Kate Christensen

  • Tastes Lousy, More Filling

    Almost 150 pages into his short, punchy, fascinating book The Dorito Effect, Mark Schatzker describes his encounter, at a children’s birthday party, with the “unmistakable powdery orange triangles” he’s adopted as a shorthand for what ails our food system. By this point in the narrative, the reader (along with Schatzker himself) knows just about everything there is to know about junk food. We also understand exactly why Schatzker proceeds to binge on the chips. Even though, as he recounts, “I told myself I would have precisely one,” he takes another, and another, and another, while “the analytical

  • Immigrant Song

    The germ of Gary Shteyngart’s honest, poignant, hilarious new memoir, Little Failure, was planted in 1996, when he was a recent college graduate, living in Manhattan with “a ponytail, a small substance-abuse problem, and a hemp pin on his cardboard tie,” his novelist dreams still out in front of him. Browsing at the Strand Annex during his office-job lunch hour, he came across an enormous coffee-table book called St. Petersburg: Architecture of the Tsars. He had a sudden, severe panic attack when he saw the photo of the pink Chesme Church on page 90; he had lived nearby as a very small boy.

  • Cheap Eats

    Along with global warming and the environment, food has become one of the foremost political issues in America, especially among educated, well-heeled liberals. The emerging sensitive-foodie ethos hinges on a heightened awareness of those “starving children in Africa” whom our mothers invoked in order to make us eat our brussels sprouts—but adherents of the rawer, purer locavore gospel have lately built out the critique to include the obese, diabetic kids right here at home.

    During previous decades, food was unhealthy or not, fattening or not. Now it carries the additional potential indictment

  • Midday Malaise

    When I was an elementary and junior-high school student in Arizona in the 1970s, the school lunch calendar was always a harbinger of fun meals to come: made-from-scratch Salisbury steak, baked chicken, spaghetti with meatballs, or tamale pie ladled out by smiling lunch ladies in hairnets and washed down with little cartons of fresh-tasting, ice-cold whole milk. We all got a lot of exercise back then; I was always hungry. I ate everything on my tray, even the peas, carrots, corn, or (God forbid) brussels sprouts, and I passionately loved the fresh-baked rolls and brownies, the Mississippi mud