Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
The New York Times
“Anglo-Saxon kings have long reigned in the popular imagination as rapacious meat lovers, eagerly feasting on thick slabs of mutton and beef, washed down with copious amounts of mead and ale,” writes Maria Cramer. “It appears, however, that their diet leaned more toward vegetables, cereal and bread, according to a study that was published this month in Anglo-Saxon England and could undermine the menu choices at modern-day restaurants that claim to replicate medieval times.”
“The paths to becoming food famous used to be fairly limited: First, you needed to cook really well, or at least know what good cooking was and have a particularly fine way with words. You could get there by creating an amazing cookbook, or writing a New Yorker essay that would inspire a memoir, which in turn would spawn a genre-defining travel series. You could popularize nascent food movements, or demonstrate novel skills that dazzled audiences. It helped if you were relatable and people liked you, or at least liked watching you scream at others. But people increasingly live their lives online and through social media, giving rise to new, more chaotic roads to fame. Today, all that’s needed for an aspiring food celebrity is a decent video camera, a hook, and the grace of god the algorithm.”
“Recently, after a particularly invigorating car wash, I had a yen for a slushie,” writes Ian Bogost. “At QuikTrip, it’s called a Freezoni, a curious, quasi-Italian aspiration that bears no relation to the dispensed product. To my palate, the slushie wasn’t good: too wet, not frozen enough, like it was already half-melted from being left too long in a vehicle cup holder. This made me wonder: Why are slushies so different from one another? Then the thought solidified into a more existential brain freeze, as I realized that I could not even guess what might separate a Freezoni from a Slurpee, let alone an Icee from a slush. What the hell is a slushie, anyway? I had no idea, and barely any intuition.”
Life & Thyme and KCET/PBS SoCal
“While other migrant groups like Chinese Americans carved out a place for themselves in the United States with restaurants, Slavic migrants have made a habit out of opening delis. The reason is rooted in their histories,” writes Marianne Dhenin. “’In Russia, the opening of restaurants wasn’t widespread,’” explains [Darra] Goldstein of the early 20th century and Soviet era. ‘It was more delis or food shops for the communities they represented, so people could go and get the foods that were important to them.’ These shops sold salads, sausages, salami and something called polufabrikat, or half-made, foods … It was this tradition of delis and markets proffering prepared foods, dozens of fresh salads, wholesome breads, sweet preserves and sour pickles that Slavic immigrants rekindled in cities across the United States.”
“For many Chinese Americans in 2022, La Choy is synonymous with cultural inauthenticity, even appropriation. With its softened chopsticks font against a royal blue background, the name itself is a vague caricature of East Asian delicacies à la Chef Boyardee. For others, the brand barely registers as Chinese food cosplay, strictly for non-Chinese Americans,” writes Cathy Erway. “But the sauce thickens when you consider the duo that began it all. Somehow it was a Korean immigrant named Ilhan New and an American named Wallace ‘Wally’ Smith who teamed up in Great Depression–era Detroit to build an empire that would eventually make ‘Chinese’ a go-to home-cooked meal for much of America.”