FERN’s Friday Feed: From the Malheur standoff to the D.C. siege

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

The Western roots, and consequences, of the Capitol siege

High Country News

From the Malheur standoff to last week’s siege of the U.S. Capitol, “[T]he anti-government occupations bookending the rise and fall of Trump’s presidency show the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism in the United States,” writes Carl Segerstrom. “They also portend the potential for future conflicts here in the West. When President-elect Joseph Biden takes charge of the federal government and its vast Western landholdings, he will enter an already-delicate situation, where armed extremist groups stand ready to rise up against the federal government.”

‘I recommend eating chips’

The New York Times Magazine

“What is the comfort of junk food?” writes Sam Anderson. “It is a question that predates the pandemic, of course, and probably has a prosaic answer — some proprietary formula hidden under fluorescent lights in a flavor laboratory in New Jersey. But even minor questions take on outsize importance these days. A pandemic, it turns out, produces a curious paradox: It not only creates a shrieking worldwide drama of existential dread — it also puts relentless pressure on the most mundane aspects of our everyday lives … All our neuroses and addictions and habits are under the microscope … We have turned into scientists of ourselves. And so I watch myself eating chips.”

The loss of smell to Covid-19 puts chefs through emotional wringer

The Counter

“Anosmia, or the loss of smell, is one of the most common symptoms of Covid-19,” writes H. Claire Brown. “Parosmia, which often follows or occurs at the same time as anosmia,” distorts the senses, making “[j]ust about everything … seem to emit a garbage-pail odor. For chefs and bakers, who rely on their palates to fine-tune recipes and taste-test dishes … lingering anosmia and parosmia can be particularly debilitating.”

The legacy of a Chinese grocery in the Mississippi Delta


“I am the youngest member of my family and the last to live in one of the original Mississippi Delta Chinese grocery stores,” writes Mandy Morris. “As a child, I believed living in Wing’s Grocery prevented me from being a ‘normal’ American—from taking beach vacations like my classmates or having a backyard with a swing set. Today, I am grateful for having lived in the store. It made me who I am today. It made me American. Living in the store, I now recognize, fostered my early passion for food. It led to my culinary career, first as a professional cook and baker, and now as a recipe developer for a food technology company.”

How tacos de birria conquered America


“The stateside success of birria, a dish created by taqueros from Coatzingo and nearby Pueblan towns who then created a market for it in Tijuana, supported by many often-unnamed stands, is the product of the American dream, driven by the entrepreneurship of children of immigrants,” writes Bill Esparza.