Notes From A Winter’s Break III

I read a lot last week, because my parents generously gave me three deeply engrossing books for Christmas.

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering The Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat is not a cook book. You can’t really read a cookbook, can you? You have to approach it as a reference book to hunt for specific recipes when you want them.

This, though, is a read. I sat on my parents’ couch and read straight through Nosrat’s explanations of how salt, fat, acid, and heat work in cooking followed by her instructions for how to layer them. I’ve been practicing salting by finger wag ever since and asking, “How can I get some acid into this?” about everything I’ve made this week (hint: mustard in mashed potatoes is goooood).

Nosrat did the “I Think You’re Interesting” podcast back in November. Listening to that is a fun point of entry into her book.

Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot by Melissa Clark is a book I coveted the moment I learned of its existence. I’ve subscribed to the New York Times cooking website for over a year now, and Clark’s contributions there have taught me a ton. I prepared Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people last year using her stuff exclusively.

Also, I have an Instant Pot and it is amazing. So when I heard Clark on The Upgrade talking about this book I started dropping hints for the holidays.

I said before that you can’t really read a cookbook. But I read this. At least I turned every single page and scanned every single recipe (there’s barely an introductory material). Every recipe has a pressure cooker and slow cooker option, and the images are gorgeous. I made the chili recipe from it right away when I got home, and it’s going to be my entry in this weekend’s chili cookoff for sure.

World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech by Franklin Foer is another book I’d been eager to get my hands on that my parents gave me for Christmas. I finished it on the plane ride home. It’s not a cookbook.

Foer wrote one of my favorite books of the past decade, How Soccer Explains The World, so when The Washington Post published an excerpt of this book and Jeff Jarvis pummeled it I was deeply intrigued.

There is nothing new to Foer’s anxiety about how digital technology is affecting us, its users. This kind of writing is a genre all its own. But World Without Mind is valuable for its focus on the companies driving most of that tech: Amazon, Facebook, and Google (Apple escapes the most serious charges of spying and monopolizing Foer levels at the other three).

Amazon has destroyed publishing just because it could. Facebook has ruined journalism without a care. Google is deploying all the things it knows about you in increasingly non-search engine ways.

What did I do after reading this? I switched my default search engine to Duckduckgo, put Firefox back on my phone, restarted three paper magazine subscriptions, decided not to replace the Kindle I left in Dallas last month, and started free trials of Fastmail and Zoho Docs, alternatives to Google services on which I am quite dependent.

Reading: one of the best things about vacation.

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