The Digest

Salad on the Windowsill & Other News

5th August 2017

Words: James Hansen

In this week’s food writing round-up: the pleasures of urban gardening, Chinese food in the Mexico-US borderlands, and a different view of tripe

Charlotte Mendelson celebrates the joys of city gardening at The New Yorker. “If you want home-reared beets, move to the country… Apples? Difficult. Plums? Forget it.” Having rejected the unwieldy, the expensive, and the mundane (mundane = romaine), Mendelson extols the virtues of the small, flavourful leaves – leaves whose culinary magic is inversely proportional to the effort spent on growing them. Beans, mustard greens. “Then there are herbs – sorry, ‘erbs’ – arguably the most transformative plants you can grow.” Her final paragraph is an unbridled paean to herbs of all shapes, sizes and uses, with a swelling conclusion: “If I have a pot of thyme, preferably lemon-scented, life can be endured.”

Ratna Rajaiah draws a connection between budgeting and innovation in Indian cookery for Swarajya. Constructed in a mouthwatering stream of consciousness, we are taken from “That dal – stretched ingeniously with a judicious lace of tamarind, a strategic tomato or two and a grand, final drum roll of a fill-the-house-with-lunch-is-served-aromatic tadka1Tempering – the process of frying whole spices briefly in hot oil to release their aromas, before pouring both spice and oil into a dish[/foonote]” to “the delicious chutneys that are extracted from vegetable ‘waste’”. Rajaiah extracts invention from scarcity, with taste and nourishment unaffected: “We are crafty, clever cooks.”

The Cleaver Quarterly explores the culinary relationship between Mexico and China, as shaped by immigration. Upon arriving at the US-Mexico borderlands, “Chinese immigrants had a secret weapon to live by: recipes.” The Cleaver examines the Sonoran desert today for traces of that history. Here, a culinary identity was forged from exile and familiar dishes made with unfamiliar ingredients. You got on with what you had, cooking the ingredients available, “to plunge forward, to treat an interim arrangement like it would go on forever. That way you don’t linger on backward glances.”

Erica Bracken assesses the way Ireland’s chefs see Irish food at The Taste. Far from what Google Images throws up – “suspect Irish stew with chunks of indistinguishable grey meat, pallid bacon and boiled cabbage and various other riffs on potatoes” – Bracken’s tour of the country’s top chefs explores “an Irish cuisine yet to be defined”. The piece is anchored by Food on the Edge, a culinary symposium that explores the evolution of Irish food. #ThisisIrishFood is the hashtag that reveals the full story: ” baked Irish scallops, air dried ham… purple potato cheesecake”. We might not be quite sold on that last one, but Bracken and her roster of chefs show that it’s time to move beyond (soda) bread.

A few juicy details from a short New Yorker interview by Ian Parker with the great German artist Anselm Kiefer. First, Kiefer orders the juice of three lemons to put in his breakfast tea. “A server’s first attempt at this had caused Kiefer to say, pleasantly, ‘That looks like one lemon—maybe two small ones.'” Then, as the pair walk through the West Village to Kiefer’s studio in Chelsea, the artist sees a rat dead on the street. “Its innards were gone, perhaps eaten by a bird. ‘Oh, that’s a real rat. Fantastic.’ He crouched to take photographs. ‘Like lions, the alpha animal gets the liver,’ he said, and paused. ‘I like intestines. Tripe.'”

Illustration: Emily Boylan / Wishlist Art

Posted 5th August 2017

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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