Cabbage Is Always King
How cultures around the world made a spicy, fermented cheat code to great cooking.
This week’s newsletter is a reprint of my most recent newsletter for TASTE (plus some Snack Cart additions), where I’m part of a rotating cast of newsletter writers. To get my newest stuff as soon as it’s out, subscribe to TASTE.
Is there a food that always surprises you? One that you rarely have but, when you do, you think, “Man, I gotta have this more often!” For me, it’s cabbage. I’m always pleasantly surprised at the humble vegetable’s combination of sweet and savory flavors, whether roasted, braised, or raw. But the best form of cabbage is, of course, slaw.
This week on TASTE, writer Rachel Wharton agrees. She makes the case that cabbage isn’t just an underrated vegetable, it’s actually the king of condiments.
Wharton’s article gives a great history of how cabbage ended up topping dishes across South America and the Southern United States. It also contains a killer slaw recipe that provides an excellent excuse to get more cabbage into your diet.
GQ writer and my parasocial friend extraordinaire Jason Diamond declares his love of jarred pasta sauces as a gateway to a restaurant experience instead of the culinary equivalent of giving up. Also, there’s really nothing wrong with convenience per se!
If you are like me, you may have heard the term “glou-glou” in regard to a bottle of Gamay, but you aren’t quite sure what it means. Danny Chau explains the hippest term in wine.
New-school companies, chefs, and even celebrities are driving innovation in the world of spice blends. It’s a mix of cash grabs and chefs genuinely trying to deliver better products. Either way, make sure you use them up quickly! Spices go limp if they sit in your cupboard too long.
Thanks for reading Snack Cart! It’s the best way to stay on top of my writing, just not always right away.
Quartz’s Weekly Obsession newsletter dives deep (sorry, not sorry) into fish sticks. Read about the history of the fried delights and the state of the industry. For even more fish stick tea, they linked to a podcast from last year on the same topic.
Nathaniel Meyersohn at CNN explores the history of fast food architecture. Changing tastes and the rise of TV advertising have cost McDonald’s its arches and Pizza Hut its . . . huts.
I love reading stories of new restaurants trying to build more sustainable practices by highlighting the food and treating staff better. It doesn’t matter where they are, it makes me optimistic for the future of the country.
One of New York’s most anticipated restaurant openings in 2023 was the Urban Hawker food hall. A vision to bring authentic Singaporean street food to New York has had mostly positive reviews. Writer TW Lim offers another perspective, running down some of the ways that Urban Hawker misses the point of hawker cuisine and culture.
You may have seen a slightly viral tweet last week about Chelmsford-flavored soda. Why is there a soda named after a town in suburban Massachusetts? Boston.com highlights and taste-tests the hyper-regional Massachusetts flavor.
Is Los Angeles the best coffee city in the world? The Los Angeles Times food section makes a compelling case this week that it is. That, combined with Arthur C. Brooks’s argument in the Atlantic that coffee is the secret to happiness, might explain many Angelenos’ sunny dispositions.
Devra First looks into the electrification of restaurant kitchens. Opinions are mixed, but I really appreciate the chefs who say, “I can cook great food on anything.”
Jaya Saxena explores the complicated and hilarious gatekeeping that’s popular on Black Twitter whenever mainstream publications highlight traditionally black dishes or cuisine.
If you lived through the cocktail days of the ’00s, then you know Chartreuse. The French spirit is in the news because the monks who make it have announced they will be limiting production to focus on quality of product and their quality of life. Way to go, monks! Jason Wilson has a great edition of his newsletter, Everyday Drinking, where he tells you everything you need to know about the spirit.
Hope’s wine meme of the week
William Kelley used to be a relatively unknown wine writer who was well respected for highlighting niche producers and Burgundy in particular. Since the end of 2021, he's been the main Burgundy, Champagne, and Bordeaux critic for The Wine Advocate, arguably the most influential wine magazine. Now, he's highlighting smaller producers on a much larger platform, increasing demand (and likely their price). Basically: if he writes about a wine you like, RIP to your chances of finding it.
The Wine Advocate was founded by the infamous Robert Parker, a writer completely changed the wine industry, particularly in Bordeaux (where I work). It was a bit of a surprise when Kelley was hired to write about Bordeaux, since he doesn’t have many ties to the region. Kelley's fans thought he was selling out while people in Bordeaux worried he wouldn't judge the region fairly. Wine scores might seem like just a marketing tactic, but scores for collectable and investment grade (read: expensive) wines can have a huge financial impact on a winery and lasting consequences.
I have ascended to the landed gentry of New Yorkers who own a dishwasher. Turns out that dishwashers have filters that need cleaning. Bon Appétit runs down how to find yours and how to keep it sparkling.
I’m into cooking from concepts rather than recipes these days. If I can remember the basic ratios behind salad dressing, I can make almost any amount quickly. Knowing the steps to a simple stir-fry makes it easy to cook dinner regardless of what’s in the fridge. Hetty McKinnon has a great example of how to think this way in her recipe for Singapore noodles. I’ve actually been making a ton of yakisoba, which is very similar.
Other great recipes to learn that are really concepts:
kimchi ketchup(!) fried rice,
any-vegetable toasties, and
Watch, stream, listen
Unapologetic Foods is the hottest restaurant group in New York, with restaurants like Adda, Dhamaka, Rowdy Rooster, and more making it seem like they can’t miss. Matt interviews chef and cofounder Chintan Pandya about his success and the current state of Indian food in America.
Last week at TASTE was restaurant critic week, which I can’t neglect to mention. I’m a deep fan (obsessive) of restaurant criticism, and Matt interviewed some of my favorite writers:
Hannah Goldfield, the Tables for Two columnist at the New Yorker, talks about the decline of the celebrity chef and her thoughts on The Menu.
Ryan Sutton was just laid off from Eater New York, where he was the main restaurant critic. I loved this candid discussion about how he is doing personally and his thoughts on the craft of restaurant criticism broadly.
Bill Addison, the food critic for the Los Angeles Times, talks about the state of Los Angeles food and dives into some of the nuts and bolts of hitting a weekly deadline in a city of that scope.
It’s not about food, but Starz’s Party Down was one of the best depictions of food service ever. The cult classic is back with a new season that is getting strong reviews.
Saveur rounds up iconic ’90s food commercials. Watching these will trot you down memory lane—or demonstrate just how weird Gen X advertising was.
NPR’s Consider This looks at the science behind the gas vs. electric stove debate. This is a comprehensive and extremely NPR look at this issue, with many angles and questions considered.
Out of context J. Gold of the week
The best Cuban sandwiches, I insist, are made with damp, mediocre baguettes, which crisp without drying out, giving the ingredients a chance to meld and the edges of the meat to become brown and crunchy – artisanal Cubans don’t stand a chance. - link
Thanks for reading Snack Cart! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.