The Digest

A Night with Salt Bae & Other News

18th February 2018

Words: James Hansen

Salt Bae New York

Dinner with a meme, the meaning of nut cheese and the symbolism of peaches all feature in this week’s selection of the best food media

Pete Wells enjoys the dubious pleasure of dining with Salt Bae for The New York Times. Nusr-Et, named after Nusret Gokce, the worryingly iconic beau of sodium chloride and global restaurateur, is a middling steakhouse. “In its perfect circularity, its pure subordination of lived experience to mediated experience,” writes Wells, it is also “New York’s first true 21st-century restaurant.” On this viral occasion, “most of the chaos accumulates in drifts around the entrance”, before various baes (waiters) serve up sushi, potatoes and baklava. Wells’ reaction is mixed – “much as I enjoyed meeting an obliging human meme, I was distracted by unwelcome thoughts all night” — while it also looks to the future: “without him, the dining room will be even stranger than it is now.”

A belated find is John Birdsall doing his Grub Street: an account of everything he eats over four days. High and lowlights include “pale-pink fibers that have stiffened” (turkey breast) and the salsa that can “save a fearsome load of aspirational tech protein from blandness and despair”, found at a favourite local Mexican restaurant. His careful tending to details coaxes out the meaning and happiness of day-to-day events: “food as an access tunnel to meaning”, an idea that so often elicits nothing more than a broad shrug, as well as an unfortunate account of his dog’s encounter with two furious skunks.

Mayukh Sen “flips a central cliché of food writing” at Munchies with a meditation on the unknowability of nut cheese. In the tentative beginnings of dating a new man 26 years his senior, food is a barometer for experience or lack of it: “Everything I had eaten in that 12-hour period since I met him, I feared, was somehow revealing the embarrassing simplicity of my tastes, how little culture I’d experienced in the 21 years I’d been alive.” Food is something mysterious and strange, almonds can suddenly be turned into cheese, and “back then, that was more than [Mayukh] knew.”

Also at MunchiesDan Q. Dao tracks the fertile symbolism of the peach through the emoji, the cinema release of Call Me By Your Name, and the intersection of hunger, appetite and desire. The scene with the peach (no spoilers) from Call Me By Your Name is an example of “trading the technicalities and politics of sexuality—the film is totally devoid of traditional labels—for a narrative that emphasizes the spontaneity and inherent nature of desire”. In a film peppered with tactile instances of symbolism, “it’s food—with its capacity to at-once evoke sight, smell, sound, and taste; its ability to collapse the sexual and spiritual into one juicy morsel—that makes for the most effective medium of all.”

Image: Jean Schwarzwalder/Eater NY

Posted 18th February 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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