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July 20th, 2017

The Dining Car

BY Christian Ford

If you’re anything like me, you were scarred in your youth by the golden age of travel.  It was the imagery that did me in: glorious ocean liners where the captain dined at your table; overnight trains with immaculate service and possibly a spy aboard; the dawn of transoceanic passenger flight, when flying boats epitomized modernity even as they flew directly to an exotic past. Those days are so gone it’s hard to imagine that they ever existed.  But their […]

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July 8th, 2017

High Hitler

BY Christian Ford

It’s a truism that you are what you eat, but perhaps never more so than in Nazi Germany.  Even if the war ended so long ago that certain elements of American society have forgotten that the Nazis were the bad guys, there are still discoveries to be made about the defining cataclysm of the 20th Century.  German novelist Norman Ohler has made a particularly startling one with his nonfiction book Der Totale Rausch, translated into English as Blitzed.  It tells […]

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Just when I was about to completely despair of the world in which I live, along comes Taco Trucks at Every Mosque, delivering tidings of Feliz Ramadan.  This delightful notion is a riposte to the comments of Marco Gutierrez, the presumably self-hating co-founder of Latinos for Trump.  In September of 2016, Gutierrez catapulted himself to internet infamy (and a Wikipedia page) by commenting “My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t […]

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June 6th, 2017

Hive Dive

BY Christian Ford

I was just along for the ride. Sometimes family determines what you encounter in life, and so it is that my children, students of a public school best described as renegade, are the gateway to a parade of unexpected things.  Their school embraces serendipity and one day serendipity brought Carl, a local man heavily engaged in beekeeping.  So now bees are part of the life of the classroom. The timing couldn’t be better because bees — as you must know and if […]

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May 21st, 2017

BurgerBots

BY Christian Ford

Remember when San Francisco was a city of hills with modest white buildings stair-stepping down to the white-capped bay?   Yeah, me neither.  But I have it on good authority that it was once, that right around the moment when Kim Novak threw herself into the bay, San Francisco really was what a Greek island village might have been if it grew into a great city. But the city that created the legend of The City is gone and the […]

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Chances are that you’ve heard of the Iceman, even if you can’t pronounce his nickname, Ötzi.  (Tell your lips and tongue to say “E,” but instead make the sound of “O” and you’ll be on the right path.) In any case, Ötzi was the copper age man who died in the Tyrolean Alps over 5,000 years ago, and then froze solid until his icefield melted in 1991, yielding the most well-preserved natural mummy ever discovered.  They’ve been studying him for […]

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I don’t think I’ll get a lot of pushback if I suggest that Americans have a singularly weird relationship with food.  Until now, I’ve blithely assumed that this was a relatively recent phenomenon, that the weirdness grew from a modern sensibility rooted in a reverence for technology, amplified by leisure and driven to full madness by advertising.  But, boy, was I wrong.  Or maybe, I’ve just been defining “modern” incorrectly. The craziness started in the 19th century, and it was, […]

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March 13th, 2017

The Malt Caves

BY Christian Ford

The English city of Nottingham — seat of Robin Hood’s infamous sheriff — was built on  sandstone.  The city’s castle stands on a high outcrop of the stuff which is why it’s now called  Nottingham Castle sandstone.  This silty stone, laid down by a primordial river, is so soft that just about anyone can dig through it.   At the same time, it’s sturdy enough to not collapse, even you don’t know much about digging tunnels.  As you might imagine, […]

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March 4th, 2017

Hate You, Baby

BY Christian Ford

The other day I had the opportunity to play with no less than thirty typewriters from the first half of the last century and since this is a column about food and culture and not industrial design, I’ll limit my report to saying that it was a journey to a culture of refreshing tactility. The experience was still with me when I found myself trying to repair a brand-new electric pencil sharpener at my son’s school.  It was a doomed errand, because […]

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February 24th, 2017

Food/Lawns/Food

BY Christian Ford

About a decade ago, a movement emerged called “Food Not Lawns.” This was a drive to replace the ubiquitous suburban lawn with a yardscape that yielded sustenance. You will perhaps not be surprised to hear that this created a minor firestorm in some neighborhoods, particularly those governed by “covenants” that the homeowners bought into with their home purchases. Almost uniformly, these covenants were about protecting home value by mandating a certain 1950s suburban pride aesthetic, with the manicured lawn as […]

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February 10th, 2017

The Yuck Factor

BY Christian Ford

Disgust arrives with such a visceral and instinctive punch that we should be forgiven for assuming that it’s hardwired.  To be clear, disgust is a universal human emotion with an equally universal facial expression, which means that it’s intrinsic to the human animal.  But exactly what triggers that response is highly flexible and culturally conditioned.  In other words, we have to learn just what counts as disgusting, which is why different cultures have very different ideas of what you should […]

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February 2nd, 2017

The Maltings

BY Christian Ford

Brewing is the next edifice to fall to the welcome march of “local,” with some craft brewers branching into farming to create a bottled version of farm-to-table.  It’s an interesting development, but for some reason it puts me in mind of how we could only have local food after food became un-local in the first place, which of course means that most food was, in a historic sense, local.  Brewing was very much a part of that, because beer didn’t […]

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