Food

Food

As Dan Charles reported on Monday, yogurt has a way of igniting passions. In his story of arson, the flames were literal.

Once you start looking, it's really not hard to find people — even entire countries — deeply attached to this nourishing and calming food.

When Amanda Dykeman was certain she was done with having children, she had two options for permanent birth control: surgical sterilization, which typically involves general anesthesia and a laparoscopy, or Essure, the only nonsurgical permanent birth control option approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

She chose Essure. And she says her life has never been the same.

The idea that fermented foods — including yogurt and kefir — are good for us goes way back. But could the benefits of "good bacteria" extend beyond our guts to our brains?

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elie Metchnikoff (also known as Ilya Ilich Mechnikov) first observed a connection between fermented milk and longevity among Bulgarian peasants more than a century ago.

It takes about four cups of milk to make one cup of skyr, Iceland's super thick, high-protein version of yogurt.

Every drop of skyr made in Iceland comes from Icelandic cattle, the country's single breed.

But there's a problem: The average Icelandic cow can't supply much milk. And the hunger for skyr is stronger than ever now that people around the world are discovering its creamy delights.

Watson, IBM's Jeopardy!-winning supercomputer, boasts a pretty impressive resume when it comes to cooking.

Many a book, blog and news article has been devoted to the topic of whiskey: the way it's aged, where to drink it, how to store it and serve it or pair it with food. But comparatively little attention has been paid to how whiskey is packaged.

Which is a shame, really, when you think about how a beautiful, funny or fancy-looking label can influence which bottles we buy — and which we ignore — when shopping the whiskey aisle.

One secret to a long life may be the simple daily ritual of tea.

We've told you how Okinawans — who are known to have more than a few centenarians among them — enjoy jasmine-infused tea.

And if you're looking to incorporate this fragrant aroma with a bit of creamy indulgence, pastry chef Naomi Gallego, of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C., has you covered.

Walking through the farmers market this time of year is a wondrous thing: juicy tomatoes, rows of jewel-toned eggplants, fragrant basil and sweet yellow corn. But then, you see bunches of greens that look like weeds, stuff with names like kohlrabi and purslane, and suddenly, you feel intimidated. Other people know what to do with these greens, why don't I?

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, top chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: We go to Seoul, South Korea, to make banchan — those endless small plates of pickles and veggies that traditionally accompany rice or soup.

What do we know about the power of food to rev up sex drive? Not much.

"Really, science has not figured out what determines sexual motivation and sexual attraction. If we knew the answer to that, we'd probably be richer than Pfizer after they invented Viagra," says Dolores Lamb, director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

She hasn't seen any compelling evidence that any particular food can intensify desire.

In 1776, the American colonies declared independence from Britain.

But it wasn't until 1796 that someone dared to tackle a question that would plague every generation of Americans to come: "What is American food?"

American Cookery, the very first American cookbook, was written by Amelia Simmons (more on this mysterious woman later). In it, she promised local food and a kind of socioculinary equality. The title page stated that the recipes were "adapted to this country and all grades of life."

Their gourds tell a story — and earn them a living. That gourd in the photo — the one on the left? It is covered with miniature pictures of a potato harvest in Peru. There's even a wee burro hauling the day's crop.

That gourd will sell for around $800.

Rearranging veggie genes is big business, and we're not even talking about biotechnology. Private companies and university researchers spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year breeding better genetic varieties of food crops.

But organic farmers say those programs have a big blind spot when it comes to figuring out which new varieties are truly better. Few companies or researchers test those varieties under organic conditions.

When it comes to premature death and disease, what we eat ranks as the single most important factor, according to a study in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. Yet few doctors say they feel properly trained to dispense dietary advice. One group, at least, is trying to fill that knowledge gap.

Scallop fishermen off the East Coast could soon see one of their biggest bumper crops ever. A federal survey in waters off Delaware is predicting a boom in the next couple of years for the nation's most valuable fishery.

Every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looks for young sea scallops on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. This year, when they stuck their camera in the water, they got a huge shock, says Dvora Hart, a research analyst with NOAA's Fisheries Service.

Serves 2 to 4 as a side
 
· 1 pound baby Yukon Gold potatoes
· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· Sea salt
· 4 garlic cloves, shaved
· 1 bay leaf
· 1 sprig fresh thyme
· 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
· Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
· 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
· 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
· 1 tablespoon small sprigs fresh dill
 
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
 

What's the epitome of summer for a lot of Americans? It's communing around a grill, with friends and family, waiting for a slab of meat to cook to juicy perfection.

You're an American in London. You've visited Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London, but there's one more thing you want to check off your to-do list: tea.

No, not just any tea. We're talking a good, old-fashioned English tea time, with finger sandwiches, dainty china cups and all the formality a Downton Abbey lover could wish for.

Ah, the bread basket. You sit down for a nice meal out, and there it appears: piping hot, giving off a waft of yeasty divinity.

Who can resist?

There's a reason this age-old tradition prevails. Even in the era of paleo and gluten-free, there are still hordes of us who will gladly nosh on crusty, chewy, soul-warming bread.

But the downside may be more than just some extra calories. Turns out, eating all those carbs before a meal can amp up our appetites and spike our blood sugar.

By Mindy Segal with Kate Leahy 
 
Makes 56 cookies
 

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