The Digest

The Meals That Make Us & Other News

3rd February 2018

Words: James Hansen

The “invention” of veganism, the gender politics of kitchenware, and a beloved soft drink regains its fizz: all in this week’s food media round-up

Ruby Tandoh remembers meals enjoyed and uneaten for The Guardian: meals that indelibly “nudged me towards a better life, and taught me not just about food, but about myself.” Her memories run a gamut as wide as her tastes: an abject tilapia that has become a benchmark for things actually being okay and an oyster never eaten but deeply nourishing. Tandoh generously and smartly shows how food necessarily intersects with politics, and travel, and love: “every single bite opens us up to the world.”

Devra Ferst covers the resurgence of a favourite fizz in Israel for Taste Cooking. Gazoz, “is, at its core, a mixture of soda water and sweet fruit syrup that can come in artificial electric colors, in flavors like raspberry, orange, and grape.” Its former popularity was punctured by a combination of SodaStream and Coca-Cola, but now the drink is being reinterpreted and reinvented for a new generation of consumers. Ferst is alive to the fact that “unlike so many foods that have been ‘revived,’ their makers going back to time-consuming methods of cooking, there’s no culinary tradition for gazoz makers to return to”; instead, the new wave of gazoz makers look to their immediate terroir for future flavours.

Khushbu Shah looks at the privilege inherent to mainstream veganism for Thrillist. It’s a familiar tale: the “invention” of a social identity in the western world is taken as origin story, neglecting the fact that “these ideologies and traditions had flourished in communities of color for centuries prior, if not longer.” The mainstream ideal of veganism is bound up in certain ideas of class, wealth, and race: “foods most associated with vegan meals – crumbly blocks of tofu, fluffy quinoa, pots of chia pudding, ‘wraps’ made from collard greens instead of tortillas, pulled-pork sandwiches made from jackfruit – originated in communities of color who have been eating these items for hundreds of years.” For vegans outside this restrictive blueprint, advocacy, support and eating are routes to being seen: as Jenné Clairborne puts it: “There’s something powerful about taking back one’s health and consciousness.”

Ashley Fetters explains the gender politics behind kitchenware at Curbed. As more and more American men take an interest in the kitchen, its appliances and their manufacturers have responded in kind: “as men discover kitchens, kitchens have been quietly discovering men.” Tracing the evolution of the design of the Crock-Pot through floral patterning to the “steel it, matte-black it, and make it heavier” aesthetic that now dominates appliances, Fetters sharply exposes the relationship between those who brands think are cooking, and how they appeal to those cooks. An intriguing counterpoint is the ergonomic diversity of OXO, whose mission is captured in the mural of gloves of all shapes and sizes at their headquarters.

Annalee Newitz explores the farming cycles of North America at Ars Technica. Alive to the fact that “we haven’t simply lost a few plant strains: an entire cuisine with its own kinds of flavors and baked goods has simply disappeared”, Newitz goes underground into the archaeology of farming. While “disappeared” is a generous assessment of how indigenous cuisine was erased, Newitz clearly lays out the challenges behind the genetic research rehabilitating crops lost to history – “and it’s not just about finding the next quinoa for health-food nerds.”

Image: Ilka & Franz / The Guardian

Posted 3rd February 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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