Postcard(s) from Chicago

So I’m in Chicago, primarily to attend the IFT16 (that’s the 2016 conference for the Institute of Food Technologists – you’re welcome), where two of my favourite thinkers were on the bill to deliver keynote addresses:

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_20160717_102852It’s also my first time in the Windy City, so I of course laid all sorts of other cunning plans to tick off Important Things on my wish-list: dinner at Alinea, Grace (OK, not really in the position to drop $200+ on dinner); failing that, Next (“just” $155); OK fine, I’ll settle for Roister and Frontera Grill. Except neither of the latter are open on a Sunday or Monday, the two days we had to explore the city.

So, my experiences and observations are unfortunately – or fortunately – somewhat more mundane than eating at all the *must-go* places in Chicago (I choose to think of this like the author of Save Room for Pie, which means that there’s always more to look forward to).

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What is expertise?

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 07.35.58It’s a misleading title, in a way, because I was driven to write this here and now by a new article/interview with “original” bad boy celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain (though as rightly acknowledged in that conversation, that distinction of Uber bad boy must of course go to Marco Pierre White. After Keith Floyd, that is).

I’m a fan of Bourdain, for the record. (And congratulations to him on turning 60, which is why he is pictured here with his face on a cake having narrowly escaped being punctuated by birthday candles.) But here’s the bit that got me:

In order to write well about food you need to eat well, and you cannot eat well if you’re analyzing the food.

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How to make a brain

First, you bake a red velvet cake in a bowl, which you carve into a brain shape. (See, it’s as easy as learning SnapChat!)

Then you melt a bunch of marshmallows and mix them with a bunch of icing sugar until you can roll them into grey pink matter.DSC_0116 Now cut open your brain and slather on some cream cheese frosting and a lot of worms (because who doesn’t want to eat a worm-infested brain?).

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Glorifying gluttony

If being a “foodie” means enjoying reading about what other people get to eat – often in some of the best restaurants in the world – then I will reluctantly admit to being one. (If it just means being obnoxiously obsessed with food, then no. Definitely not!)

But when such an account begins with the line ‘Last night, I vomited in a great restaurant‘, and goes to on to list a menu of glorious-sounding food punctuated by burps and an ultimate reversal of fortune, then I think I draw the line between pleasure and disgust.

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The Perfect Human Diet

I guess I should have known that a documentary called The Search for the Perfect Human Diet (subtitled “The Answer to the Obesity Epidemic”) would end up in a very predictable place. But just see how ground-breaking it sounds!:

The Perfect Human Diet is the unprecedented global exploration for a solution to our epidemic of overweight, obesity and diet-related diseases – the #1 killer in America. This film, by broadcast journalist C.J. Hunt, bypasses current dietary group-think [ding ding!] by exploring modern dietary science, previous historical findings, ancestral native diets and the emerging field of human dietary evolution – revealing for the first time, the authentic human diet. Film audiences finally can see what our species truly needs for optimal health and are given a practical template based on scientific facts.

Am I right? If only this synopsis wasn’t actually written by … C.J. Hunt.

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No, actually don’t try this at home

“When I see a picture of someone who’s really hugely fat,” Nigella Lawson once told a talk-show host, “I don’t think ‘how hideous’. I think how delicious it must have been to get there”.

Not so Katie Hopkins, who earlier this year embarked on her very own ridiculous “Fat Story“. The conceit*: put on 3-4 stone (that’s about 25 kg) and lose it again to show how easy it is – or rather, that all fat people need is a kick up the arse.

If you haven’t heard of her, this is all you need: she calls herself the biggest bitch in Britain, and was apparently ranked the second most loathed person in the world, after Vladimir Putin. Perfect person for the job, right?

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Watson gets it all wrong

So Watson the computer has just released a cookbook. Or rather, you can now buy a cookbook full of weird pairings generated by Science.

Now Watson’s been hanging out in the [bon appetit] kitchen for quite some time already, where (s)he/it has been “learning” about which foods go together for the purposes of helping to inspire chefs and other people who like to play in kitchens about surprising combinations that apparently work. As I wrote in the Mad Dispatches on the topic of “What is Cooking”, the idea behind Watson isn’t to ‘render the human cook obsolete, but rather to put the superior speed and memory capacities of a computer to the service of human creativity by analysing, for example, similar compounds in a multitude of flavour-pairings. In theory, Watson could then come up with combinations that make complete sense but might have taken us another several decades to discover in the kitchen.’

So how exactly does it work?

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Eat this now, before you die (or, some schizo[hive]phrenia)

As I pointed out the other day, Twitter is really a place of diverging views.
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Which is nonsense, of course. Because my Twitter is only what I’ve decided to make it, and here I will pat myself on the back for choosing not to live in a filter bubble where I only see things that please me.

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