RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
There are people who appreciate a good meal. There are people who are really into food, and then there's Dan Pashman. He doesn't call himself a foodie; he's an eater. And he set out on a mission to help the rest of us eat better. I'm not talking about eating healthier here - better, as in how to get the most deliciousness, to use his word, out of every single bite. Dan Pashman shares that wisdom in a new book called "Eat More Better: How To Make Every Bite More Delicious." He joins us from our studios in New York. Hey, Dan.
DAN PASHMAN: Hey, Rachel.
MARTIN: You and I have had conversations about food before and our Weekend Edition listeners are familiar with your food philosophy. But for the uninitiated, how about just explaining how you think about food?
PASHMAN: Yeah, I mean, I guess you could say that I consider a bite to be a precious resource.
PASHMAN: You know, like, you only get so many. You only get so many every meal and in every life. And so you should strive to make every single one as delicious as possible. And, I mean, every one, even if it's the most pedestrian meal, even if it's just that sandwich you grabbed at the lunch counter in your five-minute break, there's probably something you can do to make it a little bit better. And I think that when you can do that, that's an exciting, fun, delicious moment - like you can achieve greatness even in the most modest culinary circumstance.
MARTIN: These are big promises that you've laid out, achieving greatness.
PASHMAN: That's right.
MARTIN: So let's break this down - you have written this book with a lot of technical explanations about getting the most pleasure from your food. Let's walk through a couple of these. First off, the sandwich. There's a lot to say about this, but you...
PASHMAN: There is. I don't know how much time we have for this interview, Rachel, but you might need to blow out the rest of the show.
MARTIN: You - let's narrow it down to one aspect - you say construction of a sandwich is really actually very important.
PASHMAN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, Rachel, this has probably happened to you. You spend time building a beautiful sandwich or you order a beautiful sandwich, and it comes to you looking pristine, and you are so excited to eat it. And you pick it up, and you chomp your teeth into it. And what's the worst possible thing that could happen in that moment?
MARTIN: The insides fall out.
PASHMAN: That's right.
MARTIN: Oh, really? Oh, I got an answer right.
PASHMAN: I mean, these things keep me awake at night.
PASHMAN: But there are ways to avoid that cruel fate, and one is to give a lot of thought to the interior layering of your components. And watch out for slippery components like sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and avocados. I've identified this as something called the sliced cucumber conundrum.
MARTIN: So do you recommend keeping those ingredients off a sandwich?
PASHMAN: Well, no, no, there's a few things you can do. You can use a technique I call the silver lining of greens, where you spread the greens - thin layers of greens - between each layer to create friction. But the other thing to take into account is the hardness or crustiness of the bread because the more bite force that's required to pierce the outside of the sandwich, the more pressure you're exerting on the inside. So if you're going to have very slippery interior ingredients, you want softer bread.
MARTIN: All right, all right, I'm with you. Next up, situational eating.
MARTIN: Some advice on how to eat well at work is something you explore in this book. What are the pitfalls?
PASHMAN: Well, the pitfalls, I mean - the first pitfall of eating at work is we've all been in that situation - 3 or 4 o'clock rolls around, and you're feeling a little sleepy. And you head for some sugar in the form often of the office vending machine...
PASHMAN: ...Which can be, for many people, a bleak place to end up at 3 or 4 o'clock. But I think that even that seemingly bleak moment, you know, like, there's an opportunity there to do something fun and creative and find deliciousness. For instance, there's a recipe in the book for something called Cube Farm Tiramisu, which is a technique where you just take cookies from your office vending machine, soak them in the free office coffee, lay them on a platter and refrigerate for a bit - you could add some whipped cream if you want to get fancy - but it's really pretty delicious. It works especially well with, like, an Oreo or something with a cream filling. And, you know, that's Cube Farm Tiramisu. I also have a whole vending machine decision tree in the book to help you decide what you want out of your vending machine in the office at a given time.
MARTIN: And what about on airplanes, which is a difficult situation to derive pleasure from food?
PASHMAN: It is. You know, it's interesting. They've done studies that your taste buds are 30 percent less sensitive when you're in an airplane cabin because the air is so dry there that your taste buds dry up. So the first thing you've got to do is add more flavor, so...
MARTIN: You're talking about bringing your own food first off, or not necessarily?
PASHMAN: That's right. I mean, look, if you really want to travel well, bring food from outside the airport because, you know, it's slim pickings once you cross through security. But if you're in the plane and you didn't get a chance to grab that sandwich, I think there's a couple things you could do. One is to just always travel with what I call an in-flight saucetatian device...
MARTIN: OK, and what is that?
PASHMAN: ...Which is like, you know those little plastic three ounce bottles that you can buy at the pharmacy? They're, like, for shampoo or conditioner...
PASHMAN: ...The travel bottles?
PASHMAN: Buy those, but instead fill them with, like, Sriracha, honey, soy sauce, hot sauce.
MARTIN: That is brilliant.
PASHMAN: Throw them in your carry-on, and now you can just amp up whatever subpar meal they give you. The other thing is that while you're in the air, your taste buds' sensitivity is reduced but crunch sensitivity is increased. So crunchy foods taste crunchier when you're on a plane.
MARTIN: Is that for real?
PASHMAN: Yes, the crunch will ring in your ears. It has to do with the hum of the airplane and the way that you process the sounds in your head. And so, like, when you get those free pretzels on the plane, if you're on a long flight and you're going to get a meal later, take the pretzels and save them and then crumple them over the entree. And that adds salt and flavor and crunch.
MARTIN: Salt, a vehicle for salt. They never give me enough salt in those little packets.
PASHMAN: That's what the pretzels are for.
MARTIN: OK, so we've learned a lot here in this conversation. Any parting words of wisdom?
PASHMAN: I mean, I talk in the book about how I feel like all of us have a lab in our own home, and it's called the kitchen. And there's great opportunity to experiment and try new things, and it's OK to fail as long as you're always striving for the platonic ideal of perfect deliciousness. And I think that's a noble quest - and I do - I honestly think, like - I think it's easy to dismiss all of this is as trivial. And certainly, you know, the book is fun, and I hope people find it entertaining. But I do think, like, I'm a big proponent of just the simple pleasures of life, and eating is one of the great universal simple pleasures. And when I wake up in the morning, no matter how crummy my day may look, if I've got a good meal or two to look forward to, you know, the sun's shining.
MARTIN: There you go. Dan Pashman is the host of WNYC's podcast "The Sporkful." His new book is called "Eat More Better: How To Make Every Bite More Delicious." Dan, thanks so much.
PASHMAN: My pleasure. Thanks, Rachel.
MARTIN: Happy eating.
PASHMAN: You, too.
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