The secret to great French Toast is to soak the bread long enough for your egg mixture to fully soak the middle of the bread. (And use real bread, folks—pre-sliced sandwich bread isn’t thick enough to get that wonderful eggy custard.)
I’m exactly halfway through my DIY Book Tour for Cooking for Geeks—day 22 of 44—and life on the road has already been an amazing experience.
To date, I’ve given talks in Washington DC, Ft Lauderdale, Austin, Houston, Toronto, New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Visting so many places in such a short time span is a real study in the diversity of our country (and Canada). Food habits, culture, and attitudes definitely differ. Austin is a runner’s town; Houston, decidedly not so. Food trucks in Austin are more than trendy, they’re actually shockingly good; Chicago is still trying to overturn ordinances banning them. Washington DC was a pleasant surprise; the community has a great collegiate feel to is.
Across all these cities, one thing is constant: I’m amazed at just how incredibly kind people are everywhere. To my new friends in Austin, that evening with a great bottle of wine on the lake’s edge was just amazing. To the guys in Houston, I had a great time (and sorry about the mess ;-). Pittsburgh’s Waffle Shop was a blast; I hope to get video of the interview posted here in the next week or so.
Continue reading Life on the Road
T Minus 24 Hours until the start of my “Do It Yourself” Book Tour. First stop? Washington D.C. Then Florida, Texas, Toronto, New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago… and then the western half of the country.
Here’s the first half of my book tour. Live in one of these places or know somebody who does? Please help me get the word out! I’ll be doing book talks, demos, Q&As, and exploring the local food scenes in each of these places. Snag a book—preferably one from me, but happy to sign any copy, of course!—and come meet me.
My october schedule will be out in a few weeks. Live in the LA Area, Seattle, Portland, or the Bay Area? Want to help out? Help me organize a talk.
Here’s a list of the dates and venues where I’ll be talking. Continue reading D.I.Y. Book Tour: September Schedule
Clear, fact-packed, and engaging … Cooking for Geeks offers an improbable victory of text over the standard food porn.
For me, the book is hard to put down. Its overall clarity and organization, as well as its success, may point to a sequel (or a 2.0 version) of sorts. It seems to me that this is a real phenomena. In the past two weeks, Google matches and Twitter mentions on this particular title have risen exponentially, to a level normally reached only by books from well-known chefs and personalities—and after a much longer time period. It’s evidence of a lot of creativity and brainpower connecting to the cooking world through books, TV, and above all, the Internet. It will be interesting to see what the nerds cook up next.
One interesting experience of reading reviews about your work: you get someone else’s perspective of your work (duh), which is like seeing yourself in a mirror—but where the mirror is warped and instead shows you how other people see you (not so obvious).
Here’s one example of this. Ike DeLorenzo, the author of The Atlantic review of my book, has an amazingly nice way of summing up something about the way I feel that I’d never been able to pinpoint before: “On the whole, Cooking for Geeks offers an improbable victory of text over the standard food porn.”
I love this quote. It says so much about me, about society, and, well, about me and society. When it comes to food porn, Continue reading Book Review in The Atlantic
THIS POST IS OLD. See www.cookingforgeeks.com/blog/posts/diy-book-tour-september-schedule/.
I’m organizing a book tour and need your help. Where should I go?
Here’s the deal:
- JetBlue is selling “All You Can Jet” passes. I bought one. So, I can go ANYWHERE JetBlue flies between Sept 7th and October 6th. Woohoo!!!
This is a low-budget production. I love my publisher, but they don’t send authors on book tours. In fact, most publishers don’t do this anymore, ’cause the Internet makes it moot. But I want to get out of Cambridge, “see the world” (or at least the American portion), and meet people! But “real” book tours—you know, in bookstores—are set up many many months in advance. My local two indys, who I love, both told me “we’re booked until December.” So…
- Why not do a book tour like musicians do house concerts? Find a space—your house, a community center, a nice park (++ for w/ grill)—and I’ll come sign books, give a talk, and hang out. You’d be the organizer, just like a house concert. I’ll provide the entertainment. =-) Oh, and I’d list the event on my website, tweet, and fb post; but you’d need to do some publicity in your city, too. (Bonus points for getting local journalists and bloggers to come.)
But what about… well, the books? Yeah, that’s a problem. Bookstores normally take care of that for author signings. And I’m not going to haul inventory around with me, never mind the headache that would be collecting cash, dealing with taxes, etc. But…
- You’d need to buy a BOX of books—20 copies. My publisher can drop-ship them to me to you in your city. You’d then be responsible for splitting up the copies between whoever attends the talk and collecting cash from them. Selling the books this way also covers my costs—trust me, I’m not making a profit, but if I sell them directly, as opposed to doing it through a bookstore, I get the difference between wholesale and retail, which can just barely cover food, car rentals, and crash space.
This idea is just crazy enough that it might actually work. But I need help: specifically, I need organizers in each place to get the ball rolling. So: want me to come do an event with you?
Tim shows his method for drying apple rings in the hot California sun.
Re-blogged from answers.oreilly.com… -J
For his recently released book, Cooking for Geeks, author Jeff Potter interviewed prominent researchers, food scientists, knife experts, chefs, writers, and more, including author Harold McGee, TV personality Adam Savage, and chemist Hervé This. Some provided recipes, others offered tips and tricks, and each brought his or her own geeky insights into the space where science and cooking meet. In one case, the contribution was a comic (by Randall Munroe of xkcd). As you can imagine, while preparing the book, Jeff had access to a geek whose name is eponymous with the company that published his book. The excerpt from Cooking for Geeks that follows includes part of their conversation, along with the recipe for Tim’s now-famous homemade scones.
Jeff: You say you don’t consider yourself a foodie at all?
Tim: No. In fact, I kind of make a small number of things that I make repetitively. A lot of what I do is driven by the fact that I hate to waste things. So hence jam because there’s all this great fruit. [Tim has numerous fruit trees.] Right now I’m doing dried apples. But let me put these scones in. [Tim had been making scones as we started.] This is something that I figured out a long time ago. I make this big batch and it’s too much for two people so I made a batch and then I was like, oh wait, I can just freeze it.
Jeff: How did the thought of freezing it come to you?
I had the privilege of being on NPR’s Science Friday last Friday. In a word, it was amazing. If you haven’t listened to the podcast yet, click here to listen to an MP3 of me on NPR (file size: 16 MB; runtime: 35 minutes).
Things that happened to me as a result of being on NPR:
1. I heard from people I hadn’t thought of in years. High school teachers of mine. Friends of my ex. Even a childhood friend who lived a few doors down from me when growing up, whom I’ve not thought about for 15 years. Her dad had heard the NPR story and passed it along. Amazing.
2. My book went to #1 in Amazon’s Food, Cooking and Wine section, and up to #37 in books. That’s #37 across all books. Amazing. I am honored and deeply humbled to have been the #1 top-selling cookbook in America, even if for only a weekend.
Continue reading NPR’s Science Friday & Cooking for Geeks
Spread the word! Please re-tweet, re-blog, re-everything… -J
Every few years, 2600 organizes a HOPE conference under various names. This year’s was called The Next HOPE and was the fourth one I’ve gone to, but the first one I’ve talked at.
For those that missed it, here’s a video of my talk. It’s about 50 minutes long and 100MB+ big, so consider yourself warned. And yes, this is talk that Gizmodo covered.
Continue reading Video of Cooking for Geeks talk at Next HOPE
“Hot off the press,” as they say. (No, I don’t know who “they” are, and I don’t know why “they” say things off the press are hot. If the book were printed on a laser printer, I’d understand…)
I’m so used to shipping bits (e.g. software) that shipping atoms (e.g. books) seems so… foreign. The publisher sends the files for the book to the printer. The printer ships the books to the distributor (Ingram Books, in my case), who is a completely separate company from the publisher. Brick-and-mortar and online bookstores order copies from the distributor; once they get them, they turn around and ship a copy to you. From start to finish, the process takes upwards of a month.
Continue reading They’re HERE!!! First box of Cooking for Geeks arrives
I had my first bite of duck confit in France before I was even a teenager, and fell in love with it immediately. Duck confit tastes entirely different than duck cooked almost any other way; it’s like comparing bacon to pork: same animal, different reality.
Of course, at the time I wasn’t paying attention to the word “confit”, and upon returning to the US, ordered “duck $whatever” ever single time I ate out. It never worked. I’m sure I ate some amazing duck, but at the time, duck confit just wasn’t cooked in the US.
Continue reading Duck Confit Sugo
Here at the “International Institute for Authors Who Are Supposed To Get Every Last Edit In Within The Next 36 Hours,” there’s been a recent bittersweet moment. (There are many bittersweet moments in book writing, but that’s another blog post. Which I will do. Just not in the next 36 hours.)
In the design process of the book, some sections and interviews are having to get trimmed down to fit the spreads in the book. (The design is looking amazing, by the way, thanks to the amazing Edie Freedman at O’Reilly Media. Amazing.)
One such spread is my interview with Harold McGee, which I had to chop by 200 words to fit to the spread. I’d asked him about his approach to the kitchen and how he goes about solving “food mysteries.”
Here is the part of his answer from our interview that just didn’t fit.
I just get in there and try and understand it, first by doing controlled experiments. You set things up so that you’re only changing one variable, doing things side by side so that you’re not comparing the flavor of something from three days ago or a week ago with what you’re doing now, in order to really see what’s happening.
If necessary, you can go to the literature and try to find out what the chemistry might be, but the first thing is realizing that foods are really complicated. Nobody really understands completely what’s going on, and the only way to find out what’s going on with whatever you happen to be interested in is to make it over and over again in different ways and see how it changes when you change different variables and come to an understanding that way.
The nice thing about that is that it’s kind of like science back in the 17th century, when anybody could pick up a telescope and look at the sky and discover something new. That’s changing, but I think it’s still true that there are lots of things that go on in the kitchen that no one has really taken that close a look at, so you may be the first.
—Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking
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This is a guest post by Clarissa Monét, who made this for me last week. Thanks, Clarissa! -J
This recipe is super simple, yet über comforting and satisfying. Fresh ingredients and a knack for what tastes good are all one needs to make this appetizer delicious!
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I’ve been teaching a friend of mine how to cook and one of the first things to come up is the question of flavors and tastes—how do I know what ingredients will taste good together?
One place to start is by looking at ingredients that are commonly used together. There are two easy places to see this: one is in the ingredient list on sauces and marinades—if the pasta sauce has tomatoes, oregano, mushrooms, and onions, then an omelet with those things will probably taste good too—and the second place is to look at cultural traditions.
“Staying home and making pizza” can mean lots of things. Frozen. One of those pre-cooked crusts with sauce packets. Homemade toppings over raw dough from the grocery store. Or creating everything from scratch—perhaps including sausage and fresh mozzarella. But even foodies who are comfortable with meat grinders and rennet rarely go as far as SXSW Interactive panelist Jeff Potter, who broke the lock on his oven (warranty be damned!) to make pizza in the cleaning cycle, which runs at the more crust-friendly, brick-oven-simulating temperature of 900°F. Sure, the glass pane on his over door eventually imploded from repeated thermal shock, but all hacks demand on-the-fly adjustment—it was easy enough to order a custom cut piece of PyroCeram, which is rated to 1400°F. “It’s the same stuff they used on missile nose cones in the 1950s,” says Potter, a computer scientist by training who has worked for various companies and start-ups around Cambridge, Massachusetts. “It’s amazing what you can buy on the Internet. And it didn’t even cost that much!”
Reprinted (Reblogged?) from sxtxstate.com by permission of Bonnie Hart, Texas State.
Do you want to retrofit your oven to bake pizza’s at 900 degrees? Would you trick out your Brita filter for better vodka? Do the words methylcellulose, maltodextrin, or meat glue make you giddy? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a new hobby called food hacking. Jeff Potter is a food hack. He’s the creator of Cooking for Geeks, a blog dedicated to the idea of epicurean experiments.
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A friend of mine recently assembled a MakerBot CupCake CNC printer, which of course elicited a certain request from me. One custom cookie cutter, a batch of sugar cookies, and 3 colors of frosting later, I had my own “Tux” cookies.
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We’ve been doing a number of interviews here at The Institute for Cooking for Geeks and Other Fun Stuff.
Carolyn Jung, over at www.foodgal.com, shared her experiences as a food writer, both in the print world and now online. One of her more unexpected hits? Preserved Lemons. Her writeup of a recipe inspired by food expert Kitty Morse is at www.foodgal.com/2009/01/meyer-lemons-the-salty/ .
It takes a few weeks for the lemons to completely break down, which is part of the fun: you get to “watch your lemons” day-by-day.
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I really should put a talk together of the strange things I’ve done in the kitchen… Sometimes it’s just easier to gather empirical data than do the theoretical model.
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I love it when marketing doesn’t run things by engineering: Sugar… Carbon-Free… Baaahahaha. (Hint: sucrose is C₁₂H₂₂O₁₁.)
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This is a guest post by Jed Shireman
On Thursday, Mackenzie Cowell, Andrew Shalit, and I were united by one amazing and educational culinary experience: dinner at the home of the ever curious and insightful Jeff Potter. It was an evening of yummy food, little known facts, and generous portions of geeky puns. If the night was just a taste of the knowledge and humor found in Jeff’s soon to be published book, Cooking for Geeks, then I will be one happy boy when I finally get my hands on it.
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The following is a guest post by Steve Hershman.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited (and to my surprise invited back) to several book clubs so I usually know what to expect. When I got an email Wednesday night that mentioned the possibility of having us “*shudder* order pizza” I was quite surprised. Of course Jeff never did order that pizza, yet this was still no ordinary book club.
This is a guest post by Josh Vickery. Joining Josh for this dinner were Earl Wagner, Michael Betancourt, and Lee Butterman.
Cooking with Jeff Potter presented a delightful mix of the familiar and the ultra geeky. The menu, printed from Jeff’s pending book, was presented to the would-be cooks for the evening and set the tone for the night.
- Chicken: Roasted, but what’s a spatchcock and why would we want it?
- Asparagus: Steamed, but in the microwave and in a sealed container (this sounded dangerous to me)
- Potatoes: Boiled then pan fried, but why care about the starch content of our (starchy) potatoes?
- Chocolate mousse: I thought agar was something reserved for weird jelly candies.
It sounded pretty darn geeky, but also delicious.
The following is a guest post by Tim Hwang.
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Last week I had the pleasure, along with the eminently awesome Martin and Laura Wattenberg, to swing by Jeff’s place and get a taste of the stuff he’s been cooking up lately for his book. The long and short of it was that it was epic — completely blew my usual humdrum geek-dude diet of ramen and cold delivery pizza right out of the water. At this point, I have to admit that I’m thinking that it’ll be worth picking up the book to fend off the approaching onset of malnutrition and scurvy (to which I’m sure geeks world-round will have Jeff to thank once this book comes out)
This is a guest post by Sarah Davitt
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So I have been fortunate enough to have gotten involved with the magical “Jeff Potter” and his IR thermometer. As is usual, I show up, Jeff cooks something amazing, or we spend the time tasting the epic selection of drink possibilities. So I got the invitation to show up… and I was standing around, mildly famished, looking for the appetizers, because as brilliant as I am, I managed to miss the point of the gathering… because this Midwestern Farmer’s Daughter (ok daughter of a racecar driver and an art professor) was going to roll up her sleeve, and cook… *duck*.