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 ...

On Scottish Poet Robert Burns Night, Don’t Forget the Haggis

January 25 is the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns, born in Alloway (now a suburb of Ayr) in 1759, and famed for such works as “To a Mouse,” “A Man’s a Man for A’ That,” “A Red, Red Rose,” and the words to that staple song of New Year’s Eve, “Auld Lang Syne.” On Burns’s birthday—now commonly known as Burns Night—Scots and Scots’ lovers around the world gather to celebrate, feast on haggis, and drink Scotch whiskey. But how did the stuffed sheep's stomach become the star of the feast?

The first Burns Night took place in July, 1801, when nine of Burns’s best buddies met on the fifth ...

Kenyan Farmers Fight Food Loss By Drying, Selling Mangoes

What do you get when you mix Kenyan mango farmers, a European food initiative, a German consulting firm, and a Kenyan health food company? Give up?? The answer, of course, is dried mango. (Kaushe maembe in Swahili.)

How exactly did that come to pass? As you might suspect, it’s complicated. But it starts with a whole lot of wasted mangoes. More than half the crop—64 percent to be exact—never made it to market. That’s 300,000 tons of tasty, nutritious mangoes squandered every year in a country that, like most places, is no stranger to hunger. There are very few secondary markets. Somehow, it is cheaper to import mango pulp ...

KFC Brings the (Cultural) Heat With New Nashville Hot Chicken

On my first trip to Nashville a few years ago, I heard about a hyper-local delicacy made from three discernible ingredients: chicken, cayenne pepper, and lard.

A few hours later, I was sitting with friends at a picnic table staring at a Styrofoam box of chicken legs, pickle disks, and white bread, all covered in dark red powder. After a few beers and a lot of napkins, our boxes were empty and we sat in contented silence, feeling like we were coming down from an adrenaline high.

This is the ideal result of eating Nashville hot chicken. When it’s properly prepared, the chicken’s overwhelming heat eventually yields to a pleasant taste ...

Planting Vegetables in California, a Woman Finds Her Korean Roots

For a Korean girl adopted by an American family at five-months old, the love affair with food started with the perilla leaf.

Better known to some as the sesame or shiso leaf, Kristyn Leach found the prickly green and purple leaf in a Korean seed book and fell hard. And she credits the experience with inspiring her to launch Namu, a California farm specializing in Asian vegetables. (more…)

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