Here are some things for sale at Buc-ee’s: dozens of varieties of beef jerky, jalapeño pepper jelly, fudge, yoga pants, gun cases, faux rusticated wood accoutrements, faux rhinestone belts, cowboy art, meaty kolaches, deer corn, American Hunter game feeders, artisan soap, camo tote bags, sports memorabilia, gummy worms, brisket, BBQ smokers, and just about anything else one could possibly want emblazoned with the portrait of the store's mascot, a cartoon beaver. For the uninitiated, Buc-ee’s is a Texas gas station chain and so much more. Started in Lake Jackson, outside of Houston, by Arch “Beaver” Aplin III in 1982, the chain now has 33 locations throughout the eastern half of the state. Like a watering hole on the suburban savannah, these mega-size mini-marts serve as a social condenser: They provide a place where the diverse populations of Texas can graze together. To generate anticipation, Buc-ee’s maintains billboards hundreds of miles out from its stores, inducing in travelers’ minds a yearning for a bathroom break and a bag of “Buc-ee's nug-ees” before they know their desires themselves. The ads are meme-worthy and infectious: “OMG! It’s a beaver! LOL!,” “My overbite is sexy,” “The Top Two Reasons to Stop at Buc-ee's: Number 1 and Number 2,” and “Only 262 miles to Buc-ee’s. You can hold it.” They lodge in the brain much like the chain's corn nug-ees stick in one's teeth. Buc-ee’s are big. Full-size versions of the store sport over 100 gas pumps. They are truck stop–scaled attractions with no trucks, as big rigs are not allowed at the chain. The number of pumps makes for an absurdly long shade canopy, as if the plan of a normal gas station was enlarged in one dimension prior to construction. It is a gesture of logistical horizontality, and the form embodies the engulfing flatness of a state that takes 12 hours to cross diagonally. The structure captures the state’s vitality and artificiality; architecturally, Buc-ee's inspires the same synthetic blend of patriotism and awkwardness as a stretch Hummer. Some locations include car washes, built with the same strip mall vocabulary as the main building. At the recently opened Buc-ee’s in Katy, the conveyor belt apparatus is 255 feet long and officially set the Guinness World Record for the world's longest car wash. But there’s an ecological reason for this. According to Aplin, quoted in the Houston Chronicle, the car wash's length and the number of brushes involved means that it uses less water than smaller operations: “You're not trying to do it in 50 feet. You have more time…It's very eco-friendly." Inside, the store’s most valuable amenity is its clean restrooms. The bathrooms are immaculately maintained and generously sized, with fully enclosed toilet rooms that are finished, as Kevin Bacon’s character from Tremors might describe it, in tile that goes “all the way up.” After heeding the call of nature, one is immersed in the overwhelming expanse of the retail floor. It feels like a to-go Cracker Barrel on steroids with fewer rocking chairs and more truck nuts. As in a casino, disorientation and interiority dominate the senses. Typically, drink coolers and snack racks are to the right, prepared and fresh food kiosks are in the middle, and hard and soft goods are to the left. Flagship locations are larger than grocery stores, although beyond jams and spices, the stores don’t really sell raw food materials. Square beige tile covers the floors and walls everywhere. Above, the 2x4 pattern of fluorescent lights is a relentless perspectival companion, the grid against which the goods are seen and reflected on every individually packaged unit of merchandise. Buc-ee's is big business for its owners and a decent job for its employees. A sign advertises wages for cashiers starting at $14/hour, nearly the $15/hour rate recommended by some progressives as a baseline minimum wage. Municipalities, knowing the chain's popularity, shell out to land new locations. This year, a Buc-ee's will open in Denton, where the city agreed to $8.1 million in sales tax reimbursements in exchange for the new 38-acre development. The appeal is legitimate, as each location attracts scores of motorists and generates up to 200 jobs, all contributing to the state's strong economy. Buc-ee's bustles at all hours in its performance of consumer culture. Here, people from all walks of life, about to partake in all kinds of activities, arrive in hot pursuit of sustenance and supplies. Much as Buc-ee’s creates its own network of road trip destinations today, in the early 1970s the Truckstop Network, a project by the briefly Houston-based Ant Farm, reimagined the American freeway system as an infrastructure for “media nomads.” They proposed a set of support modules that would provide essential services for travelers, as well as communication services to allow for the broadcast of original content directly to the public. But now that unlimited streaming is the norm, the mediatized aspect of Ant Farm's dream feels outdated. What endures are the creature comforts that still spur us to pull over and join the masses in search of junk food and cheap fountain drinks. In the deserted expanses of roadside America, it is a welcome surprise to suddenly be lost in an air-conditioned crowd as it circulates around a Buc-ee's interior, swirled along by the currents of individual appetites, only to quickly return to one's vehicle, as there are no places to sit down, inside or outside. This dance is overseen by the gaze of the eponymous beaver, a ubiquitous character in the store that oscillates between appearing cheery and creepy, depending on one's mood. The creature's unblinking eyes peer out from every piece of branded product, its buck-toothed mouth frozen open. If able to speak, what would Buc-ee say? Despite the store's appearance of American monoculture, culinary diversity sneaks in; the New Braunfels location offers 37 varieties of jerky, including “bohemian garlic, cherry maple, and ghost pepper,” according to NPR. Like a ten-year high school reunion or an acid trip, Buc-ee's triggers many surprises about one's self and the world. As a lovesick essayist wisely observed, “You go to Buc-ee's for the same reason you break up with someone: to pursue possibility, that narcotic promise of more.” In Content, OMA described a “social condenser” as a "programmatic layering upon vacant terrain to encourage dynamic coexistence of activities and to generate, through their interference, unprecedented events." This matches the chaos of Buc-ee’s. It's not a socialist Narkomfin, where workers might promenade in productive collision after their collective labors, but a capitalist terrain where citizens can stock up on sugared nuts, psychedelic beaver socks, and signs that read, “The most important kitchen utensil is the corkscrew.” Buc-ee's may not be the social condenser we need, but it's the social condenser that shows us everything we didn't know we always wanted.
Posts tagged with "Food":
Formerly of wd~50 and Alder, Chef Wylie Dufresne, once cooked with scientists and served Lou Reed. These days he is making doughnuts in unexpected flavors at his newest culinary outpost, Du's Donuts & Coffee, and admiring the recently remodeled kitchen of his boyhood Manhattan apartment. AN spoke to Dufresne about how he created his ideal home kitchen. The Architect’s Newspaper: As a chef, how did you want to remodel your home kitchen? Chef Wylie Dufresne: As a professional chef and as a father, I had a lot of decisions to make when planning the renovation of my childhood apartment in NYC for my own family’s needs. You’re well-accustomed to appliances, surfaces, and cook areas; what was most important for you to include in the renovation? I decided to feature stainless-steel countertops, rich wood accents, and True Residential appliances. Since so much about functionality of a kitchen is tied to movement within it, I decided to utilize my island not just as a worktop, but also as a home for my True Dual Zone Wine Cabinet (which my wife and I love). The main event of the kitchen is, of course, the True 42-inch side-by-side refrigerator, which offers hygienic and attractive stainless-steel interiors, incredibly sturdy drawers, and the true commercial strength that I rely on at work and now in my home! Here are six of Dufresne’s picks from his personal and professional kitchen: Flint Gold 30 Inch Bar Stool CB2 Not your typical science room stools! Featuring a gold powder coated satin finish, this factory-inspired alternative is handcrafted from steel. Artisan Series 5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer KitchenAid With 10 speeds, this Googie-looking mixer whips, mixes, and kneads with brawn and beauty. There are 10 tool attachments, including a grinder and pasta maker. As a nod to the era it spawned from, it is available in countless Populuxe colorways. Full Size 42-Inch Refrigerator True Swathed in silvery stainless steel, this refrigerator chills and stores a chef-sized assortment of provisions. It can accommodate any cook with adaptable shelves, drawers, and baskets illuminated by ramp-up lighting. Meurice Rectangle Chandelier Johnathan Adler Inspired by bamboo, the Maurice Chandelier is outfitted with 42 candelabra bulbs attached to both ends of each reed. It is offered in nickel, bronze, and brass. Round Dutch Oven Le Creuset This cast-iron Dutch oven is enameled with the same technique developed by Le Creuset at the turn of the 20th century. The colorful exterior is notoriously chip and crack resistant. Meanwhile, the dome-shaped lid creates continuous heat and moisture circulation. Dual Zone Wine Cabinet True It’s wine-o-clock somewhere! This dual-zone wine storage system features independent climate zones that separate temperature ranges from 40 to 65 degrees between glide-out, vibration dampening racks.
The term ‘farm-to-table’ is one that is touted across New York City, but it’s a concept that’s hard to realize for normal city residents without access to farmland (farmers markets and Whole Foods don’t count). Cue Swale: a floating food forest that's built atop a 5,000-square-foot barge that is currently docked at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 and is looking to revolutionize the food industry in the city. Founded in 2016 by artist Mary Mattingly, Swale allows visitors to forage for their own fruits and vegetables. Acting as both a piece of interactive public art and as a means to provide fresh food, Swale encourages New Yorkers to reconsider their perceptions on edible landscapes—“foodways”—and their relationship to nature. With Swale as a test case, Mattingly aims to shift policies regarding edible landscapes on public land. While there are 100 acres of community garden space in the city, there are actually 30,000 acres of park space. Picking one’s own food is illegal on New York City public land, but it is technically legal on a barge due to waterway common law. “At its heart, Swale is a call to action. It asks us to reconsider our food systems, to confirm our belief in food as a human right and to pave pathways to create public food in public space,” said Mattingly in a press release. Last year, Mattingly transformed the old construction barge by filling it with soil, edible plants, and flowers. This year, thanks to a partnership with the apple cider company Strongbow, alongside other governmental organizations, the barge added apple trees and winding paths. Using edible forestry techniques that mimic natural ecosystems and require less human maintenance, the barge allows for unlimited foraging of anything from asparagus to artichokes to blueberries. After it’s stint at Brooklyn Bridge Park is over on June 30, Swale’s next stop is Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx from July to August. For more on Swale, visit its website here.
What does Bompas & Parr do? If you have the foggiest, perhaps the name should hint at the bizarre ideas its two founders, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, are notorious for brewing up. If you hadn't somehow guessed, the South London pair make architectural jellies, clouds of gin, and breast bouncy castles, among other things, and have been mixing architecture with our often architecturally shunned senses—especially in the form of desserts—for almost a decade (their ten-year anniversary is next month). Parr and Bompas met at the tender age of 13 while playing in the same orchestra at Eton. Since then, they have become experts in multi-sensory experiences. Parr, an architect by training, spoke at Brooklyn's A/D/O recently about how we taste and smell, part of the ongoing Common Sense program. In one experiment, he proved how, through genetics, we all have genuinely different tastes. In another, he played different sounds as the audience ate two chocolates. Which one tasted sweeter? Of course, the chocolates were both the same, but the nostalgic sound of children kicked our brain—and sweet tooth into gear. After being subjected to these experiments, The Architect's Newspaper (AN) caught up with Parr to talk more about his firm and his fascination with the senses. AN: So why jelly? Parr: Initially attracted by the nostalgia and visual appeal of jelly we tried to get a jelly stall at London’s Borough Market. Although that failed, we did start to discover that jelly has an intriguing history and it is a powerful, albeit unusual design tool. Over the centuries jelly molds have changed, [with] material and design keeping up with the latest technologies and trends. Henry the VIII had jellies made in sycamore molds, whilst the Victorians preferred electroformed copper. Glass, ceramics, aluminum, and plastic have also been used. The realization that I could make my own molds using 3D printing allowed us to create an infinite variety of shapes which we could then combine with an infinite variety of colors and flavors. This creates a fascinating vehicle for discovering how people interact with food—especially in looking at flavor perception. At A/D/O you did a couple of experiments. What got you into exploring how external associations and preconceptions affect our senses? Whilst working on our first commissioned project, the 12-course Victorian Breakfast, I realized that the environment was directly impacting on how people perceive their food. In this case, an ornate state dining room combined with polished silverware, Victorian fairground tunes (which happened to be coming from a funfair outside), and waiters in Victorian garb somehow combined together to make people have a great experience. We were surprised when one of our guests asked for a recipe for the scones which we had bought a few hours earlier from Tesco! How did you go from making fabulous jelly to where you are now? We rapidly started exploring how the work that we had done with jelly could be applied to different sorts of food and how we could create unusual food-centered experiences. The result of this was that we started designing, funding, and promoting our own events. The first major event was Alcoholic Architecture. Alcoholic Architecture—whose idea was that? How did you manage to pull it off? We were inspired by Anthony Gormley's exhibit Blind Light which was on at the Hayward Gallery. We felt it would be far better if the cloud was made from alcohol than water vapor, so we set about developing the technology and working with a scientist to see how we could do this safely. Have you ever had people react badly or in an unexpected way to your sensual concoctions? We’ve had a few people fall into the water by getting stuck under a waterfall in our Beyond the Waterfall adventure. We are very interested in the risk and reward mechanism, so we often encourage people to go beyond their comfort zones and usually it’s very rewarding for them. In 2015 Bompas & Parr created Funland for the Museum of Sex in New York. How did you come up with ideas for that? The project grew out of a commission by the museum for Jump Joy (a breast bouncy castle). As part of out research, we started working with Professor Vanessa Toulmin of the National Fairground Archive. This uncovered a deep historical link between carnivals and sex. The result was a selection of carnival inspired attractions for audiences to enjoy and experience while they contemplate the sexual subtext of the rides. We are now working on new version of Funland for the museum. What's next for Bompas & Parr? In June we celebrate our tenth anniversary, and as part of this the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art is hosting a retrospective, entitled Tongue Town which will run for three months. It will feature some of our early work, including a stomach bouncy castle, a fruit cloud, and display exploring the working practices of the studio.
The Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) wants to transform Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District (CMD) into a food-producing facility. The CMD is a city-owned complex in the near South Side which currently lies nearly vacant. Over 100 years old, the CMD was the first planned manufacturing district in the country, and was once one of the largest manufacturing districts in the entire world, home to over 250 businesses at one point. To those who know that neighborhood, the CMD is mostly known for the 12-story clock tower that stands at its main entrance. Now the CNT has some thoughts on how to return it to some of that glory. The Center for Neighborhood Technology is a think tank dedicated to research and strategy aimed at making cities more livable and equitable. In late 2015, the CNT brought together 28 though leaders to discuss the future of the CMD and propose actions to the city. The CNT set forth a specific mission for the group: “To revitalize the historic central manufacturing District as a 21st century vertical, green, and urban Industrial park that benefits from its central Chicago location, a dense network of related firms, and transportation cost savings from On-site rail-based freight handling.” The resulting recently released report outlines the group's findings and thoughts on revitalizing the district. The main idea presented in the report is to return the multiple six-story buildings to their manufacturing roots, and transform the site into a “food hub” and “Industrial EcoDistrict.” The CMD’s location, near rail and major interstates, and its near blank slate interiors mean the site can still handle the demands of manufacturing. With millions of square feet to work with, whatever happens there could be a big deal. The report sets forth five ideas on how to move forward with the CMD: Position the CMD facilities as a “food hub.” This involves attracting small to medium size food industry businesses by providing needed amenities to startups. Create a design/build competition or “right to develop” award. Based on competitions used by other cities to promote redevelopment, this would involve architects, planners, and designers. Use workforce development imperative as an investment generator. The CNT proposes expanding new workforce resources to provide training and jobs for the surrounding community and greater city. Eliminate the “transit desert” effect in the immediate area. The CMD currently lacks extensive access to public transportation. The report proposes adding a new L station, as the Orange Line currently runs above the western end of the site. Demonstrate the site’s potential in the near-term. By promoting events, pop-ups, and short-term low-cost leases, the CNT believes the site can gain the needed interest to get the redevelopment started.
The installation known as Rolling Sushi and part of the Osaka Canvas Project arts festival involves five oversized pieces of sushi floating down a local waterway as if it were the conveyor belt at a local restaurant. All aboard the sushi train? https://youtu.be/H7n7JnsOEc4 In fact, despite being water-based, that's what it’s being dubbed. It is of course, “the world’s first giant floating sushi train,” according to Rocket News 24. The installation went on last week, as they floated the idea to Osaka's residents. Osaka, incidentally, is Japan's supposed culinary hub, so it's unlikely the idea will go under the radar. The official runs are on the 4th, 5th, and 17th October. https://instagram.com/p/7Z6fUmwggz/
YouTube vlogger Grant Thompson aka 'King of Random' recently broke the internet with a how-to video for concocting edible, stackable LEGO gummy candies. The mixture is made using just two ingredients—unflavored powdered gelatin and water—and then poured into arts & craft store-variety silicone LEGO molds or ice cube trays. You need simply mix the powder with water and melt the mixture. Thompson recommends letting it sit for ten minutes and then pouring the jelly-to-be into a squeezable condiment container to easily dispense it into the molds. If lumps form, pour the entire mixture into a large drinking glass, where air bubbles and clumps will rise to the top, adding more water if you desire clearer bricks, and increasing the ratio of unflavored gelatin to flavored for a chewier texture. Allow five hours for the syrup to cool. Provided that the mixture properly fills the mold, the resulting LEGO bricks and figures should be stackable just like the real toy—veritable proof that everything is awesome, as proclaimed by the irritatingly catchy LEGO Movie theme song.
Yesterday, we wrote a story about Jason Schupbach taking over as the NEA's Design Director. Today, we decided to post that story to Twitter and to look up Schupbach so we could include him in the tweet. What we found were two Twitter accounts, @CreateMA and @thecheesefreak. As it turns out, in addition to being a fan of design and grant writing, Schupbach loves cheese, or so we gleaned from the site, the CheeseFreak, the latter handle directed us to. There, an often giddy Schupbach has posted 24 episodes of his cheesy vlog since September along with very detailed posts about the cheeses and experiences surrounding them. That's an average of more than three a month, kind of putting us to shame. If he brings even half this much enthusiasm to the NEA, we're all in luck. And to learn more about all the great work he's done in the recent past, here's a profile from the Globe that we turned up on Google. Ah, the Internet. (Oh, and it goes without saying that if you're not already following us on Twitter, please do so.)
Just a reminder that everyone has until Tuesday, September 1, to make their submissions to the Redesign Your Farmers Market competition launched earlier this month by us, GOOD, The Urban & Enviromental Policy Institute at Occidental College, and the LA Good Food Network. They've updated the submission guidelines, so be sure to check 'em out, as well as three proposals that have already gotten the thumbs up.