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Food

Food

In October, Hilda Mascarenhas, who writes a popular food blog in Pune, India, began her Christmas preparations with an unusual request to her fruit seller.

After buying a pineapple, she asked the vendor to separately pack the peel and eyes that he had skillfully removed with his long knife.

Cooking gadgets seem to be a solid go-to when you're not sure what to give someone. Who wouldn't be charmed with a laser-guided pizza cutter? A one-click butter dispenser? An electric bacon-bowl maker?

If you are eating turkey this Christmas out of some sense of tradition, food historian Ivan Day says, put down that drumstick. After studying English cookbooks hundreds of years old, Day says the giant bird isn't even that traditional. Besides, he says, "It's a dry wasteland of flavorless meat."

Sure, the first turkey came to England in the 1600s. It was an exotic "treat" from the New World. But a time traveler from Shakespeare's time wouldn't understand why everyone in the modern world was having the same dull bird on Christmas night.

Back in 2006, before Brooklyn had its own artisanal mayonnaise store and craft beef jerky company, there was Mast Brothers chocolate.

With their impressive beards and lumberjack aesthetic, the Mast Brothers were the epitome of Brooklyn hipsters, part ZZ Top and part Brawny paper towel guy. Their chocolate was quintessentially New Brooklyn, made with a small-batch process called bean-to-bar, in which the chocolate maker oversees every aspect of the production process.

In Madrid, Museo del Jamón, which isn't a museum but a chain of bars, sells special ham backpacks, for carrying a whole ham leg — hoof and all — around town at the holidays. Spanish airports have special luggage rules for them. A leg of ham is the most popular family gift at Christmas. Every self-respecting Spanish household has a jamonera — a kitchen countertop rack on which to mount and cut slices off a ham leg.

You know the Christmas routine: Decorate the tree, wrap gifts and leave out treats for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Marketers and Hollywood reinforce that cookie tradition for us year after year.

Panettone may have once sounded exotic, but these days, the dome-shaped Italian fruit bread is readily available on American grocery store shelves. And if you're ready to expand your repertoire of global holiday breads, there are many more yeasty, doughy traditions to nibble on. And they all remind us how expensive, imported fruits — like Greek currants and Italian candied citrus peel — have long been a part of our most treasured Christmas foods.

Here, a brief tour of five other fruited holiday breads from around the world.

Julekake

This holiday season, one popular Christmas carol has been raising some questions here at NPR headquarters. Namely:

"Oh, bring us some figgy pudding, oh, bring us some figgy pudding, oh — "

Wait. What is figgy pudding?

First of all, it's "absolutely delicious," says Debbie Waugh, who recently served the dish at a tea at the Historic Green Spring House in Alexandria, Va.

Figgy pudding — also known as plum pudding or Christmas pudding — is a staple of the British Christmas table, she says.

It was the best of pies, it was the worst of pies. I have baked many, many, many pies.

And when I first began making pumpkin pies this autumn, my results were at best inconsistent and, at worst, disastrous.

Thanks to Nat King Cole, it's hard to think of chestnuts without conjuring an image of them "roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose." These days, tough, you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone roasting American chestnuts over an open fire. The trees and the nuts have all but disappeared.

But now, scientists are excited about the discovery of an American chestnut tree in the woods of western Maine, a record-breaking tree that's giving them hope for the future.

On March 27, 2013, John Sweeney, a plumber from Ireland, started a Facebook page called Suspended Coffees. His message was simple: Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger, because an act of kindness can change a life. Eight hours later, the page had attracted more than 20,000 likes.

Kale, Apple, Walnut and Sumac Onion Tabbouleh

Dec 17, 2015

Serves 4 to 6

· 2 cups (packed) shredded stemmed kale leaves
· 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
· 1/2 cup diced apple
· 1/4 cup Simple Sumac Onions (recipe follows)
· 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
· 3 tablespoons lemon juice
· 3 tablespoons olive oil
· 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss to combine and serve.

Simple Sumac Onions

Makes about 1 cup

A common nuisance of wandering the world is travelers' diarrhea. Food in many regions of the world isn't always properly handled, and that can put you in bed for several days.

Maybe it started with that one ambitious friend with the homebrew habit. Or that co-worker who quietly obsesses about Malaysian food at home, after work. Maybe you know someone who orders unpronounceable spice mixes online, in bulk, or spends a long weekend building a smoker out of concrete blocks.

It is no secret that the rise in obesity in America has something to do with food. But how much? And what role does the food industry as a whole play?

As part of Here & Now's series this week on obesity, America on the Scale, host Jeremy Hobson spoke with investigative reporter Michael Moss of The New York Times.

A few days ago, we offered up some tips for playing it cool at the office holiday party. And we asked for your stories.

We got about 8,400 responses to our informal survey. It turns out, about 1 in 4 of you revelers acknowledged getting too tipsy at an office soiree — and later regretting your behavior. Perhaps not surprisingly, 80 percent of you said you've seen co-workers embarrass themselves after overimbibing.

Tour the produce section of a modern grocery store and you may conclude that we live in an age of unprecedented variety and abundance.

Indeed, it's never been easier to experience exotic fruit flavors like durian, dragon fruit or lychee and find staple fruits like blueberries and oranges pretty much any time of year.

This week marks the 242nd anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mad Hatter's tea party. On the surface, these two events seem to have very little in common. But if you'll follow us down the rabbit hole for a bit, you'll find some surprising links.

Food does much more than feed us — it tells the story of who we are. And in the former USSR, that story is full of shortages, public cafeterias, party leader feasts and herring. And quite a bit of mayonnaise.

Serves 2, generously, or 4 in an emergency

This is a regular lunch or supper at casa mia, as anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram will recognize. I sometimes poach the salmon and keep it in the refrigerator (see Make Ahead Note), just so that I can make it even faster when the need hits. It’s quick work anyway, so this is more of an aside than a piece of advice. Although you can always swiftly make a salade tiède by flaking the salmon onto the leaves while it’s still warm.

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