Gravy, curry, casserole, beef stew ─ some of humanity’s most comforting, aromatic foods are the least photogenic. At Serious Eats, Kat Kinsman analyzes America’s obsession with culinary appearances and makes the case for learning to measure food by other, non-visual standards.
I’ve been thinking about ugly food, and ugly things in general, for an awfully long time now. I still remember using my post as a high school yearbook editor to make sure the wallflower kids were just as well represented as the tall poppies in our class. Sure, they weren’t the prettiest of the bunch, but I felt a certain solidarity with them. I knew we had a special value all our own. As a girl who figured I’d never measure up as lovely enough (mostly because so many people flat-out told me so), I had always identified with the ugly and the overlooked—the teddy bear with the wonky eye, the holey thrift store dress. I understood these things. I celebrated them.
The foods that pleased me the most were the objectively ugly ones: the stews, gravies, gumbos, curries, goulashes, mashes, braises, and sauces that were cooked long and low until they slumped and thickened. Maybe I knew that these foods, like all the ugly ducklings in this world, had to work harder to get their proper due. It takes time and effort to transubstantiate flour and fat into cocoa-dark roux, a rough hunk of muscle into sumptuous brisket, and raw, tough leaves and tops into sweet, savory greens. Time, it seems, can make some foods taste like heaven, and look like hell.
Jeff Sharlet | Longreads | February 2015 | 24 minutes (5,994 words)
Mary Mazur, 61, set off near midnight to buy her Thanksgiving turkey. She took her plant with her. “He doesn’t like to be left alone,” she later explained. The plant rode in a white cart, Mary in her wheelchair. With only one hand to wheel herself, the other on the cart, she’d push the left wheel forward, switch hands, push the right. Left, right, cursing, until a sweet girl found her, and wheeled her into Crown Fried Chicken. “Do not forget my plant!” she shouted at the girl. I held the door. // “I have a problem with my foot,” she said—the left one, a scabbed stump, purple in the cold. Her slipper wouldn’t stay on. // Mary wore purple. Purple sweats, purple fleece. 30 degrees. “I bet you have a coat,” she said. Not asking, just observing. Measuring the distance. Between us. Between her and her turkey. Miles away. “You’ll freeze,” I said. “I’ll starve,” she said. I offered her chicken. “I have to have my turkey!” Also, a microwave. Her motel didn’t have one. // “Nobody will help you,” she said. “Not even if you’re bleeding from your two eyes.” // Two paramedics from the fire department. Two cops. An ambulance, two EMTs. “I didn’t call you!” she shouted. “I don’t care who called me,” said one of the cops. One of the paramedics put on blue latex gloves. “She won’t go without this—this friggin’ plant,” he said. “You’ll go,” said the cop. “You’re not my husband!” said Mary. The cop laughed. “Thank god,” he said. The whole gang laughed. One of them said maybe her plant was her husband. That made them laugh, too. “I’m not going!” said Mary. “Your plant is going,” said the cop. Mary caved. Stood on one foot. “Don’t touch me!” They lowered her onto the stretcher. “Let me hold it,” she said. “What?” said the EMT. “The plant,” said the cop. He lifted it out of the cart. “Be careful!” she shouted. He smirked but he was. “Thank you,” she rasped, her shouting all gone. Mary Mazur, 61, shrank into the blankets, muttering into the leaves, whispering to her only friend.
With over 100,000Instagram followers, photographer Ruddy Roye came of age in Jamaica, and has lived in New York City since 2001. He has photographeddancehall musicians and fans,sapeurs of the Congo, the Caribbean CarnivalJ’ouvert, recent protests inFerguson and inNew York, and the faces of the many people he meets and observes every day. Roye is perhaps best known for his portraits taken around his neighborhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn—pictures of the homeless, the disenfranchised, and those who Roye believes aren’t often fully seen.
In Roye’s Instagram profile, he describes himself as an “Instagram Humanist/Activist,” and when looking at his portraits, the phrase that comes to mind is “up close.” Roye is closer to his subjects—who he calls his “collaborators”—than is typical in street photography, in terms of actual proximity as well as identification. Each picture, he says, contains a piece of him. With this closeness, Roye creates images that can be harrowing, disturbing, joyful and striking. If they are sometimes difficult to look at, one has more trouble looking away.Read more…
Jeff Sharlet | Longreads | September 2014 | 12 minutes (2,802 words)
Dunkin Donuts, West Lebanon, New Hampshire
The night shift, for me, is a luxury, the freedom to indulge my insomnia by writing at a Dunkin Donuts, one of the only places up here open at midnight. But lately my insomnia doesn’t feel like such a gift. Too much to think about. So click, click, goes the camera—the phone—looking for other people’s stories. This is Mike’s: He’s 34, he’s been a night baker for a year, and tonight is his last shift. Come 6 a.m., “no more uniform.” He decided to start early. He’s going to be a painter. “What kind?” I ask. “Well, I’m painting a church…” He started that early, too. “So I’m working, like, eighty hour days.” He means weeks, but who cares? The man is tired. He doesn’t like baking. Rotten pay, rotten hours, rotten work. “You don’t think. It’s just repetition.” Painting, you pay attention. “You can’t be afraid up there.” He means the ladder, the roof. “I’m not afraid,” he says. He’s a carpenter’s helper. “I can do anything.” He says he could be a carpenter. “But it hasn’t happened.” Why bake? “Couldn’t get a job.” Work’s like that, he says, there are bad times. Everything’s like that, he says. There are bad times. “Who’s the tear for?” The tattoo by his right eye. “For my son,” he says. “Who died when he was two months old.” That’s all he’ll say about that. “This next job will be better,” he says. Read more…
Affiliate marketing is almost as old as the Internet; it developed back in 1994 thanks to pornography sites, and it was implemented by Jeff Bezos at Amazon shortly afterward. Here’s how it works: Say you search for flights on Priceline. The hyperlinked airfare results aren’t just any old links. They’re affiliate links. The act of clicking one saves a Priceline cookie to your browser before sending you on to the airline’s website. If you buy the ticket, the airline website will see Priceline’s cookie and will pay Priceline a commission. Affiliate marketing companies like Commission Junction and Linkshare, which created these trackable links, were aimed at developers. A company called Skimlinks made them easier to implement, but it didn’t focus on the fashion market. Baxter, who had interned at a tech start-up in San Francisco, saw an opportunity. If they could make it easy for bloggers to integrate affiliate links to retailers into their posts, everyone involved stood to profit. Retailers could make more sales. Bloggers could earn commissions. And a company that facilitated the transaction and negotiated the commission could take part of the proceeds. After all, many prominent bloggers were already including retail links in their #OOTD (“outfit of the day”) posts anyway.
Sitting at Starbucks, Amber could immediately envision the company. She decided it should be called rewardStyle, and while she was designing the logo on a napkin, Baxter used his iPhone to register the domain name. By February 2011, they had a test platform for the site. She reached out to a few blogger friends and asked them to try it out. “You don’t have to pay anything, you don’t have to sign any contracts, you just have to see if you start making money,” Amber said.