Thought Nuggets

PieCake Theory


I was a bit of a picky eater as a child. Vegetables had little place in my diet, experimenting with new foods was a rarity, and my parents’ conversion to a health food/vegan lifestyle (before vegans were cool) was a huge hit to my Slurpee and candy bar diet. I spent many meals complaining, rather than embracing what was on my plate and exploring potential new foods to eat that fit within the healthy/vegan box.  I was just a stupid little boy who knew nothing about PieCake Theory.

Confused? Good.

My mom recently made a PieCake. Although it sounds like a mythical love child between the Greek Goddess Piesyith and God Cakeus, it’s really much less interesting. In fact, it’s exactly what its name implies, an entire pie baked inside of a cake. I was excited to try it, because it’s yet another hybrid food gimmick that had the potential for deliciousness.

My excitement quickly diminished, as I found myself eating around the cake simply to get to the pie. And because the cake was being a real pie-block, it upset me even more. I JUST WANTED THE PIE. (Sidebar: In case you’ve not picked up this from my numerous tweets, subtle references, and Instagram pictures, I love pie like no other food. And cake is… Cake is the food equivalent of shrugged shoulders.) Anyway, back to the PieCake.

It’s odd that a dessert could bring out so much vitriol and I wasn’t quite sure why. I love pie and I don’t hate cake, so shouldn’t the simple addition of Pie + Cake = PieCake result in the following relationship:

PieCake > Pie > Cake

My mouf would disagree.

As I thought about it more, I realized that when two food items are combined, the end result is only greater than the sum of its parts if the person eating enjoys each individual part equally. Instead of the food items cooperating and elevating each other, they balance each other out in terms of deliciousness. It’s a little more complicated than simple addition, rather it requires some seventh grade algebra to illustrate.

I could eat pie almost every day. Conservatively, let’s say that I could eat pie every day except on Tuesdays (I’d need a caloric break at least once a week). Assuming there are 52 Tuesdays per year, that means I’m eating pie on the other 313 days of the year (what a fantastic year that would be). So, my Desired Annual Consumption Value (DACV) would be 313 pies / 365 days or .86. Notice that this is essentially a percentage (which I’ll get to in a second) and the highest possible DACV is 1.00.

Cake, on the other hand, I could probably eat once every other week. (And I’m talking about really good flourless chocolate cake with berries and two pounds of fresh whipped cream. Not those vegetable shortening-soaked grocery store rectangles of gluten.) A cake every other week would mean that my DACV would be 26 cakes / 365 days or .07.

Clearly my desired annual consumption value for pie of .86 is MUCH higher than my desired annual consumption value for cake of .07. We could convert the values into percentages and essentially say that during 86% of all days each year, I want pie, while in just 7% of those same days I would enjoy a cake. (Notice that the two percentages do not add up to 100%, as they are independent values. Also notice how quickly you begin scrolling down for more pictures.)

Okay, now that we know my cake and pie DACV, how does that relate to the PieCake hybrid? Well, the pie is baked inside of the cake (rather than a cake baked inside of a pie, which would be a CakePie), so by default the dish is predominantly a cake. Based on eyeballing the PieCake, I’d say it’s about 60% cake 40% pie. Those of you who are astute might recommend I calculate this part based on the ingredient measurements or weights, but this isn’t Nikola Tesla‘s blog, so please adjust expectations accordingly.

If you’re still with me (as if you’re THAT busy at work), then to figure out my cumulative DACV for PieCake, we would have to multiply each DACV by its corresponding percentage and add those together:

.86 Pie DACV x 40% = .34
.07 Cake DACV x 60% = .04
.34 + .04 = .38 PieCake DACV

Thus, the PieCake DACV is .38, which falls between the pie DACV of .86 and the cake DACV of .07


Pie > PieCake > Cake

So, assuming each individual component is not equally delicious, the PieCake Theory kind of makes sense and explains why I was dissappointed and was forced to search out only the pie. However, if you follow through on the math and assume that you love each individual component equally, the results would indicate that no hybrid foods could ever taste better (only equal to) their individual components.

But what about the CRONUT?

By my theory above, even if you loved doughnuts and croissants equally at the highest level possible, the best case scenario would always result in equality across all three foods:

Cronut = Donut = Croissant

But that’s simply false, because I would argue that based on taste, texture, and the glorious sounds of heaven that herald me when I bite into a cronut, that the actual relationship is:

Cronut > Donuts = Croissant

Now that makes no freaking sense at all (from a seventh grade algebra standpoint).

E X A C T L Y.

Eating is NOT a science. Cooking might be, baking definitely is, but eating and enjoying food cannot be predicted with numbers, calculations, and made-up theories from a nobody food blogger.

Just because I don’t like PieCake and I can sort of prove it with a faux-theory (based on my own flawed estimates), doesn’t meant that YOU won’t love it. And it doesn’t mean that I won’t eventually find a PieCake that I do enjoy. And that goes for all food.

So, PieCake Theory isn’t about calculations or even really pie and cake. It’s about the idea that you should give all food a try, regardless of past experiences or whether somebody else likes it or not.

And to my younger self, just because I tried a few vegan foods that I didn’t care for, I shouldn’t have assumed that I would hate them all. If I had based all vegan eating on my childhood experience with “wheat meat,” then I never would have opened up the possibility to enjoying an outstanding fried tofu dish at Maple Ave Restaurant (which will eventually be discussed in a later post).

And yes, it’s odd that a dessert filled with dairy and eggs could teach me something about vegan eating, but pies are powerful.

Cakes are okay, too.



Pardon the poorly-lit iPhone photo.

My mom used this recipe from the Home & Family television show, with some modifications. She used a cherry filling rather than blueberries and made a half-recipe (one layer). I recommend skipping the part with the cake.

Thought Nuggets

foodgawker Rejects

foodgawker reject

The deeper into food blogging we immerse ourselves, the more we’ve discovered the power of foodgawker. Acceptance from them can lead to an explosion of hits on your site, while rejection helps to load the bullets of a gun pointed at your ego. Without knowing of its ALMIGHTY POWER, I submitted a photo from our deviled egg post and was rejected for being too dull. No biggie. It probably wasn’t quite up to the level that it should have been anyway.

Maybe spending years aspiring to be a screenwriter somehow prepared me to expect a very high amount of rejection out of life. Maybe I have low self-esteem (BWAHAHAHHAHA). Or maybe we just haven’t been rejected enough times to build up a hatred/envy/hunger for foodgawker acceptance.

Part of me is afraid to submit too many photos–not necessarily for fear of rejection, but for the fear of addiction. I picture myself staying up late, running off the high from submitting photos. Calling in sick to work so I can compulsively check my phone for acceptance emails. All eventually leading to a binge of cocaine and heroin for “creative inspiration.” And is foodgawker going to pay for my rehab?

Too real. Anyway…

To help facilitate the hunger for acceptance, foodgawker recently tweeted a PDF of submission guidelines to remind everyone of what they’re looking for in a food photo. While the tips were technically accurate, I think they were a little too “dull” (to use their word). Sometimes it helps to know what NOT to do. So, I thought it might be helpful to offer up a few specific samples of “foodgawker rejects” and what their corresponding unedited rejection comments might look like.

after photo
Rejection Reason:  What happened to the food?

foodgawker reject
Rejection Reason:  We do not, nor have we ever accepted selfies. And why are you eating a slice of bread in what appears to be a bathroom?

foodgawker dog
Rejection Reason:  This is just a picture of your dog. Yes, you have a handsome dog, but this is a #foodporn website.

food porn
Rejection Reason:  Not that kind of food porn…

foodgawker threat
Rejection Reason:  We don’t respond to grammatically incorrect threats.

I heart foodgawker
Rejection Reason:  We do not accept bribes. And come on, a dollar?

toast gawker
Rejection Reason:  Closer, but this is just a piece of toast. Have you even been to our website?

foodgawker bread
Rejection Reason:  This is clearly just a photo of our website. And WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE BREAD?!

Maybe one day (far into the future when we’ve completed rehab), we’ll be able to provide a post full of useful advice and examples of accepted foodgawker photos. But until then, there WILL BE BREAD!

Thought Nuggets

10 Reasons Not to Live in the ‘Burbs if You Enjoy Good Food

Reason #1 Ratio of food trucks to chain restaurants

  1. Ratio of food trucks to chain restaurants
    Aside from an ice cream truck (which for some reason plays creepy Christmas music in the middle of summer), you won’t find any food trucks out in the suburbs. Instead, sustenance is provided in the troughs of chain restaurants, where you’ll be squeezed into a booth and forced to choose the least offensive offering from a plastic ranch-stained menu. Sure, there are a few decent chains, but the lack of a food truck scene removes nearly all of the potential culinary creativity. If you love dry chicken fingers and bland (yet over-salted) French fries, you’ll be in luck! But, if you’re craving a Coca-Cola braised pork bun with savory cabbage and preserved yellow mustard seeds, you better buy a plane ticket to San Francisco. 
  2. Reason #2 - No Coffee Shop Within Walking Distance

  3. No coffee shop within walking distance
    Maybe it’s just me, but I have this weird fantasy about how enjoyable it must be to simply walk to a local coffee shop. Get a little exercise, enjoy the weather, fist-bump a few homeless people on the way… You know, the American dream. Unfortunately, I’m living in the other American dream. The one where they squeeze eleventy-billion identical townhouses next to each other, thus making it impossible for anything to be within walking distance. Having to physically get into a car and drive to a Starbucks makes the whole process feel more like refueling a work truck than connecting with my inner muse. And there’s a drive-thru, so why would I get out of my car and use my legs (which are nearly atrophied from lack of use anyway).
  4. Reason #3 - Every Night is Kids Night

  5. Every night is Kids Night
    Kids are cool. They say funny things and are a great way for their parents to live out their own failed dreams. I get it. But, why does it feel like every night is Kids Night in the suburbs? Red Robin is a solid chain that gets a lot of take-out business from us. However, I always have to mentally prepare myself to battle the hundreds of small humans that will undoubtedly be crowding the entrance. On a Tuesday night the last thing I want to do is hurdle several Eddie Bauer strollers while dodging red balloons, before I get into a fist fight with a four-year old over who gets to high-five Mr. Robin. And that’s white sand beach peacefulness compared to Chick-fil-a…
  6. Reason #4 - Lack of Hipsters

  7. Lack of hipsters
    Say what you will about hipsters, but clearly the weirdest, most creative food is created with a strong hipster influence. I mean, you can’t NOT find good food in Portland or the Williamsburg neighborhood of NYC. Maybe the county could introduce tax benefits to hipster families who move into the suburbs. Yes. A hipsterfication of the ‘burbs is long overdue. Lets replace strollers and red wine with handlebar mustaches and craft beer.
  8. Reason #5 - Not a Decent Donut in Sight

  9. Not a decent donut in sight
    With donuts hopefully replacing cupcakes as the “it” dessert in many cities, I’ve been waiting patiently for a hip donut shop to open up nearby. Unfortunately, the suburbs are generally at least ten years behind all the major food trends (In fact, I’m still waiting for the cupcake trend to make its way out here…). For now, Dunkin Donuts has the monopoly over donut lovers around here with no competition in sight. On the plus side, the grocery store chain Safeway is offering their version of a cronut. Is it any good? Who knows, because we have nothing to compare it to and probably won’t until 2024.
  10. Reason #6 - The Wholefoods Void

  11. The Whole Foods void
    I’ve spent hours wandering the aisles of Whole Foods. It’s a great place to spend a few hours and $500. In order to get to the nearest Whole Foods, we have to make sure the dog is fed, pack a lunch, fill the car with a full tank of gas, and plan our whole day around it like a trip on the Oregon Trail. Alternatively our nearest grocery store is Safeway. Blah. I have a love-hate relationship with Safeway. I love the fact that they have cronuts, but I hate everything else about the nightmare of a grocery store. The products cost twice as much as every other grocery store. Everything is cramped, so you can barely walk around without accidently grinding on Grandma. And the organization of the aisles is about as logical and efficient as the IRS tax code. It took me 45 minutes to buy a dozen eggs once. So, although the trip to Whole Foods sometimes feels like a trip out west, there are many times when I would’ve rather gotten dysentery than shop at Safeway.
  12. Reason #7 - Froyo is Inescapable

  13. Froyo is inescapable
    Although the suburbs aren’t the only areas with an infestation of frozen yogurt shops, it certainly feels worse due to the lack of other dessert options. As much hyperbole as I try to include in here, there is no stretching of facts when I say that every single shopping center in proximity to our home contains one fro-yo joint. Sweet Frog, Orange Leaf, Zinga!, Pinkberry, Fartberry…We suburbanites apparently don’t care what the name of the place is as long as we can fill up a cup full of diabetes and pay by the pound. This speaks more to the fact that suburban entrepreneurs are more interested in capitalizing on a proven money-maker and have no interest in investing in a more risky, yet creative endeavor. I understand the risk aversion, but it would be great if at least one of these small business owners would take some of their yogurt profits and introduce something new to the area (like a homemade ice cream sandwich shop). Until then, the Orange Leaf employees better get the sample cups out, cause I want to try them ALL.
  14. Reason #8 - Farmer-less Markets

  15. Farmer-less markets
    Do you envision a farmer’s market with overflowing greens, fresh fruit exploding from barrels, and ears of corn stacked taller than your head? Yeah, I’ve heard about those types of markets, but they’re not in the ‘burbs. Sure we do have a farmer or two, but the suburban markets are more a way for yuppies to try to make money selling mediocre BBQ or cupcakes (is that still even a trend?!).  Even more Ludacris is the fact that on more than one occasion I’ve seen produce that have the grocery store stickers still on them. Weird that an apple imported from Mexico is considered “local” to northern Virginia.
  16. Reason #9 - Food Service Workers are Dead Inside

  17.  Food Service workers are dead inside
    Local family-owned restaurants are motivated to make you happy, because if you don’t eat at their restaurant and have a good time, they don’t eat, period. But, when the food scene is dominated by chain restaurants, the “trickle down effect” is that the food services workers generally don’t care enough to make the experience enjoyable. Your community college-enrolled server is much more interested in retweeting Kimye than refilling your iced tea. And when she does remember that refill, your glass will be filled not only with tea, but also entitlement and angst. And can you blame her? I certainly don’t care if Applebees hits its goals. But, don’t stiff the server on her tip. Over-tip so she can pay for her books next semester and eventually move out of the suburbs. Just be sure to try and not write on the check, “Take me with you!”
  18. Reason #10 - Vegetarians Not Welcome

  19. Vegetarians not welcome
    Aside from a few veggie burgers and salads, vegetarians will most likely have to order from the “side dish” section of the menu. If you enjoy seeing blank looks of confusion, just ask your server if the soup du jour is vegetarian. (Luckily they’ll already be on their iPhone, so they can Google it.) Until the hipsters move into town (or someone opens up an Indian restaurant), enjoy your Meatless Monday with a double order of French fries and two pounds of froyo.

Yikes, that was more depressing than I intended, but that’s okay because there is one positive aspect that helps offset all of the above:

    • You can control your own kitchen
      Since going out to eat and finding good food is so difficult, it forces us to become more creative at home. Why would I order a pizza from Papa John’s when I can make a beautiful charcoal-grilled rosemary potato pizza at home? Yeah, it’s more work but that’s part of the fun and how you can create a lasting memory of something so simple. Do you remember every time you’ve ever eaten at McDonald’s? No, but I bet you’d remember a homemade pork banh mi burger with Sriracha-Maggi glaze, picked daikon,  and cool cucumbers. So, even though you can feel trapped in the ‘burbs sometimes, it can be overcome* by simply firing up the grill and inviting your friends and family over.

*That still doesn’t fix the donut problem, so somebody should get on that ASAP.