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Food

Food

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.

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, and it's expanding, if you look at waistlines. Almost half the country is now considered overweight. Compare that to 30 years ago when the rate was half that.

It's a common problem in the developing world, where rising prosperity often means greater access to processed food.

One woman in Brazil is trying to change the direction the country is going. But it hasn't been easy.

Bela Gil is the daughter of one of Brazil's most famous singers, Gilberto Gil. She's quick to say she has zero musical talent.

Idaho's so-called "ag-gag" law, which outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech.

But what about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books?

Nearly every plant that we now depend on for food — from wheat to beans to tomatoes — comes from ancestors that once grew wild on hills and in forests.

In most cases, we don't know who, exactly, tamed those plants. We don't know which inventive farmer, thousands of years ago, first selected seeds and planted them for food.

The blueberry, though, is different. We know exactly who brought it in from the wild, and where.

It happened in the pine barrens of New Jersey.

To the ranks of sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, researchers say they are ready to add a sixth taste — and its name is, well, a mouthful: "oleogustus."

Announced in the journal Chemical Senses last month, oleogustus is Latin for "a taste for fat."

"It is a sensation one would get from eating oxidized oil," explains Rick Mattes, a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University and one of the study authors.

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 to make a "counterfeit" version of duck confit, a classic French dish that traditionally can take days to prepare.

It's been 15 years since Zimbabwe launched a campaign to seize large tracts of land from white farmers. At the time, more than 4,000 white-owned farms were taken; that land was to be given to disaffected war veterans, many of whom had little prior experience in agriculture.

The move proved to be a disaster. Many of those farms failed after they changed hands, and Zimbabwe fell into an economic tailspin. Even the country's longtime president, Robert Mugabe, admitted to failures in the program earlier this year.

Pesticide Drift Threatens Organic Farms

Jul 31, 2015

Chert Hollow Farm sits nestled between rows of tall trees and a nearby stream in central Missouri. Eric and Joanna Reuter have been running the organic farm since 2006. That means they don't plant genetically modified crops and can only use a few approved kinds of chemicals and fertilizers.

"We've traditionally raised about an acre and a half of pretty intensively managed produce, so it's a very productive acre and a half," Eric Reuter says.

Many of the foods that we chow down on every day were invented not for us, but for soldiers.

Energy bars, canned goods, deli meats — all have military origins. Same goes for ready-to-eat guacamole and goldfish crackers.

Chimpanzees are like us in many ways. They can cook, they enjoy a good drink here and there, they share about 95 percent of our DNA.

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, by surface area, and it has something the other Great Lakes do not: stable populations of mostly native fish species.

But scientists say a key fish in Superior's food web is now in trouble because of mild winters and an appetite for caviar in Europe.

There wasn't much demand for lake herring 10 years ago. It used to be fed to mink and used as fertilizer, according to Craig Hoopman, a commercial fisherman in Wisconsin who fishes around Lake Superior's Apostle Islands.

Summertime is the perfect time to indulge in a refreshing cocktail on a balmy night. But before you reach for that minty mojito or sweet sangria, consider stepping out of your modern-day comfort zone and going back to the drinks of 100 years ago.

"Some of the best cocktails that we think about today — the martini, the daiquiri, the Manhattan — those all came out between the 1860s and Prohibition," says Derek Brown, an award-winning mixologist who has studied the history of alcohol in America.

Weeknight Kitchen: Spicy Tomato & Pepper Dip


Jul 29, 2015

Ezme is a wonderful Turkish dish made with the ripest of tomatoes, which give it a deep, sweet flavour to contrast with the fiery kick of chillies and the acidity given to the dish by vinegar and pomegranate molasses. Everyone seems to have their own recipe -- some are spicier or less acidic than others, but this is my favourite version to eat with Cacik and bread. It is a staple when eating Turkish food.

Weeknight Kitchen: Yogurt, Cucumber & Mint

Jul 29, 2015

For Iranians, this dish serves the purpose of cooling you down in the sweltering summers. As in Turkey, Greece and India, a yogurt dish of this sort is a staple on the table during every family meal. Iranians love to vary the content, often using beetroot or spinach in place of the cucumber. In the height of summer, this dish is virtually treated as a soup, so perhaps it is Iran’s answer to the Spanish gazpacho. 
It should be served chilled and, on the hottest of occasions, with ice cubes to help it stay cool.

To serve (optional):1 large cucumber, coarsely grated

Weeknight Kitchen: Smoked Aubergines with Garlic


Jul 29, 2015

Serves 6-8
 
Mirza Ghasemi
 
Persians love aubergines and -- for me -- they are the meat of the vegetable world. If I were to ever become a vegetarian, I’d quite happily gorge myself silly on them. Smoking aubergines allows the flesh to absorb a deep smokiness, giving incredible depth to a dish. Hailing from the Gilan province of northern Iran, mirza ghasemi features on the menus of Persian restaurants all around the world.
 
· 6 large aubergines
· vegetable or olive oil
· 2 garlic bulbs, cloves peeled, bashed and thinly sliced

Water scarcity is driving California farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable, less-thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this truer than San Diego County, where water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Grapefruit trees shade the entrance to Triple B Ranches winery in northern San Diego County. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knick knacks.

Editor's note: A version of this story was first published Aug. 1, 2014.

When Leanne Brown moved to New York from Canada to earn a master's in food studies at New York University, she couldn't help noticing that Americans on a tight budget were eating a lot of processed foods heavy in carbs.

Melon, Honey, and Mint Granita

Jul 27, 2015

Serves 6
 
When it’s time for dessert, ordinarily I don’t mess around -- give me cake or give me death, that sort of thing. But every once in a while -- say, in the peak of summer when temperatures are ghastly and you’ve invited people over for dinner, when you’d really rather just lie in front of the air conditioner in your underpants -- life calls for something light, fruity, and totally refreshing. Granita is my go-to for these occasions, and it couldn’t be simpler.
 

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