The Digest

Fine Dining Goes Junk & Other News

3rd June 2018

Words: James Hansen


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

John Birdsall ruminates on a funny cultural inversion on Twitter: fine dining restaurants describing their dishes with “junk-food metaphors: a wine is like orange sweet tarts, dishes are somehow like chicken nuggets and big macs”. It’s thought-provoking: are fine dining restaurants, often inaccessible sites of theatre, trying to say “hey, we’re relatable”? Is there a cultural shift in criticism that says these restaurants are no longer a source of wow, or rather, aren’t allowed to be? It’s one thing that those coming, eating and reviewing in search of what Birdsall calls “new galaxies” are talking about relatable descriptions; it’s another when those with the stars are preaching them too.

Meghan McCarron looks at how and why the marginalisation of women’s food stories is so systemic for Eater. Small descriptions in reviews and profiles — a chef “dresses up” a soup; another makes “small tweaks, tiny inventions” — enforce subtle rules; these subtle rules coalesce into definitions of greatness and quality and influence that all too often exclude and erase. Public image sets expectations: Mario Batali’s sybarite excess “muddied the chef’s publicly bad behavior (such as that chronicled in Bill Buford’s Heat)and helped to cover up private misconduct.” Daring, inventive cooking is not an exclusively male domain, but when perception of women’s cooking is homely, faithful and traditionalist and when investors aren’t confronted with their influence in black and white, it closes off possibility.

Akshita Nagpal reports on assimilation through food in New Delhi for Brown Paper Bag. The food at the centre of it all is pae palata, “a deep-fried, heavily-layered roll made of all-purpose flour, filled with mashed lentils”. The person is Rin, a 35 year old member of the Chin people of Burma, heavily persecuted since 1962, who, like many, came to Delhi in search of safety and a new version of home. His shop is also a place for Rohingya residents of the same New Delhi district: they might “give Rin’s food a miss — it’s alien to [their] region”, but it is nonetheless a place of community. A tale of assimilation food, and of home.

Helen Rosner joins David Chang to discuss the evolution of food writing and #MeToo in the culinary world on The Dave Chang Show. “Our relationships to food are windows into our psyche … your sense of control over your body is usually expressed through food, whether it’s a healthy or unhealthy way of expressing it.” Rosner and Chang dive into “the moral responsibilities of the people covering the restaurant world”, and why “we shouldn’t be ready to move to the ‘next'” shift in restaurant culture. The takeaway? We need to remember that “this isn’t something that’s limited to restaurants”, and the fact that news coverage can’t afford to report on more than one story at a time shouldn’t be a blind-spot to how pervasive the problem is.

Max Falkowitz answers the inaugural food question of TASTE Food Questions, a new podcast from… TASTE. It is quite literally a one-minute podcast, and the inaugural food question is “what’s the difference between ice-cream and gelato.” They are both “the result of science described as magic”, and both delicious frozen desserts, so the content is a sure-fire hit. A little nerdy, a little fun, and definitely informative, it’s the briefest of listens but entirely worth your time.

Image: @chefjacqueslamerde

Posted 3rd June 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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