What the insults we throw say about us, the amazing and unusual history of bananas and banana flavouring and some ramen-eating tips from a master, all in this week's Thinking Cap! Welcome to Lifehacker's Thinking Cap, a new series where we round up interesting, informative and thought-provoking podcasts, interviews, articles and other media that will teach you something new, inspire you and hopefully cap off your week nicely. Let's get started.
What's Something You Used to Skimp On, Until You Tried Quality and Now You Can't Go Back?
This thread at Quora started with a great question, and the answers are amazing. We've talked a lot about the virtue of going with quality items over cheap ones — if not just because cheap is too expensive, but because you can do better. But going for quality isn't always about making smart buying decisions. Sometimes you wind up trying something great on a whim, or to splurge, or as a gift, and once you're hooked, that's about it.
From headphones to laptops to mattresses to clothing, here's one great example:
Tailored shirts. Once you see yourself in well-fitted clothing, you wonder how you ever wore things that weren't designed just for you.
It need not break your budget either. Most of us have too many clothing items. Buy fewer items and then spend more on the few you do purchase.
Once you've tried clothing that is specifically designed to flatter your unique body shape, you won't be able to go back to mediocre, off-the-rack items anymore.
The best part of this answer is that you don't even need to specifically buy tailored shirts for this effect — you can just find a good tailor or seamstress who can modify any kind of clothing to flatter you — and trust us, it's not as expensive as you think, and there's probably someone in your community eager for the business. For more — including some great answers on headphones and food, check out the full thread. [via Quora]
The Strange and Unusual History of Banana Flavouring in Food
Illustration by Rob Engvall Did you know that the bananas you and I eat today are absolutely not the same bananas that our grandparents and great-grandparents probably ate? It's true — the cultivar most often sold in the Western world today is the Cavendish banana, but up until the middle of the 20th century, the Gros Michel banana reigned supreme, until a banana-ravaging fungus near destroyed cultivation in some of the bananas' most popular growing grounds.
But what does all that have to do with banana flavouring? Well, the banana flavouring we've come to know in foods, pastries, desserts and lollies, depending on the product, is a flavour that was designed and inspired by what those old school bananas tasted like — not what we associate as the taste of a banana today. It's a crazy, long, odd story of food science, history and, sadly, of history slowly repeating as what happened to the noble Gros Michel seems to be repeating itself with the Cavendish. Check out the whole story at Lucky Peach, and settle in for a ride. [via Lucky Peach]
What We Can Learn from Insults (and Plenty of Yo Mama Jokes)
On this week's episode of Surprisingly Awesome, you might be surprised to find out that we can learn a lot about ourselves, and our cultures, from the insults we sling at each other, either in seriousness or in jest. From comedy routines and sitcoms to street slang and schoolyard taunting, from disses to snaps to burns, and everywhere in between.
In fact, hosts Rachel Ward and Adam McKay dive into the culture of snap battles, duels, and other insult "competitions" where language is bent and formed and legends are made — including urban ones that reach far beyond street corners and schoolyards where they originated. They tease out the line between playful, spirited insults and insults that are directly related to asserting power or dominance over someone else, the line between fun and funny and right out mean and when that line gets crossed. It's an incredible — and hilarious — listen. [via Gimlet Media]
What Has Been Your Biggest Career Mistake?
Another Quora thread makes our list this week, but it's another easy one to scroll through, and an important one to browse and understand. Some of the answers are pretty half-hearted, like "I didn't focus as hard as I should have," but others are pretty useful, like "I coasted on my skills and thought experience was enough to propel me through a career":
For maybe the first 7-8 years of my career, I would say that I operated with more of a fixed-mindset where I relied on my innate talent to carry me. I consider this my biggest career mistake, as I believe it led to self-confidence issues which limited my ability to dream big and stretch myself. More recently, I have come to learn about and shift my thinking more and more towards a growth mindset. I believe this has made me more effective at my job, and also a happier and more curious individual.
There are some other winners in there too, including someone who went to grad school aimlessly just in the hope they'd increase their earning potential and land a big job, and someone else who let their own shyness keep them from making a great connection. There's another story of passive aggressiveness that taught one person everything he needed to know about the food industry, and someone else who made the mistake of viewing his coworkers as friends without actually being that close. Read on. [via Quora]
Why People Believe Bullshit
Whether it's stuff that sounds profound but isn't, or highly divisive statements during an extremely contentious political season that seems to last forever and ever without end, people can and do fall for bullshit. Maybe you've even fallen for bullshit yourself. This quick rundown by DNews explains why we're so susceptible to misinformation when it's presented in a lovely way, and how easy it is for us to actually get convinced that something that sounds profound is profound, even if it's completely meaningless. [via DNews]
The Right Way to Eat Ramen, from Ramen Master Ivan Orkin
Ivan Orkin, AKA Ivan Ramen, is a man who's studied ramen for decades, opened ramen shops in New York and in Tokyo (successful in both cases) and is a great follow on Instagram, by the way. In this video from Bon Appetit, he shows you the "right" way to eat ramen — or at least, the differences between the way we eat ramen here in the West versus the way it's eaten, well, where it was invented.
That said, no one's expecting you to down a bowl of ramen in four minutes like he explains some folks would, but there is every reason to really enjoy and savour your food, don't try to make it too much of a serious affair and, of course, eat those noodles without biting them into tiny pieces. [via Bon Appetit]
That's all for this week. If you have thought-provoking stories, interesting podcasts or eye-opening videos, share them in the comments below!
Title gif by Nick Criscuolo.