What a Lot of People Get Wrong About the Infamous 1994 McDonald's Hot Coffee Lawsuit

German Lopez, writing for Vox:

It’s treated as a classic example of judicial overreach and greed: A woman, driving in her car while holding McDonald’s coffee between her legs, spills some of the coffee on herself. Inflicted with some minor burns, she sues McDonald’s, as if she shouldn’t have known that coffee is hot and driving with it in your hand or legs is dangerous. And then she ultimately wins millions of dollars from the fast food chain — becoming rich due to a dumb mistake that was all on her.

Only this is all wrong.

Mind: blown. I can’t even begin to count how many times this lawsuit has been cited in my lifetime by friends and family as evidence of how frivolous lawsuits are/how stupid people can be/how unfair life is. All predicated on a lie.


The American Thanksgiving

Sam Sifton, writing for The New York Times:

Americans all come from somewhere. Their families may have roamed the continent for thousands of years before the Mayflower dropped anchor. They may have been on the ship. They may have come on later ones, freely or in chains. They may have come by truck, train or airplane. They came. And their journeys are reflected in the food they or their descendants eat. The Times asked 15 families from across the country to show us the holiday dishes they make that speak most eloquently about their heritage and traditions. The stories of these home cooks help tell the story of the nation, the story of who we are.

This piece—the videos and the pictures and the recipes and the families—is a pitch-perfect representation of what makes America so unique, and because of that, so great.

Question the agenda of anyone who tries to convince you otherwise.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Love the Fig

Ben Crair, writing for The New Yorker’s Elements blog:

All kinds of critters, not only humans, frequent fig trees, but the plants owe their existence to what may be evolution’s most intimate partnership between two species. Because a fig is actually a ball of flowers, it requires pollination, but because the flowers are sealed, not just any bug can crawl inside. That task belongs to a minuscule insect known as the fig wasp, whose life cycle is intertwined with the fig’s. Mother wasps lay their eggs in an unripe fig. After their offspring hatch and mature, the males mate and then chew a tunnel to the surface, dying when their task is complete. The females follow and take flight, riding the winds until they smell another fig tree. (One species of wasp, in Africa, travels ten times farther than any other known pollinator.) When the insects discover the right specimen, they go inside and deposit the pollen from their birthplace. Then the females lay new eggs, and the cycle begins again. For the wasp mother, however, devotion to the fig plant soon turns tragic. A fig’s entranceway is booby-trapped to destroy her wings, so that she can never visit another plant. When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.

You have no idea how much you never knew about the fig.


How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained

Dan Nosowitz, writing for Atlas Obscura:

“Don’t eat gabagool, Grandma,” says Meadow Soprano on an early episode of The Sopranos, perhaps the most famous depiction of Jersey Italian culture in the past few decades. “It’s nothing but fat and nitrates.” The pronunciation of “gabagool,” a mutation of the word "capicola," might surprise a casual viewer, although it and words like it should be familiar to viewers of other New Jersey-based shows like the now-defunct Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of New Jersey, where food often drives conversation. The casts are heavily Italian-American, but few of them can actually speak, in any real way, the Italian language. Regardless, when they talk about food, even food that’s widely known by the non-Italian population, they often use a specific accent.

And it’s a weird one.

A pesky kid, I learned the answer to where all the end vowel-dropping came from a long time ago, but I’m glad the rest of the Atlas Obscura-reading world gets to know now too.


Anthony Bourdain’s Food Market Takes Shape

Florence Fabricant, writing for The New York Times:

“The way people eat has changed,” he said. “They want to be at counters and communal tables. They want heat and funk and chicken wings that set their hair on fire. They’re as quick to brag about the greatest $3 bowl of laksa as a dinner at Ducasse. That’s what I want to create for New York, some place where I would want to eat. Right now, there is nothing like that.”

Stephen Werther, the retail entrepreneur who is one of Mr. Bourdain’s partners in the venture, was more succinct: “People want Tony’s shows to come to life.”

I remember reading Kitchen Confidential right around the time I started getting into cooking and watching the Food Network and it was like dropping acid. Emeril’s Bam!s didn’t seem so funny anymore now that there was an actual badass to follow, writing about heroin and booze and the general skullduggery of the food world. Bourdain is now similar to the Darth Vader bear that my daughter recently brought home from Build-A-Bear—he’s wearing the outfit, and he has the accessories, but he’s been pumped full of cotton wadding and is soft and squishy to the touch.

I’ve kept an eye on this story for a while now—there have been whispers for almost a year, I believe. And the idea has never sat well with me, mostly because, as Bourdain has always been quick to point out: he had no success in the food business. His success has been in writing and eating on camera and playing a character. And the quote above from his partner reads as something horribly dooming because while it might sound snappy, those people aren’t getting his show. He won’t be sitting next to them. And when they realize that, I don’t think they’re going to come back.

I hope I’m wrong, but something tells me that this doesn’t end well.


The Invention of the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Steven Levy, writing for Backchannel, on Medium:

The AeroPress gets its name from a sister product made by the same company: the Aerobie, a dinner-plate-sized ring that outflies a Frisbee by a mile. I know all about the Aerobie because one of its most fervent enthusiasts is the famous MIT hacker Bill Gosper, who travels with a trunkful of Aerobies in his car. (Gosper’s license plate reads… “Aerobie.”) I found it fascinating that the same wizard of aerodynamics who had invented the Aerobie has whipped up turbulence in the world of coffee.

If there’s a better way to make a single cup of coffee, I don’t know what it is.


American Jews Eat and Chinese Food on Christmas

Adam Chandler, The Atlantic:

The story begins during the halcyon days of the Lower East Side where, as Jennifer 8. Lee, the producer of ‘The Search for General Tso,’ said, “Jews and Chinese were the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups” at the turn of the century.

So while it’s true that Chinese restaurants were notably open on Sundays and during holidays when other restaurants would be closed, the two groups were linked not only by proximity, but by otherness. Jewish affinity for Chinese food “reveals a lot about immigration history and what it’s like to be outsiders,” she explained.

I like the idea that, through exclusion, some people still found a way to feel included.


The Carry On Cocktail Kit

W&P Design and Punch:

The Carry On Cocktail Kit provides everything you need to mix two proper Old Fashioned cocktails at 30,000 feet. Simply carry on your kit (don't worry, it will make it through security just fine), order a mini-bottle of bourbon, and use the custom combination bar spoon / muddler to mix in the included cane sugar and small-batch bitters.

You are now free to cocktail about the cabin.

A neat little gift for the people in your life who fly a lot and enjoy a decent cocktail.

/via The Fox is Black


Donald Hall’s ‘Garlic with Everything’

Donald Hall:

Going to Hamden High School I discovered garlic. Spring Glen Grammar School was suburban middle class and pale. At Hamden High I first heard “Paisan!” shouted from one friend to another. In the decades between the wars, immigrants by the thousands arrived from Calabria and Sicily. Our basketball team was composed of set-shooters who averaged five foot two. As I joined the society of Hamden High, I rejected Spring Glen’s culture because it sniffed at people with accents. I hung out with friends who were second-generation Italians, and they altered my diet. In pizza joints I began my romance with garlic. It’s hard to believe, but at that time pizza was exotic. In most American cities there were no places that served pizza, much less chains of Pizza Huts, Domino’s, Papa Gino’s, Pizza Chefs, and Little Caesars. Except in southern-Italian neighborhoods, pizza was unknown coast to coast. Even in northern Italy people didn’t know pizza. In 1951 I asked for pizza in a Florentine restaurant. The waiter was puzzled. He disappeared into the kitchen, and when he came back he told me I could have it tomorrow. Did the chef find it in a cookbook? The next day he brought me the worst pizza I have ever eaten—pasty, doughy, tasteless except for garlic. I am told that Florence has pizza parlors now.

This is a perfect fifteen minutes of reading to sand down the rough edges of the memories of yesterday’s consumption.