For many Americans dining is a form of entertainment. We try new restaurants and relax at home with a food competition playing in the background or cozy up with the latest episode of Chef's Table on Netflix. It's easy to forget how much food culture has changed in such a short period of time. Television has ushered in a new legion of celebrity chefs and paved the way to greater appreciation for cooking. However, at the end of the day food is sustenance. This week, food writer Betsy Block describes the jarring experience of eating while undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer while another author explores the career of a forgotten food world influencer, X. Marcel Boulestin — possibly the first person ever to prepare a meal on television.
You can also challenge your food and art history knowledge with a difficult and detailed food symbolism quiz, explore the superior pasta dishes at Del Posto in New York, ponder the legality of the food-sharing economy, and learn more about the business experiment that’s fostering new chefs. Here, now, are six of this week’s best longform food stories.
McGhee closed the door and sat down, cease-and-desist letter in hand. "My first thought was, ‘I committed a crime,’" she says. "It felt icky. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me."
She wasn’t the only one who felt this way. That morning, Josephine’s founder, Charley Wang, had woken up to his ringing phone. Traci, one of Josephine’s most successful cooks, was calling, panicked, from a coffee shop. She’d been warned by a visiting friend that three health department officials were waiting in her living room. "I’ll be there," Wang told her. "Don’t do anything yet. Just stall."
Alice Waters is often cited as the progenitor of the modern farm-to-table movement, emphasizing seasonality and cooking simply with good ingredients. Important as she is, she had many illustrious predecessors, among them Elizabeth David and Sybille Bedford — cooks and writers who brought to the home kitchen a particular and characteristic elegance, associated with the simple, convivial pleasures of the table; with cooking and food as part of a relationship with nature; with economy, restraint and good sense. But the parent of them all — to my mind, their "onlie begetter" — is X. Marcel Boulestin. He was the first in the twentieth century to describe the way we like to cook and eat now, which is to say, the way we live.
When we think about the good life, art and food rank pretty high in importance. (OK, we at The Salt might be a little biased.) So it seems only natural that the two mix. Foods crop up in all kinds of art — from ancient Egyptian tomb walls to European still life paintings.
But in art, an apple isn't always just an apple. Many foods carry specific meanings for different global artistic traditions, and those meanings can change over time.
For years, that made people around me jealous because, as a food writer, that translated into writing restaurant reviews, developing recipes for steak in the fire and cherry pie, interviewing chefs, doing a clambake by the sea with family and friends. I feel jealous of myself as I write.
Things are different now, temporarily. Because lately, getting chemo for the breast cancer I was diagnosed with in January, I’m no longer living to eat. I’m eating to live.
To make the economics work, Tender Greens decided to nix service and gratuity in favor of high-quality ingredients sourced from local farms. Which means for $11 (which every main dish on the menu is priced at), customers can dine on seasonal delicacies from braised rabbit or octopus, to grilled local yellowtail paired with Bhutanese red rice with a cabernet vinaigrette. And the recipe is working: the chain now has nine locations and did $28 million in sales last year.
Del Posto is a restaurant whose name translates to of the place, and the sense of place in question spans continents. The kitchen treats the Italian-American lexicon as one of the great regional cuisines of Italy, presenting lobster Caesar salads and chicken alla scarpariello right alongside Livornese seafood stew and pastas in endlessly varying patterns and extrusions.
No matter the dishes' origins, it's the molecular-level consideration that Ladner lavishes on their recipes that makes eating here, at the country's most opulent Italian tasting-menu restaurant, still a thrillingly relevant experience even eleven years after its opening.