The butters in the bottom of the box
  • Karl Frankowski
  • The butter’s in the bottom of the box

One glitch programmers haven’t been yet been able to iron out of Mitt Romney is the candidate’s preference for eating only the tops of muffins, based on the specious hypothesis that, during the baking process, the butter melts (that’s what butter does, it melts) and the fat sinks to the bottom. The whole-grain flour and, um, flax seeds, meanwhile, float. To the top. They float to the top of the muffin. Earlier this month, after Marie Myung-Ok Lee riffed on the subject in the New York Times—Romney’s muffin wantonness, Lee thought, would’ve offended her immigrant parents, who found a use for every last scrap of muffin—I decided to investigate further. As a former baker, with no particular scientific expertise in food or anything else, I thought that Romney’s assumptions sounded ridiculous. But lacking the research department of a, say, Cecil Adams, I’d need to consult an expert.

So I e-mailed Harold McGee, whose book On Food and Cooking can be found in the kitchens of high-class chefs everywhere. It’s a fascinating read and an invaluable reference: McGee, who also writes for the Times, eloquently breaks down the science behind the chemical reactions that occur when we prepare food. He would be, I thought, the very person to address the muffin question.

This morning I received a very friendly e-mail from him.