Category Archives: Digest

Reading Food: 2013

Don’t let its name fool you: in between shiny “phablets” and robot armies, Gizmodo still makes time for the ultimate old-school entertainment and educational device, the book. When Gizmodo‘s new editor-in-chief (and my Venue collaborator), Geoff Manaugh, asked me to contribute my top ten books of 2013 to their end-of-year “Best Books” list, I agonised […]

The Meaning of Meals

The American family dinner is an endangered custom with magical powers attributed to it. It is also, as cultural historian Abigail Carroll explains in her fascinating new book, Three Squares, “only about 150 years old.” IMAGE: Three Squares, Abigail Carroll (jacket design by Nicole Caputo). Subtitled “the invention of the American meal,” Three Squares is […]

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Urban Farming for Cynics

On page sixty of Sarah Rich’s new(ish) book, Urban Farms, she quotes Mary Seton Corboy, founder of Greensgrow in North Philadelphia, saying, “Urban agriculture is part of the solution but a darn small one.”

Fake Cinnamon Joins Artificial Vanilla and Wins

Earlier this year, Sarah Lohman of the historical gastronomy blog Four Pounds Flour and Jonathan Soma of the Brooklyn Brainery launched a monthly “bar room lecture series” on food called “Masters of Social Gastronomy” (MSG for short). Although other commitments kept me from attending their inaugural lecture on strange meat (including bear, rotten shark, and […]

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Spaces of Prohibition

Historian Daniel Okrent’s recent book, Last Call, tells the story of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — otherwise known as Prohibition. IMAGE: Constitutional Amendment XVIII, ratified January 16, 1919, via the National Archives and Records Administration. “After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors […]

Julio the Sewer Diver

Long-time Pruned readers (which I encourage you all to become, if you are not already) might remember a short post from January 2007, which introduced Carlos Barrios, a former accountant turned official Mexico City sewer diver. These Washington Post descriptions of his workday spent immersed in “garbage, bacteria, excrement, dead animals—even the occasional murder victim” […]

Fueling Mexico City: A Grain Revolution

Apologies for the prolonged silence here at Edible Geography. It is one of the ironies of Postopolis!—the blogger-curated “Ponzi scheme of ideas” (in the words of its co-founder Joseph Grima) whose most recent iteration took place last week in Mexico City—that there is not really enough time to post during the event itself.

The Amazing Allegorical Synthetic Fish

Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire popularised the ingenious idea that the biographies of plants provide us with a mirror in which we can see our own history, desires, and values. The triumph of corn, for example, tells us a wealth of stories, from the biological imperative behind our weakness for sweetness to the economic drivers that lead us to subsidise commodity crops so they sell for less than they cost to grow. The relationship is a feedback loop whereby corn has evolved to suit the needs of industrial agriculture, which supplies a food system that has been shaped by corn.

Multifunctional Desserts

In a 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live, Dan Ackroyd, Chevy Chase, and Gilda Radner starred in a short ad for New Shimmer: a miraculous new product that was “both floor wax and a dessert topping!” IMAGE: “New Shimmer” on Saturday Night Live, “for the greatest shine you ever tasted!” While a close look at […]

Ginger Biscuits and Deodorant Guns

IMAGE: A unintentional theme from the Headspace: Scent As Design conference – at least three different speakers used this random archival photo in their presentations. In his book The Emperor of Scent, Chandler Burr describes the case of Janet Rippard, “a former nurse living in rather a remote part of Scotland.” Rippard was suffering from […]