What's Good

The soft launch of Friday links

A couple of weeks ago, Kin and I went out to dinner at a new dumpling restaurant here in Oakland — a new restaurant, but actually the third location the same name. (Our first time eating in any of these.) It was a "soft launch," all the social media and signage in the dining area reminded us, an indication it was ready to open but perhaps not quite ready for the critics to show up.

Consider this the soft launch of Second Breakfast.

The menu at this new place was the same as the other two locations. But the same name and the same menu doesn't mean one opens the doors to the same dining experience. A new joint means new staff, new equipment, new layout, new practices, new customers.

Before our food arrived, we overheard the couple next to us complaining that the shrimp toast had no shrimp in it. "I have eaten a lot of shrimp toast. I know how to make shrimp toast myself. And the key ingredient," the woman snapped at the waiter, "is shrimp. There's no shrimp here," she said, stabbing at the appetizer with her knife and fork. The manager was summoned, and I suppose she could have snipped, "do you even read Yelp reviews?" — I mean, I had; I knew that this place's shrimp toast was more of a donut sort of thing. Instead the manager calmly told the customer that "this is how we make shrimp toast in all our restaurants, but we are still learning the recipes here. We're very sorry you didn't like it, and we'll deduct the $13 from your bill."

It's a soft launch, remember? We're new at this. We're trying.

Second Breakfast will officially launch on June 11 — what would have been Isaiah's 30th birthday. Consider this email part of the soft launch. We're new at this. We're trying. So please keep that in mind when you think about what you might order and what you'll be served.

The newsletter will cover "the history of the future of food and fitness technology," and I'm still working on a better tagline than that, one that doesn't echo Hack Education's so precisely.

  • On Mondays, subscribers will receive "What's for Breakfast" — a breakfast recipe, with a little food history and/or a little personal experience narrative.
  • On Thursdays, subscribers will receive an essay on a food or fitness technology — on the history of protein powders, on the origins of "home economics" and Taylorism in the kitchen, on the data-fication of hobbies, and so on. But there'll also be lots of personal experience narratives — about my becoming a "multi-sport athlete," as my weightlifting coach calls me; about falling in love with running; about "training" versus teaching; about quitting drinking; about aging; and of course about moving through the grief and trauma of losing Isaiah to an opioid overdose three years ago. Maybe that's the tagline: how I get through the mo(u)rning
  • On Fridays, subscribers — all subscribers, free and paid — will receive "What's Good," links to various news and analysis of food, fitness, health, "wellness," technology, and the like. It'll be akin to the old HEWN and the Hack Education "Week in Review" posts.

It’s Friday: what’s good?

I have to admit, I've spent quite a lot of the past three years not reading The Internet, and I'm very much out of practice of identifying Good Things to Read pulled from it. I've started bookmarking news and essays, just to get in the habit — training myself and, of course, The Algorithms to surface the kinds of things I want to share here as I start to write about, not just think about this new subject area.

This newsletter — part of the soft launch! — contains a bunch of links to several week's worth of news items, some of which might not seem that "new" any more. I've realized, as I have pulled together this email, that I'm still not fully tuned into this new field/sector/discipline yet — algorithmically or otherwise. I didn't see The New York Magazine story that had lots of health and fitness writers responding angrily with stories of their own this week. I mean, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm not ever going to be part of The New York media crowd, I reckon, even if being part of it gives a quick path to being an "influencer" on a topic, whether or not one has professional or subject-matter expertise.

And there is no way I'm returning to Twitter, even if that's where influencers still linger. If I had to list the decisions I've made in the past three years that have transformed my health for the better, quitting Twitter is certainly in the Top 10.

So here are some of the things I've been noting over the past few weeks about the stories being told about how we eat, how we move, and the future (and technologies) of our bodies.

* I didn't catch the story about Ozempic, but I did see the hoopla about erythritol, a substance used to make zero calorie and "keto-friendly" sweets. New field of study for me; new opportunities to brush up on Reading Scientific Research 101

* Bon Appetit asks, "Will I See Lab-Grown Meat in Supermarkets Any Time Soon?" I don't like to think of myself as a fussy eater, but I am. So I have to wonder, Will I be testing new "fake meats" as part of this project?

* What are the byproducts of food (and food technologies), and how might we take this sort of story and prepare for one, six months from now, where The NYT thoughts a new whiskey fungus product that Jack Daniels is now selling us — "upcycling." "Whiskey Fungus Fed by Jack Daniel's Encrusts a Tennessee Town"

* Everything — our bodies, our meals, our movements — must be efficient, we're told. (Taylorism, capitalism demand it.) I am only one chapter in to Jenny Odell's new book, but as her previous one, How To Do Nothing *, remains one of my favorite books about The Internet, I am very excited for Saving Time: "Time Has Been Codified and Commodified. Jenny Odell Wants to Set It Free." Oakland, represent.

* "The Internet's Richest Fitness Resource is a Site from 1999"

* The Anti-Racist Dietician is one of my favorite Substack newsletters, asking all the important questions about white womanhood and food and health, such as "Is Being a Dietitian a Job for Wives?"

* "The Next Big Performance-Booster Is Already in Your Kitchen," says Outside Magazine. It's baking soda — saved you a click. I've got an essay on the history of baking soda — this is a newsletter about breakfast, after all, and think of how important quick breads are to that meal — and I do love it when marketers rediscover something old and pitch it as something revolutionary.

* I've also got an essay in the works on the history of protein powder. There's a lot to unpack about processed versus whole foods and the endless moralizing about this distinction. "Are Protein Bars Actually Good for You?" "Good for you" — god, what does that even mean?!

* More moral panic: "Nearly half of preschool-age kids aren’t eating their veggies"

* How do our childhoods shape the way in which we think about food? Obviously, there are the meals we're served at home and at school. But lessons about food — what's "good," what's "healthy," what's "normal" — come from lots of places: "In the Toy Kitchen, Tacos, Lumpia and Charcuterie Are on the Menu." Toddlers have toy charcuterie plates, but they aren't eating their broccoli. What are we going to do?!

* "From Identity to Inspiration: A Reading List on Why We Run" — I'm a week away from my first half marathon. I need the inspiration.

* "Americans over 50 are doing extreme sports their grandparents never imagined" — like I said, I'm a week away from my first half marathon

* "To Save Money, Maybe You Should Skip Breakfast" — hahahahaha, fuck you Wall Street Journal

* "Milk Has Lost All Meaning" — again, just imagine if we approached things with an eye to history. Like, do we really think Big Soy invented the idea of calling non dairy substances "milk"?

* "Spirited Away to Miyazaki Land" — because no one does "food" like Hayao Miyazaki does food. I’m hungry just thinking about Spirited Away

That's it for now. It's just a soft launch, and there's way too much on this plate, for sure. But it's a start, and that's something.

Yours in struggle,

* I am experimenting with affiliate links in this newsletter. I'm not sure if I'll continue, but I'll always let you know if you're going to click on something that might earn me a buck.