mike kostyo

I know food.

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tartine bread starter - day 1

Bread starters are like Tamagotchis, with all of the feeding and caring and keeping them alive. Do you remember Tamagotchis? They were these little electronic key chains that became popular in the mid-90s. When you got your Tamagotchi, you would pull a little plastic tab, an egg would hatch on the screen and a little creature was born, which you then had to take care of. It was a toy, kind of.

They became popular when I was in the 6th grade. Our entire class was constantly running to their lockers or sneaking glances at their Tamagotchi under their desks to feed it, clean up their electronic "business" and play a game where you had to guess which way it would turn its head (and that's what we called a game back when I was a kid). I remember one of my classmates had five or six of them all on one key chain; sextuplets, if you will. The minute he was done giving medicine to one Tamagotchi another one was ready for bed while a third was crying because it wanted to "play" the game. They finally got so disruptive that a teacher confiscated them and locked them in her desk, which seemed so cruel to us. We imagined them in her drawer, sitting in their own filth, slowly withering away until they died (I'm pretty sure the only thing that happened when they died was they got little electronic X's over their eyes and you just had to hatch a new one, but it seemed devastating).

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the chicken-explosion of flavor was overwhelming

The most instructive dish, however, was one of the failures, a slow-and-low chicken, cooked for several hours and served when its internal temperature had hit 149 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem was that, with all its juices still inside, it tasted far too chickeny. If you oven-roast chicken the regular way, you get used to the drying effect of the heat, and to the fact that some juices go into the pan and are recycled as gravy. With this version, the bird was so moist that its texture was almost jellied, the flesh was a faint pink, and the chicken-explosion of flavor was overwhelming. In a sense, it was too good. My roast-chicken-obsessed children threw down their cutlery in protest after a single mouthful.

- John Lanchester in his New Yorker review of the five volume, $625 "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking"

Also, Serious Eats has a slideshow and the full menu from the 30-course dinner recently hosted by Nathan Myhrvold, the principal author of the book. Look at that pea butter!

is it ok to feed a mouse to a cat?

I think this humanization of pets is really fascinating. I developed a tongue-in-cheek scale that I called "feeding kittens or boa constrictors" scale. I asked people, "Would it be OK to feed snakes versus cats certain types of food?" One was mice: Would it be OK to feed a mouse to a boa constrictor? Is it OK to feed a mouse to a cat?

Almost everyone said it was not OK to feed a mouse to a cat. I interviewed a student who had cats. I said, "Would you ever feed a dead mouse to your cat? You can buy them at the pet store." She said, "No!" She was horrified. And I asked why. She had this great quote. She said, "If my cat ate mice, it wouldn't be like me."

I love that. And that really gets it. When we admit cats and animals into our world, and we think of them like relatives and we think of them like us, it makes perfect sense for us to think that, yes, they'd rather have a gourmet natural duck entree out of a can than eat a mouse. No, my pet really enjoys dressing up for Halloween.

- Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals

my belief is my identity

In the late 1950s, psychologist Milton Rokeach was gripped by an eccentric plan. He gathered three psychiatric patients, each with the delusion that they were Jesus Christ, to live together for two years in Ypsilanti State Hospital to see if their beliefs would change. The early meetings were stormy. "You oughta worship me, I'll tell you that!" one of the Christs yelled. "I will not worship you! You're a creature! You better live your own life and wake up to the facts!" another snapped back. "No two men are Jesus Christs. … I am the Good Lord!" the third interjected, barely concealing his anger.

- Jesus, Jesus, Jesus: In the late 1950s, three men who identified as the Son of God were forced to live together in a mental hospital. What happened?

struggle with difficult and unfamiliar ideas

Bard also uses the summer readings to remind entering students of the idealism it believes should be prevalent among students and faculty, an idealism about the task of learning, and the satisfaction that comes from a rigorous engagement in interpretation, analysis, and the formulation of one's own considered opinions.


Colleges must counter the experience of conventional high school education in the United States, where learning is little more than a standardized test-driven chore with utilitarian benefits. In college, students should discover that most of the important writings and discoveries they will study were not generated for their benefit, but rather came into being in order to illuminate and improve life. It is precisely the connection between learning and living that justifies the life of the mind and makes study and inquiry a treasured form of human activity and among the most rewarding.

- Message to Freshman: Let's Start with Kafka and Darwin

theatrical security

The government, he tells us, wants to erect a sign warning future generations not to go near Yucca. This leads him to ponder signs and symbols and signifiers, what the world was like 10,000 years ago and what it might be like 10,000 years from now, and whether any current language will even be comprehensible then. A list of historical predictions about the end of the world follows. So does an appearance by Edvard Munch. (“We scream,” a psychologist explains, “because we need someone’s help.”) 

- American Wasteland: A Review of John D'Agata's "About a Mountain"

treasure hunt

Williams spent the next few weeks gradually slotting ideas together in his mind. If the book was going to be a puzzle, he decided, then there should be a real prize at the end of it - and that prize should be genuine buried treasure. He was determined not to produce the same disappointment he'd felt as a child, when the cereal packet's promise of “buried treasure” turned out to be something as mundane as a cheap transistor radio sent by post. “I thought it'd be nice to really, really, bury treasure,” he told Radio 4's Profile. “Actually put gold in the cold, wet earth.”

- Hare-brained: Kit Williams' Masquerade