Dude, You Going to Teach That (Deductive Reasoning)

Posted by The Aimless Chef | Thursday, November 17, 2011

Part 1: In which we get a brief introduction to a multi-part blog series (that will probably be abandoned after one post).

Good day to you, my friends. Today I'd like to take advantage of the skeleton crew that is left around here during football season to bring you a new blog series: "Dude, you going to teach that?

The premise is nearly almost self-explanatory. First I present to you a piece of work from the Internet, and then I dissect it. Hopefully, some sort of lesson emerges.

Part 2: In which we get the syllabus.

Instead of teaching you how to make delicious stuff to put in your mouth, today I will present a discourse on Deductive Reasoning. 

To truly extrapolate significant intelligence on this topic, we must consult the work of masters. The rise of social media has spawned a renaissance for pundits and curmudgeons. Just a quick aside, with this plenitude of enlightenment to be found on the Internet, I fully expect "street smarts" in the future to refer to the Information Superhighway and not actual streets. Fortunately, the Internet gives us access to an array of veritable savants on all things ever whispered in mankind's own collective head. 

Our featured post is titled "Houston's Diners", published on the highly-respected Internet outlet for eating thoughts, food.DrRicky.net. Since this class is real-time, I will present the text, unedited and in its entirety, in the body of this lesson.

In terms of my particular qualifications as a professor, I'm certainly no doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Just kidding, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but it wasn't last night. Just kidding, I only showed up in the lobby that morning for those delicious cinnamon rolls. 

At the very least, I have read the work cited in this syllabus. I also have a thesaurus open so I can appear really, really sharp astute. 

Part 3: In which we break down our subject piece.

Any doctor worth his proverbial salt wastes no time getting to the point. 

In a recent survey by Zagat (now a property of Google)

*sigh* The Googlization of America continues. At least Yelp retains its credibility by remaining independent. I Bing'ed the details of the Zagat acquisition, and I think it is possible that Google merely took over the lease at Zagat's vacated office space. It was also not clear after my research whether the "recent survey" was a Google Doc form.

revealed that Houstonians dine out more often than any other city in the US. 


Some seem to think that this is something to be bragged about.

Oh, um... For the record, that "some" refers to Eater Houston, a blog dedicated to all things dining related in Houston. Even though this is precisely the kind of news I would expect to see on Eater, let's do a quick sanity check.
  1. It ain't bragging if it's true
  2. The Zagat survey proved* Houstonians dine out more often than any other city in the US.
  3. Therefore, Eater was reporting fact and not bragging.
*probably needs reference, but

Why is that?

Doc likes softballs. 

If there's anything I've observed about local dining out habits is that these diners tend to go to the same narrow range of restaurants, all of whom tend to offer very similar dishes.

We will break here so you can wrap your heads around this astute observation. 

Diners eat what they likeAND Diners go to restaurants that serve what they like.

Curb those feelings of self-doubt and let those ideas marinate while I toss a few more things on the fire. Diners also all drink similar beverages (always Diet Coke or Bud Light). These diners also all tend to wear similar clothes. When is the last time you saw a 3-piece suit at Applebees? I rest my case.

Moreover, people tend to order the exact same dish with every visit. I believe the latter part is true of most American restaurant patrons.

Except Houstonians order a lot more combination fajitas and frozen margaritas with salt than the average American restaurant patron. Fact.

These habitual systems fuel the burgeoning monotony of the dining scene in Houston.

Really? Fajita jokes aside, everything about the statement above is completely invalid. The reality is that Houston is home to a world-class dining scene. Houston offers both traditional and progressive interpretations of Texas Gulf Coast cuisine, Tex-Mex cuisine, and a plateful of restaurants that represent Houston's melting pot of cultures.

If diners in Houston go to the same restaurants serving the same food, then how do restaurants in areas along Airline, Washington, Bellaire, Long Point, or Westheimer survive? How does Houston even have five great food streets/districts? Furthermore, why can I easily find someone who would duel to the death over replacing one the streets mentioned above with their favorite food street?

Our diversity stems from the number of different ways one can put toppings on a hamburger, or the minutiae of smoking brisket.

Dr. Ricky is thoroughly connected to Houston's food scene, so this smarmy, faux intellectual statement must be leading us to some sharp-witted deduction.

Ubiquitous blogging idioms be damned!!

And at the end of the day,

Eh. Never mind.

familiarity often trumps flavor at the checkout receipt.

The assertion here is that things that taste different taste better? Whoa there, el doctor. 

Let's take a moment to review. Dr. Ricky has established that the average Houstonian diner does not meet his culinary imprimatur because she isn't adventurous enough. Caught in the blast zone of that bombshell was Eater Houston, a website dedicated to dining that "bragged about" Houstonians eating out more than any other U.S. city -- according to a Google study.

What are the details of said study? I'm glad I asked. (I like softballs too.)

Zagat's recently released its 2012 America's Top Restaurants Survey for their newest guide. The survey was based on the votes of over 156,000 "food lovers" dining out in 45 major markets. Just for reference, the Houston metropolitan area alone has almost 6,000,000 residents, so the survey was far from comprehensive and most likely not very scientific (e.g. votes from "food lovers"). The study concluded that the average food lover in these top 45 markets ate 3.1 meals that came from a restaurant per week. These results do not differentiate between type or time of meal, as far as I could make out. 

Texans were the Charlie Sheen of this survey, with four cities locking down the top slots of the survey for meals eaten from a restaurant per week: Houston (4.0), Austin (3.8), Dallas/Ft. Worth (3.6), and San Antonio (3.5). 

With that inscrutable science, we continue with the post.

But the necessary consequence here is that Houstonians tend to cook less often at home.

OK Stop. The deductive argument presented here is that since Houstonians eat out (or get take out) more than the average American, than they are cooking less at home. The statement sounds reasonable on the surface, but let's evaluate the significance of that logical statement. Ignoring the most important meal of the day, the Taco Bell 4th Meal, a monotonous diner eats 21 meals in a week. The average Zagatian fooder eats nearly 18 of those at home. The average Houstonian Zagatian fooder, with his burgeoning waistline eats only 17 of those 21 meals at home, a difference of less than 5%.
  • Math check: 5% > 0%
  • Therefore, the doctor's conclusion seems sound.
But is there an important lesson to be extracted from those numbers? Once again:

But the necessary consequence here is that Houstonians tend to cook less often at home. And this should be recognized as a sad matter.

Wait, should it?

Irrelevant conclusions < Tim Tebow < Sound Logic 

Maybe Dr. Ricky's premise would be sound if every meal eaten at home was a home prepared meal. What if I make a frozen pot pie for dinner? Ramen noodle? How sad is that? What if I bought a bowl of pho at a local restaurant and my neighbor made a PB&J? 

Does this make Dr. Ricky cry?

Back to the Zagat study, can we even make the assumption that the average diner eats at home for 17.9 meals and the average Houstonian eats at home for 17.0 meals? 

The study only addresses meals away from the home, not the balance of the other meals. Do the people in the study eat only two meals a day? Did they eat at Dr. Ricky's house? It is simply not sound logic to assume that the number of meals the participants in the study cooked at home. Remember, we are talking about less than a 5% difference between Houston and the average for these other meals. All the study states is that, based on the votes of over 156,000 food lovers dining out in 45 major markets, Houstonians responded that they ate out on average 4.0 meals a week compared to 3.1 for the average of the entire survey. Where in the survey does it address cooking at home?

There's a true and essential skill to cooking - it's the art of finding flavor amidst compromise, a balance of knowing enough of the science of chemistry and microbiology to apply heat and time to raw ingredients, to bring forth a transformation worthy of one's palate, discriminating or otherwise.

What a fascinating bit of misdirection and sophistry here. A Criss Angel just got its wings. 

In the first part of his post, Dr. Ricky scolded diners for not eating adventurous enough when they ate out. Now, we are being scolded for not understanding the art and science of cooking in our homes! Nice one.

But wait, there's more…

And above all, it's about taking responsibility for the outcome, something that Texans, and all Americans, for that matter, are supposed to take pride in. And even the humblest of cooks are better equipped to appreciate the vision and efforts of a fellow cook by their very exposure to the craft.

What the smell? And this is how the doctor's little game of inception ends. I'm convinced that Dr. Ricky wanted to chastise Houston diners, wrote this revelation, and just backed into the fluff at the beginning. Certainly he didn't have logic over for dinner that night.

Perhaps I got lost in the "essential skill" of this confusery and don't know "enough of the science" to be "discriminating or otherwise," but at its best, Dr. Ricky's post served a proper outlet for him to unleash his distaste for Eater Houston and the average diner. 

At worst, this is a shipload of scrap. 

Part 4: In which we are presented a completely unrelated anecdote.

The other day I was driving in the museum district around midday. After a slight bend in the road, about 100 feet away, I noticed an oncoming car. The driver, a soccer mom in a Chevy Traverse, was in the midst of a huge face contorting yawn. 

I understand there to be many theories on science of yawning. However, if there's anything I've observed about yawning, it is that they are terribly contagious. If a person even hears a yawn, they often have to yawn themselves. The theory even holds true with animal yawns.

So you won't be surprised to read after that car passed me, I too began a monster, eye squinting yawn. As I was completing my yawn, a car passed me in the same direction of the Chevy Traverse I originally spotted.

Then it hit me. Had I passed through a mysterious zone, a perpetual field, fueled by the invisible power of the yawn? Did I pass my yawn to the new car? Had cars been passing that yawn back and forth for hours before I drove through that area? How long did the perpetual yawn zone stay alive? Could there be other similar perpetual yawning zones in the city? The World? The Universe? Was this discovery significant? 

I'm no philosopher, but probably.