By Maria Popova
Apart from air, there’s hardly anything more integral to our existence than food. Which makes it easy to overlook as utilitarian fuel for ordinary life. But there’s a whole crazy world of extraordinary food-related coolness out there, and we’ve gone and digested it all for you: Here are our top 5 picks for goodies that satisfy both stomach and brain.
Rarely would a company have trouble doing business under any other name. But sometimes the need to convey the nature of your product with utter conviction has such a sense of urgency that it has to start as early as possible: at the name.
This seems to be the case for Edible. — an uber-gourmet virtual shop that caters to the most gastronomically adventurous of us. A delicacy heaven for the foodiest of foodies and a Fear-Factoresque hell for the mere mortals, the online store offers unusual edibles from around the world, all falling outside the realm of ordinary, everyday food and all likely to elicit anything from a raised eyebrow to an uncontrollable gag reflex.
Edible. (whose name actually includes the period that follows it, as in “Trust us, this is edible, period.”) includes an array of foods rarely seen in the Western world but regarded for centuries as delicacies in more exotic cultures.
Chocoholic? They’ve got you covered — with chocolate- covered giant ants from Colombia. Party animal? Scorpion vodka is your thing. Snack junkie? Salted and read-to-eat mopani worms from Africa are calling your name. An all-natural, organic-only eco-nut? It doesn’t get better than monkey-picked tea from China.
And if you feel your confidence in the whole thing begin to shake at any given moment, remind yourself they’ve got that all-convincing period.
EUGENE & LOUISE BAKERY
Oh, the ways in which food can seem inedible. Just like you may have reservations about eating stuff that looks gross, you could have just as hard a time eating something that looks so perfect it might as well belong in a museum.
That’s exactly how we feel about the edibles of Eugene and Louise Bakery. Their cute-as-a-button marzipan treats look like the adorable lovechild of LEGO figurines and those trendy anime-inspired vinyl toys.
The sweet enterprise is the brainchild of three Belgian friends: Glenn D’Hondt and Sylvia Meert (a.k.a. Eugene and Louise) and Tinne Mermans. From the too-sweet-to-eat marzipan treats, to the in-your-face,-Charlie chocolate factory, to their fairytale-like journal, the entire thing tickles our inner child and takes us back to those precious Hansel-and-Gretelesque times when food was full of magic and fun.
There’s long been an intersection between food and art — heck, most chefs would be offended if regarded as anything less than artists. But when one of history’s greatest surrealists lays his art on food, it’s something else entirely.
Melting clocks and table-dripping eggs notwithstanding, Salvador Dali actually illustrated the complex relationship between art and food — literally. In between redefining modern art and stirring up political controversy, the mustached Spaniard wrote and illustrated Les Diners de Gala — a spectacular cookbook that features 136 recipes across 12 categories of supreme European deliciousness, stunningly illustrated and bound with color-illustrated cloth boards in a dustjacket embossed with gold foil.
To our utter befuddlement, the book is now out of print. But you can get your art-hungry hands on a copy for a few hundred bucks and serve a piece of art history at your next dinner party.
The real art of food starts at the production level. We’re not talking about your basic eat-organic, buy-local, humane-farming credo. We’re talking about the deeper, incredibly complex agricultural ecosystem that feeds our food supply.
And no one understands, or utilizes, that ecosystem better than Polyface Farms — a revolutionary Virginia-based farm that works with the ecological, economical and emotional aspects of agriculture, truly brightening our relationship to nature. Founder Joel Salatin says the farm is “in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.”
Polyface has six different species of animals growing in an elaborate symbiotic ecosystem of sustainable agriculture, or permaculture. They’re all engaged in a fascinating bio-ecological dance where they keep each other free of parasites and the manure of one species makes for the grub of another. (Oh man up, this is world-changing stuff here, save the “poop” giggles for 30 Rock.)
Here’s one in-action example: a heard of cows spends a full day grazing a grass area clean. Salatin waits 3 days, then takes the “eggmobile” — a dingy cart full of 350 chickens — onto the grazed land. The hens then cluck their way straight to the cow manure and start digging for their favorite food: maggots. These are the larvae of flies, which would’ve hatched on the 4th day, creating a huge fly problem. (Salatin has waited until they’re as juicy and nutritious as possible to give the chickens maximum protein.)
Meanwhile, the hens are not only spreading the cow manure onto the field, but also contributing their own highly nitrogenous kind. The result? The entire cycle has both the cows and the chickens all happy and full, but it’s also fed the grass: thanks to the brilliant fertilization mechanism, it starts growing madly — 4 weeks later, the entire cycle can repeat itself.
And the only man-made equipment involved in the whole process is the fence surrounding the grass area.
To truly appreciate the incredible importance of such permaculture, check out food ecologist Michael Pollan’s brilliant TED talk and read his eye-opening book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Now that’s food for thought.
SKODA FABIA CAKE
Sure, food is a serious thing these days. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with it. And it’s all the more indulgent when it’s scored to one of the most classically elating and playful songs of all time.
Plus, the word “schnitzel” just makes anything exponentially more fun.
Courtesy of Fallon, London. Yum.
Published May 12, 2008