This week's best food-focused long reads include a history of the banh mi, what it's like to go on a medieval diet, a look inside the world of big money food heists, the state of the domestic goddess, and more. Find a comfortable chair and read on:
Diluted wine is a revelation. It tastes a lot like a Vitamin water—fruity and sugary, in a cloudy, unspecific way—but alcoholic. Manageably alcoholic. I drank diluted wine for lunch and dinner, I was not drunk. I was not unable to work. I may have been unable to legally drive. I felt a bit light-headed and perhaps a bit less anxious than usual.
Although we laugh at the idea of a criminal mastermind whose plans involve hauling off almost 9,000 pounds of comté, food thievery is a recurring crime. Often times stolen food products wind up being resold: Thieves make a profit, while buyers obtain the item for a highly undervalued price and then re-sell to their unsuspecting customers. In 2013, Jose Cestony of Miami was found guilty of stealing and reselling $158,000 worth of shrimp: Cestony claimed that a refrigeration unit in his delivery truck failed and that he was forced to dump the product; in reality, he sold the shrimp to another distributor for the surprisingly low price of $32,000.
Roads & Kingdoms
Not only did France use its wealth and technology to reaffirm and justify the colonial hierarchy and its assumed superiority over the Vietnamese, food formed another important line between ‘us' and ‘them'. "Bread and meat make us strong, rice and fish keep them weak," was a common adage at the time, backed by centuries of absurd pseudo-science which suggested that the rice-centric diets of Southeast Asia made its people somehow predisposed to imperial subjugation. And for a time the colonists stuck to it, rigidly, maintaining a European diet while disapproving of any French who ate Vietnamese food, and any Vietnamese who ate French food.
The food isn't just appealingly local; it's a seemingly "authentic" expression of a place. All the ingredients have a story, which you hear before each course, and the meal made from them is an edible heirloom. Nilsson's preparations draw on hundreds of years of regional food culture, which has naturally adapted to accommodate the environment's extremes: the caramel for a tart is made with brunost, a sweet, fatty Norwegian cheese, and the bitter herb sauce served alongside it comes from techniques and ingredients of the native Sami people. The chocolate-like disc melting under your cut of meat comes from the wildflowers that overtake the mountains in the summer.
The idea that anyone is sitting around debating whether to order Chinese food or use the pound of shrimp that just happens to be sitting in her fridge is the thought of someone who has not had to do her own food shopping for quite some time.