The Grand Finalé
Lucky Peach is an interesting magazine that does a fantastic job of blending food, lifestyle and prose together. Thus I was surprised to discover that this was going to be their last issue ever! For their grand finalé, they have put together the ‘best of’ over the years, and is worth a read. I’ll let their words and pictures do most of the talking for this review. And since it is a chronic illness blog after all, I’ll also highlight the posts that have a health aspect to them!
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Gorgeous, Colourful Graphics
This is pretty much Lucky Peach’s signature graphic style over the years!
Left Behind: A Field Guide to Post-Rapture Rot
Pork buns from Momofuku, covered with mould spores
This is one of my favourite article in this issue. It was fascinating to see popular foods from good eateries becoming rotten, and I enjoyed reading about the type of mould or yeast inhabiting each dish. It talks about the conditions necessary for growth, and how some of them are more familiar to us than we realise. For example, penicillium, a bread loving mould: “also provides us with delicious cheese (the fuzz on the outside of Brie and the blue veins on the inside of blue cheese), and spurred the antibiotic revolution in medicine”. If you’ve ever seen those blue-green mould on your bread, it’s probably penicillium.
Fusarium moulds have a more complicated relationship with humans. Some species produce potent mycotoxins, or give you toenail infections. Yet some species are beneficial; lovers of fake-meat mycoprotein Quorn are eating the guts of Fusarium venenatum, and the rinds of many washed-rind cheeses are held together by Fusarium domesticum.
Not the Best Looking Recipes
Braised cold celery hearts victor recipe
Close up of the uh…deliciousness
There were some recipes listed at the back of the magazine, printed on black coloured paper with a nostalgic tint to them. This made the food look particularly unappetising, especially this ‘Braised Cold Celery Hearts Victor’ dish. I really can’t tell if it’s meant to make a statement, or if it’s sarcasm.
10 minute chocolate mug cake recipe
This recipe looked the most enticing of the lot. And two minutes for a nice warm chocolate cake? I’m in!
Stag Penises: Prized Tonic in Chinese Medicine
Apparently penises have magical properties in Chinese medicinal terms. Consuming them is supposed to increase your yang energy. Stag penises are prized in particular, and are prescribed for impotence and fertility. Fuchsia talks about receiving some of these for gifts as a chef, the trauma of it, and what she made with them.
A Pilgrimage to All His Favourite Food Places
A sad departure for one of Lucky Peach’s correspondents in his adopted home city. I’m guessing this is New Orleans after googling some of the food places. It’s a funny yet poignant four page essay on how he said goodbye, by visiting and eating at all his favourite food places there in one day. Talk about indigestion; it reminds me of that time a friend and I went to Billy Bombers’ in our youth, and ordered as much as we could to meet the criteria for a major discount. I learned what gluttony meant from that incident, and just how distressing it really can be 😉
Some Food for Thought
The problem with authenticity, an essay
This was one of my favourite essays that explores the definition of authenticity in food. I guess the concept does spill over into all aspects of life as well. The author shares some thoughts on the ‘impurity’ of fusion, what delicious food is to him, and more interesting thoughts (it spans ten pages!). It ends with the statement, “Inauthentic in execution, yet, in the final analysis, spiritually authentic. Whatever that is.”
An Interview with Renown Pastry Chef, Claudia Fleming
Life and how it happens to a cook
I usually read interviews in small doses, as I find prose to be more interesting. But interviews are really good for delving into a person’s mind, and learning a thing or two about life from them. To be honest, I didn’t know who Claudia Fleming is until I read this article. In any case, her life story of struggles and triumphs was very relatable and engrossing. Now, her husband Gerry suffers from amyotrophic muscle disease (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and she talks a little about what life’s like under such circumstances. This article provides a humane perspective, and makes me think we’re all the same at the end of the day as human beings.
On MSG and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome
Another health related topic, ha! I’m pretty sure MSG (monosodium glutamate) makes me itch, and sometimes causes heart pounding in people I know. Does it do anything to you? This article details the history of this perceived link, umami (one of the basic tastes on our tongues), culture and even some science.
Lunch Lists in New York vs San Francisco
I’ve never lived in either city, so this was a great glimpse into lunch hour there. It sounds pretty much the same as it is here in Singapore, but it’s interesting to see what types of foods people prefer there. It was also interesting to see the subtle differences in restaurant types between the two. Plus, the little sketches are cute!
Hardcore Korean Grandmas
Jeju Island and the Haenyo divers
These women dive in frigid waters – sometimes to depths beyond twenty metres – to retrieve morsels for sale. Some of them are even in their 60s and 70s! It was fascinating to read about their way of life, which is healthy, yet one out of necessity. None of the divers wanted their own daughters to become Haenyo, as it is a pretty tough job. These ladies come back from diving and writhe with exhaustion and sleeplessness for days. You can apparently lose all your body fat within three days when diving nonstop.
These women claim to be tougher than other Korean women thanks to their lifestyle, and it is a matriarchal society specific to Jeju Island in South Korea. These independent ladies ‘can just go out to the ocean to dive whenever they need some money’.
It’s also sad to hear first hand how the oceans are being destroyed. Apart from garbage, the underwater environment is definitely dwindling and becoming a wasteland. These women would know – they’ve been diving for decades.
Magazines Make Good, Wordy Reads Too!
Words, words, words!
While this review is one of a magazine and not a book, I wanted to say that I really enjoy reading magazines in general. They are great for delving into a totally different realm in a short span of time. Pretty pictures are always helpful, too! Almost all the articles in this issue are in long form, each taking an average of 15 minutes or more to read. It really is quite like reading a book full of short stories 🙂
For More Insight:
- You Think You Know Umami (article on New Yorker): https://goo.gl/jX4dJ9
- 13 Foods with Natural Umami (article on Readers’ Digest): https://goo.gl/gwu6Kr