Hide That Bread; The Passover Police Are Watching

Security guards at building entrances may be a common sight in Israel, but for one week every year, they search bags for something much less dangerous than weapons—sandwiches.

During the week of Passover, observant Jews do not consume chametz, or leavened food. Since the holiday commemorates the story of the Israelites' hasty departure from ancient Egypt, the rule prohibits any food made of grain and water granted time to ferment and "rise." (See The Crummy History of Matzoh.) Religious people do not eat bread, cereal, cake, cookies. Some also avoid legumes, like beans, peas, lentils, although American views on this have recently expanded.

But Israel has no separation between religion and state. A special Chametz Law exists for Passover, which states: "A business owner will not ...

Russian Vegetarian Cooking Shines During Lent

During the Russian spring, the sun transforms into a pancake.

At least, that’s the folk story mothers tell their children while cooking blinchiki for breakfast. This flat, circular cake, which can be served for any meal of the day, is a symbol of the sun’s return to the cold, dark climates of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s served crepe-style, rolled up and slathered in honey or jam. Every bite tastes like a ray of sunshine.

But there’s more to blinchiki than folklore. The pancakes are the signature food item for the season of Lent, a time before Easter when many Russians give up eating meat. That alone isn’t surprising, but ...

Breadfruit and ‘The Bounty’ That Brought It Across the Ocean

April 28 is the anniversary of the mutiny on The Bounty, possibly the most famous mutiny in history, and probably, when it comes to mutinies, the only one that most of us can name.

On that fatal date in 1789, the crew of the H.M.S. Bounty, led by first mate Fletcher Christian (a distant relative of poet William Wordsworth), revolted against their tyrannical captain, William Bligh. The upshot was that Bligh and 18 loyal supporters were sent off to sea in a 23-foot open boat, presumably to their deaths, while Christian and followers, after a brief stop in Tahiti to collect women, retired to isolated Pitcairn Island in hopes of ...

Is Moderate Drinking Even Moderately Good For Us?

Recent studies have shown that alcohol, coffee, and chocolate are probably good for you, which almost makes up for the fact that bacon, doughnuts, and anything covered with that diabolical orange dust are probably bad.  So it’s quite a blow that one of them might not be good after all.

It’s alcohol.

The benefits of moderate drinking have been widely accepted, and new information that questions those benefits has to be looked at in the context of all the old information that established them. But when two new studies, each coming at the question differently, conclude that the benefits of moderate drinking may be illusory, it’s worth taking a closer ...

Gulf Countries Look to Farm Abroad as Aquifer Dries Up

Turning sand into soil has long been a fantasy for many desert-dwelling peoples, and for much of the past few decades, many countries have worked hard to make it a reality. Now, these bids to green the desert have begun to flounder amid a desperate water crisis, forcing the nations to look elsewhere for food security.

For a while, agriculture in the Gulf states seemed like a dream come true: Saudi Arabia’s wheat output rose from 148,000 tons in 1981 to over four million tons by the mid-1990s as farmers carved out over three million new acres of cultivable land from the arid interior. Intent on maintaining ...

Raising a Barnyard in the Living Room

Humans have looked at animals as dinner since, well, we became humans. And before the grocery store separated us from what our food actually looks like, hunting was the primary method for getting a boar or fowl from the forest to the spit or chopping block.

But around 15,000 years ago, humans began the process of raising certain creatures to stay close, starting with canines, who were domesticated to aid in hunting down the other, still-wild meat sources. Domestication of animals like pigs, goats, and sheep soon followed, and that naturally made it much easier to attain diets richer in animals proteins, from meat to animal ...

The Crummy History of Matzoh

Matzoh, known by Jews worldwide as “the bread of affliction,” is a cracker-like flour and water substance that is eaten to commemorate the Hebrew slaves' exodus from Egypt. The bland crisp is eaten in place of bread for the eight days of Passover

While the aforementioned affliction may have changed over the years from one of desert-trekking deprivation to gastrointestinal hardship, most Hebrew scholars agree on one thing: It is not supposed to taste good.

And yet, for at least the first day of the holiday, which begins Friday night at sundown, many people actually crave it. Why?

For answers to this burning question about the nature of matzoh, we turn ...

Recipes for a Healthy Planet Make Worms and Algae Tasty

Earth Day is a good time to think about what we’re eating and its impact on the planet. While chefs have long played a role in changing our ideas about food, Alice Waters and other sustainable foodies may have some international competition brewing, if Lars Charas has anything to say about it.

As evidence mounts that our food needs will soon outstrip our food supply—a recent estimate by the World Resources Institute suggests that crop production needs to increase by 70 percent by 2050 to meet demand—Charas, a Danish chef and geographer, is releasing a book this May to call on chefs to rethink the human diet in ...

How a Solar Stove Became a Comic Book Hero

For someone living in a developed country, a solar cooker may feel like kind of a novelty item. Something you can pull out on camping trips to build up your green street cred and save a little bit of energy. But if you're living in a refugee camp, cooking with the sun can actually change your life.

(Read more about how solar cooking works on The Plate.)

That was the case for Lunda Lalondi Vincente, a Congolese man who fled unspeakable violence in his home country in 1998 at the age of 18. He was tortured by rebels in a conflict sometimes called Africa's First World ...

We All Waste Food. Here’s How You Can Stop.

Save the Food.

That's the message now being issued in a big way by the people who brought us Smokey the Bear and "Keep America Beautiful." Why? Because American consumers waste more food than any other segment of the supply chain (43 percent of what’s wasted, according to the recent ReFED Roadmap).

Through TV spots, billboard ads, and a sleek interactive website, Save the Food aims to illuminate America’s food waste problem. Co-created by the Ad Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the campaign is both long overdue and sorely needed. Most Americans don’t realize their role in wasting food, despite U.S. households’ collective 27 million-ton annual output.

“Consumer awareness ...

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