THE METAMORPHOSIS ISSUE
A FOOD AND CULTURE JOURNAL ISSUE â€” 04
In this issue, we explore the distinct metamorphosis of the food industry: how it has defined history, how it shapes our lives today, and most importantly, how it will drive future progress.
The people you see here are just a few members of our food-focused family. We usually prefer to remain behind the curtain, but this time we thought, What better time to embrace change than for Issue 4, the Metamorphosis Issue?
Max Bash editor-in-chief
Anna Deen editor-in-chief metamorphosis is making any and all desserts Ă la mode.
illustrations by maddy mueller
metamorphosis is trying your best friend's mac and cheese when you have a phobia of it.
Chantal Jahchan design director
Katie Kim marketing director
Maddy Mueller art director
metamorphosis is Hilary Duff's masterpiece and my elementary school anthem.
metamorphosis is a beautiful transition, like batter forming a cake.
metamorphosis is â€œn. (in an insect or amphibian) the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.â€œ
In celebration, we each share our thoughts on the topic.
is that fateful summer after eighth grade when I stopped wearing Abercrombie and grew out my startlingly unflattering side bangs. 16
is liking avocados even though I used to hate avocados. 02
is the caterpillars from A Bug's Life turning into a beautiful butterfly. 26
is the moment you realize it's no longer socially acceptable to order chicken fingers at every restaurant you go to. 24
is a dramatic change that influences how I think and what I do. 01 is not when an egg becomes a chicken, but when an egg becomes sunny-side up. 09
design 01 02
is that freaky thing caterpillars do. 07
Jack Frischer Madeline Montoya
is when you cringe at your middle school emo phase. 06
Noah Baker Dana Citrin 05 Katie Heider 06 Amanda Im 07 Molly Magnell 08 Maddy Underwood 09 Christina Wang
is a bad way to start a sentence. 20
Lauren Fox Emily Hanson 13 Alyssa Pauly 11 Maddy Sherman 10
is buying a ripe avocado at 3:00 and eating a rotten avocado at 5:00. 15
is four years in college and a good deal of existential angst. 22
is why my pet caterpillar flew away when I was a kid. 21
is the transition from my awkward prepubescent years to my slightly less awkward post(?)pubescent years. 23
is the evolution of my tastes and beliefs. 13 is something butterflies have to do, but people should do. 12 is really hard to spell.
is changing or morphing into something new and exciting . 12 is the feeling after leaving a yoga class. 25
is one of the more forgettable Rolling Stones albums. 04
is a book by Ovid. But Kafka's version is better. 17
is fermentation. 19
is emerging from my blanket cocoon during the depths of winter only to discover that I have become a hedgehog. 08
is gratification for persistent, small change. 18 is restarting a project nine times before itâ€™s due and ending up with your original concept. 10
is a big word. 14 is the shifting of form. 03
Brooke Adler Sasha Bash 14 Ben Bridgforth 15 Blake Siegel 12
Maddy Angstreich Neal Bansal 18 Payton Fors 19 Matt Gleeson 20 Desi Isaacson 21 Eddie Ives 22 Wesley Jenkins 23 Daun Lee 24 Claire Ma 25 Stella Stephanopoulos 26 Taylor Zhang 26 Bob Zhao 16 17
written by Max Bash Anna Deen photography Madeline Montoya _
he mention of metamorphosis probably conjures up one of three thoughts: Hilary Duff’s hit 2003 album, Kafka’s novel about the bug, or your elementary school trip to the butterfly house. Anna and Max tend to jump to the third. Hundreds of miles apart and at least fifteen years from meeting each other, Anna and Max each managed to kill a beautiful butterfly in separate gardens. While the future impacts of this butterfly effect remain unclear, we hope that the connection between metamorphosis and food will become clear in this issue of Simple Syrup. Metamorphosis, as a concept of change, has a more meaningful link with food than we could have imagined at the start of this issue. The following articles and art explore changes to our traditional approaches to preparing, presenting, and eating food. From the choice to sell cakes out of a truck instead of in a bakery to the use of plant proteins to mimic a Big Mac, this issue tackles the inextricable link between metamorphosis and food. Within these pages, we profile small and large-scale metamorphoses physical and economic, practical and cultural. In the process, we wonder: where in the future will today’s food changes take us? We at Simple Syrup want to inspire positive metamorphosis in our readers’ lives—even if your personal change is as simple as putting a little extra syrup on your pancakes in the morning. It may not be easy, but it will be worthwhile. If we don’t explore the metamorphosis of food in our own lives—and in society at large—we risk not truly being able to embrace change in our own lives... or perhaps ever visiting a butterfly garden again. And for any former elementary school students out there who accidentally murdered beautiful butterflies on their school field trips, we hope that you can move past the experience and embrace metamorphosis not just as a butterfly buzzword but as the embodiment of creativity, optimism, and growth.
Timeless and Tasty
One Fish, Two Fish
The Snack Cake Unveiled
A Journey Through St. Louis’ Chinese Grocery Scene
In Search of the “Authentic”
Attaining the Edge
Has Cuisine Lost Its Authenticity?
A Historical Look at Sports Nutrition
The Midwestern Desert
Fake it ‘Til you Make it
A Story of Two Kings
Hunger in St. Louis
The Inevitable “Meatamorphosis” of Vegetarian Proteins
Thinking Outside the Box Leads to Culinary Domination in St. Louis
neal bansal stella stephanopoulos
How Chef's Table Makes Aesthetics First, Content Second
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on the cover For the cover of this issue, we wanted to shed light on the beautiful metamorphosis that transforms kernels into popcorn, an act that could only be done justice with a reference to Michelangelo. photography Madeline Montoya art direction Jack Frischer Chantal Jahchan
38 42 46
The Lure of the Contest
Food Competitions Trivialize True Flavor
How Becoming A Bread Snob Ruined My Life
An Interview with Greg Wade, Head Baker for Publican Bread
On Eggs, Toast, and Chicken Nugget Lunchables Why We Should Eat Eggs for Lunch and Dinner
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written by Claire Ma illustration Katie Heider _
Timeless and Tasty The Snack Cake Unveiled
it’s 4am and you’ve just pulled up to the lone Shell station in the middle of rural Missouri. Delirious from hunger, you stumble through the doors of the gas station and descend upon the shelves like a ravenous hawk. As you frantically scan the aisle of Slim Jims and salted peanuts, a familiar face catches your eye; it’s the smiling face of an old friend, the goddess of the factory-made and sickly-sweet, the inexplicably delicious. It’s Little Debbie herself, here to offer you her wonderful bounty of Swiss Rolls and Nutty Buddies and Oatmeal Crème Pies. These are none other than the great American snack cakes. There is no treat with a richer legacy than the humble snack cake. If you’ve grown up in the United States, you’re probably more than familiar with Hostess and Little Debbie—the “Big Two” of the snack cake duopoly. After all, no American childhood would be complete without a Cosmic Brownie in your lunchbox or a celebratory Zebra Cake after soccer practice. Even if you’re no snack cake aficionado, you’ve probably seen them in gas stations, bodegas, and vending machines, those waxy-looking plastic-wrapped iced pastries that look equal parts tantalizing and repulsive. The nostalgia that surrounds snack cakes makes them
some of the most beloved treats in the country, even despite their unabashed artificiality and weird sheen. But why are snack cakes, of all things, so iconic? After all, they don’t have a ton going for them in the taste department. Rather, it is the snack cake’s historical significance that ties them to the heart and soul of American culture; behind every greasy little cake lies the story of an entire nation. During the Great Depression, people were finding greater and greater need for affordable foodespecially food that could be mass-produced quickly and have a long shelf life. With the Industrial Revolution’s advances in production mechanization in the mid 19th century, the solution to the nationwide hunger crisis naturally turned to food mechanization for a solution. After all, it was way faster and cheaper to churn out tasty desserts on a constantly-running conveyor belt than in a traditional bakery. In this way, the snack cake was actually born from economic necessity. Little Debbie was started in 1928, in the peak of the Great Depression, when its founders began selling snack cakes from their truck for fifty cents each. The Hostess
When we buy that Honey Bun or Swiss Roll at the gas station, we aren’t buying a snack cake; we’re buying the nostalgia that comes with it.
Twinkie, for example, was created when someone realized they could use some forgotten machines meant for cream-filled strawberry shortcake to make a plain old cream-filled snack cake. Similarly, the founder of Hostess started his bakery from the basement of a church in Kansas City in 1930. Both companies found immense success in mass-produced snack cakes—the cakes that costs almost nothing to produce and are still delicious enough to turn out a profit—and other cakes would continue this newly discovered emphasis on thriftiness. Over time, the success of the prototypical snack cake would revolutionize the food production industry. Not only did the snack cake carve out its own niche within the food production market—even spawning international spinoffs like the Korean Choco Pie, a copy of the American MoonPie—but played a large role in normalizing mechanized food production. From an objective standpoint, snack cakes are grossly inhuman; after all, not a single pair of hands touches those cakes throughout their entire production. However, the snack cake has completely rewired the paradigm of food thought—we live in a world of constant mechanization, whether it is our education to our transportation to, of course, our dessert. The unchanging nature of the snack cake has made it one of the most iconic snacks to have ever come out of America. From Ghostbusters to Zombieland, our cul-
ture has been obsessed with snack cakes since what seems like forever ago, and it’s not hard to see why. While the modern age has been subject to virtually every tumult possible, there’s something about snack cakes, which looks more or less the same as they did eighty years ago, that invokes the ghost of the “Good Old Days.” It’s a testament to the endurance of humanity, physical proof that mankind is capable of withstanding even the worst of crises. When we buy that Honey Bun or Swiss Roll at the gas station, we aren’t buying a snack cake; we’re buying the nostalgia that comes with it. Little Debbie still sells their products at fifty cents a pop because it reminds people of the days when things cost less than a buck; likewise, we still defend Cosmic Brownies because they remind us of when we were carefree, sugar-fueled kids. Considering all this, it’s really no surprise there’s an urban legend that claims Twinkies have an infinite shelf life (in reality, a Twinkie’s maximum shelf life is around seven days, after which it is not recommended for consumption); in a world where even our lives are uncertain, it’d be nice to know that at least one thing will last forever, even if that thing happens to be a greasy little snack cake.
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written by Taylor Zhang illustration Dana Citrin Noah Baker _
One Fish, Two Fish A Journey Through St. Louis’ Chinese Grocery Scene
until last month, my knowledge of St. Louis Chinese cuisine was limited to two blocks from my apartment. I had gotten in the habit of blaming my lack of access, whether real or imaginary, to ethnic grocery stores and authentic restaurants as the reason I hadn’t eaten or cooked a real Chinese meal in months. It made me yearn for something spicier, subtler, more innate to my younger self. When my friend Sam asked if I wanted to drop by Seafood City, an Asian market he discovered a few years ago, I felt something deeper than hunger. Inside the market, a hive of families and workers greeted us. To our right, woks and bowls were stacked up, forming aisles. To our left, the produce section bloomed in a chilled corner of the store. A certain distinct aroma flavor of seawater and slime filled the air. Fresh fish, I thought absently. We made our way towards the foreign fruits and vegetables. I peered onto shelves and crates brimming with green, leafy vegetables—full fans of cabbage and bunches of blossoming, dark-green bok choy. Stopping halfway down the aisle, I noticed the hard curve of a winter melon peeking out from the vegetation. I hadn’t seen one of these in years. My mother used to crack its thick rind and quarter the white flesh, tossing it into a broth crammed full of pork meatballs. It was like drinking up a hug, and Sam suggested that I make it sometime.
I swatted away his suggestion, waving my hand away from a solution that easy. In my palm, I cupped the vegetable and felt its coolness on my fingertips, feeling vaguely uneasy. When did making pesto or pasta or casserole become more comfortable than making winter melon soup? But Sam wasn’t looking to linger, tugging my arm towards the fish section. I set the melon down and squared my shoulders. No use getting existential in aisle three. We tore through the cool air and rounded the corner to find mountains of crushed ice and industrial equipment. In front of me, stacks of very dead fish stared at me with shock-opened eyes. Little eddies of bloodied ice swirled in tiny pools below their heads. And then, in the corner of my eye, I saw a scene so familiar I felt phantom pleasure and confusion course through me. Dai-Yu. My mother used to fry them up whole with ginger and soy and scallions. On the dinner table, they’d stare up at me in a quizzical way, head cocked mid-question.
I remember this look very clearly, since I took pleasure in plucking their inquisitive eyeballs right out of their sockets. They looked so much more benign encircled by bowls of steaming rice. Now, flanked on all sides by stacks of their dead brothers, they made me feel only a visceral mix of repulsion and fascination. The skin was all silvery and scaly, slime, with edges coming off parts of the fish. I raked my eyes up and down the tiny cadavers, taking in the slivers of shriveled-up skin and flesh peppering the stainless-steel vat. But it was the eyes that struck me the most. I remembered from childhood a mellow, gold-grey eye dotted with a cloudy blackness, a happy invitation to be consumed. On the ice, they looked bloodshot and paralyzed, murder splayed on their irises.
Soon after, I got dinner with my friend Luke. In the kitchen, over pasta made with pre-packaged tomato sauce, we started discussing different types of Chinese cooking we grew up with. I asked him if he cooked anything outside of the proverbial college manna. “Hah! Rarely,” Luke snorted. “But, before I graduate I am trying to have my dad walk me through his dishes. I mean, it’s a learning curve you know?” I stared down at my plate. Our own culinary expertise involved throwing cayenne pepper into bottled vodka sauce. Was this part of the curve? I then thought of my own curve, remembering the fish I had seen earlier, and felt a flicker of shame. Why the hell did I feel intimidated by a goddamn fish? A fish I had been skewering with chopsticks for over two
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Now, flanked on all sides by stacks of their dead brothers, they made me feel only a visceral mix of repulsion and fascination.
decades. What was it that I was afraid of seeing in its cold, gelatinous eyes? What was I turning from? And then, in some instance of coincidence or intuition, Luke looked at me steadily to say, “but, I’m happy [we] went… going solidified being Chinese. Just being able to say I shop, and eat these things.” I then asked, “part of the learning curve, right?” My mother is in town a few weeks later. I have been viewing her upcoming visit with conflicted emotion— in my four years of college, this will be the first time she visits for longer than a few hours. Reconciling her extended stay with the vodka sauce life I have created feels improbable, an expanding schism between two disparate worlds. On the first day of her visit, I take my mother to Seafood City. It’s been only a few hours, and she is already chattering about a business lunch with a Missouri bureaucrat. There’s nothing that gets her riled up quite like work, and nothing that satisfies her more than unloading it on her offspring, so I know she’ll be generous. I spy a wiry woman twirling a ladle in a vat of boiling dumplings, scraping the sides so the next batch won’t stick. “3 bags for $10.” I linger and eye the color-coded stacks before we throw three bags into our cart, and my mother seems placated by my interest in Chinese food. I mention I that I need the recipes for
winter melon soup and Dai-Yu, and she immediately grasps the top of my arm and smooths my hair over. “I’m just so glad to see you. And don’t worry about how good it turns out. That’s all practice.” We round the corner with her hand still on my shoulder. We’ve come upon the fish corner, but this time I feel steelier with the touch of her fingers on my skin. I cleaned my freezer in preparation for this moment. It’s the same as before, fish frozen mid-squirm. I walk over to the whole fish section and place my hand on my hips in front of the Dai-Yu. It’s just me and these stick-thin sons of bitches now. I stare into their eyes and say out loud, “not this time sucker.” A mother scoops her child up and quickly rolls her cart away. My own mother peers to her left and right, and then, in an unforeseen role reversal, asks me not to embarrass her. We turn back to face the pile before me, blood melting off their cold little frames. I look methodically, scientifically, without pause, at each glittering fish. My mother tells me I can choose whichever I’d like. I grab the first one I make eye contact with. I stare into its bloodied eyes and gaping mouth and squeeze the cold slime around its stomach with confidence. This one…
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written by Daun Lee photography Brooke Adler _
In Search of the “Authentic” Has Cuisine Lost Its Authenticity?
n unappealing, warehouse-looking storefront with ambiguous signage on the window, Tai Ke is, in my opinion, one of the best Asian restaurants in St. Louis. Known for selling authentic Taiwanese food, Tai Ke was the place I took my visiting Taiwanese friend to prove that the St. Louis food scene is not as lacking in authenticity and diversity as he thinks. “Hi, could I get the three cup tofu, Taiwanese sticky rice hot dog, and the minced pork rice?” Boom, boom, boom. Without even looking at the menu, I ordered my go-to’s. My friend remained unimpressed, but commented on the décor: “cute.” And it is. It’s a medium-sized, one-room restaurant featuring an open kitchen and a small bar area for single visitors. For a final touch, it even has one of those red, Asian papier-mâché globes hanging from the ceiling to further capture the feeling of a Taiwanese street food stall. Just like it would in a street food stall, the food comes out in record time even though the restaurant is packed. Everything is so fresh, pricklingly hot, and to me—someone not accustomed to any Taiwanese food—tasty. My friend, on the other hand, is nibbling on a corner of the square tofu. “This isn’t bad, but it’s not authentic.” Not authentic.
It was like a mantra, repeating over and over in my head as I continued eating. This whole time, I was under the impression that I was eating legitimate, authentic cuisine—being served food that I could order right off the streets of Taiwan. I am, as we say, taken aback. I come home after the meal and continue thinking about this idea of what is and what isn’t authentic food. Pulling out the big box of Korean food I store under my bed, I examine a crinkly red packet of instant noodles—a processed version of a seafood noodle dish my mom cooks at home. The microwavable noodles are not the “authentic” version of the dish, but what is authentic food anyway? Why do we as society put so much emphasis on seeking out restaurants that are known to serve “authentic” food? And why do we shame restaurants and people who serve and prefer “non-authentic” food compared to “authentic” food? Take this noodle dish for instance. Jjamppong is its official name as it originates in China, but has since become completely Koreanized. A myriad of shrimp, squid, and clams are dumped into a big pot of water along with chili oil, onions, carrots, and zucchini. Two hours later, the broth is ready to be served along with a handful of bouncy white noodles similar to udon. I vividly remember eating this dish for the first time at my grandma’s house. She would boil the seafood
and vegetables for hours, until every umami-inducing flavor was sucked out of the ingredients. My first taste of this dish was the basis for every jjamppong I have eaten since; I judge the authenticity of the dish based on the first few memories I have with it. In this sense, authentic is defined by familiarity—eating what you are used to. If a dish were to taste similar to what my grandma made, I would deem the food—and therefore the restaurant—authentic. Should the dish taste noticeably different, I would make the decision to never visit again. Other people will prepare the same dish differently based on family recipes or accessibility to ingredients. It’s difficult for a dish to be prepared exactly to your standards, unless you’ve prepared it yourself. For example, kimchi, a famous Korean pickled cabbage dish, tends to veer on the spicier side in my immediate family, while my cousin’s parents prefer to go a bit lighter on the peppers. These little alterations eventually culminate into a noticeable difference, which is usually when one deems that dish—and consequently, that restaurant—"not authentic.” No restaurant can ever be authentic since no one will ever prepare a dish in the same way. Over the years, we tend to become weary of places that are pricier based on their claims of having authentic cuisine. Our impressionable minds envision authentic food as being what society imposes on the word. Cheap, grubby, and tasty. We typically associate authentic food with being housed in a small, grimy restaurant: a hole-in-the-wall. Even the words “authentic food” conjure up images of a small family owned restaurant hidden in a rundown strip mall packed with people. But we have a very particular idea of what is considered cheap authentic cuisine and what is not. Krishnendu Ray, a food studies professor at New York University, says we demand a different type of authenticity from “ethnic cuisine,” a controversial
phrase defining the divide in an us and them culture. What results is a demand for “cheap authenticity.” In the end, it is the immigrant chefs cooking up Indian or Chinese cuisines who suffer the most; often times, our judgments of good taste are dictated by “our notions and conceptions of a class of people.” For instance, Italian food—one of the most popular types of “ethnic” cuisines—is sometimes seen as middle- to upper-class food and acceptable if priced much higher than it should be. The average price for good, “home-cooked” style Chinese food averages around $10-15. On the other hand, we are much more likely to splurge on authentic Italian food. Paying more for good Italian food and less for “real” Chinese food is a common practice. We have specific preconceived notions surrounding this search for authentic food—cheaper options for Mexican and Asian food versus more expensive places for Western or European food. But it’s important to ask how much authenticity matters. Hipster foodies claim they know the most authentic places and patronize those who prefer other options. But if authenticity is based on personal biases, shouldn’t each person’s definition of authenticity be different? I'd say that it doesn’t matter. If it tastes good, then it’s good. No one can doubt your opinion on good food. Krishnendu Ray said, “our culinary hunt for authentic food is a double-edged sword.” He’s not wrong. Honestly, it’s a bit ludicrous how much we value authenticity. We probably spend a good 15 minutes on Yelp searching for the words “authentic” in the reviews when choosing which restaurant to eat at. A week after my friend leaves, I visit Tai Ke again. I order the same dishes again. And as always, the tofu is served boiling hot with a few slices of fragrant ginger. It may not be an “authentic” dish, but who cares? It tastes great to me.
Attaining the Edge A Historical Look at Sports Nutrition
written by Payton Fors illustration Maddy Underwood _
In 1904, St. Louis hosted the Olympic Games. These Olympics were a big to-do not only because they were tied to the World’s Fair (the same one that our Francis Field was used for), but were also the first games ever held in the United States. An American (Thomas Hicks) won the marathon on August 30th, overcoming an utter lack of water stations, humidity around 90%, and exhaustion-related hallucinations to be victorious. Yet, his race “fuel” consisted of egg whites and brandy mixed with strychnine (used as a stimulant then, and as a rat poison today). Clearly, sports nutrition at the turn of the twentieth century was crude at best. The relationship between athletes and food has evolved greatly over the last century as the result of a largely mechanical approach to determine how humans optimally utilize fuel. It would seem that great sportsmen and women, especially Olympians, serve as paramount models of athletes, and would thus have the “best” diets. In reality, data on Olympians’ and professional athletes’ diets is skewed and limited at best given that only a handful of the world population competes at such a high level. However, desire to follow great athletes’ methods (diets included) is far from foreign. A brief history follows to help you jump on the bandwagon and pursue getting ahead of your competitors.
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1904: The United States hosts the Olympics for the first time in St. Louis, Missouri. The workout fuel for the 32 male competitors in the marathon ranges from brandy to rotten apples from an orchard near the racecourse.
1985: Gatorade founds the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI). Caloric output (i.e. burning calories) and caloric input (i.e. eating food), as well as intensity of exercise are studied comparatively. Additionally, new products are tested.
1920: High-carbohydrate diets are found to be more effective than high-fat diets to achieve optimal muscular efficiency in athletes.
1988: The Coca-Cola Company crafts their response to Gatorade, sending Powerade out into the world. The two products differ in only three ways. Powerade has 10 fewer milligrams of sodium, 10 fewer milligrams of potassium, and uses high-fructose corn syrup instead of dextrose as a source of sugar.
1924: To strengthen support for the high-carbohydrate diet, the first twenty finishers of the Boston Marathon get their blood tested after finishing the race. The test revealed that the runners had low glucose levels, which are linked to fatigue. The following year, some athletes are given candy before and during the race to alleviate their fatigue. The sweets apparently help.
1994: Caffeine is banned for use by Olympic athletes. Ten years later it is no longer banned, but intake of the substance is still closely monitored given its performance-enhancing properties.
1951: Dr. Ernst Jokl studies Olympians’ food intakes at the Helsinki Olympics. He neglects to separate the data by sport, age, or even gender. He did find, however, that a positive correlation existed between national average caloric intake and athletic results. Jokl eventually goes on to found sports medicine programs in three countries, including the United States.
2008: Michael Phelps disbands rumors that he eats 12,000 calories each day. Apparently, 8,000 calories is a more accurate number. present day: Not only the types of food, but the timing
of food intake has been studied extensively in relation to athletic performance. For example, it is now widely accepted that carbohydrates and protein should be consumed within 30 minutes after a hard workout. Ideally, a post-workout snack should have a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Additionally, carbo-loading before athletic activity is recommended for events that will, in total, last 90 minutes or more. Eating during activity is unnecessary for workouts that are 45 minutes or less.
1965: The University of Florida football program changes sports nutrition forever by creating the first sports supplement drink: Gatorade. The drink targets electrolyte restoration for athletes who deplete their stores in competition and in training 1970s: Studies on caffeine proliferate, despite the substance incurring scientific interest back in the early 1900s. “Enhanced performance” is found, along with a lower subjective rating of fatigue for cyclists.
As you can see, athletes, scientists, and businesspeople alike have devoted a significant amount of attention and resources to studying sports nutrition, but the nobility of these pursuits varies greatly. Some desire to push beyond perceived limits of human performance, while others yearn to draw the average person in to purchase products marketed with unfounded promises to transform anyone into an elite athlete. Regardless, the discipline still has vast potential for more research. It is important to remember (no matter the study) that each body is different. The dietary needs of an Olympian should not match the diet of any other athlete on a hypothetical sports spectrum. Finding what works for you personally for pre-activity, in-activity, and post-activity fuel takes time, and educated guesses will inevitably still guide such decisions. However long it takes to find your optimal fuel, though, one can still safely assume that they won’t benefit from strychnine.
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written and illustrated by Maddy Angstreich _
The Midwestern Desert Hunger in St. Louis
food deserts are often and ironically confused with “food desserts,” and thus the former is often not taken as seriously as it should be. These “deserts,” which are both urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food, exploded in the wake of the grocery store chains abandoning their communities during a time of crisis to seek higher profits in other areas. One’s level of access to food is tightly linked to institutional poverty, and while food is something that can be artfully plated and photographed, it’s also a life altering necessity that too few children, families, and communities have access to in the St. Louis metropolitan area. On college campuses in St. Louis, including Washington University, which boast a nearly constant abundance of freshly cooked meals, healthy snacks, and fresh produce, it’s difficult to imagine true hunger. While hunger may not be visible inside the Washington University bubble, it lies right on its doorstep. It’s a root cause of high infant mortality rates, school dropouts, and poor performance at work. It’s far too common and yet frustratingly invisible. St. Louis feels it, but major corporations are turning their backs on those suffering true hunger. The Shnucks in North St. Louis and the Foodland on South Jefferson Avenue are just a few of the many supermarkets to flee their locations in low-income St. Louis neighborhoods in recent memory.
Without access to reliable or regular transportation, citizens of these towns are inclined to rely on local convenience stores and fast food restaurants in order to provide basic sustenance for themselves and their families. The inhabitants of food deserts are ill-fated, no matter which way they turn; if they seek healthy food options at big name grocery stores, then the transportation costs are astronomical, and on the other hand, the limited menus and few affordable, healthy options at the local fast food establishments can lead to malnutrition, disease, and a reduced cognitive ability at school or work. In the absence of large supermarket chains, dollar stores have multiplied like rabbits and are suffocating their shoppers, trapping them. These chains, including Dollar General and Family Dollar, make up nearly 70% of all new stores in St. Louis neighborhoods designated as food deserts. Additionally, these stores are rapidly consolidating and monopolizing the cheap, low-quality food market, which reduce any corporate incentive to supply a more diverse selection of higher-quality food. With nowhere else to shop, the residents who live in food deserts are in many cases limited to unsustainable options for nutrition or starvation. Being host to ubiquitous fast food restaurants and convenience stores, these locales are not only facing a food quantity shortage, but more specifically an absence of affordable, healthy meals. These com-
When standing at the heart of the bustling and beautiful Washington University campus, it can be difficult to realize that starvation and injustice are at our doorstep.
munities are afflicted by obesity, heart disease, and an overwhelming amount of other medical concerns that could be better prevented with increased access to neighborhood grocery stores. The St. Louis Metro Market is a potential solution to prevent these afflictions. Itâ€™s one of many steps that the Washington University community has taken to eradicate these preventable diseases and build stronger neighborhoods. This market managed to transform a former city bus into a mobile farmers market that could transport food to low-income areas identified as food deserts. The Metro Market prides itself on providing locally sourced, affordable, and healthy food to its patrons. Long before it opened its doors to underserved St. Louis food deserts in May 2016, it was merely a concept in the minds of two Washington University undergraduates. In 2013, Colin Dowling and Tej Azad were inspired to induce change in a myriad of St. Louis neighborhoods when taking a social entrepreneurship course. The St. Louis Metro Market, as it became known, works to increase supply as well as demand for nutritious and affordable food in these areas. The Metro Market was inspired by a mobile food service in Chicago, and over the course of the following years, additional members of the Washington University community joined the team to help bring this concept to other similar areas in St. Louis. The St. Louis Metro Market has since received a number of accolades and overwhelming support from the community, including a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to action
status, numerous community grants, and a bus donation from the St. Louis Metro to be used as the inaugural mobile market. Their success comes from the foundersâ€™ belief that open and transparent dialogue between the Metro Market and its customers creates lasting and sustainable change by listening to people living in food deserts, whose needs and insights are often silenced. Recently, the Metro Market responded to the communityâ€™s desire for health education and began to offer nutritional information and food preparation demonstrations so that the patrons can learn different ways to prepare the produce and other groceries that they purchase. Consequently, the Metro Market has made undeniably significant progress in attempting to create nutritional equity throughout the entire St. Louis metropolitan region. However, the fact still stands that nearly 24 million low-income American households are at least a mile away from a supermarket. This is especially significant given that low-income communities in general tend to have half as many grocery stores as their wealthy counterparts. When standing at the heart of the bustling and beautiful Washington University campus, it can be difficult to realize that starvation and injustice are at our doorstep. As injustice continues in our community, it becomes increasingly important for Washington University students to leave the bubble and become better educated about the struggles to assist and take part in the triumphs of our community.
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written by Eddie Ives illustration Maddy Mueller _
Fake it ‘Til you Make it The Inevitable “Meatamorphosis” of Vegetarian Proteins
i love meat. I always have, but I may not always. Meat production’s catastrophic effects on the environment, public health concerns, as well as ethical dilemmas, have created an unprecedented demand for meat substitutes. For the first time, I find myself seriously considering a not-so-distant future without “real” meat in my diet. While my change in heart can be attributed to a myriad of motivations, none are as influential as the rapid, yet largely successful advances in producing alternative proteins to “real” meat. Investor-backed state of the art food labs has catalyzed the public to be more open-minded, which in turn has enabled the industry to expand to a point where a paradigm shift in how we absorb our protein is an inevitable reality. Before analyzing the individual products and companies behind the “faux meat” revolution, I want to discuss why such an industry shift is so likely. In the corporate world, many firms are adopting an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude. America’s largest meat producer, Tyson Foods, is one of them. Tyson just purchased a sizable stake (no pun intended) in Beyond Meats, a company producing one of the most popular plant-based proteins. While it’s yet to be seen how similar products play out in the market for faux meat, the consumer response to other
companies with similar counter-industry attitudes, like Tesla, that are investing in products (electric cars) that may kill the traditional industry (gasoline-powered cars) is a very good sign for the potential of the alternative meat market. Despite the recent uptick in the availability of vegetarian proteins, meat substitutes actually go back thousands of years. The majority of these ancient alternatives were often created around religious necessity. Falafel, the fried chickpea balls native to the
Middle East, are said to have been created as a protein for Coptic Egyptians to eat during Lent when they adhere to a strictly vegan diet. Remarkably, the popularity of falafel has only increased over time and remains a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine. Even though falafel and other non-animal sources of protein have been around for a long time, as the number of vegetarians continues to spike, a demand for a different meat alternatives now exists and is growing. Instead of merely creating alternatives, like falafel, that embrace differences from meat, countless companies are trying to perfectly recreate meat to the point that there is no discernable difference beyond the ingredient composition. This quest began in the 1980s, when some of the first mainstream substitutes became popular. The original Veggie Burger and Tofurky hit the market for the first time and both were moderately successful. The products are still frequently sold in restaurants and grocery stores, but their successes are relatively limited. While they are more than viable options for a vegetarian as solid replacements for meat, their tastes won’t convince most omnivores, like myself, to go meat-free. Over the past 30 years each new substitute resembles the actual taste or texture of meat slightly more, but never exactly. For most of my life, I still had not found a single replacement that could convince me of its “meatiness.” These faux meats are a step in the right direction, but they remained shunned by the large majority of steadfast omnivores. If you had asked me five years ago if I thought a perfect meat substitute was possible, I would have been highly skeptical. The gap between the bland, poorly-textured substitutes and endless, delicious meats seemed completely irreconcilable. Yet, while I was busy rejecting “jackfruit pulled pork” and every other substitute in front of me, Stanford professor emeritus Patrick Brown was founding his company Impossible Foods. The Silicon Valley startup spent five years trying to find what made
meat “meat.” The firm isolated an iron-rich compound called heme, which is extremely abundant in animal tissue, and, many claim, is ultimately what gives meat its ability to sizzle, change color when cooked, and bleed. It’s the je ne sais quoi responsible for our societal addiction to meat. While I was initially very skeptical of this being just another false alarm over a marginally better product, the more I learned about it, the more excited I became. Not only were the videos on their website mouth-watering, but the social media reaction was overwhelming as well. There were ubiquitous tweets along the lines of “I’m a lifelong carnivore who LOVES meat and I can’t believe that this burger isn’t real #ImpossibleBurger.” It felt like the non-sarcastic version of “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” Most excitingly, one of the very few locations it was being served at was only five minutes from my house in nearby Palo Alto, California. Now, to take a step back, the theoretical creation of a near-perfect meat substitute doesn’t translate into an immediate global shift away from meat. Many may still contend that nothing can perfectly recreate meat and insist that they will be able to tell the difference. For some, the cultural or religious significance of animals in rituals like a Hawaiian Kalua pig roast wouldn’t be as meaningful with a large chunk of synthesized, vegetable-based protein. For me personally, the preference for one over the other becomes irrelevant. The United Nations expects the global population to hit 10 billion people by the early 2050s, which is about a 33% population spike in just about 33 years. To continue sustaining our current per capita levels of meat production for that many people would cause unfathomable destruction. The current livestock production in America already produces more greenhouse gas emissions than every plane, train, car, and truck combined. As the effects of climate change further manifest themselves, so will the flaws in our food systems be exploited.
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With a growing population, changing climate, and a finite amount of land, a major shift in our entire food system is necessary and now more than ever, it seems likely.
Despite the ultimate necessity to cut back on meat production as we know it today, simply put, it isn’t easy to just do away with an industry that accounts for hundreds of billions of dollars in sales each year, has vast infrastructure networks and complex international supply chains, and employs millions of workers in the United States alone. Even the peripheral effects that changes to the livestock industry have on other industries like transportation, food service, and manufacturing would be momentous. Companies, like Impossible Foods, will hopefully alleviate those changes. Cut back to Palo Alto, California at the burger joint where I went to meet my friend and try the Impossible Burger. The most remarkable thing about the entire experience for me was how unremarkable it was. The price was the same as a normal burger, the cook time was the same, and it looked the exact same as the normal burgers they served. In fact, I’m fairly certain that had I not been aware it was fake, I would barely have batted an eye. It’s hard to describe what exactly was different about it, which I’m pretty sure is a good thing. The taste was all there, and for the most part, so was the texture and consistency. My friend and I both agreed that without a doubt it was not only the best fake burger we had had, but that is was pretty great compared to other real burgers. When deciding what to order, we all inherently compare the options based on a multitude of factors, most of which can be boiled down to four categories: value, taste, health, and responsibility. Is what I’m eating worth the money? Does this taste good? Is it good for me? Is it good for the planet? When applying this test to the Impossible Burger and to real beef patties at the restaurants that serve both, the results are surprisingly close. The (explicit) cost comes out to be about the same and the Impossible Burger is as healthy or healthier than real beef in almost every way.
When it comes to the responsibility question, just how much better is the Impossible Burger? According to their website, “Compared to cows, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions.” When applying the last test, the difference in taste was so slight that in most cases I would consider it negligible. For the first time, the real meat didn’t significantly trump the alternative in a single category. So why didn’t I become a vegan right then and there? Well, the Impossible Burger is relatively hard to find. While it has expanded from about a dozen locations to over 125 locations nationwide in just a few months, it’s not readily available enough yet to sustain my hypothetical veganism. Yet, I haven’t been able to find a substitute as good as the Impossible Burger for a piece of bacon or a fancy steak, but when it comes, I’m more than ready to try it and I’m not the only one. In a recent blog post, Bill Gates revealed that a chicken taco from Beyond Meat, another meat substitute company which he has now invested in, had fooled him completely. He reflected, “What I was experiencing was more than a clever meat substitute. It was a taste of the future of food.” The problem of feeding the world is a big one. With a growing population, changing climate, and a finite amount of land, a major shift in our entire food system is necessary and now more than ever, it seems likely. A transformation of this scale requires cooperation on all levels, but with individuals more willing to try new things, companies willing to invest in and create alternatives, and governments willing to incentivize and support them, the only thing that’s impossible is the traditional meat hamburger. As Franz Kafka, author of Metamorphosis, quite aptly puts it, “So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.”
written by Neal Bansal Stella Stephanopoulos
photography Sasha Bash Blake Siegel
Thinking Outside the Box Leads to Culinary Domination in St. Louis
â™š Meet the two kings of the St. Louis food scene: Chef Gerard Craft and Chef Kevin Nashan. Not only do they share the honor of holding the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest, the paramount of achievement in the culinary world, but they are clearly close friends first, and competitors never. These two culinary titans literally borrowed sugar from each other, as their two renown restaurants, Niche and Sidney Street Cafe, put St. Louis definitively on the food map.
ur first trip brought us to Sardella, Niche’s successor. Entering Sardella, we were warmly greeted by Chef Craft and sat down as service continued uninterrupted. Rows of sardine tins are prominently displayed above the kitchen, with Mediterranean-patterned adorning covering the walls. As we began our interview, we were embraced by the immediate hospitality of Chef Craft and his crew. Within seconds, plates of charred delicata squash and bolognese appeared in front of us, two of Sardella’s and Pastaria’s famous dishes. While the food was tantalizingly distracting, it was clear from the onset that he accredits thinking outside of the box for his success. As the owner of a restaurant empire, creativity is vital not only to keep customers happy, but to surviving in the cut-throat culinary industry. Survival and success didn’t happen overnight. Craft has traveled all over the globe to learn the intricacies of cooking and the art of fine dining. Gathering much of his inspiration from France and Italy, Craft’s style exhibits the perfect balance of sophistication and comfort. Missouri, a state primarily known for its barbecue, does not exactly boast this unique blend of quality and casual at most establishments, so it felt out of character to see a chef like Craft establish himself in the Midwest. However, Craft attributes his choice of home base to how St. Louis is extraordinarily receptive to new visions of what food can be. “St. Louis is pretty up and coming and is becoming more progressive…[because] people can take more risks in the Midwest since the rents aren’t as crazy as they are in New York City.” Once situated in Missouri, arguably his initial step in “thinking outside the box,” Craft’s successes stem from the creation of a development process for his restaurants. Craft describes each restaurant as an embodiment of a specific mantra. “We’re very clear about cooking within a concept, and having those parameters allows us a certain amount of creativity. You would think those parameters would restrict you, but
I think they prevent you from doing the same things over and over again,” he articulated. Developing recipe ideas is an intricate creative process for his team as well. Focused on studying the history of the Midwest, Craft explains, “this is always a collective effort, which is I think what makes our group really special.” The group’s reputation has generated a lot of attention in St. Louis since its establishment, but Craft continues to employ his creativity beyond the boundaries of his business in innovative ways to help alleviate one of Missouri’s biggest obstacles: the food desert disparity between neighboring zip codes, especially here in St. Louis. Craft and other restaurateurs banded together to sponsor Chef Cycle for No Kid Hungry, a fundraising event that raises awareness for the low-income areas that food deserts are prevalent in and aims to provide children with healthy food options typically unavailable. In conjunction with this, one of the biggest food hardships comes from the troubles in the farming and agriculture industries. Craft stated that “it’s tough for farmers to connect with all of these people,” in addition to the fact that “the only harder industry to make money than selling food is growing food, so we want to create systems for them, more cooperative systems that allow farmers to access everyone a little bit better.” Craft suggested the idea of utilizing non-profits to find a way to connect farms with surplus food and people of lower income and lower access. He also acknowledged that chefs must be creative in the way in which they prepare and deliver said food, explaining that “talking about cultural relevancy was never something I contemplated until now. You might cook something and people will say ‘I don’t know what that is, and I don’t want it’ even if they are hungry.” Clearly, multi-faceted food problems will require complex, multi-faceted social solutions. Although we have a long way to come to make healthier food options in the greater St. Louis community more widely available Craft believes that it is the future generation and youth that can make this
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"TRYING AND FAILING IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IN LIFE. PERIOD."
should embrace failure. “Always be thinking outside the box. Trying and failing is probably the most important thing you can do in life. Period.” We can only assume that’s why he know owns Pastaria, Sardella, Taste, Brasserie, Porano, and Pastaria Nashville. It didn’t happen overnight for Chef Craft, as well as Chef Nashan at his restaurants.
possible. “It's going to take you guys. It's going to take a lot of people thinking outside the box to be able to access some of this money that's available and put that into systems that actually make all these transition points happen.” As our conversation with Craft began to wind down and our stomachs were full of delicious food, he delivered his powerful call to action on a hopeful note, declaring his emphatic belief that we all
"PLEASE WORK HARD AND ALWAYS GIVE A SHIT."
entering Peacemaker Lobster & Crab it was as if
Creole cuisine. He then moved to Europe and worked in Spain and France under famous chefs like Martín Berasategui, learning French techniques alongside Basque recipes. His journey eventually took him back stateside to French chef Roland Liccioni at Le Francais and famed chef Daniel Boulud at Daniel in New York, New York. Not too long after, he came back to St. Louis, his second home, to open his restaurant Sidney Street Cafe, where he took the influences from his past and put them on a plate for customers to experience with every bite. Our conversation ebbed and flowed in various directions, eventually turning to the role of technology in agriculture, including the noticeable prominence of GMOs, which can be very destructive in unintended ways. His strong opinion concerns the disappearing variety of crops, which he finds GMO companies largely at fault. While he acknowledges that there was a time when GMO producers had noble intentions, he believes that we are using them to such an extreme that they are essentially taking over traditional farming. He hopes that companies, like Monsanto, can open up to better communication with farmers about growing and producing “different flavors and different nuances” because “that’s the coolest part in life.” To combat this, Nashan suggested slowing down, and attempts to do this through his own farming efforts out
we were transported out of the brisk St. Louis fall air and into a Louisiana crab shack. We could feel tangible similarities in the atmosphere to Sardella, despite decorative differences. The worn wooden tables holding Old Bay Seafood Seasoning and Crystal’s Louisiana Pure Hot Sauce were surrounded by walls lined with images of gritty, burly fishermen. There, in the center of it all, stood the rugged and fierce chef, Kevin Nashan. We sat on the threshold of the kitchen as he offered us cups of freshly brewed coffee. Chef Nashan took his seat, American flag behind one shoulder, flower pot of sunflowers behind the other. Nashan’s restaurants are reflections of his past. “You use a lot of your history,” he expressed, before launching into his journey to the present. In his childhood town of Santa Fe, he washed dishes and bussed tables at his grandfather’s restaurant, La Tertulia. Growing up, the exposure “to a lot of foods, a lot of flavors,” led him to “fall in love” with cooking while he was in college. From there, his culinary career took off. After attending Saint Louis University and the Culinary Institute of America, he worked with Chef Jamie Shannon at Commander’s Palace, a historic New Orleans, Louisiana restaurant specializing in
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of a parking lot near the restaurant. It’s important for people to see where their food comes from and the different varieties out there. As passionate as he is on the topic, our conversation took a surprising turn to discussing workplace culture in the culinary sphere. The restaurant industry is known for having a myriad of issues, whether it be ubiquitous sexual harassment, alcohol and substance
abuse, or mental health problems. Nashan believes that by having an established, enforced culture with ironclad expectations, you can help prevent those issues from ever arising. When it came to the topic of sexual harassment, he thought that the increased unmasking of harassers and victims and allies declaring, “hey we’re not gonna accept this anymore” is “awesome.” He is tired of people dancing around the issue.
“There’s no ‘it’s a fine line.’ You’re either doing it or you’re not,” he proclaimed. We then turned to substance abuse and mental health. Nashan commented that the helpfulness of talking things out and being open to talking about issues is extremely important. He conveyed: “I think it’s really important that we... all need to start talking about it... we need to express it.” Nashan also believes that maintaining a good support system can prevent substance abuse and alleviate symptoms of depression. He added that “friends gotta know friends” and have to be able to ask the tough questions in difficult conversations. Overall, Nashan believes that “if everyone respects each other, they work hard, and there’s equal movement, then it is what it is... there’s no if, and, or but.” His evident sense of service showed throughout our conversation. Nashan constantly mentioned and discussed community service groups that are alleviating food problems in the local community. He went into detail about Operation Food Search, a program that distributes food and other necessities to communities in Missouri and Illinois, specifically their program Operation Backpack, which ensures that children, dependent on free or subsidized lunches, have proper nutrition. Initially, many kids were revolting against this program, but with time the kids became more accepting because “they felt like they were doing something for their family.” Chef Nashan is involved in many philanthropic programs for someone with little free time. In the past he participated in Chefs Cycle for No Kid Hungry, a program that wants to “make sure that there is no kid that is hungry.” It’s a dual medicine because it is “able to raise good money for a cause and save our [chef’s] lives too.” Throughout our conversation, Nashan offered endless sage advice. When talking about culinary school and becoming a future chef he said to “work for really good people,” but emphasized that this extends beyond the culinary sphere. For someone certainly not in their elder years, he had much wisdom to offer and ended with a slightly crude, but formidable request: “please work hard and always give a shit.” Most kings throughout time could have given less of a shit about their subjects. When talking with these two culinary kings, the opposite is true. No matter the fame, no matter the success, no matter the challenges, Chef Craft and Chef Nashan are influencers beyond the borders of their restaurant empires and St. Louis thanks them.
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written by Wesley Jenkins illustration Christina Wang _
Eye Candy How Chef's Table Makes Aesthetics First, Content Second
[Scene] Setting: Coffee shop — blackboard menu, exposed brick walls, posters proclaiming equality and love, a stuffed deer’s head to be edgy — with two men discussing magazine layouts. One is a photographer, the other a page designer. One has a goatee, the other a hoop earring and three-day old stubble. Both drink tea. They’re talking about pictures of food for the upcoming issue... HOOP EARRING: “I got some images of their ingredients, which is really important for what they do.” GOATEE: “How so?” HOOP EARRING: “Well, they go out and forage and use all these wild ingredients from their land to put in their beer and their reds and their food.” [pause] “When I was with them, they found these wild passion fruits, so I photographed those on this table with sunlight dappled amidst the trees.” GOATEE: “Wow” He sighs, sitting back into his chair and sipping from his tea. “That’s incredible.” [End Scene]
what’s incredible? Is it the way the brewery forages for their ingredients, sacrificing consistency for supposed authenticity by going directly to the source? Is it the act of finding wild passion fruits, presumably a more difficult fruit to find, on the trip when the process was being documented? Or is it the perfection of having the sunlight hit at just the right angle, so that it’s not even about the fruit at all any more—it's just this food that has been preordained by gods, the environment, this brewery to be the pinnacle of aesthetics. I’m still lingering on the two men’s conversation about wild passion fruits and sunlight and two-page spreads when my own food arrives. The simplicity of the plate strikes me, setting off the blackness of the toasted bread in the middle against the stark white of its porcelain home. These color contrasts are then layered with another bright-white ricotta spread cutting the emphasis of the toast’s presence, and another layer of burgundy-colored jam to dull the brightness of the ricotta. A flower wheel cut from an orange rests in the top corner, peeking over this rainbow of contrasting color with an approving mein. The whole dish accents the stereotypical coffee shop aesthetic, elevating diner fare to a more Brooklyn-chic vibe. Or to be more literal: It’s a piece of toast, spread with ricotta cheese and jam, with an orange to one side. Served, with love perhaps, in a coffee shop.
This dressing up and aestheticizing of our food, shifting the focus from the taste and composition to the presentation and how well it fits with its environment, has become a bit of a fetish. Scroll through any twenty-something’s social media account and I’m sure you’ll find at least one masturbatory post fawning over the aesthetics of some food joint or some gimmicky product they’ve created: Think Rainbow Bagels. Think “Rosé all Day.” Think latte art. Foodies have been empowered to care less about the food they profess to love and more about the processes that create said food. It’s not about how the wild passion fruit beer tastes; it’s about foraging amidst that dappled sunlight. And it’s all Chef's Table’s fault. The massively successful Netflix series took the genre of food documentary and aestheticized it, making it not so much about the food itself, but instead about how individuals take ingredients and make them look perfect. The high-profile chefs featured were given an hour-long platform to dictate the terms of their own cult of personality, food just happened to be the medium. The show isn’t informative — it’s propaganda. Take Francis Mallmann for example. The French chef relocated to Argentina, lived on a secluded island, and occasionally served decadent meals to the family he never talked to in a decked out, dimly-lit ballroom. While nominally the show focused on his food, it more so focused on him, giving Mallmann a platform to paint an image of himself draped in South American mystique. There’s nothing revolutionary about spit-roasting a pig, but when Mallman does it in a snow-covered field with a bonfire in the background, it’s not about the pig anymore: it’s about the lifestyle and the image it creates. Chef's Table does away with explanations of why audiences should eat a chef’s food, instead putting together stunning visuals of that chef in an exotic location talking about philosophy or family or hardship.
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Chef's Table has made food into a visually aesthetic art form that reflects the genius of an individual, leaving the quality of that individual’s cooking as a distant afterthought. It helps that Chef's Table really only focuses on high-brow food in the first place. A genre of cuisine already far beyond the pale when it comes to practicality, this gourmet food doesn’t need much of a push to transition from sustenance to taste to aesthetic. Take Grant Achatz’ Alinea, for example. A balloon made of cheese serves no life-sustaining purpose and I imagine doesn’t taste too revolutionary, but boy, think of the Instagrams. Achatz has made a name for himself based entirely on presenting food in more and more bizarre ways and now is considered cutting edge in the high-brow food industry. Restaurants like Achatz’ are more museum than restaurant, and the prevailing trend is pushing more and more establishments to his side of the spectrum. This metamorphosis from a focus on taste to sight reflects a greater trend in our society to focus on the visual that has occurred in tandem with the rise of social media. Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat—all emphasize the visual, better spotlighting posts with images or focusing solely on the image. Whereas food critics once had to recreate every sense that food stimulated through words, now an image can just be slapped in and audiences can deem the food good or bad, based on solely visual cues. Chef's Table traffics in the same tradeoff. As a documentary show, it is inevitably a visually-based product. However, while many food-focused television shows are dedicated to describing the food, often with uninspired background elements, Chef's Table makes sure it gets the aesthetically arresting shot first, any descriptive content second. None of this to say that Chef's Table isn’t entertaining or that foraging for wild passion fruits is a waste of time. The point is more of a cultural one—when we seek out good food nowadays, especially gourmet food,
we often first look for the visual and then ask about the taste. By spotlighting aesthetics and elevating food into this visual art form, we’ve buried food’s central essence. Food, in essence, is as follows: sustenance first, taste second, and presentation third. Chef's Table has taken this order and reversed it entirely. Food, when presented as an art form, loses its primary function as sustainance and quite nearly loses its focus on taste. Look no further than the size of most portions presented on the show. A circle of mole sauce is not getting anyone through a day of work, but in the episode highlighting Enrique Olvera’s Pujol, that exact dish is presented as the pinnacle of his cooking. This visual shift only serves to make high-brow food all the more unattainable and to leave those who do buy-in deeply dissatisfied. When you pay $600 for a seat at Alinea, you aren’t paying for a meal, but for a show. Granted, there are other forms of entertainment that take on similar price points, but those other events are meant solely for entertainment. The implications of food becoming an aesthetic in the cultural consciousness serves to further stratify classes and disassociate how we understand food as a necessary, life-sustaining good. What happens when food isn’t regarded as a necessity anymore? Who loses then? I don’t know how wild passion fruit beer tastes because neither Goatee nor Hoop Earring ever asked that question or even got near it. But I guess that after I see a wild passion fruit, dappled with sunlight, amidst a forest, I’ll assume it tastes good. Seeing, after all, is believing.
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written by Desi Isaacson illustration Molly Magnell _
a man simply known as Garlic Mike was in charge, running around the festival, screaming â€œanyone who wants to be in the garlic eating competition, come this way!â€? There was no signup in advance, nor was there a signup right before the competition. I decided to partake, knowing the mistake I was making, but having no intention of bailing. Immediately, I was handed a cup filled with a half-pound of garlic cloves. Once the clock started, each contestant had five minutes to eat as much as they could before each cup was weighed to decide the winner.
I began questioning why anyone would ever want to enter a competition like this. Usually, fame and recognition are the biggest factors. Joey Chestnut is a household name, just because he can shove a lot of hot dogs in his mouth once a year. Having a polaroid photo up on the wall in your favorite pizza place with a big empty plate in front of you can be a great source of pride. Some do it for the entertainment of others. One example is a YouTube show called Hot Ones, where celebrities try to get through the hottest wings they can while an interviewer asks them questions. Like
anything that has a winner and loser, or is difficult, or even painful, there is usually something more to victory than just pride. None of these are valid excuses in my case. No one knew who I was, and I would have gotten almost no recognition and absolutely no winnings. Yet I felt enticed, excited to try. I walked into the festival on an empty stomach, thinking that would help me eat more. But a garlic eating competition is more like a hot sauce competition than an “eat an unreal amount of food” competition. It’s not about how much you can eat; it’s about how well you can survive the pain. If you asked my parents to describe my pain tolerance, their answer would be, “low.” We usually think of food as a communal experience: breaking bread with another is a show of respect, it is an honor. But society has turned eating into a lot more than just a shared meal. Cooking has increasingly become more a competition than an art form. The world is filled with eating contests in little towns, television shows like Man v. Food, and the seemingly endless array of contests on the Food Network from Top Chef to Chopped, to Cupcake Wars, and even Beat Bobby Flay. These shows don’t permit contestants and viewers to experiment with and try foods in the same ways as when competition isn’t a concern. Some of the most creative and distinct meals in the world stand out not just because of taste, but also because of appearance.
Chefs like Craig Thornton are always trying new and exciting things with food presentation, like at his current restaurant, Wolvesmouth. Thornton creates meals that look and feel violent and aggressive. How our food looks, the order in which it is presented to us, and the décor of the setting in which we eat it all work together to create the experience of the meal. Focusing on how hot a chicken wing can possibly be, or how to eat a beheamoth of a pizza makes you forget about all the other aspects going into the preparation of your meal. I didn’t think much of these aspects, instead focusing on how to eat as much garlic as quickly as possible. Everyone told me not to chew. Garlic Mike said the record holder finished two whole cups in a minute by just swallowing. She was only 12. I love garlic, which I thought meant I would be able to chew, maybe even enjoy each bite. I thought I was different. When Garlic Mike said we could start, I bit in hard. I wish I could say the next five minutes of my life were a blur, but they were not. The next five minutes felt closer to twenty five. Every bite burned. I tried to swallow like people said to, but most of the cloves were too big. Things did not speed up and my mouth continued to sting.
the metamorphosis issue
Like anything that has a winner and loser, or is difficult, or even painful, there is usually something more to victory than just pride.
The aftermath was almost as bad as the climactic moment. My stomach hurt for hours afterwards; I felt on the verge of throwing up the entire night, and I was sure my mouth would never not taste like garlic ever again. I began to think about why I wasn’t more successful in the contest. Did the others have some sort of advantage over me? Is my stomach just weak? Is it all a mental game? As it turns out, there are distinct genetic advantages that emerge in eating competitions. Those little bumps you see on the end of your tongue are called papillae, and they house your taste buds. People who have more of them taste things in a stronger fashion, and often order things milder. While people who have less need more spice—or more flavor—for the same experience, giving them a distinct edge in a hot wing contest (or a garlic eating competition). When I stick out my tongue, it looks like I have a lot of those bumps, so I’m going to use having lots of papillae as my main excuse for losing the contest. You probably already know whether you like hot sauce or not, but if you are curious to know whether you have more or less papillae, its actually quite easy to find out. Blue food-coloring dye doesn’t stick to taste sensors, so if you dip your tongue in blue dye, and it turns almost entirely blue, you don’t have many papillae, but if it retains much of its color, you’re getting all the flavor. I feel like this
test should be performed before a garlic competition; then, each competitor should be handicapped, like in golf, to their taste sensitivity level. Then maybe I’d have a fighting chance. I am very competitive; I’ve never been able to turn it off. None of that, in this case, made a difference. I lost horribly, close to last place. There are lots of food competitions that might be fun, but I promise you this is not one of them. My own competitiveness is probably what sucked me into the contest. Stupidity blinded by desire; but when I really gave myself time to think, a contest takes away everything I love about food. All the art is lost. I didn’t enjoy eating raw garlic. The food is no longer about pleasure: all that matters is victory. Competing with another chef makes cooking about being better than someone else, not about making the meal you think will be greatest. I hope the greatest chefs in the world want to make food that is delicious and different, not just better than the person next to them. Judging something with so many differences of opinion seems like a fools errand. In a food competition—whether it be cooking or eating—there is no enjoyment, no communal atmosphere, only a will to win. The best cooking is enjoyed, not judged. But hell, every once in a while, you gotta throw caution to the wind and shove some garlic down your throat.
the metamorphosis issue
written by Matt Gleeson photography Ben Bridgforth _
How Becoming A Bread Snob Ruined My Life An Interview with Greg Wade, Head Baker for Publican Bread
It all began when I stumbled upon an online baking blog called The Perfect Loaf. While reading Maurizio Leo’s recipes there I heard about and read Tartine Bread—widely considered the bible of bread—cover to cover, and became obsessed with baking the perfect loaf of bread. I made a nine-hour driving pilgrimage from San Diego to Tartine Bakery in San Francisco over the summer to taste the author’s bread, which is so famous that it has its own Wikipedia page. I even had a bread diary where I recorded my progress towards baking naturally leavened (also known as sourdough) bread with just the right amount of air bubbles, a perfect crust, and a tangy yet balanced taste. I became, in every sense of the word, a snob when it came to bread. I began to scorn the pitiful store-bought bread that I ate in PB&J sandwiches growing up, and arrived at a point where I would structure my weekdays around the three daily feedings of flour and water that my sourdough starter required, and spend my weekends baking. It seemed only fitting that I write an article about bread, so during fall break I spoke with Greg Wade, the head baker for Publican Quality Bread on the West Side of Chicago, about his commitment to naturally leavened bread, whole grains, and organic farming.
How did you all get started?
What’s the role of fermentation in bread?
I was baking the bread for Little Goat Diner when I was contacted by the founder of Publican Quality Meats, who told me that he wanted to start a bakery, and we agreed that its foundations would be natural fermentation and whole grains.
The main role of fermentation is to leaven. It does that by breaking down proteins and starches, giving off gas and alcohol.
What’s the difference between your bakery and a commercial bakery?
First and foremost, it’s about flavor. We choose to work with a local farmer because we can ask him to focus on growing grains that are flavorful rather than focusing on maximizing production. We want the tastiest product possible, but luckily the tastiest way to make bread is also the healthiest way to make bread because you’re actually fermenting it and you get all the benefits that I spoke about earlier. We also buy the majority of our flour from farmers that use organic growing practices, but haven’t received official USDA organic certification. There is a three-year transition process required for a farm to be certified as organic by the USDA, and during this time farmers grow food using the more expensive organic methods, but are unable to market their product as “organic” because they haven’t yet reached the three year threshold required by the USDA. We pay the organic price to these farmers to ease the burden of going organic on their already-miniscule profit margins. Sourcing our flour from these farmers is Publican Bread’s way of doing our part to support organic farming.
Why do you source your flour from farmers rather than buy it in bulk from corporations?
The difference between this bakery and a commercial bakery is that in a commercial bakery they use laboratory-grown baker’s yeast as a shortcut to make the bread rise as fast as possible instead of letting the bacteria and yeasts that naturally occur in the wheat kernels ferment the dough. They also use flours that are bleached to make them appear more white, bromated—a practice of adding potassium bromate which is banned in the EU, Canada, China and India but still done in the US)—and enriched—which adds back some of the vitamins lost during bleaching—and they don’t ferment their dough. These practices are why gluten intolerance has recently become a giant issue for people, because most wheat nowadays is grown with a high output farming system where they dump fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides on the wheat to make it grow faster and then heavily processed in factories. What most people with “gluten allergies” are reacting to are all the unnatural things that are added to flour, as well as the fact that the flour isn’t fermented. When you ferment dough, you get rid of things called FODMAPS (low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols), which are complex sugars that your stomach can’t digest. When they reach your large intestine, bacteria there digest them, which creates gas and spikes your blood sugar. Fermenting flour for just four hours reduces FODMAPS by 90% and makes the nutrients in bread more readily available.
Do you guys have a bread mill in house? Yes, we have a small mill here in the bakery, but the farmer we source our flour from has a much larger mill on his farm and mills the flour the day before he delivers it.
*Baker’s hydration percentages are relative to the weight of flour in the dough, so 90% hydration really means that the dough is 90 / (100% flour + 90% water) = 47% water. The extra water in higher hydration doughs gives them more large, uneven holes in the interior of the bread (called the crumb) and generally leads to a higher-rising bread.
the metamorphosis issue
Can you describe your process of making bread?
What percentage hydration is your dough?
Everything starts with pre-fermenting the flour for 24 hours by mixing it with water, which develops the organic acids that make up the really good flavors and aromas of bread. This step also begins creating structure because when flour mixes with water it creates gluten, which is the fundamental structure of bread. Then, we take our 20-year-old sourdough starter (which is fed with flour and water three times a day), combine it with whole grains, the pre-fermented flour, a little more bread flour, and water. We then let that rest for a few more hours to develop more gluten from the flour we just added, then add salt which strengthens the ionic bonds between gluten particles and allows for the giant bubbles in our loaves to form. After that begins bulk fermentation, where we let the dough sit en masse at room temperature, just hanging out and fermenting, which will further develop the gluten structures and add a lot of air to the dough which will eventually turn into the giant air bubbles that are in our finished bread. After the bulk ferment, we portion the dough out into what will become separate loaves, weigh and shape the balls of dough, and then place each in its own basket and ferment them at room temperature for around two hours and then ferment it in our walk-in fridge for 24 hours. The next day, we pull it out straight from the fridge and bake it in our bread oven. The whole process from raw flour to the loaves coming out of the oven takes 60 hours in total.
Our baguettes are like 67%, but our porridge loaf is around 90%.* Is that your most popular, the porridge loaf? No, the most popular is the sourdough. We actually change our hydration daily, but it always lands somewhere around 80-85%. We run tests on all batches of flour that come in, log the water absorption rate of the flour, and make adjustments to the amount of water we add to the flour based on these measurements. Other than baguettes, do you bake any other breads with yeast, or is it all naturally leavened? Everythingâ€™s naturally leavened. We create natural levain by creating a pre-ferment the night before we mix the dough. We do add a small amount of commercial yeast to our baguettes and ciabatta, but itâ€™s a very very minute portion, and is an essential part of all traditional baguette and ciabatta recipes. What do you do with old bread? I know some people make French toast. There are infinite possibilities. Bread puddings, croutons, bread crumbs, slice it thin and toast it and put in on salad and what have you. Whatâ€™s your favorite part about baking bread? All of it. I love it all.
written by Bob Zhao illustration Amanda Im _
On Eggs, Toast, and Chicken Nugget Lunchables Why We Should Eat Eggs for Lunch and Dinner
among other things, one of the qualities my mom instilled in me at an early age was a love for eggs. Looking back, it was probably because they were the quickest thing she could toss onto the skillet and shove into my mouth when I woke her up on Saturday mornings at 6:00 am, clamoring for breakfast. Nonetheless, I grew up with a healthy appreciation for the skill needed in making eggs, a food that can be eaten practically anywhere, in any form. I remember eating eggs with tomatoes and tofu for dinner, munching on egg tarts for dessert on special occasions, having egg and scallion pancakes for lunch on Saturdays, drinking egg drop soup for dinner on cold winter nights, and scarfing down egg fried rice in the twenty minutes between soccer and swim practices. Because of this flexibility, it shocked me when I realized my American friends only really ever had eggs for breakfast. I remember one day in elementary school when I opened my lunch in front of my American classmates. They were used to the Chinese food I brought to lunch every day, but, that particular afternoon, the contents inside my Pokemon lunch tin elicited much confusion. My mom had packed her version of tamagoyaki—a Japanese spiral-shaped egg pancake—and the reactions were surprising.
“Are those eggs?” “That’s so cool! Do you eat eggs for lunch often?” “I really don’t think I’ve ever had eggs outside of breakfast. Aside from deviled eggs. And deviled eggs are gross.” From then on, my mom’s tamagoyaki was always a lunchtime favorite between my friends and I. The dish quickly became a premium commodity in the stock exchange of our first grade lunch table: kids would offer me an entire Cosmic Brownie or most of their Chicken Nugget Lunchables for just one of those little egg pancakes.
the metamorphosis issue
It has always confused me as to why the vast majority of American egg consumption is primarily limited to breakfast. But I do think that such a phenomenon is a metaphor for how a lack of cultural diversity can make our experiences as humans less fruitful and informed. Culture is such an omnipresent part of our lives that we never stop and think about how it affects how we live on a day to day basis. We don’t stop to ask why, for instance, eggs are only ever really eaten at breakfast in America. Yet when we embrace other perspectives, such cultural oddities are brought into focus, and let us make changes that allow our lives to be more informed and impactful. Eating my mom’s egg dishes with my classmates is something I look back fondly upon, a memory made possible by their acceptance of a different culture’s take on eggs. Asking why American culture pigeonholes eggs into a breakfast-only food may only be a lingering curiosity to egg fanatics like me, but I think that this tendency is a cautionary tale when applied to the bigger picture, in areas such as politics, science, and business have non-trivial implications for everyone involved in such discussions. When addressing critical issues, diversity of thought is crucial for the creation of effective, long-term solutions. Not being accepting of cultural
diversity doesn’t just result in a lunch table without tamagoyaki, but may instead result in a critical insight in the battle against cancer being disregarded or a vital perspective in the fight against global poverty being unheard. In a world with only Chinese or only American ways of preparing eggs, my classmates may have viewed the idea of eggs outside of breakfast as odd; when we instead embrace both American and Chinese cultural ideas, we are able to fully appreciate how delicious my mother’s tamagoyaki is, resulting in a richer, more culturally diverse lunch table. If we could be as accepting of different cultural perspectives as we are to different cuisines, how much richer would our world be? Could a combination of American and German perspectives on engineering help us build the rocket that gets us to Mars? What if Swedish and British perspectives on politics are the way we help alleviate systemic disenfranchisement? When we allow cultures to collaborate, the creation we get may be the medicinal, technological, or political equivalent of my mom’s tamagoyaki.
e believe in food as a discourse.
we believe Millennials are interested in more than just #foodporn.
we believe in the power that lies in the universality of food: everyone eats.
we believe that food is capable of forming deep, meaningful connections.
we believe that food scholarship of quality should be widely accessible.
we believe that eating is one of the most profound, yet quotidian, acts we engage in and with.
we believe that Coke vs. Pepsi can be a relationship dealbreaker.
we believe that just as simple syrup forms the foundation for myriad food and drinks, our Simple Syrup will form the foundation for diverse food and art thought.
_ nikki freihofer, founder of simple syrup
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