Weekend Reading: Neanderthal Cooking, Thanksgiving Rules, and More

A look at what we’re reading, cooking, and eating this weekend.

• Over on The Bitten Word, Zach and Clay have me completely convinced to add a sorghum-sweetened chocolate pecan pie to my Thanksgiving dessert menu this year. —Anna Stockwell

• Did Neanderthals season their food? Using mankind's most basic cooking arsenal—fire, meat, and a chunk of waterlogged oak—science writer Matt Kaplan explores the question over at Intelligent Life magazine. —Karen Shimizu

• How many unique last names are there in the reservation database at Chicago's three-Michelin-star Alinea? The restaurant posed the question on their Facebook page—offering prizes for the closest guesses—and one enterprising statistician compiled all the guesses and pulled some surprisingly interesting data out of it. (Spoiler alert: the actual number is 23,980.) —Helen Rosner

• In an age of biomedical engineering and DNA mapping, scientists have managed to identify genetic predispositions to everything from smoking to Alzheimer's. So why not harness that knowledge to predict just how good your meat will taste (before it's even dead)? That's exactly what a group of scientists in France have done, with a DNA chip expressly designed to determine which live cattle are most likely to yield tender, flavorful steaks. Gizmodo gives the scoop in all its futuristic, paranoia-inducing glory. —Niki Achitoff-Gray

• We all thoroughly enjoyed Sam Sifton's light-hearted Thanksgiving manual, Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well. But if you don't have time to read the book before the big day, check out Sifton's essential rules distilled in this video he made with Buzzfeed: 6 Thanksgiving Rules to Live By. —Cory Baldwin

• After several giddy weeks of spending inappropriate amounts on Starbucks holiday beverages, I've been forced to tighten my food budget significantly. Fortunately, this shouldn't be too much of a sacrifice; Max Falkowitz of Serious Eats did some serious research and discovered the tastiest values in NYC's Chinatown. All of the snacks featured in his guide, from pumpkin steamed buns to Hong Kong-style rice balls, are only two dollars or less. —Maria Yagoda

• I like eating yogurt as much as the next J. Crew-wearing, yoga-doing lady in her early 30s, but I draw the line at allowing a tub of artificially-sweetened dairy to pretend that it's a realistic substitute for an actual key lime pie or chocolate-chiffon cake. Comedy team Horse + Horse takes yogurt's delusions of culinary grandeur to the next level with their parody ad for the (nonexistent) product Yoplait Meals Light. —Helen Rosner

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