A Peach, a Tomato and a Fine Rosy Mist


Welcome to Read This Now, a recurring feature in which Gut Check recommends books, longer articles and other material worth an investment of your time.

Lucky Peach is a new quarterly food magazine founded by Momofuku chef David Chang and food writer Peter Meehan and published by McSweeney's. The newsstand cost is $10 per issue, but for that price you receive nearly 200 beautifully designed pages with articles, recipes and food-porn-level photography -- and without advertising.

The subject of the first issue is ramen. There is a lengthy travelogue of Chang and Meehan's trip through some of Japan's most revered ramen restaurants, a handy guide to regional ramen styles and even recipes that use dry instant-ramen noodles as an ingredient.

The writing is generally very good. The only duds are a history of instant-ramen founder Momofuku Ando that reads like a school report and a short Anthony Bourdain essay analyzing Chang through a couple of movies that scans partly as an inside joke, partly as a public blowjob. Bourdain fans will want to skip instead to the transcript of him, Chang and WD-50 chef Wylie Dufresne discussing mediocrity in cooking.

Tomatoland is a new book from award-winning food writer Barry Estabrook. The subtitle lays out its subject: "How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit." Including this is a cheat on my part, as I have yet to read it. However, earlier this week, I heard Estabrook interviewed on Fresh Air, and his book immediately leapt to the top of my must-read list. The interview is certainly worth a listen, even if you aren't ready to commit to reading the entire book.

Finally, for those who have a strong stomach and are not yet exhausted by inside accounts of industrial meat production, the current issue of Mother Jones has a lengthy, disturbing article by Ted Genoways called "The  Spam Factory's Dirty Secret," an investigation into illnesses among workers at the plant that produces the (in)famous lunch meat for Hormel.

It begins with a worker named Matthew Garcia, removing brains from the pigs:

On the other side, Garcia inserted the metal nozzle of a 90-pounds-per-square-inch compressed-air hose and blasted the pigs' brains into a pink slurry. One head every three seconds. A high-pressure burst, a fine rosy mist, and the slosh of brains slipping through a drain hole into a catch bucket. (Some workers say the goo looked like Pepto-Bismol; others describe it as more like a lumpy strawberry milkshake.)


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