10th March 2017
Words: James Hansen
Painting: Floris Verster
We kick off this week with a more thorough appraisal of a piece that slipped through our deadline last week: a timely excavation of food criticism from Navneet Alang for Eater. The piece pivots around The Chicken Connoisseur: Elijah Quashie’s video review series of chicken shops in London, and now New York. Alang confidently and graciously navigates such varied reference points as F.R. Leavis, cacio e pepe and Guy Fieri – a gamut if ever there was one – to present a compelling argument for the future of food criticism. In short: more self-reflection; fewer idle standards. Pair with an ever-articulate response from George Reynolds, or – going offline – seek out The Nearest Thing to Life by James Wood. Fair warning: it’s not, necessarily, about food.
It’s hard to ignore an article containing the phrase “haute cuisine Willy Wonka”, but Shauna Lyon keeps that level going for the duration of her feature for The New Yorker on a kids’ menu. At Per Se, no less. Lyon strikes a witty balance between Keller’s clear and sincere devotion to fun and a welcome cynicism: any PB&J “with something to do with a nonalcoholic Gewürtztraminer” merits an archly raised eyebrow. Between choruses of “Kids first!” in the kitchen and a rebellious “three-year-old with a shark sippy cup”, it’s a heartwarming salute to the childlike joy that all ages can find in food, as much as a wry examination of the Michelin circus. Pair with one from the other side of the pass: an archive series from Matthew Novak on his time as a stage at Alinea. Expect reverence, blunders and plating with tweezers.
The wonderfully gerund-ing Restaurant-ing Through History moves us along with a historical guide to Christian eateries from Jan Whitaker. Starting with a familiar jumping off point – going to such a restaurant means a night off the booze – Whitaker lovingly interweaves personal reflection with detailed research to present the varied faces of Christian dining in the US. From inscriptions on takeaway cups to fully-fledged supper clubs, it’s a finely-grained, fascinating insight, as well as a fine personal history. A blog to peruse, to be sure.
From one debut to another with The Cleaver Quarterly, where it’s all about eggs. Lilly Chow has compiled an
eggcell… wonderful dossier of China’s countless methods of egg preparation, littered with incisive soundbites and historical tidbits. From the treacherous Quicksand Bun – “how innocent they look in their dim sum bamboo steamers; how they seethe inside” – to the “Three non-sticks” – named for its evasion of utensils, rather than a Kantian conundrum – it’s a quite brilliant compilation, with an eggy conspiracy waiting in the further reading section.
We round off this week with Women Cook For Me – a culinary TinyLetter from Sophie Davidson. But three issues old, it does just what it says on the tin: women cook for Sophie and document the experience, punctuated by Sophie’s photography (which has also featured on The Gannet). The latest issue, with Rebecca May Johnson, is anchored by simple but delicious recipes for eggs in tomato sauce and poached eggs with monk’s beard (yes, more eggs). The two recipes act as sounding boards for Rebecca’s thoughtful rumination on the duty of hosting, and her journey through the Seven Ages of Egg, from “mean and hardboiled” to a softer state of affairs. Cooking is, so often, an act of tenderness for the self or another: an act that Sophie’s newsletter quietly heralds.
Butter For Its Own Sake & Other News – This week's food-writing digest casts an eye a classic Irish dish, sub-zero mussels and the suspect marketing of soul food
Unlucky Peaches & Other News – In this week's round-up of the best food stories on the web: a history of fruit walls, the evolving kitchen, and Spain in a paella pan
The Truffle Hunter & Other News – This week's culinary briefing takes in dinner in the White House, a boozy trawl of London restaurants and the future of food writing
The Tao of Coffee & Other News – This week’s Gannet Digest negotiates perilous honey, the fine art of composting and a salmon in a minibar