The Digest

In Search of Lost Tea & Other News

24th January 2017

Words: James Hansen

In our new weekly round-up of food stories from the web: wine memories, mercurial honey and a hunt for the ultimate ragù

Facing turbulent times across the pond, Americans could be forgiven for seeking comfort in pastrami on rye. Julia Moskin ventures further afield, heading into “the woods of modern Nordic cuisine” with a deeply-researched piece for the New York Times. Moving beyond bread to explore rye’s place as an ingredient, her fascination with the “bumpy, nutty and fragrant” rugbrød is irresistible. (Pair with our interview with Ben Mackinnon of E5 Bakehouse, which does its own superlative rugbrød.)

On this side of the Atlantic, we find George Reynolds, winner of Fresh Voices in Food Writing at the 2016 YBFs, writing insightfully on Luca, the new Clerkenwell restaurant from the owners of the Clove Club. Yearning for something more serene in the face of culinary Instacommotion, he also lingers over some stunning parmesan fries. Pair this with one from the archives: a tender ode-memoir to “The Nobility of Service” from Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park.

Further memoir comes from John Seabrook at the New Yorker. Tracing his relationship with his father through wine, “Behind the Cellar Door” is a journey through the vintages both joyous and solemn. Mapping the layout of the family cellar in vivid, textured detail, his writing is just as sharp when memories become more hazy: “I don’t remember my first taste of wine. I know I feared it. The smell of beer was off-putting but tolerable; wine, while aromatic, smelled of real alcohol, and my body judiciously sensed poison, even as my brain scented fun.” For another angle, take a look at Roald Dahl‘s wry short story, Taste.

“The bustling Paris streets were rutted and caked in thick mud, but there was always a breathtaking sight to behold in the shop windows of Patisserie de la Rue de la Paix”. So begins Nicole Jankowski‘s illuminating NPR profile of Marie-Antoine Carême, chef to Napoleon and the first to insist that we “try this at home”. It’s an engrossing history and a fine counterpoint to the world of the celebrity chef as it is today.

Staying in the historical realm, Sara Barnes has unearthed photos of tea production from early 1900s Japan (see above). Taken by T. Enami – the initial intriguingly never spelled out in any public record – in Shidzuoka, rolling fields give way to picking, drying and roasting. Compendious and eerily beautiful, the images document the production of tea in finely granulated detail.

Writing for Saveur in the USA, Alex Testere profiles Scottish heather honey, “a honey so strange, so mesmerizing and mercurial” – terms not so readily applied to the delicious nectar we spread on toast so often. Testere’s reverence for the care and risk in production – a reverence we might feel for natural wine or far-flung cheese – comes, largely, from the novelty of geographical distance. This novelty, we’ve found, is somewhat lost in popping down to the supermarket.

We finish this week’s digest with an Italian pilgrimage, a winding, beautiful essay-cum-travelogue from Matt Goulding in search of ragù. Traversing Emilia Romagna, “ground zero for Italy’s ragu culture [where] the differences between one village’s ragu and the next can be a catalyst for controversy and recrimination”, you are rewarded with two glorious recipes – opportunity to spend a lazy few hours salivating as the promise of dinner bubbles ever closer.

Posted 24th January 2017

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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