Food, by Krish Ashok

If you’re coming cross this thread for the first time, I envy you. Scroll up to the top, and drool your way through 🙂

Please read his book, Masala Lab, if you haven’t read it yet.

Team “Kam Nahi Padna Chahiye”

Every time we host a party at our home, we engage in a brief and spirited… let’s go with the word “discussion”.

Said discussion is not about what is going to be on the menu – we usually find ourselves in agreement about this aspect. It is, instead, about the quantity.

In every household around the world, I suppose, this discussion plays out every time there’s a party. One side of the debate will worry about how to fit in the leftovers in the refrigerator the next day, while the other will fret about – the horror! – there not being enough food on the table midway through a meal.

There is, I should mention, no “right” answer over here. Each side makes valid arguments, and each side has logic going for it. Now, me, personally, I quite like the idea of leftovers, because what can possibly be better than waking up at 3 in the morning for no good reason, waddling over to the fridge, and getting a big fat meaty slice of whatever one may find in there? But having been a part of running a household for a decade and change, I know the challenges that leftovers can pose in terms of storage.

You might by now be wondering about where I am going with this, but asking yourself which side of the debate you fall upon when it comes to this specific issue is also a good way to understand why formulating the null hypothesis can be so very challenging.


Let’s assume that there’s going to be four adults and two kids at a party.

How many chapatis should be made?

Should the null hypothesis be: We will eat exactly 16 chapatis tonight

With the alternate then being: 16 chapatis will either be too much or too little


Or should the null hypothesis be: We will eat 20 chapatis or more

With the alternate being: We will definitely eat less than 20 chapatis tonight.


The reason we end up having a “discussion” is because we can’t agree on which outcome we would rather avoid: that of potentially being embarrassed as hosts, or the one of standing, arms exasperatedly akimbo, in front of the refrigerator post-party.

It is the outcome we would rather avoid that guides us in our formation of the null hypothesis, in other words. We give it every chance to be true, and if we reject it, it is because we are almost entirely confident that we are right in rejecting it.

What is “almost entirely“?

That is the point of the “significant at 1%” or “5%” or “10%” sentence in academic papers.


Which, of course, is another way to think about it. This set of the null and the alternate…

H0: We will eat 20 chapatis or more

Ha: We will eat less than 20 chapatis

… I am not ok rejecting the null at even 1%. Or in the language of statistics, I am not ok with committing a Type I error, even at a probability (p-value) of 1%.

A Type I error is rejecting the null when it is true. So even a 1% chance that we and our guests would have wanted to eat more than 20 chapatis* to me means that we should get more than 20 chapatis made.

At this point in our discussions (we’re both economists, so these discussions really do take place at our home), my wife exasperatedly points out that not once has the food actually fallen short.

Ah, I say, triumphantly. Can you guarantee that it won’t this time around? 100% guarantee?

No? So you’re saying there’s a teeny-tiny 1% chance that we’ll have too few chapatis?

Well, then.

Boss.

Kam nahi padna chahiye!

*Don’t judge us, ok. Sometimes the curry just is that good.

Twitter Stories

Back in the day, when I had structure, regularity and a schedule here on EFE, Saturday used to be about five tweets that I enjoyed reading that week.

Which, on reflection (and some gentle prodding from Navin Kabra) wasn’t the brightest idea, because that’s what likes and RT’s are for on Twitter. So how about maybe a brief write-up based on a tweet that I read recently?

This week’s tweet that turns into a post is based on a variety of things. First, Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

The Black Swan is kind of like Thinking Fast and Slow, in the sense that everybody claims to have read it, and very few people actually have. If you haven’t read all of his books, please get started. The order doesn’t really matter, but if you’re asking, my favorite is Anti-Fragile.

There’s a lot to like about his books, his tweets and his outlook towards life, and this tweet is one example (note that I am talking about the pics in the reply, not the original tweet):

Now, the original tweet, reposted as a stand-alone:

So what is the company about?

Nasser Jaber is cofounder of the Migrant Kitchen, a catering company and social impact organization that hires immigrants, migrants, and undocumented workers to both train them in commercial cooking as well as help gain their cuisines more exposure in the marketplace.

https://stories.zagat.com/posts/nasser-jaber-on-creating-jobs-through-immigrant-cuisine

Read the whole article! I got to learn about quipe (kibbeh, apparently), and esfiha (the spelling differs based on context, so my apologies if I got it “wrong”), among other things.

Twitter is a wonderful, wonderful way to learn more about the world, but it is like a garden, in the sense that constant weeding is required. But when you tend to it just so, it is completely worth the effort!

If you have had moments of serendipity on Twitter that you’d like to share, please, send them along. @ashish2727 on Twitter.

Thanks, and enjoy the weekend 🙂

Etc: Links for 20th December, 2019

  1. The coolest things that David Perell learnt in 2019. He has a paragraph on Twitter, from Bill Gurley, that I wholeheartedly agree with. Tempers run high on Twitter, true, but it is a magnificent learning tool for me.
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    “One of the examples is a famous New York City physician who was renowned for his ability to predict that patients would get typhoid. He predicted the sickness time and again. He would palpate their tounge (feel around their tongue) and predict, weeks before patients had a single symptom, over and over, and became famous, and as one of his colleagues said, he was a more productive carrier of typhoid than even Typhoid Mary because he was giving his patients Typhoid with his hands. In that case, the feedback he was receiving was reinforcing exactly the wrong lesson.”
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  2. Two articles that I got to read as a consequence of subscribing to Joanna Lobo’s Newsletter (if you are interested in writing, either as a hobby or a career, this is a newsletter worth subscribing to). The first is about the perils of comfort food…
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    “Every meal was meticulously pre-portioned and packaged for every individual. We never ate family-style, which was how I grew up eating, and how I learned that portion control is often not within your control: You are not just eating for yourself, and the choice to eat (and how much) often symbolizes love and affection more than physical nourishment. What is considered a “serving” when your chopsticks keep dipping back into shared plates and the diet app you use doesn’t even know what 鱼香茄子 (Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce) is? How can you not overeat when people were heaping dishes onto your plate without you asking? Is it rude to not finish that tofu someone offered you? What is fullness?”
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  3. “A Zomato spokesperson tells Open they are currently in the process of doing away with their food-reviewing levels. The titles have already been removed from the mobile app, the spokesperson says, and they will soon be removed from the website too. According to her, this has nothing to do with complaints about soliciting money, or restaurants and connoisseurs coming together to bump up an establishment’s ratings. “We are just coming up with a newer version, a new engagement tool for users,” the spokesperson says over the phone.”
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    A long read about gaming restaurant reviews.
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  4. Bourbaki’s influence is still alive and well. Now in “his” 80th year of research, in 2016 “he” published the 11th volume of the “Elements of Mathematics”. The Bourbaki group, with its ever-changing cast of members, still holds regular seminars at the University of Paris.
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    A lovely essay from the Madras Courier about Bourbaki, the “guy”.
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  5. Lots of links to work through in this video, but worth your time! Stats nerds only.

RoW: Links for 6th November, 2019

  1. “The food courts are good, and clean, but too homogenized for my taste. Plastic trays reign.”
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    Tyler Cowen is not, on the face of it, a fan of food courts, but to a relative novice like me – and perhaps you – they are a great way to sample the food of the country you happen to be in. I have thoroughly enjoyed eating at food courts in KL, and now in Bangkok.
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  2. Six different food courts to choose from in Bangkok…
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  3. But I can vouch for the best of the lot – unreservedly so – Pier 21. And  if I may be so bold: ignore all of what is said over here, and have the stewed pork leg with fried pork, rice and eggs. Ooh yum.
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  4. There’s still a lot of to-do’s on my South East Asian list
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  5. By the time you read this, I hope to have tried out at least some of Mark Wiens’ recommendations.

Etc: Links for 1st November, 2019

  1. We’ve been eating at Kiss Restaurant in Pattaya since 2011, and haven’t had a bad meal once. They’ve grown to having four branches now, and as far as I’m concerned, have consistently great food.
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  2. The quieter side of Pattaya: Jomtien. Public transport is practically non-existent, but the opportunity cost is that it is very, very quiet indeed.
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  3. A New York Times article from almost a decade ago about how Pattaya is trying to reinvent itself. Has it succeeded? Somewhat, I’d say.
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    “Indian couples, Chinese tour groups and vacationing Russian families stroll around the city. A dozen luxury hotels cater to the weekend crowd of wealthy Thais from Bangkok who mingle with tourists at a huge shopping mall. Pattaya has a growing number of fancy restaurants, an annual music festival and, perhaps most improbably, regular polo tournaments.Long derided as a city of sleaze, the city is reaching for respectability.”
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  4. If you ever want to do touristy things in Pattaya, this might be a useful set of links for you.
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  5. Honestly, when it comes to street food in Pattaya, it is practically impossible to go wrong. That being said, this might be useful if you are looking for high end dining. Honestly, though – don’t look for high end dining.

India: Links for 28th October, 2019

  1. “On the night of Laksmi Pujan, rituals across much of India are dedicated to Lakshmi to welcome her into their cleaned homes and bring prosperity and happiness for the coming year. While the cleaning, or painting, of the home is in part for goddess Lakshmi, it also signifies the ritual “reenactment of the cleansing, purifying action of the monsoon rains” that would have concluded in most of the Indian subcontinent. Vaishnava families recite Hindu legends of the victory of good over evil and the return of hope after despair during the Diwali nights, where the main characters may include Rama, Krishna, Vamana or one of the avatars of Vishnu, the divine husband of Lakshmi.”
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    Always a good place to begin, Wikipedia. Even for Diwali!
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  2. “Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of dharma over adharma. It marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they return. The date is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese calendar. It is related to Diwali, celebrated by Hindus in other parts of the world, which also celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma. Diwali, however, is held at the end of the year.”
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    Meanwhile, as they say, in Indonesia
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  3. “The whole thing was designed in such a fashion that when Hanuman’s tail was lit—in remembrance of an episode in the Ramayan—he “begins to fly in the air, setting fire to various houses in this Lanka of fireworks”. So intrigued was the Peshwa by this report that a similar contrivance was engineered even in Pune, setting the ball rolling for modern Diwalis with fireworks and displays.”
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    The perenially interesting Manu Pillai never disappoints.
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  4. “In Telugu, teepi gavvalu literally translates to ‘sweet shells’. It is made rolling a dough made from flour and jaggery into pretty shell shaped curls that are then deep fried and dipped in sweet sugar syrup. It a popular festive snack in Andhra Pradesh.”
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    Practically every Indian, no matter which part of they country they hail from, will squeal in playful outrage upon reading this – for every state has its own version.
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  5. “If we go further North to Himachal Pradesh, we could expect to get wada and bedami puris made on festive occasions for Diwali says Sherry Mehta Malhotra who cooks Pahari food for pop up events. This is served with lentils and a bread called siddhu. Siddhus are made with wheat flour and yeast and take a while to make and are always served with ghee. Depending on the stuffing, these ball shaped breads, could be savoury or sweet. The thing about Pahari cuisine, Sherry says, is that it uses a lot pulses and flours as a base as fresh vegetables are hard to get. Dishes such as siddhu and the badami pedas are had through the year as well, but taste extra special during festivals.”
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    And from a while ago, but still worth reading – food from across the country that is special during Diwali. If you have corrections, suggestions, additions, please – please! let me know.

 

Happy Diwali, all!

India: Links for 30th September, 2019

  1. Ferry Crossing: Short Stories from Goa
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  2. Goa: A Daughter’s Story.
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  3. “There was also a section of the local upper class, who mingled and partied with the higher echelons of the Portuguese and shared our culture and food with them whilst at the same time absorbed and learnt the finer nuances of their cuisine. The Goan upper classes, who had the advantage of closeness with the Portuguese, influenced Goan cuisine to a large extent, especially in the variety of ways of usage of the prime product – coconut. The locals, poor as they were, generally used the grated coconut in their preparations as ‘Soimirem’, but the upper classes taught them how to use the extract, thus upgrading the product quality.”
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    On the influence of the two dominant cultures of Goa on Goan cuisine. Nostalgia is well worth a visit, in Madgaon.
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  4. I have not read this one yet, but have ordered it. On Portugese forts in Goa (and other places besides)
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  5. The things they do in Goa.

Yes, I am very much in Goa (well, ought to be. These posts are being scheduled in advance) , as you might have guessed. Recommendations most welcome.

Etc: Links for 13th September, 2019

  1. The filmy divide in India.
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  2. Man or woman?
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  3. “Bau once told Rahul Bhattacharya, in an encounter for the ages from the book Pundits from Pakistan, that the action was “all artificial”, part of a carefully created persona built to defeat batsmen. It wasn’t the bowler or the ball that beat batsmen, it was this persona. They say that about Shane Warne too, about how batsmen were dead just from the theatre of Warne at the top of his mark, but man, did it ring true with Bau.”
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    Osman Samiuddin on Abdul Qadir.
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  4. “When we seek Western fads at Indian levels of income, the economic cost of our perceived moral rectitude will be borne by the poor.”
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    On opportunity costs.
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  5. On food, history, India and Asia.

RoW: Links for 11th September, 2019

  1. “Bangkok has 9.7 million automobiles and motorbikes, a number the government says is eight times more than can be properly accommodated on existing roads”
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    As an Indian, this is a somewhat reassuring read, in the sense that misery loves company!
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  2. A little vague, but I got to learn what sanuk means.
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  3. “The rapid expansion of the middle class among India’s 1.3 billion people has prompted Thai authorities to upgrade their estimates of Indian visitors. At least 10 million are now expected to arrive in 2028, a more than five-fold increase on 2018 visits. That sort of growth trajectory would mimic the rise of Chinese tourists, who jumped from 800,000 in 2008 to more than 10 million last year.”
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    I can account for three out of those 2 million.
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  4. “Obesity has reached alarming levels in Thailand, which ranks as the second-heaviest nation in Asia, after Malaysia. One in three Thai men are obese, while more than 40 percent of women are significantly overweight, according to Thailand’s national health examination survey.”
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    This was, to me, rather surprising.
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  5. “A couple of generations ago, Thais were rural folk who ate at home and took pride in offering food to the monks, but as they have moved to the cities they are likely to grab a polythene bag of curry on the way home to reheat. There is almost a stigma attached to cooking for yourself. “There is an embarrassment about spending time in the kitchen, it is seen as old-fashioned and a sign that you haven’t made it.”
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    On why Thai street food in Bangkok is so delicious. The article is about much more than that, but this was my main takeaway.