Helen's Q&A Corner

Q: Why are French fries called French fries?

A: Because "French frying" is an old-fashioned way to refer to deep-frying. The real term is "French-fried potatoes," but we dropped the descriptor in the same way that "pickled cucumbers" became "pickles," confusing everyone forever. The end, go away.

Not Seeing This One

A Little Bit of Heaven, starring Kate Hudson as the insufferably happy-go-lucky blonde, and Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal as, as far as I can tell, a young Mr. Burns:

Do not want.



I think she is going to need therapy after baking all of these cupcakes in just two days, not to mention printing the toppers
So look, the idea of a cupcake mosaic is cool enough in the everything's-a-pixel! stream of zeitgeist that's going on and all, but it is FLAT-OUT CHEATING when you use printed-out edible paper instead of frosting. Then it's just a friggin paper mosaic where the paper has a piece of cake hanging out between it and the floor. Eff that. Call me when you've whipped up sixty-four batches of precisely hued buttercream.


Behind the Diet: Jeffrey Steingarten

Grub Street's what-did-you-eat-this-week interview today is with Jeffrey Steingarten, and I basically was almost unable to breathe both before and during our phone call. Quite literally and without any hyperbole, Steingarten is the writer who got me interested in both journalism and food.*

In my awkward early teenage years, before I started religiously reading Esquire and New York and other purveyors of the well-executed long-form essay, my media consumption was limited to Seventeen, Teen — and Vogue, which is where I found Steingarten's essays on bluefin tuna and MSG (both of which were later published in his collection It Must Have Been Something I Ate) tucked between breathless writeups of Aerin Lauder's straightening iron and this season's must-have silk-velvet peplum blazer (it was the 90s). Here were these first-person, know-it-all accounts of completely boring things like salt, and they were riveting; they combined science, culture, history, food, snark, crotchetiness, and a fluid literary sensibility in a way that was, to Young Helen, transformative.

So it was with completely near-death-inducing levels of hero worship that I started arranging the interview, and then during the darn thing — which ran, I am not joking, to 154 minutes long, with a transcript topping 10,000 words. After much picking up of the jaw off the floor, and much post-interview streamlining, there's now a 3,800-word version online (plus an 800-word appendix, because come on), and I highly highly recommend that you read every single word.

*To the point where one of my main justifications for that period in time when I applied to, got in to, and considered going to law school was "Jeffrey Steingarten went to Harvard Law. I'm just following his path." I'm tragic.