The Digest

Fast Food Symbolism & Other News

28th April 2018

Words: James Hansen

fast food

Food writing worth reading this week includes burger nostalgia, feeding on film and the sexism problem with natural wine labels

Suzy Swartz looks at the symbolism of American fast food for The Atlantic. “The most enduring icon of American cuisine is the diner or local fast-food franchise, purveyors of Riverdale’s favorite foods: the burger, shake, and fries.” Netflix series Riverdale is based on The Archie Comics of the 1950s, so it follows that nostalgia is its leading aesthetic; what follows less obviously is how the burger, shake and fries’ resonances have changed pitch in the age of Donald Trump: “when overindulged, they can prop up a flimsy myth of a time when things were more wholesome than they are now.”

Osayi Endolyn writes on restaurant coding for Southern Foodways. This edition of her James Beard nominated column smartly ties Jordan Peele’s film Get Out to being “educated” by diners and drinkers in predominantly white spaces, elaborating on how this has changed her criteria for dining out: “The traditional criteria for dining out are quality of food, level of service, and budget. I’m not sure when, but I recently added “vibe” to my list. I don’t mean physical ambiance or mood music. I mean, how does it feel for me to be in that space?” What lingers is the assumption of those would-be educators that they know more — that the salient facts of a restaurant space are illegible to certain people.

Anna Leszkiewicz explores the meaning of feeding on film for The New Statesman. “Being fed is something that happens to people in an infantilised state. It suggests vulnerability. In this way, it is deeply, sometimes overly, intimate. When one person is eating and another isn’t – particularly in a sit-down, food-focused setting – traditional social dynamics become imbalanced.” Covering a spectrum of films through Snow WhiteMoonlightThe Florida Project and Phantom Thread, the nuances of each film’s particular articulation of feeding are never lost to the wider argument: the romantic, pleasant or secure position of food is always teetering on the edge of danger and risk.

For Earther, Michael Isaac Stein reports on the slow drown of Tabasco in Louisiana. Set on Avery Island, the hot-sauce production facility is under threat: “A generation ago, it was unthinkable that this natural fortress could be overcome by water. But Hurricane Rita’s threatening surges were a symptom of an immense shift in the Gulf Coast, the result of decades of harsh land use practices and climate change.” Harold “Took” Osborn, executive Vice-President of the company behind Tabasco and environmental scientist, has adopted a holistic approach to preventing flooding: creating marshes, saving the local snowy egret from extinction by building terraces. But there is still more to do. “‘The waters are rising,’ Osborn says.”

Rémy Charest investigates a troubling trend in natural wine labelling for Punch. Rejecting wine’s stolid institutions can be most powerful on the label. Designs featuring naked women have become commonplace and wine names – obscured by language barriers – can be just as explicit. “With all the cleverness you see in wine labels, it would be so easy to come up with something else,” says Brooklyn wine director Lee Campbell. “That’s what’s weird to me.” The cleverness and deliciousness behind natural wine, then, can yield cheap sexism; the sense of fierce community sometimes devolves into bro-ish culture.

Image: Mooyah Burgers, Fries & Shakes

Posted 28th April 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

More from The Digest

Changing Restaurant Culture & Other News – This week's digest looks at changing restaurant culture, building a better table and telling difficult stories

In Parts Unknown & Other News – Remembering Anthony Bourdain, the comfort of processed food and the security of lobster rolls in this week's food media round-up

Fine Dining Goes Junk & Other News – In this week's round-up of the best online food media: fine dining meets junk food, Helen Rosner on The David Chang Show, and a quick scoop of gelato

How To Close A Restaurant & Other News – Also in this week's food media round-up: the rise of Laotian cuisine, breeding a new apple from scratch, and a new food temple gets a hiding