Narrative Framing In Online Restaurant Reviews

Academic paper. Recommended for the abstract (at the beginning) and the discussion (at the end). Online restaurant reviews are not primarily restaurant reviews, but rather essays in which the reviewers portray themselves with the restaurant as backdrop. Positive reviews are often written in a high-flown style — a chance to show off “linguistic capital”. Negative reviews “function as a means of coping with service–related trauma” (7,440 words)

The Art Of Antarctic Cooking

Review of Hoosh: Roast Penguin, Scurvy Day, and Other Stories of Antarctic Cuisine, by Jason C. Anthony; and The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning, by Carol Devine. Explorers ate what they could carry and what nature provided — seals, penguins, and the dogs which carried the supplies until they became supplies themselves. At worst they ate hoosh, a stew which might contain anything from penguin flipper to old rope (2,690 words)

Tricks Of The Food Trade

People are getting fatter because they are eating more, rather than because they are exercising less. They are eating more because human bodies require protein for development; cheap, industrialised food contains relatively little protein, but lots of sugars and fats engineered to taste like protein; such food, in effect, tricks the body into consuming more calories in order to maintain a target level of protein (790 words)

I Was Swallowed By A Hippo

From the archives. If you think you are having a rough day, this may help to put things in perspective. “It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around – my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo’s snout” (800 words)

Citizen Walmart

From the archives. The world’s biggest supermarket chain reaches out to small American farmers and helps turn them into consistent suppliers. “Walmart gave me three dollars over the price of the market last year,” says a strawberry farmer. It may be a public-relations play, in which case this piece is the return; and/or it may be capitalism at its far-sighted best — co-opting the locavores instead of fighting them (6,480 words)

Kitchen-Sink Dreamer

Writer celebrates the food of his childhood — English home cooking which survived into the 1950s despite wartime and post-war food rationing, but was lost for decades when industrial food triumphed in the 1960s. “Hock was boiled and served with buttered greens and mash. Tripe and onions simmered in peppery milk. Brown trout were fried in butter till their skin was crisp yet their white flesh still moist” (2,647 words)

Why The Trix Rabbit Looks Down On You

How marketing works. The comic characters depicted on the boxes of children’s breakfast cereals are almost always looking downwards. Why? Because in supermarkets the boxes are typically displayed on shelves above a child’s eye-level; the characters, by looking downwards, appear to be looking at the children — in effect, making eye-contact, as a device for gaining attention and increasing trust (390 words)

Complete Guide To New York City Pizza

America’s first pizzas sold by New York grocery store in 1905. Thin crust, softish centre, splash of tomato sauce, smattering of fresh mozzarella. Immediate triumph; industry thrives. Pizza’s step-change from popular to ubiquitous comes in 1970s thanks to cheap pre-fab gas ovens, more cheese, sale by the slice. “NY style is virtually defined by the low cost of entry, the immediacy of service, and the portability of the product” (3,400 words)

The Slow Death Of The Microwave

Unit sales of microwave ovens in America have fallen 40% from a market peak in 2004. Saturation may be a factor: 90% of households now have a microwave. But sales of kitchen equipment in general have continued rising; and sales of toaster ovens — “which have similar market penetration and product longevity” — have been booming. More likely there’s a cultural shift under way, away from fast and towards fresh (1,540 words)

Inside The Milk Machine

Big gruelling piece with detail that animal-lovers (and milk-drinkers) will find troubling. Industrial farming has made America the world’s biggest milk producer. Today’s dairy cow is being constantly impregnated, and produces six to seven times as much milk as she did a century ago. One-fifth of the Holstein cow’s genome has been re-engineered in the past 40 years. Is there a way back towards kinder, gentler milk? (3,500 words)

The Invention Of The AeroPress

In the 1970s and 1980s a Stanford engineering professor called Alan Adler made fundamental improvements to the aerodynamics of the frisbee. His variant, the Aerobie, sold millions. in 2004 he turned to coffee: he wanted a better way to make a single cup, and came up with a pump action device called the AeroPress. Another hit. The AeroPress is cheap, hackable, and makes the best cup of coffee in the world (3,980 words)

Food And Loathing In Charleston

Action-packed report, with terrific pictures, from the Cook It Raw festival in Charleston — “the ancestral home of the chicken bog and frogmore stew, where loaf sugar sweetens and wormwood brightens, where corn dodgers fry in benne seed oil and rice-fed canvasback ducks roast alongside moon fish and croakers, and the whole thing is washed down with plantation-brewed persimmon beer” (5,600 words)

I Raise Livestock And I Think It May Be Wrong

Interview with Bob Comis, New York pig farmer. “No matter how well it’s done, I can’t help but question the killing itself. In a well-managed, small-scale slaughterhouse, a pig is more or less casually standing there one second, and the next second it’s unconscious on the ground, and a few seconds after that it’s dead. As far as I can tell, the pig has no experience of its own death. But I experience the full brunt of that death” (1,390 words)

Red Holidays Of Genius

Italian futurists saw food as a “weapon in the fight against tradition”. It could change the body, so why not the mind? In March 1931 they opened the Tavern of the Holy Palate in Bologna, devoted to futurist cooking. On the menu, Chicken Fiat: “A good-sized chicken is boiled, then roasted. After its removal from the oven, a large cavity must be dug in the bird’s shoulder and filled with ball bearings” (2,100 words)

These Are Very Calm Pigs

Photo essay from a visit to a vast Danish slaughterhouse where 100,000 pigs are killed each week. “I was pleasantly surprised by the openness of the plant.” And it’s quiet. “These are very calm pigs, and that’s the way we want them to be. This room has been designed to calm the pigs down before they go into the slaughterhouse. If the pigs are stressed when they are killed, the quality of the meat will not be so good” (1,400 words)

Restaurant Review: The Bistro At Villard Michel Richard

Glittering hatchet job. The food at this New York Palace Hotel restaurant is so bad that you have to suspect they are doing it on purpose, a satirical take on awful hotel cooking. “Slithering around the meat was a terrifying sauce the color of jarred turkey gravy mixed with cigar ashes. If soldiers had killed Escoffier’s family in front of him and then forced him to make dinner, this is what he would have cooked” (Metered paywall) (1,360 words)

Kitchen Holiday Gift Guide

An institution. Full of good ideas, from a $13 microplane grater to a $1,400 Thermomix. “The Thermomix is basically a blender/food processor with a scale and a heating element. The killer app is sauces and custards; you can literally put in all the ingredients for a hollandaise or a bechamel all at once, push a few buttons, then come back 10 minutes later to a perfectly cooked sauce” (11,000 words)

Boswell’s Life Of Dissipation

Feel better about your drinking habits by comparing them with those of Johnson’s biographer, who kept a record of the guests he entertained at his house in Scotland and what they drank. Sample: “On October 13, 1783 there were three men at dinner at Auchinleck, and between them they polished off three bottles of claret, two bottles of port, two bottles of Lisbon, three bottles of Mountain [a Spanish dessert wine] and one bottle of rum” (1,120 words)

El Bulli For All

Lanchester samples Ferran Adria’s free online Harvard course, Science & Cooking, and pronounces it excellent. “Homework involves an experiment to calibrate the accuracy of your oven, and calculations to ascertain the number of molecules in aubergine with buttermilk sauce … It teaches the mystery of how mathematics penetrates into matter. The course is more rigorous, and more educational, than I’d thought it would be” (1,520 words)

I’m An Undocumented Farm Worker

Migrant from Oaxaca tells all. “I went to school through third grade, my dad was killed when I was 11, and we didn’t even have enough food to eat. In California there’s an abundance of farm jobs, so you don’t have to do one you don’t like. Tomatoes are the worst paid: I’ll pick 100 for 62 cents a bucket, or about $62 a day. Some undocumented people are scared, but I’ve never seen an immigration raid on a farm” (1,500 words)

I’ll Fry Anything Once

Lyrical account of eating in a Tokyo tempura restaurant. “Over-mixing is the enemy of good tempura, because it makes the coating tough and chewy, and a confident tempura chef finishes mixing the batter by dragging your shrimp or eggplant through it. By the time the food is cooked, you’d never guess that its crisp and even exterior came from a batter that looks like boarding-school cafeteria oatmeal” (960 words)

Better Brewing Through Tech

Which makes the best coffee: a skilled barista, or a fully automated machine? The machines are winning. “Growing concerns about inconsistency and badly brewed coffee, engendered by manual brewing techniques — particularly in busy shops, where harried baristas often can’t take the necessary care to properly brew each cup — are the reason even some of the most elite shops have begun to reconsider fully analog brewing” (1,718 words)

Why Russia’s Drinkers Resist AA

Russia has a colossal drinking problem. Alcoholics Anonymous has shown the power of mutual support groups to combat alcoholism. Yet AA has made almost no headway in Russia: there are four times as many AA groups in Boston as in the whole of Russia. Why? Because Russians don’t think drinking is wrong, and they have low levels of trust. “The idea that another drunk can help you is asinine to most Russians” (2,630 words)

Coffee Or Smoothies: Which Is Better For You?

Two to five cups of coffee a day help you live longer, think more clearly, feel happier. Smoothies are sugary drinks that make you fat and increase your chances of getting some kinds of cancer. So it’s coffee by a mile. If you want fruit, go for fruit, not smoothies. The reason that coffee got a bad reputation in the first place was that coffee-drinkers tended to have other bad habits, and the causation got confused (1,300 words)

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