Link Buffet: Expectations vs. Reality

At Mother Jones, The Secret History of Black Chefs in America. I was particularly moved by this description of how the chefs’ accomplishments were undervalued, which is a pattern one sees again and again in work that recovers lost histories of people of color and women: their art was frequently not celebrated and remembered because it was not considered artful, merely instinctive.

“On the rare occasions that black chefs were credited, Tipton-Martin discovered, they were often portrayed as mammies “working out of a natural instinct or with some kind of voodoo mysterious magic,” she told me. Sure, they sometimes relied on quirky methods (measuring out ingredients by comparing their weights to that of an egg or a walnut) and folksy language (“putting vegetables up for the winter,” a.k.a. fermenting), but compare their acumen to the requirements of any culinary school syllabus, Tipton-Martin says, and you can start to “see the depth of knowledge” these chefs possessed.”

Really enjoyed this Guardian piece on the art of writing fortunes for cookies. I wonder how they tracked down the writer who penned the classic “You will be hungry in an hour.” I wonder if they can find the writer who slipped this Hamlet reference into one cookie I opened:
J God gave you one face
and you paint yourself another J

I’m always surprised and fascinated by food-related crimes, like the suspected avocado sabotage of 2013. Now we have a grand scale Parmigiano-Reggiano heist. Also, this trivia gem:

A 2011 study by the Center for Retail Research in Britain found that cheese is the most commonly stolen food in the world.

As invested as I am in circulating data that dismantles myths about American eating habits and obesity, I have occasionally fallen into the trap of assuming that fast food is both primarily targeted to and primarily consumed by the overworked and underpaid poor populations of the U.S. Most often this comes up in conversations about cooking and eating “well”–healthily, organically, sustainably, and so forth–which demands greater expense and more labor than fast food. But while it’s important to critique the ways certain fashionable food products and methods are economically inaccessible to many, it’s also important that we avoid reducing the other side of that equation to a caricature or symbol. To be plain: we cannot assume or imply that fast food is primarily consumed by lower-income Americans now that we know that populations across income levels eat roughly the same amount of fast food. The poorest populations in the U.S. eat slightly less fast food than populations with more income.

While we’re on the subject of making assumptions and implications: I’d enjoy this NPR piece about sweet tea around the world if it was a little more “look at these global traditions!” and a little less “sweet tea is going to kill you!” And, as usual, the comments are garbage. I’m linking to it because there are a couple of nice citations theorizing about sugar and tea as a pairing, but mainly  because it made me wax nostalgic about the sweet tea of my Southern youth. I don’t recall that my grandmother brewed hers particularly sweet–not nearly as sweet as the Crystal Light and Lipton powdered tea I drank at home. But I enjoyed her homebrewed tea and the brewed sweet tea served at my favorite dive in college, Huey’s. We’d order it by the carafe for the table. Once I was eating with a huge group of twenty and when the server brought a half-carafe of unsweetened tea to the table we all looked at each other dumbly and would not claim it; it must have been a mistake. But this was a treat, you understand; we didn’t drink it daily any more than we ate bacon-and-cheese-smothered fries daily. Those were special hangout foods, at least in my milieu.

See, the nice thing about left-wing politics is that even if a liberal candidate does not support pumpkin spice lattes, she will not try to prevent the rest of you from drinking them legally. On one hand, the response to Clinton’s throwaway comment has been pretty ridiculous–come on, folks, she didn’t even say she didn’t like them! just that she wasn’t willing to invest in the calories! which is really more of a comment on the immense pressure we put on candidates, particularly female candidates, to curate their appearances!–but on the other hand, we have seen how cookie recipes play into presidential politics, so it’s possible that the PSL is a serious talking point.

It is not new, but I recently stumbled across Fulvio Bonavia’s A Matter of Taste (2008), which features fashion accessories made out of food and photographed in a slick editorial style.


That silvery fish belt reminded me strongly of a poem by Mark Doty that I’ve been meaning to work into my dissertation somewhere, although it never quite seems to fit. Ironic, for a poem about the shimmering allure of perfect unanimity:

How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,
which is the price of gleaming.

One response to “Link Buffet: Expectations vs. Reality

  1. Pingback: Elsewhere on the Internet: Wine, Women, and Tomme | Scenes of Eating·

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