Baking can be a very solitary endeavor.
This either sounds obvious or outrageous… Hear me out.
Friends, family, coworkers, and the occasional stranger have all been the target of my baked goods, and I jump at the chance to provide something for a get-together – but – choosing a recipe, shopping for the necessary ingredients, and baking are all solo adventures.
I recently joined the Food52 Baking Club on Facebook which has really changed my approach in the kitchen (I’d link you to Food52, but I can’t currently access it from the U.K.). It works like a book club if your book club was on Facebook and members chimed in on their reads whenever they want. Each month has a chosen baking book that members work through, picking whatever recipes call out to them and share the results – good, bad, questions, etc. Sometimes over the last couple months, I’ve found myself genuinely interested in recipes I wouldn’t have otherwise considered (rhubarb custard yo-yos from Ottolenghi and Goh’s Sweet and the fancy oreo called TKO’s from Bouchon Bakery, to name a couple).
A couple of months ago the Baking Club chose a book called BraveTart by Stella Parks. This book has immediately become my American-expat-desert-island-baking-book. It is a love letter to the grocery store staple desserts Americans have come to love. There’s graham crackers, Nilla wafers, Milky Way bars, and yellow cake with chocolate fudge frosting between the pages. I don’t long for much from “my America,” but these flavors are so comforting. And the one pre-made guilty pleasure I really miss is the fluffy frosted sugar cookies that somehow are at every grocery store and always come in a pack of 8 in a plastic clamshell package. (Disclaimer: They’re not really a guilty pleasure because I don’t really feel bad about eating an entire box of them.)
*Parks talks about the importance of using bleached cake flour for the gluten development and tender crumb, and as a general rule, the U.K. doesn’t have bleached flour. So, I had to wait a few weeks for a trip to London to stock up on some Gold Medal AP flour (sorry Stella, I couldn’t manage to get bleached cake flour).
Parks is an editor at Serious Eats and has done a recipe for these cookies that are pretty similar to the method in her book. If you want to give these a go, I’d recommend checking the book out at the library but here’s the Serious Eats recipe if that’s your game.
Today’s Beginner Philosophy Lesson is brought to you by the Ship of Theseus
Even if you don’t know the name, you probably have thought about the concept. Theseus was a Greek hero after returning home, the people decided to leave his ship in the harbor as a tribute. Over time, parts of the boat started to rot and decay and were replaced over the course of many years. And eventually, the new parts outnumber the original parts until no original parts remain. Is this boat wholly made of new parts still Theseus’ ship? And if not, at what point did it stop being his ship? One of the major assumptions and questions that arise from this puzzle are:
Are objects simply the sum of its parts? Or is there a non-physical component to an object’s “objectness”?
Even though this concept is really old, the Ship of Theseus puzzle still appears in the wild from time to time. An unfortunately common scenario is when a commentator refers to a (female) celebrity’s plastic surgery. The off-handed remark that follows is usually something along the lines of, “she’s more new parts than original at this point!” which suggests that the celebrity is less ‘themselves’ after a lift/tuck/enhancement/injection.
In pop culture, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy alludes to the ship of Theseus when Trillian says she’s had so many parts replaced that she’s not sure she’s the same person anymore. Or when bands replace certain members – is Journey still Journey without Steve Perry?
There are several more aspects and questions around the Ship of Theseus and Wireless Philosophy has a great little video that goes into a lot more depth (but still understandable for non-philosophers) if you want to really delve into this thought experiment.