washington Post site, and the comments, which sometimes my husband scans them and gives me the the net. There's a lot of tomorrow you moron, don't you know. But I also get a lot of really nice emails from people. And, you know, the idea that somebody reads something that you write, and finds it to be interesting, or actionable in some way, and appreciates it. It makes it all worthwhile. I know, lots of people I'm not going to persuade. But I think it's worth having the conversation anyway.

CK: Yeah, I think that's true. Anytime you do anything these days, you get, you know, you get dumped on by large numbers of people. But I do think over a long period of time, if you keep at it, I think it does have an effect. I think you just have to stick to it and not worry about the naysayers. Tamara, I love your list. I love your research and I loved your ability to just speak the truth. Thank you so much.

TH: Thanks for having me.

CK: That was Tamar Haspel food columnist at the Washington Post. Her article is 10 things I know Are True About Food That People Don't Want to Believe. Tamar Haspel understands that the world does not run on facts. Napoleon was five foot seven a bit taller than the average Frenchman. Vikings did not wear horned helmets; you don't lose 90% of your body through your head. And sugar does not make kids hyperactive. All of which means that when facts bump up against beliefs, the later almost always wins. And please don't tell me that candy does not make my kids hyperactive. I just know that I'm right. This is Milk Street Radio after the break Adam Gopnik on what your drink of choice says about you. That's coming right up. You're listening to Milk Street Radio right now Cheryl Day and I will be answering a few more of your baking questions. Cheryl, are you ready to take calls?

CD: Let's do it.

CK: Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Brittany from South Dakota.

CD: Hi, Brittany, how can we help? Well, okay, so

Caller: I have a wonderful recipe for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies. And they're fantastic cookies with flavor is outstanding. So, they tasted really good. But instead of flat cookies, like the picture in the recipe book, they're really puffy. And I prefer more of the like we do eat chocolate chip kind of flat cookie.

CK: Just in general, if you have a cakey cookie that's because there's too much flour. I mean, if you reduce the flour a little bit, how much flour is it? Like two cups or something?

Caller: Yeah

CK: I would take at least two maybe three tablespoons of flour out like one tablespoon per cup.

CD: Are you weighing or?

Caller: No, I don't weigh my flour. But I do have a scale. I could try it.

CD: Well, if she doesn't call for a weight, but sometimes yeah, it sounds like there's too much flour. What is it about this recipe that you do like, is it the brown butter?

Caller: Yeah, I think the brown butter gives a really nice, the flavor is fantastic.

CK: The two things they usually make a puffy cakey cookie is too much flour, or you cream the butter and sugar instead of melting the sugar. What do you do with it with the sugar?

Caller: I beat the brown butter with the rest of the butter and then the granulated sugar and the brown sugar.

CK: If you're creaming or beating some of the butter with the sugar, that's going to give you more cakey texture. So, if you browned all of the butter melted it and browned that probably would give you a flatter cookie to I think okay, Cheryl?

CD: Yeah, well, I mean, I probably am not going to give a recipe that many attempts before maybe move on to another recipe. I mean, there's a lot of recipes that you could do chocolate chip with brown butter, if that's the main reason why you like it. Because for me if I don't like the texture of a chocolate chip cookie I'm moving on.

Caller: Yeah.

CK: Cheryl you’re tough.

Caller: Yeah, and I think the brown butter was the flavor that I was really enjoying as something unique to a chocolate chip cookie.

CD: I agree

CK: I would take out a couple tablespoons of flour and brown all the butter. That's what I would do.

Caller: Okay, I will try that. That sounds great. Thank you so much.

CK: If that doesn't work. I'm with Cheryl and go get another recipe.

CD: Yeah, I mean there's lots of recipes that you could use. There's different ways you can use brown butter to some recipes are melted and then other recipes will have you chill it’s so just like using regular butter, if you have another favorite chocolate chip recipe, you could just like weigh out the amount of brown butter, same as what you would use butter and then make it in the same way. That's another way to try.

Caller: Thank you so much.

CD: All right, well let us know.

CK: Thanks, Brittany.

Caller: Thank you.

CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Looking for some baking inspiration, give us a call 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or please email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com

CD: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?

Caller: Hi, this is Mark from New Orleans.

CD: Hey Mark, how can we help?

Caller: So, my question is about chocolate chip pancakes. More specifically, the best way to incorporate the chocolate chips. Okay, so when I make them I've taken two approaches. One is leave the pancake batter as is sprinkle the chocolate chips onto the pancakes after they're on the griddle. The problem with this I find is that when I flip them, the exposed chips often end up a little bit chalky and burnt and just not ideal. I've also tried incorporating the chocolate chips into the batter before ladling them onto the griddle. This avoids the burnt chocolate, but I feel like these pancakes don't rise as much, and end up a little gummier. So, I'm curious, what's the best way to incorporate chocolate chips into pancakes are?

CD: Sure, well, gummy that is a little secret that you just gave me because gummier to me means more gluten. There may be some overmixing happening. But we may have Chris has two little ones so he may be an expert, chocolate chip pancake maker. But what I do is I've done both approaches as well. But what I like best is I'll make the pancake batter, fold in just quickly the chocolate chips. And then I just let it rest while I'm heating up my pan. And that seems to work really great for me. Chris, do you have any solutions?

CK: Well, one other thing you could do to avoid over mixing the batter is to add the chips, let's say along with liquid ingredients, for example. Like with the egg and the milk, etc and put them in. You just don't want to overdo it. If you completely fold your batter and then add the chips you might end up overworking it a little bit. (Okay) but you're right. If you just drop, like sometimes you blueberry pancakes, I'll drop blueberries, once the pancakes are on the griddle, right? Same. And when you flip them over, if they were chocolate chips, you're right, it would burn the chip. So just add them directly to the liquid ingredients and then add to the flour and then mix it together and just try not to over mix that would probably do it. You also might try smaller chips, the smaller versions, they may incorporate more easily than larger chips too.

Caller: Okay, so that sounds like the issue is most likely over mixing and not that the chocolate chips themselves will prevent the pancakes from rising as much.

CD: Well, just the fact that you said gummy. That was a clue that there's some overmixing happening.

CK: I don't think there's any chemistry with a chocolate is it's not going to really have time to interact. Yeah, it's just about how you mix everything. Mark, thank you.

Caller: All right. I appreciate it. Bye

CK: Take care. All right, thanks.

CD: Thank you

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Right now, let's head into the kitchen with JM Hirsch to talk about this week's recipe. Thai coconut and chicken soup. JM How are you?

J M Hirsch: I'm doing great.

CK: You've been in Thailand. And you and I think seem to spend half our lives searching for more chicken soup recipes. Almost every culture has them. This one is based on coconut milk. And let's start with that. How do you make coconut milk starting with a coconut.

JMH: That's the thing I learned in Thailand is that coconut milk is in everything in Thailand or at least that way to me. And we're not talking kind of the unimpressive stuff that we get in cans here in the US, which I used to like actually, until I went on this trip. I went to Thailand and realized oh wow, there's a whole other world of coconut milk and it makes you want to never open a can ever again. I met some families who actually do this as their business, and they harvest the coconuts and they process them from beginning to end. And the amazing part is they don't waste a single ounce of that coconut even just the outer husk, which is just a big green shell essentially, they turn that into charcoal. And you know some of the outer husk is processed for sugar then coconut water is processed either for drinking or also for sugar. And then there's the meat the rich coconut meat, which when you chop that up and you process it with water, it creates coconut milk. And you can do that several times with the same coconut. So you can reprocess the same coconut meat a couple of times to get different grades or quality of coconut milk. And of course, the first pressing much like olive oil is the best. And when I had it for the first time there, I was like, wow, this is a whole other level of coconut milk. And so of course, everything they add it to, is that much better. And so I had this Thai coconut chicken soup tomcod guy, and it's flavored with lemongrass, and galangal, which is a relative of ginger, and chicken and mushrooms and lime, fish sauce and chilies. And it's a lot of flavor. But it's that coconut milk that ties it all together and it does so perfectly, because it's got that richness that balances everything and pulls everything together. It tames the lime juice, it tames the chilies.

CK: Now you're going to tell me I can hear it coming negative tell me I have to make my own coconut milk to really enjoy

JM: I'm going to tell you that you have to do it. Because I tell you we tried, we opened a whole lot of cans in the kitchen at Milk Street to try to make this soup and make it as good as what I had in Thailand. And we just couldn't do it with canned coconut milk. It was either kind of watery or just lacked any flavor or richness, it just wasn't good. The solution turned to be a lesson that we actually had learned in Colombia, another coconut milk loving country, which is that you can take dried, unsweetened coconut, the same stuff, you bind the bags in the baking aisle, and steep that in hot water, throw the whole thing in the blender, pulse it a few times, let it sit a little bit, and then strain it through a mesh strainer and you get impressively good coconut milk. Now, I'm not going to lie and tell you that it's you know, if you do a side by side with what I had in Thailand that they're the same thing, they’re not but I will say it is leaps and bounds better than anything you're going to get into can and it takes maybe five minutes to make. It's not a big deal. So, I know telling people to make coconut milk. That's crazy, right? It's not It's so quick and easy.

CK: I thought I had you but you definitely redeemed yourself with a five minute recipe in a blender. So yet again, another chicken soup. One of my favorites Thai style coconut and chicken soup. And you make your own coconut milk in a blender in five minutes. JM. Thank you.

JM: Thank you. You can get the recipe for Thai style coconut and chicken soup at Milk Street Radio.com

CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Now let's hear what Adam Gopnik is thinking about this week. Adam, what's going on?

Adam Gopnik: Oh well, you know, the usual run of things. My kids have been home for a while. And we've been going out to dinner now and then. And I wonder how it plays out in your family. But it's very weird in mine. We go out for dinner and the waiter comes over and says would you like something to drink? And my wife and I always say I'll have a glass of Pinot Noir or a glass of Chardonnay. And the kids my 20 somethings always asked to see the cocktail menu and they'll get an Aperol Spritz or or a Paloma. And I will look on in a state of amusement because it seems to me such a geriatric thing to do. Because the people I knew who loved mixed drinks were my grandparents. They had Manhattan's and they had Bronx's, gin and tonics coming out of their ears, and they were never as content as when they were having a martini.

CK: My parents were cocktail parents to the very bitter end. And it was two kinds of drinks. It was the old fashioned from September through April. And then it was gin and tonics for the summer with cheddar cheese and crackers. And they never as far as I know ever had a martini or any other big drink. It was two drinks, winter drink, summer drink,

AG: but always a cocktail

CK: always a cocktail.

AG: And we are wine people. You know, we distinguish New World from Old World Pinot Noir. We want to know if you'd like to have an Argentine Malbec. And we are very acute about the difference between a California Chardonnay and a white burgundy.

CK: The problem with wine is you can never become an expert. Right, as you said there's their vintages, the varietals, there's terroir, malbecs from Argentina is great, but what part of Argentina. And so that's why I come back to the cocktail. The cocktail allows you infinite curiosity with a very small number of variables. And I find that so refreshing. There's never a great disappointment. Maybe they're never great highs, but at least it's dependable. It's something that works day to day. Wine on the other hand, can teach you how insignificant you are in the world of alcohol. You know what I mean?

AG: Yes, that's well, well said yes, wine is infinitely divisible. Right and the more you think you know about it, the less you actually know. And you live as a wine discriminator in that way, a life for perpetual embarrassment and humiliation, as you realize how far down the ladder you actually are. And yes, I think you're right, that's part of the appeal is exactly what I was getting at of mixed drinks and cocktails to our kids, right? Because that next generation has embraced all of the drinks that our grandparents once loved. And they don't see them as dated or geriatric. They see them exactly as you say, as sort of democratic in an ironic mode. And they look at us clutching our little glasses of Italian Pinot Nara, or California Chardonnay with embarrassment. It's part of the eternal cycle of generations.

CK: Well, and their kids will grow up to drink mocktails. And then we'll have to start the cycle all over again right.

AG: Absolutely pure spirits, or nothing at all, except distilled water.

CK: That's the cowboy cocktail. Yeah, shots on the bar. And you're done. Talking about simplicity that's reducing thing to the absolute simplest. One thing one glass one shot, Adam. Thank you. And I think it's time for my old fashioned,

AG: Always good spirits to talk to you Chris

CK: That was Adam Gopnik, staff writer at The New Yorker. His latest book is The Real Work on the Mystery of Mastering. That's it for today. You can find all of our episodes at Milk Street radio.com or wherever you get your podcasts. You can learn more about Milk Street at 177 Milk St.com. There you can become a member and get all of our recipes, access to all live stream cooking classes, free standard shipping from the Milk Street store and more. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and kitchen questions. And thanks, as always for listening.

Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH co-founder Melissa Baldino, executive producer Annie Sensabaugh, senior editor Melissa Allison, producer Sarah Clapp, Assistant Producer Caroline Davis with production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis, audio mixing by Jay Allison and Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole Massachusetts. Theme music by Toubab Krewe, additional music by George Brandl Egloff, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX.