PhenomeNOMS: Vi Hart

Vi Hart

PhenomeNOMS: Vi Hart

By Erin Parr

Welcome to the seventh edition of PhenomeNOMS, a look at famous geeks and the food that has either inspired them, or is inspired by them. It’s about time we feature a ladygeek, am I right? This arm-warmered darling of the mathematical community is one amazing Mathemagician who has made countless entertaining and educational YouTube videos. Many of her videos star her famous mathematical doodles with explanations about the Fibonacci sequence, Pythagoras, and fractals.

Vi’s early life was influenced greatly by her mathematical sculptor father. At the age o 13, Vi attended a conference on computational geometry, and claims that her trip inspired her to become passionate about mathematics. After attending college for a degree in music, she explored her career options. While looking back at some of her mathematical doodles she made in her notebook while attended college courses, she decided to make a YouTube channel to explain her drawings. The popularity of these videos grew and she has now become an internet sensation, teaching the world about mathematical concepts and theories using her delightful doodles. Vi has labeled herself a “Mathemusician”, and is now employed by the Khan Academy, an educational website that features videos about a variety of subjects for people to learn about everything from math to space exploration. Vi’s use of less traditional methods to teach math has inspired lots of media attention that has labeled her as someone who wants to change how traditional educators teach math and has inspired people to make learning math concepts fun.

Vi has done several of her video blog episodes about mathematical foods, from the turducken (ailailail) episode which featured a turkey with two ducks, stuffed with four hens, and stuffed with eight quail eggs, to using candy buttons as a way to teach about mobius strips, to the famous Hexaflexamexagon – a hexaflexagon made out of a tortilla and various other delicious Tex-mex inspired ingredients.  Her use of food to explain mathematical concepts is one of the best reasons why Vi is an excellent candidate for PhenomeNOMS. The tricky part is: what food best fits someone who already uses food as a way to communicate her geeky knowledge?

Some other delicious examples of mathematical foods you can try at home are the Sierpinski Hamantaschen, or eating tortilla chips dipped in cheese in the Fibonacci sequence ( first 1 chip, then 1 chip, then  2 chips, 3, 5, etc.) to have Fibonachos. The possibilities can be endless! Recipes themselves are excellent ways to learn about measurement and volume. You can even use pizzas or pies to learn about fractions, or small candies to learn about subtraction. Food is an excellent tool for learning about math. Of course, for today’s recipe I could just make one of Vi’s favorite foods, a simple combination of box macaroni and cheese with an ample application of Sriracha (don’t knock it, this combination is delicious, even through its simplicity!), but that wouldn’t make for a great recipe. Today we’re going to visit Pythagoras of Samos and make (wait for it….) triangular samosas! See what I did there? Good.

Vi Hart’s YouTube channel can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/Vihart

Pythagorean Samosas

Ingredients

Samosa Dough:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
salt to taste
water
1 tsp oil
flour for rolling

Filling:

3/4 cup peeled and chopped potatoes
3/4 cup frozen green peas
3/4 finely chopped cabbage
3/4 tbsp oil
1/3 cup finely chopped onions
1 serrano pepper, chopped fine
1/2in nub of ginger, finely grated
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
3/4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste
3 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
Vegetable oil for frying

To make the dough, sift the salt and flour together. Add the oil and knead, adding water a little at a time, until it becomes a soft dough. Set aside.

To make the filling, heat the 3/4 tbsp of oil in a large pan. Add the onions and cook on medium until translucent and starting to brown. Add the potatoes and cook on medium until they start to brown and become soft. Stir regularly.

Once the potatoes are soft, add the cabbage, serrano, garlic, peas, lemon juice and spices t the mixture and cook on low until all vegetables are cooked. Remove from heat, add cilantro (if using) and mix together. Cool slightly.

Now to make the samosas! Roll the dough into about 7 or 8 balls and, using a rolling pin, roll out each ball into a very thin elongated circle using the extra flour for rolling. Cut each circle in half so you have two half-circles. Meanwhile, heat a pan of oil for frying. Take the half-circle and create a cone-shape by folding over each side. Use a spoon to equally portion out a small amount of the filling into the cone. Seal the edges with a little water or water/flour mixture to make a triangle shape.

Place each samosa into the oil and fry, turning, until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels and serve with mint, mango, tomato or tamarind chutney or raita. Delicious, crispy, and mathematasty!

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