Eating Some Words

In today’s noisy, scrappy conversation about food, a pitch-perfect note once in a while bubbles to the top. Bee Wilson, a food historian and author, recently brought us one of those sparkling notes in her review of William Sitwell’s new book, A History of Food in 100 Recipes. Wilson writes reviews in The New Yorker and sometimes her own books, such as Consider The Fork, published by Basic Books in 2012. While offering her thoughts on Sitwell’s attempt to extract historical narratives from Read more [...]

Up and Down an Alp

Yes, just spent a week logging miles upward and downward. After a week in Paris, I joined my family for a week-long adventure in Bohemia, in Grainau, where the alps gather around the border between Germany and Austria. Three of us competed in the Zugspitz Ultratrail Race set in the shadow of the tallest alp in Germany. I ran 25 miles and my two children each ran 42. But the kicker was the 9,000 feet up and 9,000 down for the kids and 6,000 feet up/down for my distance. In the rain, and fog, and over Read more [...]

June 17, Paris

The Sandwich: Jambon/Fromage Tracking down a sandwich is my mission, this one in Paris, and made by the Martin family in the 10th arrondissement.  By tracking down the ingredients for one sandwich, made by one shop, makes the task of understanding how Paris gets fed manageable, although still confusing and complicated. Ingredients for one food item at one location often change from one day to another; bakers buy their yeast from the best supplier at the most reasonable cost, for example.  The Read more [...]

June 15, Paris

Say Cheese Sounds simple, yet Parisians just can’t tell us what kind of cheese they use to make their traditional “jambon/fromage,” or baguette with ham and cheese sandwich. I’ve been asking Parisians now for almost a week and each person declares with absolute conviction that the cheese is Emmanthal. No, actually, it’s Gruyere. Oh, wait. It’s Comte cheese. The ham is another story, but one that exacts almost a sense of apathy, which for a Parisian seems out of character.  The Read more [...]

June 14, Paris, Day Two

Tumbled out of the hotel at 4:30am for a tour of Rungis Market, one of the largest wholesale food markets in the world located southwest of Paris. As the sun rose, we entered the Fish Hall, lights glaring, floor shimmering wet, and white Styrofoam boxes for the length of the icy-cool space. A display market, meaning that buyers and sellers see the fish, touch the merchandise, and settle on prices rather than purchase catches through an online auction system such as buyers in Boston. During the 1960s, Read more [...]

June 13, Paris

Am setting off to track the ingredients of food items made in cities around the world. The purpose is to better understand how cities are fed, mapping out the movements of ingredients from the origin of raw materials to the plate of the consumer. So, starting in Paris, with a simple ham and cheese baguette. Slept all the way through the 10+hour flight to Munich and then on to Paris, arriving during a one-day taxi strike on a rainy day. Am staying in a small hotel, Hotel Verneuil, located on a Read more [...]

Just returned from a three-day feast of ideas in Monterey, California at the seventh EG Conference ( The annual gathering brings together individuals from media, technology, entertainment --- and his year, education. This was my second year attending the event, intrigued by the entirely eclectic group of presenters. Magicians, musicians, jugglers, and acrobats, astronauts, nature photographers, pick pockets, and art forgers, gathered to explore new ways of thinking about Read more [...]