Gastro-nomics

With a Super Bowl ad, a massive Starbucks deal, and a public offering on the way, Oatly is suddenly everywhere. Just don’t call it milk.

Two cartons of Oatly milk and a cup of cappuccino floating above a pedestal with the letter “G” engraved.
Two cartons of Oatly milk and a cup of cappuccino floating above a pedestal with the letter “G” engraved.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images, Oatly

Gastro-nomics is a column about the intersection of food, business, and culture.

My initiation to Oatly, the Swedish alternative-milk darling, came in the storybook way that chief marketing officers dream about. The barista at my precious south Brooklyn neighborhood coffee shop recommended it back in 2018 as a way to supercharge my coffee habit. Apparently, he wasn’t the only barista making the recommendation: Later that year, the Great Oatly Shortage arrived — a famine so dire it led coffee shop operators and oat milk fanatics to seriously consider ponying up $200 for 12-carton packs of the plant-based milk to strangers…


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Last week, for Marker, I wrote about how Taco Bell has slowly but surely amassed a fan base that now includes vegans, vegetarians, and Gen-Z flexitarians — in addition to its core audience of potheads with nothing to lose (i.e. me).

In spite of the long-standing cult status of Mexican Pizza among South Asian communities in the U.S. with dietary restrictions (here’s one beautiful homage to that), Taco Bell’s veg-friendly rep didn’t happen right away. In fact, that Taco Bell’s devastating 2006 E.coli outbreak was linked to its…


GASTRO-NOMICS

In just a few short years, the chain behind the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito has managed to become an obsession of vegans and vegetarians

A photo illustration with Taco Bell’s cheesy potato soft taco floating above a white column. The column has the letter “G” embossed and is surrounded by streaks of purple and yellow.
A photo illustration with Taco Bell’s cheesy potato soft taco floating above a white column. The column has the letter “G” embossed and is surrounded by streaks of purple and yellow.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Taco Bell

Earlier this month, like Simba returning from exile, Taco Bell’s potatoes were officially restored to the company’s menu board — Spicy Potato Soft Taco and all. This wasn’t a small-fry development guided by a simple seasonal shift or some limited-time promotion; it was the result of a several-month fusillade by the brand’s starch and vegetarian loyalists, who had been furious at the company for removing potatoes last summer.

Ever since its controversial “menu simplification,” Taco Bell quite literally couldn’t post on social media without encountering some grief about bygone potatoes. …


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Last February, in that weird interregnum after coronavirus had become a hazy, abstract worry and before the first cases broke in the U.S., my father died. It had been long expected and, to the extent that anybody can be ready, my dad had been ready. Ahead of the end, he had written a will that read like Chaucer and fashioned some serious funeral plans.

With the makings of a cosmic dad joke, both a rabbi and a Zen Buddhist monk held court at his graveside ceremony in Queens…


Gastro-nomics

From the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish to the new Popeyes Cajun Flounder, the battle of the fish has become a spring tradition

A photo illustration of a generic fish sandwich wearing a crown, placed on a pedestal.
A photo illustration of a generic fish sandwich wearing a crown, placed on a pedestal.
Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

Gastro-nomics is a new column about the intersection of food, business, and culture.

Around this time each year, drugstores lay their pastel eggs, Peeps appear in bins for impulse buys, and enormous hams take center stage in deli cases across America. If Easter-themed products are a neon-colored commercial iceberg, there’s also a lesser-seen segment swimming below the surface. I’m talking about fish sandwiches.

Typically, in the late-winter weeks following the Super Bowl, restaurant chains around the United States begin to unveil their seasonal fish offerings. And this year was no exception, with new sandwiches from several big chains, including Popeyes…


This post is from my newsletter The Crunchwrap. (Subscribe here. It’s free!)

Because I have fully transformed into suburban Dad mode over the course of the past year, I’m reading Ron Chernow’s biography of George Washington. I also came to it in the most embarrassing of ways: It was one of the books that 22 different writers for the Times recommended that Biden read before taking office. (Look, I am who I am.)

Beyond the renderings of Washington in our general hagiography and from middle school American history, I didn’t really know that much about him. It turns out he…


Inside the brave new world of data-driven, search-optimized virtual restaurants that exist only on DoorDash and GrubHub

Illustration by Angie Wang for Marker

For a small town of 4,000 people in New York’s Hudson Valley, Highland Falls punches well above its cultural weight. In more normal years, tens of thousands of tourists would descend upon the town to tour the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and nearby Revolutionary War sites. Billy Joel, a onetime resident, wrote a beloved B-side about the place. And late last year, Highland Falls became the chosen host of another national institution: Chipotle’s very first ghost kitchen, a new store model with no in-person ordering and no in-store dining.

On a recent winter afternoon, I trekked an hour…


This post is from my newsletter The Crunchwrap. (Subscribe here. It’s free.)

There’s a lot of news out there and a new fried chicken sandwich to deconstruct society by, but I’m stuck on last week’s disaster. (By the way, I think we should all probably be stuck on last week’s disaster,)

What’s been rattling around for the past few days is how, in spite of the many benumbing details from last week’s coup attempt, it still could have been much worse. …


The home of the Slurpee is now being supercharged by the pandemic

An illustrated gif of 7-Eleven signs popping up all around the world.
An illustrated gif of 7-Eleven signs popping up all around the world.
Illustration: Maria Chimishkyan

Let’s get something out of the way: You probably do not have the most positive memories of 7-Eleven. The weary-looking hot dogs and taquitos on mechanical rollers, the trauma of Slurpee brain freezes and parking lot heartbreaks past, the strange prominence of its stores in local crime stories. In many parts, 7-Eleven is practically shorthand for communal microwaves, American Spirits, and bland corporate sameness.

On a cultural level, it’s also tough to disentangle the chain from its less than stellar role in stoner comedies, horror stories, and, of course, an implicit link to The Simpsons (and its Squishee-peddling Kwik-E-Mart). Given…

Adam Chandler

Journalist. Author of Drive-Thru Dreams. The Atlantic alum. Work in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Texas Monthly, and elsewhere.

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