Weekend Reading: Frankenfish, Calamari Doppelgängers, Butterbeer and More

A look at what we're reading, cooking, and clicking this week

Shannon Wheeler

• I've followed the indie comic strip Too Much Coffee Man (pictured here) by Shannon Wheeler since college, when I related to TMCM's caffeine-fueled anxiety and penchant for wearing long johns all day. This week's comic, which closely mirrors a dream I had this week, makes me think I should lay off the coffee in the afternoon, and also wonder: Shannon Wheeler, can you read my mind? —Karen Shimizu

• I've been catching up on the FDA approval process for genetically modified salmon, ones that grow at a much faster rate than, um, natural salmon. I won't go into all the gory details about how it is "made," but the fish, which the FDA ruled will have no significant environmental impact, could hit U.S. consumer dinner tables as early as 2014, according to The New York Times. If you're concerned for the environment and your own health, you'll at least want to read what anti-"Frankenfish" groups like the Center for Food Safety, as well as publications like Women's Health have to say about it. And learn a bit more about where your fish is coming from. Sea Watch is a great place to start. —Betsy Andrews

• This American Life always has a lineup of fascinating stories, but this past week's program on the subject of doppelgangers was especially intriguing. The show's first act investigates the rumored incidence of "artificial calamari"—less politely, sliced hog rectum—standing in at restaurants for the popular fried seafood appetizer. Ultimately the report is inconclusive, but a taste test verified that these two kinds of fried rings are, in fact, rather more indistinguishable than you might hope. Kudos to the journalist Ben Calhoun for making what could be a (literally) distasteful story into a hilarious reminder of the wool we pull over our own eyes in the form of processed industrial food. —Camille Bromley

• One of my favorite parts of traveling to new places is trying the local fast food and fast-casual options (fine dining is great and all, but on a certain level it's just variations on a theme). So I'm definitely bookmarking this Ask Metafilter thread on the best regional fast-casual chains. Would it be wrong to plan a trip to Montana just to check out the Staggering Ox? (If it is, I don't want to be right.) —Helen Rosner

• In a blog post from the Guardian UK, one journalist ponders the significance of a recent commercial by Coca Cola, in which the company acknowledges the link between sugar and obesity (the ad also makes sure to inform the world of Coke's low calorie offerings). This piece of propaganda made the author wonder if Coke is gearing up for the type of fight that tobacco endured, among other thought-provoking musings, in this short but fine piece of analysis.—Gabriella Gershenson

• James Beard Award winner Traci Des Jardins, of San Francisco's Jardiniere, talks at TedX about her upbringing, how to manage well, the irksome economic split between back-of-the-house and diners, and that ever present question in the kitchen industry: where are all the women? —Sophie Brickman

• This week, I was sucked into Annie Fenn's modern life in the wilds of Jackson Hole, Wyoming as I read her story of "Bringing Home the Bison". The seeming incongruity of complex flavors paired with a decidedly rustic American meat in her recipe for Bison Zinfandel Chocolate Chili made my mouth water and my imagination wander. Where to hunt bison in New York City. . . —Felicia Campbell

• As I progress further into my 20s, I find myself wanting to be more conscious about the food I'm putting into my body—where it comes from, how it's grown, etc. While I've switched to buying organic groceries, it is difficult to find restaurants that share the same values, which is why I was happy to stumble upon Sustainable Food News' interview with Alberto Gonzalez, owner of GustOrganics. For four years, Alberto has been serving up Latin-inspired dishes using nothing but organic fruits, vegetables and and meats and now his entire establishment has gone completely green. —Lauren Sharkey

• There are plenty of elements that go into making a great children's book, but one of the unwritten rules seems to be that between the covers you've got to have incredible, often fantastical food. In the UK Guardian, Imogen Russell Williams runs through her fantasy kid-lit menu, including the fruits of the toffee-tree in C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew, plums that grow throughout the year from The Faraway Tree, and a frosty mug of butterbeer from Harry Potter. —Helen Rosner