Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 24 2015 3:41 PM

The Five-Ingredient, 20-Minute Holiday Dessert That Your Guests Will Go Crazy For

This post originally appeared on Food52.

This holiday back-pocket dessert goes out to all you non-bakers, and anyone who’s feeling a bit tuckered from the more elaborate, delayed-gratification baking projects of the holiday season. There is no delaying of gratification here.

With five ingredients and about 20 minutes, you’ll have a pure, joyful dessert that looks festive as all get out, which you will have casually winged together as others clear the table or between rounds of after-dinner charades. Your guests will descend upon it, hungry for a respite from pie and cake and all the holiday heft. 

The recipe is Baked Caramel Pears from Lindsey Shere—pastry chef at Chez Panisse for 27 years and the author of Chez Panisse Desserts—and has a long, but long-dormant pedigree: Florence Fabricant wrote about it in the New York Times in 1993, Marion Cunningham in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1998. Almost two decades later, it’s time we resurrect it.

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Nov. 24 2015 2:09 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Stuffing

For a holiday that ostensibly brings Americans together, Thanksgiving has a knack for highlighting regional fault lines and exposing local prejudices. Consider stuffing, the holiday’s quintessential side dish. The very word invites conflict, since many Southerners call it “dressing,” whether it’s stuffed into a turkey or baked separately from the bird. But the vital controversy arises over substance: Depending on where you’re from and who your ancestors were, you might make it out of white bread, out of rice or other grains—even out of chestnuts.  

Nov. 24 2015 1:48 PM

The Newly Unearthed Faulkner Play Suggests That Faulkner Maybe Actually Hated Women

Welcome to the year of Lazarus literature, in which long-lost works keep rising to walk the earth. Now Andrew Gulli, the same Strand editor who in August claimed to have discovered the unknown Fitzgerald short story “Temperature,” has allegedly found a never-before-published Faulkner play in the University of Virginia’s archives. Setting aside Gulli’s suspicious luck (for one, he tends to resurrect texts by writers, like Mark Twain and John Steinbeck, in whom there’s an enduring interest; where’s the exhumed John Dos Passos manuscript, Andrew?!), the one-act comedy does seem to show Faulkner in lighter spirits. The play’s called ‘Twixt Cup and Lip. In it, two men bet on whether a beautiful and airheaded young woman will marry one of them after an hour. Faulkner is known for densely wrought modernist brocades like The Sound and the Fury, lyrical tragedies about a shadowed Southern past. This script is something different: namely, one of the most flippantly nasty pieces of literature I have ever read.

Nov. 24 2015 12:57 PM

The Simpsons Pays Tribute to Paris (via Hamilton)

Viewers who kept their eyes peeled during Sunday night’s episode of The Simpsons noticed that the show paid a subtle tribute to Paris, following this month’s horrible attacks. This tableau briefly flashed by during a montage of Broadway marquees:

The tribute has levels, more than many people seem to have realized, so let’s break it down:

Nov. 24 2015 12:30 PM

An Alternative Thanksgiving Pie for Pumpkin Haters

There is a small but vocal contingent of people who, inexplicably, dislike pumpkin pie. Many of these people are children. At least 116 of these people belong to the Facebook community called “I Hate Pumpkin Pie.” One food blogger unfathomably decried pumpkin pie filling, which she said “so often winds up turning even a perfectly good pie crust into sodden mush.” (She did concede that her dislike was “almost un-American.”)

If you have the misfortune of counting one of these pumpkin pie haters among your kin, what should you feed them for dessert on Thanksgiving? The obvious answer is pecan pie. But there is another option that looks almost exactly like pumpkin pie when it comes out of the oven (if not when you cut into it), yet tastes vastly different. It is suitable for pumpkin lovers and pumpkin haters alike. It is honey custard pie.

Nov. 24 2015 11:01 AM

Tom Hooper on Casting Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl and the Trans Community’s Backlash

The Danish Girl, opening in limited release Friday, is based on the real-life story of early 20th century painter Lili Elbe (born Einar Wegener), one of the first known persons to undergo sex reassignment surgery, and her wife, painter Gerda. Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the novel of the same name stars Eddie Redmayne as Lili and Alicia Vikander as Gerda, and is a major contender in the Oscar conversation. I spoke with Hooper (Les MisérablesThe King’s Speech) about his aesthetic choices for the film and how he felt about the pushback he received from some members in the LGBT community for casting Redmayne, a cisgender male actor, in the role of Lili.

The film looks gorgeous, and I’ve seen lots of critics compare its aesthetic to a painting—what sort of images and paintings inspired you during the filmmaking process?

I was very inspired of [Vilhelm] Hammershøi, who’s this amazing Danish artist who kind of slightly obsessively painted his own apartment. [It] had this very Danish sort of blue-gray walls and there’s this very sort of tightly austere palette in different shades of blue—there was something about the kind of loneliness and the starkness and the beauty of that that somehow spoke visually to me of what it might be like to really be living as Einar. There’s something claustrophobic about it that I think spoke to something slightly unsettling, which is the mood I wanted to create ... And so we built a set that was sort of based on very specific Hammershøi paintings … what’s behind Eddie Redmayne is basically exactly a Hammershøi canvas.

Nov. 24 2015 10:07 AM

Apple Pie Has No Place at Thanksgiving

In 2013, L.V. Anderson took the somewhat controversial position that apple pie should not be served on Thanksgiving. If you ask Anderson, this remains as true today as it was a year ago. Anderson's argument is reprinted below.

It’s practically a law that in late November, every publication must offer a Thanksgiving guide. This year, I would like to draw your attention to two exceptional ones (other than Slate’s). The first is theOnion’s “11 Steps For Cooking a PERFECT Thanksgiving Turkey,” which is full of hilariously bizarre advice (e.g., “Thaw for two or three days by burying the bird in a deep hole in the backyard”).  The second is “Grub Street’s Very Simple Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner,” which is full of hilariously good advice (e.g., “Serve a lot of alcohol”).

Actually, I should say that Grub Street’s list is mostly full of good advice. Everything’s great up until this part: “Put someone else on pie duty and if they show up with anything other than a pumpkin pie and an apple pie, throw them out of your home immediately.”

This is simply wrong. If someone shows up at your Thanksgiving with an apple pie, you should throw them out of your home immediately. Apple pie has no place at Thanksgiving.

Nov. 24 2015 9:42 AM

Google “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away” for a Great Star Wars Easter Egg

In the lead up to the new installment of Star Wars, the Force has been pretty much unavoidable this year—and Google is the latest to get in on the frenzy. The corporate giant has paid tribute to the franchise with a clever easter egg: When you search for “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” your results will scroll upwards in the style of the movies’ iconic opening crawl.

For the optimum experience, click the sound button in the right corner of the screen to unleash John Williams’ magnificent brass score.

Nov. 24 2015 8:30 AM

The Three Big Questions Cass Sunstein Should Investigate in His Star Wars Book

This article originally appeared on Science of Us

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that Cass Sunstein, the legal scholar and former White House regulatory czar, is writing a book about Star Wars. Details are scarce: The article notes only that the book will be an “exploration” of Star Wars and that “Sunstein will touch upon everything from history to politics to fatherhood.“ But looking at Sunstein's interests, as well as some of the most Sunstein-esque mysteries from the original trilogy—since everyone knows the second trilogy never happened—offers some hints at what could be in there, or what should be in there, at least.

Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard, has written articles and books on just about everything during his prolific academic career. During his time in the White House and in published work from the last few years, though, he’s taken a keen interest in the insights of behavioral economics, a field concerned with better understanding human decision-making and the biases that can lead it to unfortunate results. Sunstein is a big proponent of “nudges”—unobtrusive, behavioral-econ-informed interventions that can help encourage people to make better decisions without forcing the issue (putting the desserts in a slightly harder-to-reach place in a cafeteria, for example, and laying the fruit out in front of them), and he brought this enthusiasm with him to the White House. In books like Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Human Happiness, which he co-authored with the pioneering behavioral economist Richard Thaler, he’s dug deep into the science behind these issues. Sunstein is also very interested in the related question of how governments and other large organizations can function better, more efficiently, and with a smarter approach to cost-benefit analyses, subjects he’s tackled in Simpler: The Future of Government and Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter.

To me, all of this points in a clear direction. What’s the one big government entity in the original Star Wars trilogy? The Empire. And does the Empire seem to fall into some potentially preventable traps of poor decision-making? Yes, indeed! I’d argue, then, that Sunstein should look at the following three questions from the original trilogy.

Nov. 24 2015 8:02 AM

In Casablanca, Lessons for the New Age of Refugees    

The speed with which the American political conversation has shifted from sympathy for the victims of the Paris attacks into hostility toward Syrian refugees might lead one to wish for a work of popular culture to stir public sympathy, to engender a sense of obligation to help victims of unspeakable violence. Thankfully, such a work already exists, and it just happens to be one of the most famous movies ever made.

Casablanca might seem an unlikely fit for the role. A tale of unrequited love played out in dinner jackets and evening gowns over champagne cocktails, it may not at first appear applicable to a humanitarian disaster. But beneath the classic Hollywood glamor, Casablanca is a movie about a refugee crisis that insists on the humanity and individuality of refugees, rather than seeing them as a threatening undifferentiated mass. As the number of people displaced by war around the world hits its highest level since World War II, it’s worth revisiting an iconic film from the last global era of refugees. It might even be a good idea to screen it for members of Congress.