Every other Friday, we reach into our deep freezer and reheat an episode to serve up to you. We're calling these our Reheats. If you have a show you want reheated, send us an email or voice memo at firstname.lastname@example.org, and include your name, your location, which episode, and why.
Samin Nosrat, author of the best-selling cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat, joins Dan to talk about feeling like an outsider, sexism and pretentiousness in food, and the finer points of toast.
This episode originally aired on October 8, 2018. It was produced by Dan Pashman, Anne Saini, and Aviva DeKornfeld, with editing by Gianna Palmer, and mixing by Dan Dzula . The Sporkful team now includes Dan Pashman, Emma Morgenstern, Andres O'Hara, Nora Ritchie, and Jared O'Connell.
Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:
- "Kenny" by Hayley Briasco
- "Sidewalk Chalk" by Hayley Briasco
- "Rooftop Instrumental" by Erick Anderson
- "New Old" by James Thomas Bates
Photo courtesy of Samin Nosrat.
Dan Pashman: Hey, everyone! We got another Reheat here for you. And this one comes from a listener request.
CLIP (ELIZABETH): Hello, Dan and everyone at The Sporkful team. This is Elizabeth in Louisville, KY. The episode that I would love to hear on Reheat is the one featuring Samin Nosrat. I always enjoy her humor and her wisdom and would love to hear that episode again. Thanks so much.
Dan Pashman: You got it, Elizabeth. This one's for you. And if there’s an episode that you’d like us to pull out of the freezer and reheat, send me a message at email@example.com. Thanks, and hear my conversation with Samin Nosrat!
Dan Pashman: Samin, tell me this. Right off the bat, what's the secret to making great toast?
Samin Nosrat: Oh, okay. Okay. You're just gonna go in the hard hitting questions.
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Dan Pashman: This is Samin Nosrat. Her cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a bestseller. It has a whole page just on toast. And she writes for The New York Times, where she once began a column, “My name is Samin and I’m an artisanal bread hoarder.” She also used to be a chef at Chez Panisse, one of the top fine dining restaurants in America.
Dan Pashman: So by some measures, Samin’s fancy. But not too fancy for a nice piece of toast.
Samin Nosrat: Are you using pre-sliced bread? Or are you using some bouje country loaf that you're cutting yourself?
Dan Pashman: In this particular case, let's say loaf of bread that I'm cutting myself.
Samin Nosrat: Okay. You want to picture what is the final toast that you want. So, for me, I like a toast that's really toasty and brown on the outside but not dry all the way through. Like, I want it to be chewy on the inside. And so what that means is you have to use a little bit of hotter heat. So, I have a toaster oven that I very much love, but if you didn't have a toaster oven, or even a toaster, I would probably heat my oven to about 400 degrees — which is a nice hot temperature but not so hot that it'll burn on the outside. One of my pet peeves is over toasted bread that's dry and brittle, and then, like, causes the roof of your mouth to, like ... [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Right.
Samin Nosrat: Come off and then you're like burnt and then it hurts and stuff.
Dan Pashman: No, that's a medical condition that I have identified as Cap'n Crunch's Complaint.
Samin Nosrat: Oh, yes. Yes, yes. Yeah, Cap'n Crunch's Complaint. Yeah.
Dan Pashman: But how thick do you slice the bread?
Samin Nosrat: Oh, I like a slice that's probably — do you want me to get out my tape measure?
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Samin Nosrat: [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: Please, yeah. [LAUGHS]
Samin Nosrat: Okay, I would say in the, like, 3/4 of an inch range.
Dan Pashman: Now, if I had said pre-sliced bread, how would the strategy be different?
Samin Nosrat: The thing about pre-sliced bread is we — if I may be so bold as to assume that it's, like a store bought loaf of bread that comes pre-sliced in a plastic bag, often breads like that have some sort of sugar added into the bread — whether it's molasses, or honey — and so those sugars will help the bread brown and toast more quickly on the outside.
Dan Pashman: And if you were to take bread and butter it and put it on a griddle, or if you brought a half brush with olive oil and broil it, is that still toast?
Samin Nosrat: Oh, I would still call that toast.
Dan Pashman: Toast is really just like twice baked bread.
Samin Nosrat: Yes, that's what I call — yeah, for sure. So, like, I — you know, here we go. Here we go. We're going really deep into semantics right now. Okay?
Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]
Samin Nosrat: So, sure, there is a few different ways to do them. There's a reason why we would use butter rather than oil. There's a reason why you would do it dry. There's a reason you might do it in the oven versus in a cast iron pan. But like, the ultimate goal is often the same thing, which is you want that beautiful golden crust on the outside and like a soft, tender, chewy crumb. The reason why I like the word toast for that is because I've always been a poo-poo-er of overly snobby culinary terms. Right? So like, I don't know, you can call it a grilled cheese sandwich or you can call it a croque monsieur. And it's pretty much the same thing, right?
Dan Pashman: This is why I love Samin. She hates pretentiousness, but she can still lay down an epic discourse on the finer points of toast, even though she's reached the highest levels of the food world. She still has an outsider's perspective.
Samin Nosrat: I absolutely know what it is to be different and to be made to feel different and to be very aware of that all of the time.
Dan Pashman: When you grow up feeling like an outsider, can any amount of success make you feel like you belong? We'll discuss. Stick around.
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.
Dan Pashman: When I spoke with Samin Nosrat recently, she was at home in Berkeley — I was in New York. Samin grew up in suburban San Diego, the child of Iranian immigrants going to school there in the ‘80s, most of the other kids were white, and all they knew about Iran was something about a hostage crisis.
Samin Nosrat: Looking the way that I looked, you know, having an unusual name that was hard for a lot of people to pronounce made me aware that I didn't fit in. I felt like I was always in two worlds, like going to school I wanted to be a good student, I wanted to make my parents happy, I wanted to make them proud, and I wanted to succeed. So I worked really hard and I did my best to sort of fit in. And I figure I sort of told myself this story that if I worked really hard and sort of succeeded, that maybe nobody at school wouldn't notice that I wasn't just like everyone else.
Samin Nosrat: And then coming home, my mom was always very clear to us that like, we went to school in America and when we came home, we were in Iran and that we followed the rules of an Iranian household and we spoke Farsi and we respected our elders and we had the right manners and upbringing. And so, you know, I kind of was always, I don't know, switching it up and like code switching into the kind of two different Samins, who I always was, of like the person I was out in the world and the person I was at home.
Dan Pashman: So the food was basically all Iranian in your home?
Samin Nosrat: Yes. My mom is an extraordinary cook and she made the most delicious Persian food. My brothers and I spent 40 percent of our childhood in the backseat of the Volvo just driving around Southern California in search of, you know, like the best lamb, the best cilantro, the best whatever ingredients so that my mom could make the most delicious food.
Dan Pashman: What were some of your favorites?
Samin Nosrat: Oh, I had like ... I had lists. I had lists. So …
Samin Nosrat: I had also ... I had phases. I had phases. Probably like my most favorite food as a kid was called adas polo, which is lentil rice, and usually it's served with fried raisins. And Persian rice is cooked in a really particular way so that it forms a crust at the bottom of the pot, called tahdig. And so it's like this crispy crust that you flip the whole thing out. And so everyone fights over the crispy bits. And what I loved about the lentil rice was that the lentils would cook into the crust, so you'd get like these sort of creamy, extra starchy, crusty little things in the tahdig. And then I always just loved, you know, the little hit of the fried raisin and then with the yogurt — so you have like, creamy, cold, sour yogurt, sweet raisin, crunchy rice, like, you know, the inside rice that's steamy. So it was just like so many different things happening.
Dan Pashman: Didn't — you did a recipe for The New York Times that I — is on my list to make that was like — it was like that tahdig technique but with pasta.
Samin Nosrat: Oh, yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. My mom — so that was a very Iranian thing to sort of make tahdig out of anything. So that was another thing she always made that I loved was any time we made spaghetti, she would put — she would like mix it with the sauce and put the whole thing back in the pot so it would form a tahdig.
Dan Pashman: And then you flip it upside down and it's got like, like a crispy golden brown shell on top.
Samin Nosrat: Ooh! It's so good. Yeah. I mean, fried noodles. Give me a break. So good.
Dan Pashman: Before Samin started high school, her family switched school districts so she could go to the best possible public school. But as is often the case, the best public school was where the richest families lived, which meant Samin would now stick out in one more way.
Samin Nosrat: My mom, like, sat me down before she sent me to school there, and she just was like, I just need to be really clear with you that you are going to see a lot of stuff in this school and that these kids are going to have a lot of things and a kind of a lifestyle that you don't have and that we don't have and that you're never going to have. So when you come back and you're like, oh, I want such and such shoes or I want such and such a car, why don't I get this, like, remember this moment, because I'm going to remind you, like, we are not those people. We do not have those things and you're not you're not going to get them from me. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: But once Samin left home for college, she had the chance to get that stuff, or at least some part of that lifestyle herself.
Samin Nosrat: I moved to Berkeley in 1997 to attend college, and in my freshman orientation they told me, "Oh yeah, by the way, there's this fancy restaurant in town called Chez Panisse. It's like really famous."
Dan Pashman: Chez Panisse was opened in the '70s by a chef named Alice Waters. It's basically the birthplace of the farm to table movement in America, and it's pretty fancy.
Samin Nosrat: I grew up in San Diego eating delicious home cooking and like fish tacos and Chinese food and pizza. So, like, I had no idea what a fancy restaurant or a famous restaurant was. [LAUGHS] It just like, did not compute. And then my sophomore year, I had this boyfriend and he was from San Francisco. And a big part of how we spent our time together was sort of — he was showing me his, like, culinary sort of San Francisco. And we ate his favorite pizza and we ate his favorite ice cream.
Samin Nosrat: And he had always wanted to go to Chez Panisse. And I still didn't even really understand what it was. I just knew that it was a fancy, expensive restaurant. So we saved our money for seven months. We had a shoebox that we like ... We would make bets and like whoever lost the bet would put the money in the shoe box or like leftover laundry quarters or whatever, and it took us seven months to save 220 bucks. And we showed up and like, it was really this extraordinary meal. We had a beautiful salad with lardons and a poached egg on top. And we had guinea hen, which I had never had — it was just like a little chicken. And so when the dessert came, it was souffle. It was chocolate souffle. And I think we kind of stuck out. You know, I was 19-years-old. I was wearing a black tank top and a denim skirt in like what's probably Berkeley's fanciest restaurant. And so I don't — I think, like, they obviously knew we were not regulars. And ...
Dan Pashman: And also when you pulled out the shoe box full of cash to pay?
Samin Nosrat: Yeah. Yeah.
Samin Nosrat: We did go to the bank earlier in the day and like to turn in all the change for like two $100 bills and a twenty.
Dan Pashman: Wow.
Samin Nosrat: So that part we were good with. Yeah. But yeah, that would have been amazing if I had a paper roll of pennies.
Dan Pashman: Like if you paid in quarters?
Samin Nosrat: Yeah.
Samin Nosrat: I mean, I wouldn't put it past me.
Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS].
Samin Nosrat: And so .. [LAUGHS] And so we ... she, the server, had brought the soufflé and she said, "Oh like, have you ever had a souffle before?" And I said, "No", and she said, "Would you like me to show you how to eat it?" And I said, "Yes." And she said, "Here, you take your spoon and you poke a hole and then you pour the sauce in," it was like a raspberry sauce, and she was like, "Every bite that way has a spoonful of sauce. So I took a bite and she said, "How is it?", and I was like, "Oh, it's really good. But you know what would make it even better?" And she was [LAUGHS] like, "What?" And I was like, "Yeah, a glass of cold milk," because it was like a warm, chocolaty thing.
Dan Pashman: Right. Sure.
Samin Nosrat: And I just wanted a cold glass of milk. So she went and she brought me milk. And then she also brought us, like, two glasses of dessert wine to teach us the refined accompaniment. And it was just this very sweet interaction.
Dan Pashman: So wait. I just want to dissect this moment for a second. So even Samin, the misfit, who didn't have the first clue how to eat in a nice restaurant, was still not so intimidated by the experience that you were afraid to ask for cold milk.
Samin Nosrat: That's true. Wow, you're like, really — this is like a hypnotherapy session or something.
Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS]
Samin Nosrat: We're really going — we're like, going deep, deep in the past.
Dan Pashman: That night, Samin fell in love with Chez Panisse. Partly the food, yeah, but also the floral arrangements, the service, everything about the experience. The next day she went back, this time looking for a job. That server she had the night before turned out to be a manager. She recognized Samin and took her resume. Samin got a job busing tables and eventually worked her way into the kitchen. Pretty soon, she was cooking at Chez Panisse, but still, Samin had bigger plans.
Dan Pashman: Tell me about your manifestation journal.
Samin Nosrat: Oh, yeah. Do you want me to go get it then I can read some of those first ones?
Dan Pashman: Yeah. That would be amazing.
Samin Nosrat: Okay. Okay, Hold on.
Dan Pashman: All right.
Dan Pashman: If you're not familiar with the idea of a manifestation journal, it's basically a notebook where you write down your goals. The idea being that writing them down will help manifest them.
Samin Nosrat: Okay. All right, I got it. It even says "Manifestation Journal" [LAUGHS] right there on the first page. It's just like a — it's just a sketchbook.
Dan Pashman: Is it all dog eared?
Samin Nosrat: Uh, it's not dog eared, but it definitely feels like the spine is — you know, that thing when you've opened the book so many times, that the spine starts peeling away from the binding?
Dan Pashman: How old were you when you started this journal?
Samin Nosrat: Uh, let's see if I put a date on the first entry. Oh, 2008, so I was 28 and I'm 38. So ten years. Ten years.
Dan Pashman: So ten years ago, and do you remember what inspired you to start this journal?
Samin Nosrat: I'm telling you, I think it was like a self-help website.
Samin Nosrat: I'm not sure what I got out of other than this wonderful manifestation journal.
Dan Pashman: Yeah.
Samin Nosrat: But ...
Dan Pashman: So what ... Read me the first page.
Samin Nosrat: Okay. So just says, "Long term, find the thing I love to do, do it well and make enough money doing it to live comfortably." Okay. I think I'm, like, getting there on that one. Okay. "Fall in love and have and sustain a healthy relationship with a smart, funny, handsome, confident, caring, steady man." Hmm. Not yet. Has not happened. "Raise at least two healthy children." Nope, has not happened. "Publish ..." — this is so specific. This is so specific. "Publish four books. Popular well-reviewed books that I am proud of by good, well-known publishing houses." Okay, well, I did one. And then in, like, very tiny writing at the bottom where I'm like, too embarrassed to even admit to myself that it's my goal ...
Dan Pashman: Right.
Samin Nosrat: [LAUGHS] This is so embarrassing. I shouldn't even admit this and not in something recorded. [LAUGHS] I wrote …
Dan Pashman: No one's listening, don't worry.
Samin Nosrat: In tiny, tiny letters at the bottom. I wrote, "MacArthur Genius Grant".
Samin Nosrat: And, [LAUGHS] ... And then, like, the next page is like, just for that year. Oh, here's a good one, "Get my chin hairs under control."
Dan Pashman: What's the latest on that?
Samin Nosrat: The chin hairs are under control. It did take longer than one year, though.
Dan Pashman: Okay.
Samin Nosrat: [LAUGHS].
Dan Pashman: But what I find interesting about a lot of these entries, Samin, is that the success is defined partly by the work that you feel proud of, but also by having the work featured, there's a lot of focus on which publications will publish it. Which publishing houses? What — how will it be reviewed?
Samin Nosrat: Mm-hmm.
Dan Pashman: Now, look. I think all of us want the admiration of our peers and want to be respected for our work. But I think that knowing that you had this sort of self-identification as an outsider, a person who didn't fit in, it's interesting to me that so many of your goals are about gaining acceptance for your work in the most mainstream or the top echelon of the world you are trying to penetrate.
Samin Nosrat: For me, it was sort of an echo of that thing I said earlier about being in elementary school and just trying to impress and make my parents proud and make the teachers proud. And that if I put my head down and worked hard enough, maybe they wouldn't notice that I was different. So it's sort of the same thing where if, like, I can infiltrate the most elite, white, powerful institution, whether it's a publication or a restaurant or a university and do my best and succeed, then there's no way that anyone can question that I belong.
Dan Pashman: Samin spent years cooking at Chez Panisse and other top restaurants in Italy and the Bay Area. She was making connections in the restaurant world, but still wasn't well-known beyond that. As she gained experience, she noticed patterns. She realized that so much of good cooking comes down to the right combination of four elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat. She set out to write a book based on this concept. It took her seven years. Twice she wrote the book and then threw it out. Started again because she thought it wasn't right.
Dan Pashman: Finally, she settled on a structure. It had recipes, but it wasn't really a cookbook. It was more of a cooking class in book form, using hand-drawn illustrations to explain concepts. The idea was that if you can learn how to use salt, fat, acid and heat correctly, you can cook anything. You don't need recipes. When the book proposal was offered to publishers and they had the chance to buy the rights, they went wild for it. They loved this new way of teaching cooking and they thought book buyers would love it, too.
Dan Pashman: Suddenly, all those powerbrokers Samin wanted to prove herself to, they wanted to meet her. And there was one change in particular that she noticed. When she met them, they all knew how to pronounce her name. In fact, she learned later that they had called her book agent in advance to make sure they got it right.
Samin Nosrat: And so for me to walk into, like all of these rooms in these high rises and have all these people pronounce my name right, it meant that for the first time, like I mattered enough to them for them to call my agent to ask how to pronounce my name, so that they would do it right and they wouldn't embarrass themselves. I couldn't believe that that had happened. And I felt so proud that I had reached that point. And now I have gone through so many shifts in the past five years, and you know, the world has shifted so much, and just like I've grown up so much that I'm actually really angry about that. For me, I'm really angry that it took me until age 33, until I achieved something that some powerful, wealthy people suddenly deemed me worthy enough that that was the first time in my life that anybody cared enough to try to figure out how to pronounce my name right.
Dan Pashman: I'm talking with Salmon Nose Rut, author of Salt Acid, Fat, Heat.
Dan Pashman: What's interesting is I do think that there is the mindset of like immigrants come to America, a lot of them sort of adopt a nickname that is kind of a bastardization of their given name because it's easier for Americans to pronounce. And I suspect that there are some people who would hear you talk about this issue and say, oh, come on, like people are trying their best. They don't mean anything by it. They never heard that name before. So they're trying to pronounce your name and they got it wrong. But, you know, they have good intentions. What's the big deal?
Samin Nosrat: Wow.
Dan Pashman: And so I'm curious to hear, like what you would say to a person who thinks that.
Samin Nosrat: Well, I did go through a “Sam” phase in fourth grade. I didn't like it. It wasn't me. [LAUGHS] So ...
Dan Pashman: So you experimented with that where you went by Sam?
Samin Nosrat: Yeah. Yeah. And that is my, like, coffee shop name. I will say that. [LAUGHS] But I — isn't all anybody wants to be seen and appreciated for who they are and isn't a name such a fundamental part of that?
Dan Pashman: Now, at least in the worlds of food and writing, a lot more people know how to pronounce Samin's name. Salt Fat Acid Heat is a bestseller. It won the James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook. Now it's being turned into a gorgeous four-part series on Netflix, it comes out Thursday, and her columns appear regularly in The New York Times. She has achieved just about all the career goals in her manifestation journal, except no genius grant ... yet. In many ways Samin's an outsider who has kicked down the door to the inside. But if she went back to Chez Panisse today, got that same chocolate soufflé, would she have it with the fancy dessert wine the server brought her or when she still asked for a cold glass of milk?
Samin Nosrat: Milk, for sure.
Samin Nosrat: I mean, that was 20 years ago. So like, I have been doing this for so long that I've been down all the roads, right? Like, I went down the snobby road, I went down the super, super, super do it by the book way. And I have come through out the other side where now to me like the main point of eating is not to do it the best way, it's to have the most pleasure.
Dan Pashman: Coming up, Samin and I switch gears to talk about a controversy roiling the world of fancy food. It involves charges of sexism, elitism and pretentiousness.
CLIP (SAMIN NOSRAT): I'm not saying it's not privileged and elite. Yes, it absolutely is. And like, do I participate in that sometimes? For sure.
Dan Pashman: And it all started with one very particular spoon. Stick around.
Dan Pashman: Welcome back to another Sporkful Reheat. I'm Dan Pashman. Hey, if you want to hear what I'm eating and reading every week, you should sign up for The Sporkful newsletter. I'll give you my weekly recommendations and so do our producers and the whole rest of our team. We also share announcements about exciting things happening with the show, when there's special discounts on my pastas. And on top of all that, if you subscribe to the newsletter, you're automatically entered into giveaways for cookbooks featured on the show, as long as we live in the U.S. or Canada. There's literally no downside. Sign up right now at sporkful.com/newsletter. I promise we won't spam you. We're only going to send you really good stuff. Again, that sporkful.com/newsletter. Thanks. Now back to this week's Reheat.
Dan Pashman: For many years, I was unaware of the "egg spoon" controversy. I only learned about it recently, but it's been burning up the fancy food world for a long time. First, let me set the stage. As I said, Samin got her start cooking at Chez Panisse, the legendary Bay Area restaurant that essentially launched the local organic food movement in the '70s. Now, that movement has obviously done a lot of good, but it's also become a status symbol. Where you buy your food says something about who you are and what you can afford. Chez Panisse was founded by Alice Waters, who's still the chef and owner today. On a Saturday night, dinner there will cost you $125 a person, not including drinks. So it's pretty fancy. Although I should say, that's small potatoes compared to places like Grant Achatz Alinea in Chicago or Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York where their prefixed can run over $300 per person. I haven't been to any of these places.
Dan Pashman: Anyway, Alice Waters is the woman behind Chez Panisse and a mentor to Samin. In 2009, Alice was featured on 60 Minutes.
CLIP (HOST): When it comes to food, Alice Waters is a legend. At 65 ...
Dan Pashman: I'll let Samin tell the story from here.
Samin Nosrat: At one point in the segment, she says, "Oh, yes, let me just cook a little breakfast."
CLIP (ALICE WATERS): I'm going to cook some eggs and I'm going to make a little salad with the tomatoes.
CLIP (HOST): It was here that we realized that Alice Waters lives in a different world.
CLIP (HOST): I have a question. Where's your microwave?
CLIP (ALICE WATERS): I don't have a microwave.
CLIP (HOST): How do you live without a microwave?
CLIP (ALICE WATERS): I don't know how you can sort of live with one.
Samin Nosrat: She has this really beautiful hearth in her kitchen that she had put in because she loves grilling. She's an incredible sort of fire cook. So she built this fire in her kitchen's hearth and took out this egg spoon, which is sort of like a, I don't know, 16th century hand forged blah, blah, blah thing. It's like it's basically if you picture a metal spoon with a really long handle, it's meant to crack it. You crack an egg in it and then you hold this thing with this long handle over the flame and it sizzles and it fries this egg in olive oil over the flame, and then you slip it out.
Samin Nosrat: And it's this really exquisite thing. And it's a very classic Alice breakfast. Like I would say, she's really into building the fire and making the egg. It's like what she does it for herself. She does it for everyone who comes through the house. It's her favorite thing to do. But when I was sitting at home watching that segment, I literally fell off of my couch. I sort of yelped and fell off my couch because I remember thinking, oh, no, what has this done? This has set back her message of sort of like spreading this love and this appreciation for seasonality so far, at least ten years, because it is such — it can be so perceived so easily as a really elitist maneuver. Right?
Samin Nosrat: Like the much more accessible thing to do would have been to like pull out a cast iron pan. And she has a big stack of cast iron pans in her kitchen and fry an egg in a cast iron pan. Because anyone could relate to that, right? Like everyone has a cast iron pan or can get one for ten bucks at the flea market. Not everyone has a hearth in their kitchen and a egg spoon and a blah, blah blah, and all that stuff.
Samin Nosrat: And so she got a lot of flack for it. And it was for me as a supporter of hers and as a sort of a child of hers, [LAUGHS], it was really hard to see her make that choice because I knew how it would be — how people would receive it. But the other thing about it is like it wouldn't have been true for Alice to like, get a cast iron pan. That's what she does. That's who she is. And she wants everyone to see that and to sort of like aspire toward that.
Dan Pashman: But as Samin predicted, there was a backlash. Anthony Bourdain said he found Alice Waters annoying and added, "I saw her on 60 Minutes. She used six cords of wood to cook one egg." For her part, Alice Waters says of the egg spoon, "I like the feeling of watching it and holding it. It's not like cooking in a pan. You just feel like you're really in charge of it. It's really primitive in a way." Eventually, that controversy died down, but then it was reignited this year when the chef and cookbook author Tamar Adler mentioned that she uses an egg spoon. And Alice Waters' daughter, Fanny Singer, started selling a hand foraged eggs spoon through her website for $250. Social media blew up.
Samin Nosrat: It was sort of this discussion that people were unilaterally having about, I don't know, the silliness and like out of touch ness of these silly women, you know? And I have a lot to say about elitism and privilege and certainly like how that affects the world of cooking and how it's affected me and the ways that I work to sort of combat it in my own work. But what really, like, busted me and made me so insane about that whole thing was that everybody seemed to take it as an opportunity to really lay into these women without having any self-awareness or any sort of taking a step back to see that there are so many tools that we consider men's tools, or we consider tools of fancy cooking that cost $250 or more, which we consider to be the tools of skilled men.
Dan Pashman: Give me an example of something you're thinking about.
Samin Nosrat: Sure. So to me, like the main thing that came to mind was a sous vide, like an immersion circulator, which is like the sous vide machine. It's this thing that you plug into a pot of water. It sort of raises the temperature and keeps the temperature steady at a certain degree, usually a pretty low temperature and it swirls it around in the pot. And that's how you can cook, you know, those really fancy sous vide eggs that are served at like Manresa, a fancy restaurant here in California or ...
Dan Pashman: Or now at Starbucks.
Samin Nosrat: Or now at Starbucks. Yes. [LAUGHS] But first popularized by these really, really fancy chefs. And like when, you know, like Dan Barber, who who's the chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and is like really lauded in this industry and sort of considered a champion of many of the same principles that Alice is a champion of — in fact, when he was like 19 or 20, he did an internship at Chez Panisse also. Like he learned a lot of his — you know, that really set him on a path culinary. And so Dan Barber gets like a lot of praise and acclaim for espousing the same principles as Alice. I guarantee you he's got some $250 tools in his kitchen and he doesn't get, like, you know, the entire internet, like, losing their minds. He gets a Chef's Table episode. So there's just these ways where I'm like, let's take a step back, guys. Like, I'm not saying, let's not call out privilege and elitistism, but let's do it sort of universally.
Dan Pashman: Why do you think that Alice Waters has not gotten more credit?
Samin Nosrat: Because she's a woman. And I think there's so many things that she gets criticized for that a man would never be criticized for. And I think the fact that she's short and she has kind of a squeaky voice and she talks in these dreamy metaphors [LAUGHS] and she has these, like lofty ideals just makes her a really easy target. And that's not to say that I'm never critical of her. Like, I often push back, especially in private against her. But I just am always aware of how this woman who has changed so much in this country for the better, who has paved the path for so many people, including myself, really gets short changed and sort of laughed at and not acknowledged for the positive changes that she's made.
Dan Pashman: If your first encounter with Alice Waters' egg spoon had been when you were 15-years-old and you were in high school and you went over to one of your rich white friends house and their mother was like, I got this $250 spoon that cooks an egg …
Dan Pashman: What ...
Samin Nosrat: I pray — what would my reaction have been?
Dan Pashman: Yeah. Yeah.
Samin Nosrat: [LAUGHS] Okay. There's a lot of ifs in that build up, in that setup.
Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS]
Samin Nosrat: So … But I can see two different things. I can see you myself feeling two different things. At once, I would be like rolling my eyes the biggest I could have possibly rolled them. I would have been like, "What is this?" And also, I can imagine being so jealous and envious and wanting that for my own self. So I think those two often go hand in hand where you just like write off the thing that just seems so far out of reach and out of touch. But like, I'm not going to lie, like I like fancy things. I've always aspired to them, right? Like, and I wanted whatever the fancy thing was that like so-and-so's mother had, you know? And especially if I had been served an egg from the egg spoon and it had been the most delicious egg I’d ever had, I can tell you I would have come home and put it in my manifestation journal.
Dan Pashman: Speaking of expensive kitchen appliances, Samin, I want to talk to you about toast once again.
Samin Nosrat: [GASPS]
Dan Pashman: I ...
Samin Nosrat: Did you get a fancy toaster?
Dan Pashman: Well, listen, I got a little story to tell you.
Samin Nosrat: Okay.
Dan Pashman: About seven years ago, my wife Janie and I went on vacation to Florida, and we stayed in a friend's grandmother's apartment. And she had this very old GE toaster oven, old, like chrome metal, shiny toaster. And it made such good toast. We got home. We started looking into this toaster, the General Electric Toast-R oven — not made any more — but it turns out to have a cottage following on eBay.
Samin Nosrat: Oh.
Dan Pashman: And so we bought a used Toast-R oven. We paid, like, $50 for it, all right? This is for, like, a 30-year-old toaster. All right?
Samin Nosrat: Does it toast evenly, though? Does it work?
Dan Pashman: For seven years, it gave us amazing toast. It toasted evenly. It was consistent. It heats very quickly. It has been a dream well worth the $50. But now it seems to be broken and only goes to one setting, [Samin Nosrat: Ohh.] which is like broil. And if you put anything in there for more than 30 seconds, it burns. And so we're going to have to get rid of this toaster. And now seven more years have gone by, and so the market for the Toast-R on eBay has gone up even more because there's fewer of them in circulation. And they now run $80 to $100 apiece, which you can get like a fancy toaster oven for a new one for $100.
Samin Nosrat: True. Uh-huh. [LAUGHS]
Dan Pashman: And then I found a vintage 1976 GE Toast-R oven, new ... New on eBay for $269.
Samin Nosrat: [LAUGHS] Are you going to get it?
Dan Pashman: I texted it to my wife being like, "Ha ha, Look what I found on eBay. Can you believe this?" And she wrote back. She's like, "But it's new!" And Janey, like, you know, buys everything at the secondhand store. Like the idea that she would spend $270 on a toaster is — like, I — it never even crossed my mind, and she's actually tempted. And we're now debating whether or not to get — to spend $270 on a "brand new" 1976 toaster.
Samin Nosrat: But like, you know, like it's going to bring you some small amount of pleasure and joy every single day to have the toast that, you know, works. Right? Like and not just you, you and your wife and maybe your children too. Just do it, Dan. It's your egg spoon.
Dan Pashman: That's Samin Nosrat. Her new Netflix food documentary based on her bestselling book, Salt Fat Acid Heat, comes out this Thursday, October 11th. In it, Samin travels the world to explore the four basic elements of good cooking. I got a sneak preview. It looks beautiful and Samin is great in it. Check it out.
Dan Pashman: Next week on the show, I got a lot of food guilt. Okay? I don't like it when the leftovers don't get finished. I don't like throwing out food that's expired. And I feel guilty because — well, I'll let you in on my terrible secret. I don't compost. So next week, I will attempt to take action to alleviate my food guilt. We'll see how it goes.
Dan Pashman: Please make sure you subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you listen. Go ahead, you can just hit subscribe or favorite right now. That way you'll never miss an episode. It also helps other people discover our show, so please subscribe. Thank you.