Remembering Susan Tifft

Have you ever had someone make a major impact on your life without fully realizing it? Mangesh and I were saddened to hear about the death of one such person, Ms. Susan Tifft. Susan died yesterday after a 2.5 year battle with cancer.

Much of the publishing world will remember Susan as the coauthor of two critically acclaimed nonfiction works, The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty, and The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times. Others will remember her as an incredibly gifted writer and editor for Time Magazine, as a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, or as a passionate and always-approachable professor at the Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke.

But Mangesh and I will remember her as the professor who was crazy enough to believe that what we were doing 10 years ago was worth supporting.

In the spring of 2000, shortly after Mangesh and I finished celebrating the release of the very first issue of mental_floss as a campus publication at Duke, we decided we were ready to take on the publishing world. How a couple of kids with no publishing experience were going to break into such a challenging industry was not something we knew the answer to. But we were fortunate to be introduced to a few successful alums in the magazine industry to help us figure that out. One of them was Susan, who was then teaching a couple days each week at Duke and spending the rest of her time in New York.

I can remember so vividly the first meeting with Susan, where I pitched the magazine's concept to her. Looking back, I have no idea why she decided we were worth betting on, but she did. As the first official member of our advisory board, Susan helped us reach out to some of her closest friends in publishing, and just a few years later, we could trace some of our most significant breaks back to her. From adding other key advisory board members to establishing partnerships with companies such as AOL and Reader's Digest, Susan was frequently the initial door opener. But she never wanted credit for playing that role.

I have no idea what to think about the afterlife, but it's at least fun to think that maybe Susan's pulled out a notepad and has started work on her third behind-the-scenes book on a publishing company. Hopefully she's documented all the times Mangesh went back for multiple samples at the Manchu Wok in the mall foodcourt, or my ongoing battle with Diet Sunkist addiction. Scandalous!

To Susan's friends and family, our thoughts go out to you.

See Also: Susan Tifft, co-author of classic newspaper book, dead at 59 [Boston Globe]

The Simple Way to Reheat Your French Fries and Not Have Them Turn Into a Soggy Mess

Some restaurant dishes are made to be doggy-bagged and reheated in the microwave the next day. Not French fries: The more crispy and delectable they are when they first arrive on your table, the more of a soggy disappointment they’ll be when you try to revive them at home. But as The Kitchn recently shared, there’s a secret to making leftover fries you’ll actually enjoy eating.

The key is to avoid the microwave altogether. Much of the appeal of fries comes from their crunchy, golden-brown exterior and their creamy potato center. This texture contrast is achieved by deep-frying, and all it takes is a few rotations around a microwave to melt it away. As the fries heat up, they create moisture, transforming all those lovely crispy parts into a flabby mess.

If you want your fries to maintain their crunch, you need to recreate the conditions they were cooked in initially. Set a large pan filled with about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 1 cup of fries you want to cook over medium-high heat. When you see the oil start to shimmer, add the fries in a single layer. After about a minute, flip them over and allow them to cook for half a minute to a minute longer.

By heating up fries with oil in a skillet, you produce something called the Maillard Reaction: This happens when high heat transforms proteins and sugars in food, creating the browning effect that gives fried foods their sought-after color, texture, and taste.

After your fries are nice and crisp, pull them out of the pan with tongs or a spatula, set them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Now all you need is a perfect burger to feel like you’re eating a restaurant-quality meal at home.

[h/t The Kitchn]

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