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The Best Long Reads of the Week, From Hot Sauce to a Pez Smuggler

A roundup of worthy weekend reading material.

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Mike Mozart/Flickr

The Invention of the Perfect Cup of Coffee

The AeroPress gets its name from a sister product made by the same company: the Aerobie, a dinner-plate-sized ring that outflies a Frisbee by a mile. I know all about the Aerobie because one of its most fervent enthusiasts is the famous MIT hacker Bill Gosper, who travels with a trunkful of Aerobies in his car. (Gosper’s license plate reads… "Aerobie.") I found it fascinating that the same wizard of aerodynamics who had invented the Aerobie has whipped up turbulence in the world of coffee.

A Short History of the Dining Room (Part 2)
The New Inquiry

Many Americans today continue to eat for work’s sake. And it seems some of them would like to do away the act of eating itself — chairs, plates, forks, knives, and all. The meal substitute Soylent, for example, promises to "free your body" from the apparently inefficient rigmarole of meals. Yet what this frees you for is anyone’s guess. ("More work" is the likely answer.)

The Search for a Better Sriracha

"I love the flavor of Sriracha," Alexander says. "Without it, pho is just not the same." Still, he believes the sauce has been devalued as of late with its omnipresence. And no chef wants to be caught riding yesterday's craze once everybody else has moved on. "When the trend is over, we will still have a delicious sauce," he says, and a lot of hipsters will still have a Sriracha tattoo."

How a Michigan Farmer Made $4 Million Smuggling Rare Pez Dispensers Into the U.S.

Steve mopped his brow with a paper towel he carried due to his extreme OCD and flinched when the guard tried to frisk him. When more men appeared, sporting leather caps and mustaches and cradling machine guns, he protested that his son needed an aspirin. Guards ripped open the bag in the backseat, perhaps expecting to find guns or grenades. Instead, hundreds of Pez dispensers spilled onto the snow. The guard inspected one of the four-inch figurines with spring-loaded kickers that spat out perfumed candy bricks. A wide-eyed Santa Claus smiled back at him, giving away nothing.

Hot Shot
Lucky Peach

A lot of the crazy hot-sauce production in America has taken place since the 2008 economic crisis, led precisely by one of the (many) demographics that suffered mightily: those guys in their late forties to early sixties. It doesn't feel like a great stretch to speculate that making increasingly powerful hot sauces is a way of compensating for their perceived diminished masculinity—a way of earning cash and street cred.

The Name on My Coffee Cup
The New Yorker

But, after that wondrous occurrence at the Starbucks in the financial district, a profound shift took place inside of me, revelatory and liberating, and I began to openly acknowledge misspellings of my name, even to look forward to them, so that I could photograph and tweet the results—in essence, preserving them forever. For the record, there are several acceptable ways to spell Saïd—"Saeed," "Sayid," "Saeid"—but I accept only one, with the diaeresis included. A high standard, I suppose, but we should each have high standards when it comes to our name.

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