Stanley cups are all the rage, but did you know they’ve been around for decades? So what happened to make them go viral? We chat about that and much more, including the internet’s love affair with Josh wines, competitive hot pepper eating, and a food-based test of true love, in this edition of the Salad Spinner. This week’s rapid-fire roundtable discussion of the latest food news features the TV host, chef, and restaurateur Vivian Howard, and Amanda Mull, a staff writer at The Atlantic.
The Sporkful production team includes Dan Pashman, Emma Morgenstern, Andres O'Hara, Nora Ritchie, and Jared O'Connell. Transcription by Emily Nguyen and publishing by Julia Russo.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- “Soul Good” by Lance Conrad
- “All Black” by Afrokeys
- “Dreamin Long” by Erick Anderson
- “Playful Rhodes” by Stephen Sullivan
- “Sweet Summer Love” by Stephen Clinton Sullivan
Photo courtesy of Andres O’Hara.
Amanda Mull: Once a product is really, really associated with women, men won't buy it. Coke Zero was developed because we needed a male alternative for Diet Coke, basically, because Diet Coke was a female beverage. So I think that other companies were like a little bit reticent at times, even if, even if women liked their products to like fully, fully, fully embrace being associated with like a very girly type of femininity. And Stanley said, well, if that's who wants our product, that's who we're marketing to. Come on, ladies. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful. It's not for foodies, it's for eaters. I'm Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. Quick note here at the top, that we have finalized my Anything’s Pastable book tour. These are live Sporkful tapings and book signings. It starts in New York City where I’ll be in conversation with Claire Saffitz, then Long Island with Top Chef star Gail Simmons, and then all over the country! I'm probably coming to somewhere near you, get all the info at Sporkful.com/tour. Let's jump into it.
Dan Pashman: Today we're back with another Salad Spinner edition of The Sporkful. This is our rapid fire round table discussion of the biggest Strangest and most surprising food stories of the moment.
Dan Pashman: It's a pretty Southern salad spinner today. Joining me in the spinner are two very special guests in Kinson, North Carolina. We have Vivian Howard, the award winning cookbook author, TV host, chef and restaurateur. Hello, Vivian.
Vivian Howard: Hi.
Dan Pashman: And while she may be living in Brooklyn, I get the impression that her heart is still in Georgia. She's returning to the Salad Spinner, Amanda Mull is a staff writer at The Atlantic where she covers culture, health, and consumerism. Welcome back, Amanda.
Amanda Mull: Thank you so much for having me back.
Dan Pashman: Am I right that your heart's still in Georgia?
Amanda Mull: Absolutely. Go Dawgs!
Dan Pashman: All right. Now, we're gonna spin the salad spinner in just a minute, but first, I want to catch up with you, Vivian, because we had you on the show last year for an episode we called "Should Fine Dining Exist". Now at the time, you had recently closed your fine dining restaurant, Chef and the Farmer, because it was just unsustainable. And you said you wanted to reopen it, but you had to figure out a new way to approach fine dining. And then this past November, you did reopen it and rebranded it as The Kitchen Bar at Chef and the Farmer. So, what is that and how's it going?
Vivian Howard: I didn't want to just redo the thing that I was doing that did not work for me then. So decided that I was going to open The Kitchen Bar once a month on the weekends, Friday and Saturday, for two seatings each night. It's a high ticket price, $300 per person, but I have enjoyed it immensely. It's a new menu each time. I get to, like, talk and engage with the people that are coming there to do just that.
Dan Pashman: So it's one weekend a month, Friday and Saturday?
Vivian Howard: Yup. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: So two nights per month you're serving food in the restaurant.
Vivian Howard: And I know that sounds crazy, but you know, based on like the price point and the overhead, I get to do the things that I love to do in the food space, which is like develop menus, prep, see it from beginning to end, like engage with customers, cook with people that I that I know and trust. And so, I feel like with this model, people get exactly what they pay for and more. It's like, I don't know, it's dinner and a Vivian Howard show.
Dan Pashman: It's almost like coming to your house for dinner.
Vivian Howard: Yeah, it feels like a really special curated dinner party, if I'm being honest.
Dan Pashman: Well, that does sounds really nice. I want to go to that dinner party. And I'm happy to hear that Vivian because the last that we spoke, you sort of talked about how cooking was something that had always brought you such joy and running a fine dining restaurant had basically taken all the joy away. So I'm glad that you've been able to reopen and find that joy again.
Dan Pashman: Anyway, enough chitchat. It’s time to spin the Salad Spinner
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Dan Pashman: All right. For our first story, we're going to start with a TikTok that went viral recently. The video is super short, like 14 seconds, so let me just set the scene first. A woman is filming her car, she's got like, this red Kia, and it's basically been destroyed in a fire. The seats are all burnt up, the steering wheel's half melted. There's ash and debris everywhere. She brings her camera into the car and zooms in on the cup holder and there's a Stanley water bottle in the cup holder.
CLIP (WOMAN): Everybody's so concerned about if Stanley spills. But what about the ...
Dan Pashman: She picks it up and she shakes the Stanley and she says, "There's a fire yesterday, it still has ice in it." So, this Stanley bottle survived the fire and kept the ice inside it the water bottle as ice. And Stanley water bottles were have been having a moment before this video was posted. But this taking it the next level and it helps cement this idea that Stanleys are everywhere, even in your burnt up Kia. And I mean, people are fighting tooth and nail to get limited edition versions. Amanda's holding hers up right now. [LAUGHS] I filled my daughter, Emily's Stanley this morning before she went to school. Amanda, how did this happen? What's going on?
Amanda Mull: Well, it all started in 2017.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Amanda Mull: The trend origin story here goes back to a product recommendation blog called The Buy Guide, which is run by three women. it's, it's not a huge, like hugely influential blog in and of itself, but it has a significant audience that is like disproportionately Mormon moms.
Amanda Mull: If you know a bunch about how lifestyle trends move on the internet, especially when it comes to, like domesticity of home life, things like that, Mormon moms are disproportionately influential, I would say.
Dan Pashman: So 2017, a blog run by three women recommends Stanley water bottles.
Amanda Mull: [LAUGHS] Yes, and this group, receives these products with open arms. They really, really like them. I think there's a couple of reasons for that. The hydro flasks and Swell bottles of the world were already popular when this happened. But the Stanley has a form factor that while not entirely absent from the market back then was just not as common. It is, like, really high capacity. It holds 40 ounces. It is tapered at the bottom. So it sits in a car cup holder, and it has a big, easy to grab handle, which is fantastic for people with smaller hands — women more likely to have smaller than average hands. Like, I have baby hands. When I try to grab a 30-ounce Hydroflask, like if I'm sweaty, if it's wet, it can be a little bit hard to grab onto if it's full.
Dan Pashman: But Stanley, the company is not new. This is not a new product.
Amanda Mull: No, Stanley has been around for over a century. They hold one of the oldest patents for the vacuum systems that make insulated water bottles possible. They have been making these sort of like very tough, very temperature fast products for a really long time. But before this blog came along, their audience was almost exclusively men.
Amanda Mull: They made, products for construction workers, for people who work physical labor jobs, people who work outside. The product that people were most likely familiar with before the Stanley cup went viral is sort of green thermos thing that they make.
Vivian Howard: So my assistant last year, not this Christmas, but last year, before this all went viral, she got all of her colleagues, like, the modern Stanley Cup. But I had already bitched so much about, like, how everybody was crazy about the Stanley Cup, that she got me the green Stanley Thermos ...
Vivian Howard: From like 1970 and when I get home, I'll take a picture of it to prove to y'all, but that is so funny.
Dan Pashman: So Vivian, you're a Stanley skeptic? Is that right?
Vivian Howard: I just — whenever some people are all about something, I have to be all about the opposite.
Dan Pashman: So this company has been around for over a hundred years. In 2017, these mommy bloggers posted it and it sort of grew slowly but surely, but like something in the past six months or so took it to the next level. Amanda, what happened?
Amanda Mull: You know, fast forward 2020, Stanley gets a new marketing executive and realizes that it is probably a good idea to orient ourselves toward the market that wants us instead of the market that we've always had and always considered our own. So they realized that, like, there was a huge, huge demand among women for a product like this. They started making more interesting colors. They started experimenting with textures and finishes and stuff like that in order for this to be something that was like fun to look at, fun to carry around, and that people might like want to collect or something like that.
Dan Pashman: So, this woman posted this TikTok of her burnt out car and then Stanley reached out and said we'll give you a new water bottle and also a new car, which was nice. Although, you know, smart marketing.
Vivian Howard: I think that whole video was fake. I think that that woman ...
Dan Pashman: And now we're going deep state.
Vivian Howard: I mean, there's like something on that cup would have disintegrated. There's like a plastic top or something. You know, I thought that that was something that somebody — a stunt somebody pulled to like, look at my Stanley. I'm going to get a bunch of followers. I'm going to go viral and I'm going to create a career for myself by burning out my car ...
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Maybe her car was already burnt and then she stuck a Stanley in it.
Vivian Howard: That would make more sense. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: What's your theory, Amanda?
Amanda Mull: I agree that I don't understand why the plastic didn't melt because like of all of the — I have several different types and formats and whatever of water bottles. Some of some I've bought, some I've been given, they're very popular gifts. That's the thing about water bottles ...
Dan Pashman: Right.
Amanda Mull: Is often you end up with a couple even, if you did not intend to have them. But I read a firefighter somewhere talking about this and what he said, and I cannot explain this because I am not good at science, but he said that there is something with how thermodynamics work that you would expect in an insulated, you know, beverage container that the ice would stay cold in that situation because, like I said, something with thermodynamics.
Vivian Howard: [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Because science.
Vivian Howard: Because science.
Dan Pashman: Right.
Dan Pashman: But he said that, that that is an expected reaction if you have this kind of vacuum system, keeping your water at temperature. And I've seen other videos of situations where this has happened. I think that there was a video of like a Yeti cooler that had been through a fire and when you opened it, there was still ice inside of it. So I think that that is — it's a sign that the water bottles and coolers and whatever are working as designed. I do have similar questions to Vivian about why the plastic didn't melt because it is not special plastic.
Dan Pashman: This is my problem with a lot of these water bottles, the Hydroflasks, the Stanleys, they all brag about how well they're able to contain temperature. And to me, they're too good at it. If you put hot coffee into one of these newfangled jugs or cups or whatever, you can't drink that coffee for the rest of the day. It will never cool down. And same with it with — like, I put ice and water into a hydro flask and go play tennis. And then I go to drink the water, and it like, it hurts my insides, it's so cold.
Dan Pashman: Maybe I'm just feeble, but like, are these things too good? Vivian, do you have this problem?
Vivian Howard: I do. I do. I, actually, every morning, the water that I drink first thing when I get up is the water that I pour out of my kids' water bottles from the day before. And the ice at that point has finally perfectly melted, and it's like a little bit crunchy.
Dan Pashman: Oh, so you're doing like overnight waters. This is fancy. [LAUGHS]
Vivian Howard: Yeah, I mean, I plan. I'm just, you know, thinking ahead.
Amanda Mull: I don't have a problem with this. The first reason being, I don't really drink hot beverages like, I drink cold coffee all the time.
Dan Pashman: Oh, okay.
Amanda Mull: And the second thing being, I am maybe sort of freakishly — I really prefer, like, incredibly cold liquids. I want to get, like, as close to frozen as you can, and then take one step off of that. I don't know if that's because I was raised in a hot climate, and like, that was just always, like, such a relief when we were kids. But like as close as we can get to frozen without being frozen, that's the temperature that I want my water all the time.
Dan Pashman: All right, let’s spin the spinner another whirl!
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Dan Pashman: So Steve Ellis, the founder of Chipotle is it's planned to open a chain of fast casual restaurants where all the food is prepared at big central kitchens by humans and then delivered to the actual restaurants in the area. And the restaurants will have three human employees and one robot cooking and assembling orders. And also, there's no seating and no register. You order and pay with an app, and to get your food you unlock a metal cubby with a code on your phone. Vivian, you look wide eyed.
Vivian Howard: Well, okay, so I just have to speak to that. Last week, I was in Dallas cooking for this event and the catering facility was in an Uber Eats building and, you know, and I get there and there's like a counter and a guy that's, you know, giving food to the Uber Eats drivers.
Dan Pashman: Was this a ghost kitchen?
Vivian Howard: Yes. So they're like all along the hallway, there's like little you know, kitchens that have their own dish sinks and everything. There's probably 10, 15 of them.
Dan Pashman: Like Uber Eats and other delivery services they've created these sort of like fronts for restaurants. So you're like in the mood for burritos, you search, "Where can I get a burrito?, and it pops up. Oh, Timmy's burritos and you order it. And it turns out that's one of 10 restaurants that are all sort of in this little mini factory that is run by Uber Eats. So you were invited to an event and you were inside the ghost kitchen.
Vivian Howard: Yes, I was inside the ghost kitchen, but this catering company that I was working with had rented one of the, you know, pods or whatever. And, you know, immediately I hear this beeping, beeping, beeping. And they're like, "Oh yeah, those are the robots." I'm like, oh my God.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Vivian Howard: So there were two robots going up and down the hall all day long, like taking food from the individual kitchens up to the front because we can't walk up to the front with our food to have it be delivered. And these things — I immediately, I was like, this is so cool. I'm going to take a video for my kids and everybody. And then I was so annoyed by the end of the day, because they took up the whole hallway. They make a lot of noise. You know, they just kind of take over the place. Why? Why are we taking the people out of everything?
Dan Pashman: Amanda, what are your thoughts on our new robot overlords?
Amanda Mull: You know, well, I questioned — first of all, if it would actually make anything more efficient? You know, it's not like Chipotle is itself inefficient. Chipotle moves a lot of food very, very quickly and I'm not sure like what kind of marginal return we're going to get on a robot in a central prep kitchen.
Dan Pashman: Well, I'm sure part of their calculation is that if they sell the same amount of food at the same pace and not have to pay as many employees, then their margins go up.
Amanda Mull: There's a lot that machines can do. There's a lot that, you know, the industrial tools of food prep can make easier or more efficient. But ultimately I don't see a lot of technology that suggests that any of this stuff can happen without human intervention and without human supervision and, you know, human employees. And I think that like, when we assume robots can do all of this, A, there's like absolutely no proof that's true. You can see it, you know, every day in your local CVS, your local Walgreens, where the self-checkout machines never work, they're impossible to use, people hate them.
Dan Pashman: Oh! They're the worst.
Amanda Mull: They make the employees jobs worse. They've, you know, successfully reduced the number of employees in those locations, but everybody who has to interact with them on any level hates it. [LAUGHS] And like, I think that when we buy into the hype, whether it's about AI, whether it's about other types of, like, physical mechanization without really, really looking at the details of what it entails and, like, what it then intends to promise, I don't think there's any reason to believe that these sort of like mechanized, fast, casual restaurants are going to work a lot better than self-checkout does right now. And we know self-checkout doesn't work. You need lots and lots of humans to make these systems run. Instead of being people who prepare food, who have skills, who gain mastery of things over time, who have useful jobs, you're turning troubleshoot the robot, which is like not a useful job and nothing gets done better. It remains to be seen if that means it will even be any cheaper.
Dan Pashman: Coming up. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, a food related test of true love. Plus, when does it make sense to freeze your toilet paper? Stick around.
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I'm Dan Pashman. You know, before we get back to the show, when I decided to write my cookbook, Anything's Pastable, I knew I wouldn't be able to do it alone. I mean, after all, I’d never written a real recipe in my life. Well, I hired a team of super talented recipe developers to work with me. And in each episode of The Sporkful this month, we're gonna take a few minutes to feature one of those developers, so you can hear their stories, and learn more about their contributions to my book. This week, we’ll hear from Asha Loupy.
Asha Loupy: I was born in Kolkata, India, but adopted when I was 10-weeks-old, so I didn't grow up in a South Asian household. It was just my mom and I and I started cooking when I was about four-years-old. I was just in the kitchen with my mom so she could keep an eye on me.
Dan Pashman: and what were some of her specialties?
Asha Loupy: for a good part of my childhood, my mom was on a salt-free diet, which meant that we were utilizing spices a lot. We would make keema a lot because it was highly spiced and I could add salt later, but it was satisfying enough for my mom.
Dan Pashman: If you eat a lot of Indian food, you probably already know keema as a classic dish of spiced ground meat. The details can vary from home to home, but the ground meat is a constant. Asha loved helping her mom cook. And from a young age, she was much more than a kitchen assistant.
Asha Loupy: I started writing a cookbook when I was a very small child.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Asha Loupy: And one of the recipes was called "Chicken Mix Up", and it was egg noodles, sour cream, salt and pepper, and shredded rotisserie chicken and that's it, mixed together. Maybe butter was added in there.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] I mean, I'll bet that's good.
Asha Loupy: It was!
Dan Pashman: When Asha was twelve, her mom asked what she wanted to do over the summer — Girl Scout camp or classes at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco? I think you can guess which one she picked.
Asha Loupy: I was a 12-year-old with adults. Like it wasn't children's cooking classes and I ended up doing a lot of like stuff by myself during those classes. None of the adults wanted to be my partner.
Dan Pashman: Asha kept at it anyway. The next summer, the cooking school was under new management, and they didn’t want to allow a 13-year-old into an adult class, despite her experience. One of her teachers from the previous year went to bat for her and convinced the school to let her in.
Asha Loupy: I saw him later in life and was like, thank you. You know, as a 13-year-old girl of color in an adult class with all white, older adults, that was a intimidating space to be in. But having someone stand up for me, I was like, okay, yeah, I can be here and like someone wants me here. That was really an important moment for me.
Dan Pashman: Today Asha works for Diaspora Co., a spice company that imports high quality single origin spices from South Asia. The recipes she creates for them mix the traditional with the more experimental, as in her pani puri two ways — one with a more classic potato-chickpea filling, the other a more off-the-cuff mango-avocado filling.
Asha Loupy: connecting with South Asian cooking and having that become part of my job, but also having it be a way for me to connect to a different part of myself has been really rewarding. It has been something that I don't think I had as much of growing up. Like we would go to like Diwali celebrations at the like local Indian cultural center and we cooked Indian food because it was one of the many things we cooked, but actually getting to like dig deep into it is something that I don't think a lot of people get a chance to do and connect in that way.
Dan Pashman: All of this informs the perspective that Asha brings to the book, and to pasta dishes more generally.
Asha Loupy: Pasta in households across America is utilized in so many different ways beyond just the Italian ways that you see in magazines and in food media. I wanna push beyond what people traditionally see pasta as.
Dan Pashman: One perfect example: Asha pitched a recipe for keema bolognese. As I said, keema is made from spiced ground meat, making it the perfect candidate to be mashed up with the traditional Italian tomato sauce that combines ground meat, wine, milk, and more. When Asha pitched the concept of keema Bolognese for the cookbook, I was immediately on board. And when I first tried it, I could not stop eating it right out of the pot.
Dan Pashman: I dropped some off at neighbor Jess' house. She texted me later and said it was so good, she felt like she needed a cigarette afterwards. Anyway, Asha and I collaborated on many more recipes for my book. One of her pasta salads is the dish that Kenji Lopez-Alt, who wrote the book’s foreword, says it's his favorite of the book — Raw Heirloom Tomato Puttanesca with Fish Sauce and Calabrian Chili. Follow Asha on Instagram @FromHeadToTable and subscribe to her newsletter, she is so talented, you will love her recipes.
Dan Pashman: And if you’re in San Francisco, you're gonna be able to see Asha live! She’ll be joining me onstage at the Swedish American Hall on April 28th as part of my book tour. We're gonna be talking with Sam Sanders, one of the hosts of the fantastic podcast Vibe Check. Those tickets are on sale now. Remember, for all tour dates, you can go to Sporkful.com/tour.
Dan Pashman: And remember that if you preorder Anything’s Pastable now, you’ll get an invite to a special Zoom cooking class I'm gonna be hosting just for folks who pre-ordered. We're gonna hang out, we’re gonna chat, we’ll cook, we’ll eat — it's gonna be a lot of fun. You don't want to miss it. If you already pre-ordered, you’re also eligible. To get your invite go to Sporkful.com/book.
Dan Pashman: All right, we're back in the Salad Spinner. I'm here with Vivian Howard, chef and restaurateur, and Amanda Mull, staff writer at The Atlantic. Allright, you're ready to get back in the spinner?
Vivian Howard: Yep, let's do it.
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Dan Pashman: Amanda, you brought a story in for us. What did you want to talk about?
Amanda Mull: Okay, so I am bringing to you a story about Josh Wine memes. I was interviewed by Allie Francis, who's a journalist at Bon Appetit. She wrote a great story for their website about why people, and especially young people online, have sort of latched on to Josh Wine, which is a very middle of the road, very sort of, like, traditional Northern California brand of red wine.
Dan Pashman: And the brand is actually called Josh.
Amanda Mull: Yes. Yes.
Vivian Howard: Oh my god! Okay. I was like, who the hell is Josh Wine?
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Vivian Howard: I'm like ... I was like, if I had my phone, I would be Googling this cause I have no idea. But I know Josh the wine. Yes.
Amanda Mull: Yes.
Dan Pashman: The label is very kind of simple and plain and it's just in big cursive letters, it just says "Josh". And so, yeah, Vivian. What's your take on Josh?
Vivian Howard: Okay. So, well, you know, it's wild because I actually drink Josh wine because I live in rural Eastern North Carolina and my grocery store options are a Piggly Wiggly, a Food Lion and a Walmart. And, you know, Josh is one of the, you know, upper things that they offer. I don't go there, like, I'm going to go get my Josh, you know?
Vivian Howard: It's more like, you know, I don't have anything from elsewhere and you know, it's something that's drinkable. But I didn't know — how is it a meme? Is it like, "I love me some Josh?". Like what, how, what is the spirit of it?
Amanda Mull: A lot of it is just sort of like a riff on the fact that there's a wine named Josh. Josh is like such a ... such a particular name. Like, when you say someone is Josh, that is a white man in his mid-thirties, who has like a, a job that is done mostly on his laptop. We all know a Josh. And I think that that is sort of funny cause it's just the last thing that you'd expect, like, a wine to be named. In a situation that we're in right now where like so many products are designed to go viral, designed to make a joke, designed to be funny to you so that you post about them, I think that people have sort of reacted in an organic way to something that is just like not supposed to be a joke at all, that is funny in spite of itself. The wine is so earnest, like they are not making a joke at all.
Dan Pashman: You don't think it was intentional?
Amanda Mull: No!
Dan Pashman: I mean, how could you name your wine Josh and expect anything other than the reaction they've gotten?
Amanda Mull: It's been around a really long time.
Vivian Howard: Yeah. And I can tell you that from, you know, the grocery store aisle point of view, one of the reasons that I, like, honed in on Josh was because so many of the bottles around it are so silly. You know, it's like Yellowtail, Fat Bastard ... It's like, I feel like they're trying to grab my attention based on the branding and not the quality of what's in the bottle. And I can't believe I'm saying this about wine at Food Lion ...
Vivian Howard: But, you know, the Josh label is simple. There are no jokes. They're ... You know, it's like the most kind of elegant looking thing?
Dan Pashman: Right.
Vivian Howard: And so, I think unintentionally it's been doing that since it was on the shelves, like standing out for those reasons.
Amanda Mull: It definitely wasn't trying to go viral in this way. The guy who makes it is very earnest. It's named after his dad.
Vivian Howard: Aww.
Amanda Mull: [LAUGHS] Once people started to realize that everyone had encountered this wine, it's the wine that like, if you're going to a dinner party that you don't think is going to be like that fun, or you don't know what everybody's taste is, or you don't know what they're making, like, just get a bottle of Josh. It's fine. Everybody ...
Amanda Mull: It is the most okay wine.
Dan Pashman: All right, let's tick through a couple more stories real quick before we wrap up. Spin the spinner!
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Dan Pashman: There's a new docuseries on Hulu called Superhot: The spicy world of pepper people. It profiles the growers of extremely hot peppers and the people who compete in hot pepper competitions. Here's a clip from the trailer:
CLIP (PERSON 1): You think about competitive chili eating ...
CLIP (PERSON 2): The pressure is immense.
CLIP (PERSON 3): It's like a boxing match and you're gonna fight that pepper, and then all of a sudden ... Boom!
CLIP (PERSON 4): 1, 2, 3 ...
CLIP (GROUP): EAT THAT CHILI!
CLIP (PERSON 5): Sheyna's lost the use of her hands ...
Dan Pashman: And I should add, in New York, the restaurant Brine created what they call the hottest sandwich available at any restaurant. It's called the D. N. E. as in Do Not Eat. To get it, you gotta book an appointment, specify the type of milk you want to accompany it, and sign a waiver. So these two things seem to be happening in parallel. What do we make of this? Vivian, you wanna lead off? You look perplexed.
Vivian Howard: I mean, you know, I've never understood people who like love to eat things and then talk about how hot it is. You know, it's like so hot and my nose is burning and like, you know, why? And I also — like competitive eating like something that I have a reaction to. I, like, judge this pepperoni roll eating contest once and watched people like dunk all this pepperoni rolls into crystal light and then, you know, stuff themselves ... Like, and then when the timer went off they just exploded in pepperoni rolls. You know, I don't get it. I don't get it. I eat for pleasure, and ..
Dan Pashman: But there is some science suggests that eating very spicy foods can almost activate systems in your brain that's similar to like to a high. If you eat a lot of spicy foods, like with anything that makes you high, you may need more and more of it to keep getting that feeling. Amanda, what are your thoughts?
Amanda Mull: I think that there is a really great book that explains this phenomenon. It's called Hurts So Good. It's by Lee Cowart. And what is it — it's about is why people seek out pain, cause this is something that is a phenomenon that has occurred like across human history, across culture. Like, eating really, really spicy food is a pretty common way to do it, but people do all kinds of stuff that hurts. For some people, the physical sensation of just incredibly spicy food does create this sort of, like, chemical reaction in their bodies that they do find pleasing in some way. And also, I think that, like, there is interest in this outside of perhaps people who do it at a really extreme level, because it's just really experiential. It is like very embodied. You are ... You will never be more in tune with what's happening in your body than when you eat something that is really, really too spicy for you.
Dan Pashman: All I'll add is that in this Hulu series, I guess, one of the tricks that you learn about for people who take part in competitive hot pepper eating is that they freeze their toilet paper ...
Amanda Mull: Oh, yeah,
Dan Pashman: So that it's really cold before they use it. You can think about that when you go to bed tonight.
Vivian Howard: That's lending a lot of credibility to everything I said before.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] All right, spin the spinner.
[SALAD SPINNER SOUND EFFECT]
Dan Pashman: As we approach Valentine's day, we want to talk about the internet's latest love test, a food love test. It's called the Orange Peel Test. Let's check out this TikTok.
CLIP (PERSON 6): Babe?
CLIP (PERSON 7): Yeah?
CLIP (PERSON 6): I really want an orange right now.
CLIP (PERSON 7): You want an orange, like the fruit?
CLIP (PERSON 6): Yeah. [LAUGHS]
CLIP (PERSON 7): Um, I don't think we have any oranges.
CLIP (PERSON 6): Okay, do you think you could, like, go get me one and peel it for me?
CLIP (PERSON 7): Uh, are you serious?
CLIP (PERSON 6): Yeah.
Dan Pashman: Will he bring it to her and peel it for her? According to this TikTok trend, that's the test of true love. Is this a legitimate test of true love, Amanda?
Amanda Mull: I think probably not.
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Amanda Mull: Like it ... In and of itself. I think it does gesture at something real and that like in, like, good, healthy, mutually supportive relationships, like if you express like a desire or a need to your partner and it's something that they can fulfill and it like isn't difficult for them, than often, like, you know, good relationships are when you hear that your partner wants something and it is something that is easy for you and you're like, "Oh, I'm just going to do it for them." I don't know if like the orange itself is like a great vessel for that theory though.
Dan Pashman: Right. Vivian, what do you think? Is this a valid test of true love?
Vivian Howard: Absolutely not. But ...
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Vivian Howard: I do think, you know, what she's saying, like, "Will you go get me something from the other room? Will you get me something out of the fridge?" But like, "Will you get me an orange?", I would prefer to peel it myself because I would like my grubby hands on it rather than yours. I mean, you know, that feels like a weird kind of gesture when, you know ... But I do appreciate being able to ask a loved one to go get something for me when I'm very comfortable and them being able to recognize that that's something that they should do. That may be a true, you know, look at love.
Dan Pashman: Right. Well, later in the video he says ...
CLIP (PERSON 7): I just ... I don't know how to peel an orange.
Dan Pashman: Which that — I mean, to me that's a red flag.
Vivian Howard: That is.
Dan Pashman: That's a major relationship red flag.
Amanda Mull: Can I admit something without anybody getting mad at me?
Dan Pashman: Sure.
Amanda Mull: [LAUGHS] I've never peeled an orange. I don't like citrus fruit. I've never peeled one.
Vivian Howard: I'm not mad. I'm just ... I'm just ... I'm dumbfounded .... Yeah, no, that's ... Yeah, no. I mean, yes. I'm not ... No. Yes, let's go ...
Dan Pashman: Right. I ... I ... We're ... we're ... [LAUGHING] We're not judging you, Amanda. We're just surprised.
Amanda Mull: Yeah, like I was a kid at soccer, that at halftime, when the team mom brought out the orange slices, I didn't eat any of them. I just don't like oranges. [LAUGHING]
Vivian Howard: Well, you should grab one of those little tinies, just the pleasure of separating, you know, a Mandarin …
Amanda Mull: Yeah.
Vivian Howard: Or a Clementine from its skin is worth ..
Amanda Mull: It's fun?
Vivian Howard: Worth it. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: It is very satisfying on a tactile level. I agree with that. Yes.
Dan Pashman: Well, that's it for another great edition of the salad spinner. This has been a blast. Vivian Howard is an award winning cookbook author, TV host, chef, and restaurateur in Kinston, North Carolina. Her restaurant that's open two nights a month is Chef and the Farmer. You can find more about her at vivianhoward.com and on Instagram @ChefAndTheF. And Vivian, what are your two spots in Charleston? Tell folks about those.
Vivian Howard: Handy and Hot, it's a biscuit and hand pie shop on Wentworth Street, and Lenore, which is a dinner restaurant and stands for the county that I live in North Carolina, so don't call there and make a reservation and call it Lenoir. We'll take it anyway, but, yeah.
Dan Pashman: So, it's spelled like Lenoir, like L-E-N-O-I-R?
Vivian Howard: Yes.
Dan Pashman: But it's pronounced Lenore. Got it. Okay. So eat at all of Vivian's restaurants and follow her on Instagram. Vivian, thank you very much.
Vivian Howard: Thank you.
Amanda Mull: Thank you so much for having me.
Dan Pashman: Next week on the show, a data-driven restaurant makeover! The Indian restaurant Adda had a table that was always underperforming, making less money than the other tables at the restaurant. In this collaboration with our friends at the NPR podcast Planet Money, we enlist a restaurant design expert to find out if we can turn that losing table into a winner. That’s next week.
Dan Pashman: While you're waiting for that one, remember that we released two episodes last week! On Monday, I went undercover with the feared New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells. Then on Thursday, we released our third episode of Deep Dish with Sohla and Ham. Sohla and Ham look at the surprising origins of the iconic Mexico City dish Tacos Al Pastor. It turns out, the Al Pastor taco has its roots in a place half way around the world. All those episodes are up now. Get them wherever you got this one.