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Food

Food

It's high season for pie-making. And when we came upon this touching story about a bunch of women gathering to bake fresh apple pies for the people of Newtown, Conn., it warmed our hearts here at The Salt. Truly.

Nobody really wants to think about economics, the famously dismal science, while sitting down at a table loaded with love and calories. Like it or not, though, supply and demand drive food production and set the price of dinner.

So, in a season of feasts, what are the business stories on your holiday menu?

Have you noticed, perhaps, that some of your store-bought salad dressings or spaghetti sauces taste a little less salty lately?

Probably not. The companies that make those products are doing their best to keep you from noticing. Yet many of them are, in fact, carrying out a giant salt-reduction experiment, either because they want to improve their customers' health or because they're worried that if they don't, the government might impose regulations that would compel more onerous salt reductions.

This week, our colleagues over at the Shots blog have been talking a lot about malaria. And, here at The Salt, that got us thinking about one thing: gin and tonics.

As you probably know, tonic is simply carbonated water mixed with quinine, a bitter compound that just happens to cure a malaria infection, albeit not so well.

Salt is one of those dangerously tasty substances. We add the magical crystals of sodium chloride to almost everything that we cook or bake, and according to many public health experts, we add too much.

They want us to cut back, to lower our risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Yet when you really start looking for ways to do this, you run into a paradox and a scientific puzzle.

First, the paradox. Too much salt may kill us, but our bodies need some of it to survive.

Want to eat sustainably? Then eat bugs.

That's the word from the Dutch, who are doing their best to make a scientific case for the environmental benefits of insect proteins. Reduce greenhouse gases? Check. Produce more edible protein while using less land than more traditional livestock? Check.

Belgian Sweets Not Just For 'Sinterklaas'

Dec 19, 2012

Though my grandmother Georgette was born in the United States, she is half Belgian (Flemish) and half French. On top of the cabinets in her blue kitchen you'll find a little Dutch village of porcelain houses. Above the sink are miniature figures of the Statue of Liberty, Manneken Pis and the Eiffel Tower — representations of her three nationalities. In her Delft cookie jar you'll find speculaas (also called speculoos) — the Dutch windmill-shaped gingersnap-like cookie traditionally eaten on St. Nicholas Day.

A Gluten-Free Holiday Table

Dec 19, 2012

My family's holiday traditions are simple but consistent: Wake up Christmas morning, drink lots of coffee, eat a good breakfast, and wish each other happy happy. If the weather is nice, we postpone the present opening and pile into the car to head directly to the beach for a walk — a sunny December day along the Northern California coast is something to celebrate. Later, we cook a delicious dinner and sit around the table with a fire glowing in the fireplace nearby.

If you're looking for a dash of optimism about the future — and who isn't, these days? — you can find it in a rosy new prediction about the planet's ability to produce food for the next half-century.

After months on their sticky trail, Canadian police have finally fingered the people allegedly involved in the great Canadian maple syrup caper Bill Chappell told us about in August.

The folks at the California Institute of Technology have built another Mars rover, but this one will never get to leave Earth. Not surprising, really, since it's made of gingerbread.

Food waste is not just a problem for restaurants — airports also have to deal with piles of this kind of garbage.

A Photographer's Mini Food Fascination

Dec 17, 2012

Small stuff is having a big moment. There's skateboarding for your fingers, cupcake-size lasagna, and now we've discovered photography featuring food as a backdrop for miniature life.

It's hard to eat just one potato chip. The salt, the fat, the crunch — no wonder we mindlessly munch away, especially if we're parked in front of the TV.

So is there something better for children to snack on in the afternoon, especially if we're looking to limit their calories? It turns out that the combination of cheese and raw veggies like broccoli, carrots and sliced peppers may be the best option from both a nutrient standpoint and a satiety one.

The world isn't going to end next Friday, but Dec. 21, 2012, has come to be known as the Mayan apocalypse because that's when the Mayan calendar ends. As scientists have told us repeatedly, the end of the calendar year was actually a time for celebration and renewal — the equivalent of an ancient New Year's Eve. So breweries around the country have decided to celebrate with — what else? — beer.

Though we hear about them every holiday season in that famous song, chestnuts – whether roasting on an open fire or otherwise – have been noticeably absent from many American tables for decades, thanks to a deadly fungus that decimated the species near half a century ago. But a small army of determined growers have been on a seemingly quixotic quest to put chestnuts back on the American table, and they're just starting to see results.

If you want to get anything done in Western Sahara, be prepared to drink tea — very, very sweet tea.

For the holidays, why not give a gift that tastes like a cloud? Portuguese Sweet Bread may be as close as you can get, according to Marilynn Brass, one-half of the cookbook duo the Brass Sisters.

As any cheese maker will tell you, it's not that hard to make cheese. You just take some fresh milk, warm it up a bit, and add something acidic to curdle it. Then, once it has cooled, you drain off the whey — the liquid part — and you're left with cheese.

Sandwich Monday: The Latke Double Down

Dec 10, 2012

We all remember the KFC Double Down: the sandwich that replaced bread with fried chicken and changed our lives for the fatter. Just in time for Hanukkah, the Jewish Journal has created the Latke Double Down, which replaces the bread with latkes, aka fried potato pancakes. They fill theirs with lox.

Chefs at some of the most cutting edge restaurants in the country are incorporating vegetables into their desserts in ways that, at first glance, might not seem very dessert-y.

Bag-in-the-box wine doesn't have the classiest of reputations. It's usually cheap and in the past at least, has been aimed at less sophisticated consumers. But in recent years, boxed wine has tried to buck the stereotype, whether by gussying up the product packaging or simply putting higher-quality wine in the box.

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.

The Carousela cafe in West Jerusalem is one of a handful of restaurants and cafes in Israel staging a bit of a rebellion by defying Jewish religious authorities who claim they are the only ones who can certify restaurants as kosher, or in compliance with Jewish dietary laws.

Baking Without Flour For The Holidays

Nov 28, 2012

The holidays come in on a rush of cookies and snow (if you are so lucky) and parties and lists, and suddenly it's Jan. 1 and we're wiping the crumbs away and wondering where the year went. I'm currently tiptoeing into the season, my brain still basking in Indian summer despite the rain slated to descend on San Francisco in the coming weeks. "Ready" or not, the time is upon us.

Sandwich Monday: The Butter & Sugar Burger

Nov 28, 2012

This is something that exists in Asia:

NPR still stubbornly refuses to pay for our travel — something about "sullying NPR's image abroad" and "Ian, how many times do we have to tell you, you don't really work here" — so we had to make our own version.

A disclaimer: We tried putting one together according to the specs of the image above, but no one could get down even a single bite. We lowered the butter content slightly.

Peter: I like the crunch of the sugar. It's like your teeth start decaying immediately.

For the past five months, University of California, Berkeley cartography professor Darin Jensen has been collecting maps about food. They fill the walls of his office, each one telling a different story — about meat production in Maryland, about the international almond trade, about taco trucks in Oakland. Some are local, some are regional, some are global, but in a few days they'll all be bound together between the covers of Food: An Atlas.

At Thanksgiving, many of us will dig into the pointy tip of our first piece of pumpkin pie for the season. However, this Thursday, that nostalgic moment might feel a little less special.

This year, the word "pumpkin" seems to be creeping its way into hundreds of foods, drinks, and other products. As The Huffington Post noted recently, you can now find pumpkin-inspired beers, teas, marshmallows, soy milk, Pop-Tarts, and Pringles.

Ah, nutmeg! Whether it's sprinkled on eggnog, baked into spice cake or blended into a latte, this pungent spice can evoke memories of holidays past. We tend to link it to celebratory times.

Chefs these days stock all sorts of high-tech tools, from liquid nitrogen to $500 blenders. But in kitchens throughout the world, there's one piece of technology that's been the same since the Stone Age: the mortar and pestle.

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