The Digest

Egg Spoon Wars & Other News

31st March 2018

Words: James Hansen

In this week’s round-up of the best online food media: 101 dishes that changed America, fear of a bulging can, and the insensitivities of katsu pie

For The New York Times, Kim Severson takes in the multitudes of an unlikely debate with an egg spoon at its fiery centre. It all started in 2009 with Alice Waters, who liked that “feeling of watching and holding it” she couldn’t get with a conventional pan. After a dormant few years, the debate flared up after Tamar Adler mentioned it in her edition of Grub Street‘s “Diet”, a weekly food diary, and what has followed, mostly thanks to Twitter, is a slew of accusations of elitism and general food faffery. Regrettably predictable is how it is coloured by sexism: Severson picks up on how several commentators have rightly noted that slow-cooking an egg sous vide (a mostly male pursuit) gets no traction of this kind. Waters’ daughter Fanny Singer now sells an egg spoon at $250 on her website and claims the price is “beside the point”. What Severson articulates most brilliantly is how this incredibly niche item is a lightning rod for the currents that still inform and plague food media.

Tunde Wey deconstructs Anthony Bourdain’s “show of practiced vitality” for The San Francisco Chronicle. Taking as its centrepiece Bourdain’s visit to Lagos, Nigeria (Wey’s home city) for Parts Unknown, the essay opens out into a discussion of who gets to tell a place’s story, of cultural imperialism and of Bourdain’s “partisan gaze posing as impartial”. It’s a discussion of voracious, dizzying, ignorant consumption, and how this food-as-spoils attitude informs the way Bourdain and his viewers end up seeing a world not their own.

Rebecca Flint Marx looks back at the history of botulism for the Can issue of Taste. The fear of this most reviled of food-borne toxins is well-founded: “Scientists have estimated that 1 gram of the toxin could potentially kill 1 million people, while one pint could kill everyone on earth. This is a toxin that doesn’t bother to knock first.” Flint Marx’s doctor father incubated a very particular fear of the stuff in her as a child: a bulging can, he said, was a sign of the dreaded germ. It turns out this isn’t true: it’s a sign of poor canning (which may lead to botulism) rather than a calling card.

Thrillist surveys the 101 dishes that changed America. In further proof that a list can be a wonderfully instructive form and not just a crutch for desperate editors, dishes from 1910 to 2018 are ravenously analysed for their impact on the USA – from Nathan’s Famous Hotdogs, which created a scalable business model for the sandwich, to Joel Robuchon’s pommes puree, which changed the philosophy of fine dining. It’s tough to pick highlights so just luxuriate and learn how even the most innocuous of dishes leave an indelible mark on history. Any list that puts KFC’s Double Down burger and Heston Blumenthal’s Meat Fruit next to each other is worthy of everyone’s time.

Mimi Aye joins James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy for the latest instalment of their podcast, The Kitchen Is On Fire. Between a blue-themed lightning round including the question “Blue food: haunted or natural?” and preferred Backstreet Boy tracks, Aye gives the hosts (and the world at large) a schooling on the nuances of Burmese food, calling out the cultural contempt that brands can display when they make forays into cuisines they don’t, or refuse to, understand. Aye’s most recent example is Morrison’s Katsu Pie, which bears no relation to what katsu actually is (a breaded chicken cutlet). Someone who goes into a chip shop and is told that chips are mashed potato would never consider such a move “innovative”, Aye points out, so to deem the argument fine for other cultures is clearly not okay.

Image: Alex Welsh / New York Times

Posted 31st March 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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