Silicon Valley has come to dinner: one writer compares five meal delivery services, and the founder of a dinner startup discusses going under. Chinese food has grown deep roots in Mexico City, the popular Vietnamese soup pho has humble origins, and horse meat faces very different receptions based on the country in which it’s served. Enjoy these stories and more from the week’s best longform journalism.
In 1935, Pabst became the first large brewery to can, producing the earliest iteration of what is probably canned beer's most famous image, as well as an early hipster fetish-object. These original beer cans were heavy; they first were tin, later steel, then eventually incorporated aluminum sides. They were flat-topped and could only be opened by jabbing a hole in them with a church-key style tool.
On a purely personal level, I thought that I would resent the schedule these services demanded. I thought I would find the stricture of making three decent meals per week for myself a horrendous burden. Honestly, it was. Nevertheless, I wanted to give the idea a chance — maybe the cost would justify itself somehow, with an intangible sense of accomplishment or with a steep decrease in the regularity with which I throw out entire boxes of rotten, untouched spinach from my fridge.
It wasn't the unit economics of the events that were the most difficult part to manage. We were constantly creating new concepts and hosting in new venues and taking all the ticket risk for those new concepts. It was like going through a restaurant opening every single time.
He wanted to serve traditional dishes with no deviations and no flavors manipulated for the Mexican palate. It was a struggle. When he worked at his family's restaurant, Shanghai, he tried to change some of the dishes along the way, tweak them to improve them, and people got angry. "People would come and say, 'I used to come here when I was a kid, 40 years ago. But this isn't the same. It tastes different. Did you guys change chefs?'" he laments. "People go there now because it tastes like it did 40 years ago — standard Mexican-Chinese."
But what was the source of the original pho? Some say that long before pho was popularized on the streets of Hanoi, it was being prepared in Nam Dinh, an agricultural province located about fifty-five miles southeast of Hanoi. The village and province produced generations of pho masters, many of whom relocated to the capital to open well-regarded pho shops. Other theories exist, but what is certain is that pho was created from a collision of circumstances.
Roads and Kingdoms
Big, block letters on the store's sign read, "SPECIALIZING IN HORSE MEAT," and the plate glass window out front is decorated with two rearing stallions in silhouette. When I visited not long ago, an old butcher wearing a blue baseball cap that said "Toronto" across the front sat on a milk crate by the door, working a scratch-off lottery ticket.
By the time Mrs. Roberts moved to California in the 1950s, Carolina Gold could no longer be found, not only on the West Coast but just about anywhere. Like Mrs. Roberts, many a southern home cook figured that the dishes they grew up with—the purloos, chicken bogs, et al.—would never be quite the same.
The 2016 design refresh seeks to distinguish between "serving size" vs. "servings by container." Inconsistencies in the old label were thought to confuse American consumers, leading them to unwittingly devour multiple servings of snacks and drinks from a single package.