Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.
The Bitter Southerner
“Barbecues were such an enshrined part of politics during the 19th century that the grounds of the U.S. Capitol had two spaces set aside for parties and rallies over smoked meats,” writes Jim Auchmutey. “The landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted noted the ‘barbecue groves’ when he was commissioned in 1874 to develop a new plan for the property. He reported a dozen trees had been planted on the east side of the Capitol during the Jackson administration, forming two areas, ‘one probably intended for Democrat, the other for Whig jollifications.’”
Columbia Journalism Review
O’Neill, who died this week at age 66, was a giant in the world of food writing. She was also a reporter, one who early on saw that “food” was becoming an important story in need of smart and sustained coverage, even as food writing was descending into fantasy. In this piece, published in 2003, she writes: “[N]ever before has interest in food been as avid or as widespread as it is today … The question is this: Will food writers pander to these readers or will they seize the chance to be better journalists?”
Video games have stepped up their cooking simulations, giving players the chance to whip up drool-worthy dishes without creating any IRL mess. “[O]ver time, cooking in video games has drawn more and more popularity,” writes Kat Thompson. “Perhaps it also has something to do with the rise of food fandom and the larger interest people have in celebrating, looking at, and diving into food — even if that means doing it virtually.” Through the lens of food, even Pac-Man can become a culinary adventure.
A new company sells an app that promises to help you understand what diet is best for your body. But it may be just another product capitalizing on our national weight consciousness. “There is no magic bullet for nutrition or health, just a set of recommendations that we are continuously refining, incrementally, slowly, and slightly,” writes Shannon Palus. “It’s not something science should be leaned upon to deliver, even though that dream is, in part, precisely what’s powering this science. We’d probably be happier tossing the idea of a holy grail, and just doing as well as we can with the guidance we have already.”
When a Little Free Library popped up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Jessica McClard got inspired. She saw the “libraries,” which encourage people to share books, as an ingenious way to “reconnect with our neighbors.” In 2016, “[s]he opened the world’s first Little Free Pantry … just outside her church in Fayetteville,” writes Hannah Natanson. “McClard’s proposal was simple: Anyone could build a Little Free Pantry (today there is even a do-it-yourself kit on Amazon), anyone could add food, and anyone could take food. She created social media accounts for the initiative and later launched a website.” There are now more than 600 pantries nationwide.