Hot Off the Panini Press — What’s New in the World of Food?

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It is not often that we read about a college that turns its football field into an organic garden! UnitedInFood gives a huge shout-out to Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas for this amazing feat. The garden is run by students at the College and a Farm Manager. Since its start in March 2010, this initiative has been a source of locally grown food for residents in the area (a federally recognized food desert), teaches leadership and stewardship, and helps to address the issue of food insecurity in the community. For more information on this, go to https://www.pqc.edu/we-over-me-farm/.

Maryland’s 2021 Buy Local Challenge is here, it runs from July 17 – July 25, 2021. These are some exciting days for us! The goal of this Challenge is for one week to buy or consume at least one food item every day that is grown or raised locally in Maryland. This Challenge is promoted by the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission. To learn more about this once a year event or to join the Challenge, please go to https://www.buylocalchallenge.com/about. 7/18/2021

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the restaurant Chez Panisse by Alice Waters in Berkeley, California. This restaurant opened on August 28, 1971. Through this restaurant, Alice Waters helped promote the buy local and farm-to-table movements in which restaurants and consumers purchase food directly from local farmers and growers. One of the many benefits of these movements is that by removing the middleman, a better economic system is created for farmers and growers. Consumers are encouraged to eat seasonal food that is grown or raised locally. For more on this iconic restaurant and Alice Waters’ food activism, please see the Smithsonian Magazine article at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/fifty-years-ago-berkeley-restaurant-chez-panisse-launched-farm-table-movement-180978181/. 7/18/21.

Have you ever considered creating a food diary? For a lot of reasons, we could be convinced that this is a good idea. The top two reasons for us are: (1) gaining awareness of what is happening food-wise in the house; and (2) remember which recipes are winners and which ones are not so much. Recently, Chowhoud online periodical had a great article on this, and the link is https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/276817/cooking-diary-recipe-journal/. Let us know if you write your own food diary. Maybe we will write a blog about it too! 7/1/21.

As Pixie and her fellow Marylanders survive the 2021 Swarm of Periodic Brood X Cicadas, she has been hearing a lot about recipes for Cicadas! I mean, this just about takes the cake. But we here at UnitedInFood like to keep an open mind so we did some recipe reading. A very interesting blog on this is by Montclair State University’s website, in which “anthropology expert Cortni Borgerson explains how you can harvest and cook them.” To read this blog, go to https://www.montclair.edu/newscenter/2021/05/19/cicadas-safe-to-eat-sustainable-delicious-recipes/. I really enjoyed reading this blog but am not sure I can do all that the author mentions, including “Personally, I love them by themselves on toothpicks as an appetizer or in tacos, where you can use the toppings to bring out a lot of their green spring flavors.” That is brave my friend, and we shall leave it at that. 6/6/21.

Slow Food International published a blog on “10 small but very big things you can do to save bees and pollinators”. Bees are essential for a healthy ecosystem. As this blog states “The decline of these insects threatens not only their biodiversity and that of the plants they pollinate, but also the diversity of other animals, many of which (e.g. birds and amphibians) feed on insects.” When counting, we could only think of the honeybee and bumble bee, however, there are over 20,000 different bee species globally, and 4,000 in just the USA! Global changes depend on what we do in our own backyards. Two of the steps were new to us, the bee hotel and providing bees with a water source (makes sense they would be thirsty). For the 10 steps you can take, go to https://www.slowfood.com/10-small-but-very-big-things-you-can-do-to-save-bees-and-pollinators/. 5/12/21

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In case you were wondering if your dining etiquette matches that of the U.K.’s Royal Family, here are some of the top things you would be doing, per Culinary News, an online food resource: (a) dressing formally for every meal; (b) planning your dinner conversations ahead of time and being strategic in who you talk with at the dinner table – the person on your right for the first part of the meal, and the person on your left for the second part of the meal (our question is, how does one know when the first part of the meal is over and the second part has begun?); (c) no one can sit down or eat before the queen does (hmm … can we be the queen?); and garlic and shellfish are out (the clincher on how we knew Royal life was not for us). For the full article, go to https://culinarynewsworld.com/2020/08/11/royal-dining-habits-and-etiquette-followed-by-british-royals/. 4/26/21

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We are loving an article that we read recently in The Washington Post. The owner of a treasured Baltimore restaurant, Ekiben, received an email from the son-in-law of a woman who is dying of cancer. The caller asked if he could have the recipe for his mother-in-law’s favorite dish that she always ordered when she visited Ekiben – broccoli tempura. The son-in-law and his wife wanted to make this entree for his mother-in-law, who lives in Vermont, so that she could have it one last time. However, Ekiben owner, Steve Chu, said he would travel to Vermont and cook it for her! Mr. Chu, along with an Ekiben employee and his business partner traveled to Vermont and made the broccoli tempura in the parking lot, and did not accept any payment. We say kudos to Ekiben for this generous and loving act. For the full article, go to https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2021/03/18/ekiben-restaurant-baltimore-cancer/. 3/20/21

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We recently read the wonderful article INSIDE NAPLES’ WORLD-FAMOUS PIZZA CULTURE in the March 2021 Smithsonian Magazine’s website. For pizza in Naples, it’s all about the dough and the oven temperature it is cooked in (900 degrees!). With the following quote, how can you but not read this delightful article: “Frankly, what passes for pizza abroad is all too often a travesty,” Neapolitan pizzaiolo Ciro Moffa has lamented. “Enough is enough!” Pizza in Naples, Italy is not just about the deliciousness of it but it deeply connected to the way of life, the community, civic pride, maintaining traditions, family recipes and the reputations of local pizzaiolos. Naples identifies itself as the “spiritual homeland” of pizza. Even with all of the changes of these modern days (including home delivery and pizza kits) or those brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, pizza is essential to life in this city. That’s a philosophy we can surely agree with. 03/14/2021

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We were wondering, how did chocolate candy in heart-shaped boxes come to be synonymous with Valentine’s Day? We discovered that this holiday tradition took a circuitous route, like many things in history. First there was the holiday itself, St. Valentine’s Day, which was named after two saints although neither one was associated with romantic love. Combined with the gift boxes that were deemed to be socially acceptable during the Victorian era and Richard Cadbury, a member of the famous chocolate manufacturing family, the stage was set for us on how we celebrate this special day. For the full story, go to history.com. 02/14/21

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A recent study of over 500 people conducted by scientists at the University of Edinburgh showed, by a statistically significant basis, that people who follow a Mediterranean diet had the highest level of cognitive skills even when other factors are accounted for such as physical activity and smoking. The Mediterranean diet components best associated with cognition are leafy green vegetables and reduced red meat intake. For more on this study, click on study. For delicious Mediterranean diet recipes, we highly recommend chef and food writer, Diane Kochilas. 02/14/21.

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We are well into 2021 and things are looking and feeling A LOT like 2020. Except, good news, there are some exciting things ahead for us food and beverage trends-wise. In a recent article by Huffington Post, according to “two seasoned food trend experts”, we will be seeing more plant-based foods, which we could have predicted, and fermented foods and foods made with the delicious chickpea are some of the foods that will be trendsetters in 2021. To read the full article and complete list of 2021 food trends, go to: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/new-food-and-drink-2021_l_5fc7b931c5b6a8bde234144f.

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Finally some good news for restaurants and bars during Covid-19, or at least not more bad news. On February 5, 2021, Congress’ Covid-19 relief package bill under President Joe Biden was passed by the Senate and it includes a Restaurant Rescue Plan. This Plan commits $25 billion solely for the devastated restaurant industry. The entire relief bill will go to the House of Representatives for approval. To read more about this, go to https://www.foodandwine.com/news/senate-passes-restaurant-rescue-plan-relief-bill-2021.

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Possibly an early-day plant-based diet advocate President Woodrow Wilson supported “Meatless Tuesdays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays”. Actually, he did that to support food rationing during World War I. In celebration of the upcoming inauguration of President Elect Joe Biden, check out fun food facts about some of our former USA presidents on https://foodinsight.org/all-the-presidents-food-presidential-food-facts-infographic/.

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In a recent interview with Yahoo.com, Chef Jose Andrés of World Central Kitchen stated that he has advised Joe Biden on the need for a new position within the Biden administration, a “Secretary of Food”. This position would be separate from the Department of Agriculture and it would “oversee communications among various agencies and bring both practical and political insight into food and hunger to the White House and appropriate policy makers.” In the interview, Chef Andres wisely stated: “We need to understand one thing: … that Food is immigration. Food is health. Food is national security. Food is job creation. Food is economic growth.” For the full interview, please go to: https://news.yahoo.com/chef-jose-andres-pushing-biden-for-creation-of-a-food-czar-235113871.html.

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The MasterClass website (www.masterclass.com) has a list of the “Must Have Pantry Staples” of Alice Waters. The list includes most of the items you would expect, including garlic, olives and fresh herbs, but also a few others that are good reminders to have on-hand (pickles made from veggies purchased from your local farmers market, and sauerkraut). For the complete list (and to make sure there are no gaps in your pantry), go to https://www.masterclass.com/articles/chef-alice-waterss-must-have-pantry-staples#alice-waterss-20-musthave-pantry-staples.

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The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services released their Dietary Guidelines for Americans for the period of 2020-2025. These Guidelines are updated every five years, and are science-based advice on what to eat and drink to promote good health and lower the risk of chronic diseases. For the full set of Guidelines, go to https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov.

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Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Radio podcast (Episode #501) features an interview with the chef extraordinaire and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi on his new cookbook Big Flavors. If you are an Ottolenghi fan, be sure to catch this podcast episode. This podcast is delightful and chock-a-block full of interesting information, such as did you know that there is certain style of restaurant named after Ottolenghi, like other famous people in history such as George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., inventor of the “Ferris” wheel. For full details about this podcast, go to https://www.177milkstreet.com/radio.

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SlowFood USA’s blogs on its website, https://slowfoodusa.org/blog/, are an excellent source of information about food sustainability. SlowFood’s mission is to create food systems that reconnect us with each other, traditions, plants, animals, the soil and water that produce our food. In addition to its blogs, SlowFood USA offers free webinars on a range of topics including farming, fermentation, cooking classes, cookbooks and recipes.

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The New York Times published an article by Kim Severson entitled “How Will We Eat in 2021? 11 Predictions to Chew On“. This article lists the food trends for 2021, including the vegetable of the year will be … the vegetable of your choice (by the way, we did not know that celtuce was 2019’s vegetable of the year), and the flavor of the year in 2021 will be … Basque burnt cheesecake (we did not see that one coming either). For the full article, go to https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/22/dining/food-trends-predictions-2021.html

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Smithsonian Magazine listed its “Ten Best Books About Food of 2020“. We were curious to see which books they selected. They all are books we would like to read but two stood out to us as must reads: How to be a Conscious Eater: Making Food Choices that are Good for You, Others, and the Planet by Sophie Egan, and In Bibi’s Kitchen – The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean by Hawa Hassan. For the full top ten list, go to https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/ten-best-books-about-food-2020-180976406/.

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