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An Oral History of Lobster Rolls, Topo Chico, and More Long Reads

Worthy summer reading material

Mild Winter In Northeast Drives Lobster Prices To Record Lows Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

While anytime is a good time to read, there’s just something about summer that meshes well with the written word. A lazy afternoon spent lounging in your living room or on a blanket in the park — sunglasses to keep the glare off the page (or electronic device screen). Settle up with a book or an article on a park bench or a coffee shop and dig into the issues, the trends, and the stories of the moment in this week’s long reads.

Ease in non-traditionally with a quiz that determines which political candidate — food-wise — you most resemble. The results may surprise you. Then consider the lobster roll: seemingly a staple of summer but also a more modern cultural artifact. Perhaps you’re feeling thirsty. Afterall it is August. Try sipping a Topo Chico while learning about Texas’ Mexican-imported sparkling water craze. Whether you’re looking for a little insight into spray cheese or the mind of chef Yotam Ottolenghi, here now are four good reads (and one well-crafted quiz) to hunker down with this weekend.

How Chef Yotam Ottolenghi Reset the Table


Ottolenghi. It sounded like pasta; it also sounded vaguely erotic. On this occasion, Ottolenghi first appeared as a salad. Or he seemed to be a salad. There was green in it, at least. But more than that, it was an explosion of colors and textures: red and yellow cherry tomatoes, purple tendrils of onion, roasted lemon skins, and gems of ruby pomegranate. It had a little char and spill to it, like the whole thing had been lifted in a tiny tornado and dropped into this oversize bowl. The leaves were mint, not the usual garden variety, which kind of cast the whole thing askew. When ingested, it was hard to know exactly what was going on inside that chamber known as "the mouth": some sweet, some Indian (the pinch of allspice); crunchy and minty; soft, salty guts of tomato and hard, sweet burst of pomegranate. It created within me a condition I'll call "veg dysphasia," which if given its own medical definition might read as: a state of emphatic delight (and confusion) achieved by the pleasant commingling of previously unmatched vegetables, fruits, and spices.

The Definitive Oral History of the Lobster Roll

Down East

For most of the 20th century, a smattering of New England restaurateurs hawked the dish in relative obscurity. Then, at the tail end of the ’90s, a tiny restaurant in Manhattan, Pearl Oyster Bar, transformed the once-humble lobster roll into an object of culinary obsession — and a fleet of eager chefs, hyper-productive Maine fishermen, and savvy New York editors took over from there. By 2006, Bon Appétit had dubbed the lobster roll the dish of the year. It graced the cover of Gourmet in 2009. A 2010 New York magazine feature proclaimed its utter conquest of NYC, even as the lobster roll popped up on menus coast to coast, arguably usurping the classic shore dinner as Maine’s quintessential dish.

Quiz: Do You Eat Like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?


The Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns' respective attitudes toward food are as conflicting as their political views. Last week, we examined a year's worth of campaign spending data from the Federal Election Commission to find out where each candidate and their campaign staffs have eaten, and how much they've spent on food. Now, we've used that data to build taste profiles for Clinton and Trump, and this quiz can match your taste in food with one of the candidates and their campaign team.

How do your taste buds compare? Are your dining habits similar to Clinton or Trump? Maybe your favorite candidate's political stances are more palatable than their food choices — or vice versa. Take the quiz and find out.

How Do Texans Beat the Heat? With Water From Mexico

New York Times

The water is often the finishing fizz in cocktails at the hippest bars in Austin and the sidecar to espresso drinks at indie coffee shops in Dallas. Don’t even ask for San Pellegrino or Perrier; they’re likely not served.

At supermarkets and bodegas, it’s hard to find a shopping cart that doesn’t contain a 12-pack of Topo Chico. According to the market research firm IRI, Topo Chico has captured 62 percent of imported sparkling water sales at grocery stores in Texas, and 74 percent at convenience stores.

The History of Push-Button Cuisine

Lucky Peach

Push-button cuisine is one of the great, unrealized dreams of postwar food technology. In the 1950s and 1960s, food manufacturers, along with their allies in the container and chemical industries, imagined a world of effortless convenience, where, in the words of one 1964 newspaper article, "entire meals… can be oozed forth by a gentle push on a few cans." The aerosol container seemed to be the apotheosis of ease and modernity, "a sort of Aladdin’s genie, ready at the touch of a fingertip to perform all sorts of bothersome kitchen chores." Dozens of different aerosolized food and beverage products were introduced, from spray-on-coffee-concentrate to spray-on-pancake-batter. But despite the hype and high hopes of manufacturers, consumers didn’t buy it. By the late 1970s, only a few of the spray-foods survived.

All Long Reads Coverage [E]

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