This is the second installment of Dispatches from the Lab, a regular column in which the Nordic Food Lab share stories of their work and their travels. Today NFL researcher Josh Evans takes us to the Australian outback, where he and colleague Ben Reade recently traveled to investigate entomophagy as part of their research initiative to “make insects delicious to the Western palate.”

Once you get beyond the sounds of the four elderly ladies and their crowbars in the dirt, out of range of their colorful dresses, the outback looks the same in every direction: flat, scrubby, semi-arid, the earth cracked and full of new green after the recent rain. And no sign of a road or car.

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On August 26, 2013, I hammered away at the gut-juiced log podium at MAD imploring the hundreds gathered to take note of the heritage of their food. I wanted them to consider their food’s stories and what those stories meant for the people who brought those foods into history. I also wanted them to consider what those stories meant for their descendants and those from other backgrounds who enjoyed the foods and benefited from their import. 

One of the things I talked about was the connection between rice in the colonial and antebellum South and the people who were brought to grow it. Limited to a stretch of land on the Southeastern coast of the United States, rice cultivation in the dark malarial swamps was the most dangerous agricultural labor practiced in what would become the United States. It has been said that the human power needed to change those swamps into rice fields can be likened to the power needed to make the pyramids of Giza. Once those fields were created, however, they also gave rise to the wealthiest landed aristocracy in early North America; two successful rice crops made you the equivalent of a millionaire. 

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Service in full swing at Eleven Madison Park, 18 March 2014. Photo by Daniel Krieger.#tbt

For those interested in joining us in Copenhagen this summer, the ticketing system for MAD4 is now live. As previously mentioned, this year we are using a ticket request system as opposed to a first-serve model. 

You can request tickets up until 20 May at noon (CET).

Visit the ticketing portal here.

There are dining destinations around the world — from Canlis in Seattle, Washington to Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain — that have been around for decades, even centuries, and continue to be operated by the direct relatives of those who first opened the places. 

Today writer Jordana Rothman talks to these people and explores how they feel about carrying on the family business. Did they ever have a choice in the matter? Did they maybe have to put aside their own aspirations to please the family and the public? Or did they want it along, flourishing once given the chance to put their own mark on the restaurant? 

Here’s Jordana: 

History and mythology are packed with tales of fractured bloodlines, reluctant heirs, and inherited errands. Arthurian legend tells of generations of Holy Grail guardians, born into the watch. There’s the unwilling George VI, dragged stuttering into the House of Windsor. And Kim Jong-nam is said to have fallen out of his despot father’s favor after trying to visit Disneyland — no dictatorship for you, young man. 

The thing about the prodigal sons, though, is that they almost always come home. What’s bred in the bone, they say, comes out in the flesh.

For barbecue icon Wayne Mueller, that’s especially true.

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Dear friends,

We are delighted to announce that the ticketing process for MAD4 will begin on 07 April. Here we will explain how it will work this time around.

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Today we kick off the Ramblings of Ben Shewry, a new series of writings from the acclaimed chef of Attica in Melbourne, Australia (and a speaker at the inaugural MAD Symposium). Shewry plans to issue these dispatches regularly, and he wants to be sure you know that all of them will be “organic, uninhibited, and slightly illiterate.”

Here we go with the first, the story of a recent odyssey to Ontario, Canada in which Shewry visits a tiny culinary school and spends time with a motley crew of thinkers and purveyors, inspiring a dish.

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He suddenly became somehow remarkably old, with wrinkles even quite disproportionate to his age, turned sallow, and began to look like a eunuch.

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor sends his servant (who’s probably also his illegitimate son) Smerdyakov to train as a cook for a few years. That’s how he’s described upon his return.

Earlier this week, MAD hosted its first event outside of Copenhagen: a New York City edition of MAD Mondays featuring Peter Meehan, Gabrielle Hamilton, Mario Batali, Bill Buford, Lee Hanson, and Riad Nasr. Have a listen to the audio recording from the evening below, and check out a photo album on our Facebook page. 

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Dear friends,

We’re in New York City gearing up for two events to raise funds so that MAD can grow while remaining an independent and open platform. If you’d like to join us, there are limited tickets available for both gatherings. 

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thanks to everyone who came out for MAD's first event outside of copenhagen: MAD mondays at the drawing center. another big thanks to jason polan for capturing the event in the drawing above. 

Unfortunately, Wylie Dufresne won’t be able to take part in tomorrow’s MAD Monday in New York City. But we are very, very happy to announce that chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson are now part of the program. 

Hanson and Nasr have worked together for over two decades. They met in the kitchen of Daniel in 1993. In 1997, the chefs left to open Balthazar with the restaurateur Keith McNally. Over the next 16 years, the three would go on to open Schiller’s Liquor Bar, Pastis, and Minetta Tavern.

Last year, Nasr and Hanson announced their departure from McNally’s restaurant group, and plans to open their own restaurant. 

As a reminder, tickets are sold out and we have not received any cancelations. For those who are registered, please bring a print-out of your reservation to the Drawing Center. Doors open at 7:00 PM. 

We’ll be posting full audio and coverage of the New York City event next week. 

What follows is analysis of the ideas and arguments that dominated the discussion at last week’s MAD Monday on the future of food criticism. Included in the text is an audio recording of the whole event (you can also download last week’s podcast of the talk here) and the results of our recent vox pop/unscientific survey on food writing relevant to the Monday discussion. 

All four speakers that took part in “More Talks About Critics and Food” — journalist Lisa Abend, chefs Bo Bech and Matt Orlando, and Danish print critic Søren Frank — agree that something has changed in food criticism. Over the last decade, blogs, ranked lists, crowd-sourced sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, and a constantly growing number of apps and other channels have altered a conversation that used to be dominated by one force: the print restaurant critic. 

"You guys used to be the monolith," the moderator Knud Romer said to Frank at the start of the proceedings, kicking off a discussion on the future of food criticism and print journalists, ethics and style in reviews, and the enduring importance of quality. 

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On March 10th, MAD will host its first event outside of Copenhagen: a New York City edition of MAD Mondays, its regular series of discussions on the future of food. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Being a Chef” will take place at the Drawing Center and feature Peter Meehan as moderator and Mario Batali, Gabrielle Hamilton, Bill Buford, and Wylie Dufresne as panelists. 

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#MAD4, co-curated by @alexatala. 24 + 25 August, 2014. Art by Brazil’s @rafaelmantesso

More information here, and expect updates on ticketing and the lineup on the MADFeed.