Pita and Hummus: The Next Great American Foods?

Picture a traditional American meal, and chances are good that you’re headed for the 1950s: burgers and fries, fried chicken and potato salad, maybe an Italian-turned-American-staple like pizza (see How Italian Cuisine Became as American as Apple Pie.)

But chances are good that the cuisine of the Middle East, a region whose immigrants to the U.S. face varying levels of acceptance, does not come to mind right away.

And yet, at the James Beard Foundation Chef and Restaurant Awards this week, a Lebanese restaurant in Dearborn, Michigan, was named an “America’s Classic.

“By way of deeming that an American classic, we recognize the reality of America today,” says

How Italian Cuisine Became as American as Apple Pie

If you’re wondering about how and why food gets appropriated—i.e. when Americans consider it their own—think about this: Eating Italian food was once considered “slumming.” So what does it take for a foreign cuisine to melt into America’s pot? We talked to Krishnendu Ray, the director of NYU’s Food Studies program and author of The Ethnic Restaurateur, a book about how immigrants to the U.S. shape the food culture, who gave us a step-by-step breakdown of how a cuisine can go from unnoticed to avant-garde; from popular to prestigious.

Immigrate and introduce a new cuisine—ideally with a few notable dishes.

In the late 19th century, says Ray, ...

Supermarket Beef Is Battleground for Deforestation Debate

One of Brazil’s largest supermarkets, Pão de Açúcar, has agreed to stop selling beef produced on deforested land or with forced labor by June 1. But while advocates hailed the announcement, they also questioned whether the retailer was being realistic about the promises it’s making.

In late March, the retailer announced it would nix contracts with suppliers who do not follow two basic requirements. First, that the beef they sell has not been produced on ranches created by cutting down Amazonian rainforest. While deforestation for cattle has slowed in recent years, roughly 60 percent of Amazonian land that has been clear-cut is now used to raise cattle.

And, second, ...

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 ...

Are Restaurants Big Food or Small Business?

Oil, banks, and big box stores are some of the industries that probably come to mind when you hear the term “powerful lobbyists.” Now, a new report aims to add one more to the list: restaurants.

Critics say the National Restaurant Association (NRA) trade group has a far wider influence in Washington than most American's realize, shaping policy on a range of issues—particularly those related to food, says Sriram Madhusoodanan, a campaign director for Corporate Accountability International, which authored the report. From 2013 to 2014, the NRA spent nearly $5 million on lobbying, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Less surprisingly, legislators who have received a share of the NRA’s political ...

New Ally in the Fight Against Diabetes Wears a Cape

A red-suited superhero alights on top of his foe, bringing his fist down with a blow that smashes his enemy to smithereens. The foe’s name, though, isn’t the Joker or Lex. It’s diabetes.

It’s all part of the World Health Organization’s latest public awareness campaign, launched Thursday. “More and more younger people…are developing the Type II form of diabetes,” says Paul Garwood, a communications specialist at the WHO, which has in recent years begun to focus on eradicating non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, heart disease and obesity, alongside traditional global health concerns like malaria. The campaign marks the first time the WHO has turned to cartoons—or superheroes—to ...

Can We Afford to Pay U.S. Farmworkers More?

Giving the 3.5 million workers picking produce on American farms a raise to match the $15 an hour many fast food workers are fighting for sounds unaffordable, right?

Not really. According to University of California-Davis agricultural labor economist Philip Martin, the likely additional cost to American shoppers of that wage hike would be about $20 a year.

“Farmers don’t get much of the retail dollar, and then of course farmers don’t give everything they get to workers,” Martin says. “So it’s fractions times fractions, and you get down to a relatively small share for farmworker wages in retail food cost.” And Martin says that means that ...

The Global Cooking Class That Promotes Diplomacy

When Razi Jafri, an Indian-American from Detroit, saw a Facebook post about a cooking class with an Iranian chef, he knew he wanted in on it. “I love cooking for people and I love looking at different types of cuisine,” he said. Plus, said Jafri, a fellow with micro lender Kiva, he was fascinated by Persian food and diplomacy; he’d followed the Iran nuclear deal closely. This would be perfect.

The catch? It required an application, and if Jafri made the cut, there would be no trip to a formal kitchen. Instead, he’d share a lesson over a Google Hangout with eight or nine others.

The unusual set-up is ...

Steak, Lobster, and Other Myths About Food Stamps

Last month, New York state Senator Patty Ritchie introduced a bill that bans “luxury” foods, such as steak and lobster, as well as junk food like soda, ice cream, candy, cookies, and decorated cakes, from the grocery lists of people who receive benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.

And it’s not the only bill of its kind. Last year, state legislators in Missouri and Wisconsin pushed bills restricting which foods can be purchased with SNAP benefits.

But here’s the thing: Are people on SNAP, who receive an average benefit of $126 a month per person, really spending big ...

African Diet, Jobs Will Be Hit Hard by Climate Change

Corn, beans and bananas could start to disappear from sub-Saharan Africa—where those crops are among the most important for local consumption—by century’s end. The culprit? Climate change.

A new study of staple crops in that region, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, predicts that by 2025, 30 percent of land in the region currently cultivated for bananas, primarily in West Africa, will become unsuitable for the crop, say researchers with the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research. Bananas are significant for local consumption, say researchers.

Meanwhile, 60 percent of bean agriculture will cease to be productive by 2050, as will 41 percent of land currently dedicated to maize, the ...

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