City of Joy

A bit before I started my current full-time writing position, I was back in India, where I had the opportunity to report on Kolkata.

The last time I was there, in 2005, came as an interlude in a research trip where I was attempting to identify field sites for  my doctoral dissertation in rural central India. A friend had suggested that I read English, August — a 1988 novel about a young Indian civil servant who finds himself marooned at a post in a fictional small town akin to the ones I was attempting to visit. It was, perhaps, a poor suggestion. Not because the comic novel was irrelevant, but rather because the narrator, Calcutta-raised, Delhi-educated Agastya conveyed a malaise and loneliness that only served to validate the comparable feelings that I experienced during that two-and-a-half month interval. Continue reading

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Derby Day

I’m apparently turning into some sort of expert on the Sport of Kings. In addition to my recent essay on Luck, I’ve landed horse racing stories in The Classical, and today the Daily Beast. Just because I’m saddened and pessimistic about the fate of the sport (outside of the aura of good feeling that will likely be cultivated this afternoon) does’t mean I’m giving it up. 

For the record, I like Union Rags over Gemologist. But what do I know?

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I didn’t help with Luck’s poor ratings. My own efforts to support the doomed HBO horse racing drama suffered from the beginning because of my non-existent HBO subscription. More viewing clandestine strategies also came up short: a Comcast log-in donated by a gracious friend was shut down after I viewed the second episode, and an encounter with bit-torrent to watch the third led to a threatening email from my service provider. I’ll have to wait until the DVDs come out to watch the rest. Still, I had strong, mostly positive feelings about what I did view — though colored by that most indelible of inks: personal experience. I explored my reactions here, in an essay for the Bygone Bureau.

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I recently did some reporting from our nation’s capital on the seemingly limitless demand for hamburgers inside the beltway. We’re enthusiastic about burgers in Philadelphia — enough that I could likely have filed a similar story from home. But It really seems like the District — perhaps lacking a cheesesteak or other regionally distinct item of its own (okay, perhaps the halfsmoke might count?) — has taken the madness to the next level. The comments already suggest the fatigue has yet to set in. In the end, I have to salute you, burger fanatics to the south. Keep obsessing away.

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Eat, Pray, Judge

After many months of assiduously ignoring my responsibilities, I’m back on the religious dining beat for the NYC based web concern The Awl. Next up looks to be a visit to Queens’ Annam Brahma. I welcome suggestions for further opportunities to explore.

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Big Day

And not because it’s the first day of the baseball season here in Philadelphia, and my Phillies came from behind to defeat the Astros in the bottom of the 9th, with me in attendance.

No, two recent pieces of writing are now available online. I got scooped by Saveur for this piece on Philadelphia’s sandwiches, for the online magazine Real Eats (registration required), but I certainly enjoyed the research. And I talk both cheese steaks and South Indian food in my review of R.W. Apple’s Far Flung and Well Fed, for Alimentum.

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Coming Soon

I just finished reviewing the proofs for my article “Snacking with the Sons of the Soil,” forthcoming in Gastronomica in February. I’m very excited that this piece of reportage, about the Maharahstra-based, quasi-fascist political party MNS and their April 2010 food festival, will be out soon.

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