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4 Charles Prime Rib

Rumor has it that ancient Romans once partook of a fish which produced what we would call an acid trip.  The evidence of this is, unsurprisingly, fuzzy — but it’s well within the realm of the possible.  Sarpa salpa is a common denizen of the Mediterranean coast that goes by the name of the cow bream, or the goldline, or the salema porgy.  It’s a frequent “fresh caught” menu item in the south of France, and that’s where a couple […]

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In this season of unexpected obituaries, let me add one more name:  Serge Hochar.  He’s been gone two years now, but his story, his life’s work, is so deeply enmeshed with time and history that it seems somehow right to let him settle into history before turning to reflect upon what he accomplished. Hochar was a winemaker of French ancestry who worked in Lebanon.  I was surprised when I heard of his terroir but that was only demonstrating the depth […]

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December 15th, 2016

This Bud’s For You

BY Christian Ford

I suppose it’s part and parcel of our escalating Weimar Republic flashback to simultaneously watch the school for scoundrels roll back the cultural clock while some people spin it forward.  Exhibit No. 1:  the entire Left Coast, all 1300 miles of it, which has now legalized marijuana.  I’ll leave it to the Magic 8-Ball to determine what position the incoming federal administration takes on this, but while we’re waiting, we have an interesting bit of data to unpack. It seems […]

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November 30th, 2016

Break Stuff

BY Christian Ford

There are the things you know are coming, and then there are the things that you can imagine are coming and, regrettably, it’s the latter that matters.  So, in light of an election which shuffled impossible into inescapable, perhaps it is time to revisit the list of “yeah, someday,” and “maybe, I dunno” food events that we’ve all heard of but which have never crossed the imaginative border into reality. I’ll focus on seven foods, but it’s not really seven.  […]

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November 15th, 2016

Resurrection Seed

BY Christian Ford

Their home was a fortress, so they did what residents of a fortress do — prepared for the siege.  In time, the siege came and — though the fortress seemed impregnable — the walls were breached.  Only seven of the nearly thousand defenders survived and the victors cast a coin to commemorate the defeat of the rebellion.  On the front of the coin, they put the visage of their well-fed emperor and on the back, the figure of a woman […]

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October 31st, 2016

The Grind

BY Christian Ford

East of Iceland, North of Scotland, and West of Norway you’d expect to find little but cold, gray sea, and yet there’s a country there, a few degrees south of the Arctic Circle, home to some forty-nine thousand descendants of Viking men and Celtic women.  This is the Faroe Islands and, while they remain part of Denmark’s realm, the Faroe Islanders are their own masters, having wrested a living from these chill rocks since the year 1000. The archipelago is […]

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Sailors, it is said, have a fondness for strong drink, whether it’s singing pirates in Stevenson’s Treasure Island (“Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum”) or the Royal Navy’s official daily ration of grog (tragically deep-sixed in 1970.)   The origins of the practice are old, deriving from the era in European history when alcohol was so pervasive that there was no more thought of excluding alcohol from aboard ship than would be of excluding food. Back then, the […]

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October 3rd, 2016

The Outsiders

BY Christian Ford

While learning about Sioux Chef Sean Sherman and his effort to reconstruct a genuine North American cuisine, and I found myself thinking about Afghanistan.  Yes, the Dakota badlands echo the mountains of Central Asia, but those weren’t the similarities that intrigued.  Sherman’s home turf, the Pine Ridge Reservation, is one of the poorest places in the United States, while in Afghanistan close to half of the people scrape by on less than $1.35 a day.  More tellingly, both the Sioux […]

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September 13th, 2016

Same Old (New) World

BY Christian Ford

There are times when I look at the culture I inhabit — taking note of the supersized food, the love affair with plastic, the apparently holy commandment to use as much energy as possible — and I wonder how on earth we got this way.  Was it the fact that the US used to be the Saudi Arabia of the world?  Or maybe it was the abundant farmland?  Or perhaps it was simply the allure of the movies that made so […]

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August 18th, 2016

Galley Slaves

BY Christian Ford

On August 2nd, Dominique Saavedra achieved something no other enlisted woman in the US Navy ever had — a faux silver badge of 1920s design was pinned above the left breast pocket of her fatigues.  Colloquially known as the “dolphins,” the coveted insignia can only worn by those who have qualified to serve aboard US submarines, an arduous and demanding path and one that, until 2015, had only been open to enlisted men.  So, hats off to Chief Saavedra and […]

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It was in a footnote of a book I no longer remember that I first heard “hopping” used to describe something other than what you’d do after stubbing your toe.   Hopping, it turned out, was also an annual migration of Londoners to the hop farms of Kent in the southeast corner of England.  I found the notion instantly intriguing because I simply couldn’t imagine  London’s hardscrabble urban poor afoot in the postcard countryside.   It’s a vanished tradition now, […]

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Some years back, I was part of a community garden.  We arrived the very first year of its existence, which meant that it was a place with no traditions and where most of the gardeners were beginners.  Consequently, there was unusual clarity, as the different patches began to sprout, about what everyone valued.  There were immense plots, tiny plots, highly ordered micro farms that could have escaped from an illustrated children’s book.  And then, there was my plot. Do you […]

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