I wouldn’t think I’d feel discounted by others over what I eat, though I’d expect it of what I read. Just the other day, I responded — aptly, I thought — to my wife’s charge of only wanting to read great art and not Gone Girl or Stephen King, no matter how popular, by pointing out her insistence at never wanting to consume a sandwich made by the Subway Fast Food Restaurant Company. On occasion, stranded in the city, I will partake of a foot-long tuna (not toasted) while she refuses to ingest the admittedly icky bread and plastic-tasting tomatoes and sweet peppers. Now what could ever be the difference here? One goes into the mind and the other the body, but they both touch spirit, which holds dominion over all organs. More… “On Eating Combos”

Greg Gerke’s work has appeared in Tin House, Film Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, and other publications. See What I See, a book of essays, and, Especially the Bad Things, stories, will both published by Splice in the Autumn of 2019.


At 10:30 on Monday night, six young office workers sat at a table outside of FamilyMart, eating snacks and drinking chūhai. As a sticker someone slapped on a nearby wall said: “Be Alive in Kyoto.” They certainly were. My wife Rebekah and I had come to Japan on our honeymoon. She’s passed out early in the hotel this night, so I went out alone. I wanted to live, and FamilyMart was just a block away.

The thing about Japanese convenience stores is that they’re awesome. Called conbini, sometimes spelled konbini, Americans won’t believe this, but conbini are respectable social centers that serve high quality packaged and delicious fresh food that you actually want to eat, rather than avoid. Open 24 hours, three main chains dominate 90% of the Japanese marketplace: 7-Eleven, Lawson, and Family Mart, with Ministop, Daily Yamazaki, Seico, Poplar, and Circle K Sunkus making up the rest. Around 55,000 conbini operate in Japan. Mostly a get-it-and-go operation, you buy your crisp, cheese-stuffed croquettes, spongy green tea cream roll and egg salad sandwich to take to work or the park or home. Some stores provide a few stools by a counter so customers can eat inside, maybe a few small tables, but space is tight and expensive in urban Japan. Where many rural and suburban convenience stores have enough property to dedicate to outside seating or parking, fewer stores in the centers of large dense cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto do. Somehow this FamilyMart in central Kyoto had enough room to provide five round, white plastic tables out front for customers. It was the space that would be a parking lot in America.

More… “Conbini Life: Kyoto, Japan”

Aaron Gilbreath is the author of the personal essay collection Everything We Don’t Know, and the ebook This Is: Essays on Jazz. An editor at Longreads, his essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, The New York Times, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Lucky Peach, Brick, and Saveur. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Tanoshii: Travels in Japan. @AaronGilbreath


In San Francisco, there are more marijuana shops than McDonald’s, bongs are considered medical devices, and apparently the local legislators believe that tiny Shrek action figures are a leading cause of heart attacks. In November, the city’s Board of Supervisors passed a law that effectively makes Happy Meals illegal. Any restaurant that wants to give away toys to its customers must now adhere to nutritional guidelines of hilariously oppressive exactitude. There are caps on calories and sodium, saturated fat ratios to maintain, vegetable quotas to meet. If asked to conform to such tyrannical dietary correctness, every chef at every foodie temple in the city would sooner flee to Bakersfield.


San Francisco’s Happy Meals ban is just one of many recent efforts to inoculate the public against the plague of McDonald’s marketing: Militant nutritionists advocate at least… More…

Many complaints have been written about the pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick, and its kid brother, the Pancake & Sausage Minis. There is, first of all, the look of them: a reviewer on the Impulsive Buy blog describes the minis as “tiny, diseased Russet potatoes.” And that’s just on the outside. When I look at the cut-in-half example on the front of the Minis’ packaging, I can’t help but think that I am looking at something dirty, like the poor Pancake & Sausage Mini forgot to close its curtains when changing at night and I happened to look up and catch the thing’s…well, sausage hanging out. Chow’s Supertaster describes the actual taste of the Pancakes & Sausage Minis as “solidly bad-bad,” noting that “[t]he mealy, greasy sausage is real enough, but the pancake coating is pretty fictional – it’s far more like breading than a soft, absorbent, fluffy breakfast delight.” Even… More…

People say that I am careful about my food. I buy armloads of organic produce and fresh breads from my local farmer’s market every week. I drive 45 minutes into southern New Jersey all summer to pick buckets of berries, cherries, and peaches. Until my children came along, I grew heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers at the community garden. I like to serve my family and friends wholesome, homemade foods that don’t come out of a bag or a box.

When people say that I am careful, what they really mean is that I am “too careful.” They conveniently overlook the possibility that as someone who writes about medicine for a living, maybe I am just trying to stay healthy. They get annoyed because I won’t grant that convenience foods are a necessary part of modern life. They think, and none too subtly, that I spend too much time in… More…