Reader beware: This week’s stories are seriously reported and seriously serious, but all are worth your time. For those who missed this year’s MAD Symposium (which, let’s face it, is most of us), writer and author of the forthcoming book Hi, Anxiety, Kat Kinsman offers a rough recap of her speech in Copenhagen on the topics of stress, depression, and substance abuse in the restaurant industry. The New York Times Magazine also delivers several hard-hitting pieces in its annual Food Issue exploring everything from the Obama administration’s relationship with Big Food to a multimedia piece on factory farm agriculture in America and the making of blue M&Ms. Meanwhile, Munchies asks a food futurist to spell out some of the perils awaiting humans as the Earth’s population grows. Buzzfeed, too, broke big news this week with a piece on the darker side of laboring at a Blue Apron warehouse.
For something a little on the lighter side (or serious depending on your relationship status), see Megan McArdle’s clever essay on dining as a couple. Also, brush up on Canadian Thanksgiving, North America’s seemingly forgotten fall celebration and trace the rise of the all-you-can-eat meat smorgasbords that are Brazilian steakhouses. Here, now, are some of the best pieces Eater editors read during the first week of October.
MAD Symposium: What’s Killing the Restaurant Industry
Chefs With Issues
She lost herself, she told me. Everything she loved and valued about herself, apart from her skills in the kitchen. “I lost Jessica,” she said. “I didn’t know who I was when I wasn’t at work—and even there, I’d become a different person.”
She loved what she was doing—make no mistake about that—and she loved David Kinch, who mentored and supported her. But the kind of toll it takes on your life and your personhood and your soul to do the kind of work she was doing, it calls for the exclusion of everything else in the world. The exact things that make you the good kind of beast in the kitchen—drive, focus, obsession, demanding exactness, directness, utter intolerance for imperfection—make a mess of a human being outside of it.
New York Times Magazine
Our industrialized food system nourishes more people, at lower cost, than any comparable system in history. It also exerts a terrifyingly massive influence on our health and our environment. Photographer George Steinmetz spent nearly a year traveling the country to capture that system, in all its scope, grandeur and dizzying scale. His photographs are all the more remarkable for the fact that so few large food producers are willing to open themselves to this sort of public view.
What’s the Destiny of Our Food Supply? We Asked a Food Futurist
The uncertain future of our food supply can be one of the scariest things to ponder. When it comes to trying to figure out how the hell we are going to feed all 9.7 billion of our estimated selves by 2050, it can be hard to not get overwhelmed.
Nevertheless, someone has to address this dire topic, among many other troubling ones that come to mind when thinking about the global food system. More importantly, someone has to come up with feasible solutions to combat any crises that may arise, as well as imagine the worst possible scenarios and devise their solutions. Enter, then, the thriving career of a “food futurist,” a real career that you, too, can someday have if you have a knack for forecasting situations by using a balanced formula that draws elements from the domains of social sciences, public policy, and technology.
The Economics of Dining as a Couple
Marriage counselors tell us that couples frequently tie the knot without discussing the core matters that can cement or sunder their marriage: finances, children, religion. Well, let me add one under-discussed biggie to the list: restaurant dining.
I am eternally astonished to find not only that many couples I know failed to discuss this key area before they marched up to the altar, but also that many of them still have not developed a joint dining strategy even after 10 or 20 years together. This is madness. You are placing undue stress on your relationship, and you are very probably having a suboptimal dining experience, thereby wasting time and money and missing out on deliciousness. As a romantic economist might put it in a wedding-reception toast, couples have the chance to jointly move to a higher utility curve.
For Canadians, Thanksgiving Is a ‘Quieter’ Affair in October
New York Times
The centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinner in Canada is, frequently, roast turkey with stuffing and gravy. Side dishes are made with fall vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash. Dessert will be pie. Everybody’s favorite is pumpkin.
Even Canadians struggle to explain what distinguishes their Thanksgiving table from the American one. “We eat remarkably the same things,” said the chef Hugh Acheson, who spent most of his childhood in Ottawa and now runs several restaurants in Georgia. “Canada is such a big country, and is still finding its way culinarily, that it’s very much Americanized in terms of what we eat.”
The Not-So-Wholesome Reality Behind The Making of Your Meal Kit
But scaling a manufacturing facility in a historically crime-dogged city like Richmond as fast as if it were a downtown San Francisco software firm hasn’t been easy for Blue Apron. The company has set out to upend the entrenched industrial food system and disrupt the dinner table by changing the way Americans buy, receive, and prepare food, reducing food waste and increasing distribution and delivery efficiencies in the process. To do that, it had to rapidly hire a massive unskilled workforce, bringing jobs to a part of the Bay Area that has been largely left behind by Silicon Valley’s boom times. Yet documents and interviews suggest that it was unprepared to properly manage and care for those workers, and as a result has suffered a rash of health and safety violations.
‘Meat-Eater’s Mecca’: How the Brazilian Steakhouse Swept America
The restaurant wasn't the first Brazilian steakhouse chain in the U.S. — Rodizio Grill, which debuted in 1995, takes credit for that — but it was Fogo de Chão's aggressive expansion that introduced Americans to a new way to eat meat — an unlimited way, so to speak. In the last 20 years, the "Brazilian steakhouse" category has grown and gathered even more chain concepts (besides Fogo de Chão and Rodizio Grill, there's the Dallas-based Texas de Brazil and Tucanos) which, together, have 92 units spread all over the U.S. And that's not to mention the independently owned Brazilian steakhouses that don't belong to chains.
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