This is a story of American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. It is the story of the meat straw. Yes, you read that right.

"It is a straw made out of pork," explains Ben Hirko of Coralville, Iowa, the man behind Benny's Original Meat Straws.

It's a half-inch in diameter, the same length as a standard plastic straw. And it has a hole running down the middle of it, through which you're meant to slurp up Bloody Marys.

Weeknight Kitchen: Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Aug 29, 2015

Makes about 1 quart (1 L)
Indians make something they call espresso, but it’s unlike any espresso you’d see in Italy; it’s actually closer to a Greek frappé, a bold brew of instant coffee whipped with an enthusiastic amount of sugar, and then combined with hot water and milk.
I’ve been a longtime fan of that coffee, so when I was first introduced to the Vietnamese version, a drink with very much the same uncompromising intensity, I was sold. When I decided to freeze it, well, then I was lost.

Weeknight Kitchen: Tomato Pesto with Courgette (Zucchini) Spaghetti

Aug 27, 2015

Serves 2
Oh, the joy of discovering courgette pasta! You do need to buy a special julienne peeler/cutter to create it, but it is well worth the investment. The best thing about this dish of courgette spaghetti with a fresh tomato sauce is that it is a lower calorie alternative to the traditional pasta dish, so you can eat until you are full. It makes a great lunch if you’re trying to lose weight.
· 4 courgettes (zucchini)
· A pinch of flaked sea salt
· 8 large vine tomatoes
· 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

Molten mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and yeast are the aromas that punctuate summer in Rome.

On a recent day, 7-year-old Filippo Virgo has a hankering for pizza — a classic of the Eternal City.

The problem is that Filippo has celiac disease. This means he gets sick from eating gluten — a protein found in wheat and other grains. Pizza is usually out of bounds. And, for a second-grader, that's a travesty.

Filippo's family heads inside Il Tulipano Nero, a classic Italian restaurant — right down to the checkered tablecloth.

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, 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: Making mayonnaise that's just as delicious as, if not better than, what comes out of the jar.

Trying to find healthy food at a state fair awash with deep-fried Oreos and foot-long corn dogs is no easy task.

At the Iowa State Fair, one of the rites of passage is trying food on a stick.

But dietitian Nikki Stahr, who works for the Iowa-based Hy-Vee grocery chain, is running a booth at the fair promoting healthy eating and portion control.

She has her work cut out for her.

There's an old fashioned hand-dipped ice cream stand and a cookie booth right across from her, so she's got some competition for her message of healthy eating.

Fortunately for those of us who are suckers for novelty, every year fruits and vegetables seem to come in more bewitching colors, shapes and flavors. In recent years, we've been transfixed by Glass Gem Corn and the vibrant orange Turkish eggplant.

Across the U.S., small farmers have been struggling for years with low commodity prices and rising production costs. Even for organic farmers, who can justify higher prices, making a profit is tough.

But throughout the Midwest, a new farm-to-table strategy is giving a boost to some farmers.

In the coming months, a few shoppers will encounter a new and unfamiliar phrase when looking at packages of pork: "Produced without the use of ractopamine."

It's the brainchild of David Maren, founder of Tendergrass Farms, which sells pork products from pigs raised the "all-natural" way, on pasture.

Maren first heard about ractopamine years ago, when he was just getting into this business. Maren was talking with his cousin, who raises pigs the conventional way, in big hog houses.

Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher, once likened eating alone to "leading the life of a lion or wolf." This philosopher of pleasures, it seems, was a big fan of companionship. Communal meals are woven into our DNA.

But a lot of us are lone wolves these days when it comes to dining. New research finds 46 percent of adult eating occasions — that's meals and snacks — are undertaken alone.

If you've ever tried to lose weight, you've probably gotten drawn into the argument over whether it's better to cut carbs or fat from your diet. A new study doesn't completely resolve that question, but it does provide an important insight.

Some proponents of the low-carb diet insist that you must cut carbs to burn off body fat. Their reasoning goes that when you cut carbs, your body's insulin levels drop, and that's essential in order to burn fat.

If you want to hang out with a bunch of bees, you'd better be prepared for a little pain.

Mario Padilla, a honeybee researcher at Penn State University, can usually tell when his hives are getting agitated. But he's already been stung three times today. And he's about to get it again.

"I got stung!" Padilla says, half-laughing. "And that was a sting that was not even an invited sting. That was an I-was-minding-my-own-business sting."

Scientists are a driven bunch, dedicated and passionate about understanding the inner workings of the world. You must be focused, willing to work strange hours in every kind of weather. Willing to go beyond the known and be constantly inspired by your curiosity.

It takes guts to be a scientist. And a strong stomach doesn't hurt, either.

Weeknight Kitchen: Fresh Corn Fritters

Aug 12, 2015

Makes 15 fritters
· 6 ounces extra-firm silken tofu (1/2 package of the vacuum-packed kind)
· 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
· 2 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk (or preferred nondairy milk)
· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
· 3 ears corn, kernels cut from the cob (see Fizzle says) (about 1 1/2 cups)
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· A few dashes of freshly ground black pepper
· 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
· 1/4 cup red bell pepper, very finely chopped
· Refined coconut oil for frying 

Could the next big thing in alternative proteins be a something tiny and green?

A version of this story was published Dec. 5, 2012.

Given tea's rap today as both a popular pick-me-up and a health elixir, it's hard to imagine that sipping tea was once thought of as a reckless, suspicious act, linked to revolutionary feminism.

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This at Home series, 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 learn an unusual technique for cooking eggs to give you a silky, yolky sauce for huevos racheros.

Some days, the french fries are just irresistible. You know it's not the best thing to put in your body, but did that salad really stand a chance after the smell of fried garlic, Parmesan and thyme on crisp potato wedges wafted over to you?

Whether it's a clam bake, a salmon steak or a fried shrimp po' boy, Americans have strong traditions of eating fish.

But the majority of us aren't eating as much as we should to be healthy.