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 ...

For Chinese New Year, Go for the Goat

The Chinese New Year is here, and that’s a guarantee for plenty of partying, fireworks, and celebratory food. What’s not quite as certain, however, is exactly which animal is being welcomed with all this revelry. That’s because the Mandarin word for this year’s creature is yang, which in English can translate to goat, sheep, or ram. We food lovers here at The Plate are on team goat. (more…)

Beef: It’s (Probably) Still What’s for Dinner

When the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its long-awaited and unavoidably controversial recommendations on how our country should eat yesterday, it answered one of the big questions with a yes:  The panel will continue to endorse eating red meat as part of a healthy diet.

As expected after the public months-long debate, even the victor couldn't claim total victory. The committee still recommended lowered intake of lean red meats, but put in a footnote that a healthy diet can include lean red meats. "Nutrient dense lean meat is a headline, not a footnote," wrote North American Meat Institute President Barry Carpenter in a press release. NAMI advocated for red ...

No Yolk: USDA May Put Eggs Back on the Menu

Editor's Note: The new recommendations have been released. Read "New U.S. Dietary Recommendations First to Consider Environmental Impact."

Is the federal government poised to return eggs to everyday breakfasts?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the impending revision of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal prescription for what we should eat (and not eat). The Guidelines are rewritten every five years, and usually provoke politicking and contentiousness, because they determine the menu for massive institutional buying programs, as well as providing marketing fodder for food companies. (Think of every "No trans fats!" label you've ever seen.)

Recently there was a leak that this round of the guidelines might ...

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