Your Shot: On the 4th of July, the Burger is King

Red meat is beloved in America, the nation that brought the world McDonald's. But it's not without controversy. Pending U.S. dietary guidelines are likely to recommend that we include less red meat in our diets, but how much is too much? And demand for beef raises environmental concerns, too: Critics note that industrial cattle production has a larger environmental impact than that of other meats.

Beef consumption has actually waned in the U.S. in recent years, dropping to 24.1 billion pounds last year from 28.1 billion in 2004. But 24 billion pounds is still a lot of beef, and Americans love their steaks...and their burgers.

Make Room for Gumbo and Cubans at the July 4th Feast

Google “What do Americans Eat on July 4” and you’ll get a lot of articles from international publications with the standard rundown: hamburgers, potato salad, corn on the cob. You’ll also get staggering statistics: The U.S. consumes 150 million hot dogs on Independence Day. No disrespect to the traditional cookout, but I started reconsidering my July 4 table back in May when I saw the off-Broadway musical biography of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, told in hiphop. More on that in a minute.

Many Americans—not just the high-brow foodies—shudder that the world thinks this is American food. Embracing our diverse food culture on July 4 is both a way to honor America ...

My Computer, My Sous Chef: Watson’s Black Tea-Blueberry-Basil Granita

IBM and Bon Appetit last week released their much-awaited “cognitive cooking” application, Chef Watson. Just don’t call it a recipe app.

Watson is IBM’s super computer that famously won at Jeopardy in 2011. The quiz show’s brain-teasers, rich with puns, homonyms, and slang, require more than a Google-like ability to spit out facts. Jeopardy demands creative thinking.

So does cooking. Watson’s creators believed it could think outside of the box to create unexpected and delicious flavor combinations, because it doesn’t have sorted “boxes” of knowledge like human brains do (unless, of course, Watson’s creators tell it to). Whereas a human brain might never imagine salmon and ...

Stocking Up for the End Times? Consider the Potato

If the world ended tomorrow, and you survived, what would you eat?

In Andy Weir’s hard-to-put-down book The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney has been left for dead on Mars. Now tens of millions of miles from home, stranded, incommunicado, and very much alive, he has to figure out how to survive on his own for four years. His best bet, he decides, is potatoes.

It’s not a bad choice either. Potatoes are prolific, filling, and packed with useful nutrients. One middling-sized spud contains 3 grams of protein, 2.7 grams of dietary fiber, 23 grams of carbohydrate—mostly in the form of starch, plus significant amounts of potassium and other minerals, ...

Hear the Sweet (or Sour) Sound of Supper

We’ve known for decades that sound has an effect on taste. Kellogg’s was promoting Rice Krispies with the onomatopoetic “Snap, Crackle, and Pop!” as early as 1929, a phrase and upbeat noise that predisposed cereal eaters to expect a tasty, crunchy eating experience—as opposed to a lackluster interaction with a crackle-less cereal that turned to sludge in the bowl. The three cartoon elves of the same names first appeared in the 1930s, joined briefly in the 1950s by a fourth space-helmet-sporting elf named Pow. Pow (said to represent the power of whole-wheat grain) didn’t last very long; at least part of the reason may be that ...

Hunting Birds and Honey and Weed in Tanzania

Believe it or not, reaching into killer bees’ nests with their bare hands isn’t the most impressive thing about the Hadza people of Tanzania. The truly remarkable thing about the Hadza is that thanks to their hunter gatherer lifestyle, they have lived in Hadza land for 40,000 years and left zero environmental impact.

As part of our Future of Food series, photographer Matthieu Paley went to remote parts of the world to document the evolution of diet. Our video team captured his NG Live lectures about this work in a series of seven videos.

Watch as Hadza men—the last remaining hunter-gatherers—hunt everything but ...

Yosemite Park: Come for the Views, Stay for the Food

Food will never be what draws 293 million visitors to America’s national parks each year. The waterfalls, wildlife, canyons, and forests get full credit. But those people gotta eat, and they’re what the industry calls a “captive audience.” They are in the middle of the wilderness, at the mercy of the park’s offerings, with no other food options except what is in the cooler, backpack, or RV fridge. (Eating found berries and such is usually OK, as long as you don't poison yourself or "harvest" or "collect," like this guy. As I've written before, you just don't want to go to prison for being a mushroom poacher.)

So national parks could ...

Where Do Food Trucks Go at Night?

After serving their last customers, food truck employees around the country typically have one more stop on their itinerary: a commissary. That’s where they park the truck for maintenance, cleaning, and restocking for the next day or shift.

Whether trucks are required by law to park at commissaries—as is the case in many cities—or use them for convenience, commissaries provide many services. They've been around for decades, working with traditional commercial food trucks, but with the rise of gourmet trucks, commissaries are in the spotlight.

While reporting on L.A.'s food trucks for National Geographic magazine, I found one of the largest commissaries in L.A., La Raza Foods, a three-acre ...

Your Shot: It’s Time To Scream For Ice Cream

What's the proper way to eat ice cream?

In the U.S., of course, there's a long-standing debate between the bite and lick camps. But the real answer to this timeless question may depend on where in the world you live.

In Italy, where the colorful cases at the gelateria verge on works of art, you'll be handed a shovel-like spoon with which to enjoy your gelato, often served up in a tulip-shaped cup. In Turkey, dondurma (literally, "freezing" in Turkish) has such a chewy texture, it's sometimes eaten with a knife and fork. And in the Philippines, you could enjoy your sweet treat on a cone—but wouldn't you rather eat it stuffed in a bread roll? ...

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