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Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich help us uncover the history of the cocktail, from the invention of drinks like the Long Island Iced Tea to the colorful characters who left their mark on the art of bartending. Plus, we learn the story behind the iconic Kit Kat jingle, “Gimme a Break,” Adam Gopnik considers the pleasures of cooking and eating with your hands, and we use powerhouse pantry ingredients to make a quick noodle sauce.
This episode is brought to you by Matter of Fact.
Questions in this episode:
"I’m Ukrainian and my wife is Polish, so I make a lot of pierogis. I’ve found that whenever I double the dough recipe to make a big batch of any sort of dumpling, I always end up with less dough than I expect. What could I be doing wrong?"
"I have a question about washing vegetables before roasting them. For example, if I wash cauliflower or Brussel sprouts before putting them in the oven, they don’t get caramelized. What’s the solution?"
"I received a gigantic three liter bottle of olive oil as a gift. I usually try to buy small quantities of olive oil so it doesn’t go rancid, so I’m wondering how I should store this olive oil once I open the bottle."
"Why does tahini seize when you add water to it?"
Christopher Kimball: This is Milk Street Radio from PRX. I'm your host Christopher Kimball. Today I'm chatting with Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich authors of the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. They tell us about the medicinal history of cocktails, the invention of Long Island Iced Tea, and the colorful characters who left their mark on the art of bartending.
David Wondrich: Let me paint a picture of Jerry Thomas's biggest bar that he had in New York in the 1870s. You walked in and there was a life size statue of him, pouring drinks from one mug into another
Noah Rothbaum: And Jerry Thomas himself had a pet white rat, right that would sit on his pet,
David Wondrich: two white pet rats that’s loitered on his shoulders and ran up and down over his bowler hat while he was mixing drinks.
CK: Also coming up, we use pantry ingredients to make a no cook noodle sauce. And Adam Gopnik reviews the pleasures of cooking and eating with your hands. But first, it's my interview with composer and jingle writer Michael Levine. Michael may be best known for writing one of the greatest jingles of all time. KitKats give me a break. Michael, welcome to Milk Street.
Michael Levine: Why thank you.
CK: So, you've worked on scores for some pretty big movies, Dunkirk, The Simpsons movie, Batman, and some others. But today, we're talking about jingles. So, in the 1980s, D D and B advertising was going to do a jingle for the Kit Kat bar. But then they called you?
ML: Well, Chris McHale was the music producer at Doyle, Dane Bernbeck. And I had sent him a demo tape of stuff. And he called me up and he was very apologetic because the agency already had a jingle that they wanted to sell the client it was called kit Kat Krazy, I think with a K for the crazy. So, he very apologetically told me this was a canon fodder campaign is the term
CK: Wait a second. So yeah, they already written lyrics. And they already had music for the version they thought was going to be the winner.
ML: Right. They had done very expensive demos with Dr. John and Phoebe Snow, and it was they were all ready to go. But the problem is, you can't just show your client one idea. You have to show them one that they can reject, so that they embrace the idea that you want to sell them, (of course) so they had gotten a junior copywriter named Ken Schulman and he gave me a couple pages of ideas. And I pointed out I said, oh, give me a break. Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar. Yeah. Okay, why don't we go with that. And we all kind of liked it because give me a break was a sarcastic way of saying, you know, one something. And, you know, we were a bunch of arrogant young jerks, and we thought it was funny. And so, I got in the elevator. And by the time I got out of the first floor, the jingle was written. And I'm a pretty good violinist, an OK keyboard player and a very inept guitar player. But it felt like a guitar song. So, I picked up the phone and I called Ken Schulman and said, look, I'm really terrible guitar player. But I think this is working, see if you agree. And I played him down the song. And he says, you're right. You really are a terrible guitar player. But he liked it.
CK: And so okay, so you do this, then all of a sudden, it turns out that the client likes this better than the original.
ML: Well, the client already liked it well enough to want to record this. And they then put it into test. And it beat the campaign that Doyle had been working so hard on, they said there must be something wrong with the test. And they did it again. And it did even better. And so, at that point, they went. Okay, I guess it's Give me a break time and the campaign was launched.
CK: So, I assume since it's still running today, that sales take off immediately. Was it as sort of a slow build?
ML: I don't know the answer to that in terms of the curve. I do know that I was told that as a result of the success of the campaign they had to build a new kit Kat factory.
CK: I think I think that answers the question
ML: But you have to realize that if at this point, this is 1986 I'm guessing jingles were considered old fashioned and hopelessly unhip. It would be like, you know, singing big band music on television in 1969 when Woodstock was happening, I mean, it was considered like so just you know, really you're doing a jingle, but people liked it.
CK: So, you talk a little bit about why you think this was so successful. And you mentioned the term cognitive dissonance that is, give me a break is sort of a negative saying, right, and yet the ads full of smiling people holding up a KitKat bar. So, if you think that's important, I think Malcolm Gladwell also had a point of view about this.
ML: Well, right. I think that his theory, which I think has a lot of truth to it, is that the most memorable advertising slogans and actually many other things are those which contain a kind of contradiction or something that bugs you that your mind keeps going over it because it's not quite right. The classic one he used as an example was in the 50s, the slogan, Winston tastes good like a cigarette should, at the time, it was considered grammatically incorrect. If Winston tastes good as a cigarette should would have been grammatically correct. And the slight hip misuse of grammar is what made that a successful campaign in his opinion. And I think that give me a break was like that as well. I mean, you know, some of these things have only peripherally to do with music they have to do with does the campaign resonate. Is the product successful, and we a few of my jingles well, one in particular was for Tropicana juice sparkler, which was this sparkling beverage that unfortunately blew up on shelves, and was a real, real, real problem for the manufacturers”…we took juice…… and added magic sparkling juice…now the world isn't flat anymore Tropicana juice sparkler”. So that one kind of died a horrible death in terms of its use as a jingle, but it had nothing to do with the music.
CK: So, are there other jingles, maybe things you've not written that really resonate with you that you think are particularly clever or powerful?
ML: Well, I think that jingles have a lot in common with nursery rhymes, because they're very succinct, and generally, fairly simple. And so, the ones I tend to remember the most are ones I knew as a kid like, and N-E-S-T-L-E-S. Nestle's makes the very best chocolate. And it it's this clever thing because it kind of goes up and then it goes down. And then it does one last, and it really is almost like a nursery rhyme. But now when you hear jingles most contemporary jingles have a kind of jokey winky quality to them. And you know, that fits this mood today. I don't think that that's going to have the staying power that something like, I'm a pepper, he's a pepper. Wouldn't you like to be at pepper too, which is by Jake Holmes,
CK: I think the jingle should come back. I really do. I mean, I just think it's, it's iconic, but it has not been used to its full extent, in modern culture.
ML: Well, if you look at something like KitKat because of the fact that everybody can sing that song 35 years after it was written, people it still sells the product even when you're not, don't have a commercial I mean that that's that's the power of jingles is because they are memorable. They're these ear worms that will continue to remind people that the product exists which in an overstimulated world is half the battle.
CK: So, over the years did they refresh the jingle with different singers and different scoring?
ML: There have been many versions of it everything from Country Western versions with Carrie Underwood. Chance the Rapper doing a rap version. In fact, there was a study taken at the University of Cincinnati some years back about the worst ear worms and Kit Kat was named the third worst ear worm like you know drove people third most crazy and and that would be a little embarrassing, except number one was We Will Rock You and to be in the same category as We Will Rock You is actually a great honor.
CK: Michael, thank you so much. I love Give me a Break jingle and all the best. Thank you.
ML: Lovely talking to you
CK: That was composer and writer of KitKats Give me a Break. Michael Levine. Now it's time for me and my co-host Sara Moulton to answer some of your cooking questions. Sara is is of course the author of Home Cooking 101 also star of Sara's Weeknight Meals on public television.
Sara Moulton: So, Chris, recently, I saw the Julia Child documentary called Julia that was done by the same people who did the RBG one. It's a great documentary, mainly just because Julia was so great and it's so much fun to watch. But I saw an interview with the two directors two women. And the food in this is amazing. Susan Spungen did all the food she's the same person who did the food for Julia and Julia and you just are so hungry by the time the thing is over. And so, the two directors were interviewed, and they were asked what was their favorite dish, and they both said the same thing, which is Julia apparently made roast beef a lot. I did not know that but just good old fashioned
CK: I had roast, at her house, roast leg of lamb she liked that a lot
***10:54 SM: Well lamb make sense. I just didn't know about the roast beast, as we call it in my house. I remembered salon _____you know, every time we had lunch, it was _____but when she made the roast beef, she would cook up some boiling potatoes and then peel them and then scrape them with the side of a fork and throw them back into the roasting pan while that roast rested. (so they get a grate), so that grating on the outside of the potatoes made them get a crust and absorb the fat in a way they wouldn't have. And I thought to myself, wow, (I missed that) Yeah. Did you see the documentary? (No did not) Oh, yeah. Well, I never knew about that. But both of these directors who they're not cooks first and foremost said that was something they just started doing. I thought that was fascinating.
CK: Well, the few times I did go over there for dinner, the food was, you know, basic. We had boiled new potatoes and caviar and wine one night, or a leg of lamb, you know, roast leg of lamb and some potatoes or whatever. It was very straightforward. (Yeah. it wasn’t fancy) I remember once she had a book party for a friend of hers who had written a gardening book. And she had, you know, Swedish meatballs and like melted grape jelly with toothpicks. Swedish meatballs. Yeah. And I was going like, this is so 1956 (Yeah), but it was, you know, that was kind of her milieu, right? Yeah. She grew up, you know, outside of LA. And so that was part of who she was. She did have that American thing, too. And we forget, we always think about fancy French food. (Yeah) But I like the simplicity of it. The kitchen was never a mess. That's what I love about a great cook is just, there's not too much. It's just right. Everything's, you know, done. And simple. And you can sit there and enjoy the alcohol and the conversation, which is why you're there right?
SM Absolutely. For the conversation. Yeah
CK: So that's one of the reasons I still love Julia. (Yes) Let's take some calls.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street, who's calling?
Caller: Hi, this is Tom from Providence.
SM: Hi, Tom, how can we help you today?
Caller: My wife is Ukrainian and I'm Polish. And so, I ended up making a lot of perogies or dumpling adjacent little things. And I have found that making sort of big batches of really any type of dumpling, that when I make the dough, my yield on how many wrappers essentially, I'm able to get is always like, three quarters of what the recipe suggests. I guess I was curious if you guys had any ideas of like, what I could be doing wrong.
SM: The most important question is, how do your dumplings come out? Do you like them? Are they good? Are they tender?
Caller: Oh, they always turn out well, but it ends up being sort of like a math sort of logistics thing, because it's a labor-intensive process. So, make maybe double the recipe, say at a time. It becomes more complicated math with the sort of the filling. And then it's like juggling a bunch of fractions, which can oh my god,
SM: Can be a nightmare. I hear you yeah. Are you rolling them thin enough?
14:02 ? Caller: we have a ___, which is like the honeycomb kind of thing to roll it onto. If you roll it too thin, they just fall apart. (Yeah) And so the sickness that I've been able to get like a feel for is as thin as I can get it that will stretch across some percentage of the surface of it, but it always ends up like eventually it shorts it.
SM: The filing is I understand it is generally some sort of ground meat filling. (Usually, yes) I would imagine if you made more than meat filling, then you needed like do two and a half times the recipe of the ground meat filling and two times the recipe of the dough. And if you did have a little bit of the ground meat filling, I'm sure it would freeze nicely. You know, rather than having to do all that math, but let's see what Chris has to say.
CK: Two things to say. Congratulations, because getting three quarters of the yield is actually really good. Because the people who wrote the recipe started doing this when they were 12 you know, it's like rolling out phyllo dough in Turkey. It's like It takes years to figure this out. The fact that you got three quarters of the way there, I think is actually extraordinary. The people who wrote the recipe, they have PhDs in this, so don't worry about it. And as you said, you can't roll it on any thinner because then it's going to break up when you put it on the mold, the honeycomb thing. So just live with 36 instead of 48, for example, and then adjust your filling to match the lower numbers of wrappers you have, but nothing's wrong. You're doing a great job.
Caller: Okay. As long as it's not just me.
SM: No, it's not you at all.
CK: You should get a blue ribbon or something.
CK: So good for you.
SM: Thanks, Tom.
Caller: Thanks so much.
SM: Yes Bye. Bye.
CK: I probably would have gotten about half as many.
SM: Yeah, me too. And I probably would have rolled them too thick, and the stuffing would have come out.
CK: I didn't want to say just go buy them.
SM: Oh, no, that would have been awful.
CK: I know. I know. And well, that's probably what I would have done. This is Milk Street Radio. Sara and I are here to answer your questions. So just give us a ring anytime. That number is 855-426-9843. One more time 855-426-9843. Or just email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com. Welcome to Milk Street. Who's calling?
Caller: This is Greg calling.
CK: Where are you calling from?
Caller: Burlington, Vermont.
CK: Okay, you’re a preferred caller. You're calling for special status? Yeah. How can we help you in the kitchen?
Caller: I’m calling about trying to prewash vegetables before roasting, and still trying to achieve a good caramelization. I'm finding particularly with cauliflower that if I you know, give it a wash before putting it in the oven to roast. It's not coming out particularly caramelized it's got kind of a soggy consistency. And that could happen with eggplant, or you know, Brussel sprouts. Is there some way in which I can still prewash the vegetable and get it to caramelize?
CK: You’ve broken it up into florets or whatever you wash it and then how are you drying it?
Caller: I'm washing the entire cauliflower. Shake it to dry it or you know use a kitchen towel or something like that.
CK: And what temperature you roasting at ?
CK: I would get that up to 475. And secondly, I would really use the salad spinner and use a couple of towels or paper towels and really get them dried. A lot of people are roasting their cauliflower whole, you know steaming or boiling it for three minutes dried off and then roasted whole wrapped in foil as in Ottolenghi recipe. Or we also slice it into steaks and put it on a tray and roast at a very high temperature. So, I think both of those things would solve the problem of sogginess Sara?
SM: Yeah, I'm going to throw in I agree with everything Chris said but one other thing I just wanted to suggest is when you do put them in the oven on the sheet pan, make sure you're not crowding them. Because that could prevent caramelization too, because they're too crowded so they steam instead of roasting properly.
CK: Is this a problem with other things other than cauliflower or just cauliflower?
Caller: Yeah, I've noticed that as well with Brussel sprouts and eggplant, but I think the main problem I could have been running into there is washing off the eggplant when they were already cut up into pieces
SM: Oh no no, no you wouldn’t because they're sponges. No wonder that was a problem.
CK: I've now rediscovered eggplant. You know, in the last 10 years says the most important thing in my life. You can take a whole eggplant put it on a burner we could do it on the grill better and just cook it till it basically collapses and then you scoop it out and it just amazing. I mean you can make obviously baba ganoush out of it. You can add lemon juice, you can add tahini, you can add pomegranate molasses. Another thing to do with eggplant, the smaller ones are better. Slice them in half, put them in the oven, a very hot oven to they're really, really soft inside. And then you can put a little pomegranate molasses on and few other things and put it back in the oven and broil it just for a few minutes. You get a really nice, caramelized crust. And then a few herbs on top to serve. But boy that is yeah. You know, oven roasted or grilled eggplant is just so I mean in the Middle East. They do a million things with it. But anyway, give that a shot. I think that should work.
SM: Yes. So great. Thanks for calling.
Caller: Thank you very much. I've got some ideas now.
CK: All right. Take care. All right.
SM: Bye bye.
Caller: Thank you.
CK: You're listening to Milk Street Radio. Up next we're investigating the origins of the cocktail. That's right up after the break. This is Milk Street Radio. I'm your host, Christopher Kimball. Right now, it's my interview with Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich. They're the authors of The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. Almost 900 pages covering the history of alcohol. Noah and David, welcome to Milk Street.
Noah Rothbaum: Thank you for having us.
David Wondrich: Nice to be here.
CK: So, are you guys insane? This book, I mean, it's like you decided to write Wikipedia in a month or something.
DW: Well I'll say if I wasn't insane when I started this thing I certainly am.
CK: So, let's talk about cocktails and the origin of cocktails. Why was there a demarcation sort of before the cocktail and after the cocktail? What happened?
NR: Well, that’s another 900-page book for you
DW: Yeah, you know, as soon as distilled spirits were widely available, people drank them, and people tried to find ways of mixing them. But the cocktail was originally just one drink. It was bitters, mixed with sugar and booze. And it goes back to the 1600s in London. Usually, it was you drink it for a hangover because the bitters were supposed to help your stomach. You know, this is before Pepto Bismol or anything like that.
CK: So, can I stop you for a second. So where did the bitters in cocktails were bitters used for other things? Oh, yeah. Like, like is medicinal use
NR: Exactly they were medicine, you know, and a lot of the brands that we know today, a lot of them started out originally being prescribed for different maladies, you know, a range of them
DW: Or all of them.
CK: So how did they get into a cocktail?
NR: Well, there was this British apothecary, this guy had the bright idea of premixing bitter herbs and alcohol and bottling it so that you could pour it into your wine or beer. And that would settle your stomach. Eventually, this gets the name cocktail attached to it, which was a word to mean like, stick your tail up like this will make you stick your tail up in the morning. It'll wake you up and make you frisky. So, the idea of you know, little bitters and spirits was a pick me up, an eye opener, a corpse reviver all those terms or a cocktail.
NR: And to be fair, like alcohol itself, originally was thought to be medicinal right, most of the words that we have for different types of alcohol go back to the idea of the water of life, right, Aqua Vijay whiskeys like a bastardization of the Gaelic uisce beatha, which means water of life. So, I mean, there are a lot of the regional distillers were sort of alchemists who were looking for some kind of water of life.
CK: How about some origin stories for alcohol? You talk about absinthe, which is so interesting, but I heard the story that it was banned in Paris or France, because somebody got really drunk, came home and murdered his family or something. And they blamed absinthe. Yeah. So, so what was that story?
NR: I know Dave's going to say
DW: Well, it was a guy had drunk a whole gang of absinthe. And yeah, and indeed murdered his family. So, they blamed the botanicals in the absinthe, and not the fact that he'd had like 10 drinks of 120 proof alcohol, which is, that's a lot. You know, it was, I think, more of an alcohol problem than a botanical problem. And there were there was powerful opposition to absinthe at the time from France's grape growers, and brandy makers, also. So it was there's a lot of politics behind that.
NR: But even for some of the spirits that like, we kind of thought we knew their histories. It turns out, we either knew part of their histories, or in fact, we didn't know their histories really at all. Like rum actually, the history is fascinating and goes back probably 1000 years, you know, longer than we ever thought
DW: Rum is a very broad name, you know, rum is basically the whole world of spirits. In the key of sugarcane. You've got things that are in as neutral as vodka, and then you've got others that are as heavy and funky as old rye whiskey.
CK: So, the old fashioned which is my favorite, because I'm kind of boring. Just describe that because I knew about half the history, but you flushed this out pretty well.
DW: Yeah, the old fashioned is the original cocktail. Towards the end of the 19th century, people were putting like all kinds of crazy things like vermouth and citrus juice in their cocktails, and some boring old codgers, like myself said, hey, I want mine the old-fashioned way. So, it was a lump of sugar, a splash of water, some dashes of bitters, pour in a shot of booze, give it a quick stir and down the hatch.
CK: I love this description, because I'm not kind when it comes to a badly made old fashioned. You're talking about the 1940s. It was often over sweetened and made further flaccid, which I think is a perfect description, with the addition of a muddled orange, the smashed remains of a, maraschino cherry. And then you say some say that this practice started during prohibition to mask the taste of the bad booze. Well, that that's a great explanation for something I could never understand. Messing up a great simple cocktail.
DW: Well, you know, people never leave well enough alone. That's the problem.
CK: I'm not going to ask you your favorite cocktail, but I am going to ask you, is there a cocktail out there that was amazingly good. Sounded awful. Something that surprised you in putting this together.
DW: Well, one of the one of them that I came across, while I was working on the book was this thing called the modern cocktail. And it was invented in the 1890s by a guy who attended bar at a social club in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Anyway, it's a scotch whiskey, slow gin. Little bit of lemon juice, just a spoonful, little bit of sugar, orange bitters, and a dash of absinthe. That sounds absolutely crazy and disgusting but it's so delicious.
NR: Where I was going to say reminds me of also the, the Blood & Sand which has one of the worst names for a cocktail, which is Scotch orange juice, Brandy cherry, vermouth, I mean, it doesn't sound like good work at all. And in fact, it might sound like your mouth would be filled with blood and sand, but I actually liked the Blood & Sand. I don't think Dave does.
DW: I prefer the modern actually.
NR: But they're connected. But again, it's a weird thing.
DW: They're weird drinks. That just don't sound right. But they but they are very good.
NR: I think though that's one of the through lines for the history of cocktails and spirits is amazing curiosity of bartenders, right, like this whole idea of like, we have an old-fashioned right and we'll add this new thing called vermouth. You know, maybe if we swapped the whiskey for gin, oh, like now we have a martini. It's like this constant curiosity about new ingredients, new techniques.
CK: So, let's talk about bartenders because I know you guys love bartenders. I only know one guy Harry Craddock, which of course, is the only one an amateur like me would have heard of. So, who was he talking about the American Bar at the Savoy and that story?
DW: Well, Harry Craddock was an Englishman, who came to America and claimed he mixed the last legal drink before Prohibition, because he was still working as a bartender in New York, at the stroke of midnight 1920. And then, he lobbied very hard to get to the Savoy bar in London and the head bartender was a woman by the name of Ada Coleman. She was edged aside, and he ran the bar for another 15 years. And really, it was the watering hole for Americans in London, and for cocktail lovers,
CK: And his his book, The Savoy Cocktail Book, which I do have, is that still considered a classic of the genre and one worth buying?
DW: Oh, very strongly. Yes.
NR: It's one of the vintage cocktail books that's always been in demand. It really is an Art Deco masterpiece, but that also contains a compendium of what people were drinking and things that Craddock made you know that that Ada Coleman was famous for her Hanky Panky drink which she had invented
DW: It’s got like 1000 drinks in it. I mean, yeah, that's so many drinks.
CK: So I guess a lot of people have heard of Craddock. But are there some other bartenders? People probably have never heard of that sort of struck your fancy as you were doing research
DW: Yeah, one of one of the guys was the great Jerry Thomas, who wrote the world's first bartenders guide, and was the dean of American bartenders. He was quite the character. In New Haven he worked as an apprentice at his brother's bar and then ran off to sea for a few years, and then jumped ship in California during the gold rush, and made a whole lot of gold, and spent it all in about three months. Let me paint a picture of Jerry Thomas's biggest bar that he had in New York in the 1870s. You walked in and there was a life size statue of him pouring drinks from one mug into another. There were huge pictures of him mixing drinks, painted two stories high on the walls of the place. In the basement was a shooting gallery, where you would go and shoot 22 rifles against young ladies who are very good shots. And the drunks who hung out in the bar would go down there and they'd be very upset to lose to these young ladies. So, they demand a rematch and so, they made a lot of money off of that. There was it was pretty much full spectrum entertainment there.
NR: And Jerry Thomas himself had a pet white rat right that would sit on his head to (DW: two) two of them, sorry, two of them
DW: two pet white rats that loitered on his shoulders and ran up and down over his bowler hat while he was mixing drinks.
NR: Then they're all types of unsung heroes, you know, for some of the less glamorous drinks like we tell the story of you know, the Long Island Iced Tea and
CK: What what is that story?
NR: Well, I'll let Dave tell it. You grew up on Long Island so I think it's fair you tell that story
DW: Yeah, it was. It was this guy worked at the Oak Beach Inn in Oak Beach, Long Island out in Suffolk County, which was a beach front, take it easy bar. And they had a cocktail contest one day for the bartenders to mix drinks using Triple Sec. And he won by grabbing all the white liquors in the well and pouring them into a glass, adding a dash of Triple Sec, a splash of coke and a splash of sour mix. And it tasted like iced tea. It became very popular.
CK: You know, what's the difference between a really good bartender and a good bartender? Are there skills or techniques that set the great ones apart from the good ones?
DW: Well, a really good bartender makes the same drinks as the good one but knows all the jokes.
CK: I knew you were going to say something like that.
DW: Yeah. I mean, really, it's true that the drinks themselves are the easy part. The hard part is the personality the the social engineering that a great bartender has, where they turn a bar full of unrelated strangers into a group of friends sitting around and having drinks together.
NR: Where I remember years ago, the great Dale DeGroff, who's sort of the Father the rebirth of the cocktail had, you know, one of these brands had hired him in New York for a cocktail festival. He's working room and I walked in the room was buzzing. Dale was having, you know, 3-4-5-6 conversations at once everybody had a drink. As soon as his shift was over another like, incredibly talented, accomplished bartender came on, but who did not have that social gene. And the drinks were were equally wonderful but the room died like everybody left because it just didn't have that same buzz, that innate sense of knowing what each guest wants, you know, who needs to be introduced to who who needs to be left alone, who needs a little sympathy, advice.
DW: And that's just an amazing skill. And, you know, during the height of the pandemic, that's what I missed the most. I can't make drinks like the best bartenders, but I can make drinks that are close enough. But that other part, there was just very little of that.
CK: Thanks, guys. It's been a real pleasure. I can't believe we didn't do this in a bar but thanks so much for being on Milk Street
DW: Thank you so much. Thank you so much pleasure. It's been ours
NR: Next time drinks are on us. Absolutely. Old fashionedss.
CK: Old fashioneds. That was Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich. Their book is The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails. You know, they're wine people and then their cocktail people. Wine people have a scholarly approach to drinking the vintage, the terroir of the grapes. It's all very hush hush. Cocktail people. On the other hand, throw out the rules to make a cocktail for every occasion. Rum punch on the beach, an old fashion after work a zombie or Mai Tai on Saturday night. Even the sacred Martini has been subject to 1000s of variations from dirty martinis to the Vesper. So, if you drink just for the fun of it, have a cocktail. If you drink to be a connoisseur, enjoy a glass of wine. And just remember that the two never mix. You're listening to Milk Street Radio, it's time to chat with Lynn Clark about this week's recipe ginger hoisin noodles. Lynn, how are you?
Lynn Clark: I'm doing well Chris.
CK: Great Okay, so like most people, sometimes I have 10 minutes to make dinner, and I've figured out dipping sauces or noodle sauces, but I want something a little different, a little more complex. What do you have?
LC: Well, this hoisin ginger noodle is exactly what you're looking for. This dish really personifies what I consider a classic Milk Street pantry dish. It draws on a really important ingredient that has a ton of flavor. In this case, that's hoisin which is a Chinese sauce that you can use as a glaze a dipping sauce and marinade. It's sweet, it's salty, it's savory. It's kind of a one ingredient umami balm.
CK: Is this just a question of cooking I don't know udon noodles, soba noodles, whatever. And simply mixing them with a sauce or is that it?
LC: Literally all it is. It is about as quick as it gets. You boil some noodles which take you know 10 minutes or so maybe less linguini, Udaan noodles, lo mien noodles, whatever you've got in the pantry. And while that's boiling you whisk together a sauce of hoisin, another one of our favorite milk street pantry ingredients chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and then a little bit of freshly grated ginger that gets all mixed together. Toss that with the noodles, then top it with some chopped scallions. You could also add some chopped peanuts, you could put in some grated carrot, some wilted cabbage, top it with an egg if you want a little more protein, it's kind of like a whatever you've got around, throw it in there.
CK: So, this is one of those master recipes like soy sauce, mirin and sugar and it has a lot more complexity to it than what I usually use but it's very simple.
LC: This is cook what you have kind of recipe but using some of these really powerful ingredients that really pack a lot of flavor in them like hoisin and chili garlic sauce.
CK: So, hoisin ginger noodles takes as much time as it does to boil the noodles, which is my perfect pasta recipe, and it tastes great. Lynn thank you very much.
LC: You're welcome. You can get this recipe for voice and ginger noodles at Milk Street Radio.com
CK: This is Milk Street Radio coming up. Adam Gopnik explains why touch is an under sung sense in the kitchen. We'll be right back. I'm Christopher Kimball and you're listening to Milk Street Radio right now Sara Moulton and I will be answering a few more of your cooking questions.
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi this is Kayla calling from Pacific Palisades, California.
SM: Well, how nice. How can we help you today?
Caller: I was very excited to receive a beautiful gift of Raguso classical olive oil from the region Potenza where my family is from. But it's this gigantic three-liter container. And I try to buy my olive oil in small bottles because I you know; it goes rancid so quickly. And I just don't know how to store this if I open it.
SM: The first thing is you got to start going through it. I'm sure you know that. Some people say you got to get through that in three to six months other people say even in a shorter period of time. So that is stressful. I hear you. (Yeah) there's three enemies of olive oil is as I'm sure you also know which is light heat and air. So, a tin can is a good place to store it as long as you keep it in a cool dry place away from the light and away from the heat. If you are going to start using it, how quickly will you go through it?
Caller: I would say within four to six months.
SM: Well, you might be fine. What you might want to do is get smaller bottles and decant it What would be ideal again is another tin thing with a lid to put it into, because that's the best to keep away the light. But if you don't have one of those just put it into a smaller bottle. The other thing you could consider is gifting some of it to friends.
Caller: Could I just put it like in a ball jar?
SM: Well, it'd be better if you could, it would be a colored you know, something darker because again, the light coming through
Caller: Oh, oh, yeah, the light how interesting
SM: I don't know. Let's hear what Chris has to say.
CK: I totally agree with Sara. Keep it out of the light and keeping a very cool place. I've stored olive oil for months in glass bottles in my basement and it's been fine. I don't like metal so much. I think glass is better or ceramic. I have a ceramic cruet I actually use which is great. And the bottles can be clear glass as long as there, you know, in a dark cupboard in the dark than it doesn't matter. It does if it's exposed to light. I also grew sir, I think I would put it into smaller bottles if you can fill it right to the top so there's no air, make sure it's sealed properly with a stopper of some kind, and put it in a very cool dark place. And then I would do a lot of fried food in the next six months well, I'd be frying everything and olive oil, but I don't know. I mean cool dark place.
Caller: I'll put it in the garage somewhere dark and cool.
CK: What a great present, by the way.
SM: Yeah, how nice. Oh, I want friends like that.
CK: Kayla you're lucky.
Caller: I am very lucky. And thank you. I love your podcast. And Sara, I've been following you for a long time. So, it's been fun talking and thanks for the good advice
CK: Thanks for calling.
SM: Thank you.
Caller: Okay take care. Bye bye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. If you're looking to change the way you cook, give us a call anytime. That number is 855-426-9843 one more time 855-426-9843 or just email us at questions at Milk Street Radio.com
SM: Welcome to Milk Street who's calling?
Caller: Hi, my name is Cindy and I'm calling from Stillwater, Oklahoma
SM: Hi Cindy, how can we help you today?
Caller: Hi, Sara. I'm wondering why tahini seizes when you add water to it.
SM: Yeah, it's really weird, isn't it? It's because what tahini is is ground sesame seeds. It's sort of a carbohydrate and when you add water to it, the carbohydrate is drawn to the liquid, so it does cease up and the only way to remedy that is to add more liquid and add more liquid and add more liquid and then finally you'll get to a point where you've got a consistency that you like I mean the same is true with chocolate you know it will seize up initially but then if you add the right percentage of liquid to the chocolate then you will end up with something that's desirable and portable. Chris further thoughts.
CK: I was testing a recipe the other day for sachertorte the famous chocolate cake from Vienna. The chocolate frosting, the ganache, it was very unusual method she made a sugar syrup and then added the chopped chocolate to the sugar syrup. Which has two problems. The heat obviously is not a good thing for chocolate, but the sugar syrup obviously has had some water in it and it's seized immediately so it's a little bit like tahini. It's the presence of liquid of water immediately seized the chocolate. It's really the same principle.
SM: So, then what happened?
SM: I threw it out and I made it no I literally threw it out. Chopped eight ounces of chocolate finally heated up a cup or two a cream poured it over the chocolate like you're supposed to, and it was fine. Yeah, by the way, just to continue the conversation about tahini. If you buy a really good brand of tahini, it doesn't tend to separate as much and you're not going to have this problem. It tends to be lighter in color and a little bit more liquid. Some of the brands I've found in the supermarket classic brands I won't name are very pasty. They are dark and over roasted.
SM: I think we should also mention that once you open tahini, you should definitely refrigerate it because it is a seed and like other nuts and seeds it goes rancid quickly.
Caller: Okay, I have to review my chemistry if I understood you, right, it's because carbohydrates are getting hydrated and that turns them solid
CK: They're attracted to the water and then they then clump together in clumps of carbohydrates. But if there's sufficient amount of liquid in the solution, then they will eventually break apart and float around. Yeah, I think
SM: but any tahini is going to seize.
Caller: Right. I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question.
CK: Cindy, our pleasure. Thank you so much for calling.
SM: Thank you.
Caller: Thanks. Goodbye.
CK: This is Milk Street Radio. Next up is time to find out what Adam Gopnik is thinking about this week. Adam what's going on in the world of cooking?
Adam Gopnik: Well, I will tell you the thing that I've been brooding on, and you know, I'm always brooding on something culinary is the hidden tactile dimension of our guest’s genomic experience. It began with a very simple thing I was making my wife's very favorite dessert simple but delicious, which is an apple crisp. And I began making the the crisp topping by mixing it together with my hands, I had the butter, and I had the oatmeal, and I had the flour, and I had the brown sugar, and a little bit of cinnamon. And one of my kids now grown but still ever inquisitive, said, dad, why are you doing it that way with your hands, and not with the mixer. And I realized I had always done it that way. And it's one of those tasks that to my mind, you have to do with your hands, there's no way to how should we put it squish the butter together adequately with the oatmeal and the brown sugar except with your hands. You know how it is if you put it in the mixer, it gets too homogenous, far too homogenous. You want variety, you want little bits of butter, and you want little surprises of brown sugar and oatmeal. I couldn't explain this very well. But I knew it was a task I had to do with my hands. And I began thinking, Chris, about the number of things in the kitchen that we can only do with our hands. It's a famous thing and people talk about it all the time about how we in the West have become removed from the basic food work of the hands, right? That we substitute forks and knives we did it long ago. And it’s very much part of our culture, to distance ourselves, both from our food, but also from the act of making it through instruments and utensils and implements of all kinds. But it's funny if you think about it at all because the truth is we have a very complicated hierarchy about what we will touch with our hands in the food world and what we will not. We think nothing of eating a sandwich with our hands, right? We often hear it said that in Eastern cultures in India or Ethiopia, for example, people eat everything with their hands, and they find our need to use utensils to be prissy and kind of obsessive and puritanical. But we are more than content to eat a hoagie with our hands, we're more than content to eat a hamburger with our hands, we have a whole range of foods that we do eat with our hands.
CK: But of course, the French, a friend of mine is French, he eats all of his sandwiches, usually without a top piece of bread with a knife and fork.
AG: Your now as always, Christopher, you are anticipating what is our prices says that I am about to go. And that is exactly that we make a distinction between the artisanal and folk side of our eating and preparing, and the artistic and high side of our eating and preparing and the artistic and high side of it, which as we've discussed so many times, derives in one way or another from French restaurant practices, we still do with utensils, whether we're eating it or we're preparing it, we can’t imagine a handmade souffle. There are many things you can do with your hands better than you can do with an instrument. You cannot whip egg whites with your hands. But there are so many other things in the kitchen that we have to do with our hands, rubbing olive oil into a leg of lamb that's something we can only do with their hands. We could use a brush, I suppose but it would, it would seem sort of pointless. Stripping herbs, putting a flavored butter inside, chicken skin. All of those things are things we have to do with our hands. And as I was trying to kind of review in itemize all the things we do with our hands in the kitchen, I began thinking about a research project that I had done several years ago, which is about the science of touch, and how invisible touch is to us most of the time in our lives. It's what I called it the unsung sense. And at that simple moment, when we begin to blend together brown sugar and butter and oatmeal our skin becomes alive, I'm sure you've had that experience. And so much of the joy of cooking comes to us through touch and yet we rarely talk about it. So, I am going to devote much of the next year to reinhabiting if I can the tactile dimension of cooking and try and make touch matter as much in my own gastronomic experience as smell and taste and all of those others more familiar dimensions.
CK: Well, it's almost as if touch has become a vertical, you know romance, sex, etc. It has nothing to do with the rest of our lives except for that which is which is so strange, which is not true in other cultures of course.
AG: Exactly. So, and one of the things we we always take in from other cultures and if you go online, you'll see wonderful writing by people like Ruby Tandoh and so on talking about how vital how determinative touches in Indian cooking both in the way you prepare it and in the way that you consume it.
CK: You know, a few years ago I was in Dakar, Senegal and we were tasting a sauce or whatever we were making. And the cook put it on the back of her hand to taste and so in this happens in lots of places have been food is tasted on the back of the hand and it makes a huge difference. I now do that myself. It's actually quite a very different experience than tasting it off a metal spoon
AG: Absolutely or even off of a wooden spoon and I realized to Chris, how much of our our prime experiences of food come to us through touch rather than through taste. My oldest memory of food is when my mother would be making strudel when I was very small with my one-year-old sister, and we would gather beneath the table that she would roll the paper thin strudel dough out on and it would hang over the edge of the table, like a tent, and we were allowed to pick from that overhang of the strudel dough and eat it. I have no memory of its taste, but oh, the touch the elasticity as we pulled it down, secretly, it almost had a criminal overhang that touch stays with me to this day.
CK: That sounds like the beginning of a Roald Dahl book,
AG: Or an overlooked passage of Proust perhaps.
CK: Of course, of course you would pick Proust. Adam, thank you very much. Put the touch back in taste into cooking. Thank you so much.
AG: Exactly. That's the model on our license plate this year.
CK: That was New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik. That's it for this week's show. If you're tuned into later just want to binge listen every single episode you can download Milk Street Radio, on Apple podcast Spotify wherever you find your podcast. To learn more about Milk Street, please go to 177 Milk Street com. There you can download each week's recipe, watch the latest season of a television show or learn about our magazine and latest cookbook vegetables. You can also find us on Facebook at Christopher Kimball's Milk Street on Instagram and Twitter at 177 Milk Street. We'll be back next week with more food stories and thanks as always for listening.
Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is produced by Milk Street in association with GBH, executive producer Melissa Baldino, senior audio editor Melissa Allison, producers Sarah Clapp and Jason Turetsky. Production Assistant, Amelia McGuire, and production help from Debby Paddock. Additional editing by Sidney Lewis audio mixing by Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The music by Toubab Krewe additional music by George Crandall Egloff Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Radio is distributed by PRX