4 Important Foods of America’s Civil Rights Movement

There are some foods that have achieved iconic status—think apple pie, coq au vin, and sushi. Yet there are many other humble foods that have played an important, but less flashy role in history.

The Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. recently hosted an event to focus on how some pretty low-key foods were critical to America’s civil rights movement in the 1960s. Jessica Carbone, a curatorial associate of food history at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History says food—what you ate and where you ate it—played an integral role in strengthening and shaping black empowerment.

“By focusing on the ...

Is Chipotle Getting More Scrutiny Than Other Restaurants for Food Safety Problems?

Chipotle Mexican Grill has had a rough couple of months.

First, a series of foodborne outbreaks radiating from Chipotle restaurants across the country sickened hundreds. Then, the U.S. Attorney’s Office served the fast-casual restaurant chain with subpoenas in an investigation into an August outbreak of norovirus—the virus infamous for causing explosive diarrhea—at a California Chipotle location.

But the bad press just keeps coming. In a country where foodborne illnesses sicken 48 million people, hospitalize 128,000, and kill 3,000 each year, does Chipotle deserve the scrutiny it’s been getting? Or is the company that makes its money selling “Food with Integrity,” shunning the standard fast food supply chain ...

Some Restaurateurs Are Building Better Benefits Into Food Jobs

The eggs and flour at Rose’s Fine Food, a diner on Detroit’s deep east side, are local. The bread and mustard, the donuts and pickles and beets, are all made in-house. The lunch menu offers a $13.75 rabbit sandwich; the chef apprenticed at San Francisco’s famed Tartine bakery; and there is a well-worn Ottolenghi book among the stack of cookbooks displayed on a kitchen shelf. In this, Rose’s is unmistakably a trendy kind of place.

But Rose’s is also becoming known for a new kind of trend: Paying restaurant workers a decent wage and offering opportunity for advancement.

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Noodles: The Ultimate Global Comfort Food

Who really invented noodles? Italians, Arabs, and the Chinese all claim to be the first to divide dough into bits and boil the pieces in water. Noodles of many shapes and lengths have been a part of global cuisines for at least 2,000 years, when but scientists found a 4,000-year-old noodle in China a few years back, it pretty much gave China the win.

Still noodles take many forms and are made from a wide variety of grains like millet, wheat, and rice. They are thrown into soups, fried in woks, or coated with olive oil, tomato sauce, or cheese. They are tossed with beans or vegetables or leftover meats to make a quick meal. Noodles are a ...

Russians Raise the Steaks By Demanding Blood

On April 23, 2012, the sun dawned on an act of revolution. In the night, someone had hung 240 banners along the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, gateway to Red Square and the Kremlin. Each was printed with a familiar Soviet image—an upraised fist— and the slogan: “We demand blood! ... with steak, salt, pepper, and [a] glass of good wine!”

It was a publicity stunt for Goodman Steakhouse, a restaurant chain that has been trying to whet the Russian appetite for beef since 2004. While demand has slowly been growing in the last few years, back then, they had their work ...

Is There a Dark Side to Those Adorable Bento Boxes?

Panda-shaped rice balls. A nori-whiskered Hello Kitty. Creatures made from hard-boiled eggs. When prepared for schoolchildren, praiseworthy bento boxes combine healthy ingredients with adorable designs.

But does this culture of cuteness (the Japanese call it kawaii) have a dark side, one in which frantic moms attempt to out-charm each other for the sake of their reputations?

Said to have evolved centuries ago among the Japanese elite, bento has attained worldwide popularity in recent years, and its rise in popular culture has resulted in a type of fanaticism epitomized by international competitions, vegan bento box blogs, and a never-ending flurry of photos cultivated by proud moms (and dads) on ...

Why Whaling Persists in Japan, Despite International Pressure

On the island of Ikitsuki at the southern tip of Japan, a certain cut of meat is served up raw or cooked into a variety of dishes, just as it has been for centuries.

Rich in iron, fat, and protein, the local delicacy can be found in many restaurants on the island, and has been served in school lunches nationwide.

It's not beef or fish—but whale. And its continued presence in the Japanese diet has global activists and conservationists fuming. Living in Japan, and seeing it sold and eaten nationwide, I decided to research why the Japanese cling to this practice.

On a recent trip to Nagasaki Prefecture, I visited the ...

How the World’s Butcher Shops Link Farm to Plate

Even the the most avid meat eaters would agree: animal butchery isn’t pretty. It’s bloody, it’s messy, and it requires confronting death—not to mention the ecological and potential health effects of a meat-heavy diet.

Watching a butcher in action also means considering our relationship with other living, breathing things. Fewer than five percent of Americans call themselves vegetarian or vegan, but many meat eaters don’t necessarily want to look deep into a lamb's eyes before tearing into a juicy chop.

But no matter how one feels about non-vegetarian diets, the majority of the world’s people either consume meat or aspire to. That means animal slaughter and butchery—whether in ...

The Art and Science of Stocking Up for a Storm

Quick: The weather outside is frightful and the National Weather Service says it’s going to get even worse. You’ve got 24 hours notice. What do you rush to the store to buy?

What leaped immediately to my mind was wine and cookies. But most of us, it turns out, are less frivolous.

In the shopping window of opportunity before the East Coast was smacked this weekend by Winter Storm Jonas, Washington, D.C. residents stripped local stores of staples: bread, milk, and eggs. The reproducibility of this behavior—possibly dating back to the fabled New England Blizzard of 1978—has led to a standing joke that the severity of a storm can be ...

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