By Matthew Culnane

Etcetera #13: Beef, Signs, Terminators


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Matthew Culnane
Matthew Culnane
Hello. A couple of longer items about food to start off this issue, then a series of smaller things.
I had a couple of interesting discussions off the back of items in last week’s issue. Do reply with any thoughts—it makes the whole endeavour more worthwhile.
See you next Friday.

Tech keeps trying to ‘fix’ recipe sites. Food bloggers wish they’d stop.
The Planet on the Plate: Why Epicurious Left Beef Behind | Epicurious
Assorted beefs: While I still eat red meat, it only happens relatively infrequently. It’s never been a central part of my diet, so I find it fascinating how outsized beef’s impact is on western culture.
The English are of course les rosbifs. But this—historically at least—is due more to resources than tastes. From the middle ages to the industrial revolution the British Isles had a now-unimaginable abundance of two things: grass for grazing animals, and firewood for cooking them. The obvious thing our ancestors (the wealthy ones at least) did was to roast huge animal carcasses over large fires, adding as many logs as they liked until the meat was cooked to their liking. This is an example of how the specific makeup of an area’s historic natural resources hugely affected the development of cuisine in ways which persist today. Another is that China’s hot and fast stir-fry cuisine is in part due to the smaller amount of faster-burning wood that grew there. For more on this history of what and how we eat, try Bee Wilson’s Consider the Fork.
I’m also reminded of the distinction between English being the the language of the farmyard (think: ox, swine, calf, fowl etc) and French as that of the table (beef, pork, veal, poultry). But this isn’t, as some people imagine, a case of the English language being crude and French sophisticated. During the rule of Normans and Plantagenets, this farm-table separation was mostly due to enforced class divisions. The upper classes spoke and were served in French while those responsible for the planting, growing, harvesting, slaughtering, cooking and serving knew only English. Bill Bryson has written about this, and it also features as a small part in Robert Tombs’ lengthy The English and their History.
A consequence of this is that by calling the meat of a cow ‘beef’ we are shielding ourselves from the moral consequences of eating animals—we are rarely if ever the ones doing the husbandry, slaughter and butchery involved to bring cow meat to our plate. A cooked carrot is still called a carrot, while meat is elevated to a language of strength: consider the downward trajectory in terms of activity and responsiveness from ‘beefy’ to ‘couch potato’ to ‘vegetable’.
We must also not forget the impact of war on our modern diet. Almost 50 years ago Russell Baker wrote about ‘beef madness’: soldiers in the second world war were sent to the front with tinned meat, then once war ended and these rations were over, a massive steak became a symbol of this new era of peace and prosperity. In a very short time period, meat went from a luxury foodstuff to an everyday staple, where it has remained ever since.
These assorted anecdotes are included to demonstrate that getting people to stop eating so much meat isn’t just a case of promoting alternatives. The invisible, intangible values that surround eating meat are firmly implanted in our culture and will take many generations to fade away.
These medieval battles prove Britain's nations have never been truly separate
The Signs that Make a City
See also: aside from typography and the use of neon there are obviously very practical uses for a city’s signs—this article examines London’s signage from a wayfinding point of view. This is from a decade ago, and nods to forthcoming technological advances and the 2012 Olympic games can be glossed over, but the core of it remains valuable.
When Is the Revolution in Architecture Coming?
How the Spectacular, Comical Failure of the Super League Explains the World
Terminator 2: Judgment Day – Settling the Score
Why Do Wes Anderson Movies Look Like That?
Why Do Wes Anderson Movies Look Like That?
Ignore the video title that reminds you of cliched video essays on this topic that you’ve seen or avoided a hundred times. This is a surprisingly good look at Anderson’s visual storytelling that brings together certain compositional techniques rather than a bunch of scattershot thoughts on The Kinks, overhead shots, whip-pans and the like.
Little Simz - Introvert (Official Video)
Little Simz - Introvert (Official Video)
The new video from Little Simz. The song is a symphonic blast of hip-hop and the video is both powerful and balletic. “I’m a Black woman and I’m a proud one / We walk in blind faith not knowing the outcome / But as long as we unified then we’ve already won.”
How many Chuggas before the Choo Choo? (music theory Q+A)
How many Chuggas before the Choo Choo? (music theory Q+A)
This is a grab-bag Q&A video from musician and YouTuber Adam Neely. The most interesting part for me was the beginning where he takes a silly, facetious question—when pantomiming a locomotive sound, how many chuggas should there be before the choo-choo?—and grounds the answer in English as a stressed language with a very specific format for intonation and emphasis. If you like this segment—and it is more interesting that I have just made it sound—definitely look up Mark Forsyth’s 5-minute English verse lessons to go deeper into iambic pentameter and the like. (Forsyth’s book on rhetoric and patterns of speech is excellent, by the way If writing or speaking is a decent part of what you do to make money, I’d definitely recommend picking it up.)
To See the Next Part of the Dream, by 파란노을 (Parannoul)
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Matthew Culnane
Matthew Culnane @coldbrain

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