Petri Dishes is best when it's cold

Jul 14, 2020

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri will be online every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern for Petri Dishes, where she'll offer a lighter take on the news of the day. Read the transcript of her latest live chat below.

Read Alexandra Petri's columns or catch up on past chats here.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter here.

Happy Tuesday! Let's get down to chatting! 

Our country need your fellow columnists to put your column to music like they did for the last musical you parodied. For America.

We are working on it! Watch, I hope, this space!

I visited gardens of Washington Cathedral yesterday after months away. ( I like to see Glory, Joy, and Hallelujah, my favorite goldfish in the pond). Many folks there reading, biking, walking, sitting in shade, contemplating the future, or remembering the past. Has Covid made us appreciate, or fear, Nature more?

How can you identify Glory, Joy, and Hallelujah? Do they respond when called? 

I think it has certainly made me more grateful for any time I get to spend not-indoors, which I realize is a very roundabout way of saying that I have come to appreciate Nature. 

National Mac and Cheese Day? Middle of July? Yeah, I guess you can have it at a barbecue, but Mac and Cheese is best when it is cold. This is like making July 14th National Hot Chocolate Day (which, by the way, was January 31st). Harrumph.

I thought, with horror, for a second, that you were saying that Mac and Cheese was best cold, but then I reread the sentence! That would certainly have been a bold take! I agree with your actual sentiment. 

Wouldn't the proper term be "backwords"?

I like it! 

So my sister and I have a game where I list depressing facts about the world and she lists nice facts, and one of the nice facts she keeps going back to is "there's an amusement park in Japan where you can shake hands with otters." No question, just wanted you to know this because it's delightful.

This, I guess because it is related to marine creatures and to delight, brings to mind the Penguin Relationship Chart that an aquarium in Japan has been working on for a while! It is rife with more drama than an O'Neill play! 

And ice cream is best when it's hot. Except up north where I come from people eat ice cream year-round. Only in warmer states is it a summer-time treat. At least that's what the Ice Cream Show on PBC years ago said.

These ambiguous sentence structures are really throwing me! 

So you won't try Ben&Jerry's Mac and Cheese Ice Cream?

As someone who enjoys eating cold mac and cheese and can do so for days in a row, I could see this being enjoyable if the underlying ice cream were not too sweet! 

Yay! Gene Weingarten's chat is postponed until tomorrow so I don't have to read both of yours at the same time- all while I'm trying to work.

Yay! A POST-ponement! Wow, we should use this pun more! 

To answer your question, Noel the goldfish keeps trying to bump away Hallelujah, but they all respond if I hold goldfish crackers in the air over them. I can always find them in the backseat of my car near the grands boosterseat.

If you're looking for something to celebrate today, it's Bastille Day! Eat some French food: maybe a croissant, a baguette, or some snails.

Not cake, though. 

Mmmmm.... Baked Alaska?

True! I feel like this, along with every Redwall dish, is something I have read about others eating far more often than I have encountered it in the wild.

Also, frustrated as I was by those sentences, I am now trying to think of more of them.

A pool is best when it's hot! A hot tub is best when it's cold!

Oh, I dislike this. 

What happens when you get tired of saying that Yes, you know that Hamilton is on Disney plus, and yes I have watched it and yes it was good but Newsies is also on Disney plus, and its a really long-running broadway show and yes Hamilton is good but people keep giving love to Eliza and nobody gives love to poor Katherine. And I’m screaming into my pillow because Six would be on broadway but it was CLOSED And I'm also betting you have no idea what I am talking about. ~A musical theater nerd


These confusing sentences remind me of the book "Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the Zero tolerance approach to punctuation" by Lynn Truss. I have a pet peeve about people who use quotation marks for emphasis, rendering their sentences with unintended sarcasm.

Wait, that was why people were using those quotation marks? Emphasis? I didn't know that was what the sign-makers thought they were getting across with such signs as  'You'll "LOVE" our mac & cheese when it's cool!' 

"They all respond if I hold goldfish crackers in the air over them. I can always find them in the backseat of my car near the grands boosterseat." You mean, you can always find crackers in your car, or you can always find the fish?


I have a 12 slice cake guillotine>

I would like a link to this, please! All my attempts at visualization are giving me a long, log-shaped cake. Or is this sort of a slicer for a round cake that gets somehow lowered from above? 

They had an outdoor forum on face masks and a 20 something woman came to the microphone and said: "I refuse to wear a mask for the same reason I don't wear underwear, THINGS HAVE TO BREATHE" ... Great to have reasons for your actions.

But if you believe that things (and people!) have to breathe, you would think you WOULD want to wear a mask. 

Argh, how did this become a political battleground? It makes me want to go outdoors many feet away from everyone and scream, expelling droplets where they may do no harm. 

Today is Bastille day, when Trump watched a military parade in France and decided he needed one too, not realizing the parade was not for the Macron personally. Also my mother in law's birthday. Should I send her some Mac and cheese?

I thought this was going to be a Macron and Cheese joke (good when cold) but then it was not! I think you can never go wrong with a cheese-based gift, except in those cases when the recipient does not like or cannot eat cheese. 

since it's Bastille Day. Baguettes and Brie. And cold white wine (FRENCH chardonnay, not that California stuff).

White wine is best when it's hot! 

This morning on my family's slack my brother has started imitating two parents worried about how to help their child who's been put in Slytherin and I'm dying. "So your son got put in Slytherin" "Oh no" "I knew we should have gotten him some counseling! I said it, Cheryl! I said it! Let's get that boy some help but noooo" "his grades weren't good enough for ravenclaw?" "Apparently that doesn't matter! Now we get to watch our son become a henchman to some upper-class weasel. Hopefully he ends up orbiting the right megalomaniac" "Sigh. You might have been right that giving him Cackling Menacingly at Your Boss's Bon Mot for his 10th birthday might have given him the wrong idea about our expectations" "Well it's too late now. I guess when he comes home for break we can get him a really slimy looking haircut"

I like the idea that parents who gave their son Cackling Menacingly At Your Boss's Bon Mot for his 10th birthday would not realize the path on which they were setting their child. I guess if he really wanted it and insisted on it, they might have given it to him despite their better judgment, but it is hard to imagine a ten year-old being desperate for anything with You Boss's Bon Mot in the title. In fact the more I think about this the more it sounds like the signs were there previously! 

you can pretend that people from the US are allowed into the EU....

From the Washington Post story: Before Imahara joined “MythBusters” in 2005, he was a decorated engineer at Lucasfilm, where he worked in the company’s visual effects department for nine years on blockbuster trilogies such as the Star Wars prequels and “The Matrix.” He was one of the few officially trained operators for R2-D2, the beloved droid of the Star Wars universe, according to Discovery.

What a lucky droid. And what a loss. 

Maybe Disney Europe just needs an exciting ride that takes 14 days?

Please tell the universe to deliver my refrigerator tomorrow.

Universe! Deliver this chatter's refrigerator tomorrow! 

Sounds like the ideal name for the luxury yacht you would buy after receiving a mysterious promotion.

The Culinary Institute of America makes its macaroni and cheese with Gruyere. If you want a French spin on quintessentially American mac and cheese, this is pret-a-porter. Or pret-a-manger, I suppose.

Well, now that I know there is another CIA all I want in this world is a murder-she-wrote-style series about a mild-mannered chef at the culinary institute who, too polite to correct people who think she can do espionage and solve crimes, winds up becoming a dashing spy. 

We're going to need a follow-up on this next week!

Sorry, but the universe is too busy tormenting The Onion's horoscope readership.


Kinda like mulled wine, which is usually consumed in cold months? Do you add any spices? Fruit?

No, no, mulled wine is best when it's cold. 

(Sorry, I refuse to stop doing this, in the hopes that if I do it enough it will come back around and start to be funny again/for a first time.) 

I was just reading an online article in another paper (*cough NYT cough*) that was talking about hyper-realistic cakes, e.g., shaped like a Croc sandal, pickle, eggplant, etc). ( ). One cake they mentioned was mac and cheese. The baker that does many of these had a video on YouTube explaining how to make one. ( ) So, let them eat it, assuming you can make one from the video, or else live close enough to Texas to visit her bakery.

Yes, my corner of Twitter is abuzz (atwitter?) with videos of these alarming cakes. It is hard, when you watch enough of these videos, to feel really secure that anything is not cake, and I look forward to a better name for this Cake Syndrome that is now preying on our minds. 

We were wondering why swimming trunks are plural. On further thinking I realized that all those things into which we put our legs are plural: pants, slacks, shorts, etc. Wonder how this evolved. Any ideas?

I think it's because legs are plural, but don't quote me!

My favorite sighting of quotation marks was on a banner outside a discount luggage store, that read “Sale”.

Do you prefer to write when you are angry or when you are laughing at your own jokes?

I prefer not to *be* angry, but when angry it can be very satisfying to write something!

We have aprons from that CIA given to us by a cousin there who knows we work for "the" CIA>

That's an amazing gift!

The first time I met my son's eventual wife, she made Baked Alaska for dessert at our communal meal. Since I relied on brownies from a mix as a go-to dessert, I was vaguely intimidated. She later made all the macaroons for their wedding reception. So, I remain in awe.

Wow! I am blown away! What a high-stakes dessert choice for a first-meet-the-family meal! She must have known how good she was and how impressive it would be. You don't announce that you're going to serve Baked Alaska to your hopefully future in-laws if you aren't absolutely certain that what will result will be Baked Alaska. 

But we put our arms into a shirt, and I put one leg into my pants and then the other..

Shoes are plural! Hmm, no, that doesn't help. 

We need a good name for the "best when hot/cold" sentence. If you don't have a good name, like metafive or mondegreen or Googlenope, it'll never catch on. I don't have an example but we need to turn our brains to it in the remaining minutes.

Think, everyone! 

When I was a kid I would see that "Cooking Secrets of the CIA" was on WETA-TV and I truly thought it was says giving us their recipes. I was so disappointed when I found out the truth.

You know, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe, they did this on purpose!

Julia Child was in the OSS so... chef spy would definitely work

Hercule Puree?

James Bundt?

Sorry there's only one kind of cake that is worth eating: chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, preferably a fudge type frosting. Ok, maybe carrot cake too.

You had BETTER include carrot cake in there! Also, I disagree! Many types of cake are worth eating! As in all things, your personal cake mileage may vary, but in my opinion it is hard to beat an orange cake or an almond cake with chocolate ganache and caramel center. Fortunately, this is entirely subjective so we all get the cake we deserve. 

The New York school is between Poughkeepsie and Hyde Park on US 9, a couple miles south of the FDR Library. Once everything (safely) reopens, the school restaurants ( ) are a great place to have lunch before (or dinner after) visiting the Hyde Park attractions.

Great to know! 

And on that note, I must skedaddle in the general direction of a not-so-secret-sounding lunch. Have a great week, see you on the blog and Twitter, and my audiobook is out today, if you want to hear a talented professional read NOTHING IS WRONG AND HERE IS WHY aloud! 


In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
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