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4 Charles Prime Rib

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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Now that citizens of the United States live in what some cynics (or would that be realists?) describe as a kleptocracy, it’s useful to reflect on just who owns just what.  A lovely and lucid piece by Rachel Cernansky at Ensia details what is called the Open Source Seed Initiative, and it’s well worth reading if you’re interested in, say, food. The short version is that large seed companies (think Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and so on) have taken to filling […]

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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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