Tara Kirk Sell: An Olympian Talks Baking Greatness
It has long been my experience - though never my own practice - that once a person attains Excellence in a field, they usually go on to achieve Excellence in other fields. They become human Swiss Army Knives: sharp, resilient, and hopefully carrying a corkscrew.
Tara Kirk Sell embodies Excellence, and there are a lot of things I could ask her about. But I'm not going to talk about being a fantastic mother, her Olympic medal, her swimming world records, her work as a Speedo model, her PhD in Ebola Response from Johns Hopkins, the strange Russian website devoted to her photos of her calves, or even how she feels about the Michael Phelps-Ryan Lochte erotic fanfic genre. (Hint: "Gross. This makes me really uncomfortable, and his Dad is a great guy.")
Today, I'm going to talk to her about her role as the inventor of The Biscup, and I am thrilled that she offered me this tongue-in-cheek, or rather, tongue-in-cup, interview about this surprisingly delicious treat.
The texture of a Biscup is light, gooey and doughy and gets its sweetness from milk chocolate chips - and it only takes a minute or two in the microwave, which means you can make three in a row and still have plenty of time for an evening of self-loathing!
An Exclusive Interview with Dr. Tara Sell
(About Microwave Cake)
Tara, in many ways you can be seen to embody the principle of Excellence. Yet, your greatest achievement is one that is rarely discussed. How do you feel about this injustice?
I created the Biscup a number of years before many of my more well-known achievements - so it's possible that I've been trying to live up to that initial moment of divine inspiration. Maybe it's all a futile effort to regain my former greatness...
However, I believe that many people overlook the Biscup and refuse to even try it because it dares to depart from the organic slow-food movement. Some people (ahem) have spent years sneering at its low-brow origins.
Tara, there are many ways that people are touched by a divine force. Mendeleev developed the periodic table in a single rushing vision. Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road on a 3-day benzedrine bender. What was it that inspired you to create the biscup?
One day I made banana bread and had extra batter. I was too hungry to wait for the bread to cook and so put the extra batter in a mug and microwaved it for a minute to kill any salmonella that might have been in the eggs.
Amazingly, it created something similar to bread.
As a scientist, I think this discovery is akin to conducting basic research and then realizing you can apply basic knowledge to assess the threat profile of an emerging biogen, thereby saving the world from bioterrorist attacks...
Basically, I now knew that the microwave could be used to create soft and slightly gooey bread! Yum! My favorite!
It wasn't until a few days later (possibly after watching an ad for Chili's Molten Lava Cake) that the moment of creation actually occurred. I had Bisquick. I had chocolate chips. I had soy milk. I had a microwave. The rest is history.
Are there any Biscup variations you would like to try?
Sometimes I put bitterly-pure cocoa powder in it, but then it's important to add a little bit (a lot) of sugar.
What is your favorite exercise when it comes to burning off the calories of the Biscup?
Probably cardio-boxing at Reflex Fitness - however, now that I'm 38 weeks pregnant I have to watch out for the baby bump! My friend accidentally brushed into me in class the other day - there's no damage of course, but the fun of guilt-tripping your friend burns way more calories than a normal workout!
"It tastes like Capirotada," my Dad said after trying the original Biscup recipe.
"Uhhh...What's that?" I asked, very American.
"I used to eat it as a kid. Your mom says it's a way to use old soggy bread, but I like it."
So I looked it up, and thought, A-ha! Perfect for a Biscup variation! It's Mexican bread pudding, usually served during Lent, and is totally a way to use up old bread.
"What should I call it?" I asked.
"Biscapirotada, of course!" my Dad said as I rolled my eyes. But it's perfect.
- 2 T Bisquick
- 2 T milk
- 1 T brown sugar
- 1 T shredded cheddar-blend cheese
- 1 tsp raisins
- 1 tsp chopped almonds
- sprinkle cinnamon
- Mix together in mug, microwave for 1 minute.
(But seriously, read that fanfic)