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The Best Long Reads of the Week, From the Art of Butter Sculpture to the Foods Americans Once Loved

A roundup of worthy weekend reading material.

Shuko
Shuko
Daniel Kriger

Shroomtown
Lucky Peach

Our club had collected over three hundred different species that day to be examined, identified, and carefully laid on individual white paper plates, with their names scrawled on in magic marker. Some still had pine needles stuck to their slimy caps; others were fragile and undeniably beautiful, their colors now less brilliant by the dull electrical light, but somehow more strange and otherworldly.

The Foods Americans Once Loved to Eat
Smithsonian

Sushi may be the most common use of eel today, but a few hundred years ago, eel pie was in high demand. Early Americans in 17th and 18th centuries loved eel, says O'Connell, so much that they harvested them everywhere from Cape Cod to local streams. Back then, eels were such a hot commodity, lobsters served as bait.

A Virtuous Fish
Life and Thyme

Silver mackerel straight as a board is still in rigor mortis. Abalone from New Zealand, the size of a grown man's fist, suctions itself to the interior of a plastic bucket. A  five hundred pound bluefin tuna marked SG — sushi grade — with a red felt pen is unearthed from beneath a tarp.

Land of Pork and Honey
Roads and Kingdoms

Many Israelis mock the cultural capital for being too millennial, too liberal, too globally minded — and, perhaps absurdly, given the tiny size and close-knit nature of the country — too disconnected from local realities. But at the truck, the staff is quintessentially Tel Aviv: beautiful, hedonistic, blasé, flirty young things who see good food and alcohol not as moments of gratification, but as a way of life. Ignoring the country's loaded and increasingly depressing political scene is exactly the point, and pork is a means to that escape.

Things I Would Like the Guy at My Bodega to Know
The New Yorker

I understand what it looks like, but a sewing kit and a two-liter bottle of prune juice is not a weird purchase. I'll explain next time.

I'm glad you think it's cute when my credit card is declined. It is cute.

Paleo Diet? Our Bodies Have Moved on Since the Stone Age
Independent

The general idea is that for most of our millions of years of evolution we were not exposed to grains, milk, yogurt or cheese, refined carbs, legumes, coffee, or alcohol. As they only came into existence with farming around 10,000 years ago, our finely-tuned bodies have not been designed to deal with them efficiently.

In The Japanese Tea Ceremony, Politics Are Served With Every Cup
NPR

It's a Zen-like renunciation of the material world — and simultaneously, a place where expensive tea wares convey affluence. It's intended to be a place of equality, but often serves to reinforce power and hierarchies. Although each preparation is meant to be unique, the ritual is the same thing over and over.

Fast-Food Chains Are Demanding Ethical Products. How Will Farmers Keep Up?
Eater

Not too long ago, people who identified as "vegetarian" in the United States were often met with cockeyed stares and questions like, "but you can eat chicken, right?" Animal welfare was a term applied to dogs and cats — not farm animals. But a lot has changed since then.

A Toast To Butter Sculpture, The Art That Melts The Hearts Of The Masses
NPR

Especially in the early days of the art form, the amount of butter used to make each sculpture was almost always listed in advertising or at the show itself — up to 1,500 pounds in some cases, writes Simpson. (That's about 6,000 sticks of butter.)

I Get Food Stamps, and I'm Not Ashamed — I'm Angry
Vox

My hand shook the first time I filled out the forms, and my voice probably squeaked during the interview when they went over the information I provided. But when I was approved, I felt nothing but relief. We kept our SNAP benefits for about a year, and then things got a little better and we decided not to try to renew them.

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