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Meat of the Matter

Eating road kill: Yuck or yum?

roadkillrabbit
Ian Cummings

Ian Cummings was cycling just outside Cambridge, England, when he noticed the freshly hit rabbit on the side of the road. “I sort of looked at it and looked at it, and then cycled on,” he says. But then, Cummings had a change of heart. He turned his bike around, brought the dead animal home, and cooked it into jugged hare — a traditional British recipe. “And it all kind of started from there.”

Since that first day when Cummings, a travel photographer based in the village of Wilbraham, wound up with a Goodyear-tenderized hare on his plate, he has gone on to become somewhat of a road-kill aficionado. From venison with cranberries and chestnuts to pappardelle con lepre, over the years his town’s roads have served him up some pretty delectable fares. But Cummings isn’t the only one out foraging the highways. There are plenty of road-kill enthusiasts on this side of the pond, too -- enough of them that there has been a trend toward states legalizing the practice, like when Montana made headlines by doing so last year. And now, a push to make road kill easier to take home is on the docket in Michigan.

Read more: Food, Living

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Blades of gory: Teaching kids to slice and dice

kid-knives-chopping-cooking.jpg
Shutterstock

Play out this scenario in your head: A writer publishes a cookbook for children, and as part of the book promotion, pens an op-ed in which she advocates handing your kid a gleaming chef’s knife so they can begin working on their high-speed lopping skills.

As you might expect, when this actually happened, a lot of people got worked up. For a moment there, Sarah Elton, the writer in question, was trending on Twitter in Toronto, where her op-ed ran.

But here’s what’s surprising about the whole episode: Rather than condemning Elton as a bad mother, practically everyone agreed with her.

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Director Werner Herzog hates chickens but loves KFC

KFC-kentucky-fried-chicken-bucket-flickr
Soubhagya S Behera

Do chickens scare you? Does staring into their beady eyes smack of your own mortality? If so, congrats: You’ve just scored “Werner Herzog” in Buzzfeed’s “Which German director of Grizzly Man are YOU?!” quiz!

As Modern Farmer recently noted, the filmmaker is bizarrely vocal about his bilious fear of chickens -- unless they’re between his teeth. He intones in a 2012 video (which is AMAZING):

The enormity of their flat brain, the enormity of their stupidity is just overwhelming ... It’s very easy to hypnotize a chicken. They're very prone to hypnosis, and in one or two films, I’ve actually shown that.

It’s true -- the befuddling ending of Herzog’s 1977 film Stroszek includes hypnotized chickens dancing and playing the piano (more or less humane than factory farming? Discuss):

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The big leafy

What “kalegate” taught us about New Orleans and food

kale
Shutterstock

It started with an off-hand snub in a New York Times travel story about New Orleans, and how minor celebrities like Solange Knowles (Beyonce’s younger sister) and the guy from the band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes are moving to the city. Halfway through the story, Dutch actress Tara Elders down-talked the availability of produce in the city. “New Orleans is not cosmopolitan,” she said. “There’s no kale here.”

Turns out, you can insult New Orleans about its inability to do anything on time, or its culture of indulgence, but if you talk bad about its greens, the locals get up in arms.

Read more: Cities, Food

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Ask Umbra: Good gracious, is there lead in my fine china?

retro-vintage-porcelain-flatware-secret-2-cropped
Shutterstock

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. My mom passed along the set of dishes that my grandmother hand-carried home from China, back when she and my grandfather were among the very first U.S. tourists to travel there in the early ’70s. And they're beautiful, with colorful glazed patterns. The trouble is, the glazes all contain lead. (I checked.) I'd rather not just dump them as household hazardous waste, but I certainly don't want to give them away to someone who might unknowingly use them for food. Any suggestions? I'm not about to take up pique assiette myself, but I suppose I could find someone who does it.

Diana F.
Portland, Ore.

A. Dearest Diana,

We’ve all heard the saying about gift horses and mouths. In your case, I’d like to propose an addendum: “Unless that horse is china set that could be coated in lead.” You were wise to check into the safety of your inherited dinnerware, and you’re right to be concerned -- but I don’t think you necessarily have to kick your lovely heirlooms out of the house.

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FDA tells livestock and dairy farmers: We’re cutting you off — no more beer!

cows_and_beer
Shutterstock

The United States is about to have a slew of hungry and sober cows on our hands, which, for the record, is not a good combination for any mammal.

The FDA’s proposed Food Safety Modernization Act guidelines would prohibit breweries from sharing their fermented grains with livestock farmers. Farmers have long been using this boozy mash as free feed for their cows, and this relationship has provided an efficient way for the beer industry to repurpose its waste.*

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This vegan bakery could be the next Cinnabon

vegan-cinnabon-cinnaholic
Cinnaholic

What is it about Cinnabon? THAT SMELL. The doughy simple sugars spiking straight into your system. The extra little container of frosting you can get. Be right back, we have to run to the mall.

Anyway, vegan cinnamon roll shop Cinnaholic just started accepting franchise applications, so your town could get a dairy-free version of our favorite unhealthy treat (no offense, gelato and Pirate’s Booty!). Maybe you’ll even be behind the counter?

Founders Shannon and Florian Radke opened the first Cinnaholic in 2010 in Berkeley (of course). Today, you can pick from almost 30 flavors of frosting and 25 toppings, so if you’ve always wanted a vegan cinnamon roll with pina colada-flavored frosting and cookie dough on top, that clanging you hear is St. Peter throwing open the pearly gates.

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There will be blood oranges

California farmers: Drill, baby, drill (for water, that is)

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Shutterstock

California is locked in an epochal drought -- and yet produce aisles nationwide still brim with reasonably prices fruit and vegetables from the Golden State. How does California continue providing half of U.S.-grown vegetables under such parched conditions?

Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, one of the world's leading think tanks on water issues, broke it down for me. He says that despite the drought, California farmers will likely idle only about a half million acres this year -- less than 10 percent of normal plantings, which are about 8 million acres. And most of the fallowed land will involve "low-value" crops like cotton and alfalfa (used as a feed for the dairy and beef industries) -- not the stuff you eat directly, like broccoli, lettuce, and almonds.

In the Central Valley -- California's most important growing region, which spans 450 miles along the center of the state -- the drought is a massive inconvenience, but it hasn't cut farms off from water. Under ideal conditions, the great bulk of irrigation water flows through an elaborate network of canals and aqueducts that divert water from rivers (largely fed by Sierra Nevada snowmelt) to farms.

But lately, because of the drought, those diversions have largely stopped. The main system for getting water to the regions farms, known as the Central Valley Project, "allotted farmers only 20 percent of their share last year -- and none this year," the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Food

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This fancy fridge makes your kale even more nutritious

nutrilight-refrigerator-electrolux
Electrolux

The NutriLight can’t make your produce last forever, but it’s pretty close. The fridge lighting system, developed by Electrolux, uses “a patented fixed wave treatment that evenly distributes light around the crisper to boost the vitamin content of fruits and vegetables,” according to the company.

The energy-efficient NutriLight only pours beneficial ray-beams onto your veggies, not UV or ultrared rays that would suck out the vitamins. (Vitamin C and antioxidants dwindle in fruits and vegetables within a few days.) With this fridge, “essentially, synthetic photosynthesis is occurring in your crisper drawer,” as Modern Farmer puts it.

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Prairie doggone

Like some dust bowl with your grain belt?

grassland
Audrius Matikiūnas

I once visited one of the last scraps of prairie in Ames, Iowa. It was about the size of a football field, at most, and surrounded by corn in all directions. To me it didn’t look like much. But I had arrived there with a group of entomologists who squealed with delight and immediately scattered into the grasses, emerging periodically to show off the especially fetching bugs they had found. This field, we were told, remained grassland for one reason only: No one could grow corn on it. It was too wet, too rocky, too much clay. The agricultural flaws …

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