by Vadim Drobinin

Your weekly crème de la crème of the Internet is here!

26.04.2022 (read in browser)

  1. Intro

    Whatever is on my mind this week.

  2. Things I enjoyed reading

    Ten-ish articles I found worth reading.

  3. Things I didn't know last Tuesday

    Ten-ish facts I didn't know when I wrote the previous edition.

  4. Book of the week

    Some thoughts on the latest book I've read.

On more stars

I've already shared a few highlights from my birthday journey through tasting sets and sharing plates.

And if you paid attention through the last nearly hundred weeks of the newsletter, you have probably guessed who is the starred chef to wrap the things up.

That's it, Heston Blumenthal and his ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The Fat Duck in Bray.

I chased a reservation for weeks (mostly because I can't plan in advance even for my own birthday) and dreamt of it for at least a decade, and yet here we are. The place was born the same year as I was, but their 25th celebration got postponed by nearly two years, so currently they're running a four-part anthology of their most famous dishes.

Quite a shame that the third volume which we've attended didn't include some of the classics, like the snail porridge or the egg and bacon ice cream, but there were lots of other very recognisable plates.

This was probably one of my most favourite ones, a beetroot and horseradish starter. The beetroot juice goes through a rotovap and then is whipped, moulded and dehydrated. I was quite naive to think that's some egg white powder and reduced juice. The horseradish cream is also unbelievably fragrant:

Another pretty cool dish is the Walk in the Forest. It's served with dimmed lights and accompanied with a smoke that smells like a forest after rain. The dish itself is full of flavours too, from crumbly mushrooms turned into bark to dried beet powders portreying the ground.

Nearly a year ago I shared a post about someone cooking all recipes from the Fat Duck Cookbook, and one of the dishes they've enjoyed the most was Sound of the Sea. It is served with headphones for the additional multisensory experience, and coupled with seagulls and waves tastes like a visit to Hastings.

We've also got the chance to try the infamous triple-cooked chips right at their birthplace, and got a tour of the kitchen:

And last but not least restaurant on my list was Muse by Tom Aikens. I didn't know much about his work prior to our visit, but now is very determined to find out more, as all dishes were spectacular as well as the warm welcome from the team.

Can't deny that it might be a bunch of Negroni samples talking:

On the note of which, I also made a festive cocktails menu but pre-batched too much so still deal with leftovers.

Now back to protein shakes and calorie counting.

Things I enjoyed reading

1. Why I Will Not Write in Russian as Long as Putin Is in Power by @michaelidov

Michael wrote one of my favourite books ("Ground up" or "Кофемолка"), introduced me to one of my favourite hip-hop artists (Oxxxymiron) and made one of a few decent Russian series ("Londongrad"), so even though I didn't read much of his columns lately, this one resonates with me a lot:

I am not megalomaniacal enough to think that my exit from the Russian scene constitutes some sort of loss for Russia. It is, if anything, a form of egotistical self-care. I don’t know how to speak to a country that’s busy destroying its neighbor and itself, so I won’t. I thought I’d built a bridge. But when they’re sending tanks over it, it’s easier to burn it and start again elsewhere.

I wrote a bit on the same topic before, but overall burning bridges seems to be way easier indeed, even though it hurts more.

2. A Tale of Two Cream Teas by @sampriestley

There are, supposedly, two ways to have your cream tea: the Cornwall way (jam first, to protect the cream from melting) and the Devon way (cream first, as for sandwiches dairy products go first think butter).

The Queen recently attempted to settle this ongoing debate when she revealed she eats her cream tea the Cornish way, jam first. But even an intervention from the Queen herself couldn’t put an end to the argument, and both sides still claim theirs is the right way.

I didn't have much cream teas in my life, but the ones I had, I went with the Devon way, probably because by the time I've finished with all tiny sanwiches the scones were already cold.

3. London’s lost ringways by Michael Dnes

A story about an attempt to build a bunch of rigways through London:

The problem was destined to get worse. In 1961, officials at the Ministry of Transport made their first official forecast of how that trend might continue. The results horrified everyone who saw them – another doubling of vehicle numbers over the next 10 years; a trebling over 20. For people who thought traffic was unbearable at the moment, this was a catastrophe. Faced with this prospect, officialdom was appalled. To take one example, the 1961 Parker Morris report into ideal housing standards warned that without proper handling, the advent of the car would lead to ‘jungles of concrete, asbestos and tarmac, housing the car but providing an environment of utter inhumanity’. One civil servant, who showed an atypical talent for poetry, described the motor car as ‘the monster that we love’.

I am actually quite glad they burried the idea: the photos tell the story even better than the quote though.

4. The surprising afterlife of used hotel soap by @zzcrockett

I never thought about the ways the soap leftovers in hotels are recycled.

The group sat on upside-down pickle buckets and scraped the outside of the soap bars off by hand with potato peelers, pulverized them in a meat grinder, melted them down in Kenmore slow cookers, poured the mixture into soap molds, dried it overnight, and cut it up into new bars.

Seems like that's not that common yet, so probably 99% of it still goes to the landfill. Which kind of means that the best thing you could do to it is to take it with you back home.

5. My diet of almost only red meat by Chris Lakin

This is not the first time I see the Carnivore diet, but not many people I've read managed to stay on it for a few years, and as someone who like their steaks I do see the appeal:

When I travel, I choose not to eat and I’m fine. (Note that I don’t eat chicken. It doesn’t feel balanced. Steak feels balanced, however.) Meanwhile when I ate paleo, I was eating something every two hours. Moreover, with paleo a few times a week I would get cravings that I didn’t know how to satisfy. Now when I do get cravings (and this happens ~10x less often), I can resolve them by eating either more liver, or some honey or berries. When I started this diet, I somehow quickly forgot that I could eat plants, and also experienced no cravings for them.

The only reason I am not fully converted yet is that out of all dishes in the world I don't like liver (and I tried many things, from fried brains to rotten fish intestines to grasshoppers).

6. Monetizing hobbies by @victorstanciu

Something I remember about from time to time whenever this newsletter is being written is how pricey the hobbies become, whether it's buying a centrifuge to make cocktails, or paying for a new website domain.

There is a huge difference in the amount of effort needed to offset some of the costs of your projects versus making a profit. Focusing on the money means you’ll have to produce whatever sells best, not whatever you like. It means you’ll need to take some of the precious time from your hobby and shift it to marketing and publicizing yourself and your projects. Maybe you might like doing that, and more power to you if you do, but personally I think it sucks, so I don’t do it. If you can afford to ignore some potential winnings–and I am aware how big an if that can be–focus on the hobby, and put money further down the list of priorities.

All in all, there is nothing wrong with making hobbies profitable, but it should never be the goal. Once monetisation becomes the main goal, it turns from a hobby into a job with all its pros and cons.

7. What Chords Do You Need? by Jeff Kaufman

A good way to find out most used chords is to go through a bunch of songs in a few books and map them out accordingly, which is what the author did, but the problem appeared to be a bit more complex:

This isn't a great way to look at it, though, because it is absolute and music is (mostly) relative. We perceive a song that goes "C F G" very similarly to one that goes "A D E". Musicians will often use "Roman Numeral notation" to talk about chords in a purely relative sense. If we look at "C F G" relative to "C", or "A D E" relative to "A", we can call them "I IV V": they are each three major chords using the first, fourth, and fifth notes of the major scale. We indicate minor chords by using a lowercase number: "iv" would be "Am" relative to "C", or "F#m" relative to "A".

Sadly it doesn't seem like I can learn one or two guitar chords and cover up all my needs.

8. The candy stores of Oxford street by @diamondgeezer

Pretty much all main streets in London have a bunch of those candy stores with American produce, but I never paid attention to the prices (because probably never bought anything there, thanks to Amazon).

If you've not been inside one of these candy stores they're essentially an Aladdin's cave of sugary treats, most (but not all) originating on the other side of the Atlantic. That means shelves of Oreos, Hersheys and funky flavoured Pop Tarts as well as racks of Cheetos, Milk Duds and assorted Nerds. There's often a entire wall of sugary cereals like Apple Jacks, Cocoa Pebbles and French Toast Crunch, plus all sorts of chewy options like Hubba Bubba, Millions and Dots. Expect to face flavours like blueberry, bubblegum and watermelon which are less familiar in the UK, and if there's a chiller unit the likes of Kool-Aid, Mountain Dew and Fanta Berry. You might even grab yourself a packet of Sour Jawbreakers, a bag of Chile Limón Lay's Potato Chips, a selection of Mike & Ikes or a box of Nabisco Grahams. But what you won't see anywhere is a price.

I still think that most of them are just money-laundring machines, but even that probably shouldn't justify the rent.

9. High-Security Mechanical Locks by Justin

I am a proud owner of a lock-picking set for more than a year now, but still enjoy stories about unbreakable locks:

So again, what is “high-security”? Turns out, “high-security” is a fairly difficult term to define. One lock can be more secure than another, but where does “security” become “high-security”? My attempts to define the term have revolved around asking first, “what do I want from a high-security lock?” The features that a high-security lock provides are more meaningful to mean than any standard or definition.

I also agree with the author's point about the point of good locks not to prevent someone from entry but to make the entry obvious (whether it's by broken glass or picked locks), as that's often a way more valuable information.

10. I'm a security engineer and I still almost got scammed by @RobJHeaton

A very detailed story about one of the most common scams:

According to another text sent from the same number as the confirmation code, the man’s name was indeed Barry and the case number was 2156291. Of course, anyone can make up a name and a case number. But I decided - incorrectly - that even if Barry was a scammer, his second message at least proved that he controlled the phone number that had sent the original code. I didn’t see any harm in reading him back his own digits, so I did. This reasoning was wrong (see below), but fortunately I didn’t get punished for it.

Can't imagine how many people become victims of similar schemes if even engineers fall for it. I just never pick up calls from unknown numbers, so while sometimes I get engry emails from officials, it definitely brings some peace of mind.

Things I didn't know last Tuesday

1. Queen Elizabeth's hack for breaking in shoes

Seems like this is a nice option for those afraid of blisters:

But unlike anyone else, Queen Elizabeth doesn't have to walk around in stiff leather waiting for them to finally feel like the perfect fit. Her Royal Highness only wears a pair of shoes after her very own helper breaks them in, thus ensuring the queen's pumps never pinch.

A cheaper way would be to buy the second hand shoes straight away.

2. French sauce spoon

Sometimes attempts to solve a UX problem result in unusual decisions, especially when it comes to cuttlery:

The spoon's flattened bowl and thin edge aids scooping a thin layer of sauce from a plate without resorting to tipping the plate; the notch in the bowl is variously claimed to allow oil or fat to drain away from the sauce, or to be a reference to the notch in a fish knife.

And if you scroll to the photos from The Fat Duck above, the dish Sounds of the Sea came with a larger version of that spoon, so now I am slightly confused as to whether there is another (bigger) version of it or they just did it on purpose.

3. Wendy's was founded by a KFC franchisee

I just had Wendy's for (probably) the second time in my life, so ended up educating myself on its history. The founder has spent quite some time working for KFC prior to opening his own venue.

What you might not know, though, is that Wendy's wasn't the first fast food joint Dave Thomas worked for. When Thomas started out in the restaurant business in the 1950s, he was a head cook at Hobby House, which then partnered with Kentucky Fried Chicken. Once KFC was taken over by Colonel Sanders, Thomas came to be an invaluable member of the team, rising up quickly through the ranks and coming up with revolutionary ideas that helped to turn KFC into the highly successful business it is to this day, such as its signature red and white buckets and having Sanders appear in commercials for KFC so that the public would know who he was.

That explains the familiar flavours!

4. Cold striking coins

An intersting technique to mint coins, used by Romans for centuries:

The cold striking process involved striking coins out of a cold, unheated sheet of metal, to create round discs that were flat on both sides. Sometimes these were then pounded flat on a metal anvil to make sure they were really nice and smooth, ready for the next stage of the process.

There was also hot striking, but it seems to be more known and widespread.

5. Why do we call Deutschland Germany?

A slightly disappointing answer to a good question:

Just like with words, names evolve over time. Germany, for example, was called Germany by its inhabitants long before the country was united and began to call itself Deutschland. The geographic central location of Germany in western Europe means that it has historically shared borders with different national and ethnic groups, and many languages use the name of the first Germanic tribe that were located in the area.

I thought there would be more to it than just a name came from the early inhabitants.

6. Margaret Thatcher and fiber broadband

Apparently there is someone to blame for the slow Internet, but the answer goes back to 90s.

Immediately after that decision by Thatcher’s government, the UK fell far behind in broadband speeds and, to this day, has never properly recovered. When the current government came to power it pledged that the UK would have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015 and 90% of homes will be connected to superfast broadband by 2017.

At the same time I've been using 5G for the past few years for our home broadband and there is almost nothing to complain about (besides maybe the price).

7. Yaupon, the tea

There is a native plant used like a tea for centuries but still quite different from an average herbal infusion (at least because by roasting its leaves people control the flavours the same way as with tea leaves).

It’s easy to make your own tea. One morning, I shear a few branches from the yaupon plants in my backyard. I pluck off the leaves, wash them, and spread them in a thin layer on an unlined cookie sheet. Then I bake them at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. (Roast the leaves longer than that and you’ll get a stronger flavor that’s closer to black tea than green tea.)

It doesn't seem to grow in the UK though, and probably won't be easy to source for a quick experiment.

8. Gold in Eucalyptus trees' leaves

Some researchers found traces of gold in Eucalyptus leaves as it travels through their roots from the soil below.

The researchers compared eucalyptus tree leaves at gold prospecting sites in Western Australia with leaves from trees 2,625 feet (800 meters) away. They also grew eucalyptus trees in greenhouses with potting soil dosed with gold particles, as well as in normal potting soil without gold.

Probably extracting it from the leaves won't work well, but using them as a marker to gold deposits might work out.

9. “VCR Virus”

A hilarious story about someone's attempt to protech a VHS copy from copying by pretending it contains a virus.

Of course, “VCR Viruses” aren’t actually a thing, and a tape can’t make your VCR catch on fire. A strange sort of bluff coming from an educational company, considering it relies of misleading the customer on how their own equipment works. It’s similar to the KTC Warning Screen, which also makes use the threat of an imaginary, vaguely threatening copy-protection technology.

There were actually legit copy protection technologies but they mostly interfered with the signal, not destroy your gadgets.

10. The slowest and longest music piece ever

Imagine listening to a composition for a few centuries? That's what is going on here:

The longest music piece in the world is being performed in the city of Halberstadt in Germany: John Cage's composition for organ ORGAN2/ASLSP - As SLow aS Possible - is resounding here in an extreme interpretation of 639 years, that means until the year 2640!

I guess worth bookmarking this url and checking up on them in a few decades to confirm if the plan still stands.

Book of the week

This book was on my wishlist for quite a while, and I recently gifted it to myself by accidentally stumbling upon on shelf in some book shop.

JP McMahon is a chef and a restaurator, but he is mostly famous due to his research of Irish cuisine, and The Irish Cookbook pretty much explains why.

The twenty-first century sees Irish food and its culture growing, in terms of its chefs, restaurants and the many producers who grow the fine produce that Ireland has always been noted for. We are growing more confident in terms of what we have and what we can do with it. For the first time, I think it would be fair to say that 'Irish cuisine' exists or is beginning to exist. With a focus on the sea and the land, we can begin to craft a food for the future. That being said, our food future needs to stay cognisant of the past; to the great waves of migration that changed Irish food again and again, over the past 10,000 years. The next food wave, whatever it will be, will come from the outside again. As an island, and the western- most point of Europe, we are pitched for the next great food revolution. Let's just hope it involves seaweed!

So comparing to many countries in the world, where the local cuisine finds it roots thousand years back, the Irish food is taking shape and is being reinvented pretty much nowadays. The author is trying to guide us through the dishes but also tries to highlight the difference some of them have comparing to the neighbours' ones.

I also think that the Baby Guinness cocktail needs to be mentioned separately.

That being said, there are probably more than a few hundred recipes in there, so I am still trying to figure out what would be my first few dishes to cook. Let's just hope it involves seaweed!

Thank you and see you in a week!

If you have any questions, or want to suggest a link for the next newsletter, please drop me a message on Twitter or reply to this email.

Cheers! 🍸