What's Good?

News about food and fitness technologies, thoughts about traditions and spring

Welcome to the Friday edition of the Second Breakfast soft launch. What’s good?

Here in the Bay Area, the weather is finally good. Spring has sprung, if you will. The rains have stopped, the sun is out, and the trees and flowers in full bloom. Super bloom, even. The geese at the lake have started their broods; so at least now I feel like they're justified in acting like assholes — hissing and charging — as I run past them.

California Poppies...

Although we tend to think of "tradition" as something that is enduring inalterable, there's always the tension between the cultural forces of maintenance and the cultural pressures to change. Traditions are much more mutable than we often care to admit. For as powerful as traditions might seem to be, they're quite easily "lost" — a disruption in the transfer of knowledge and in the practice of a behavior that can be intentional, unintentional, malicious, or liberatory.

I've been thinking quite a bit about food traditions this week — I mean, I am always thinking about food, I'll be honest, as I revisit my own family's ways of eating and cooking and learn about others'. I briefly considered baking hot cross buns, for example — a traditional Good Friday treat. But I'm not a big fan of raisins, so I didn't. I tried eating rice pudding — if a dessert can be an arch-nemesis, this is mine. And nope. I still hate it; I can only taste the childhood trauma I associate with it. We ate a "ja ban bae" at Good to Eat Dumplings, a local Taiwanese restaurant — an incredible feast, to be sure, in which the owner and chef narrated each course for us, explaining the traditions bound up in the ingredients, the cooking process, and the expectations for how very much food we'd be served — 14 courses, by my count (and be taking home with us). This Taiwanese food was traditional, yes, but also a reflection of the complex history of Taiwan itself — again, the forces of cultural preservation and change.

Food technologies, both new and old, are very much bound up in this tension between tradition and change, particularly with the demands that capitalism/industrialization have long made on cooking and eating more efficiently.

Elsewhere in food traditions this week: Gen Z is not drinking milk.  The fortune cookie industry is also "in upheaval." The NYT visited the factory that produces that "traditional" spring sweet, Peeps. "LeBron James opened a Starbucks, but it’s providing much more than coffee." (And yeah, it seems unlikely I escape the education beat entirely, eh?) Disney — apparently it's all about the food?  (And maybe it's true — after my one trip to Disneyland, I do still talk about that Dole Whip and the massive turkey leg my sister-in-law bought more than any of the rides we went on).

The history of the future of food (and technology): Tupperware is in financial trouble and says it might have to shut its doors — it’s just not cool, or something. "Autonomous laser bots" will take on weeds.  Food is more expensive; blame private equity. Or blame Nestle, which bought a controlling stake in a meal-replacement startup. Meanwhile, "Tyson Foods Heir Looks to Help Right the Family Business After His Arrest."  "The Unspoken History of Early Dietitians & Eugenics." "French Fries & Bananas Top The List of Popular Drone-Delivered Items." E-cigarette maker Juul — featured on my classic "Top 100 Ed-Tech Debaucles of the last Decade" — has reached a $462 million settlement with several states for illegally marketing vaping to teens. Remember Juul’s "mindfulness curriculum"? I do. This memory is just one of the reasons startups hate me, eh? In other “wellness startup” news: He says a wellness drink destroyed seven years of sobriety. Now, he’s suing." Related: "Alcohol recovery startups Monument and Tempest shared patients’ private data with advertisers."

The history of the future of sport (and technology): "How Chess.com Became 'the Wild West of the Streaming World'."  "How did Hokas Become So Popular?"  (Featuring the mushroom section in a “beloved Bay Area grocery store" — IYKYK) In other food news:  I guess podiatrists are worried about the arch in Barbie's foot. Do podiatrists just sit around waiting for Barbie to be mentioned so they can point out her fucked up feet? “Lululemon Tried to Become a Tech Company. It Didn’t Work Out." Important: The US Supreme Court weighed in on whether transgender girls can compete in track, and the Biden administration issued new guidelines about whether or not schools can bar transgender athletes from playing on sports teams. North Dakota legislators voted to ban trans girls from school sports, setting the state up for a clash with the federal government over this.

Monday is The Big Event in distance running: the Boston Marathon. This will be the 10 year anniversary since bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three and injuring hundreds. The G.O.A.T., Eliud Kipchoge, is running the race for the first time — part of his quest to not just participate in but win all the majors. Boston is a notoriously difficult race, so we'll see! It's also an exclusionary race in historically exclusionary sport, held in a notoriously racist city. (Recommended: Alison Mariella Désir's book Running While Black) So yeah. Tradition. Sometimes you can cherish it. Sometimes — oftentimes, even — it simply must be broken for the sake of "what's good" and what's right.

Yours in struggle,