The Digest

Damn Fine Cherry Pie & Other News

2nd June 2017

Words: James Hansen

cherry pie

Also in this week’s digest: Trump’s cookies, the cultural capital of cupcakes and Manchester’s relationship with curry

Take your first sip of morning covfefe with Sara Dickerman as she samples a wealth of – terrible – cookies at Ruby et Violette for Politico. The New York cookie company is owned by Trump campaign megadonor Rebekah Mercer, and Dickerman’s 24-cookie tasting explores “how the dark art of political machination interacts with the mostly sunny craft of making sweet treats”. Tapping into cookies’ social resonance in the USA between the Lemon White (“fine-in-theory”) and Champagne Strawberry (“the whiff of manufactured desire”) Dickerman teases out their best offering: “A welcoming platter for any visiting autocrat”.

At The Manchester Evening News, Emily Heward walks down The Curry Mile. The stretch in question, Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, was once a central pillar of Mancunian food culture, abuzz with the diversity that makes the city what it is. As restaurant numbers dwindle, evolution has become essential; as one restauranteur Haz Arshad puts it, “The curry mile stood still while the rest of the world kept moving.” Nostalgia sits easily alongside the restaurant owners’ appetite for innovation: eschewing the broad-stroke “curry” in favour of regional and stylistic difference, bringing new traditions to life.

We stand between Rome and London with Rachel Roddy at The Guardian, probing the fine distinction between cherry and ricotta tarts. The first: “a buxom slice” of torta di visciole e ricotta from the Rome ghetto, its pastry top ranging from a burnished brown to “unequivocally black”. Not burnt, but charred: the flavour of fire. The second, crostata di visciole: still a cherry tart, but more slight, lighter in colour, and kinder to the domestic oven, which shrinks from the fierce heat of a Roman bakery. Neither trumps the other: memories of making pastry with her Granny Alice usher in the recipe, “good as pudding, even better midmorning with a coffee, mid-afternoon with tea, or late at night with a glass of something you fancy”. A damn fine cherry pie.

An older piece thrumming with currency from Shakira Hussein at Meanjin Quarterly addresses culinary power structures in Australia. The essay pivots on two contrasts: an Australian advert for diversity pivoting around a communal BBQ, set against the “cupcakes with a side order of racism” distributed on the streets of Melbourne by Soldiers of Odin – an Australian offshoot of a far-right Finnish group. Hussein’s thesis is clear: “Food has long been used as a potent weapon of division.” Her conclusion, a cup of tea “infused with the qualities of the person who had prepared it and the location in which it was served”, reminds us that food also nourishes community – a double-edged sword.

We’re closing out the week with George Reynolds writing on the anniversary of a Great Culinary Battle for Civilian Global. His subject is the war of words between firebrand London chef Tom Sellers and Evening Standard food critic Fay Maschler (click the links for the respective pieces) balancing the two to evaluate “the responsibilities of the critic, and the recourse of the critiqued”. Stating the obvious when it needs to be stated is a difficult line to walk, here toed with grace: “Sometimes as a critic your experience is so unpleasant that being a faithful mirror to it means that unpleasantness is the only appropriate language in which you can couch it.” Put another way, insight will – should – trump invective.

Image: Cherry Pie by Ian Viggars

Posted 2nd June 2017

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

More from The Digest

The Restaurant That Wasn’t There & Other News – In this week's online round-up: the best food writing of 2017, the eventful marriage of ham and pineapple, and the lengths restaurants go to impress critics

The Sandwich Revolution & Other News – In this week's round-up of the best online food media: the shape of bread, Japanese noodle history, and Native American culinary customs under threat

The Natural Wine Explosion & Other News – In this week's round-up of the best online food writing: in search of lost flavour, the art of tinkering, and culinary nostalgia in the age of Trump

The Ultimate Peach & Other News – In this week's round-up of the best online food writing: a restaurant manifesto, meeting "Pakistan's Martha Stewart" and a reappraisal of MFK Fisher