Monthly Archives: May 2009

‘A Los Angeles sandwich called a taco’

Nice article in the NYT Sunday book review about a Federal Writers Project initiatve which sent out of work writers – Zora Neale Hurston and Eudora Welty among them – around the country in 1940 and 1941 to document American food culture. The planned book, America Eats, was derailed by the second world war and the end of the FWP and was never published. The project was featured in a book last summer, and the entries themselves have just been collated by Mark Kurlansky, and published as The Food of a Younger Land.

From the Times:

Among the topics covered were New York soda-luncheonette slang, Georgia possum cookery, Minnesota lutefisk, geoduck clams in Washington State, Montana’s fried beaver tail, Colorado food superstitions (“You will receive mail from the direction in which your pie is pointing, when it is set down at your place at the table”), a Choctaw “funeral cry” feast and “a Los Angeles sandwich called a taco.”


One of the odder entries, in fact, is a baffling rant against mashed potatoes that, with its over-the-top bluster and narrow scorn (not only should there be a law against serving mashed potatoes, the writer argues, but “a law against even the use of the words on menus, could have been lifted from a present-day blog.”


Pickiness rewarded



I am a picky eater. While my struggles with vegetables are starting to ever-so-slowly wane, I remain steadfast in my dislike of fruit. Weird, right? Who doesn’t like fruit? The idea is certainly great: colorful, fragrant, sweet. There are some I don’t really mind, but in practice, I’m just not a fan.

And of all the fruits I dislike, there’s none I hate more than the dread banana. Again, neat in concept, but even the smell of them makes me sick to my stomach. I always assumed I was alone in this particular tic, but lo and behold, innocent has released a banana-free smoothie! Due to popular demand!

Of course I had to support the sans banana movement and bought one, even though I don’t like kiwi. And even though the color is reminiscent of the algae that grows in an unhygienic Britta (not that I have first hand knowledge of that or anything).

I finally worked up the nerve to try it this morning, and it’s not half bad! Lots of citrus, the fruit family I find least objectionable.


London pulls through

I had a bit of a breakdown on vacation last week, when the Greek weather turned chilly for a day. It’s been three years since I’ve experienced summer, and I was desperate for every ray of sunshine. Wondering how much longer I could hack it here, getting excited for sunny 71 degree days in July, my English future was genuinely in doubt.

But it’s all better now. On my morning market run, I discovered a truly magnificent development in the Whole Foods* international aisle: three whole shelves of Mexican products! Salsas, nopales, more than one kind of mole, fresh corn tortillas, masa, cans of chiles…


My first haul

My first haul

Apparently they’ve taken a bit of a risk with the new product lines, so if there any Stoke Newington readers out there, go buy your weight in salsa and help make sure they stay around. Please! They’re getting tortilla deliveries once a week, so I advise Thursday or Friday visits to ensure freshness.

So maybe I can make it here. With highs of 63 next week, how many chiles do I have to eat to make that ok?

*Yeah, I know. We have three supermarkets** in spitting distance, all grim.

** Four, if you count as Iceland a supermarket.

See who else was excited by the development: Continue reading

Cocktail hour


Cold beer and a salty snack; 5pm; Molyvos, Greece.

Cold beer and a salty snack; 5pm; Molyvos, Greece.


As big as fish

Anna’s posts on ConAgra reminded me of a article from a couple weeks back on supermarkets hijacking “local”:

Sales of “local” foods and drinks are up 30% at Tesco, 41% at Asda. “Local” is as big as fish now, says Asda. The store is “very proud” to be stocking 6,500 “local” lines.

“Local” badly needs those inverted commas. It is yet another of those homely epithets – like “natural”, “fresh” and “farmhouse” – that the food industry takes and abuses as it pleases. Asda’s spokesperson was asked to define the term by BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today yesterday – “Something that is relevant to the customer in that particular store,” he said.

Well that’s a rather broad definition. Who knew we were being good little locavores buying California wine in London? What’s a few thousand miles when it’s relevant to this particular customer?

And then I came across this today:

“But locally grown is a denomination whose meaning is incorruptible. Sparing the transportation fuel, packaging and unhealthy additives is a compelling part of the story, but the plot goes well beyond that. Local food is a handshake deal in a community gathering place. It involves farmers with first names, who show up week after week. It means an open-door policy on the fields, where neighborhood buyers are welcome to come have a look , and pick their food from the vine.” Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver

Local: incorruptible, 2007; “as big as fish”, meaningles, 2009.

Perhaps I’m being naive, but I think it’s encouraging that “local” went from hallowed to hollow in such a short period of time. And if the big supermarket chains want to plaster local this and local that signs around their stores, well, that can only help to raise awareness of the issue. If it resonates with people, then they can start seeking out actual local goods, and not just those deemed “local” by their local multinational food conglomerate.

Or maybe I should blame that optimism on my just-back-from-holiday glow.


Proving my point

Last week the New York Times ran an article about ConAgra marketing itself as a local producer, which a spokesperson said would appeal to customers concerned about food safety.

Two days later, they ran an article about how ConAgra failed to identify why its potpies made 15,000 people ill.  Their solution?  To shift the onus to the customer instead.

– Anna

1 bad habit + 1 bad habit = health

The elixir of life.  By Flickr user kwerfeldein (Creative Commons license)

The elixir of life. By Flickr user kwerfeldein (Creative Commons license)

The LA Times ran an article summarising research that shows my serious coffee habit may cancel out the effects of my drinking.


– Anna