FERN’s Friday Feed: Japan’s eternal dance with water

FERN’s Friday Feed: Japan’s eternal dance with water

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

What can Japan’s profoundly wet history teach us about climate change?


“All societies are locked in a dialectic relationship with water over time. It falls from the sky, comes from the sea, flows over land: floods, droughts, storms are expressions of Earth’s climate. People respond, finding solutions to protect themselves,” writes Giulio Boccaletti. “What propels this story forward over centuries is the fact that the solutions of any age are transformed – or rendered obsolete – by the changing expectations of those who follow, in a never-ending human dance with water.The traces of that dance are etched into the landscape and institutions of society: the memory of what past generations did shapes what current generations can do. The question, in an age of unprecedented climate change, is whether this past has anything to contribute to the struggle we face.”

Stereotypes about Natives and alcohol obscure a bigger problem

New Mexico In Depth

“Night and day, people across Gallup struggle with alcohol,” writes Ted Alcorn. “In surrounding McKinley County, the rate of alcohol-induced deaths is more than three times the state’s and 10 times the nation’s. Because Native Americans make up 80% of the county’s residents — and bars and liquor stores in Gallup draw customers from the neighboring Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo, where alcohol possession and consumption are forbidden — the place is emblematic of a popular myth: that New Mexico’s alcohol crisis primarily affects Native people … Even if the mortality rate for Native people was in line with Anglos and Hispanic residents, the state would still have a crisis of alcohol deaths on its hands. The enduring question is what to do about it.”

The McTorta moment


“In this late stage of the farm-to-table, it’s common to see farm names listed alongside menu items … But lately, I’ve been noticing menu items finding additional inspiration from a place never seen on Chef’s Table: the McDonald’s Dollar Menu,” writes Aliza Abarbanel. “While there’s clearly more care put into the ingredients than the industrial produce and high-fructose corn syrup of drive-through fare, these menu items aren’t simply artisanal versions of fast-food favorites, or worse, a high- in joke. Instead, some chefs are combining their McDonald’s nostalgia with flavors from their heritage for a new meditation on the meaning of comfort food.”

Black Americans are reclaiming the history of fried chicken

Life & Thyme

“[F]ried chicken is a crucial component of Black American foodways … Though often initially recognized by its place in the canon of America’s best foods, it’s also representative of Black economic growth in the United States,” writes Kayla Stewart. “‘If you look at the historical roots of entrepreneurship of people of African descent, since they became enslaved people, [fried chicken] was one of the few things that one could multiply and sell,’ says Babson College professor of history and foodways Frederick Douglass Opie. Opie, who says the economic benefits of fried chicken can be traced back to American slavery, says the sale of fried chicken was a form of freedom.”

The king of fire-grilled meat considers his next act


“His new book, Green Fire … contains no recipes for meat, which is a staple in Argentinean cuisine. ‘I think there’s a huge change coming, and it will be faster than we think,’ he says, hinting at a shift away from a resource-intensive carnivorous lifestyle. [Francis] Mallmann’s shirking of meat may come as a surprise to longtime fans, but what is often overlooked in his cooking is just how good his vegetables can be,” writes Tom Vanderbilt. “He’s a master of the humble potato … and I had many other nonmeat standouts on La Isla: grilled eggplant, buttery roasted squash, tender onions pulsing with flavor. He hasn’t overlooked fruits: one dessert, a banana roasted to a deep char, was cut open to reveal a soft, slightly smoky sweetness inside; with some dulce de leche added, it was a revelation. His own favorite meal might come as a surprise: basmati rice with red cabbage. ‘After 45 years of working in restaurants, my soul needs that,’ he says.”