The Mexican army's May 5 victory in 1862's Battle of Puebla is a pretty small holiday in Mexico. But in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has grown into a kind of Mexican St. Patrick's Day. So this weekend, in honor of that holiday, thousands of Americans will be dipping tortilla chips into guacamole, and when they do they'll have an important decision to make: how best to dip without breaking the chip.
"When you're working with standard triangular chips, you can either hold one point and dip two points, or you can hold a straight edge and dip one point," The Sporkful's Dan Pashman tells NPR's Rachel Martin.
Pashman says that while it may be tempting to dip two points – more surface area means more guac, right? – just don't. According to Isaac Gaetz, a structural engineer Pashman consulted, that approach puts too much strain on the chip. And instead of flat triangles, Gaetz advises looking through the bowl for bent, undulating chips.
"It's kind of like a dome shape," Gaetz says. "A natural, very strong shape in compression is an arch, and a 3-D arch is a dome."
And what's a dome if not an upside-down scoop — or scoop chip, which you can find an entire bag of at the grocery store. For some, the scoop chip represents a serious low point in chip design, but Pashman may be about to change that:
"I present to you now my new 'It's Not A Scoop, It's A Dome' technique for chip and guacamole consumption: Take the scoop chip, put it on the tip of your pointer finger upside down like a thimble; brace it with your thumb; run it through all the guac you desire and it will not break. Just make sure the guac is in a bowl with extra space and high walls, which you'll need for leverage."
Then eat and repeat.
Contributed by Sofia Frank and Anthony DiSanti.
(Vegan, gluten-free. Makes 2 cups guacamole.)
Sofia Frank and Anthony DiSanti took home the People's Champion award at 2011's Guactacular with this Thai-inspired guacamole. Who would have thought raisins could be such a guac-picker-upper?
2 tablespoons diced white onion
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1 small tomatillo, husked and diced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon diced roasted garlic
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon unsweetened coconut flakes
2 teaspoons chopped raisins
1-1/4 teaspoons curry powder
Salt and black pepper
In a medium bowl, combine the diced onion, jalapeno, tomatillo, cilantro and garlic.
Add the avocado and lime juice to the diced ingredients. Using a fork, mix the ingredients together while also mashing the avocado.
Add the coconut, raisins and curry powder and mix to combine.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
From Ultimate Nachos by Lee Frank and Rachel Anderson. Copyright 2013 by the authors and reprinted by permission of St. Martin's Griffin.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Today, is Cinco de Mayo, and Dan Pashman, host of the podcast The Sporkful, has been doing a little thinking about this holiday. He joins us now. Hey, Dan.
DAN PASHMAN: Hi, Rachel.
MARTIN: OK. So, Cinco de Mayo. Can you remind us what it was historically and what it has become today?
PASHMAN: Well, technically, it commemorates the battle of Puebla, but, you know, it's a pretty small holiday in Mexico. Here in the U.S., it's sort of like a Mexican St. Patrick's Day. It's a celebration of Mexican-American heritage, and in some quarters it's also just an excuse for a party.
MARTIN: And speaking of a party, of course, that involves a lot of drinking and eating and delicious things like guacamole, which is a personal favorite of mine. You've been doing some in-depth research on this particular subject.
PASHMAN: Well, I talked to Lee Frank. He's the coauthor of the new book "Ultimate Nachos: From Nachos and Guacamole to Salsas and Cocktails." He says the key to great guacamole is to make it fresh and keep it simple.
MARTIN: All right. So, the other key elements to guacamole, I think, is the chip. What are the best practices for dipping, because it can be kind of a dangerous game. I mean, chips are fragile things. They break.
PASHMAN: They sure do. I talked to Isaac Gaetz. He's a structural engineer in Chicago, and he addressed a timeless concern. You know, when you're working with standard triangular chips, you can either hold one point and dip two points or you can hold a straight edge and dip one point. Now, it's tempting to dip two points, I know, because that gives you a wider berth for the dip. But Isaac says don't do it. That puts too much strain on the chip and it makes it break. He also says that instead of flat triangles, you should look for ones with a bending, undulating shape.
ISAAC GAETZ: So, it's kind of like a dome shape. It's a natural, very strong shape in compression is an arch, and then a 3-D arch is a dome. All the elements are able to take that load, work together and kind of just pushing, pushing, pushing, pushing all the way down to wherever they're supported.
MARTIN: All right. So, that's the challenge of the flat chip. What about the scoop chip?
PASHMAN: I like them. You know, they're not perfect but I appreciate the attempt at innovation. What do you think?
MARTIN: Yeah, I think they're a complete disgrace. I mean, this is for total amateurs who are not willing to brave the fragility of the chip-in-dip moment.
PASHMAN: Well, we're learning a lot about you here, Rachel. But I would argue that you're arguing now against societal progress. I mean, why should we get messy if we have the technology to stay clean? Plus, you just heard our engineer say that domes are really strong. And what is a scoop but an upside-down dome.
PASHMAN: That's right. So, I present to you know my new it's-not-a-scoop-it's-a-dome technique for chip and guacamole consumption. All right. Take the scoop chip, put it on the tip of your pointer finger upside down like a thimble. Brace it with your thumb, run it through all the guac you desire and it will not break.
MARTIN: Dan Pashman. He's the host of The Sporkful podcast. Hey, Dan, thanks so much.
PASHMAN: Thank you, Rachel.
MARTIN: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.