The Digest

In Search of the American Orange & Other News

23rd June 2017

Words: James Hansen

Orange groves

In this week’s food media round-up: recipe sharing through the ages, the effect of climate change on coffee, the enduring nostalgia of ice cream and a lament for the American orange

Wyatt Williams examines America’s relationship with oranges for The Oxford American. Framed by John McPhee’s cultural history of the fruit – Oranges its wryly brief title – Williams details the changing relationship between consumers and growers as orange juice concentrate became the product du jour. Retracing McPhee’s journey from Florida to California, with passages from the book like roadsigns in the dark, he maps Florida’s irrevocable slide from bags of orange fruit to bottles of orange pills, as greening disease ravages orange groves that once were laden with fruit, like “golden lamps in a green night“.

A cooling photoessay at National Geographic follows: a condensed history of ice cream. July is National Ice Cream Month in the USA, as decreed by Ronald Reagan, but the images do not discriminate in inducing a craving for the frozen treat. From the punning “Hoot Hoot I Scream” kiosk (complete with owl-shaped design) to the animated exchange taking place over two 99s (hold the flake) in “Cones and Conversation”, the indelible place of sweet and creamy cold stuff in our culture is celebrated in all its glory. We’ll take a lemon sorbet – in a cup, not a cone – on a hot Mediterranean evening, as the sun tucks itself into bed.

Bee Wilson reflects on the changing face of recipe culture through the ages – what we share and how we share it – in a pleasingly long read for Observer Food Monthly. “Recipes are amazing things, somewhere between magic potions and passports to a different way of living. They take dishes that belong to one cook and teleport them to another.” As those who invent relinquish ownership in favour of dissemination, the world’s palate develops for the better; those who produce food for a living have more willing consumers, but their tongues are perhaps more discriminating, their brains (and Twitter feeds) more full of knowledge. When the recipes are one’s own, it’s hard to argue with Nigella Lawson’s view that “return[ing] to her own recipes, it can be like an encounter with her younger self”. For more evidence of social media’s culinary might, we can’t resist sharing this gem from last week. Hat-tip to Jeff Lewis.

Courtney Columbus examines the complex relationship between coffee and climate change over at NPR. Her piece focuses on Ethiopia – the birthplace of coffea arabica – and the dire consequences of the planet heating up. Arabica coffee grows at high altitude, between 1200 and 2200 metres above sea level: it thrives in cool temperatures. As lower elevations in this range become inhospitable, crops die off and farmers suffer. A suggested, if naive, solution is simply to move everything up – what this disregards is that coffee farming choices are often governed by geographical and economic limitations. When investment comes, measures can be taken, but for that the world needs to buy more coffee and pay more for it. Pair this with an investigation into the fraudulent world of the most iconic of tomatoes from Mari Uyehara at Taste.

The late film critic Roger Ebert rounds us off this week with an archive piece from 2010. Food writing is often heralded for its democracy: everybody eats, so to evoke a memory of food or drink is to evoke something for everybody, sometime, somewhere. This begs the question of what happens when we stop eating, here due to illness, and we’ll leave Roger to provide one of many answers:

So that’s what’s sad about not eating. The loss of dining, not the loss of food. It may be personal, but for me, unless I’m alone, it doesn’t involve dinner if it doesn’t involve talking. The food and drink I can do without easily. The jokes, gossip, laughs, arguments and shared memories I miss. Sentences beginning with the words, “Remember that time?” I ran in crowds where anyone was likely to break out in a poetry recitation at any time. Me too. But not me anymore. So yes, it’s sad. Maybe that’s why I enjoy this blog. You don’t realize it, but we’re at dinner right now.

Posted 23rd June 2017

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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