The Digest

The Street Food Disconnect & Other News

16th June 2017

Words: James Hansen

street food

In this week’s look at the best food media on the web: queer safe spaces in bars & restaurants, a great dumpling feud, a critique of street food and flatpack pasta

We start with John Birdsall, for Eater, in Florida. A sad, beautiful, warily hopeful essay winds its way from Orlando to Miami, following the “pin drops you can connect to trace the shadow of a queer city on a mainstream map, a place to move freely, without armor”. The trip takes place in the shadow of the 2016 shooting at Pulse, Orlando – a queer safe space shattered by intolerance – exploring the safety found in restaurants and bars. When prejudice quietly rears its head in a reservation unfulfilled, in the flippant apology of a sherry on the house and the guilt it reveals, those pin drops grow sharper. Birdsall reflects too on the bubble such spaces can engender and the meaning of crossing back into the world at large, as he and his husband, Perry, “leave the shadows of Gaythering’s residential neighborhood and merge with the strolling crowd licking gelato under the lights”.

An archive piece from Collectors Weekly follows: Ben Marks writing on China in 1968, otherwise known as Mao Zedong’s year of the mango. The timeline is simple: Pakistan’s foreign minister, Mian Arshad Hussain, meets with Mao in Beijing. He brings mangoes as a gift; Mao is not a fan of mangoes; Mao brings the mangoes to workers at Quingha University. For Mao, a regift; for the workers, an imbuing of fruit with potent political symbolism. Exaltation and cultish reverence follows: mangoes are preserved in formaldehyde and boiled in broth – as well as literally being placed on a pedestal. Wait for the “mango float” towards the end. It’s not what you think.

From reverence to rejection, with Emily Gibson and her searing takedown of street food for dinner at Curious London. Her ire revolves around a bad experience at Pergola Paddington; all jostling elbows, cold food and “Post Office queues”, “a tiresome, expensive ordeal”. Her thesis expands to encompass the undeniable commercialism of London street food, what happens when a mode of eating is commodified far from its origins, and the broadening gap between the idea of street food and its reality. Sit down, at a table, inside, and peruse.

A comments compilation from Cleaver Quarterly examines the feuding allegiances behind zongzi. These sticky rice dumplings create two camps, and the nub is the filling: sweet or savoury? Instead of calling in people to interview, CQ have crowdsourced the warring factions “on China’s microblogs and BBS forums”. Adding a political angle – enforcedly so, owing to some of the snippets – the Sweet Party and Savoury Party trade insults. “To stamp out the scourge of high blood pressure that plagues mankind, the Savory Party must die” versus “Burn the Sweet Party!! Then ladle saltwater onto them!! Salty Party for the win.” Pick your side.

We’re closing out with Kat Bauman at Core77 on the promise of flatpack pasta. Lining Yao and Wen Wang of MIT seek to conquer the space wasted by air in pasta – the holes in rigatoni, or penne. By 2D printing pasta shapes in a certain combination of gelatin and starch, they have isolated the compositions that will react predictably in boiling water. Flat pasta transforming before your eyes. The research gives way to practice with a video, Transformative Appetite, from Matthew Delisle. The production process and the shapeshifting noodles are showcased in high-definition, ending in a stunning plated dish. Whether it’s edible is another matter.

Posted 16th June 2017

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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