FERN’s Friday Feed: Are we on the cusp of a biogas revolution?

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.


Yale Environment 360

Renewable natural gas has been around for a long time, but on a very small scale. Now, writes Jonathan Mingle, “a new wave of large-scale … projects” is “tapping into heretofore unexploited sources of energy: some are capturing the vast amounts of methane generated by manure from some of the 2,300 hog farms that dot eastern North Carolina; some are building biodigesters to turn clusters of large California dairy farms into energy hubs; and some are seeking to divert food waste from landfills and transform it into vehicle and heating fuels.”

“Last Supper in Pompei,” a new exhibit at the University of Oxford, “draws on more than 300 artifacts, including frescoes, silver dinnerware, cooking utensils and carbonized bread recovered from the archaeological site, to explore the Romans’ indulgent relationship with food and drink,” writes Meilan Solly. Beyond dormouse, “[o]ther favorites included rabbits stuffed with figs, mousses molded into the shape of chickens, focaccia bread, pomegranates and grapes. To garnish these and other delicacies, Pompeiians relied on garum, a fermented fish sauce that the poet Martial described as a “lordly, … costly gift, made from the first blood of a still-gasping mackerel.”

Why are so many musicians opening restaurants?

Inside Hook

Several indie musicians have in recent years invested in or opened restaurants in bars in cities like New York and Montreal. Why? Artists point out that musicians with odd touring schedules have often worked in the service industry to make ends meet, so they have a glimpse into how operations work. And given the music industry’s waning profitability for artists, investing in a brick-and-mortar restaurant can be a reliable retirement plan. Plus, there might be a similar mindset to running a restaurant as a musical project: “It’s not a stretch to say that working together on specialty food endeavors replicates the collaborative, collective creative spirit that emerges within a band,” writes Annie Zaleski.

A dispatch from queer life in rural America

Scalawag

Rachel Garringer has been recording oral histories with LGBTQIA+ people living in rural areas and small towns since 2013. “I believe in the power of those of us living an experience daily sharing stories of the messy complicated joy, pain, monotony, and fabulosity of rural and small town queer life,” Garringer writes. “Not simplifying our experiences into an easily digestible sound bite, but sharing the full contradictory glory that is human life, no matter who you are, or where you call home.” In this interview, Garringer speaks with Robyn Thirkill, who lives in Prospect, Virginia, on land that’s been in her family for over a century.

A scheme at Subway targeted franchisees

The New York Times

Subway is the largest fast-food company in the world by number of stores, outpacing even McDonald’s and Burger King. Subway’s expansion model has always relied on the entrepreneurial spirit of its franchise owners, many of whom are immigrants. But when the chain began to grow too fast, franchise owners were targeted by internal “hit men” who looked for any reason to shut the stores down. “In 2016, for the first time ever, more Subway stores closed than opened,” write Tiffany Hsu and Rachel Abrams. “But while many franchisees shut down because of underperformance, others operating profitable locations began to feel targeted, too.”