Category: eating

Hooray, it’s Cheese Day

I know what you’re thinking, “silly cow, every day is cheese day!” Well you’re not wrong, but I’ve just learned that today is National Cheese Lover’s Day here in the USA. Says who? Who cares! Is that really where the apostrophe should go? I doubt it!

You've got a friend in cheeses.According to a nutty and herbaceous press release from the estimable Chris Lyons Communications, the Massachusetts Cheese Guild has some suggestions for this special day:

Boston, MA . . . (January 12, 2015)     The 21 artisan cheesemakers of  the 16-month-old MA Cheese Guild are a picky bunch. That’s what happens when you spend your every waking hour dealing with the intricacies of this ancient and magical process. Even those who sell it, or just eat a lot of it, have strong opinions. Take a tip or two from the MA Cheese Guild members below, and seek out a locally produced cheese to savor when National Cheese Lover’s Day rolls around on January 20:

Who am I to blog against the wind? We have a cheese guild, and you can join as one of three member types: “Artisan members are commercial cheesemakers who certify use of Massachusetts milk. Trade membership (retailers/wholesalers/distributors/ journalists) and Enthusiast membership is also available.”

If you’re so inclined, you can certify your status as a cheese enthusiast for just $25 a year. I count 20 artisan members on the site, so I’ve got a local cheesy bucket list of sorts to get working on. I hope you’ll seek out some local cheese today, whatever your locality.

Fun-sized statistics that melt in your mouth

I’m told that there are treatments available for those of us who are compelled like to count and sort our candy by color before eating it. I can stop any time I want, of course, but today’s fun-sized pack of M&Ms gave me pause.

This Unit Not Labeled for Individual Retail Sale

No yellow. There’s a yellow guy on the package, but he’s a peanut M&M. Do the regular chocolate ones still come in yellow? Yes, they do, but not in this pack. What are the odds?

Well, assuming that the little packages are filled from an effectively bottomless vat of M&Ms representing the official color distribution (24% blue, 14% brown, 16% green, 20% orange, 13% red, and 14% yellow) and that every fun-sized pack has 17 candies like this one, the odds of no yellow should be (1-p(yellow))^17, or 0.84^17, which is about 5.16%.

In a much more rigorous and costly investigation, the estimable Josh Madison bought 48 packages (larger than mine, each had an average of 55 candies) of M&Ms and ran the numbers. No word on the number of pepcid tablets he needed, but not one of this 48 bags was bereft of any single color. Madison did, however, find that the actual distribution in his sample was not so close to the published ratio, with a lot less blue and more of all the others, especially green.

On the off chance that you’re still with me, I bet you’re wondering, “ok, professor chocoholic OCD, is there something I can use here?” Well, I think there are two ideas worth remembering if you’re in the business of counting or estimating or forecasting things:

Size Matters. Sample size, that is. If you based your view of the M&M world on my single 17-candy packet, you’d have a pretty messed up view of reality. If you used one of Josh’s 55-candy packs, you’d be a lot better off, but even with 48 such packs, you’d have only partially cracked the code.

Seemingly Rare Events aren’t always as rare as you think. Intuitively, a small pack of M&Ms missing a color feels like a rare thing – how often have you seen it? But the math puts it at 5%, one pack in 20. Huge businesses are built on the preferences of market segments smaller than 5% of the population. The United States contains about 4.5% of the world’s people.  And sometimes rare events are even rarer than you think. What are the odds of picking up a fun-sized pack that’s all blue (the most common color by the official stats)? Do you think that would be 100 times rarer, maybe 10,000 times less common than no yellow? How about 0.0000000029% or about 1 all-blue pack in 34 billion, compared to 1 pack in 5 for yellow-deficiency? If all 400 million M&Ms made each day were put into 17-candy packs, they’d make only 8.5 billion packs a year. That would be a rare event.

The odds of a rare event happening are 1.0 after it happens. No matter how crazy it might seem, events with long odds can happen, and once they happen, they have happened. You could choose to believe something’s not right in your calculations or in the world, and you’d probably be smart to check. But once the all-blue pack is in your hands, there it is. Just remember that the odds of getting another one are just as small as they were before.

So think hard next time you put M&Ms into some kid’s trick or treat bag. Who knows what might happen?

Stoked for pies that r round

One of the small upsides to a torrential rain at lunchtime is that there’s nearly zero line at the food trucks. Finding myself at Dewey square in the company of old favorites Bon Me and Mei Mei, I opted for the as yet untried (by me) Stoked Wood Fired Pizza truck. How do they get a wood fired oven in a truck and how do they get a permit for something that sounds, even on a rainy day, like a recipe for a dramatic and garlic-infused explosion? I have no idea, but I ordered the mushroom pizza anyway.

Mushroom pizza from Stoked
Made on the spot, the mushroom pie includes mozzarella, pecorino romano, seasoned mushrooms, roasted garlic, and truffle oil. (listed as “optional,” but why would one opt out of truffle oil??) Also present but not mentioned, caramelized onions. It took a few minutes to prepare and cook, but even after a five minute slog back to the office, it was still hot and crispy.

They should call this the umami pizza. From the pecorino to the mushrooms and truffle and garlic it was full of salty (not a pejorative in my book) savory umami-y goodness. And while the char on the bottom might put some off, I found the smoky note comforting on a cold day.

A hungry person could easily eat an entire thin crust pie from Stoked, and I recommend doing so at your earliest convenience. After all, even with a wood-burning oven on board, this truck will probably go into hibernation with the others sometime in November.

 

Happy pi approximation day

Today, July 22, or 22/7 as the Eurostyle daters would have it, is pi approximation day. Why? Because 22/7 = 3.1428… which is a an approximation of pi, one that’s a bit bigger and a lot less irrational than the real pi. If this shakes your faith in religion or something, you can refer to this song for something approximating solace:

A little bigger
I’m bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
I’ve circumscribed too much
I messed it up

Or maybe not. Perhaps you prefer the wisdom of a couple of dinosaurs on the topic of pi day vs pi approximation day:

Dinosaur comics approximates pi day

That feels a bit more satisficing, but what would really hit the spot is something that’s almost pie, but not pie and just a bit more than pie. Maybe that’s pie a la mode, or a crumble or a brown betty. Call me irrational if you like, but I’m going to look into this and get back to you before next March 14, approximately.