Sign up for R&K Insider, our collection of the most compelling happenings in food, politics, and travel from across the web.
Happy Thursday, dear readers. We have a new installment of our long-form, Anthony Bourdain-curated Dispatched series up today! Writer Christopher St. Cavish went to the deserts of Western China to find the man building an empire out of camel milk, which is, apparently, a thing you can drink. Another thing you can drink? Way too much baiju. As in:
The baijiu stinks of regret but we are a long ways past the first shot of the night, and the entire evening—being goaded on by the camel milk princess, being toasted by senior managers in short sleeve dress shirts with shoe-polish black comb-overs, being drawn in by the well-tanned Kazakh in charge of herder relations, all of this in a fog of cigarettes and new friendship—is starting to seem like a set up for this exact moment. Properly shit-faced, improperly enthusiastic, Chen and I finish the shot. I wait for redemption, even if I can guess what comes next.
Silver cans of camel milk appear on the table, the Wang Yuan logo running diagonally across them in a blocky, stencilled font.
Is camel milk the miracle hangover cure you’ve been waiting for?! I’d say it has at least the same odds as all the miracle cures that came before it. Regardless of the milk’s medicinal powers, it’s a tale of drunkenness, police run-ins, and a rather hopeful look at how ingenuity and determination can transform a community. Read it!
A few other things I’m reading this week: Kabul’s oldest restaurant has survived for more than 70 years. And in other Afghan news, thanks to the heroics of a few dedicated cineastes, a cache of 7,000 Afghan films hidden from the Taliban are now being digitized. How the airport came to embody the U.S. national psychosis. Iran admits its drinking problem. I’m always intrigued when this happens: a regime denies a problem exists, which causes the problem to spiral out of control.
How to turn a chile festival into a protest. Check out Suketu Mehta writing on why the West can’t see that immigration is it’s salvation. If you missed it, here’s a profile of Lebanon’s King of Ful, by his granddaughter. Welcome to the world’s emptiest international airport. How China’s rapacious market for swim bladders is driving dolphins in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez to extinction.
RIP Cambodia Daily. Despite that headline (which I wrote) it is more and more clear that democracy does not die in darkness, it dies bleeding all over the internet but no one gives a shit. Fun fact: I had one of the most embarrassing meetings of my young career with Cambodia Daily founder Bernard Krisher. I was working as a baker on the Lower East Side and showed up to the Harvard Club like some sort of extra on a low-rent, early-aughts knockoff of Girls. Mr. Krisher was extremely patient and encouraging of a young, aspiring journalist and I’ve always been grateful to him for that.
For our special section “This Week in Shitbirds,” check out these two “ex-Googlers” (which does not, disappointingly, mean people who have forsaken the search engine) who want to make mom-and-pop stores obsolete. They’re launching a startup infuriatingly called Bodega, which would allow people to buy non-perishable basic goods from a box instead of a human. As in many metropolitan areas, bodegas, as corner stores are called in NYC and elsewhere, are a goddamn institution. Everyone has a bodega, and many people have two: the bodega, which is close, and the good bodega, which stocks your preferred brand of beer and ice cream but is just a litttttle too far away. These are generally immigrant-run small businesses that, for all their faults, provide an invaluable service to their communities. At least many people are responding to the startup with rage, although that’s potentially the plan. Anyway, here’s a battle cry for the bodega. Perhaps you’d like to spend a day at one. Inside the all-American Yemeni bodega strike. And since you made it this far, enjoy some bodega cats.
And a special shitbirds mention goes to, of all people, the British Museum, for their inane policy on “Asian names” which “can be confusing.” We love you, British Museum, but this week you’re bringing us down.
Finally, as many of you know, the journalism world, including us at R&K, continue to mourn the death of journalist Kim Wall in Copenhagen this year. Her friends and family are now organizing a fund to support young, female, independent journalists. You can learn more and donate here.
That’s it for this week! See you next week for more of the best in food, politics, and travel from around the web. Tweet me stories you want to see here @caraparks.