Opinion: Pancakes Are the Next Fetish Carb

Meghan McCarron wrote . . . . . . . . .

At MeMe’s, the queer-centric Brooklyn diner of the moment, a sexy cocoa Dutch baby arrives crowned with a halved banana, whipped cream, and a cherry. In Los Angeles, a new restaurant called Breakfast serves a menu of “oatmeal griddle cakes,” which it will make gluten free but won’t serve with syrup. The Lakewood in Durham serves a stack of sourdough pancakes with sorghum syrup; June’s All Day in Austin serves its with sour cherries. Across the vast swath of America, viral flapjacks proliferate, whether it’s baklava pancakes with a slice of actual baklava up top at Salt and Honey Bakery in El Paso, or pancakes sandwiching bright-purple ube at Truffles N Bacon Cafe in Las Vegas.

The still-subtle uptick of #PancakeContent on Instagram is creating the conditions for ever-growing cravings for pancakes. I am sorry to tell you this, but the cycle weathered by other comforting, wheat-based foodstuffs — to be embraced, memed, and disavowed in a ritualistic self-loathing pattern — is beginning again. Avocado toast is over. Jam-slathered brioche is done. It’s pancakes’ time.

This is not because fancy pancakes are new. The lemon-ricotta pancake is a brunch staple at higher-end restaurants; Dutch baby manias regularly sweep America. Sqirl has been serving a deeply weird and wonderful buckwheat-cactus pancake slathered in a cacao-nib pudding for years. Pancakes never went anywhere. They are just here to be rediscovered, like sunny-side-up eggs, and bacon, and toast — all of which, incidentally, have experienced mass fetish cycles over the past 15 years.

There’s a distinction between a trend and a fetish. Food trends are bellwethers of social aspiration and cultural exchange, or recognition of individual chefs’ importance, whether it’s Nancy Silverton sparking the burrata craze at Osteria Mozza or David Chang popularizing the pork bun. Trends are also kind of boring to anyone who doesn’t have a professional stake in the restaurant world — is the cresting mania for farro or an emerging hunger for raita compelling to anyone who doesn’t make, obsessively eat, and/or write about said whole grains or yogurt-based condiments? I am eternally hopeful, but all my friends tell me: no.

But a food fetish commands the attention of a much larger portion of the discourse, including people with somewhat sane relationships to food. A trend can become a fetish, but the fetish is less about novelty than emotional appeal. The foodstuff must be abundant and cheap, but not so abundant nor so cheap that it doesn’t seem special; it must be both comforting and forbidden. The fetish most often manifests as a $12 version of what’s usually a $4 dish, pricing out everyday consumers with what could be genuinely wonderful ingredients and technique, or just a lot of useless bling (vegan charcoal croissant and gold-leaf soft serve… congratulations).

These fetishes probably existed before the internet, but blogs and social platforms, especially Instagram, have accelerated the cycle and supercharged their conversion from genuine enthusiasms to conspicuously consumed objects. Think burgers, think tacos, think pizza, think soft serve, think toast — or, for fetishization’s (even) shittier manifestation, consider the current exoticizing fascination with tumeric and mezcal and kimchi and “authentic” tacos. The roots of a fetish are not a new ingredients or technique — they are cultural capital, whether that’s childhood nostalgia or contextless othering or, in the worst timelines, both. The most fetishized dish of all, avocado toast, neatly combines both fatty gluten comfort and a vague yet powerful suggestion that white people finally found the proper use for avocados.

Signs that pancakes are emerging as the new comfort carb, an on-ramp to fetish status, abound. All those enticing ’grams, for one. A stack of pancakes presents pleasingly organic, asymmetrical ovals when shot from above, especially if they are scattered with strawberries; a vertical stack offers teetering, syrup-drenched abundance.

But an ugly pancake is still a good pancake, and pancakes are not aspirational beyond the aspiration of going out to eat. People who could care less about stylish eating will declare their loyalty to pancakes over waffles on Twitter. One of the cheapest options at the cheapest meal, breakfast, which is the only meal an entire circle of friends in their 20s and 30s can currently afford to share together, pancakes are appealing at the all-day cafe and the old-school diner alike. Many millennials’ childhoods ran on Bisquick weekend mornings; the suburban teenage years of a not-insignificant number of media types turned on 2 a.m. diner pancakes with a cigarette and a shitty coffee and a sense of definitely getting away with something.

There’s even a delightful, fuck-your-healthy-toast meme: pancakes for the table. As masterfully broken down by Lindsay Robertson at Marie Claire, like all great memes, pancakes for the table has been around forever: a throwaway line by Liza Treyger in her set on Late Night with Seth Meyers in November 2016, the Twitter campaign of comedian Ian Karmel, a Twitter account with 16 followers launched in 2012, the subject of several tweets in 2010. The concept also predates all of this: The writer Zan Romanoff told me her college friends did the “pancakes for the table” thing long before it was a low-key meme, ordering a round while out for brunch in the mid-aughts. It is the perfect strategy for a carb-fearing moment, the pleasure of pancakes without the obligation of just eating pancakes, or pinning the guilt of ordering such a sugary, non-nutritionally-correct dish on any one person — hey, blame the table!

There’s a bleak pride to be taken in the fact that, as massive corporations and privileged food scolds vie to shape cultural tastes, the culture responds by staring at, fantasizing about, making, and eating an extremely normal dish until it becomes furiously symbolic. Are pancakes in for the kind of food-fetish ride that profits cultural grifters and thrives on ugly assumptions about whose food matters and why? God, I hope not.

If the full fetishization does take hold, the one thread of hope is that the dish is robust enough to survive it. Pancakes, if you define the term loosely, are one of humanity’s oldest foods; they can bear the symbolic weight. Extremely online Americans might get sick of looking at pancakes, or talking about pancakes, but it’s hard to imagine ever becoming tired of eating them.

Source: Eater

Spanish-style Braised Chicken with Figs

Ingredients

1/2 cup medium-sweet white wine
pared rind of 1/2 lemon
3 to 3-1/2 lb chicken, jointed into 8 pieces
2 oz lardons, or thick bacon cut into strips
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chicken stock, boiling
salt and freshly ground
black pepper
green salad, to serve

Spiced Figs

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 lemon slice
1 cinnamon stick
1 lb fresh figs

Method

  1. To prepare the figs, put the sugar, vinegar, lemon slice and cinnamon stick in a pan with 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the figs to the syrup in the pan, cover, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and leave, covered, for 3 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  4. Drain the figs, and place them in a bowl. Add the wine and lemon rind. Season the chicken.
  5. In a large frying pan, cook the lardons or bacon strips until the fat melts and they turn golden. Transfer to a shallow ovenproof dish, leaving any fat in the pan.
  6. Add the oil to the pan and brown the chicken pieces all over.
  7. Drain the figs, adding the wine to the pan with the chicken. Boil until the sauce has reduced and is syrupy.
  8. Transfer the contents of the frying pan to the ovenproof dish and cook in the oven, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
  9. Add the figs and boiling chicken stock, cover the dish and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the chicken feels cooked through when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Serve with a green salad.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Best of Spain

In Pictures: Sueno Restaurant in Hong Kong, China

Spanish Cuisine

The Restaurant

Following Five Healthy Lifestyle Habits May Increase Life Expectancy by Decade or More

Maintaining five healthy habits—eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not drinking too much alcohol, and not smoking—during adulthood may add more than a decade to life expectancy, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers also found that U.S. women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65% less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly 30-year study period.

The study is the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of adopting low-risk lifestyle factors on life expectancy in the U.S. It was published online April 30, 2018 in Circulation.

Americans have a shorter average life expectancy—79.3 years—than almost all other high-income countries. The U.S. ranked 31st in the world for life expectancy in 2015. The new study aimed to quantify how much healthy lifestyle factors might be able to boost longevity in the U.S.

Harvard Chan researchers and colleagues looked at 34 years of data from 78,865 women and 27 years of data from 44,354 men participating in, respectively, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The researchers looked at how five low-risk lifestyle factors—not smoking, low body mass index (18.5-24.9 kg/m2), at least 30 minutes or more per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, moderate alcohol intake (for example, up to about one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for women, or up to two glasses for men), and a healthy diet—might impact mortality.

For study participants who didn’t adopt any of the low-risk lifestyle factors, the researchers estimated that life expectancy at age 50 was 29 years for women and 25.5 years for men. But for those who adopted all five low-risk factors, life expectancy at age 50 was projected to be 43.1 years for women and 37.6 years for men. In other words, women who maintained all five healthy habits gained, on average, 14 years of life, and men who did so gained 12 years, compared with those who didn’t maintain healthy habits.

Compared with those who didn’t follow any of the healthy lifestyle habits, those who followed all five were 74% less likely to die during the study period. The researchers also found that there was a dose-response relationship between each individual healthy lifestyle behavior and a reduced risk of early death, and that the combination of all five healthy behaviors was linked with the most additional years of life.

“This study underscores the importance of following healthy lifestyle habits for improving longevity in the U.S. population,” said Frank Hu, chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “However, adherence to healthy lifestyle habits is very low. Therefore, public policies should put more emphasis on creating healthy food, built, and social environments to support and promote healthy diet and lifestyles.”

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Music Activates Regions of the Brain Spared by Alzheimer’s Disease

Ever get chills listening to a particularly moving piece of music? You can thank the salience network of the brain for that emotional joint. Surprisingly, this region also remains an island of remembrance that is spared from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the University of Utah Health are looking to this region of the brain to develop music-based treatments to help alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia. Their research will appear in the April online issue of The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety” said Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at U of U Health and contributing author on the study. “We believe music will tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning.”

Previous work demonstrated the effect of a personalized music program on mood for dementia patients. This study set out to examine a mechanism that activates the attentional network in the salience region of the brain. The results offer a new way to approach anxiety, depression and agitation in patients with dementia. Activation of neighboring regions of the brain may also offer opportunities to delay the continued decline caused by the disease.

For three weeks, the researchers helped participants select meaningful songs and trained the patient and caregiver on how to use a portable media player loaded with the self-selected collection of music.

“When you put headphones on dementia patients and play familiar music, they come alive,” said Jace King, a graduate student in the Brain Network Lab and first author on the paper. “Music is like an anchor, grounding the patient back in reality.”

Using a functional MRI, the researchers scanned the patients to image the regions of the brain that lit up when they listened to 20-second clips of music versus silence. The researchers played eight clips of music from the patient’s music collection, eight clips of the same music played in reverse and eight blocks of silence. The researchers compared the images from each scan.

The researchers found that music activates the brain, causing whole regions to communicate. By listening to the personal soundtrack, the visual network, the salience network, the executive network and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs all showed significantly higher functional connectivity.

“This is objective evidence from brain imaging that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease,” said Norman Foster, M.D., Director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Care at U of U Health and senior author on the paper. “Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”

However, these results are by no means conclusive. The researchers note the small sample size (17 participants) for this study. In addition, the study only included a single imaging session for each patient. It is remains unclear whether the effects identified in this study persist beyond a brief period of stimulation or whether other areas of memory or mood are enhanced by changes in neural activation and connectivity for the long term.

“In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max,” Anderson said. “No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life.”

Source: EurekAlert!


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