A food writer shared a neat cooking tip, but got a flood of hate and mockery in return.

On Twitter, New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner shared a secret for making roast chicken — a hair dryer.

Stuck inside on a snow day, Rosner shared a photo of the process she uses to remove moisture from a chicken before roasting it: a bit of time under her hair dryer. It might seem unconventional, but it's actually a well-established method for getting the skin perfectly crispy.

Sadly, the internet didn't seem to know this — or care.


Some of the responses got a bit rude, which led Rosner to write an article titled, "Yes, I use a hair dryer to make roast chicken — here's the recipe" to clarify a few things.

She explained to me what bothered her a bit about the responses, something many writers can relate to, saying, "I took a picture of the process and posted it to Twitter, where people were, in roughly even groups, thrilled or repulsed by the sight of a beauty appliance in the kitchen. There was, in particular, no shortage of men (why is it always men?) sneering at my incompetence."

She continues, "'This is what your oven is for,' a few said, apparently thinking that I was using the dryer not to dry the chicken but to cook it. They lingered on my choice of hair dryer—the Dyson Supersonic, a futuristic-looking device that is, at four hundred dollars, absurdly expensive. (It’s also inarguably better than any other blow-dryer I’ve tried, though whether its uptick in quality is worth the several-hundred-dollar premium is a private matter between a person and her credit card.) And they commented on my sparkly pink manicure—maybe, if I’d wanted the tweet to read as an Alton Brown-calibre kitchen hack, instead of ditzy prop comedy, I should’ve gone for unvarnished nails and a hairier knuckle."

Rosner's story (which came with a recipe that looks absolutely delicious) was meant to quiet the trolls and clear up some misconceptions, but seemed to only result in more hate being thrown her way. Michael Harriot at The Root called the dish "the whitest thing on the internet" in an unrelentingly cruel blog post. Alexandra Deabler's Fox News article emphasized the cost of Rosner's dryer, as did Danielle Fowler's write-up at Yahoo.

Rosner spoke with me about the bizarre backlash to the totally innocuous food tip, sharing a bit of her thoughts on what it's like to be a woman writing on the internet.

The internet, for all the good it does, can enable what's known as "context collapse." Details get left out, facts get blurred, and words get twisted in ways they otherwise shouldn't.

In Rosner's case, some of the backlash seemed to be from people who thought she was recommending everyone go out and drop $400 on a blow-dryer, or else they mistakenly thought she was suggesting that you should actually use the blow-dryer to cook the chicken (please do not try to cook an entire chicken with a blow-dryer; it will not work and you could get sick).

None of that was true, but it's the new normal in an age where everything posted to the internet has the potential to become content.

Helen Rosner. Photo courtesy of Helen Rosner.

"Ideas get divorced from the people expressing them, and often knowing who's saying something can help you know how to judge the idea," she says. "When headlines in the NY Post or on Yahoo Lifestyle say things like 'Woman Uses a Hair Dryer to Cook Chicken,' even looking past the fact that I don't use the dryer to cook the damn chicken, by stripping out the context of who the hell this woman is, you open a door for the reader to immediately jump to skepticism and judgment. They could've gone with 'food writer uses a hair dryer to cook chicken' (or hell, 'award-winning food writer' also works) and then the reader response is tempered by position expertise."

To that last point, Rosner clarifies that she shouldn't have to be a highly credentialed food writer in order to share a cool tip without a flood of mockery being sent her way. The desire to pick other people apart over the tiniest things, such as how they make their roast chicken, has become a core part of internet culture, and it's not good for us.

At first Rosner was reluctant to respond to some of the harsher criticism, but then she noticed something.

She was irritated, understandably, by some of the inaccuracies pushed by her critics. At first she chalked it up to ignorance, but then she realized that some of her harshest critics knew exactly what they were doing.

"I saw a lot of people responding to that post by calling it sexist, and something clicked for me," she told me. "I'd been scrambling around trying to get strangers on the internet to understand that they were misreading or misrepresenting what the technique actually involved, and that actually I'm not full of shit, but the truth is — they just didn't care. They didn't want to be accurate; they just wanted to feign outrage. And so, so, so much of that outrage was really starkly gendered — the way that we, as a culture, assume that men know what they're talking about, but if the person speaking isn't a man, there's no such thing as the benefit of the doubt."

She wonders how different the response might have been had the person posting the original tweet were a guy. The fact that celebrity chefs like Alton Brown have been promoting this technique for years without outrage probably gives us an answer to that question.

"There's some kind of perfect synthesis in there of my own femininity, the femininity of a hair dryer as an appliance, and the perceived frivolousness of a feminine-coded appliance costing a few hundred dollars," she says. "So much of the response to this basically boiled down to 'Look at this ditzy lady doing a stupid thing,' which is just plain incorrect. What I did was really smart and has a lot of science behind it — it works, and it works well. You're gonna respond to a tested, vetted, effective technique — one that uses tools you probably already have in your home — with knee-jerk sexist mockery? At the end of the day, I don't think I'm the one who looks stupid here."

There are some important lessons in all of this about the internet, unconscious bias, assumptions, and empathy.

It's easy to jump to assumptions, whether it's assuming a woman on the internet with a blow-dryer doesn't know what she's doing when it comes to chicken or making snap judgments about other people's personal experiences. Those assumptions lead us to build up fictionalized versions of the people we see and we can come off cruel in the process. Ordinary context clues that you might be able to pick up from in-person conversations are lost behind keyboards.

We could all benefit from taking a few deep breaths and asking ourselves whether there's a possibility that we don't have all the information needed to offer an opinion on a topic and whether we really need to give someone doing something — like, say, offering a tip for cooking chicken — such a hard time about it?

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less