Smarter TV Dinners: Getting Under the Hood of Today’s Takeout

Smarter TV Dinners: Getting Under the Hood of Today’s Takeout

Remember when you had to leave your house to eat restaurant fare? Today, eateries and delivery companies are working together to bring the restaurant dine-in experience straight to your dining room. Eating out in is just a click away. Here’s how it works.

“I ‘favor’ all the time.” Like many Austinites, Pete has co-opted the name of the local food delivery service Favor as a verb.

Exhausted after a multi-city business trip, he sinks into his gray green leather couch and plants stockinged feet onto an oversized ottoman. Plucking his smartphone from a row of remotes, he opens an app and scrolls past bright photos of tacos, pancakes and pho. He settles on an upscale neighborhood Italian restaurant and, within seconds, has sent an order into the ether. Almost immediately he receives notification that a runner named Joshua has grabbed his order.

Pete grins. “I cook at home when I have someone to cook with and for, but tonight it would cost me just as much to go to the store to buy food for a meal. And I’m lazy.” Pete’s not alone.

Favor, along with other meal delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats and GrubHub, is part of a rapidly growing niche within the foodservice industry. And they’ve become a boon to an otherwise mildly stagnant sector of the economy — restaurants. A recent study by industry analyst Bonnie Riggs, of market research company NPD Group, finds that half of meals purchased at restaurants are now eaten at home. She predicts that the future trajectory of the industry could improve if restaurants focus on providing consumers with the choices and fast delivery times they need and want.

In short, people from young professionals to busy families are increasingly taxed for time and stressed. One solution is to recover time typically devoted to shopping and cooking by browsing delivery menus. Five years ago, home delivery was largely still the realm of the pizzeria. In fact, Favor’s origin is intertwined with pizza through the college job experience of the company’s founders.

“Ben Doherty and Zac Maurais admit that they were probably the geekiest pizza delivery guys,” says Keith Duncan, senior vice president at Favor. “They were constantly calculating on spreadsheets the most efficient delivery routes.”

Favor, like many of its competitors, started about five years ago. Austin was its first market; now the company is concentrating on expanding into additional Texas cities. Duncan estimates that, since launching in 2013, Favor has completed more than seven million food deliveries — and 90 percent of these were prepared meals from restaurants.

A customer favorite from Tyson’s Tacos in Austin, which has seen its business jump since it partnered with Favor. Photo by Kenny Braun.

Favor delivery man Ronald Kaase swings by Tyson’s Tacos in Austin to pick up an order for delivery. Tyson’s Tacos has seen its business grow 30 percent over a year ago — a result of increased Favor orders. Photo by Kenny Braun.

“On the front end, we have a consumer app for placing an order, and on the back end there is a system that makes sense of all the orders and assigns them to delivery folks — runners — who can communicate with the customer once they accept the order,” says Duncan. “We are constantly optimizing the experience to increase the speed of delivery, and we encourage customers to order within a certain radius of their home because proximity is really important for the quality of what is essentially takeout.”

How has this new business model developed so quickly? A confluence of several factors — including the normalizing of cashless, online retail over the past decade, the fact that three people out of four Americans now own smartphones and a trend that sees half of all Americans using their phones for online purchases — has led to a rapid increase in mobile commerce. In fact, it is predicted that by 2020, m-commerce will catapult to include nearly half of total U.S. digital commerce, reaching $284 billion.

Even more critical to today’s digital meal delivery system is a new workforce made up of independent contractors. Favor, for example, uses more than 25,000 runners who snatch orders when they want to and deliver meals in cities using their own cars, scooters or bicycles. The benefit of this flexible workforce to restaurants — and pizza parlors! — is huge, since the delivery team is made up of on-demand contractors rather than regular employees, who would need to be paid by the hour regardless of whether they were out making deliveries.

More traditional restaurants also benefit by taking advantage of what is, essentially, a new revenue stream. According to a 2015 study by the delivery company GrubHub, restaurants that add digital ordering average a 30 percent increase in revenue from takeout. Anecdotally, Favor’s Duncan knows of hundreds of restaurants that avoided closing by capitalizing on this new revenue stream. Digital meal delivery is so successful that there is now a new trend in some cities: “ghost restaurants,” which are essentially just kitchens, with no table service or wait staff.

The growth of the meal delivery industry is also a boon to the companies who develop the digital apps. All seem to be capitalizing on the service provided by the flexible workforce. Favor delivers more than meals — everything from milk to medicine — which will only expand now that the company was recently acquired by regional supermarket chain H-E-B. DoorDash is no exception. Headquartered in the Bay Area, this company has expanded into numerous cities across the country to efficiently deliver any purchase.

“The vision for DoorDash is not just [being] a food delivery company but instead a logistics platform, [striving] to become experts in delivering anything in a city from point A to Point B,” says regional general manager Benjamin Lipson. “We get increasingly sophisticated and learn from our experience, incorporating it in our algorithms and focusing on optimizing travel time.”

Twenty-seven minutes after placing his order, Pete’s doorbell rings. There is Joshua, plastic carrier bag in hand. The exchange is seamless and short because Pete has already paid for his meal, delivery fee and tip through the app.

He now has the ultimate TV dinner for his night at home: delicate rounds of roasted beets and oranges resting amid bright specks of fennel and mint, followed by a perfect portion of beef nestled in polenta, shallots and savory gremolata.

Can you smell the sweet, layered herbs in the vinaigrette? Yum!

Handoffs: Bills of Lading and the Cargo Custody Relay

Handoffs: Bills of Lading and the Cargo Custody Relay

We’re hearing more and more about high-tech ways to track and trace our food as it moves through the supply chain to our plates — from barcodes to blockchains. But the practice of tracking food shipments isn’t new. It has long been a way for shippers to make sure their cargo is safe and secure throughout its voyage.

At each step along the supply chain, anyone who handles a shipment has custody, a specific term that connotes legal responsibility. The chain of custody confirms the identity and quantity of the shipment (e.g., 400 bushels of Italian pears), declares that the pears were continuously controlled and transported by the carrier and identifies everyone who handled the pears throughout the shipment. Having a clear record of this chain makes it possible for the shipper to track any theft or contamination of the cargo on its way to the receiver.

The documentation that authenticates the movement of food between a shipper and a freight carrier is known as a bill of lading. It’s a receipt that confirms the transition of goods from one link in the chain to the next. This document notes the details of the cargo and its intended path to you, including the type and quantity of a shipment. It’s provided at the end of a shipment to verify delivery of the goods shipped and is the basis for payment for the goods at the receiving end of a shipment. Without these bills of lading, neither the farmer nor the exporter gets paid.

Going back to maritime practices — before planes, trains and automobiles got involved — the bill of lading would have been prepared by a merchant to indicate that the shipper was responsible for delivering the items consigned to him. These receipts were originally called “bills of loading” as far back as the Middle Ages, and they listed what a merchant actually loaded onto a ship. It was a sort of contract between a merchant and a shipper that confirmed the receipt and safe transport of a specific cargo list.

Since shippers often lost ships and their cargo at sea, the bills of lading helped account for losses and reparations. Like today’s tracking tools, bills of lading indicate a transfer of responsibility throughout the supply chain. They are legal documents that confirm ownership of the goods and, as such, are assets the shipper can use to secure credit against expenses.

As the bill of lading moves through the supply chain with a shipment of, say, bags of coffee beans on pallets, the legal notion of ownership and custody travels with the chain. But the cargo list and a receipt are only two tools that leave footprints along a supply chain. These days, we need much more data than these documents provide to effectively track food through our chain.

Newer tools include smart labels with barcodes that communicate harvest dates and times. Scans of smart tags indicate precisely when food passes through the supply chain, when a USDA inspector has certified a meat shipment or the temperature of the interior of a shipping container or a tractor trailer. All this data is being gathered as food travels to our plates.

These new tools go far beyond those old bills of lading, but the intention of those bills and the chain of custody remain the same.

Just wait until blockchain technology picks up where bills of lading and custody left off. Then you’ll be able to see the passage of ownership of your carrots all the way from the farmer’s plot to your pot, who handled your carrot and why, when, where and maybe even the weather outside when the carrots moved between buildings. Be prepared for some surprises.

Blockchain Explained

A blockchain is a distributed, digital ledger used to track shipments. Rather than a single document — the old bill of lading — traveling throughout a supply chain, the information contained in that one document exists in many computers in the network along the way. So every time a bushel of apples moves through its supply chain, information about its steps are recorded, including who moved it, when, why and what resulted from the movement. The data form blocks that leave unique “fingerprints” along the chain. Any attempt to change a fingerprint travels throughout the entire chain, alerting everyone that the integrity of the chain was compromised. If someone steals an apple, the blockchain will know where and when it disappeared. For the food industry, blockchain appears to be a way to prevent food fraud and ensure food safety. Real-time awareness of inconsistencies in the chain will enable faster and more precise responses to food-borne disease outbreaks. Consider the Romaine lettuce contamination in early 2018. Blockchains would have enabled investigators to track back all the way to rows of lettuce growing in the field. At least that’s the theory.

Route Optimization That Allows for Constant Change

Route Optimization That Allows for Constant Change

When Layla Shaikley began brainstorming with three classmates, it was to fulfill an assignment in a class on entrepreneurship at MIT. The professor had challenged them to devise a technology that could change a billion lives. Focused on developing countries, the foursome looked at how to use data from volatile zones to draw conclusions about crime and personal safety. They decided to target cell phone data and searched for partners outside the U.S.

But when they began asking around, they learned that companies of all sizes had a more pressing problem: navigating day-to-day deliveries. While routing solutions such as Roadnet® — one of the largest — do exist, these technologies planned routes the night before. They couldn’t make real-time adjustments if a snowstorm hit, traffic got snarled, loading docks filled up or the customer didn’t turn up to receive delivery.

Along with potential customers voicing their needs, MIT advisors noted the same challenge existed in the U.S. Using harvested data as a backbone, the team tackled the complex problem of route optimization for the shipping and logistics industry. Here was the answer to their assignment: a technology to offer nimble routing using big data, machine learning and cell phones.

The first thing they discovered was that most traditional delivery routing systems weren’t accounting for the volume of available open-source data that could reveal historical patterns such as traffic and weather. The team created several algorithms that take in passive data, including historical service times or traffic patterns as well as direct feedback from drivers using their prototype — a straightforward mobile app for drivers to follow, paired with a web-based tool for managers to review.

The students searched for companies willing to share data so they could test it. That part was easy.

“We would cold-call companies on LinkedIn and say, ‘MIT and big data,’” says Shaikley with a laugh. Apparently, that combination was enough to pique interest. To better understand drivers’ challenges, Shaikley rode along with them. “I’d hop in these giant trucks and watch them use our app,” she says. “It was like standing in front of a crowd naked. Drivers are sharp and they know what they’re doing.” And they had immediate feedback: Drivers were critical of the abundance of in-app messaging. How could they deal with a ton of pop-ups while on the road?

After two years of fine-tuning their proof of concept, the team made it official, incorporating the business and naming it Wise Systems. After graduation in 2014, they joined an MIT startup accelerator. When they wrapped that, they searched for paying clients.

Through an advisor at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, they were introduced to Anheuser-Busch. They walked the beer giant through their process, explaining that by using data such as traffic, cancellations, late customers and weather, the Wise algorithms adjust drivers’ schedules on the fly. This means “they can make the most efficient decisions possible” about navigation and order of delivery, according to Chazz Sims, Wise Systems CEO and co-founder.

In 2016, Anheuser-Busch agreed to run a pilot using Wise Systems in two locations: Seattle and San Diego. The company still used Roadnet, its existing technology, for its route pre-planning, but it used Wise for day-of routing. Several months later, when Anheuser-Busch reviewed the metrics — driver satisfaction, shorter routes, quicker work time — they were impressed enough to roll the Wise launch out to every single U.S. wholesaler, plus two locations in Canada.

Wise’s success with the beer giant demonstrates the novelty of their solution — real-time route optimization.

“People think this is solved, but it’s not,” says Sims. Case in point: UPS spent billions to create its in-house system, called Orion. Initiated more than a decade ago, the system didn’t launch until 2016, with the help of 500 staffers working on the technology. In contrast, Wise has a staff of 15. While UPS has incredible numbers — handling 15.8 million packages on an average day — imagine how much technology has changed since Orion was initiated. A UPS spokesperson noted that real-time optimization, including real-time navigation and updates after each stop, won’t be fully deployed until 2019.

Wise’s app makes extensive use of third- party tools — including mapping, weather, traffic and navigation — and focuses solely on the algorithms that take in the data and create flexible day-of schedules.

“We pull real-time traffic, we look at history, we make projections of what the rest of the day will be like,” says Sims. Taking into account that specific route’s history, the software determines that if a driver continues with his or her current route, a delay is likely. At this point, the Wise app alerts the driver to a route change, which the driver can accept or reject based on his or her experience with the trip.

Shaikley calls drivers’ collective experience “tribal knowledge.” A driver who hits the same stop week after week knows some customers have good and bad times for deliveries. Maybe the Coke delivery guy will be there at the same time, maybe parking will be terrible, perhaps the customer is out for his daily coffee.

“They [drivers] can add their own knowledge and insight into the app, and we can take in the feedback,” says Sims, noting that future algorithms for a specific route would include those updates. Shaikley emphasizes their goal of being a driver-first solution.

With several new contracts on the horizon, Wise Systems is making progress expanding the business and plans to capture new market segments in 2018. They will have helped the delivery of 10 million packages by the end of this year by homing in on a single part of the puzzle: flexible routing. For a project that started as a grad school lark, Shaikley says they’re chipping away at the original goal of changing a billion lives by focusing on drivers. “Understanding what is in their heads is the most valuable.”

Wise Systems co-founder Layla Shaikley isn’t your run-of-the-mill MIT architecture grad. Yes, she co-created a tech startup that’s improving the way logistics companies optimize deliveries. But she also interned at NASA, co-founded TEDxBaghdad and co-produced a video featuring #mipsterz, aka Muslim hipsters. Creativity and impact are guiding themes for Layla and key pieces of a lesson her own Muslim parents instilled early on. “They had one rule for me growing up: Do whatever you want, just be the best at it.”

Keep up with the latest in logistics entrepreneurship and follow Layla Shaikley on Twitter @laylool.

The Bullwhip and the Beer Game

The Bullwhip and the Beer Game

Only at MIT would students play a “Beer Game” to understand a supply chain phenomenon called the Bull Whip Effect. When you’re holding a whip, a small flick of the wrist creates ever-increasing amplitude down the length of the whip. It’s a problem food distributors deal with all the time because even the smallest variation in consumer demand can increase chaos and unpredictability upstream.

Jay Forrester, a professor at MIT from 1956 to 1989, devised the idea in the early 1960s to illustrate how supply chain forecasts can create inefficiencies. In the Beer Game, a single item — a case of beer — travels through a multilevel distribution system in a supply chain. Players operate four stages of the supply chain, and the objective is to order beer and deliver it to customers. Sounds simple, right? Not so fast. The simple act of a player changing the amount of beer ordered sends a ripple throughout the supply chain.

As consumers — the demand side — change their behavior, the supply side adapts inventory and warehousing activities. Players also blame each other for feedback failures that result in a lack of beer. But a build-up of supplies in a warehouse also reflects a communication breakdown between consumers and producers. You lose if you create a large inventory while trying to adjust to the change in orders. Product sitting in a warehouse costs money, so having a stable supply chain and deftly adapting to changes in demand is the winning play.

Research shows that a variation of as little as 5 percent can lead to a variation of 40 percent up the chain. For example, if consumers order fewer bottles of beer, the grocery store will send a message up the supply chain. (“Up” in supply chain lingo means moving from farm to the table; “down” means moving from table to the farm.) That 5 percent decline in beer sales in April could lead to inventory build-ups within the chain, over- ordering of packaging material, and misguided communication between brewers and ingredient producers and processors.

Another way this concept affects the food supply chain is when weather forecasters predict bad weather. A prediction of icy roads in Texas leads to a rush on grocery stores to purchase food while roads are clear. Store shelves empty, and the store’s procurement team returns to its inventory system to squeeze out more stock, while suppliers downstream scramble to find additional ingredients or sources.

As Beer Game players discover, one strategy for variation in consumer demand is to have extra inventory on hand so they can absorb a temporary uptick in demand. But storage costs money, and many food suppliers, intent on creating a “lean” supply chain, want to minimize inventory to save money and avoid food waste. Sometimes, when consumers stop buying a product, stores offer discounts and promotions, but that may cause unpredictable surges in sales that create more problems downstream. You can only hold onto tomatoes for so long.

Forecasts seem to be the culprit here, and the bullwhip effect is more about the problems in forecast-driven supply chain than in supply chain dynamics in general. If your supply chain depends less on forecasts and is more aligned with actual consumer behavior, the bullwhip effect may be dampened. Food companies that link point-of-sales data and supply chain planning can tighten the loop between consumer behavior and other activities throughout the supply chain.

If nothing else, the Bull Whip and the Beer Game reveal the systems effect of the food supply chain. Everything is connected, and one failure has dire consequences. Lack of beer is just one of them.

The Pan in Choripàn

The Pan in Choripàn

Most food in Argentina comes from somewhere else, at least in its earliest forms. Like wheat.

Sure, there’s asado, a ubiquitous dish on Argentinian menus that is mostly a mound of barbequed meat. But in Argentina, the mishmash of culinary traditions reflects a long history of immigrants who left very little of anything that can be called truly Argentinian.

The view that the Argentinian national cuisine is actually a mix of British, Italian and French food can be galling to some cultural purists. The Scots made significant cultural contributions, such as the introduction of football. The British brought tea to Argentina while the native plants added the local flavor of yerba mate. And the British sailed to the Falkland Islands and the Argentinian mainland during the 19th century, hauling their sheep and cattle along as they established ranches (estancias) that survive today, even if only as useful buildings for a remote resort.

Estancia Christina, where our family spent the Christmas holidays a few years ago, is one such compound, located in Los Glaciares National Park. Visitors can wander through a museum on the ranch that exhibits shearing and branding equipment hauled to the estancia by John Percival Masters in the early 1900s. He and his family had almost 30,000 sheep and shipped wool to Buenos Aires on railroads built by British engineers. Asado was made possible by decades of cattle, sheep and pig importations during those years of British ranching.

Football fans consume thousands of choripàns at their local stadiums, but still, Argentina is known for its football championships, not for its bread. So choripàn bread, closely resembling French baguettes in taste and flavor, brings Argentina and France together — if not for the duration of a rowdy football match, at least for the time it takes to consume a chorizo sandwich.

Wheat flour, used to make chorizo sandwiches, came from wheat brought by the Spaniards to South America during the sixteenth century. The bread in Argentina is almost exclusively white, a lingering imprint left by Europeans who saw white bread as the signature of upper class cuisine. That January, at the Central Market outside Buenos Aires, dozens of customers waited in line to buy freshly baked French baguettes priced at one kilo of baguettes for seven pesos. (The Argentinian government had set bread prices at ten pesos per kilo, so wonder the line for one kilo of bread at seven pesos wound around and around the bakery stall that day.)

Argentina got serious about growing wheat after the new nation (established in 1852) built a School of Agronomy in 1875. Soon Argentina exported grain for the first time and began to industrialize the country’s grain production system. Bad weather and crop failures in the early 1900s combined with a lack of demand for grains, a commodity not considered important to those waging World War I. When the war was over, the economic depression ended, and workers began to demand protection from those who appeared to profit by the resurgence of grain production.

When I was there, the wheat market was in turmoil as Kirchner’s government restricted wheat exports, causing wheat farmers to lower production and in some cases move their fields into the more lucrative production of soybeans, which have no limits even though sales are taxed at 35 percent. Since farmers want to reap the benefits from the more liberal policies, they are depleting the soil with the nutrient-hungry soybeans.

The wheat farmers who remain in their fields soldier on, producing grain for choripàn bread. One mill outside Buenos Aires, Melino Chacabuco, receives shipments of grain around the clock. Chacabuco is a sleepy, semi-industrial town of just over 35,000 inhabitants located on the Saluda River, now the Laguna Rocha. The presence of a river must have been the attraction for building a mill, a winding conduit for grain to the mills. Tall smoke stacks, grain storage silos, and cylindrical billboards advertise Chacabuco both as a town and as a mill.

I visited the mill, driving three hours to Chacabuco on a long, flat highway through dusty agricultural towns. At the mill, a long queue of bright red trucks transferred grain from their bellies into the metal grates built into the flooring of the mill delivery courtyard. To show how all these shipments of grain become the refined, enriched white flour used in choripàn sandwich bread, two employees met me in the mill conference room. With a display more suited to a foreign dignitary, production manager Juan Rafael Errasti and food engineer Gabriela Benavidez sat at a long wooden conference table, slide projector perched at one end, American and Argentinian flags flanking each other, and a basket of sweet, sticky, shiny Argentinian pastries slowly circumnavigating the table.

Rafael and Gabriela explained how their mill made flour—oh, and pet food, a byproduct of milling flour. Molino Chacabuco S.A. was founded by Crespo & Rodriguez, a firm in the early 1900s. Don Tomás Crespo and Don Jose Maria Rodríguez acquired the milling equipment in Chacabuco in 1918.

Inside the old Chacabuco Mill, Rafael and Gabriel talked about their jobs. Rafael revealed that his recent promotion to manager made him uncomfortable. Trained as a mechanical engineer, he confessed that he knows how milling equipment works, not people. He’s tall with silver hair, and he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt to keep cool in on that mid-summer day. The warm, damp air smelled of ground flour.

“A simple loaf of bread is not easy to make, and not all grains of wheat are created equal.”

Gabriela appeared to thrive in her job as a food scientist, a position she’d had for the last twenty-nine years. Slowly stirring her tea as she emptied a series of sugar packets into her cup, she explained how flour continues to hold her interest. A simple loaf of bread, she said, is not easy to make. Not all grains of wheat are created equal, according to Gabriela, who described all the variances that can occur and all the adaptations and challenges that arise as a result of differences caused by different growing practices and weather changes. Adding to the complexities of her flour world, she said she believes that bakers today are not as skilled as in the past, sometimes blundering through the making of bread inconsistently, often tossing in ingredients without regard for precision or, she suggested, any concern for quality. As a result, Gabriela is in constant contact with her customers, advising and sometimes training them so they can create a stable, consistent loaf. After all, she wants them to stay in business, and it’s the flour that will get a bad rap if a customer feels the bread doesn’t taste good.

“It’s the flour that will get a bad rap if a customer feels the bread doesn’t taste good.”

Gabriela reports to Rafael, who towered over her with his wiry six-feet. Her hair is short and dark brown, drawn back over her face by her reading glasses. Wearing a white lab coat with the company logo on one side, she conveyed the competence of a scientist, betrayed in some moments by an occasional twinkle and smile. During our tour through the factory, we caught each other’s attention when we approached a large area where the highly polished wooden floor begged for a tango dancer or two. Spontaneously, we both mimicked the motions of tango dancing, sliding across the floor for a few minutes undetected by the oblivious males in our group.

Rafael and Gabriela led us into the factory, a collection of buildings adjoining their offices. Winding our way in between the tall silos of grain awaiting the capacious maw inside the largest of the buildings, we began our trek up and down the five floors of 1950s style milling equipment.

The mill was impeccable. The machinery was either emitting soft grinding sounds or energetically quivering and rumbling as flour coursed throughout the different factory floors. Every machine seemed to be either grinding or sifting. In a quiet room shut off from these sounds and vibrations, Raphael and Gabriela presented a series of trays, each with tiny piles of ground grains in various stages of milling. Trays appeared and were whisked away in a performance designed by a team of millers who displayed the same sort of geekiness that you find in a chemistry lab. Gabriela and Raphael showed, with their small piles illustrating the progressive stages of milling, how the grains became 00 or 000 flour, two specifications indicating fineness. (The Argentinians use the Italian system for grading flour according to fineness. The more zeros, the finer the grind.)

And the reveal of small piles of flour didn’t end in the small room filled with flour samples. On each floor, Raphael and Gabriela went from machine to machine, pulling out samples of flour to demonstrate how many times the wheat grains passed through the mill, up and down, back and forth, streaming through Plexiglas tubes, rustling and shaking their way toward some degree of 000s.

The floors, supported by the old columns from the mill’s early years, gleamed. While the columns appeared of recent vintage, the capitols were the old cast iron ones, black and decorative. Great care had been taken by someone in charge of the mill’s history to patch only small areas of the flooring in an effort to keep as much of the early 19th century underfoot. In spite of the effort to keep the mill’s past intact, modern milling practices and the use of computers to manage every step of the process were evident at every turn. One turn took us to a room where bags of additives awaited someone who would measure out desired amounts of niacin and riboflavin to create “enriched” flour. (Seems like the flour industry spends its time stripping off the outer shell of a grain, removing protein and nutrients and then replacing nutrients through the “enrichment” process. Must be a reason for this, and it might have something to do with the cultural preference for white bread, like the bread used in choripàn.)

“No man qualifies as a statesman who is entirely ignorant on the problems of wheat.”

Wheat is one of those crops brought to South America by the same Europeans that Niall Ferguson lauds in his book, Empire. Ferguson argues that the colonizers during the 19th century added to the conquered countries, adding such commodities such as grain, railroads, and cattle. Whether you agreed with Ferguson or not, you see the effects of foreign cultures in every choripàn. Argentinian wheat makes a significant contribution to the global economy and governments are wary of any shortage or disruption to the wheat supply chain. As Socrates said in one of his discussions with Plato, “No man qualifies as a statesman who is entirely ignorant on the problems of wheat.”

And Argentina has been having its wheat problems. How the choripàn will fare is unclear. But just ask any Argentinian if whole wheat or any bread other than that white wheat bread would be worthy of their chorizo, and you’ll get a grimace and denial all in one motion.

“Ask any Argentinian if any other bread would be worthy of their chorizo, and you’ll get a grimace and denial all in one motion.”

On the way back from the mill, I passed through several highway tollbooths where police officers waved cars through, allowing them to pass without paying any toll. My guide explained that the government passed a law making it illegal for tollbooths to detain drivers for longer than three minutes during peak traffic hours. This seemed to indicate that the government was alarmed that such delays could incite riots or other forms of social unrest. If a few minutes delay at the tollbooth could cause such a reaction, imagine what might ensue if choripàn bread became prohibitively expensive or even unavailable due to a wheat shortage. Beware any government that goes too far, threatening all those football fans with the loss of their beloved choripàn.