Of course marking a new year on one specific day is a cultural artefact, and many cultures are doing their best to maintain their own markers. Throwing caution to the winds, let me just wish you a Happy New Year with a few links to lots of words from lots of cultures. Not least, the intangible cultural heritage of couscous.
The piece in ETN-141 about the world’s largest pig “farm” prompted Aaron Davis, a subscriber, to send me to an article from ABC about what may well be the world’s biggest cockroach “farm”. Of course it too is in China, and after shuddering for a bit and wondering about the effectiveness of the fish-filled moat, it did get me wondering.
The billion cockroaches, give or take, eat 50 tonnes of food waste a year. It’s hard to get good figures on the actual poop, as opposed to waste, that a pig produces each day. About 8-9% of its bodyweight, roughly. The 2.1 million pigs each year will be at different body weights throughout, but still, I suspect that their total output might require about 10 cockroach farms. Still, if it proves palatable to Periplaneta americana, I see a big future for processed pig poop.
It was a good year for stories that looked in greater detail at culinary ways that are unfamiliar to at least some of us.
That was a hard sentence to write, my first instinct being to say something like “… exotic culinary ways”. While they may be from another part of the world, they certainly aren’t exotic to the people whose daily diet they underpin. Anyway …
… at Epicurious, which has been going through all its recipes, headnotes and commentaries as part of something called the Archive Repair Project. “Exotic” is one of the words being expunged wholesale, and more nuanced changes are being made too. This tickled me though:
Another word requiring removal was a lime reference that included a racial slur directed at Black Africans, particularly in South Africa.
So coy! I’ve been referring to my handsome specimen of Citrus hystrix as makrut ever since I got it, but most people just look at me blankly until I use that awful racial slur. Even then, many remain blank. Given the spines that the specific name describes, I think we should call is Porcupine Lime, and although it hasn’t flowered or fruited yet, the intensely aromatic leaves are wonderful crushed and put under anything on the barbecue.
… has become debased through modernisation, but not as a result of globalisation. Anoothi Visal, a few months ago, catalogued a series of far-reaching and essentially local changes that have transformed some dishes, rendered others extinct and even clouded the judgement of experts.
What I loved most about reading the whole article was that it exposed the depths of my ignorance and told me things I didn’t know I didn’t know. If I ever get to Delhi again, I know what I’m going to be looking for, and I don’t mean butter chicken.
I snagged that link from Naomi Duguid, another subscriber to ETN, who knows masses about a whole lot of different foodways. I wonder how many of the dishes Anoothi Visal lists she has tried.
It’s a long way from Delhi to Brixton, even longer if you detour via Trinidad. A lot can happen on such a long journey, which comes to life in an account by Aaron Vallance, by day a doctor in the NHS, by night, a food writer and historian. (I don’t know how he finds the time, or the strength.) I’ve no desire to give the game away, so just head over to Dhal Puri Roti — A History in Three Vignettes and enjoy.
Of course there’s a darker side to the story, one that Aaron does not diminish. The British made full use of indentured labour throughout the Empire, although the form of the contract seems to predate the Empire by a few decades.
Bits of the internet have been going nuts over Grub Street’s story about the scandalous lack of bucatini in the United States. The piece is a lark, an overlong lark that occasionally makes a mess, rather like bucatini. All I have to say is that the idea of preferring a pasta shape because it “absorbs [sic] 200 percent more sauce” is — how can I put this delicately? — a pretty exotic notion.
Down in Testaccio, the Trattoria da Bucatino supplies a handy plastic bib with its Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and it is far more than a mere marketing ploy. The shape’s sauce-holding potential and exaggerated elasticity give it an uncanny ability to hurl white-seeking debris over considerable distances. They really should give bibs to all diners at a table, even if only one is indulging.
The highest of techs — nuclear magnetic resonance — has been put to work to identify olive oil blends and “the transformational processes applied to the product”. So I read in Olive Oil Times, and though the news will be welcomed by large companies who can assure themselves that “the products that are being sold are those described in their own database,” I’m not sure what it means for the rest of us.
This year’s oil seems to my untutored palate to be pretty good, and also more expensive than I recall. For the first time, we have two bottles on the go, one for cooking and one for raw. The cooking stuff is invariably a mix of oils, though all are claimed to be from the European Union. I believe that, whereas I would be much more suspicious of an oil that claimed to be “Italian” with no further details. It will take a while for NMR (or any other technology) to rid me of my mistrust.
Take care, and stay safe.
p.s. Photo of indentured contract from the Kenneth Spenser Research Library. Pity it seems to have been infected by spamming scum.