Food News

There’s a fun bit of history on Cashew Chicken in the New York Times: “Missouri Chinese” explores how this dish has become part of an American city’s heritage. It reminded me of driving cross-country from Vermont to Colorado with my father – I was on my way to my first job out of college, and he was along for the ride. I marveled at how in the middle of nowhere in the midwest one could find a Chinese restaurant, and he said that many of them sprang up after the railroad work was finished, leaving hundreds of Chinese looking for work. It seems most opted for opening restaurants or laundromats – many of these are no longer owned by Chinese but keep their original names. And like the NYT-mentions restaurants, which started after WWII, many of these restaurants helped to create what is now a very distinct cuisine – American Chinese.

And what’s new on the White Home front? It seems Michelle Obama is indeed rising to the expectations of those among us who hope to see her use her platform to promote more healthful eating for Americans. “Michelle Obama’s Agenda Includes Healthful Eating” covers the first lady’s trip to a soup kitchen and tails her around the White House kitchen.

White House officials say the focus on healthy living will be a significant item on Mrs. Obama’s agenda, which already includes supporting working families and military spouses. As the nation battles an obesity epidemic and a hard-to-break taste for oversweetened and oversalted dishes, her message is clear: Fresh, nutritious foods are not delicacies to be savored by the wealthy, but critical components of the diets of ordinary and struggling families. … In a speech at the Department of Agriculture last month, Mrs. Obama described herself as “a big believer” in community gardens that provide “fresh fruits and vegetables for so many communities across this nation and world.”

It’s refreshing to see a first lady emphasize the importance of something so basic in addition to tackling “more important” problems – I hope she continues to flex her oh-so-sculpted muscles on this issue despite the recent spate of criticisms that she ought to cover up those biceps more often!

And finally, from the LA Times, an entertaining and yet thought-provoking piece titled “Can two people eat on $67 a week?” Journalist Jason Song and his wife take the “food stamp challenge,” trying to live within the amount a couple on foodstamps might reasonably receive per week. Amidst the mild trials and tribulations of the two-month experiment (overly salty ham, the need to render his own poultry rather than buy it cut up), Mr. Song reveals some scary statistics – “More than 31 million Americans received food stamps in December, the latest data available, believed to be the highest rate ever.” – and makes some useful discoveries – shopping ethnic markets is usually more cost-efficient, packing a lunch saves tons of money, etc. And indeed, perhaps the most illuminating moment comes when the experiment is over and they splurge on 2 bagel sandwiches, aghast at what they’ve just done. The point is – yes, we can live on less than what we’re accustomed to, and with a little knowledge and attitude adjustments, we’ll probably end up much healthier – a win-win situation if there ever was one in trying economic times.

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