The Digest

Wine Rivalries & Other News

20th January 2018

Words: James Hansen

In this week’s round-up of the best online food writing: comfort food with a difference, the origins of avocado toast, and a filleting of food snobbery

Jon Bonné explores the contrasting attitudes behind natural wine in London and Paris for Punch. The thrust of the argument is that where Paris is haughty and dismissive, London is kind and inclusive: lists on this side of the channel make room for less obtuse wines, whereas listes françaises revel in their difficulty. Bonné proclaims London as “natural-curious but not strident” – an assessment Jay Rayner might take umbrage with — while the French appetite for schism leads to a self-appointed divide been the natural and the conservative. While Bonné’s piece largely ignores the Parisian influence on London’s growing affection for cave bistronomie, it’s a trenchant look at the way a city’s terroir shapes its attitudes to food and drink.

Debora Robertson takes a scythe to food snobbery in Britain for The Telegraph. As Robertson lays out clearly, it’s about “finding your tribe” – the freedom to choose how much is spent on food is not available to everyone, and if the freedom is available, it needn’t be used as a tool to look down on others. “Paying over the odds for an aubergine or artisan loaf is a materialistic as buying a ridiculously expensive pair of trainers. It’s about finding your tribe. Which is fine as long as it this doesn’t give you an excuse to look down on others who make different choices. That, frankly, is unappetising.”


Samin Nosrat reflects on comfort foods of a different kind for The New York Times. Her chosen dish – rice and quinoa with tofu and vegetables – eschews comfort food norms: it “contains no butter, cheese or chicken stock, the pillars atop which classic comfort foods are built. Quinoa and tofu don’t stoke a nostalgic flame – or even an ancestral one – for me.” Instead, the comfort comes from friendships. The origins of this dish – plates cooked for Nosrat by Hawaiian friends when she was injured and unable to cook – were forged by support and love, over and above preoccupations over taste: “the value of eating at a friend’s table is found around it, not on it. I’ll eat anything, even foods I’ve always shunned, when a friend cooks it.”

Two pieces from Taste Cooking round off this week. Mari Uyehara challenges the received wisdom of avocado toast’s origin story, variously puncturing the claims of Los Angeles, Australia and British sailors in the 1850s to reach an unsurprising conclusion – the accepted version is a reframing of avocado tortilla, a Mexican staple. Meanwhile, Max Falkowitz examines the difficulty of the plum. Using hamantaschen cookies – inspired by the story of Mordecai in the Book of Esther – as a jumping off point, the plum is likened to “goats that won’t stop chewing on your clothes. They’re complicated fruits that take work to understand and must be appreciated on their own terms.” What follows is a cross-cultural ode to plum and prune alike, turning on their unique balance between sweet and bitter.

Image: Emily Dilling

Posted 20th January 2018

In The Digest


Words: James Hansen

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