Jodi Ettenberg is the founder of Legal Nomads, a contributing editor to Longreads and Travelreads, and the author of The Food Traveler’s Handbook.

It is always hard to narrow down my favourites from a full 12 months of longreading, so here are five—but certainly not all—of the standouts from the last year. They’re food-themed, mainly because my last year has also been focused on writing and learning about food. 

1. ”The Cosmopolitan Condiment,” Dan Jurafsky, Slate 

I’ve sent this article to more people than I can count, and love the responses I’ve received “Ketchup comes from China?!” The full piece is worth reading, in part because what makes food so fascinating is not only where it is eaten but also where it came from, and how it is what it is today. Ketchup, once a fermented fish sauce from China, is now a sweet tomato condiment we all know and many of us love. You’ll never look at a bottle the same way again once you read this great piece. 

2. “Adjika: Sauce of Glory, Pride of Abhazia,” Oliver Bullough, Roads & Kingdoms

Adjika holds a special place in my heart, having brightened up many a meal and been a source of great conversation on the road. A red and fiery condiment from the Caucuses, adija is brought to life beautifully in this Roads & Kingdoms piece.

It was like the sun had risen in my mouth. Instead of the cold lumpiness of wood pulp, there was a spreading glow of summer: garlic, chilli, salt, and a dozen other spices I could not identify. I looked up in amazement and picked up the little dish of red sauce to smell it. The old woman smiled again.
“That’s adjika,” she said.

Worth a read for anyone who likes food and travel.

3. “Manufacturing Taste,” Sasha Chapman, The Walrus

As a Canadian, I grew up referring to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese as “KD”, and had no idea this was not a worldwide phenomenon until midway through 2010, and I was appalled to hear that my American friends did not adopt this affectionate nickname. I’m not the only one.  As author Sasha Chapman notes: ”The point is, it’s nearly impossible to live in Canada without forming an opinion about one of the world’s first and most successful convenience foods. In 1997, sixty years after the first box promised ‘dinner in seven minutes — no baking required,’ we celebrated by making Kraft Dinner the top-selling grocery item in the country.” 

The Walrus investigates the history and current state Canada’s strange love for KD.

4. “Bread of Beirut,” Annia Ciezadlo, Granta

A beautiful piece about communal bakeries in the Middle East and how these centuries-old traditions become new again during times of war. 

5. “A Fish Story,” Alison Fairbrother, The Washington Monthly

A must-read about a tiny silvery fish called the menhaden and how crucial it is to the ecosystem of our oceans. 

Bonus non-food longreads:
• “Another Night to Remember,” Bryan Burrough, Vanity Fair
• “Ivory Worship,” Bryan Christy, National Geographic 
• “The Soul of a City,” Matt Goulding, Roads & Kingdoms


Read more guest picks from Longreads Best of 2012.