You should approach reading the September 3rd and 10th issue of the New Yorker as you would grocery shopping — don’t do it when you’re hungry. This one is all about food, and travelers generally enjoy eating. One of the greatest joys of traveling is eating local food like a local, whether at a street stall in Asia or off a prix fixe French menu.
This week’s issue of the New Yorker features Calvin Trillin’s exploration of street food in Singapore (street stalls have been corralled into large, clean, and open-air halls — I was salivating just reading the article and imagining all the delicious smells combined under one roof), a look at Claudia Roden’s Egyptian food in London, and John McPhee’s tour of culinary oddities around the world (grizzly bears, lions, and Rocky Mountain oysters, oh my!).
My favorite is the smattering of narratives called “Family Dinner,” in which writers including David Sedaris and recall flavor-infused memories. In one, critical movie reviewer Anthony Lane opens up about learning to eat artichokes — a story that makes Lane seem surprisingly human (as long as you’re not a film director, I suppose).
And just to make this issue even more relevant for Gadling readers, on the financial page in an article titled, “The Unfriendly Skies,” James Surowiecki analyzes the airline industry’s recent lack of customer service. Unfortunately, Surowiecki concludes, there’s not much incentive for airlines to change. Just like Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza wrote, customers will keep buying the tickets that save them money.
Too bad there’s no debate over airline food.
Last night on the subway down to the
Lower East Side, where I went to a party in one of those apartments that make you feel like you yourself live in a
Third World hovel, I finished up an article from
last week’s New Yorker about maps. It is really good and I urge your to read it.
The piece was written
by Nick Paumgarten, one of my favorite writers at the magazine, and it examined the history and changing nature of maps
in the human experience. Paumgarten looked at some of the new extraordinary mapping services like Mapquest, that have changed our lives. He goes out on the road with a couple of guys who
actually do some of the human legwork that makes Mapquest accurate, guys who check on whether signs have changed or if a
one-way road is mislabeled. Fascinating stuff. Really.
But more specifically, the piece examined our
relationship to maps and how, with the advent of GPS and online services like Mapquest, our relationship with geography
is changing. How exactly? Well, that’s difficult to say. The old school cartographic folks would say that when we print
out a Mapquest map, we get only a small slice of the world presented to us, a swatch of specific geographic information
that has been separated from the larger picture, a larger picture that is provided when we look at maps the old
fashioned way, all spread out and inviting, revealing the broader world and your place in it. But the new tech folks,
the Mapquesters and the GPS nuts and the folks behind a company called Navteq
suggest that mapping and directions and finding out where you are and where you’re going, all these things are
undergoing a massive revolution that will make sure you never get lost again…and/or that you will never NOT know
where the closest Starbucks is.
Anyway, really good reading.
My absolute favorite magazine in the world (The
New Yorker) is covering my absolutely favorite topic in the world (Travel). And
I am excited. I have not been able to delve too deeply into the issue yet, and I remain steadfastly frustrated by the New
Yorker’s crappy Web presence, but I’ll not go on about that as I have in the past.
But suffice it to say this should be one of the more joyful issues that I can’t wait to sink my brain into.
Among the few articles available online as an appetizer, Nick Paumgarten writes about Mapquest and Jonathan Stern riffs on Lonely Planet in this week’s
Shouts and Murmurs. I will get through the issue soon and will post thoughts about the articles inside. To be honest,
I’m downright giddy about the whole thing. (Yes, I’m a bit of an oddball).