Tag Food and Drink

Are carrots protestant?

It’s fun to be reminded how many of our ‘natural’ foods are in fact the result of a long collaboration between cultivator and cultivated, guided by the possibilities and limits of agriculture and by the choices and preferances of particular people in particular settings. According to the World Carrot Museum—let me say that again: the World Carrot Museum—the long orange carrot of supermarket and snowman-nose and Bugs Bunney fame was popularized by Dutch breeders in the 17th century, perhaps as a tribute to William of Orange, the the Dutch independance leader who became a Calvinist and helped get the 80 years war started. His grandson William III ruled the Netherlands and, later on, the British Isles, where he was responsible for the introduction of orange as the favored color of Irish protestants.

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from “Why are carrots orange? It is political,” by Koert van Mensvoort, Next Nature, 16 August 2009 :: image via Wikipedia, unattributed

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Forbidden fruits, delightful longings

cc lusikkolbaskin/flickr

A few years ago, a friend of mine was going through U.S. customs at the Blackpool Border Crossing on the highway that runs south from Quebec into New York. He said he had nothing to declare, but then, as the sidearmed customs agent ran through the list of possible contraband (weapons? cash? drugs? agricultural products?), my friend made a fatal pause and then, the question repeated, fessed up: “I have some fruit in my backpack. Is there any way I can bring it in?”

“To eat good food is to be close to God”

Lovely montage of food and feasts from movies. Check out the accompanying essay and credits reel as well.


Feast by Matt Zoller Seitz, Museum of the Moving Image, 24 November 2009 :: via kottke.org

Originally published at culture-making.com.

The list doesn’t destroy culture, it creates it

Food for thought when one is tempted to skip over the more boring sections of, say, the Book of Numbers.

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order—not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. … We also have completely practical lists—the shopping list, the will, the menu—that are also cultural achievements in their own right. …

The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. In fact, there is a dizzying array: lists of saints, armies and medicinal plants, or of treasures and book titles. Think of the nature collections of the 16th century. My novels, by the way, are full of lists.


from “Umberto Eco: We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die,” interview by Susanne Beyer and Lothar Gorris, SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International, 11 November 2009 :: via The Morning News

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Grocery Store Musical

How are the horizons of the possible shifted when shoppers in a Queens, NY grocery store suddenly burst into song? The intrepid folks at Improv Everywhere (with a song co-written by my old college pal Scott Brown) do their best to find out. It’s not as elaborate as their earlier Food Court Musical, but perhaps more charming for its simplicity. You can’t choose a better venue for the meeting of human longing and material abundance than a supermarket.


Grocery Store Musical,” book and music by Anthony King and Scott Brown for Improv Everywhere, 20 October 2009

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Present to our food

Michael Pollan asked readers to submit their favorite dietary rules and rules of thumb; of the 2,500 responses he received, he selected his top 20 for an interactive feature. The whole list is great, but the other one that stuck out for its similar emphasis on the importance of not just the food but the culture we create around it in our daily eating was this: “You don’t get fat on food you pray over.”

“When drinking tea, just drink tea.” I find this Zen teaching useful, given my inclination toward information in the morning, when I’m also trying to eat breakfast, get the dog out, start the fire and organize my day. I believe that it’s so much better for our bodies when we are present to our food. Perhaps a bit of mindfulness goes a long way first thing in the morning. (Of course, some time ago, I came across a humorous anecdote about a hapless Zen student whose teacher taught him the aphorism and then was discovered by the same student, drinking tea and reading the paper. When confronted, the teacher said, “When drinking tea and reading the paper, just drink tea and read the paper!”)

—Michelle Poirot


from “Michael Pollan’s Favorite Food Rules,” illustrated and designed by Roger Kent and Zahra Sethna, The New York Times Magazine, 11 October 2009 :: via kottke.org

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Food flags

From a delicious series of national-cuisines-as-national-flags dreamed and plated up to promote the Sydney International Food Festival. Other mouthwatering banners include Italy, Brazil, France, Korea, and Switzerland. Sadly, no African countries/cuisines are represented—perhaps we can get BetumiBlog on the case.

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Originally published at culture-making.com.

Two things you’ve never considered drinking before, but may want to now

Of course all these lists of “50 best things” are, even at their best, arbitrary and hyperbolic. But they’re also fun—clearly scratching some itch in the collective mind of reader and writer. In the case of food/travel lists like this one, they really can be a treat.

20. Best place to buy: Olive oil
Turkish embassy electrical supplies, London

The most unlikely olive oil vendor in the world? At his electrical supply shop in London’s Clerkenwell, Mehmet Murat sells wonderful, intensely fruity oil from his family’s olive groves in Cyprus and south-west Turkey. Now he imports more than a 1,000 litres per year. His lemon-flavoured oil is good enough to drink on its own.

76 Compton Street, London EC1, 020 7251 4721,www.planet mem.com

26. Best place to eat: Filipino cuisine
Lighthouse Restaurant, Cebu, Philippines

“The Lighthouse in Cebu in the Philippines is my favourite restaurant. We always eat bulalo (beef stew), banana heart salad, adobo (marinaded meat), baked oysters, pancit noodles, lechon de leche (suckling pig) and, to drink, green mango juice – my daughter is addicted to it! The staff are so friendly and welcoming. The chef has been there for more than 20 years, so the food is very consistent.”

Gaisano Country Mall, Banilad, Cebu city, Philippines, 0063 32 231 2478


from “The 50 best foods in the world and where to eat them,” by Killian Fox, The Observer, 13 September 2009 :: via kottke.org

Originally published at culture-making.com.

Crazymouse, Minnesota State Fair, by David Bowman

This glorious long-exposure photo is also the first reference to the Minnesota State Fair that I can recall that doesn’t have to do with terrible-for-you food innovations. Though come to think of it, that beautiful pink blur does look a lot like cotton candy. Or a mushroom cloud.

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Crazymouse,” Minnesota State Fair (2008), photo by David Bowman :: via Flak Photo

Originally published at culture-making.com.

47 kinds of greens

Ironically, this article was written by the mother of one of my very-widely-traveled friends. I especially love the string of starchy verbs in the third paragraph.

There’s a profound yet simple proverb about ethnocentrism in many African societies (e.g., the Baganda, Akamba, Kikuyu, Bemba, Haya, Igbo, and Yoruba). Translated, it means “The one who has not traveled widely thinks his/her mother is the best cook.

This proverb often comes to mind when I hear Americans talking about African food, especially Sub-Saharan African food, in a patronizing, superior way, and also lumping a whole continent together in a way they would never dream of doing for other global locations. A missionary in Ghana once sniffed and said to me disparagingly “They eat grass,” when referring to the greens cooked in stews. In Pennsylvania we carefully distinguish among varieties of apples (Rome, Gala, Granny Smith, Red or Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Pink Lady, Ginger Gold, Braeburn, Crispin, Cameo, etc., etc.). In Ghana that discrimination applies to greens, of which it’s documented that people savor 47 different kinds. Just because our palates haven’t been trained to detect the textures, degrees of bitterness, saltiness, etc. doesn’t mean that the food is inferior.

Similarly, people often say that Africans eat some kind of starch, but they lump them all together, without detecting the differences among, say, types of yams, rice, plantains, millets, sorghum, corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, cassava, taro (cocoyams), even wheat, along with very different methods of preparation (fermented, unfermented, pounded, dried, fresh, boiled, fried, roasted, steamed, stirred, etc.).


from “Question 4: Isn’t African food too…?,” by Fran Osseo-Asare, BetumiBlog, 22 April 2009

Originally published at culture-making.com.