I finally made time to read Rachel Laudan’s Plea for Culinary Modernism, and found it well worth the #longread. Lauden’s argument is that the culinary past we presently have a nostalgia for–a simpler and purer time of whole foods and everyday artistry in the kitchen–never existed. By yearning for this imaginary past and admonishing one another to get back into the kitchen and in touch with our roots, we erase the backbreaking labor and food insecurity that characterize “authentic” and “natural” foodways, such as those can be defined. She writes:
What we need is an ethos that comes to terms with contemporary, industrialized food, not one that dismisses it, an ethos that opens choices for everyone, not one that closes them for many so that a few may enjoy their labor, and an ethos that does not prejudge, but decides case by case when natural is preferable to processed, fresh to preserved, old to new, slow to fast, artisanal to industrial.
Sweeping culinary history is Laudan’s jam, as it were, and her comprehensive debunking of the myths of authenticity are peppered with vivid imagery of the unromanticized past, making for an enjoyable as well as persuasive read.
May was Food Month at The Billfold, which means a month of many different ways to look at the economics of buying, selling, and making food. I liked this post about the labor behind an $8 carton of eggs–which may, perhaps, be taken as a practical illustration of the need for better, smarter convenience food implied by Laudan’s argument above. The cost of a kitchen staple like eggs is a tender subject for me: although I deliberately opted into low-paying employment this year and although I cut many corners to cook on a budget, I also deliberately buy $5 cartons of local eggs on the regular. In fact, for the summer I went ahead and paid for a whole season’s eggshare and every other week I get a dozen beautiful golden-yolked eggs for cooking and baking. I consider this money well spent and one of my more rewarding culinary decisions this spring. But how much better would it be if the kind of eggs that now cost $5-8 per carton–eggs supplied by humane farmers who raise healthy chickens–were made substantially cheaper, either because their producers were granted the same federal subsidies given to industrial poultry suppliers, or if some as-yet-undeveloped technology could make large-scale poultry farming a more humane, healthy, and sustainable practice?
I was very interested in The Plate’s explanation of why your Bloody Mary tastes better on a plane. My typical in-flight service selection is tomato juice, particularly on a flight that offers pretzels or crackers but no meal. At first it was an attempt to stave off hangry pangs on a midday flight, but the tomato + salty snack combination is particularly satisfying up in the air, so now it’s a comfort food habit.
Incidentally, Amelia Earhart brought tomato juice on her flight across the Atlantic.
Edible Geography explores the concept of “aeroir” , or flavor imbued by the atmosphere of a specific time and place, via a tasting of meringues whipped up in different smoggy cities.
Philadelphia’s Dock Street Brewery is playing nonstop Wu-Tang music for one of its aging beers. To my surprise, a quick google revealed a number of other wine and beer brewers who have tried similar experiments over the last few years. The idea is that music vibrations stimulate the yeast that drive fermentation. I suppose it’s not too different from singing to your plants, although there has been extensive scientific observation of plant reaction to sound and not so much on the musical preferences of yeast.
Sociological Images examines the way women eat with men versus the way they eat with women. I don’t care for the title of the post–academics are the worst when it comes to titling, and I ought to have included “appropriating the title of a literary classic at random, often with unintended implications” to my list of faux pas–but the study itself reminds me of this little bit of Bourdieu’s Distinction which suggests that the manner in which food is eaten may cause the food to have masculine or feminine connotations.