Liquid Nitrogen ice cream? Fractal pecan pie? A recirculating gravy fountain? – An interview with Turkey Tek

Liquid Nitrogen ice cream? Fractal pecan pie? A recirculating gravy fountain? – An interview with Turkey Tek

Arwen has a fantastic interview (make sure to see the photos) she writes – “Liquid Nitrogen ice cream? Fractal pecan pie?? A recirculating gravy fountain??? I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw Turkey Tek’s Thanksgiving Instructables way back in April, and I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting to see what they put up this year. To keep myself occupied while I wait for Thanksgiving to come and go and for TT to disclose this year’s escapade, I thought I’d ask a few questions about what makes Turkey Tek tick.”So, how would you describe yourself?
turkey+tek represents the exploits of a collective group of folks who’ve been getting together for the past 6 years to celebrate the thanksgiving holiday.

How do you feel about Thanksgiving? I’m assuming you like it a lot, but do you have any good stories about how your first became interested?
Thanksgiving is a chance to come together with a large, extended family of friends for four days of fun and games. Folks fly or drive from across the country to participate; eating and drinking take the place of sleeping.

Thanksgiving is about humans joining together and doing what they can to contribute to the greater good. What we do is devote an insane amount of time to some absurdist food project. We’ve tried pushing the envelope on other food/holiday type events. There was the Easter where all the food ended up blue and roughly cubical,


and a 4th of July with a homemade mechanical bull and giant, cubical, impossible-to-destroy plywood pinata:


but I think I speak for us all when I say that Thanksgiving is where the heart is.

How on earth did you come up with the idea to make a recirculating gravy fountain? or a fractal pecan pie? Or liquid nitrogen ice cream?
Each year, there is this natural tendency to outdo what ever went down the year before; the sort of group mentality where you’re really pushing each other to stretch the limits. This really amounts to some sort of unstable positive feedback loop of oneupmanship, damped only by the laws of physics and available cash reserves. We’re working on seeing what can be done about the former.

The initial perturbation that drove us into this wild oscillation can in part be traced back to our “first thanksgiving” in which some miscalculation resulted in around 1 pie per person per day and an extremely excessive quantity of hard sauce (a traditional topping for mince pie, basically butter and sugar). The threat of having to sit down and eat more hard sauce quickly became the rallying cry for the weekend. Over the next two years, the number of attendees rose from 5 to 40, we scaled the quantity of hard sauce up by 10x, and learned how to fry turkeys; things really took off from there.

I shot a video documentary which captures a snapshot of the heady days during this “ramp-up” period.

Cut to 2k4. The fractal pie was actually version 2 of a fairly large but unsatisfying pie from the previous year which had been baked in parts and assembled on site. Of course you’re never going to break some record for the largest pecan pie; such territory has already been so well trod. We pushed out along different lines. The Koch curve design satisfied some aesthetic criteria as well as having a lot of nice math jokes that went along with it.

The next year, we drifted away from the dessert theater. Somehow it seemed improbable that anything could top the pie in terms of pure elegance or person-hours exhausted. What we did carry on was the sense of excess. Thanksgiving is descendant of the harvest festival in which you are celebrating how much excess food you have but also trying to eat it all before it rots. The gravy fountain really flooded forth directly from trying to amplify this concept of excess to an absurdity. Or maybe not. 2k5 was the year where everyone who was anyone had a chocolate fountain at their wedding.

To some extent, I feel these projects/sculptures don’t actually belong on Instructables. The penchant for excessive photo-documentation gives the impression of a how-to but they aren’t something I’d expect someone to replicate, they really just amount to braggadocio. On the other hand, people do seem to find them entertaining. If I was an art student, then they would probably be displayed at some unpronounceable url with a lot of flash animations and a manifesto about the non-relation between Dada and technology. Instead, I prefer to think of them as reasonably well-executed jokes.

Well, we’re delighted to act as one of many platforms for distribution of the Turkey+Tek way of life. What other interesting projects are you working on right now?
Besides pushing some new turkey cooking techniques, we’re revisiting the pie concept (never really left). Frankly, that fractal pie had a little too much crust so our current design spec calls for a pie with no boundary. This is hard to accomplish in two dimensions so we’re branching out.

A couple years ago, we had invested a significant amount of effort in developing a catalog of puns relating pie to various mathematical concepts, e.g. pie-thagorean theorem, pie-nomial expansions, pie-sometry, pie-sosceles, pie-percubes, pie-somorphism, paralell-pie-ped, pier-perbolic plane, pie-dempotent, pie-furcation theory, and so on. Drawing on this groundwork, we just finished fabricating a modular pie-cosahedron built from 20 magnetically interlocking equilateral pie-angles.

A construction snapshot for now, and a full instructable to appear later in the week.


What are your favorite tools/books/websites?
This is an illuminating reference for the forgetful, but this keeps me up at night.

What’s one tip you’d give to other makers or users of Instructables?
The thing they don’t tell you about fractals is just how sharp they are. You may think you have a pretty good grasp on the equations, but you will still be unprepared for just how quick a set of measure zero can slice open your hand. Always wear gloves, always.

2 thoughts on “Liquid Nitrogen ice cream? Fractal pecan pie? A recirculating gravy fountain? – An interview with Turkey Tek

  1. jessica says:

    on the slide 3 and 4 look freaking grows it look like some one barfed on the thing i feal sorry for who ever had to eat that nasty crap

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