12 Jul

Do Corn Subsidies Really Make Us Fat?

“The Plate,” National Geographic • July 12, 2016

Bad health can be linked to wheat, corn, dairy and meat—and a range of foods currently subsidized by the government. That was the catchy finding that researchers announced last week with a study showing a correlation between an increased consumption of subsidized foods and health problems like obesity and high cholesterol. But is it actually the farm subsidies that make people eat those foods?

…more…

06 Jul

Bog Butter and Other Odd Ways the Ancients Preserved Food

“The Plate,” National Geographic • July 6, 2016

John Conway, an Irishman, was at work in a bog when he made an interesting discovery recently: a 22-pound lump of ancient “bog butter,” sunk into the depths of peat, likely from about 2,000 years ago. Though it sounds surprising to Americans, finding a clump of dairy fat in a bog is fairly commonplace, with 430 instances currently on record. The butter can be as old as the Iron Age—roughly 600 B.C.—or as recently as the 1600s. Even today, the stuff retains a buttery smell—a chef who tasted an ancient specimen said “it goes right up your nose;” a modern variation produced by the Nordic Food Lab in 2012 drew reviews ranging from “animal” to “salami.”

…more…

28 Jun

World Food Prize Winners: Why Sweet Potato Color Matters

“The Plate,” National Geographic • June 28, 2016

A handful of scientists have spent the last 15 years convincing Africans to swap white sweet potatoes for their more colorful and vitamin-packed cousins, orange sweet potatoes. But if a tuber associated with holiday excess in the U.S. sounds like a strange focus for science, consider this: Those scientists are receiving the world’s most prestigious prize for agricultural research, the $250,000 World Food Prize, which celebrates agricultural efforts that combat food insecurity.

…more…

21 Jun

Want Power? Fire Up the Tomatoes and Potatoes

“The Plate,” National Geographic • June 21, 2016

Summer is high season for composting food waste—and, at large scale operations, for generating power by burning the biogas it generates. But scientists around the globe are figuring out new ways to turn decomposing food into power beyond the trash heap, and they’re finding that some foods are better-suited to the job than others.

…more…

09 Jun

6 Ways Food Is Immigration’s Biggest Success Story

“The Plate,” National Geographic • June 9, 2016

Anyone who’s pondered the fact that Italian tomato sauce owes a botanical debt to Central America, where the fruits first evolved, knows that foods, like humans, do travel. Many foods have traveled because intrepid humans made it their mission to seek and return with the most delicious foods around the globe; witness the introduction of Corsican lemons and Chilean avocados to American soil, thanks to explorer David Fairchild.

…more…

03 Jun

Chefs Make a Tasty Case for Eating Bugs

“The Plate,” National Geographic • June 3, 2016

The aperitif cocktail was mealworm puree syrup, shaken with bitter Aperol, fresh lemon juice and ice, topped off with Cava and a strip of lemon zest. Verdict: Tasty, with a slight silkiness from the worms’ fat content.

…more…

27 May

Boom Time for Urban Farming

“The Plate,” National Geographic • May 27, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t have a reputation for thinking outside the “Big-Ag” box. So it might come as a surprise that it’s taking one of farming’s most upstart efforts pretty seriously: Urban agriculture.

…more…

23 May

Was Stone-Age Wine a Drink of the People?

“The Plate,” National Geographic • May 23, 2016

Think about wine in the ancient world, and chances are you’ll picture chalices, feasts and rituals: The stuff of elites. But ruins in Greece suggest that wine may have roots that are more populist than we typically think—even as far back as the Stone Age—according to a new study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

…more…

06 May

Pita and Hummus: The Next Great American Foods?

“The Plate,” National Geographic • May 6, 2016

Picture a traditional American meal, and chances are good that you’re headed for the 1950s: burgers and fries, fried chicken and potato salad, maybe an Italian-turned-American-staple like pizza (see How Italian Cuisine Became as American as Apple Pie.)

But chances are good that the cuisine of the Middle East, a region whose immigrants to the U.S. face varying levels of acceptance, does not come to mind right away.

And yet, at the James Beard Foundation Chef and Restaurant Awards this week, a Lebanese restaurant was named an “America’s Classic.…more…

04 May

How Italian Cuisine Became as American as Apple Pie

“The Plate,” National Geographic • May 4, 2016

If you’re wondering about how and why food gets appropriated—i.e. when Americans consider it their own—think about this: Eating Italian food was once considered “slumming.” So what does it take for a foreign cuisine to melt into America’s pot? We talked to Krishnendu Ray, the director of NYU’s Food Studies program and author of The Ethnic Restaurateur, a book about how immigrants to the U.S. shape the food culture, who gave us a step-by-step breakdown of how a cuisine can go from unnoticed to avant-garde; from popular to prestigious. …more…