This week in long reads: Convenient cooking, the cult of deep dish pizza, an artist whose medium is sugar, and more. Catch up below, and leave other good stories in the comments.
Chinese Food and the Joy of Inauthentic Cooking
The New Yorker
It's possible that Asian food is more prominent in the American imagination than the Asian people who produce it. In the mid-nineteen-fifties, the political scientist Harold Isaacs became curious about how average Americans had formed impressions of far-away China and India. Isaacs and a team of researchers interviewed U.S. citizens from a variety of backgrounds and professions to learn what, exactly, had prompted them to decide that people from these countries were friendly or suspect, hardworking or lazy, intelligent or uncivilized... When it came to the Chinese, one experience in particular seemed to evoke universal feelings of appreciation: "The familiar and pleasurable experience of eating Chinese food."
The deeper we go, the hotter it gets. Hell as core, as sub-skyline, as salve against winter, as down-jacket, as postcard from Cozumel to Chicago. The spiciest pepperoni wishes you were here. When you stab into the pizza like this, the heat screams from the center in a sound your uncle calls, bleating. We sacrifice our warmth for this pizza.
The Myth of Easy Cooking
Everywhere, there are magazine features proclaiming that making and freezing my own chicken stock is a "no-brainer"; homemade Calabrian chili oil is an "easy" way to add big flavor; the secret to making effortless breakfast granola is to simply do it in big batches. The problem is that none of this actually easy. Not the one-minute pie dough or the quick kale chips or the idiot-proof Massaman curry, every last ounce of which is made from scratch, from ingredients that are sourced and bought and lugged home and washed, peeled, chopped, mixed, and cooked.
The Sugar Artist
People have died for sugar.
That’s right, it’s a fraught medium, but for me, I’m coming from a purely vocational perspective. I’m a person who worked in a kitchen and that’s what I was given. It’s what I do; it’s what I know; it’s how I learned how to be an artist. And sugar paid my rent.
When immigrants arrived at New York’s Ellis Island in the early 1900s, they got their first taste of America. It quivered, shimmered and went down smooth. Because it was Jell-O.
All we knew was that Turkish Delight was an exotic-sounding treat that would be your first request if a mysterious and elegant woman asked you, "what would you like best to eat?" And we knew that Edmund loved that Turkish delight so much that he put his siblings and the entire land of Narnia in harm's way in exchange for more. (To be fair, it was enchanted. But still, Edmund. Still.) So we wound up imagining whatever we would have liked best. It was like looking into Harry Potter's Mirror of Erised, but for desserts: when you thought of a treat worth betraying your family for, what did you see? Turkish Delight was our collective candy id.
The restaurant landscape of 2015 is familiar territory. Even casual observers are familiar with buzzwords like fast-casual and ticketed reservations — hallmarks of a year when the dining world was preoccupied with making food more accessible. The restaurant landscape for 2016 is still largely unknown. But among the 2016 hopefuls is Kyle Connaughton, a chef many don't know by name, and his wife Katina, a farmer. In a quiet corner of Sonoma County, these two are building Single Thread Farms Restaurant & Inn, and it's the biggest opening of the upcoming year.
No one would be more delighted at the coconut's rising star than August Engelhardt, a sun-worshipping German nudist and history's most radical cocovore.
From 1902 to 1919, Engelhardt lived on a beautiful South Pacific island, eating nothing but the fruit of Cocos nucifera, which he believed was the panacea for all mankind's woes. Except that a coconut mono-diet proved to be a terrible idea. At the end of his life, der Kokovore was reduced to a mentally ill, rheumatic, severely malnourished sack of bones with ulcers on his legs. He was only 44.