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””

On love and madness in Swaziland

Swaziland is a shithole. With more than 28% of its population positive, it has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. (Male) homosexuality is illegal (LGBT+ does not exist in the Swazi lexicon). The king is currently trying to ban divorce. He would also like everyone to just forgive Zuma for Nkandla. He currently has 13 wives (don’t scoff – his father had 70).

It’s also the country I grew up in, and from the age of 5 to 18, I had no idea it was such a shithole. Not (I like to think) because I was stupid, but because it was a wonderful place to be a child. It’s beautiful, with rolling hills and majestic mountains, and people who seemed cool about everything. My parents’ friends lived in cool houses built into the mountains, and on Sundays when we came to visit they’d pad around in kikois smoking joints, and then we’d go swim in a river. My parents wore kikois too, and when we had people round, they would assemble around a big fireplace my father had fashioned out of an old tractor tire rim in the garden, and my mother provided roasted peanuts, marinated fillet for the braai, and Keith Jarrett or Dave Brubeck booming through the speakers perched on window sills inside the house. (They also had a live recording of then Dollar Brand playing piano at another house they lived in down the valley before I was born.)

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“Cultural Appropriation” Nonsense

So it’s been all the rage in the food world of late. First, the Oberlin College issue, which had Lena Dunham supporting students who decried that the sushi and bánh mì served in the student cafeterias were not “authentic”, and therefore an example of “cultural appropriation”. 

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