Mountain Dew “Breakfast Soda,” Donkey Burgers, Stuff Bartenders Hate: Eating & Reading

Our tasty guide to the best stuff we’re reading this week.

By: Sophie Gilbert, Todd Kliman, Ann Limpert, Anna Spiegel, Jessica Voelker

What’s in your burger? Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Meaty Matters

The horse-meat lasagna scandal rocking Europe just got worse—there are fears some of the meat found in prepackaged burgers might be donkey. There aren’t enough emojis in all the world for my sadfaces right now. [The Independent] —Sophie Gilbert

Ripped From the Headlines

Raul Castro has shown himself to be a good bit less hardline than his fiery brother, and one of the upshots of his more lax policies is a restaurant boom in Havana. It’s not all paladares anymore. [The Guardian] —Todd Kliman

Japan, I am so totally in love with you. This Sapporo restaurant charges customers who don’t eat every bite of their salmon-roe-topped rice; the money goes back to the fishermen. [Gawker] —Jessica Voelker

In her City Paper column this week, Jessica Sidman takes down restaurants aimed at the ladies (but actually aimed at dudes who read Maxim). [WCP] —JV

Drink to This (or Maybe Don’t Drink at All)

Talking trash, ordering blow-job shots, arguing about the supremacy of New York-style pizza—bartenders detail all the annoying behaviors that will get you thrown out of their establishments. [Serious Eats] —Ann Limpert

In the New Yorker, Kelefa Sanneh profiles the resurrection of Bruichladdich (say “Brook-laddy”), an iconoclastic Scotch distillery on the Scottish island of Islay—fabled home of complex and peaty spirits. [New Yorker] —JV

Film critic and novelist Tom Shone explores literary sobriety—when it benefits us, the reader, and when it most definitely doesn’t: “Minimalists tend to do better than maximalists. Flinty and workmanlike seem to win the day. (Elmore Leonard said that attending AA meetings had made him a ‘better listener.’) It is the self-proclaimed geniuses who suffer. Writers of long sentences seem to do worse than the writers of short ones. . . . Americans do much better than Brits (a recent biography of Kingsley Amis lists drinking under ‘Activities and Interests’). Americans from the North seem to do better than Americans from the South. Prose writers fare better than poets. . . .” [More Intelligent Life] —TK

Fun for Foodies

The Guardian is the latest pub to take on the issue of what it’s really like to be a food critic. Is it oh-so-glamorous after all? [The Guardian] —Anna Spiegel

Also from the Guardian: Are you a “supertaster” with extra-sensitive perceptions of taste? And if you are, how will you ever know? Well, there’s this questionnaire in the Guardian, but it said I’m just a “normal” taster, so whatevs. [The Guardian] —SG

Global Cuisine

One McDonald’s franchise in Australia is going gourmet. The food is still the same, but waiters serve it to customers on china plates and proffer cloth napkins. [Reuters] —SG

Brain Benders

The Australian website the Conversation takes a hard look at the costs of vegetarianism: “Replacing red meat with grain products leads to many more sentient animal deaths, far greater animal suffering, and significantly more environmental degradation.” [The Conversation] —TK

One of the most challenging writers in the world, the prickly, brilliant Will Self, casts a cold eye on our age of food obsession: “. . . [It] is arguably gastronomy that has replaced social democracy as the prevailing credo of our era.” [BBC] —TK

From the Fat Files

Al Jazeera, a new US media giant thanks to its takeover of Al Gore’s Current TV, takes an outsider’s perspective to examine the politics of food in the US. Sample damning quote: “Politicians seem loath to introduce legislation to counter obesity, and the food industry has spent millions of dollars lobbying politicians over the years.” [Al Jazeera] —SG

In completely unrelated news, Mountain Dew has unveiled a “breakfast soda” with extra caffeine and a tiny, almost imperceptible percentage of juice. [HuffPo] —SG