Saturday, January 09, 2021

Batch of links

- Great article on the bucatini shortage of 2020 – it turns out it’s more complicated than one might think! I didn’t actually notice it, because my local stores don’t stock bucatini, but I’d really love to buy some once in a while. 

- How to eat on $4 a day, which is roughly the SNAP budget (the title is somewhat clickbait, because it’s more of an interview with Leanne Brown; her cookbook is the actual how-to, and it turns out it’s offered as a free PDF here.) 

- If you grew up hating Brussels sprouts, you should know that the ones you’ll see in stores today do in fact taste better, thanks to some engineering. 

- A history of latkes. It turns out that they only recently became a food served at Hanukkah, and they weren’t even made of potatoes originally! 

- An article about Rose Totino, who basically invented frozen pizza. 

- A great essay on the strangeness of eating fish

- Another interview with Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. This reminded me of her op-ed last summer in the New York Times, and I can’t remember whether I linked to it already, but here it is: In the COVID-19 economy, you can have a kid or a job, but you can’t have both

- I saw this pre-grated chocolate and I was all set to buy some to make my Neiman-Marcus cookies, but then I realized that it’s flavored chocolate. The flavors don’t look bad, but I wanted plain dark chocolate – has anybody seen a similar product? 

- I read a really nice article in Real Simple about bibliotherapy, the practice where books are prescribed “to help address the everyday ailments of life, such as low-level anxiety, heartache, and midlife ennui. (Let’s be clear: It’s not intended to replace traditional therapy for severe conditions.)”. The article is by Catherine Hong in the July 2020 issue, but I can’t seem to find it online except in paid-subscription e-reader format. The author interviews Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin, who have a bibliotherapy service based in London, though available online. I tracked it down, here’s the link, as well as an example of recommendations. A few highlights from the article: When we read about an event, we show brain activity in the same area as if we had experienced that event firsthand; people who read literary fiction tend to have more empathy; and reading can put us in a state of deep relaxation, not unlike meditation. And psychologist Ruth Burtman says that talking about “novels or memoirs can be really helpful, maybe more so than self-help books. […] Novels reach us on a deep, implicit level, which is how we learn most of our behavior.” 

- This allows me to segue into two of the books I enjoyed in 2020. There was The Language of Food, by Dan Jurafsky, which combined two of my interests – food and linguistics. It mostly reconciled me with the American habit of using the word “entrée” to mean the main course in a meal; this is a source of great aggravation to francophones, because as we know, “entrée” means starter dish, or the first thing one eats in a meal, like an appetizer. So francophones tend to look down on American menus and their misuse of a simple word. However, it turns out that this word evolved differently in America and Europe as menu trends evolved over the centuries. It used to be that menus had more courses, and the first dish was often meat, followed by soup and then a main dish. We no longer serve things that way today, but in America, they kept using the word “entrée” to refer to the meat dish (the main course), whereas in Europe, because the obvious meaning is starter dish, it has come to designate whatever you’re eating as an appetizer. Several words and concepts are discussed in the book; here’s a link to an NPR article with a summary of the history of the word “ketchup”

The second book was the latest memoir of Molly Wizenberg (she of Orangette), titled The Fixed Stars. It’s the story of how her sexual orientation changed as she was married to the father of her young child. On a side note, there is enough data to suggest that this is much more common with women than with men, and it fascinates me how biologically different homosexuality is in men and women. There is a great interview with Molly Wizenberg here

- And finally, for those of us still spending a lot of time at home: try Window Swap, which will show you views through a window somewhere in the world, chose randomly (it’s not live, though, because I tried one just before posting this, and it would be dark in Israel by now).

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