In this rendition of LA Weekly's Venn Food Diagram, we are investigating the increasingly popular Mediterranean Spanish cuisine to compare what Angelinos think make up a Spaniard's diet versus what our flamenco-dancing friends actually eat.
Turn on the TV for a sitcom or two these days and you'll come face to bare chest with the Zesty Guy, a character whose white t-shirt combusts while he's trying to shill Kraft's Italian salad dressing. Heavy on winks and elbow jabs, it's a self-referential strategy to mitigate the cheesiness of using an ad hunk, as made popular by Old Spice and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. They belong to a genealogy of ads that would have us believe the average American woman lives on the basic food groups of chocolate, yogurt, salad, and diet drinks.
Knowing our own predilections for carne asada tacos, negronis, and medium roast coffee at the Weekly, we decided a Venn Food diagram was only appropriate. Because even as food ads targeting women have become more tongue-in-cheek, they've only shifted laterally from butter substitutes to Greek yogurt, Fabio to John Stamos. And as much as we've got a soft spot for Uncle Jesse, we all know that's not that much progress...
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about our city's culinary scene titled "Finding a Food Mecca in the West," pointing its readers to Sprinkles Ice Cream, Fonuts, Umamicatessen, 800 Degrees and ink.sack. And though we have little quibble with the amazing efficiency of 800 Degrees or a cup of Sprinkles Ice Cream on a terribly hot fall day, those suggestions are sort like introducing someone to John Steinbeck by having them first read The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication. That is, it's a great story, but characteristic of his work and style? Not quite.
For this Venn Food Diagram, then, we decided compare where major publications generally suggest their readers eat when visiting Los Angeles to the recommendations from people who actually live here. The diagram above pretty much says it all. Turn the page for a more specific analysis.
A few weeks ago, Dahlia Lithwick wrote a piece for Slate in which she set forth The Muppet Theory of Humanity: We all can essentially be described as a Kermit or a Miss Piggy, a Bert or an Ernie, or, more generally, an Order Muppet or a Chaos Muppet. She applied this theory to everyone from Chief Justice John Roberts (an Order Muppet, and a very strategic one at that) to her 7-year-old son, which naturally got us looking at Los Angeles restaurants and chefs with Muppet goggles. Et voilà, the Muppet Theory Food Venn Diagram. Turn the page for our completely unscientific armchair analysis of Muppets, restaurants and the Muppet Law of Entropy.
In our ongoing series of Venn food diagrams, we seek to discover what a specific group of people eats versus what other people think they eat. For this edition, we're delving in to dangerous waters, asking: What is eaten on L.A.'s Westside, versus what is eaten on the Eastside?
A caveat: We didn't intend to continue the debate on what constitutes East and West in our great metropolis, though -- we know it's a touchy subject. Our respondents were OK with us defining everything east of Main Street downtown as Eastside, and west of there as the Westside. (Which it is.) We wanted to keep it simple.
OK guys, let's start by saying that Taiwanese food is definitely not orange chicken or broccoli and beef. The Taiwanese grandmothers -- or "ah-mahs" -- of the San Gabriel Valley would shudder at that thought.
And it's not the same thing as Chinese food -- no matter where you stand on the political spectrum of "Taiwan belongs to China," or "Taiwan and China are NOT the same country." That's like saying Italian food is the same thing as American food, which doesn't make any sense. In today's edition of Venn Food Diagrams, we explore the cuisine of the small island of Taiwan, where the food tends to be one of the defining features of the country -- er, province.
In this episode of Squid Ink's Venn Food Diagrams, we study Mexican food. Why? Well, because deep down, every single person in this city has a soft spot for the stuff. Whether it be Americanized or not, fajitas or tacos de guisado, a taco is the archetypal Angeleno meal. In this city, a taco is easier to find than a burger, a burrito is a better bargain than a fast food combo and Mexican beer is still seen as exotic. Thus, it's time to dispel the greasy misconceptions of the first ethnic cuisine in the world to be added to the list of "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.
In honor of Downton Abbey's season-two finale on Sunday, we decided to cross the pond to explore English food with two overlapping circles that compare what Angelenos believe the English nation eats with what English folks say they actually eat.
Moral of the story: Apparently, the collective gasp heard around the Western world when poor Oliver Twist asked for more gruel was not just a reaction to the fact that this young boy had the gall to ask for seconds -- no, it was that he would want seconds at all. Despite the great work of Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay, most Angelenos still have preconceived negative notions of what English food is and isn't. Indeed, they were more likely to respond to our survey with an unkind adjective -- "bad," "ugh" and variations thereof -- than specific nouns. What a load of bollocks, the English respondents replied.
What do vegans eat? That was the intended topic of our next Venn food diagram (check them all out). Only thing is, it (happily) turns out, everyone seems to know what vegans eat. Or more to the point, what they don't eat. Congrats, L.A., you're a well-informed group.
To us, it doesn't exactly come as a big shock, since Angelenos are pretty enlightened and tend to know their diets. You name it, we know someone who has tried it/is on it/swears by it. Besides, veganism is easy to wrap your mind around compared to some things out there.
The ages of meat eaters unscientifically polled ranged from 12 to 70 and every last one knew without a moment's hesitation that vegans eat: fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, legumes and tofu. Soy products, name-brand faux foodstuffs and particular dishes (falafels) and cuisines (Indian) also were heavily represented from both sides.
Our latest attempt in Understanding Cuisine through Racial Profiling finds us examining the dietary habits of Jews. But what kind of Jews? One respondent wrote, "You meant to ask what American Jews eat, right? Otherwise you will get sucked forever into separating Moroccan Jews from Polish Jews." There's the rub. As our mom likes to say: "Wherever you get one Jew, you get two opinions."
It's true. Our super-scientific survey, conducted via email and Facebook and casually asking people we know, came out vastly and unfairly weighted toward Ashkenazi (i.e. European) rather than Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) or Sephardic (Spanish) Jews. We'll work on that for the next survey. In the meantime, here are words of wisdom from Evan Kleiman: "Copious amounts of food on table. My people definitely have issues with scarcity, and I say that as one who has been in the position of feeding my brethren many, many times. We like grazing and variety. As for kinds of food? We love ethnic eats, particularly ones with strong flavors i.e. all Asian food, particularly spicy. I think it's because it is in contrast to the blander, fat-laden diet that is our comfort zone. A palate raised on raw onions and garlic pickles loves the spice and sour of Thai, Indian, etc."