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cupcakes and gangs (and goats).

May 8, 2011

map of gang territories and cupcake shops in the mission, san francisco

This is an interesting map/infographic.  Not so much because it displays a multitude of complicated information in a really easily accessible format (because it doesn’t really contain all that much information) but because it sort of pushes us to rethink things…what drew me to this image is summed up pretty well in their little blurb on the south side…about gangs and cupcakes existing in separate worlds, and about reinterpreting our surroundings.  I’ve found myself in some “unsavory” areas of cities, for the sole purpose of trying some hole in the wall restaurant that is supposed to be amazing…food has gotten me out and exploring parts of cities that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise ventured to.  There’s an article accompanying the above image over at Mission Local’s website and I would encourage you to give it a read.

I am not going to lie.  My mind has constantly been wandering and preparing and trying to figure out what I’m going to write for this month.  So broad, so much to talk about.  And I do love food and food politics…you’re going to no doubt get a lot of different stuff thrown at you this month.  You will get some fairly straight forward food geography stuff…particularly in relation to coffee, tea and chocolate, I would guess.  But you’ll also see some discussion on agriculture/aquaculture, on food policy, food economics, food conflict, discussions on food and eating and gastronomy and the foodie movement and the slow food movement and the local food movement.  It’s gonna get crazy.  I hope.  That’s my aspiration because I know this is something Sam and I are both really into.  It’s probably two of our favorite things…geography and food…smashed together.  Also I’m just finishing up a semester which involved a class in world food systems and Sam recently finished a food and eating geography class.  These classes are no doubt worlds apart though…for a few reasons…Sam is in Seattle, in Western Washington, which has a very different food climate than out here in the Midwest…very different agricultural practices…he’s more or less in the land of the small, organic farm/garden while I’m more or less in the land of agribusiness soy and corn (and also swine).  I’m also at a land-grant university that has a huge focus on agriculture…his class is through the geography department…one very focused on critical geographies and theory and social issues, while my class is through the agronomy and applied plant sciences departments.  Very different atmospheres and relationships with foods.  I hope you are able to reap the benefits of these two very different environments in which we’re both working…and by that I suppose I mean I hope we can share them with you.

Usually, for me, my interest in something sparks an interest in the geography of it.  I’m into physical culture…leads to an interest in the geography of it.  But it has recently happened the opposite direction for me.  I have long been fascinated by the geography and science of coffee…the variations in different beans in different locales and the different roasting processes and brewing methods.  So fascinating.  But here’s the thing…diehard tea drinker right here.  Couldn’t stand coffee.  Didn’t touch the stuff.  But I didn’t really feel like I could geek out on coffee if I didn’t drink it.  Firstly I felt like a poser, but secondly and probably most importantly I couldn’t experience a lot of the effects of the geograhical location.  I mean, sure, I could in the sense of looking at worker issues and harvesting methods and economics…but I couldn’t experience the different flavors, etc.  And to be honest I was also afraid of becoming one of those snobby, coffee hipster people.  But then I read this article, and realized my interest in brew methods and coffee geographies isn’t so much vested in having the “best” coffee…because there’s a fairly subjective call…but more in the scientific process of experimenting.  So, I started attempting to drink coffee in preparation for this month (though I will probably leave the coffee discussions to Sam and I’ll focus on tea since he’s much more versed in coffee than I am).  I started off with mochas.  Which is somewhat strange since I’ve always hated coffee flavored things…like ice creams with coffee flavors.  But I love hot chocolate, and it turns out coffee flavored things are quite different than things with actual coffee in them.  So I did the mochas.  And then I tried to jump to drip but that was rough.  Plus Sam was talking about Americanos so I decided to do Americanos with a little shot of chocolate.  I enjoy these very much.  I’m able to do straight drip or Americanos now, and get some enjoyment out of them, but the Americano with just a dash of chocolate will probably remain my go-to.  It adds a nice sweetness without the straight sugar, which I am not a fan of.  Also I’ve convinced myself the theobromine in the chocolate helps smooth the caffeine high and come down.  So in this case…an interest in the geography came before an interest or use of the actual product.  Which is cool.  I still strongly dislike coffee flavored ice creams and things though.  I’ve begun experimenting with brew methods a little bit, and different roasts and different beans…but I don’t feel my coffee palate is yet experienced enough to really be able to reap the benefits of these variations.  However, I have been experimenting with coffee companions.  Scones are currently winning.  Wow.  Scones and coffee…so good together.  Better than muffins.  And any other pastry really (yeah, even donuts most of the time).  I’ve also heard coffee goes well with cigarettes, but that’s a vice I have so far avoided and hope to continue to avoid.  But back to scones.  I have tried a number of different scone “flavors” in combination with my coffee…they’re all good.  I haven’t yet been able to discern why I prefer scones as my coffee companions.  I’ve always enjoyed scones…perhaps it’s rooted in the fact that one of the best pastries I’ve ever had was the scones at the coffee shop in Port Townsend where my sister worked.  And they’re not too sweet.  And (when done well) a really nice texture…not doughy, but not too crumbly…and you can break off little chunks.  Anyway, the British definitely did something right in bringing the scone to such prominence, and props to the Scottish for inventing it in the first place.  On another food note, I’ve been informed that there’s not really any root beer to be had in the British Isles…despite my love of your scones, this is an oversight I can’t quite get over and is something I feel like should be addressed.  Anyway.  Coffee and Scones.  Like that.  All capitalized and stuff.

I’m not sure what will turn up this month…or how I will be changed and impacted by it.  I know there’s a guest post that will hopefully be happening that I’m really pretty excited about.  I like goats.  I hope you do too.  It’ll be good.  I’m looking forward to delving deeper into the stories, histories, and geographies of some of my favorite foods.  I’m looking forward to reading this stockpile of articles I’ve bookmarked on the current global food situation from all sorts of people who agree and disagree with one another on various aspects of the situation.  Probably those three things are what I’m most looking forward to this month and that I reckon I’ll learn the most from.  But who knows…I might get blind sided by something amazing that I could in no way predict would come crashing into my life.

Awhile back, in our first month in existence, Sam had a post that shared some images from a book looking at what families in different parts of the world consume…it’s interesting on a number of levels…not just in the amount of food consumed, or the superficial differences in types of foods, but looking at the food and really thinking about the nutritional implications of that food.  One of my best friend is a sports nutritionist at the University of Florida and I think it would be interesting to sit down and flip through the book with her and see how differently she and I interpret the food on the table, and to just hear her thoughts on it.  Anyway, on a related note, and also sort of inspired by this whole conversation about Africa’s rising middle class (which also refers us to the question of why we continue to so often lump an entire continent together and discuss it as if it’s some small country in which sweeping generalizations might actually mean something throughout the region…I am by no means adequately educated on the issues of Africa as a continent, or any of the countries contained within it but it’s hard for me to find much meaning in most articles discussing changes documented in “Africa,” but that’s another discussion for some other time), is this graphic looking at what percentage of their income different countries in the world spend on food.  There is obviously a lot of unseen specifics lurking in these stats…particularly regarding the quality and quantity of food that is procured for the given amount of money…but it’s an interesting map all the same.  For more information on the whole Africa’s rising middle class conversation go here, here, and/or here.  The fact that so much of Africa falls into the “no data” category is fairly telling in and of itself…particularly when one looks at the countries for which there is data.

And in closing, since it’s Mother’s Day (yeah, I know, Hallmark Holiday, all that good stuff…still, never hurts to give the moms a shout out and show some love, even though we shouldn’t need a designated holiday for it), I thought I would share this post on “The 10 Worse Places to be an Expectant Mother.”  I do love to end things on happy notes though so…in the epitome of happy, and to prepare you for a guest post coming this month…goats!


(This picture was actually stolen from the person who will be guest posting this month, of whom you will know more about later…but not too much.)  Cheers!


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