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Revolutionary Tortilla Chip Breakthrough: It’s Not A Scoop, It’s A Dome

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May 01, 2013

This Sunday is Cinco de Mayo, which means there's a very good chance you'll be eating chips and guacamole. In preparation for my segment on NPR's Weekend Edition on the topic, I spoke with structural engineer Isaac Gaetz about tortilla chip engineering.

Among the many interesting things Isaac told me, he explained that a flat, triangular chip is not as sturdy as a bending, undulating one. As he puts it:

It's kind of like a dome shape. A natural, very strong shape in compression is an arch, and a 3-D arch is a dome. All the elements are able to take that load, work together, and just keep pushing, pushing, pushing, all the way down to wherever they're supported.

That got me thinking about the scoop, which I've always viewed as an admirable (though imperfect) attempt at innovation. After all, what is a scoop but an upside down dome?

Thus, I am pleased to present my "It's Not A Scoop, It's A Dome" Technique for tortilla chip and guacamole consumption. It works like this...

1. Place a scoop chip on your finger like a thimble, and brace it with your thumb.

2. Run the dome through the guac, picking up as much of it as you please. The chip won't break.

3. Make sure you use a bowl with high walls, that's only half-full of guac, so you can use the walls for leverage.

4. Remove unbroken chip, insert into mouth, and enjoy.

You're welcome.

By the way, I also asked Isaac about the classic triangular chip debate over whether it's better to hold one point of the chip and dip with the other two, or to hold a flat edge and dip with one point. (This was covered in last week's podcast with Ian and Mike from NPR's How To Do Everything.)

Isaac said that while dipping with two points is tempting because it offers a bigger space for dip, it puts too much strain on the thin end of the chip and increases breakage.

Finally, a quick guac-related reminder: I'll be hosting a panel discussion on guacamole at Guactacular 2013, this Sunday at the Bell House in Brooklyn. If you're in the area come on down, eat tons of guac, and watch The Sporkful taped live on stage! /dan

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