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This Week's Best Long Reads, from Jell-O Salad to America's Love Affair With Food on a Stick

A roundup of worthy weekend reading material.

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A Social History of Jell-O Salad: The Rise and Fall of an American Icon
Serious Eats

Dish after dish of jiggly, shining gelatin molded into rings, braids—even a jellied tuna salad in the shape of a fish. Cherry red with fruit, pistachio green with nuts and marshmallows, a clear lemon yellow studded with vegetables: it was as if we'd stepped backward in time.

The Tall Tale of Zak the Baker
Life and Thyme

Everything I say is not exaggerated, I promise you," Stern said. "We were 2,300 meters up in northern Italy. You could see Mont Blanc. They had a chalet where we stayed, and we lived there on the top of the mountain and watched the animals. We would make the cheese there and store it in caves.

The 5,000-Year Secret History of the Watermelon
National Geographic

A fair question to ask is why the Egyptians began cultivating wild watermelons in the first place. The fruit was hard and unappetizing, tasting either bitter or bland. Yet somebody at some point said, "Hey, let's grow more of these!"

The US Love Affair With Food on a Stick

You can buy hard-boiled eggs and honey on a stick. Deep-fried brownies, apple-pie and chocolate-covered cookies 'n cream come on a stick. So does fried peanut butter and jelly and tater dog. For the cholesterol conscious, there is even salad on a stick.

Lab-Grown Meat Could be the Future — If We Can Figure out How to Make It Not Gross

If we know too much about that juicy steak, she says, we might not want to eat it anymore — and that would be tragic, because juicy steaks are delicious. But the problem, van der Weele says, is that we end up with a lot of people who actually do feel uneasy about meat production, but just never do anything about it.

Don't Bang On to Me About Ethical Food if You Still Keep a Stash of Very Unfairly Traded Weed
The Guardian

Not that this is news to anybody who has floated around a street food festival recently. Along with the smell of Fairtrade coffee and locally reared pork how often have we sniffed the high tang of grass? In my case, regularly. We are, it seems, living in the age of the wonky moral compass: of middle-class couples who swear by their weekly organic veg box, and yet relax after dinner with a line of something produced by impoverished, subjugated Bolivian peasants.

The Golden Era of Food Comics Is Happening Right Now

On the cover of third issue (which came out last week), a chef stands in stark chiaroscuro. One arm outstretches to let fall a flurry of herbs onto a pig's head that stares glumly from a stockpot. A swoosh of blood runs across the background and the title bears two knives. One can almost hear the swoosh of Top Chef's logo bleat out. Perhaps all was not lost.

The History of Fake Meat Starts with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church
Atlas Obscura

Kellogg, now of supermarket aisle fame, was a well-known health advocate in his hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan. He initially started experimenting with meat analogues as a way to assist local residents in sticking to their vegetarian diets. Kellogg soon opened the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a health resort which emphasized the value of healthy living based on Adventist principles. While experimenting with different kinds of food, he managed to invent the modern form of cereal basically by accident.

How to Save the Family Farm in the 21st Century

The milkmaid has long been an iconic symbol in Western culture—think Vermeer, think old-school poetry and song. A comely lass in a meadow represents a lot: a rural ideal in an industrial age, the ideal of motherhood. Colleen has embraced this trope—while also flipping it on its head. Her milkmaids are comely, but they're also strong as hell. They project innocence, but also sass. The girls might look cute while they're each lifting eight gallons of milk at a go onto the trucks, they might look sweet while they're leading the cows into the milking barn, but like Colleen, they're as tough as the hooves that might occasionally kick them. In a culture that still devalues the feminine as weak and inferior, creating an environment where wearing a dress is tough turns out to be a surprisingly radical act.

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