Religions, he thinks, have the buttons and know how to use them. His book considers the Catholic mass, early Christianitiy's ritual of agape or love feasts, and Jewish Passover rituals to explore how religions encouraged us to overcome fear of strangers and create communities. He then tentatively imagines a so-called "agape restaurant" where, instead of dining with like-minded friends, you would be invited to eat with strangers. It would be the antithesis of Facebook.
The world may or may not need another cookbook, but it needs all the lovers—amateurs—it can get. It is a gorgeous old place, full of clownish graces and beautiful drolleries, and it has enough textures, tastes, and smells to keep us intrigued for more time than we have. Unfortunately, however, our response to its loveliness is not always delight: It is, far more often than it should be, boredom. And that is not only odd, it is tragic; for boredom is not neutral—it is the fertilizing principle of unloveliness.
Further reflection revealed that it’s quite impractical—nearly impossible—to make a cheeseburger from scratch. Tomatoes are in season in the late summer. Lettuce is in season in spring and fall. Large mammals are slaughtered in early winter. The process of making such a burger would take nearly a year, and would inherently involve omitting some core cheeseburger ingredients. It would be wildly expensive—requiring a trio of cows—and demand many acres of land. There’s just no sense in it.
A cheeseburger cannot exist outside of a highly developed, post-agrarian society. It requires a complex interaction between a handful of vendors—in all likelihood, a couple of dozen—and the ability to ship ingredients vast distances while keeping them fresh. The cheeseburger couldn’t have existed until nearly a century ago as, indeed, it did not.
What issues might we be thinking about in trying to decide whether to classify cooking as one of the arts? Here are some.
1) Is the person who says of the Chateau Petrus they have just tasted that it is a work of art to be taken literally?
2) Is the experience we have of a Beethoven String Quartet sufficiently different from that we have when eating a great meal so that we should distinguish them as different kinds of experience?
3) Does it make sense to say of someone that they have been moved by a meal?
4) Is it significant for classifying something as an art form that a meal is consumed in the process of appreciation?
5) When I say of Grant Achatz that he is an artist in the kitchen how does this differ from saying he is a genius at the stove?
6) Why do we distinguish between the architect who designed Notre Dame and those who built it by designating the latter as craftsmen and the former as an artist? Is there a class bias exhibited by this distinction?
7) A piece of music can express sadness. A pate cannot. So?
Cooking is universal among our species. Cooking is even more uniquely characteristic of our species than language. Animals do at least bark, roar, chirp, do at least signal by sound; only we bake, boil, roast and fry….
Few advances comparable in importance to cooking have happened since [its development]. The most important have been more quantitative than qualitative. We began not simply to harvest but to adopt certain palatable plants and animals as aids and conspirators. By 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, we had domesticated all those that have been central to our diets ever sense—barley, wheat, rice, maize, potatoes, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and so on…. We have domesticated nothing more significant than strawberries and reindeer since.
When instant cake mixes were introduced, in the 1950s, housewives were initially resistant: The mixes were too easy, suggesting that their labor was undervalued. When manufacturers changed the recipe to require the addition of an egg, adoption rose dramatically. Ironically, increasing the labor involved – making the task more arduous – led to greater liking….
When people construct products themselves, from bookshelves to Build-a-Bears, they come to overvalue their (often poorly made) creations. We call this phenomenon the IKEA effect, in honor of the wildly successful Swedish manufacturer whose products typically arrive with some assembly required.
In one of our studies we asked people to fold origami and then to bid on their own creations along with other people’s. They were consistently willing to pay more for their own origami. In fact, they were so enamored of their amateurish creations that they valued them as highly as origami made by experts.
We also investigated the limits of the IKEA effect, showing that labor leads to higher valuation only when the labor is fruitful…
Mexican women that I have talked to are very explicit about this trade-off. They know it doesn’t taste as good; they don’t care. Because if they want to have time, if they want to work, if they want to send their kids to school, then taste is less important than having that bit of extra money, and moving into the middle class. They have very self-consciously made this decision. In the last ten years, the number of women working in Mexico has gone up from about thirty-three percent to nearly fifty percent. One reason for that—it’s not the only reason, but it is a very important reason—is that we’ve had a revolution in the processing of maize for tortillas.
My year-long exploration of the United States is—so far, at least—surprisingly cost-efficient. My trip from the state of Washington to Pennsylvania, for instance, only cost around $9. If I keep this up, I'll be able to smell the smells and taste the tastes from the Atlantic to the Pacific—non-contiguous states and the District of Columbia included—for a little over $100. And it'll keep me fed in the process. So far, this journey has taught me a lot about myself, about discipline, about improvisation under pressure, and an awful, awful lot about chili.
Chili. Chili con carne, or "peppers with meat" in Spanish. Simply meat and chili peppers, if you're a purist (plus a lot of other ingredients, if you're not). OK, so I'm not actually traveling from state to state, but instead I've been using Jane and Michael Stern's Chili Nation (Random House, 1999) cookbook as a tour guide. The Sterns made stops in each state and collected recipes that they felt captured some of the local flavour—coffee-accented chili from the state of Washington, chili with seafood in place of beef from Maryland, a flavourful dish popularized by some of the diners on Mississippi's Route 61, and so on.
So, in lieu of spending a year traveling, I thought I'd let my tastebuds and stomach take a trip instead. Fifty-one chili recipes in 52 weeks. One chili a week, with one week off (which I'll probably cash in on my honeymoon, but my fiancée likes chili too, so maybe not!)
Wansink teamed up with his brother Craig Wansink, a religious studies professor at Virginia Wesleyan College, to look at how portion sizes have changed over time by examining the food depicted in 52 of the most famous paintings of the scene from the Last Supper.
"As the most famously depicted dinner of all time, the Last Supper is ideally suited for review," Craig Wansink said.
From the 52 paintings, which date between 1000 and 2000 A.D., the sizes of loaves of bread, main dishes and plates were calculated with the aid of a computer program that could scan the items and rotate them in a way that allowed them to be measured. To account for different proportions in paintings, the sizes of the food were compared to the sizes of the human heads in the paintings.
The researchers' analysis showed that portion sizes of main courses (usually eel, lamb and pork) depicted in the paintings grew by 69 percent over time, while plate size grew by 66 percent and bread size grew by 23 percent.
People living in San Francisco can find a soil tasting in a nearby art gallery; the rest of us can e-participate through a website (tasteofplace.info) run by performance artist and "agricultural activist" Laura Parker. Parker strives to answer the question "how does soil touch our lives and affect our food; and why does it matter?" To stimulate public dialogue, Parker fills wine goblets with various soils and adds a few teaspoons of water to release the aromas and flavors. The soils aren't ingested, but participants place their noses deep into the wine bowls, inhaling the newly released molecules to the backs of their tongues, where taste receptors lie. The website even provides "Tasting Notes," such as the soil of "Apple Farm-Indian Camp Ground, 'Arrowhead Reserve,'" which has a "texture like ground espresso between your fingertips with a rich, chocolate color. The nose is both flinty and grassy with finesse and subtlety." After the soil tasting, participants dine on food grown in the various soils and identify the qualities of the dirt in the food to strengthen the connection between what we eat and where it's grown.
For Schultz, this mainstream customer base was both a boon and a curse. In Pour Your Heart Into It, his 1997 account of Starbucks’ rise to global behemoth, he reveals a preoccupation with authenticity that echoed Kurt Cobain’s. In 1989, he initially balked at providing non-fat milk for customers—it wasn’t how the Italians did it. When word trickled up to him that rival stores in Santa Monica were doing big business in the summer months selling blended iced coffee drinks, he initially dismissed the idea as something that “sounded more like a fast-food shake than something a true coffee lover would enjoy.”
Eventually, Schultz relented. And really, what greater punk-rock middle finger is there to purist prescriptions about what constitutes a true coffee drink than a blended ice beverage flavored with Pumpkin Spice powder? . . .
In reality, the chain’s customers have played a substantial role in determining the Starbucks experience. They asked for non-fat milk, and they got it. They asked for Frappuccino, and they got it. What they haven’t been so interested in is Starbucks’ efforts to carry on the European coffeehouse tradition of creative interaction and spirited public discourse.
Over the years, Starbucks has tried various ways to foster an intellectual environment. In 1996 it tried selling a paper version of Slate and failed. In 1999 it introduced its own magazine, Joe. “Life is interesting. Discuss,” its tagline encouraged, but whatever discussions Joe prompted could sustain only three issues. In 2000 Starbucks opened Circadia, an upscale venue in San Francisco that Fortune described as an attempt to “resurrect the feel of the 1960s coffee shops of Greenwich Village.” The poetry readings didn’t work because customers weren’t sure if they were allowed to chat during the proceedings. The majority of Starbucks patrons, it seems, are happy to leave the European coffeehouse tradition to other retailers.
Located inside the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha, the Ogori cafe looks innocuous enough, but holds a surprise in store for its patrons. In a nutshell, you get what the person before you ordered, and the next person gets what you ordered. Thus, if you’re in on the game, you can choose to be either a generous benefactor, and treat those that come after you – or try your luck at being cheap. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment that explores surprise, kindness and encourages interactions. . . .
[Caleb Stasser explains:] "As I sat down to enjoy my surprise Appletizer, loving this insane idea and wondering what would happen if you tried it in America, a Japanese woman approached the cafe. Since she could actually speak Japanese, she could read the large sign at the front and, fortunately or unfortunately, got advanced warning of what she was in for. Before making a final decision on what to order, she quietly snuck up to me to try to ask me what I had ordered, knowing that it would be her unwavering refreshment destiny. The staff put a quick stop to her trickery, and I didn’t answer.
"Of course, regardless of what she ordered, she got the orange juice I ordered a few minutes earlier. But here’s one of the moments that make this experiment cool: she actually chose orange juice, just like I did. So she got what she wanted. Ogori cafe synchronicity!"
One of the delights of watching food-centric films is to see the main characters demonstrate their culinary skills. The breaking of an egg, the flipping of an omelet, the chopping of an onion (or a carrot or a piece of celery) become impressive feats when performed with dexterity and brio. The food writer Michael Pollan has noted that television cooking shows have come to resemble athletic events, showcasing the spectacular, often competitive talents of their chefs. In narrative film, however, the spectacle of cooking is always more than spectacle; it is also a dynamic means of representing character. Chopping, in particular, in being both precise and violent, is an exceptionally cinematic activity, capable of expressing repressed emotions of rage, bitterness, and passion. It is no wonder that most every film in which food plays a role invariably has a chopping scene.
“Tell me what you eat: I will tell you what you are,” Brillat-Savarin challenged his readers in 1825, and his wisdom if not his brio was already old hat. Human meals serve those mixtures of raw and cooked that make up anthropological codes. Nearly every prescription or preference blends irrational faith and scientific requirements, as Marvin Harris shows in his fascinating Good to Eat: look long enough at a seemingly arbitrary food rule (cloven hooves, sacred cows) and one can probably discover a self-preserving logic behind it, but look hard enough at an apparently sensible directive (a glass of milk, a handful of supplements) and one will like as not detect a prejudice posing as sense. Omnivorous and hungry, body and spirit, we sit down at a table spread with necessary choice; we cannot eat to live, that is, without in some measure living to eat. As Laurie Colwin once put it, then, cookery books will always “hit you where you live.” What seems distinctive and disquieting now, what seems to have increased in the two centuries since Brillat-Savarin shot a turkey in Hartford or even in the two decades since Colwin roasted a chicken in her New York apartment, is the number of volumes hitting us combined with the force of their impact. A nation with a lot of food books is a nation without much sense of food, as The Economist recently pointed out.
Guatemala Generally called "shucos", are cooked in a carbon grill. They're served with the classic boiled sausage, guacamole, mustard, mayonnaise,boiled cabbage. If you want you can add ketchup, bacon, pepperoni, salami, Spanish chorizo, longaniza or meat. They cost around $0.50 in all Guatemalan cities. You may order the famous "mixto" who brings all the toppings already mentioned, but its price may rise to $2.00 or $3.00.
Colombia In Bogotá and practically all the country, the hot dog is eaten with an unusually great amount and variety of condiments and fixings. In a single hot dog, is normal to find mashed potato chips, cheese, strings of ham or bacon, ketchup, mayo, mustard, pineapple sauce, and chopped onion.