Tag Archives: food

Moral pressure for food choices

Illustration by Laura Jones Martinez from Bitch Magazine.

Nice paragraph on food trends, privilege, corporate health food, and the price of kale in Bitch Magazine.  Worth talking about guilt, stress and ethics involved in shopping for food.   Salute to Soleil Ho (and graphics by Laura Jones Martinez) explains the moral dilemma presented to shoppers:

I need to buy this if I want to be good, if I really want to take care of myself and my family As it turns out, this moralistic way of framing choice is extremely profitable for food processors, restaurants, and produce retailers: we’ve been effectively held captive by our own consciences.

via The Cost of Kale: How Foodie Trends Can Hurt Low-Income Families | Bitch Media.


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Filed under communication, food, health

Otherizing culture through food

Soleil Ho has a nice critique in Bitch Magazine of some trends of cultural simplification and racism in food culture.  I like her salty tone.  She kicks off the discussion with the one directional consumption/service relationship of immigrant cultures reduced to food.  Wondering what to reply when someone mentions to the author ‘Oh you’re Vietnamese, I love pho’:

What can one say in response? “Oh, you’re white? I love tuna salad!” It sounds ridiculous, mostly because no one cares if a second-generation immigrant likes American food. Rather, the burden of fluency with American culture puts a unique pressure on the immigrant kid. I paid attention during playdates with my childhood friends, when parents would serve pulled-pork sandwiches and coleslaw for lunch. (It took me a long time to understand the appeal of mayonnaise, which, as a non-cream, non-cheese, non-sauce, perplexed the hell out of me.) From watching my friends, I learned to put the coleslaw in the sandwich and sop the bread in the stray puddles of sauce in between bites. There’s a similar kind of self-checking that occurs when I take people out to Vietnamese restaurants: Through unsubtle side glances, they watch me for behavioral cues, noting how and if I use various condiments and garnishes so they can report back to their friends and family that they learned how to eat this food the “real way” from their real, live Vietnamese friend. Their desire to be true global citizens, eaters without borders, lies behind their studious gazes.

via Craving the Other | Bitch Media.

Ho seems insulted by the notion that you might be able to get at something essential or authentic in the culture by eating take-out food.  She makes a strong argument here.

Like a plague of culture locusts, foodies, Chowhounders, and food writers flit from bibimbap to roti canai, fetishizing each dish as some adventure-in-a-bowl and using it as a springboard to make gross generalizations about a given culture’s “sense of family and community,” “lack of pretense,” “passion,” and “spirituality.” Eventually, a hole-in-the-wall reaches critical white-Instagrammer mass, and the swarm moves on to its next discovery, decrying the former fixation’s loss of authenticity. The foodies’ cultural cachet depends on being the only white American person in the room, braving inhumane spice levels and possible food poisoning in order to share with you the proper way to handle Ethiopian injera bread. But they can’t cash in on it unless they share their discoveries with someone else, thereby jeopardizing that sense of exclusivity. Thus, happiness tends to elude the cultural foodie.

via Craving the Other | Bitch Media.

She is particularly good at pointing out the harms of reducing a culture to food.

Over time, you grow to associate nationalities with the quaint little restaurants that you used to frequent, before they were demolished and replaced with soulless, Americanized joints. You look at a map of the world and point a finger to Mongolia. “Really good barbecue.” El Salvador. “Mmm, pupusas.” Vietnam. “I love pho!\” When you divorce a food from its place and time, you can ignore global civil unrest and natural disasters (see: Zagat declaring Pinoy cuisine the “next great Asian food trend” this past fall as deadly floods swept through the Philippines), knowing as you do that the world’s cultural products will always find safe harbor in your precious, precious mouth.

via Craving the Other | Bitch Media.

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Filed under colonialism, cultural appropriation, food, representation

Nancy Silverton on foccacia

Photo: Anne Cusack for the LA Times

Nancy Silverton is one of the greatest food intellectuals I’ve read.  She is smart, and capable of sharing her insights.  She recently took on the doughy focaccia and also provided insight into how she refines her understanding of breads.  I love the passages where she observes an Italian bakery to take some notes.  Reminder, this is one of the foremost experts on bread — who still takes time to learn from others.  Silverton:

But the other thing I did, which anyone can do, is observe very carefully.

My first clues came when I visited a panificio, or bakery, in Conversano, in Puglia. Although I wouldn’t be completely sold on focaccia for a few more days, I liked what I had there enough to ask if I could peek in the kitchen, where I saw three things that would change my focaccia-making world.

First, I saw that the focaccia was baked in a round cake pan. Until then, I had always baked focaccia in large rectangular sheet pans. But after seeing it baked in cake pans, I realized that by working with such an unwieldy lump of dough, I had been mishandling it and thereby taking the air out of it, which makes for a dense bread. Using the smaller pans means working with dough in a more manageable size and shape — a simple thing that seems obvious in hindsight.

I also saw that the baker was cutting the dough into portions, immediately putting each in the pan in which it was going to be baked, and then leaving it there to relax for its second rise. This eliminated the step of shaping the dough in the pan, which, again, would de-gas it and make for a denser bread.

The third and maybe most significant thing I saw was that the cake pans had olive oil in them, and not just enough to coat the pan, but a layer one-eighth to one-quarter inch deep. It was a substantial enough amount that the oil would be absorbed into the bottom crust, making it crunchy and flavorful.

Less than five minutes in this baker’s kitchen, without asking a single question, and my focaccia had already improved exponentially.

via Master Class: Chef Nancy Silverton explains how to make focaccia – latimes.com.

The LA Times is hosting four master classes with world renowned chefs.  Looks to be some cool insights, although even Thomas Keller can’t quite convince me to go stock up on xanthan gum.

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Filed under food, learning