The History of the “Forbidden” Fruit

No fruit pops up so frequently in Western art, literature, and everyday speech as the apple.

An apple (cunningly labeled “to the fairest”) started the Trojan War. (Odysseus, later struggling to get home from it, yearns for the garden he had as a child, populated by apple trees.) The Norse gods owed their immortality to apples. The Arabian Nights features a magic apple from Samarkand capable of curing all human diseases—predating the belief that an apple a day will keep the doctor away, a proverb that first appeared in print in 1866. Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, and Dylan Thomas all wrote poems about ...

Frederic Tudor: The King of Ice

Thomas Jefferson was a fan of ice. He attributed his good health to his habit of soaking his feet in ice water every morning, and during his stint as George Washington’s Secretary of State in often-steamy Philadelphia—temporarily deprived of ice—he subscribed to an ice service. The ice, which cost a shilling a day, came from James Oeller’s hotel on Chestnut Street where ice harvested in winter from local rivers was stored in an insulated underground pit. At the hotel, the ice was used to chill butter, meat, and salad veggies, and (highly popular) to provide ice chunks for glasses of cold alcoholic punch.

Jefferson has two ice houses of ...

A Food Has an Historic, Objectionable Name. Should We Change It?

It’s been a couple of years, but I clearly remember the shock.

I had just moved to Minneapolis, and I was living on the edge of Nordeast, a once-working class neighborhood of warehouses and breweries, now being colonized with indie shops and small restaurants. The gentrification was patchy, and between the rough-buffed newness, glints showed of the area’s gritty history: the polka bar, the bowling alley-steakhouse, the Ukrainian Event Center. (more…)

Move Over Mary Jane, We’ve Got Nutmeg

Nutmeg is such a cozy spice. 

We sprinkle it on eggnog, add it to French toast and pumpkin pie, and use it to give extra pizzazz to sweet potatoes, carrots, acorn squash, quiche, and crème brulée. Medieval drinkers—who spelled it notemygge—put it in their ale. Nutmeg—and its spice partner, mace—are also key ingredients in haggis, the Scottish pudding made from sheep organs (heart, livers, and lungs) and oatmeal, traditionally boiled in a sheep’s stomach. Robert Burns fans eat it on the poet’s birthday, washed down with a lot of Scotch whiskey. (more…)

Technology Food Trends and Health

I have seen the future of food, and it needs a charger.

Last month at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, a group that promotes turning technology and science into food-system solutions, a market research company discussed the top food trends for new product development in the food industry. Leading the list: clean labels, simpler pleasures, and innovations by small craft manufacturers.

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Veggie Family Secret: Tomatoes are Double First Cousins

Do you know what a penny looks like?

Yeah, I thought I did too. I mean, who doesn’t? The penny is the most common coin in circulation. The U.S. Mint stamps out over 20 million a day. Collectively, we own trillions. I have a fistful of them right now, rattling around at the bottom of my backpack. Penny. Duh.

But don’t jump on this one too fast. A classic experiment of 1979 showed that we’re all perfect morons when it comes to pennies. (more…)

Organic Foods Are Tastier and Healthier, Study Finds

Can I interest you in consuming a more nutritious and tastier diet without changing the kinds of food you eat? Back in 2012 a study famously declared organic foods to be no more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts, but get ready for conventional wisdom about conventional crops to be turned on its head.

Organic fruits, vegetables, and grains have several measureable nutritional benefits over conventional crops, according to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) and released Thursday. Analyzing 343 peer-reviewed publications, researchers from the United Kingdom with the help of American Charles Benbrook of Washington State University found that organics contain 18 to ...

Creating an Appetite for a Different Kind of Chicken

Here’s a conundrum. If you asked them, many eaters would probably say they’d prefer that their food be produced in ways that don’t harm the environment, don’t cause animals to suffer, don’t hurt their own health—oh, and is tasty, too.

But how do you get from that abstract conviction to the reality of a meal on your plate? If you don’t know where food like that comes from, how do you put that kind of eating into practice? And if you don’t know what food like that tastes like, how do you learn to like it enough to eat it more than once? (more…)

Killer Fungus Could Threaten World Food Supply

In John Christopher’s sci-fi tale No Blade of Grass, a virus wipes out all the world’s grasses—the entire family Poaceae, which includes some 10,000 different species, among them wheat, barley, oats, rye, millet, rice, sorghum, and sugarcane.

The result, of course, was disastrous. There was worldwide famine (presumably also obliterating grazing animals and the pandas; bamboo is a grass). Starving people formed bands of marauders. In England—where the story is set—farms savvy enough to have concentrated on such non-grass crops as cabbages and potatoes turned themselves into armed fortresses and shot desperate people who tried to breach their stockades.

'Let Them Eat Cake'

It’s not all that outlandish ...

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