Now Is the Time to Embrace Not-Hot Food

Illustration for article titled Now Is the Time to Embrace Not-Hot Food

Photo: Natalia Lisovskaya (Shutterstock)

It is not properly hot out yet, but once that happens, three things will become true: I will start to hate using my oven. I will want to invite people to my yard to enjoy a meal al fresco. I will grow increasingly lazy. None of these three things is in direct conflict with the other two, but their co-existence does present some challenges.

Cooking outside keeps things cool, but grilling usually means I end up all smoky and sweaty come suppertime. I also do not always love putting fresh-off-the-grill food into my mouth if I myself have spent a good amount of time sweating over hot coals. This is where the elegance of room-temp (or even colder) food comes in.

Eating food that was cooked the day before, a couple of hours ago, or even just half an hour ago and then allowed to cool does two things: It introduces you to new flavors and textures, and it frees up your hosting timeline considerably. If you’re not worried about your main “getting cold” while you prepare the rest of the meal, you’ll feel much less stressed, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy the process of entertaining. (Limiting yourself a bit can help too.)

While a nice hot steak is definitely enjoyable, a grilled flank that’s been sitting in a board sauce overnight (in the fridge) can be transcendent. The sauce has had time to permeate the meat, and taking it out of the fridge half an hour early to warm slightly before serving lets you taste volatile flavor compounds that you might miss at super warm or super cold temperatures.

“Food” is not a monolith, and even something as simple as orange juice contains a staggering array of chemical compounds that affect its flavor, and temperature affects different kinds of foods differently. According to Serious Eats, the “topic remains poorly understood in scientific circles, in part due to wide variation in the concentrations of taste compounds in different foods, not to mention the inherent subjectivity of taste.” But even still, “the idea that hot and cold temperatures reduce the intensity at which your tongue perceives taste has gained a fair amount of credence among both academics and laypeople.”

Anecdotally, I ate a room-temp grilled chicken thigh yesterday, and it blew my mind. The skin was the only drawback—it was rubbery and jiggly rather than crispy—but the meat tasted sweeter, a little richer, and felt dense and silky on the tongue. It was a completely different experience than eating a freshly grilled thigh, and it was a good one.

A word on food safety

I know we’re all supposed to be keeping “hot foods hot” and “cold foods cold,” but you have some leeway, even by the FDA’s standards. They recommend leaving perishable food out of the fridge for no longer than two hours, and no longer than one hour if the ambient temp rises above 90°F, so stick to that and you will be more than safe. (The FDA and their rules have never stopped me from eating pizza that’s sat out on my counter overnight, but do as the FDA says, not as I do.)

Let your meat mellow

All meat benefits from a little resting after cooking so the juices can redistribute, but some meats do particularly well with a long nap or even a full night’s sleep. Some of my favorite not-hot foods include chicken breasts that have been pounded and grilled (or pan fried) and then allowed to cool to room temp, thinly sliced medium-rare steak that’s been chilled overnight and tossed with an acidic vinaigrette, and room temp (or cold) reversed-seared koji-, miso-, or buttermilk-marinated pork. This sous-vide tuna is not appealing at all fresh out of the cooker, but absolutely stellar when served room-temp with crusty bread, really good mayo, and lots of fresh herbs. Also, don’t sleep on leftover fried chicken; it should not work—most cold fried food is gross—but the layer of congealed fat that resides just under the skin is a textural delight when paired with the cold, salty crunch of the breading.

Let your vegetables veg out

Freshly roasted potatoes are good—I would never claim otherwise—but letting them cool to room temp makes them ideal dippers. Try dipping one of these mini hasslebacks directly from the air fryer into sour cream. The dip will slide right off. But let the spud cool, and it will grab hold of that cultured dairy and cradle it with care as it makes the journey to your mouth. A tiny room-temp potato is likewise a far superior vehicle for crème fraîche and caviar; a hot one would melt the former and obscure the delicate, briny flavor of the latter.

Other vegetables, both root and not, also benefit from cooling. Room temp roasted carrots make a great meat substitute in a salad—they’ve got the chew!—and cold marinated asparagus always tastes more like asparagus than its hot counterpart. Actually, I’d argue all marinated veg are best at room temp. The oils are warm enough to be fluid, but not so warm that any delicate herbs are lost on the palate. If you need convincing that fresh vegetables and fruits are better served room-temp than chilled, just follow up a slice of tomato from a fruit that was stored in the fridge with one from a tomato that was stored on the counter.

Eggs and dairy benefit too

Warmish eggs and cheese may sound icky—especially if you grew up in the U.S., or anywhere else they blast the cuticle off of their eggs—but dishes like the Spanish tortilla are meant to be served this way (as is this sous-side omelet), and unless it’s shredded cheese straight from the bag at 2 a.m., cold cheese is a crime. We’ve discussed this before, but the fat in cheese just doesn’t taste or feel that good when it’s fridge-cold:

Cheese is mostly fat, and cold fat is rubbery and flavorless. But once that fat warms up, it loosens up, and the cheese will feel creamy—rather than bouncy—in your mouth. It will also taste as it was intended, since you won’t have all that cold, flavor-muting fat messing things up.

This spring and summer, I urge you to lean into the not-hot, the room-temp, and the ever-so-slightly-chilled. It will allow you to be lazier, breezier, and a little more relaxed, but it might also introduce you to new flavors and textures that you didn’t even know were possible. One thing I would avoid at all costs? Room-temperature Diet Coke. Letting it warm to anything above “ice coldwill let you taste new and exiting flavors, but those flavors are best described as “robot blood.”

9 ways to live your life multiple times

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” wrote Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin in A Dance With Dragons. “The man who never reads lives only one.” As someone who has lived and ended more than a thousand lives in his story so far, Martin knows what he’s talking about. 

But something interesting has happened in the decade since Martin wrote those words. There has been a sudden surge of what we might call multiple lives fiction: novels where the main character experiences a good chunk of her existence on repeat. A number of these stories are headed for our screens, meaning viewers will get a significant boost in their own quests to live a thousand lives. 

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Just to be clear, this new trend in multiple-life fiction is not the same as Groundhog Day-style time loop narratives where a character simply lives the same day over and over. There were already plenty of those. Nor are we talking about reincarnation stories, where the same character is reborn as someone else, although there has been an uptick of those too. Same goes for Sliding Doors-type tales, where a mere two possible worlds are played out. 

No, all of the novels assembled below give their characters three or (usually many) more attempts to put right whatever went wrong on the last go-around. Most were bestsellers or award-winners and are well worth your time. Invariably, something about their situations sent a chill down my spine. And with one exception, they were all written and published in the last 10 years, with the latest (and one of the best) arriving at the end of April 2021. 

What does it say about our era, that we crave these kinds of tales? Maybe it reflects increasingly chaotic lives and perfectionist attitudes. With more choices at our fingertips than ever before, we frequently fret about all the paths we could take, the careers we could have, the partners we could choose. We’re extra keen to maximize our loves and minimize our losses. Or maybe we just have shorter attention spans. Trained by video games, we expect books to let their characters re-spawn too.  

Either way, in order of publication, here’s a comprehensive list for anyone who wants to live the most lives for their book bucks. (Plus some extra-credit recommendations for those Groundhog Day, Sliding Doors and reincarnation novel categories.)  

1. Replay by Ken Grimwood (1986)

Elevator pitch: Jeff Winston has a life-ending heart attack in 1988, then wakes up age 18 in 1963. He relives his life many times, but every time it gets a little shorter. The good news: He soon meets Pamela, who is experiencing the same thing.

Quick review: This is the grandaddy of multiple life stories, a wonderful wish-fulfillment narrative that won the World Fantasy Award for best novel. Jeff and Pamela do just about everything you’d imagine doing in the 1960s and 1970s if you had foreknowledge — like trying to stop the JFK assassination, or hiring young unknowns George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to make a special effects blockbuster for you.  

Chilling detail: There are plenty in the book, but none as chilling as the fact that Grimwood was in the middle of writing a sequel when he himself died of a heart attack. 

On screen: Warner Bros. bought the rights, Ben Affleck and Robert Zemeckis were said to be in discussions to star and direct respectively — but there’s been no word on development since 2011. Get on it, WB!

Elevator pitch: Ursula Todd is born in England in 1910 — and immediately dies, strangled by her umbilical cord. Or does she? In her next go-around, the doctor arrives in time to snip it. Each life that follows is a little longer than the last, as Ursula slowly becomes aware that she’s done this all before. 

Quick review: Not just one of the best multiple life novels, but one of the best 21st century novels period. You feel as if you’re living and dying right alongside Ursula, and the effect stays with you for years after you close the book. Plus she gets to kill Hitler at least once, so that’s nice. It’s no wonder Atkinson wrote another (non-multiple life) novel starring the Todd family.

Chilling detail: The number of times Ursula has to die from the 1918 influenza outbreak before she realizes the family shouldn’t go to a superspreader event will send a shiver down your spine. Especially if you happen to have recently survived a pandemic yourself. 

On screen: Todd family fans, rejoice! The BBC is filming an adaptation as of spring 2021. 

Elevator pitch: One unnamed woman born on the cusp of the 20th century lives her life five times, unaware that it is happening again. First she dies as a baby in rural Austria, then in her twenties in Vienna, her thirties in the Soviet Union, her sixties in East Berlin, and her nineties in post-reunification Germany.  

Quick review: The similarity to Life After Life is entirely coincidental; Erpenbeck, a former East Berliner herself, wrote this in Germany at around the same time. It is much shorter than Atkinson’s book — more like poetry than prose in places — but also spends more time considering the consequences of each death on family members. The subtle ending suggests that the longest life is not always the best. 

Chilling detail: As a naive young communist, the woman is shot after writing a “self-criticism” report, the kind that was required of millions who died in Stalin’s purges. The narrator then rewinds the clock and shows the only sequence of officials’ desks for the report to land on that would allow her to live.     

Elevator pitch: Harry is an orphan, born in 1919, who remembers and uses his time-looped lives to become ridiculously well-educated. Then he discovers the Cronus Club, a secret global group for people like him. Its younger members are sending a warning back to the older ones: With every life they relive, the end of the world is getting closer.  

Quick review: If you like the idea of knotty time-travel drama with a dash of James Bond, you’ll love Harry August. The story spans 20th-century history, and it has something most of these multiple-life books lack: an antagonist. Harry’s relationship with his frenemy and fellow big brain Vincent Rankis is the driving force of the novel, and the only problem is that it doesn’t kick in until the second half.   

Chilling detail: You can kill Cronus Club members for good if they give up the details of exactly when and where they were born, and you can also make them forget their former lives by electrically wiping their brains. This means Harry endures a lot of  torture, physically and psychologically.  

On screen: Maze Runner director Wes Ball recently signed up to helm a movie adaptation. Spielberg will produce. Good luck squeezing this complex tale into two hours, folks. 

Elevator pitch: Think Sliding Doors with one extra alternate reality. A Cambridge student called Eva crashes her bike in 1958. A student called Jim sees her and rescues the bike, twice; once, he doesn’t. The extra twist is that only one of the times they meet does an immediate romantic spark happen. We follow all three realities through to the year 2012.  

Quick review: Nice idea, shame about the execution. We whiplash between each of the three timelines so fast that it’s hard to keep track of which one we’re in. Maybe that’s the reason why Sliding Doors (and book-based alt-reality romances like The Post-Birthday World and Maybe In Another Life) maxed out at two worlds. The reader has to do enough work to keep them straight.  

Chilling detail: Still, the power of all multiple-world romances lies in the wondering about that crux moment of meeting or not meeting. The difference is so minute, so out of proportion to the effect. You swerve on your bike to avoid a dog, or you run over a nail and get a puncture, and your life is forever altered. It’s hard not to ruminate on similar moments in our own histories. 

Elevator pitch: A man finds himself at a mansion in the middle of an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, forced to solve the riddle of Evelyn’s death by inhabiting the minds of multiple guests on repeat. 

Quick review: Saddled with an incredibly twisty plot that you’ll need the accompanying map to follow, 7 1/2 Deaths reads more like a description of a video game (indeed, the author was inspired by a “lifelong diet” of video games) mashed up with Quantum Leap and Clue. With so much going on, it’s hard to really connect with any of the characters. It’s still worth sticking around for the ending, which takes a very sudden Black Mirror-type turn. Just a shame that wasn’t foreshadowed in any way.  

Chilling detail: The hero is shadowed by a mysterious figure in a “plague doctor” mask, as well as a murderous footman who kills many of the guests in a particularly grisly manner.  

On screen: Netflix announced in December it’s adapting the book into a show. It’ll take a lot of episodes to unpack the many lives our protagonist is forced to live.


7. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (2019)

Elevator pitch: Roger, a boy in Boston, and Dodger, a girl in Palo Alto, discover that they have a telepathic connection. As they grow into language and math prodigies, the pair find that their combined skills allow them to manipulate reality by going back to earlier points in their lives.

Quick review: There’s a lot going on in this award-winning fantasy novel. Roger and Dodger are actually twins created by evil alchemists who are trying to find a path to the Up-and-Under, a mystical world described in a Wizard of Oz-like children’s book (which McGuire also wrote). But Roger and Dodger’s timeline resetting is easily the most interesting part. You’ll find yourself wishing that you too had the ability to set a save point in your life. 

Chilling detail: Roger discovers he was adopted, and announces the fact to his parents — who call in thugs to capture him. Dodger is able to reset time just as they’re on the threshold of his childhood bedroom, and a now-sinister family dinner passes without incident.  

Elevator pitch: Hit with a serious case of hopelessness, Nora Seed decides to die by suicide. But before she can do so, she finds herself in a magical library where every book is a possible life she might have lived. Opening a book transports her to that life, and any sense of disappointment in that life brings her back to the library.  

Quick review: Anyone who has found themselves consumed by thoughts of what might have been (and whom among us hasn’t?) will find Nora’s story incredibly cathartic. You sort of know how it’s going to end, but Haig manages to take us there in a way that zeroes in on the very human emotions of love and loss without coming across as too preachy. 

Chilling detail: Not so much chilling as heart-wrenching — an early chapter deals with the death of Nora’s cat, and why it was not, as she assumed, her fault. Get the tissues ready. 

On screen: StudioCanal announced a movie adaptation in 2020, a big year for multiple-life movie deals. 

Elevator pitch: Thora and Santi, international students, have a meet-cute one night in Cologne. One of them dies in an accident shortly after. But that’s not the end. They meet again, at wildly differing ages, in life after life, and have to figure out why they are trapped in the city, seemingly doomed to live on repeat. 

Quick review: You might expect a YA romance, but that’s not what this is about. The one life where Thora and Santi hook up and have a kid together is out of the way pretty early on, outnumbered by the ones where they have other partners. Instead, it’s a hymn to friendship — and a countdown to another Black Mirror-type twist that is nicely foreshadowed this time. Thora’s focus on scientific explanations for their predicament contrasts nicely with Santi’s faith-based mystical reasoning, making this a breezy read that’s surprisingly philosophical.          

Chilling detail: It’s not all lovey-dovey friendship. Thora and Santi get so frustrated with their looped lives that they find increasingly desperate ways to end them — including murdering each other. 

On screen: The book is out April 27, but I for one wouldn’t be surprised to see a filmed version announced in the near future. 

Extra credit 

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (2010) — a darker, YA version of Groundhog Day in which a teenager relives the last day of her life six times. Also a 2017 film starring Zoey Deutsch. 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (2016) — A college professor falls down a multiverse rabbit hole after being abducted and waking up in another reality. A TV show based on the book is now in the works at Apple.  

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore (2017) — A Neil Gaiman / Terry Pratchett / Douglas Adams-style comedy in which a man named Milo lives 10,000 lives, but refuses to ascend to nirvana because he’s fallen in love with the female personification of death. 

The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer (2018) — Two men infected with the plague in 14th century England get to live the remaining days of their lives on fast forward, one new century per day. 

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore (2020) — When does one life feel like multiple lives? When you’re living it in the wrong order, one random year at a time. A delightfully warm YA book that has a lot to say about family, friends and the mistakes we make with both. 

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab (2020) — Another way to feel like you’re living multiple lives: make a pact with the devil and never die. The only catch is that no one will ever remember you once you’re out of sight. That’s what happens to Addie across the centuries in this stunning novel by a veteran fantasy author, who manages to capture a crucial aspect of systemic misogyny. Especially when Addie meets a man who has the opposite problem: Everyone becomes immediately obsessed with him. 

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things by Lev Grossman (2021) — A short story from the author of The Magicians is also one of the best Amazon Prime original movies of the year. Best of all, it’s the first Groundhog Day-style narrative where the characters actually reference Groundhog Day

‘We Need a Tesla for the Cow’: The Wild, Dubious Plan to Feed Cows Seaweed

Imagine a perfect burger: juicy, grilled to perfection … and, somehow devoid of the guilt of methane emissions wrecking our planet. Scientists and food companies in recent years have said it’s possible to engineer more climate-friendly beef, and a growing number of headlines that claim that feeding cows seaweed could be a silver bullet to leaching their burps of methane.

A little bit of algae, the research shows, could nearly eliminate methane emissions from cows. Thanks to an avalanche of stunning research findings, good press, and excitement (and funding) from the food industry, the seaweed-to-burger pipeline is growing quickly. Yet the solution has yet to lift off at anywhere near the scale needed to rein in a huge source of planet-warming pollution—and it may not be a one-size-fits-all solution.

The cow-methane connection has become a focal point of research and informed the culture wars. Just this week, conservatives have started fanning the flames anew with a lie that President Joe Biden’s climate plan will require Americans to reduce their meat consumption by 90% (it won’t). Meanwhile, food site Epicurious announced on Monday that it had quietly stopped publishing new recipes featuring beef last year in an attempt to help readers choose more climate-friendly meals.

Cows produce methane because of the microbes in their stomachs that break down food. Cattle is the largest source of global greenhouse gas emissions tied to agriculture. Because meat consumption is growing, that means it poses a greater problem to the planet. Americans consume roughly 55 pounds (25 kilograms) of beef annually. Though that’s dropped from a high of around 90 pounds (41 kilograms), consumption is rising elsewhere, particularly China.

As proposals to address climate change like the Green New Deal have arisen, reactionaries have seized on the humble cheeseburger as a way to delay action. (For the record, the Green New Deal would not ban burgers.) Still, reducing cattle’s methane footprint as part of an effort to fix agriculture is a necessity given the need to protect the climate.

Seaweed isn’t the only thing being fed to cows to see if it helps with their burps, said Breanna Roque, a graduate student researcher at the University of California, Davis working with a team on the methane-algae connection. “There’s a lot of work being done [in agricultural research], like, what can we feed cattle?” Roque said, explaining that cows’ powerful stomachs can digest stuff that we can’t. That could help with both food waste and figuring out how to tinker with cows’ methane-laden burps. “We could feed them products that are indigestible and turn them into a high-quality protein for human consumption—that’s a win-win.”

Cows have responded well to eating agricultural scraps like nut shells and cotton seeds, while corn and bean fodder have also been found to lower emissions compared to grass. But seaweed has been the real star of the story, reducing methane emissions in beef cows in the latest UC Davis study by up to a jaw-dropping 80%.

“We’re feeding a small amount of seaweed with the diet, and it’s reducing methane emissions greater than any additive we’ve seen before,” Roque said.

Not all seaweeds are created equal. The type Roque and her fellow researchers have found to be the best at reducing methane is red seaweed, known as Asparagopsis taxiformis. The Asparagopsis seaweed, Roque said, essentially works to directly target the microbial populations that produce methane in the cow’s rumen. Roque and her team measure the impacts of Asparagopsis by offering cows alfalfa pellets (“we call them ‘cow cookies,’” she said) sprinkled with seaweed at a special feeding station, which then measures the cow’s burps as they munch. Only a small amount of seaweed is given to each cow, meaning, Roque said, “feeding a little bit of seaweed every day can drastically reduce the amount of methane.” To make matters even better, Roque said that on taste panels UC Davis has conducted, no one could tell the difference between beef and milk from seaweed-fed cows.

The next steps to this seemingly perfect solution, Roque said, would be clinical trials with the FDA to approve Asparagopsis-laced feed for the commercial market. And then, of course, there is the issue of creating enough seaweed to feed millions of cows across the world.

“It’s just going to take a while to scale up production,” she said.

That’s where Joan Salwen hopes to come in. “We need Tesla for the cow, and where is that?” Salwen said. “There’s no question that the right amount of fresh and vibrant seaweed will reduce methane emissions by 80% to 90%. Can we feed this to every single cow in the whole world?”

Salwen is the founder of Blue Ocean Barns, a startup that she has referred to as the “commercial engine” for the algae-to-cow pipeline. (Roque’s supervisor at UC Davis serves as a scientific advisor for the company.) Blue Ocean Barns is one of a handful of companies and groups around the world working to figure out how to farm and harvest Asparagopsis seaweed for the cattle market.

Salwen explained that all the work with seaweed thus far has been with wild seaweed harvested by divers, which, obviously, isn’t practical to scale up to the level needed for industrial agriculture. The other two options, Salwen said, would be creating ocean-based farms or the method Blue Ocean Barns is trying: land-based vertical tanks, filled with ocean water pumped from the deep sea, which she said will allow to the Asparagopsis to grow “at commercial, industrial, kickass scale.”

Currently, Blue Ocean Barns has been experimenting with a seed bank looking for samples that have the highest growth rates; the company hopes to open their first two-acre farm in Hawaii this summer. Salwen stressed that the effectiveness of seaweed as a solution has driven the breakneck progress her company and others have made.

“In four years we’ve gone from analyzing this for the first time in test tubes to having farms that are beginning to grow this seaweed, so honestly I think we deserve some credit,” she said. “We’re moving the ball pretty quickly, especially when it started at academic speed.”

And both big and small food companies have thrown their weight behind Salwen’s seaweed. Straus Family Creamery, the nation’s first certified organic milk producer that sells its products in glass bottles, touts its connection to seaweed trials in its sustainability report. Meanwhile, beef and dairy giants Mars Wrigley and Land O’Lakes have also praised Blue Ocean Barns’s work. Big industrial food companies, Salwen said, “are really excited about the potential of being able to meet science-based targets that they have publicly announced that without this technology, they’d have no chance of meeting.”

That excitement from Big Meat is what worries Jan Dutkiewicz, a political science researcher and policy fellow at Harvard, and Matt Hayek, an assistant environmental studies professor at New York University.

“People are starting to realize that animal agriculture, particularly beef, has a really outsized environmental impact,” Dutkiewicz said. “People are drawn to solutions to their everyday problems that don’t require much change to personal practice. [Meat companies] are capitalist entities who are interested in maximizing profit and maximizing goodwill. Of course, the primary interest on the part of the meat industry is to be able to sell goodwill and get rid of emotional or ethical concern consumers might have around things like animal welfare and the environmental impact of their purchases.”

In response to the growing number of headlines touting algae as a catchall solution for Big Beef’s ills, Dutkiewicz and Hayek authored an op-ed in Wired last month addressing what they see as the primary problems with designating seaweed as a cattle savior. Both Dutkiewicz and Hayek stressed that their issue is not with the scientific work itself, but rather with how it is being presented to the public.

One big issue is how much those methane emissions achieved in the UC Davis setup would actually translate into the real world. Hayek said that most methane emissions from cattle come from when they graze on pasture and eat grass—but the seaweed trials have only fed cattle in a scenario that mimics a feedlot, where beef cattle spend a small, final portion of their lives. Hayek estimated that if researchers don’t find a way to feed cattle seaweed as they graze on pasture—a much more difficult proposition than mixing it in with grain or alfalfa feed on a feedlot—feeding cows seaweed would only reduce methane emissions by 8.8% over a cow’s life. Not exactly a silver bullet.

“We do know that mandating veganism is less likely to be successful (witness New York’s failed ban on soda as an example) than meeting the livestock industry where it is and reducing emissions substantially from its largest source, enteric fermentation,” Salwen told me over text message when I sent her the Wired essay, while noting she and others on the seaweed front “are not trying to offer redemption for burger lovers.”

She said that dairy cows, which burp more methane than beef cows, were “a good place to start with seaweed supplementation” since daily milking could provide a chance to give the cows their daily algae snacks while working out the kinks of getting seaweed out to pastures. By her estimation, seaweed could scale to reach “millions” of cows by mid-decade and “a hundred million by the end of the decade,” which would indeed be a Tesla-like feat.

“It’s unfortunate that some university professors would take the time to, with limited understanding, resort to name-calling and seek to slow the progress of a hugely promising, if not perfect, technology down,” she said.

The animal agriculture industry has a whole host of other climate-related problems that aren’t just caused by cow burps. The beef industry has been a huge driver of deforestation in the Amazon as companies raze the world’s largest carbon sink to make room for cattle pasture. Emissions from agriculture come from all parts of the production cycle, from fertilizer use to manure lagoons to transportation. That includes carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas tied to human activities, and nitrous oxide, another potent greenhouse gas. Meanwhile, animal ethics and the abhorrent treatment of slaughterhouse workers continue to plague the industry.

Last summer, Burger King rolled out a burger it called “methane-reduced,” claiming that it had fed cows lemongrass that was able to reduce their methane emissions by 33%. (The commercial for the burger featured none other than Mason Ramsey, the yodeling Walmart kid.) The lemongrass burger and accompanying unpublished research from the burger giant was widely panned, but it points to how meat companies could hyper-focus on silver bullets in an attempt to distract customers from the other problems behind the curtain.

“Let’s say the algae thing works as promised,” Dutkiewicz said. “You can do mass-scale algae monocrops, you can make this economically viable, you can somehow get this to hundreds of millions of cows around the world, all which are huge question marks, let’s say all of that works. You’re still talking reducing total methane emissions from cows by maybe eight, 10%. It’s not affecting any of [the industry’s] other vast harms. What you’re doing is chipping away minorly at one of a vast number of parts.”

For Hayek, raising concerns about the algae idea is less about bashing new technologies, and more about refocusing on the solutions we do have at hand. That includes not banning meat altogether, but eating it on a scale that doesn’t end up destroying the climate.

“There’s the time component of this,” he said. “A couple of folks have really pressed me, you seem to be giving up on [algae] before we’ve given this an actual shot. That’s not the calculus. I think every bit of research needs to be put into mitigating greenhouse gases from every sector of the economy. … My concern is that we get distracted as a society from knowing that eating far less meat is a major food system mitigation tool we have today that is technically sound and we know that works.”

Fitbit Inspire 2 is the perfect fitness tracker if you prefer low-tech

I’ve tried more than my fair share of tools to keep active during the pandemic. 

A short list of things and activities I’ve given a whirl: a Whoop fitness tracker, a DIY Peloton, a real Peloton, a Gatorade sweat patch, Soul Cycle’s at-home bike, countless walks, and a half-marathon ran entirely in a small backyard. 

Some fitness products, like the Peloton, have stuck while others, like the Whoop, have not. The TL;DR of my Whoop thoughts: It was very cool but too complex for me and most average users. I wanted something pared down and basic, which would provide me benchmarks for daily activity without being overwhelming.

Enter: the Fitbit Inspire 2

The app and tracker are simple to use • It gives understandable data that provides benchmarks for activity • It’s relatively cheap • It has all the metrics most people need and nothing they don’t

Serious athletes might want more • Some users develop a rash from the band

The Inspire 2 is exactly what I want out of a fitness tracker and might be a great option for the average fitness enthusiast.

Through a company wellness program I got one for no cost to me and it ended up being perfect for my needs. I’ll break down why. 

With the Fitbit Inspire 2, simplicity is key 

If you’re an athlete in serious training, Whoop or a similar product, is probably for you. There’s a reason Michael Phelps and LeBron James have used it. Needless to say, I am decidedly neither Michael Phelps nor LeBron James, although I did have a less-than-mediocre Division III soccer career. 

My wishlist for a fitness tracker was simple. It needed to: 

  • Be easy to use

  • Provide simple metrics to use as benchmarks for a day’s activity

  • Track my workouts

  • Have a pared-down look, but still display options for activity stats (I don’t want to have to take out my phone even more) 

  • Track calorie output

  • Be reasonably priced 

The Inspire 2 gave me all of that. Getting the device attached via Bluetooth was a cinch and, after entering a few basic details like weight and height, I was off and running. So what did that look like?

Fitbit Inspire 2 features

The metrics

Fitbit made its bones as a step tracker. And yes, it still does that, even if it might be a somewhat arbitrary fitness benchmark. I don’t treat step counts as the alpha and omega of daily fitness, but I find the neat 10,000-step goal as a solid benchmark to help me get off my ass while I’m working at home in a pandemic. There’s something to working on the couch and realizing oh wow, I’ve only walked 2,500 steps all day. It makes you get up. 

I like step counts, but I know it’s not for everyone. The app also easily tracks your workouts and gives a simple readout on active minutes. The “zone minutes” function tells you how many minutes were spent in a fat-burn cardio state and how many were in at the peak of your cardio output. If you’ve ever taken an Orangetheory Fitness class, the concept would be familiar. Long story short, zone minutes are a tidy metric to gauge about how hard you worked out and how that changed over time. I’ve found that the zone minutes generally track with how hard I felt my workout was. 

And as a rule, I like receiving a simple number to use as a benchmark. And I think most normal folks would feel the same. None of these trackers are perfect. For instance, a study found that no fitness tracker had an error rate of less than 20 percent in calculating calories burned. So, I prefer to use the tracker as a tool to provide baseline measurements day-to-day and not as a precise measurement. 

Over time, you get a nice a picture of your activity but it’s not something I like to obsess over minute-to-minute or day-to-day. Here are three screenshots of my activity tracker in the Fitbit app from the day I wrote this article. It automatically categorized a morning Peloton ride as an “intense activity,” tracked my zone minutes, and added it to the page comparing days throughout the week. I could also zoom in on hour-by-hour activity levels for any given day. 

Here's a look at my midday zone minutes.

Here’s a look at my midday zone minutes.

Image: Screenshots / Fitbit app / tim marcin / mashable

I didn’t want the anxiety of reminders to stand, urges to close your circles, or even in-depth data about my breathing. I wanted something to glance at and get a quick summary. 

I can look down and see my calorie output and compare it with past days and weeks to get a rough outline of how much I am moving about in a day. I don’t take the data as gospel, but it is nice to have as a reminder to keep me going. 

If Whoop is a detailed PowerPoint presentation, Fitbit is one-paragraph email that neatly summarizes the entire meeting.

Also, if it interests you, the Inspire 2 can track sleep. It keeps tabs on your total sleep, how often you wake, and spits out a sleep score that rates how well you slept. It worked well but found that didn’t interest me, since I already knew I didn’t sleep well. 

The look 

I don’t want a fitness tracker that stands out. Brightly colored watch bands or expensive-looking trackers are not my vibe. I have a simple Inspire 2 with a black band. It’s skinny and hardly noticeable, which is fine by me. If you wanted to zhuzh it up, you could add a colorful band. But let’s be real, this thing isn’t turning heads. To me that’s perfect. 

A more colorful Inspire 2, featuring a "desert rose" band.

A more colorful Inspire 2, featuring a “desert rose” band.

The display, meanwhile, is customizable, which I like because I chose a home screen that shows the time, steps, heart rate, calories burned, and distance walked in one-fell swoop. I can glance and go, or swipe through pages to see things like my standing hours and zone minutes. 

It looks fine. It looks simple. I couldn’t ask for anything more. 

The price

The Inspire 2 is pretty cheap at $99. If you so desire — I did not — it also comes with a 12-month free trial of Fitbit Premium, which promises one-on-one health guidance and more detailed stats like oxygen saturation. Premium normally costs $9.99 per month. 

For comparison’s sake Whoop, which gives you a tracker free with a membership, will run you $30 per month. A new Apple Watch, which, granted, is much more than a fitness tracker, costs anywhere from $200 to $400 depending on the model. A Garmin tracker costs roughly the same or less than a similar-style Fitbit, depending on which model you chose. 

The Fitbit app is wonderfully straightforward

Any fitness tracker has an app you’ve got to trawl through. Whoop’s had so much going on it was borderline impossible to navigate. Apple Watches have the benefit of being plugged into Apple’s stylish ecosystem. 

The Fitbit app, meanwhile, is like a Toyota Camry: It won’t turn heads but it’ll reliably get you where you need to go. Pop it open and it gives you a basic readout on your zone minutes, calories, etc. Click any of these metrics and you see more detail. Scroll down and you see your sleep data, heart rate, steps-per-hour, and other pertinent info. 

I’ve been shedding a few extra pounds so my weight progress also comes up on my homepage. I can click in and see how it has fluctuated over time. Scroll a bit further and my homepage shows food intake. Fitbit has an option to use what amounts to a MyFitnessPal clone inside its app. You can search for foods in its index or manually enter what you’ve eaten to keep track of calories and nutritional data. 

Now a huge caveat: Calorie tracking is not for everyone. It can be dangerous for folks suffering from an eating disorder. A study showed that many people suffering from an E.D. used MyFitnessPal and felt that it contributed to their eating disorder. 

My personal experience with Fitbit’s calorie tracker has been great. I feel healthier taking off some weight and the tracker has not led to me cutting out foods, but rather eating more intuitively. I’ve made it a point to not get upset if some days I am in a calorie surplus. Shit happens. Essentially I’ve tried to remove tracking my food from diet culture and instead used it to keep myself educated on my food choices. For folks that it would help, the tracker is there and is quite easy to use. 

The downsides

I’d argue the Fitbit Inspire 2, without the bells and whistles of Premium, has everything your average fitness enthusiast needs. You can see how hard your heart pumps, how hard you worked out, how much you moved around, how you slept, and how much energy you’ve burned. And you can view it all simply, at a glance, either on your wrist or on a simple app. 

But some people want every last data point imaginable. If you want endless reams of data, the Inspire 2 likely isn’t your thing. Or perhaps you’d want to upgrade to Premium. Although to be fair, look at all the data I’ve listed in this article and it’s clear Fitbit is way more than a step tracker. 

The biggest downside of the Inspire 2, in my mind, is the dreaded Fitbit rash. When I first got the band, I wore it to bed and sometimes in the shower, and I likely wore it too tight. Over time, an irritation rash formed on my wrist. I am far from alone in that experience. I started making sure I took it off in the shower and stopped wearing it to bed. I also began wearing the band looser most of the day and tightening it only for workouts. Since then, no rash. But any user should be aware that you’ve got to keep an eye out for irritation from the rubber band.

Add to cart?

I love the Fitbit Inspire 2. Both the band and app are simple. It gives you easy to understand data with benchmarks to compare over time. It has everything an average person could want. 

If you like to workout, but you’re not looking to break any records, I’d recommend it to you in a heartbeat. 

No, Joe Bidens climate plan isnt taking away your precious burgers

You may have heard about President Joe Biden’s plan to tackle climate change and how he wants Americans to stop eating red meat. One problem: what you may have heard isn’t true. In fact, Biden didn’t say anything about meat consumption.

At a virtual climate summit last week, President Biden discussed a goal: to get the U.S. to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by the year 2030. He discussed moving to clean energy jobs in his speech as a way to achieve this. He also discussed building more electric vehicles and rolling out more charging stations across the country. 

Red meat consumption was not mentioned at all. And this falsehood has already been debunked numerous times already.

Yet, Republican members of Congress and right wing media pundits pounced on the meat narrative.

“Joe Biden’s climate plan includes cutting 90% of red meat from our diets by 2030,” tweeted GOP freshman Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. “They want to limit us to about four pounds a year. Why doesn’t Joe stay out of my kitchen?”

Donald Trump Jr., the oldest son of former President Trump, boasted about eating 4 pounds of meat yesterday. Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene retweeted a Photoshopped photo sent to her on Twitter portraying Biden as the Hamburglar. 

“Not gonna happen in Texas,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a Twitter post which included a graphic from a Fox News segment.

The Fox News image provides bullet point information claiming “Biden’s climate requirements” include cutting “90% of red meat from diet” and a limit of “one burger per month.”

However, if you take a look at the bottom of the Fox News graphic, which claims Biden is “up in your grill,” you’ll find a citation listed as the University of Michigan.

That’s the source of where all this disinformation is coming from: a report from the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems which was published in January 2020.

The report from more than a year ago simply looked at how dietary changes could affect greenhouse gas emissions and has nothing to do with Biden’s climate plans which he announced last week.

The UK tabloid the Daily Mail also seemed to use the University of Michigan report to spread the same falsehoods. 

A screenshot of the Daily Mail article that's helped spread falsehoods about Biden's climate plan.

A screenshot of the Daily Mail article that’s helped spread falsehoods about Biden’s climate plan.

Image: Screenshot/The Daily Mail

“How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH,” begins its headline on the story. However, the article later concedes that “while Biden hasn’t released details, experts and recent studies have laid out what would need to change by 2030 to reach the goal.”

So, while you’ll undoubtedly continue to see this lie spread on Twitter, Facebook, and every other social media platform, just know that it’s not true. Biden didn’t mention red meat consumption at all when discussing his climate plan recently. And the source is a scientific report published a year before Biden was even inaugurated as president.

WATCH: How to recognize and avoid fake news

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What you should know about autism

There are a lot of misconceptions about autism.

As the climate activist Greta Thunberg (who is on the autism spectrum) points out, autism isn’t “something you have,” nor is it a disease. Rather, the Centers for Disease Control defines autism as “a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges.”

While there’s much to learn about autism to shed yourself of harmful misconceptions, here are some basics to know. 

1. Autism isn’t linear

Autistic people aren’t “more” or “less” autistic. These kinds of labels, such as “low” and “high functioning,” can actually harm autistic people because it ignores the fact that autistic people’s characteristics and skills can fluctuate — even within the same day, says Lydia X.Z. Brown, an autistic attorney. This kind of dismissal can make it hard for autistic people to get the support they need. 

Autism doesn’t operate on a linear spectrum, that is autistic people don’t fall somewhere on a line with “less autistic” at the beginning and “more autistic” at the end. Rather autistic people, like everyone else, have varying skillsets. 

2. Autistic people aren’t incompetent

Brown says one of the most dangerous assumptions about autistic people is the presumption that they’re incompetent. 

“…especially if [they’re] non-speaking or having higher support needs, [people assume that they] are not capable of exercising agency, of making decisions, of having or expressing preferences or goals or desires,” says Brown. 

They say this belief is dangerous because it leads to controlling and managing autistic people, such as the legal practice of guardianship.  

3. Language matters

While person-first language is preferred when it comes to descriptors like person with a disability, that doesn’t usually hold when it comes to autism. 

Of course, you should always ask how someone wants you to describe them, as some autistic people may prefer you say “person with autism.”

4. Listen to autistic people 

The hashtag #ActuallyAutistic is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to learning about autism and autistic people. This is because many of the posts are written by autistic people.

One of the Brown’s gripes about the conversation about autism is they feel it is still dominated by non-autistic people.

“…to the extent that autistic people ourselves are offered more of a platform or an opportunity to be considered as collaborators in autism research or in policy-making that affect autistic people or in service delivery, the autistic people who are the most likely to have access to that position or platform are likely to be white,” says Brown. 

Bone-In, Skin-On Thighs Are the Easiest Chicken for Beginners

Illustration for article titled Bone-In, Skin-On Thighs Are the Easiest Chicken for Beginners

Photo: zi3000 (Shutterstock)

For reasons I cannot fathom (‘80s and ‘90s diet culture), many people my age started their chicken-cooking journey with boneless, skinless breasts. In their defense, breasts do look simple, almost sterile—it’s a piece of pure meat without bones or fat to “deal with.” But bones and fat are what make meat taste good, and removing them greatly increases a novice cook’s margin for error.

You might think whole, roasted chickens are a good poultry launching pad, and they certainly are a big improvement. They are, after all, on every “X Things Every Adult Should Know How to Cook” listicle, but they also aren’t quite the right form of chicken to start with, either. Whole birds are a thermodynamic challenge, with two types of meat that need to be cooked to two different end points. There are many ways to achieve that, of course, but there’s nothing more discouraging than cutting into a beautiful looking roasted chicken only to reveal underdone dark meat and dry white meat, and your first cooking projects should be more affirming and encouraging than that.

This is where bone-in, skin-on thighs come in: They are the perfect chicken cooking project for beginners.

The aforementioned diet culture of the 80s and 90s did quite a number on meat, as well as what we perceive as “good” and “good for you.” Fat was shunned, skin was removed, leanness was glorified, and taste was lost. But bones, skin, and fat are your friend. They provide flavor, but they also act as built-in “cushions” that provide moisture and mouth-coating collagen, which makes bone-ful, fat-ful, skin-ful cuts much more forgiving and harder to desiccate.

Chicken thighs taste best when cooked to an internal temperature of 165℉-170℉, as opposed to breasts, which start to dry out—and dry out quickly—above 155℉. Thigh meat is shielded by a thick layer of skin, which also happens brown beautifully. (Another benefit of thighs: You only have to temp one part of the chicken.)

Cooking whole chickens is less wasteful and often cheaper, but starting out cooking one portion of the bird allows you to get more comfortable with cooking meat—not to mention touching skin and bone, which many beginners have a problem with initially—before tackling the larger project of a whole bird. (Plus, if you mess it up, it’s just a few thighs, not an entire animal, which somehow feels sadder.)

As far as recipes go, there’s a whole internet full of them, but these buttermilk powder dry-brined thighs are quite forgiving. They’re brined overnight, then roasted in one pan at one temperature with no flipping or futzing, and they come out juicy and full of flavor. Once you’ve nailed a few thighs, you can move on to poaching or roasting whole (hopefully buttermilk- or labneh-brined) birds. Set yourself up for chicken wins, is what I’m saying—life is challenging enough as it is.


The Difference Between Weightlifting and Weight Lifting

woman with a barbell at a weightlifting competition

Weightlifter Beatriz Piron (from the Dominican Republic) winning gold in the 49kg weight class at 2019 Pan-Ams
Photo: CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP (Getty Images)

This will be an extremely pedantic post, and one that I am terribly sorry to have to write. I’ve been into weight lifting (two words) for a long time, but over the past year or two I have gotten into weightlifting (all one word). It turns out these are two very different things.

Weightlifting, all one word, is the sport that is contested in the Olympics where people in what look like old-timey swimsuits pick up barbells loaded with kindergarten-colored weights. In one of the events, the snatch, the bar is lifted from the ground to overhead in one swift movement. In the other, the clean and jerk, the bar is lifted to the shoulders and the lifter pauses to breath and maybe grimaces a bit before shoving it sky high. (You can lift more weight the second way, which is why they are separate events. Each lifter’s best snatch and best clean and jerk are added together to find out who wins.)

If you’ve never heard of this or never thought of it when you said or heard the word “weightlifting,” bear with me here.

There are many different strength sports. One is powerlifting, where people compete in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. There is strongman, where people (not just men) lift a variety of implements like stones and kegs and log-shaped barbells, chosen according to the promoter’s whims. And there is bodybuilding, where the weights are lifted in the gym year round, and then the competitors diet off as much body fat as they can and get up on stage to show off their muscles in an event formatted like a beauty pageant.

You can also, of course, just lift weights. This isn’t weightlifting; it’s “lifting weights” or “lifting” or “strength training.” You can, if you must, call it “weight lifting.”

I hate that I have been forced to become so pedantic about this. Weightlifting is an awful, terrible, no-good, very-bad name for one of many sports in which people lift weights. Powerlifting, by the way, is almost as badly named; the Olympic lifts showcase power, and the “power lifts” showcase strength. So people like me are left protesting that we are weightlifters, not powerlifters or bodybuilders, and the average person curling a dumbbell in the gym has no clue why we care so much about whether or not there is a space between “weight” and “lifting.”

The problem, ultimately, is that nobody ever came up with a better name for the sport they have in the Olympics. Some people will call it “Olympic lifting,” leading to confusion when you tell your friends that you do it but also that you are not going to the Olympics for it.

Crossfitters have found a workaround by casually referring to “oly lifting,” which I support in theory, but weightlifters have not embraced the term. We compete in weightlifting, and clarify what we mean by saying “you know, weightlifting weightlifting,” while miming the motion of a snatch. I’m sorry. This is the best we have for now.


Make smoothies and sauces this spring with a new blender on sale

Products featured here are selected by our partners at StackCommerce.If you buy something through links on our site, Mashable may earn an affiliate commission.

Crush ice, make soups, and even create your own nut butters.
Crush ice, make soups, and even create your own nut butters.

Image: Mashable photo composite

TL;DR: Boost your smoothie and sauce-making skills with the Homgeek Professional Blender, on sale for $99.95 — a 16% savings — as of April 14.

From pancakes and milkshakes to smoothies and sauces, a quality blender can help you create all sorts of concoctions in the kitchen. In fact, when it comes to getting creative with your diet, a professional blender is a great tool to help take your meals from dull to delightful.

The Homgeek Professional Blender is on sale for less than $100 for a limited time. This blender is powered by a 1,450-watt motor and a stainless steel blade. It features four pre-programmed settings — ice crush, smoothie, grind, and pulse — and eight variable speed controls. And the two-liter cup is big enough to whip up smoothies for the whole family or a full round of margaritas for game night. Plus, it’s dishwasher safe.

If you’re constantly worried you’ll have one of those cartoon moments where you accidentally turn the blender on without the lid, this machine’s protective function will also put you at ease. The Homgeek Blender simply will not work if the lid is not properly in place.

For a limited time, you can try it out for yourself for only $99.95 (regularly $119).

Diet ID wins TechCrunch’s Detroit City Spotlight pitch-off — Watch the event here

TechCrunch just hosted its first pitch-off in Detroit and we’re pleased to announce Diet ID won the event. The company, based in Detroit and founded in 2016 by Dr. David Katz, gives users a clinically tested approach to dietary assessment and management.

Diet ID competed against other Detroit-area startups including Rivet Work, Plain Sight and FixMyCar. Local investors acted as judges: Jim Tenzillo, VP at Invest Michigan, Dawn Batts, Capital Strategist at TechTown and co-founder of Commune Angels, and Ben Bernstein, principal at Invest Detroit Ventures.

The entire pitch-off is embedded above.

The event also featured talks from local VCs on fundraising in Detroit where Jonathon Triest from Ludlow Ventures, and Patti Glaza from Invest Detroit Ventures spoke extensiviley on the growing startup scene. Ryan Landau, founder of Purpose Jobs, also spoke on startup hiring practices and trends in the Midwest. That video is found below.

This event is part of TechCrunch’s City Spotlight series where we dive into the culture of growing startup ecosystems found throughout the United States. We’re going to Pittsburgh next and hope you can join us.