Bread and Salt: A Zine of Food History
Number 3 - Summer 2006
The brainchild of Tim Miller, Bread and Salt is one of the most readable, thoughtful zines I've ever stumbled across. Unassumingly bound inside a sheet of blue paper, it combines thoughtful criticism and history with fascinating illustrative material of food and food preparation throughout time. Putting substance above style (many zines take the other approach, sometimes to their credit but often not), Bread and Salt brings wit to food's interesting past.
This issue kicks off with an editorial of sorts that bemoans how food is handled in and by the mass media. He has a big gripe with the food channel's total privileging of Italian cuisine at the expense of all others, and rightfully so. While Italian food has a vast cultural capital (one can almost instantly understand Roland Barthes' use of "Italianicity" in examining the semiological meaning of an Italian food advertisement), it seems to have peaked in popularity. People speak of loving the ambiance, tastes, and experiences of Ethiopian, Lebanese, and Indian restaurants, yet few who did not grow up in those national traditions dare to try making these foods for themselves. I find his criticisms of food culture at large to be refreshing.
Miller writes a brief bit about "Authenticity," a very contested idea for the gastronomically-minded. We all "remember" how good our Grandmother's cookies were as a child...30 years down the road, we desperately claw to find that lost bit of reality. Miller suggests that, while the food of out past might have tasted very yummy, we often over-imagine its worth in memory and thus grapple with whether or not it really tasted that good to begin with. As a little thought exercise, just imagine the foods of your youth that you no longer have access to, but then really question if you are simply making a Romantic overvaluation. 9 times out of 10 I think I do.
The "meat and potatoes" of this issue of the zine is an exploration of Soda Fountains. Using a Prohibition-era book called The Dispenser's Formulary as a launch pad, it delves into the thriving icon of the Soda Fountain. Miller reveals that milkshakes, ice creams, and other treats used to be made with different ingredients and for a crowd with differing expectations. Eye-opening recipes accompany.
Last up are book reviews: Miller brings an expert's eye to Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776, Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and this Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine, and Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America.
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Writer on film, culture, art, media, and music.