Regional Burgers and the Search for a Seattle Style

I’ve been thinking a lot about regional burger styles lately, mostly because I’m experimenting with cooking less meat and haven’t eaten one in over a month. And when I heard Seattle resident Kenji Lopez-Alt reference an “Oklahoma City” burger on a recent episode of the Special Sauce podcast, it raised a few curious questions. First, what the heck is an Oklahoma City burger? Did the city steal the style from Seattle along with our NBA franchise? And if the city doesn’t already have a regional burger identity, what would Seattle’s look like?

First things first. From a handful of burger roundups floating around the Internet, I learned that an Oklahoma City burger is a thin griddled patty into which onions are smashed during cooking. As the story goes, a chef at the Hamburger Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma, invented the style during the Depression to help stretch the expensive ground beef he had on hand into a bigger burger. The smashed onion patty soon caught on in El Reno, just outside Oklahoma City, and eventually became popular elsewhere in the region.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that many corners of America claim their own regional burger styles based on common toppings available locally. Sometimes these are added directly to the grilled meat, but they can also be slathered onto the bun. In your travels you might encounter a California burger with avocado or guacamole, a Southern burger with pimento cheese, a New Mexico cheeseburger with green chiles, or even a Missouri goober burger with peanut butter.

But more intriguing to me are the examples of regional burger styles that, like the Oklahoma City burger, involve transforming the meat itself, either through cooking techniques besides grilling, or by adding ingredients to the patty. Here are a few versions you might seek out on your next visit to these places:

  • The Juicy Lucy, invented in Minnesota, is a burger patty that’s stuffed with melted cheese, usually American or cheddar
  • The butter burger, a Wisconsin creation, has butter mixed into the patty before cooking, with more butter added on top of the burger as well as on the bun
  • The Mississippi Slugburger mixes bread crumbs or other extenders like flour and soy meal into the patty
  • The Connecticut steamed cheeseburger cooks the burger in a steaming cabinet rather than on a grill
  • The Frita Cubana, originally from Cuba but widely available in Miami, is a thin patty seasoned with paprika and cumin (and then topped with thin-cut potatoes, raw onions, and ketchup)
  • The Tennessee deep-fried burger is smashed to a thin patty and then fried in oil

So what’s Seattle’s quintessential burger style? There are any number of candidates for the best burger in the city. My favorites include the mushroom burger at Uneeda Burger, topped with gruyere and truffle aioli, the Big Max at Eden Hill Provisions, with patties that are a mixture of wagyu brisket, dry aged beef, and bacon, and the Rough Draft smashburger I still need to try and recreate at home.

Still, while these are all great burgers, none of them seem ubiquitous enough to represent a distinctive Seattle style. I wonder if the lack of a singular burger identity is a symptom of a larger question about what makes Seattle truly Seattle. Is there a burger we should name after Mt. Rainier? One that’s inspired by tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon? Or should some enterprising chef develop a Juneuary burger to commemorate our gloomiest season?

With apologies to the Dick’s Deluxe, maybe the quintessential Seattle burger isn’t a hamburger at all. Considering our abundance of seafood, maybe it’s actually a salmon burger. Or perhaps the regional style we should claim is the teriyaki chicken burger, influenced by the city’s large Asian population.

But until someone invents the archetypal Seattle burger, we might be left taking our cue from the Seattle Dog, which as late-night Capitol Hill revelers and stadiumgoers know, is a hot dog topped with cream cheese and sauteed onions. I’d suggest that a burger with these toppings should be known as a Seattle Burger.

And, with a nod to Oklahoma City for having its own regional burger style (and a middle finger for stealing our NBA franchise), I have the perfect name for the Seattle-style burger. From now on, let’s call it the SuperSonic.

Do you have a favorite regional burger style, or a nomination for a Seattle-style burger? Leave a comment and let me know!

To get updates on new posts, you can follow me @seattlefoodhound on Instagram, or @seafoodhound on Twitter.

More from SeattleFoodHound: 

What I Ate: Beacon burger from Perihelion Brewery

Cities like Oklahoma City have their own regional burger styles, so why not Seattle?

Why Asian Restaurants in Seattle Deserve Your Takeout Dollars

The past year has been a difficult one for the entire dining industry, but perhaps no group has been more deeply affected than the owners of Asian restaurants. As soon as a mysterious virus was known to have originated in Wuhan, China, Chinatowns across the country began to see a steep decline in sales, as many people falsely blamed Asian-Americans for the pandemic. According to one widely circulated statistic, 59 percent of mom-and-pop Chinese restaurants have closed during the past year. And in recent weeks, a troubling trend of violence toward Asian-Americans has only made the situation worse. Now more than ever, Asian restaurants in Seattle and other cities need your help to ensure they’re able to weather the current storm.

“Chinatown is in trouble. What’s at stake right now is the survival of Chinatown,” cookbook author Grace Young, who’s known as the Stir-Fry Guru, said on a recent episode of the Special Sauce podcast. In October, Young partnered with the Beard Foundation and several well-known chefs and cookbook authors to launch a social media campaign devoted to saving Chinese restaurants.

Over the past year, at least 17 restaurants in New York City’s Chinatown have permanently shut down, according to the New York Times, including Jing Fong, a mainstay of the neighborhood that had been in operation since 1978. In San Francisco, Eastern Bakery, the oldest bakery in Chinatown, reported a 70 percent drop in sales during one of its busiest times of year, according to the Washington Post. Nearby, the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is baking at least 40 percent fewer fortune cookies than they would on a normal day. Young explained that Chinatowns in these cities and others are dependent on tourism and office workers, both of which have declined dramatically during the pandemic.

But the challenges faced by Chinese restaurants aren’t limited to reduced foot traffic. Recent incidents of racism against Asian restaurant workers have exacerbated the problem in several cities. Jason Wang, the CEO of Xi’an Famous Foods, a chain with eight locations in the New York metropolitan area, told the New York Times that two of his employees were punched in the face, unprovoked, on their way to or from work. Wang said that he’s decided to close his restaurants earlier in the evening than he used to, in order to ensure his employees’ safety. And in San Antonio, Noodle Tree restaurant was vandalized with racist messages this week, a few days after its owner gave an interview on CNN criticizing Texas governor Greg Abbott for lifting the state’s mask requirement.

Related: Omsom Starters Provide a Shortcut to Asian Flavors

I’m not aware of any specific incidents of racism against Asian restaurants in Seattle. But Asian-Americans including former governor Gary Locke marched last weekend to decry recent acts of violence in the city. One Japanese-American woman and her boyfriend were beaten in the International District in late February. Prosecutors said it was a “vicious and unprovoked attack,” although they did not classify it as a hate crime.

However, in a new national study released this week based upon police department statistics, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes was reported to have risen by nearly 150% in 2020. And though the perpetrator of yesterday’s shootings in Atlanta that targeted Asian massage parlors claims the acts weren’t racially motivated, they’re more evidence that the trend of violence against Asian Americans has continued into 2021.

A good way to show your support for the Asian-American community in the face of all this racism and violence is to spend your dining dollars at Asian restaurants in Seattle. Some of my favorites include Seven Stars Pepper in the International District, Pho Cyclo, with multiple locations around the Seattle area, and Pop Pop Thai Street Food in North Seattle. Whichever type of Asian food you pick, and whether you choose to visit a restaurant in Chinatown or in your local neighborhood, you’ll know that you’re doing some good for a community that deserves your patronage.

Which Asian restaurants in Seattle would you like to support? Leave a comment and let me know!

To get updates on new posts, you can follow me @seattlefoodhound on Instagram, or @seafoodhound on Twitter.

More from SeattleFoodHound: 

What I Ate: Cumin lamb from Chef King in Greenwood

Asian restaurants in Seattle like Chef King deserve a little extra support right now

The Surprisingly Effective Way to Organize Your Recipe Collection

When a company called Recipeasly launched a new product this week, it might have seemed like a dream come true for home cooks drowning in information overload and struggling to organize recipes. Product manager Tom Redman announced on Twitter that he and two friends had created a solution to “fix online recipes,” making it easier to collect your favorites from the Internet but “without the ads or life stories.”

Within hours, Recipeasly received a torrent of criticism from food bloggers and others, arguing that the company was violating copyright laws and robbing content creators of their income streams. In a tweet that’s been liked over 1,000 times, Kat Kinsman, senior editor at Food & Wine magazine, responded to Redman, “Wait, so you are just stealing content, eliminating context and creator revenue, and diminishing the labor that is the only way these recipes exist in the first place because you have decided the humans behind them are annoying?”

Recipeasly quickly took down its website and apologized, suggesting that its intentions were to help content creators. But by removing the introductory notes, it erased what many consider to be the heart of the recipes, what one food writer, Jessica van Dop, said on Twitter “tell the stories of generations of families who created dishes that represents a culture.”

Redman claimed that imported recipes could only be viewed by the person who did so, just as if they had printed a recipe or copied it into a document. But in an article about the controversy in the Washington Post, several bloggers disputed this, adding that the site could have created revenue streams that benefit Recipeasly rather than the people who originally published the recipes.

Dubious ethics aside, because of the intricacies of copyright regulations, Recipeasly may not have technically violated the law. According to the U.S. Copyright office, “mere listings of ingredients” are not subject to copyright protection. (Whether or not the blogs themselves included a copyright symbol or were registered with the copyright office is irrelevant.) In a 1996 lawsuit involving recipes from a book of Dannon Yogurt recipes that were copied by another publisher, the court ruled that the lists of ingredients and directions for preparing the dishes were excluded from copyright protection.

Regardless, Recipeasly’s design would have run afoul of the standard practice for recipe attribution that has been neatly summarized by well-regarded food writer David Lebovitz. He says that if you’re not substantially changing a recipe and rewriting it in your own words, or if you’re simply copying a recipe, the right thing to do is link to the original source and give proper attribution in your text. Although Recipeasly did include a small link back to the original recipe, it failed to give credit to its source.

Of course, Recipeasly isn’t the first company to attempt to solve the problem of organizing online recipes. Sites like Copy Me That, Pepperplate, Paprika, and Big Oven all have various ways for you to bookmark, save, and organize recipes from around the Web, or to add your own recipes. And even the New York Times Cooking app offers a similar capability to paying subscribers.

But none of these sites would help you organize the deluge of recipes that you may have collected from your grandmother’s file box, clippings from magazines that you may have stashed away in a drawer, or your favorite cookbooks that may be festooned with Post-it notes. So what’s a home cook to do?

I’m here to offer two solutions – one that may be right for the highly organized person, and one for everyone else. Here’s what I do: Because I frequently cook from recipes that I’ve found in the New York Times, I organize recipes in the Times cooking app. But I also keep a master spreadsheet with an alphabetical list of every recipe I’ve recently cooked, as well as a second file with a list of recipes I’d like to make. Ideally, I’d have a note listing the source of every recipe (a website link, or the page number of a cookbook or magazine) so I can easily find it again. But even a detail-oriented home cook like me finds that system hard to maintain. Clearly, it won’t work for everyone.

The second solution is a “radical suggestion” that I’m borrowing from Christopher Kimball, from a recent episode of his Milk Street Radio podcast. Kimball’s surprising advice was to try cooking without using recipes at all. Instead, he suggests that you try cooking differently, by mastering a small number of basic dishes that you can vary endlessly. “You’re going to discover that you don’t need recipes as much as you think you do. It’ll make life easier,” Kimball said.

When you cook without recipes, or use them only as a rough guide, you gain confidence in the kitchen, by trusting your own experience rather than following step-by-step instructions. This technique might not work as well for baking, or when you’re making dishes that require a specific ratio of ingredients to turn out properly. But often, you can cook just as well using your instincts and your tastebuds. And that way, you can rely on cookbooks and food blogs not for directions, but for inspiration. And perhaps even more importantly, you can allow yourself time to savor the life stories that didn’t need to be fixed in the first place.

How do you organize recipes in your own collection? Leave a comment and let me know!

What I Ate: Mushroom risotto, adapted from The Food Lab by Kenji Lopez-Alt

Organize recipes like this mushroom risotto from Kenji Lopez-Alt's The Food Lab

How Ottolenghi’s Intriguing Flavors Are Changing the Way I Eat

Eleven months into the pandemic, it can sometimes be hard to feel enthusiastic about cooking. How many different ways are there to prepare chicken, anyway? But a new book by Jerusalem-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi has infused some new flavors into my kitchen that have inspired an experiment with eating differently – and perhaps, more healthfully.

Ottolenghi’s latest book, co-written with Ixta Belfrage, is called Flavor. Its recipes make use of 20 essential ingredients that layer a punch of heat, spice, or texture within Ottolenghi’s typically vegetable-forward creations. These flavors include chiles (aleppo, ancho, cascabel, and chipotle), fish sauce, gochujang (fermented soybean paste), mango pickle, miso, rose harissa, tamarind paste, and more. You can find each of these ingredients online or in local specialty markets, and they add complexity, variety, and depth to the Middle Eastern flavors for which Ottolenghi is typically known.

The book’s three major sections describe how to transform vegetables with cooking processes (charring, browning, infusing, and aging), how to pair them with other flavors to bring out their intrinsic qualities, and how to get the most out of different types of produce, keeping them at the center of individual dishes. Ottolenghi’s “ultimate roasting-pan ragu” recipe develops a rich umami flavor with the use of both oyster and dried porcini mushrooms, as well as miso paste and tomato paste, and also includes a complex heat from the addition of rose harissa. And using cumin seeds, soy sauce, and coconut cream helps steer the dish in the direction of Asia, a surprising turn for those used to making a meaty, typically Italian Bolognese like Marcella Hazan’s well-regarded sauce.

As is customary for Ottolenghi, the number of elements included in some of his dishes can turn a recipe that seems easy into a cooking project. When I made his asparagus and gochujang pancakes the other night, it involved mixing a dipping sauce, toasting sesame seeds, chopping vegetables, making a batter, cooking pancakes individually, and garnishing them with cilantro. Sure, you could simplify the recipe, but would the results be as delicious or as visually interesting?

Ottolenghi argues that the extra effort helps his recipes move beyond just tasting good. He expanded upon his cooking philosophy on a recent episode of the Milk Street Radio podcast with Christopher Kimball. Ottolenghi said that his recipes are designed to look appealing, with an emphasis on visual contrast. “I hate a boring meal, even if the level of cooking is exquisite … A smooth soup with nothing in it is kind of my idea of hell,” Ottolenghi said. That aesthetic is also something he brings to his restaurants, like his takeout shop in London’s Notting Hill that I visited in 2019. His dishes are presented on large, colorful platters, which he says recreates the feeling of the souks he grew up near in Jerusalem.  

Inspired by the interesting flavor combinations and appealing look of the recipes in Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, I’ve decided to experiment this winter with eating less meat. Instead, I’ll look to gain satisfaction from using a variety of produce as well as some of his essential flavors that are less familiar to me. I’m eager to try Ottolenghi’s ultimate ragu, as well as meatless schnitzels made with romano peppers, and tacos that are filled with celery root and a date barbecue sauce that contains black garlic and smoked paprika.

And if these dishes start to feel like too much effort for a weeknight dinner? Well, I’m also a fan of Ottolenghi’s 2018 cookbook, Simple. His cauliflower, pomegranate, and pistachio salad is something I can whip together quickly. And when I’m ready to switch things up again, it seems like that dish would go great with some lamb and feta meatballs.

What I Ate (A Few Days Ago): Ottolenghi’s asparagus and gochujang pancakes

Asparagus and gochujang pancakes by Ottolenghi pack a world of flavor into a small bite

A Few Grains of Salt About Choosing the Right Seasoning

Most home cooks probably grew up with only one type of salt – table salt, which was kept in a cylindrical can in the pantry, or in a shaker on the table, next to the pepper. But in many kitchens these days, you can easily find kosher salt, sea salt, and specialty salts like Himalayan pink salt or black volcanic salt. And more than any other seasoning, the types of salt you use – and for kosher salt, even the brand you buy – can make a tremendous difference in how your food tastes on the plate.

Professional chefs and experienced cooks typically don’t use table salt because of its small, dense grain that makes it hard to distribute evenly on food. Also, packaged table salt usually contains iodine, which can give food a slightly metallic taste. By contrast, kosher salt granules have a larger surface area that clings more easily to meats and vegetables, and tastes clean and pure.

But all kosher salts aren’t exactly the same. The two major types of salt are Diamond Crystal, which you’ll find in a red box at the grocery store, and Morton’s, which comes in a blue box. Because these brands use different processes to produce the salt crystals, Diamond Crystal granules are larger and more fragile than Morton’s, which are denser and crunchier. And that means that a teaspoon of Morton’s is much saltier than a teaspoon of Diamond Crystal, about 70% more by weight.

As with other dry ingredients, like flour or sugar, one way to ensure you get the right amount in your dish is to measure by weight, not volume. But recipe writers usually specify the amount of salt in teaspoons (or fractions of teaspoons). Because the leading brands of salt have such different salinities, unless your recipe specifies which type it’s using, you risk over-salting your food if it was written with Diamond Crystal in mind, and you’re using Morton’s. (You can often add more salt if a dish is under-seasoned, so the opposite scenario isn’t quite so treacherous.)

That’s why Milk Street announced last year that it was switching to using Morton’s in its kitchen. “By developing our recipes to use less salt by volume (but the same amount by weight, and therefore the same level of saltiness in the finished dish), we believe it will be more difficult for people to unintentionally add too much salt to a recipe,” Milk Street said in its blog.

Another solution for recipe writers is to forego kosher salt entirely rather than specify a favored brand. Samin Nosrat, author of “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” has shifted to using fine sea salt in the recipes she’s written for the New York Times and other publications. Nosrat says that refined sea salt, which comes from evaporated seawater, has the same salinity as table salt but doesn’t have its metallic taste.

Other types of sea salt, like fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, are less refined and more expensive. They’re better choices as finishing salts, when you want the contrast of a salty texture on top of a sweet chocolate chip cookie or a sharp and creamy tomato-and-mozzarella salad. “Fleur de sel, one of the most expensive salts in the world, is not something you want to dump into your pasta water, because you just spent $22 to dissolve all of that away,” Nosrat said on a July 2020 episode of her “Home Cooking” podcast.

And what about those specialty pink or black salts? “To me they’re much less about how they taste than how they look,” Nosrat said.

Whichever types of salt you use, remember that salt is a flavor enhancer that can keep your food from turning out bland. Whenever you’re sprinkling it, tasting as you cook will prevent you from being unhappy with how your dish comes out – a disappointment that might lead you to use some salty language.

What I Ate: Cucumber salad with sumac-pickled onions

The types of salt you use for seasoning can make a big difference in how your final dish tastes

For Tastier Taters, Kenji Says Cook ‘Em Twice

There’s no easier side dish than roasting potatoes in a hot oven with a sprinkling of olive oil, salt, and pepper. But a technique I tried a few weeks ago, from a recipe by Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, led to some of the crispiest and most flavorful potatoes I’ve ever cooked. From now on, I’ll be adding Kenji potatoes to my regular repertoire. 

Lopez-Alt explains that boiling your potatoes first, before roasting them, helps build up a layer of gelatinized starch that makes the exterior extremely crisp. And then, by tossing the parcooked spuds with oil or fat, you rough them up a bit, creating additional craggy surface area that gets extra-crispy during roasting.

Although Lopez-Alt suggests that for the crispiest potatoes, you should toss them in duck fat or an oil with a high saturated fat content, I used olive oil, and they were still spectacular. The exteriors of the potatoes had a thin crispy layer, and the interiors were smooth and creamy. The double-cooking method takes quite a bit longer than traditional roasting – after boiling the potatoes for about 15 minutes, I roasted them for 45 minutes, flipping them at the halfway point – but the results were easily worth the extra effort.

Lopez-Alt’s expertise extends to other potato preparations, of course. On a recent episode of the Special Sauce podcast, host Ed Levine interviewed Lopez-Alt about his tips for the best french fries. And again, double cooking plays a prominent role. Lopez-Alt says that frying your potatoes first at a lower temperature, and then letting them cool before frying them at a higher temperature, also helps build up that layer of gelatinized starch that creates crispiness. The cooling process redistributes the interior moisture that’s left after the first fry, while the second fry draws out more of the moisture, leaving you with a crispy, crunchy exterior and a tender interior.

For the perfect french fries, Lopez-Alt also offers these tips:

  • As with roasted potatoes, boiling before the first fry helps gelatinize more starch and will lead to extra-crispy fries
  • Adding a tablespoon of white vinegar per quart of water helps ensure that the potatoes will hold their shape
  • Using aromatics like peppercorns, garlic, and bay leaves in the boiling water will create an additional layer of flavor
  • Fry in vegetable oil with a high level of saturated fat, like peanut oil, or use animal fat like lard, beef fat, or duck fat
  • Freezing your potatoes overnight after the first fry will create ice crystals that helps the fries come out even crispier and fluffier after the second fry. (Lopez-Alt says there’s a good reason why store-bought frozen french fries are usually consistently great.)

Now that I’ve mastered the crispy roasted Kenji potatoes, I’m going to have to get my hands on some duck fat so I can try out making homemade french fries. But first, I should probably learn what Lopez-Alt says about how to make a perfect burger. Or maybe a bacon cheeseburger. All this writing about french fries is getting me hungry.

What I Ate: Twice-cooked super-crisp roasted potatoes

Parboiling your spuds and then roasting them make these Kenji potatoes crispy and flavorful

Racism at Bon Appetit and the Role Editors Play in Shaping Public Taste

Last week, the podcast Reply All began a series of episodes that tell the story of racism at Bon Appetit magazine over the past decade. The publication made news last fall when its editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport, resigned after a photo of him in an offensive Halloween costume circulated on the Internet. Subsequent reporting revealed Bon Appetit’s toxic culture, particularly around its video operations, where people of color were paid less than their white colleagues.

As host Sruthi Pinnamaneni begins to unravel what happened at Bon Appetit, the story becomes more complicated and raises fascinating questions about the role that decision makers play in helping to craft public taste. Pinnamaneni interviews two women of color, Yewande Komolafe and Sue Li, who had cooked at celebrated restaurants in New York City and took temporary positions in the Bon Appetit test kitchen. While Komolafe and Li struggled to be recognized for their contributions and weren’t offered permanent roles, other temps like Alison Roman, a white chef and now a best-selling cookbook author, got additional assignments and rose in the Bon Appetit ranks.

While the institutional racism at Bon Appetit is well documented, what makes the story more complex is that it’s impossible to untangle whether Roman’s success is solely a result of her talent, or also stems from the opportunities that Bon Appetit editors gave to her instead of colleagues like Komolafe and Li. Pinnamaneni says that it wasn’t the temp employees’ job to point out the disparity, but she also notes that at the time, it wasn’t Roman’s job either. “If I’m being honest with myself, and I think back to how I felt just 10 years ago, I didn’t expect my white colleagues to question what part of their success was earned, and what part was their white privilege. That felt like an impossible math problem.”

And that equation is only slightly easier to solve today. While the experiences recounted by a small number of people don’t by themselves prove that Bon Appetit had a toxic culture, the magazine’s hiring practices and editorial choices, viewed as a whole, does show that the magazine was far from being a place that was inclusive of people of color.

Later in the podcast, Li recounts how she pitched the idea in 2014 that Bon Appetit should write a column about soup dumplings, which were popular in Taiwan but hadn’t yet spread into mainstream American dining. Her editor, a white woman, rejected the idea, but a year later, assigned a soup dumpling column to one of Li’s friends, who was herself white. Reflecting on the situation, Li wonders if the world might not have been ready for soup dumplings in 2014. But when an editor decided that it was a year later, Li theorizes that a recipe that came from an Asian chef might at the time have been deemed “too ethnic.”

What this story points out is the outsize role that a small number of editors have in helping shape what appears in cooking magazines or other food media. At Bon Appetit in the 2010s, the ranks of top editors were almost exclusively white, and they brought a white perspective to their editorial choices. If they deemed a dish as being too ethnic, or too far out of the mainstream, it wouldn’t have made the magazine. And while they may have felt at the time that their decisions were right for a Conde Nast publication with a majority-white readership, they failed to anticipate the ways in which that audience could expand if more communities were included in the foods they covered.

Of course, Bon Appetit isn’t the only example of a publication that has been dominated by a white perspective. It’s only in recent months that the ”white aesthetic” of food media that Navneet Alang wrote about in 2020 in Eater has begun to change, with the rise of editors and TV personalities who are offering voices that may once have reached only a niche audience.

Related: Why Asian Restaurants in Seattle Deserve Your Takeout Dollars

At Bon Appetit, the new editor in chief is Dawn Davis, a Black woman who was formerly a book publishing executive. The new editor of Cook’s Country, part of the America’s Test Kitchen franchise, is Toni Tipton-Martin, author of cookbooks including Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African-American Cooking. And Padma Lakshmi, host of Bravo’s Top Chef, gained acclaim for her Hulu series on immigrant food, Taste the Nation.

These tastemakers are providing a welcome antidote to the racism that was deeply ingrained at Bon Appetit and other publications over the past decade, and that still exists in many forms today. But for food media to become truly inclusive, the transformation will have to continue at all levels. Conversations about which foods are worth covering shouldn’t just be based on which editor is in charge at the time. Readers of all backgrounds can benefit when a staff includes a variety of diverse perspectives, and when talent is the only factor in determining who gets to rise in the ranks.

What I Ate: Shrimp scampi with orzo

Editors involved in racism at Bon Appetit played an important role in helping shape public taste

When a Cup Isn’t a Cup: Weigh Your Ingredients to Avoid Cooking Disaster

A caller on a recent episode of the Milk Street Radio podcast presented a cooking conundrum. She made a roux using “equal parts of vegetable oil and flour,” but after cooking her gumbo, there was a thick layer of oil left at the top of the dish. What went wrong? Hosts Christopher Kimball and Sara Moulton asked how she was measuring flour and the other ingredients, and the caller said that she had used 3/4 of a cup of both oil and flour – measuring them by volume.

And that’s why her roux didn’t come out properly. Instead of using a standard liquid measuring cup, the caller should have used a scale and measured everything by weight. She would have found that she needed about twice as much flour for it to properly absorb that much oil. If she had measured everything by weight, she would have had the proper ratio in her roux, and a much more delicious gumbo.

Too many recipes – especially those you might find in older cookbooks or in some corners of the Internet – don’t provide measurements by weight. And it’s too easy to forget that a cup of oil isn’t the same thing as a cup of flour. Even worse, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times points out that there’s no standard measurement for what that cup of flour should weigh. While the New York Times typically uses 128 grams, goes with 136 grams, and Cook’s Illustrated with 142 grams. Without a standard set of measurements, the home cook can either follow the recipe blindly and hope it comes out right, or guess that the amount they’re accustomed to using won’t change the end result.

The reality is that unless you’re cooking for a crowd, the differences between those measurements are minor. Also, even if you are measuring flour with a well-calibrated scale, other factors may affect how much of it you’ll need. That’s why it’s so important to cook with your senses. If you’re making a bread dough and it feels too wet, add a little more flour to make it easier to knead. If it’s a very dry day, you might need a little more water to balance out the flour you’ve already added.

For other ingredients, especially salt, it’s important to taste your dish to see if it has the right amount of the ingredient. In a future blog, I’ll explain why a teaspoon of salt can lead to different results depending on what type of salt you’re using, and even which brand. But for flour, just be sure you’re weighing out the amount you need, or like the Milk Street caller, you’ll roux the day your gumbo was (sorry, folks) … roux-ined.

What I Ate: Avocado toast with feta on toasted sourdough

When measuring flour, it's important to use a scale to make sure you have the right amount in your recipe

Why It’s Not Wrong to Celebrate Other People’s Holidays

On the latest episode of the James Beard award-winning podcast The Sporkful, host Dan Pashman revisited a previous discussion about whether it’s appropriate to celebrate the holidays of a cultural group you’re not a part of. Pashman describes a Lunar New Year party in which the hosts served Americanized versions of Chinese dishes like dumplings and fried rice, but also sushi as well as chips and guacamole. And he attends a “Gentile Passover” seder at which he was the only Jewish person.

Pashman expresses some discomfort that his Passover hosts, while attempting to be respectful of the Jewish holiday traditions, chose to celebrate the rituals in a way that was different than what he was accustomed to. He explains that even though he isn’t super-religious, and doesn’t get caught up in the details of his own family’s seder, he noticed the ways in which his non-Jewish hosts modified the traditional sequence of events. “When I was the only Jewish person in the room, I felt like, no, wait, you’re supposed to dip the parsley in the salt water first, and then the egg, or whatever,” Pashman said. “All of a sudden things I wouldn’t care about in my own home made me cringe a little bit if they weren’t done correctly.”

In an update to the original episode, Pashman learns that the “Gentile Passover” hosts no longer celebrate the holiday, in part after they heard about the discomfort he felt. But he still expresses some conflicting feelings, because, he says, something good can still come from other people experiencing Jewish culture and learning more about it. But he wonders, “Is it possible to share our cultures in a way that strikes a balance between these conflicting feelings, between the discomfort and the connection?”

Related: Mark Your Calendars! National Ranch Dressing Day Is Coming Right Up

My take is that in a world in which our differences are more likely to cause division than harmony, that it’s important to celebrate the holidays of each other’s cultures, especially if it’s done thoughtfully and respectfully. Many of the biggest holidays on the annual calendar have lost much of their original meaning, but that doesn’t mean that people who don’t observe should stop celebrating them altogether. No, you shouldn’t appropriate the overtly religious aspects of a holiday if that’s not part of your belief system. But celebrating another culture’s food or related holiday customs? Go right ahead.

I don’t have a drop of either Asian or New Orleans heritage, but what I’m looking forward to most over the next few weeks are the dumplings I’ll make for Chinese New Year, and the jambalaya that will help me commemorate Mardi Gras. And as I prepare those foods, I’ll make an effort to learn something about their cultural meanings and just maybe, be better equipped to connect with the people for whom those foods hold special resonance. By doing so, I’m hoping to take a small step toward celebrating diversity — especially at a time when it isn’t possible to travel and experience those cultures in their natural habitat.

What I Ate: Sirloin tip steak from Beast & Cleaver on arugula with horseradish cream sauce

It’s important to celebrate the holidays of other cultures, especially if it’s done thoughtfully and respectfully