The “Changian” Revolution

Years ago, when I was but an infant in my research into why people suddenly gave a shit about chefs (with due respect to a chef I give most respect to: yes, I’m talking about the late, great Bourdain) – and by giving a shit I mean turned them into celebrities – I experienced something which pissed me off mightily, but which I now file in the (virtual) cupboard of naivety when it comes to online behaviour.

In brief, I had the gumption to delve into the comment section of a blog post I had an issue with, and which unfortunately got personal when someone decided to look me up and discovered that I was researching something called “food media”: ‘wot dat?‘ was among the commentary.

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To be or not to be (probably isn’t the question)

I have the unique privilege of being Danish when I feel like it. It’s a privilege because for the most part Denmark is a cool notion to be associated with – people from (or in?) that country are apparently “happier” than in most of rest of the world (except for Finland and Norway this year, but whatevs – also garbage in, garbage out, as the clever people say); their whole design game is pretty strong, and the street-food (ie. hotdogs) is good. Also, we know how to hygge without a book (and that if you need a book, you probably don’t get it).

Speaking the language, having (naturally) blonde hair, blue eyes, and a Danish passport also turn out to be pretty useful when travelling. I’m a big fan of Hans Christian Andersen too, who I will happily claim as my heritage when it pleases me. There’s also a family tree which essentially traces me back to Lagertha, so if you ever need a Viking queen to sort something out, Whatsapp me.

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Do we need rules for living?

Never mind particular diets for particular outcomes (losing weight, not dying, etc.), I’ve long found it ridiculous that anyone would need to send a set of “food rules” into the world, like those compiled – or collected, rather – by food “guru” Michael Pollan, as if people can’t figure out how to eat by themselves (some great responses by an international group of food scholars below to Pollan’s initial request in the New York Times for food rules they grew up with):

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Goop and the Chronicles of Activated Charcoal

(No one else can resist a good clickbait heading – why should I?)

You’ve heard about “activated charcoal”, right? It’s fantastic stuff, that apparently absorbs all the rubbish toxins from your gut/liver/blood/spleen while delivering an excellent Instagram opportunity (image swiped from Eater):

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Achtung! (Eyes here please.)

There was a short “film” (or ‘single channel video art piece’, as defined by Wikipedia) produced in 1973 by Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman called Television Delivers People which made the then-provocative argument that commercial television essentially functioned to deliver people to advertisers, meaning the product of TV is you, rather than whatever slapstick show you happened to be watching:

Stills from “Television Delivers People” (a “film” of rolling text with no images)

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Noma 2.0 and what it means to be “cutting edge”

I recently had a short exchange with whomever manages the Twitter account of the acclaimed Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark (city of my birth, incidentally and completely irrelevantly). It was based on an article I recently read in Eater, which I found to be refreshingly critical of the restaurant that’s been everyone’s darling in the food media world since it nabbed the title of the “World’s Best” in 2010 – and retained it for several years thereafter, unseating the likes of Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal, but that’s cool, because the emperor does need a new set of clothes every once in a while. Continue reading “Noma 2.0 and what it means to be “cutting edge””

“Ultra-processed” foods and cancer

So there’s a “study” making the rounds claiming to have found evidence of a link between consuming “ultra-processed foods” and developing cancer. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that processed stuff like bacon and pastrami leads to cancer, but this one expands the range of “processed” to the more scary “ultra-processed” to include the following (handily summarised by the BBC):

Leaving aside what exactly even are “foods made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats”, it’s an excellent example of the kind of rubbish headlines that lead to the worst outcomes of social media, and of the resulting issue of people being rightly confused about what, or what not, to eat,  because it’s so beautifully tweetable, but mostly bullshit (scientifically speaking):

The main issue here is fairly simple to explain, but it unfortunately comes with consequences that are less simple to undo with a few words on Twitter. Continue reading ““Ultra-processed” foods and cancer”

Snail porridge not by Heston: homage or plagiarism?

I’ve recently confessed my confusion about how to make sense of the case of the homophobic baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple (because it’s obviously wrong. Unless it’s not, because one could grudgingly respect an asshole who’s willing to forego money for the sake of sticking to his (wrong) beliefs?). Apart from the philosophical conundrum it presents, I was intrigued by the legal implications of the case, which seemed to rely on whether the (non-existent) cake in question could be considered a work of art, in which case it would magically be protected by the rights to freedom of speech. Or not baking. Whatever floats your homophobic boat. Continue reading “Snail porridge not by Heston: homage or plagiarism?”

The problem with cake

Cake has been getting attention lately, not because it’s delicious and should be enjoyed by all (which it is, and should be), but because it’s the subject of a controversial hearing about free speech. Specifically, whether it’s OK or not for a homophobic baker to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The baker in question, the Washington Post informs us, also refuses to make Halloween cakes for religious reasons:

To be compelled to do so would, he says, violate his constitutional right to speak freely. This, he says, includes the right not to be compelled to contribute his expressive cake artistry to a ceremony or occasion celebrating ideas or practices he does not condone. Well.

The First Amendment speaks of speech; its presence in a political document establishes its core purpose as the protection of speech intended for public persuasion. The amendment has, however, been rightly construed broadly to protect many expressive activities . Many, but there must be limits.

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“I hope this email finds you well”

We’ve all experienced that annoying beginning to an email (or some variation thereof – “I trust you’re well” is particularly egregious – why bring trust into it?). It is, I think, mostly an email convention, for reasons that escape me – why can’t emails be more like Whatsapps, of Facebook DMs, or another other mode of modern communication, where you just get straight to the “Yo wassup, drinks later?”. Maybe (and I’m conjecturing on the fly here) emails are stuck in some grey zone between the “old” and “new”, where the excitement of immediacy took precedence over common sense.

I mean, yes, there were faxes before emails in the whole “immediacy” game, but imagine standing over a fax machine watching it laboriously pixelate a message that begins with “I trust this fax finds you well”, and not kind of freaking out thinking of what’s coming next while you wait for the rest of the thing to materialise: why wouldn’t I be? Shouldn’t I be? We didn’t even have Dr. Google to address panic attacks back in those days. (It’s nothing, calm down.) Continue reading ““I hope this email finds you well””