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PhenomeNOMS: Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

PhenomeNOMS: Nikola Tesla
By Erin Parr

Welcome to the sixth edition of PhenomeNOMS, a look at famous geeks and the food that has either inspired them, or is inspired by them.  This week’s edition features Nikola Tesla. I knew Tesla would be a difficult subject to write about because we all know he is SO COOL that it’s hardly manageable to contain his coolness in a short blurb and inspired recipe. Because there’s so much information about Tesla, the blurb will be short, but the I think what I came up with will really make your brain and tastebuds happy.

Tesla, one of the greatest inventors in history, born in 1856 in Croatia, is best known for creating a myriad of amazing inventions, including but not limited to: the Tesla coil, the Tesla induction motor, fluorescent lighting, alternating current (AC) electrical supply systems, and even modern radio (much to the dismay of Marconi-lovers, Tesla did indeed pioneer the technology that Marconi later claimed as his own). He also pioneered the idea of wireless broadcasting of things like telephone conversations and photos, a concept which made many people think he was insane. Without these inventions from a man who was vastly ahead of his time, we wouldn’t have much of the technology we have today.

One of the most famous feuds in history is the one between Tesla’s alternating current (AC) system, and Thomas Edison’s direct current (or DC) system. Tesla offered to improve upon Edison’s generators and motors, to which Edison offered a large sum for Tesla to do so. Having completed the task, Tesla asked for the money, to which Edison replied, jokingly, “Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor.” Their working relationship ended shortly after.

You may have recently heard that the Oatmeal, an incredibly popular web comic, also made a fantastic tribute to Tesla. The creator decided to launch an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money to create a Tesla museum and was more than successful!

Diet was important to Tesla, particularly sticking to a majorly vegetarian diet (though he still liked dairy). He believed in health, and had some quite strange habits when it came to meal time (for example, he required 18 napkins, precisely folded into exact thirds, and had to calculate the cubic volume of each bite of food before he put it in his mouth). But because of Tesla’s desire to eat a more plant-based diet, I have provided you a recipe for a meal that would be fit for consumption of this pioneer in science. Considering that his, let’s just say “eccentric” nature in consuming foods made his diet somewhat difficult to pin down, I believe this recipe exemplifies the simplicity of his diet to feed the complexity of his mind.

Tesla’s Coil of Potatoes and Greens

(See what I did there? No?)


2 to 2.5 lbs of russet or gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
several healthy pinches of salt
5-6 tablespoons unsalted butter (with more for serving)
3 lightly packed cups of chopped kale, cabbage, chard, or other leafy green
3 green onions (including the green onion greens), minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 small (approximately a cup) chopped yellow or white onion
1 cup cream


Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil.

Boil until the potatoes are fork tender (15 to 20 minutes) and drain. Return the pot to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pot and once it’s hot, add the greens and chopped onion. Cook the greens and yellow or white onion for about 8 minutes, or until they are wilted and have given off some of their water and the onion is translucent. Add the green onions and cook 1 minute more. Pour in the milk or cream and let simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce. Add the potatoes. Reduce the heat to medium. Use a fork or potato masher and mash the potatoes, mixing them up with the greens. Add salt to taste and serve hot, with a dab in the center. A hearty, tasty meal fit for a scientist!

A note: I really wanted to do something that would catch the electrifying nature of his experiments in a recipe. Look for another edition of PhenomeNOMS featuring an epic battle of food, Tesla-style.

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