The Digest

Cats, Coffee & Other News

24th February 2018

Words: James Hansen
Illustration: Martin Kingdom

Cats brewing coffee

Feline brewing, an unknown regional cuisine and food under incarceration, all in this week’s food media round-up

Fuchsia Dunlop covers a lesser-known regional cuisine of China for Eater London. Mukaddes Yadikar and Ablikim Rahman — owners of Etles restaurant — are Uyghurs, a Turkic people from Yili in the far west of Xinjiang, near China’s border with Kazakhstan. As Dunlop explains, “Their culinary tradition is a bridge between China and Central Asia, a fascinating mix of dumplings and noodles similar to those found across northern China, with versions of pilav, samosas and kebabs that show the region’s westward leanings.” Dunlop’s knowledge of the region’s cuisine in the context of China is staggering but lightly-worn; the detail with which Yadikar and Rahman explain their food and their restaurant is wonderful: the Walthamstow site is clearly worth a visit.

Oli Bradshaw pairs cat videos with coffee for a takeover of Sprudge on Instagram. Bradshaw’s feline, Monsieur Claude, provides brewing instructions with various luminaries of the coffee world, including Anne Lunell of Swedish roastery Koppi and Maxwell-Colonna Dashwood of Bath roasters Colonna Coffee. Other coffee cats also feature. The guides themselves are informative — particularly the V60 drip method which eschews the artistry of small, regular pours for a method that is actually reliable — while the comedy value of cats needs no further discussion.

Korsha Wilson interviews Chris Cheung on her A Hungry Society podcast at Heritage Radio Network. New Yorker Cheung breaks down the reality behind Chinese New Year — both culinary and social — denying assumptions and challenging preconceptions. Wilson’s podcast is designed to foster more diverse and inclusive conversations within the culinary world, rejecting uninformed or superficial ideas. The tone is educational, intriguing and utterly unpatronising, and Cheung remembers the particularity of one shrimp dumpling: “it’s filled in my memory of going down there and I can still taste it … It’s still right on the tip of your tongue, and you still get that gush of remembering and memory and sentimentality going through your brain, but in reality you know it’s no longer there, you’re never going to get it again.”

Jessie Glenn tells her story, and the story behind the success of Masterchef, for Salon. In an exposé as disturbing as it is riveting, Glenn recounts the mental and physical pressure exerted on contestants at every stage of the journey through the US competition. “They asked me to agree to be subjected to physical and mental distress, to agree to have my medical history used in any way that they wanted and to use it in perpetuity, to agree that my family would likely not be contacted in the case of an emergency.” Contestant minders are nicknamed “wranglers”; “every round longer that a contestant stayed in the competition, the symptoms of traumatic stress appeared more intense when they returned home.” While the unreality of reality TV might be no secret, the extent to which a show can hold sway over its competitors’ lives remains deeply shocking.

Laurel Fujii tells the story of food under incarceration for Japanese residents of America at Hyphen. Referred to by Japanese communities as “camp”, the latter stages of World War II saw citizens sent to detention centres (or, “War Relocation Centres”). “Their lifestyle and diet changed instantly. Japanese food wasn’t readily available, they weren’t prepared for Colorado’s cold weather and they had to wait in line for everything. With the lack of familiar vegetables and fruits from California’s Central Valley, camp introduced Auntie Eiko and my family to bizarre foods that were foreign to the Japanese diet, as well as a new routine of dining in the mess hall.” Fuji’s Auntie Eiko recounts the foods she can no longer eat, the permanence of sitting together as a family and the quiet defiance of eating: “no one ever said anything like “I don’t want to eat that.” It was never done; we just ate what was served.”


Posted 24th February 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen
Illustration: Martin Kingdom

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