When Feeding the Troops, Flavor is Rarely on the Menu

Traditionally, cooks don’t flock to recipes for military chow; and members of the military don’t usually expect to enjoy their meals. But there is at least one exception: The Swiss Guards in Vatican City.

The best-fed army in the world may just possibly be the tiniest. The Swiss Guards, all 110 of them, are famous for their magnificent dress uniform—a Renaissance-style outfit with stockings and bloomers striped in red, gold, and blue. Apparently, they are also known for their splendid table.

A favorite of the Guards is eggplant parmesan, though on any given day, they may also be treated to fresh-cooked risotto, tortellini, Florentine tomato soup, or sausages and sauerkraut. David Geisser, ...

Grab a Beer, Explore the Globe

Beer is the third most widely consumed beverage in the world, after water and tea. Many of us love it but don’t give much thought to where it originated, how it has changed with the migration and climate of its creators and how much it drives economies today.

Take two beer-loving geographers and a crazy idea to educate people about their favorite beverage, and you’ve got the makings of a book about global spatial relationships, as seen through beer goggles. Appropriately, the book was born as a sketch on the back of a cocktail napkin.

Mark Patterson and Nancy Hoalst-Pullen, a.k.a. The Beer Doctors on Facebook and Twitter, are ...

Ancient Wheat DNA Find Shifts Early UK Farming Theories

Some of us spend so much time thinking about not eating wheat, particularly its key protein, gluten, that it can be difficult to remember how important wheat is to human history.

We started growing it about 10,000 years ago. That was a major milestone; it marked the beginning of the end of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherer society and the start of Neolithic settlements focused on planting crops and raising animals for food. And because different societies turned to agriculture at different times, identifying wheat in the archaeological record can hint at how ancient peoples moved out from the Near East, where farming began, and how they spread across Europe to trade and then put down new roots.

That's ...

The Scottish Roots of She-Crab Soup

Before every Charleston, South Carolina restaurant started serving shrimp and grits to flocks of Lowcountry cooking's denizens, there was she-crab soup. And according to National Geographic travel blogger Christine Blau, that soup--a cross between a chowder and a creamy bisque--has its roots in Scotland.

It turns out that she-crab soup is a twist on partan bree, a common dish among the Scottish immigrants to the Charleston area in the early 1800s. Parten in Scots Gaelic means crab, bree in Lowland Scots means broth or brew, liquor or essence. Rice would have been an unusual ingredient in Scotland, but that may be where the South Carolina connection comes in.

“Scottish cookbooks, common among the ...

When it Comes to Eating, How Healthy is Too Healthy?

Everybody knows a few aggressively healthy eaters. These are the people who condescendingly nibble tofu while everybody else is indulging in a Twinkie binge, the people who demand at dinner to know the provenance of the chicken, the people who read every label on every supermarket packet, searching for the organic, the sugar-free, the gluten-free, the low-fat, the low-salt, and the local.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all in favor of healthy eating. It’s admirable, desirable, and all of us should do more of it. But, as it turns out, too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily wonderful.

A new eating disorder is popping up in the news lately ...

Selling Spring Dreams: The Evolution of Seed Catalogs

Gardeners love seed catalogs.

Here in Vermont we get a lot of them, most arriving in the dead of winter, when the garden is nothing but a fitful memory. They run the gamut from a full-color book-length production on glossy coated paper to a terse postcard from a Vermonter who sells Gilfeather turnips. Of whatever design, however, to the winter-bound and cabin-fever-afflicted, they’re a temptation on a scale that last occurred in Eden, when the snake sidled up to Eve and pointed out how really yummy that apple looked.

The seed catalog people know this, of course. They’re perfectly aware that none of ...

If You Want to Learn the Business Of Food, the CIA Wants You

DC Chef Brian McBride once said that he—like most chefs—can't imagine being anything but a chef...but if he had to do it all over again, in addition to cheffing, he would get “a business degree with a minor in accounting.” The food business, it turns out, is a business after all. And the most talented food people need business skills to navigate the at times byzantine and creativity-numbing U.S. venture capital and regulatory food systems with passion intact. (Don’t even get me started on scaling up to international systems.)

The prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has always understood that a heart for food must have a mind for business, for good work ...

Emerging Pediatric Allergy Advice: Don’t Hold the Peanuts

The standard advice for preventing children's peanut allergies—keep them from eating peanuts as long as possible—may have the problem backward, according to a large scientific study conducted in England and recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Kids who ate small amounts of peanut early in their life were 80 percent less likely to develop the sometimes-fatal allergy than kids who strictly avoided the nuts.

If the trial result holds up—and it is being hailed as ground-breaking—it could change how pediatricians advise parents to feed young children, and potentially could stall the soaring rates of  peanut allergy that have caused peanuts and peanut butter to be banned on airlines and in ...

Four Things You Didn’t Know About Rhubarb

As a kid growing up in New England, I never really believed spring would come until I saw the tiny, alien-looking green and red rhubarb shoots poking through the frozen ground in our neighbor’s yard. It was early March. Once the frost broke, they began their Goliath growth spurt, culminating in giant ruby stalks, cut neatly of their leaves and left on our doorstep every year. And then there was pie.

But if all you know of rhubarb is its ability to tart up some strawberries under a pastry crust, read on, and dream of spring with me.

The roots were used in ancient Chinese medicine. Long before it became ...

What’s More Presidential Than a Gift of Big Cheese?

American presidents are traditionally associated with Air Force One, the State of the Union, “Hail to the Chief,” and the West Wing. Historically, however, they’ve also been paired with – yes, really - large wheels of cheese.

The tradition began in 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson was given a gift of a giant cheese from the citizens of Cheshire, Mass. The cheese was the idea of Baptist Elder John Leland, a Jefferson supporter in the fraught election of 1800 in which Jefferson (a Republican) defeated John Adams (a Federalist).

It was made from the milk of 900 impeccably Republican cows and pressed in an outsized cider press. When finished, it ...

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