The Digest

In Parts Unknown & Other News

9th June 2018

Words: James Hansen


Remembering Anthony Bourdain, the comfort of processed food and the security of lobster rolls in this week’s food media round-up

In a piece from October 2017, Isaac Chotiner interviews the late Anthony Bourdain for Slate. Bourdain will be remembered for his appetite — to show food to the world honestly and truthfully, to ceaselessly explore and interrogate why things are the way they are, and to cast that bright light on himself and his own decisions. Chotiner’s piece shows all of this with Bourdain at his frankest and best, able to self-reflect on how things were, and how they can be improved for everyone’s benefit. Helen Rosner‘s remembrance at The New Yorker does the same, accreting its fond memories and difficult admissions in but a line: “Anthony Bourdain built his career on the telling of truth.” He will be remembered for many things, but this fundamental goodness is what sets him apart.

Korsha Wilson reflects on lobster rolls and the security of routine at Bon Appetit. “After sitting in our apartment for hours, too numb from being laid off to cook and too scared to start to look for new jobs, we found the energy to take the subway to Neptune in the North End neighborhood of Boston. We posted up on backless stools at the bar and ordered some much-needed wine.” Wilson and her partner eat oysters, “cornmeal johnnycake drenched in honey butter” and a lobster roll; they drink wine; they talk about “our families, how we wanted to go to the beach soon, anything but unemployment”. Food means different things to different people in different contexts: here it is a comfort and a relief.

Grace Dent remembers “a religious awakening” at The Guardian. That awakening is the arrival of Asda in Carlisle: Dent’s mother “had spotted her emancipation from the kitchen and she was grabbing it with both hands”. What follows is a necessary exploration of the politics of processed food and the inevitable blindspots in its popular demonisation; Ruby Tandoh might have something to say about Dent’s contention that “No one with a platform to discuss food in Britain admits the unfettered joy of their first trip to McDonald’s magical golden arches.” Best read alongside Marina O’Loughlin on the good, the bad and the ugly chain restaurants for The Sunday Times.

Samin Nosrat talks to Anna Hezel and Matt Rodbard about “too-mami” for the TASTE Podcast. Nosrat encourages people “to be curious, to go out, to try new things … the more richly detailed your mental filing cabinet of taste cards will be”. While salt, fat, acid and heat are crucial, over-seasoning is not to be accepted: Nosrat cautions against overdoing the umami even though she would call a memoir “Parmigiano On Everything.” She’s typically opinionated, gregarious and witty, particularly on sous vide (though eggs prepared using the method are apparently acceptable).

Anna Sulan Masing speaks truth to power with James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy on The Kitchen Is On Fire. Masing interrogates how to create an equitable environment, and how tokenism — usually indiscriminately derided — can be a gateway to embedding more positive behaviour; female only awards and lists might be “gross”, but they can also lead to something better. There’s also a discussion of how we define what’s good and great in restaurants, and how this might change: an essential listen.

Posted 9th June 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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