What Chili-Mango Ice Cream Says About Urban Renewal

“The Plate,” National Geographic • Aug. 24, 2016

If I ask you what Detroiters eat to cool off on hot summer days, chances are you think of two Midwestern staples: ice cream and pop. If you know Detroit you might even think Faygo or Vernors. (You may also, to be honest, think beer.)

But folks around Lawndale Street, on the city’s southwest side, have an option that might seem, to outsiders, an odd fit for Detroit: Mexican-style frozen sweets and snacks from a six-table, five-year-old shop called Mangonadas del Barrio. The shop’s namesake, a variation on a popsicle, is a godsend on a steamy August afternoon—and it’s so popular that owner Antonio Hernandez opened up a second shop in June. Continue reading “What Chili-Mango Ice Cream Says About Urban Renewal”

Walmart Brings Muscle to the ‘Ugly’ Produce Movement

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

Tasty, if ugly potatoes? Funky-skinned but sweet, firm apples? In a series of low-key blog posts, Walmart—responsible for one-third of the U.S. grocery market—recently announced two new brands of produce with an unusual selling point: The produce would have, under normal circumstances, just be thrown away.

While Walmart isn’t the only grocer that’s recently embraced visually challenged fruits and vegetables, (see How ‘Ugly’ Fruits and Vegetables Can Help Solve World Hunger) its status as the country’s largest grocer could mean very big things for ugly produce. Continue reading “Walmart Brings Muscle to the ‘Ugly’ Produce Movement”

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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Continue reading “Want Power? Fire Up the Tomatoes and Potatoes”

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.

Continue reading “6 Ways Food Is Immigration’s Biggest Success Story”