Saving Poultry’s Gene Pool

Have you ever stopped to wonder: How did the chicken you eat become the chicken you eat? 

Here's what I mean. Go back 150 years or so, and there were dozens of breeds of chicken grown for meat (and others for egg production). They varied from farm to farm, and region to region, according to the farmer's preference and the tastes of the local market. But go back about 100 years, to the 1920s, and the poultry industry begins to consolidate. (more…)

Are Potatoes Depressing?

Bulgarian designer Yanko Tsetkov is a master of maps.

In his irreverent Atlas of Prejudice and Atlas of Prejudice 2, he dices up the world according to who thinks what of others, which doesn’t necessarily show any of us in a positive light. In his depiction of “The World According to Americans,” for example, the continental United States appears smugly as the “Civilized World,” with Alaska labeled “Hockey Moms,” Canada, “Vegetarians,” Mexico, “Maids and Gardeners,” Russia, “Commies,” and India, “Curry.” It’s funny, in a sobering sort of way. (more…)

Urban Beekeeping on Green Rooftops

My hometown of Washington, DC is famous for scandal and brokenness so you’ll pardon us capital dwellers a little bragging when something goes right.

Last year 300,000 square feet of green roofs popped up in our city, more than any other in America. Often perched within those urban building-top oases are microfarms with thousands of workers creating one of the world’s most sought-after—and some say most endangered—agricultural product: honey. (more…)

Quick Pickled Watermelon Radish

Watermelon radishes are one of spring’s most stunning appearances at the farmers market.

The round root vegetables are white on the outside, but one slice reveals a hidden, deep fuchsia center. Sweet, spicy, and crunchy, the heirloom variety of the daikon radish is a great addition to spring salads. Pickling them transforms them into a delectable zingy accompaniment to tacos or weekend hotdogs and hamburgers. For those who find pickling intimidating, quick pickling, I promise, is super easy, and once you start here, you’ll be pickling everything. (more…)

Baking Bad: Is Homemade Food Safe for Sale?

For the past half decade or so, criminals-in-hiding have morphed into culinary heroes as state legislatures loosen laws prohibiting the sale of “cottage food”—products made in a home kitchen for commercial sale.

Vendors formerly banished to underground foodie black markets in ever-changing locations like parking lots and shuttered warehouses now sell openly in the light of farmers’ markets and the internet. And the single element most driving the curious nationwide shift in governments’ decrees that food made in uninspected home kitchens is now safe for public sale: social media. (more…)

Yelp Helps NYC Health Department Track Foodborne Illnesses

Picture this: You're ready for dinner, but you're not sure what cuisine you want to eat.

Or maybe you're in an unfamiliar neighborhood and want to explore. You pull out your phone, pull up Yelp or Open Table or Urban Spoon, and find a promising place to nosh.

And a few hours or days later, you feel sick, and want to punish the place you think is responsible by giving them a lambasting, single-star review. But you don't want to be that person. So you don't. (more…)

“Speed Dating” Brings Farmers and Chefs Together

One Monday afternoon this February, a D.C. restaurant was the culinary equivalent of the U.S. Capitol during the State of the Union.

The area’s best chefs from haute spots like the Inn at Little Washington, 1789, and local-chain-turned-national sweetgreen squeezed in to one location along with the region’s top farmers and food artisans. Hopefully at least one toque was hidden in an undisclosed location to keep Washington’s restaurant world alive in case something happened to us. (more…)

Hot off the Griddle, Here’s the History of Pancakes

Our prehistoric ancestors just may have eaten pancakes.

Analyses of starch grains on 30,000-year-old grinding tools suggest that Stone Age cooks were making flour out of cattails and ferns—which, researchers guess, was likely mixed with water and baked on a hot, possibly greased, rock. The result may have been more akin to hardtack than the modern crepe, hotcake, or flapjack, but the idea was the same: a flat cake, made from batter and fried. (more…)

Is American Cuisine Destroying Palates?

On Thursday night I judged the Smithsonian National Zoo’s annual cooking competition with the secret ingredients, which the chefs were required to incorporate into their dishes, pulled directly from the zoo animals’ diets.

We had four top toques using beast favorites like nori sheets and apple juice competing to prepare the best American cuisine. Which started a discussion among the judges  of the 238-year-old question: What is American cuisine anyway? (more…)

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