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Food

Americans Love Spices. So Why Don't We Grow Them?

Dec 27, 2017

Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves are probably ramping up in importance in your spice cabinet right about now — the classic flavors of the winter season. But while you might be shopping for local ingredients for your favorite recipes for eggnog or maple-glazed ham, the odds are that the spices you're using were imported from the other side of the world.

Lior Lev Sercarz thinks spices should be local, too.

Forget the party dresses and uncomfortable shoes. Toss the fussy canapés — and instead, simmer the soup.

At writer and radio producer Anne Ford's holiday party this year, it's all about comfort. "I like the idea of having some kind of holiday celebration, but not the kind where you have to wear sequins and high heels and drink champagne cocktails. I want to sit ... with a blanket and eat latkes and just be chill about it."

Susan Adolphus James has one vivid memory of childhood Christmases on the island of Beaulieu, Grenada: black cake.

"Christmas don't feel like Christmas if you don't have a piece of black cake," says James, who moved to the U.S. as a teen.

In the winter of 2006, the unthinkable happened. There was a shortage of aquavit, the Scandinavian spirit that's flavored with caraway and other botanicals like dill and anise. For Scandinavian-Americans who relied on aquavit to accompany the traditional julbord, or holiday buffet, it was a tragedy.

Telling people what to eat is perilous, whether the advice is aimed at a friend or an entire country. Of course, people and governments do it anyway. Dozens of countries have come up with recommendations for the perfect, most health-promoting diet.

"I hate the term curry house," says Ranjit Mathrani, who co-owns Veeraswamy restaurant in London. "We are not a curry house."

Veeraswamy has been around since 1926 — it is London's oldest surviving Indian restaurant. Founded by Edward Palmer — the great-grandson of an English general and an Indian princess — the restaurant served not quite Indian food, but an Anglicized version of it, catering to an English clientele that craved something a bit spicy, but not overly so.

In the early morning hours inside a cozy Paris boulangerie, big batter-mixing machines are kneading dough for the flaky breakfast pastry that has become a symbol of good French eating. Baker Frederic Pichard says it's no secret how to make a good croissant.

"It takes savoir-faire and of course milk, sugar, eggs and flour," says Pichard. "But the key ingredient is butter. Out of the eight kilograms of dough here, three kilos are butter. More than a third of croissants are made of butter."

Thanksgiving is on Thursday. If you're hosting this year, are you ready?

For some, menu planning and turkey and sides cooking won't involve breaking a sweat. For the rest of us, the next two days may be fueled by anxiety — with maybe a pinch of panic.

Kebabs, tikka masala, biryani, naan – these Indian dishes are well-known worldwide. But, you may soon see a new Indian dessert joining their ranks at your favorite Indian shops and restaurant.

Rosogolla, a round confection made with cottage cheese and sugar syrup, is a relatively cheap popular sweet treat in India, says Madhumita Saha, an opinion writer for World Is One News (WION).

"It's as good as baklava," she says.

We've all been hungry in a new place, scrolling indecisively through the results of a 'Google: food near me' search. You know you're not quite in the mood for a burger and fries, but unsure about which Pho restaurant is the best for a first timer.

So this week on Ask Code Switch, we're gonna whip up some wisdom for a reader who's in search of the best food from different cultures.

Here's Laura Epstein, from Magnolia, Del.:

It's only 9 a.m. on the Friday before Thanksgiving, but there's already a line at Magee's Bakery in Lexington, Ky., filled with people holding dense, sugary pies they've pulled from the bakery shelves.

Greg Higgins, the president and head baker at Magee's, says a rush for Kentucky transparent pies is pretty typical at this time of year.

"This is a standard thing for us to do because of the number of people who are from Maysville — because that's where the transparent name comes from, in that region," Higgins says.

With Thanksgiving in a little over a week, Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst goes over some basic menu questions with Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson and Robin Young. She’ll address defrosting a frozen turkey, to brine or not to brine, making gravy and how to pep up family favorite recipes.

For about $150 per pound, dedicated carnivores and food connoisseurs alike can get their forks on a luxury: Wagyu beef. Its trademark marbled flesh and soft texture have launched the meat into caviar-like status. And because its fat has a melting point lower than the average human body temperature, it melts in your mouth. The vast majority of the beef comes from Japanese Black cattle.

Here's something that may surprise you: Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

I know what you're thinking: Where did 2017 go? Wasn't it just Labor Day?

I know. I know!

But there's no turning back. Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and there's nothing we can do about it. The question is, are you prepared? Do you have your plans nailed down? Do you know if you are hosting family or friends? Have you figured out what you're cooking, if anything?

It’s truffle season, a time when many upscale restaurants incorporate white and black truffles into their dishes.

Regalis Foods founder Ian Purkayastha (@IanPurkayastha) has had a longtime love affair with truffles. He joins Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson to discuss his memoir “Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground.”

Paul Hollywood is all about the bake. He grew up in a flat that always smelled of bread, above his father's bakery in Merseyside; became a baker in his teens, then head baker at five-star London hotels, then off to resorts in Cyprus, and ultimately became a judge — the one with a twinkle in his piercing blue eyes — on The Great British Bake Off. His new book is Paul Hollywood: A Baker's Life.

Buena Vista winery in Sonoma Valley, founded in 1857, is considered the birthplace of California wine. The cavernous cellar, carved into a hill by Chinese laborers, has survived earthquakes, several owners and last month's fires in Northern California.

Now, the black tree stumps and scorched hills right next to the winery's buildings show just how close the flames came — less than 30 feet, says Tom Blackwood, general manager at Buena Vista.

In a monastery tucked away in a quiet back lane of Bangalore, India, Benedictine monks of the Vallombrosian Order are using their European connections to meet rising demand for fresh, Italian-style cheese in this South Asian country.

Updated Jan. 24 at 8 a.m. ET

Dippin' Dots describes its product as "an unconventional ice cream treat that's remarkably fresh and flavorful, introducing the world to beaded ice cream" and "the original and unbeatable flash-frozen ice cream sensation." Donald Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, disagrees. For years, he has mocked the company and its "ice cream of the future" on Twitter.

Drowning your sorrows or celebrating last night's election results with booze? If fancy mixed drinks are your tipple of choice, there's no need to leave the house to imbibe. Craft cocktails are now coming to your mailbox.

As meal kits have gained market share — Technomic, a food consulting firm, estimates that the market for meal kit subscriptions will grow up to a total market of $5 billion by 2025 — cocktail subscription boxes have followed.

Halloween has come and gone, but piles of candy remain. You have two options: Eat it all and risk a serious sugar coma, or get seriously creative with some candy-themed science.

We asked employees at various science museums what experiments they like to do with leftover candy. Get crackin'.

Weeknight Kitchen: Chicken Shish

Nov 4, 2016

Serves 4 (makes 8 kebabs)

Ingredients

• 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
• 3 garlic cloves, crushed
• 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano
• 1/2 ripe tomato, skinned and seeded
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
• Sea salt
• Lemon wedges, to serve

Directions

On a bright, blustery October morning in Clarkston, Ga., the sweet aroma of baked treats and brewing coffee flows out the windows of the fire engine-red food truck known as Refuge Coffee Co. parked at a street corner. A dozen or so eager customers mill about, converse and gradually fall into line.

Huddled over a hot griddle in the back of his food truck, Abdel Rahman Rahim al-Bibi doesn't hold back on the curry powder. He's frying up shish taouk — a spicy chicken kebab dish popular in the Middle East.

Aromas waft down the block, and a line forms on the city sidewalk next to al-Bibi's truck — office workers popping out for a quick bite, a mother and her two children, and a law student on his way home from the gym.

Gruel, glop, cooked mush. The English language has been less than kind in describing porridge. Which seems a tad ungrateful, really, considering that grains cooked in water or milk fed our earliest civilizations.

But now, this stalwart dish is staging a culinary comeback.

Think steaming, cumin-scented millet topped with coarsely grated Gruyere cheese. Buckwheat cooked in coconut milk, with buttered dates and cinnamon. Teff polenta garlanded with diced dandelion greens and freshly grated parmesan.

Donald Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again" is an easy one to adapt for whatever your cause. There are ones like "Make America Gay Again," "Make America Skate Again," "Make America Read Again," "Make America Fair Again." You get the idea.

Bakers, of course, had to get in on the action. How could you pass up "Make America Cake Again"?

Last summer, I went on Morning Edition to talk about the quest for a great-tasting tomato. And at the very end of the conversation, I confidently declared that no one should ever put tomatoes in the refrigerator. It kills the taste, I said. That's what I'd heard from scientists and tomato growers alike.

When you think of Chinese food in the U.S., fried rice, lo mein or General Tso's chicken may first come to mind.

But a new museum exhibition in New York City is trying to expand visitors' palates. It features stories of celebrity chefs like Martin Yan and home cooks whose food represents 18 different regional cooking styles of China.

Even though Marca Engman read countless books, watched YouTube videos and took a beekeeping class before installing her first hive in 2012, she knew she'd need help in the field.

"The whole idea of beekeeping was overwhelming," she recalls. "Every year is different and every hive is different."

Rather than working a backyard beehive solo, Engman installed her first hive in the community apiary at Hudson Gardens, a nonprofit garden near Littleton, Colo.

Eating well has many known benefits. But a good diet may not be able to counteract all the ill effects of stress on our bodies.

A new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, suggests stress can override the benefits of making better food choices.

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