Made in America

American Chinese food has arrived in China, reports Daniela Galarza:

“A year and a half ago, Fung Lam and Dave Rossi opened a location of Fortune Cookie, a restaurant based on Lam’s family’s restaurant, in Shanghai. Today, Fortune Cookie serves ‘sweet-and-sour pork, General Tso’s chicken, orange chicken, chow mein, crab rangoon,’ and other dishes that the former classmates say cannot otherwise be found in Shanghai today.

“Fung’s family runs Chinese restaurants ‘from Brooklyn to Texas’ so the venture is partly a family affair. As they discovered when they first opened, finding ingredients to cook Americanized Chinese food in China is tricky. They have been importing certain ingredients in order to give dishes that ‘American-ized flavor.’ Heinz ketchup is used in the sweet-and-sour recipes; the fried noodles contain Skippy brand peanut butter.”

Caveman Cuisine

A new study debunks the Paleo diet, reports Kristina Bravo:

“At least according to a study published this week in the Quarterly Review of Biology. Researchers from Georgia State University and Kent State University say there’s not one accurate ‘Paleo diet.’

“They studied living animals’ feeding behavior and anatomical and paleoenvironmental data, and they found that although early primates had teeth unfit for many plants, they probably just ate anything that was available to them—much like bears and pigs. Cavemen who lived in the north, for instance, likely relied on a meat-heavy diet, but those near the equator probably had a plant-based diet.”

Fight Club

Andy Bellatti lists the five biggest “food fights” of 2014. One, alas, is the low-carb/low-fat debate:

“These Groundhog Day-like debates that focus on one nutrient versus another are the food movement’s Achilles’ heel. First, they tend to ignore that the real culprit is highly processed food a staple in the American diet. To lose sight of this and declare that say, peaches, oats, avocados, or coconuts are ‘the problem’ is misguided and gives the food industry an unwarranted pass.”

Baker’s Half-Dozen

Amy Scattergood profiles six of the year’s best baking books, including Peter Reinhart’s Bread Revolution:

“This book moves between basic instruction (how to properly scoop flour, how to make a sourdough starter) and advanced technique (using grape skin flour, making starter with peach water), while keeping Reinhart’s down-to-earth narrative and tone. With great photography by Paige Green and lots of sidebars and introductions on everything from whole grain milling, why it’s worth bothering with an egg wash, shaping pizza dough and forming whole grain croissants, it’s a fun book for both novices and advanced bakers.”

Beef Booster

Nicolette Hahn Niman, the author of Defending Beef, makes her argument in the Wall Street Journal:

“People who advocate eating less beef often argue that producing it hurts the environment. Cattle, we are told, have an outsize ecological footprint: They guzzle water, trample plants and soils, and consume precious grains that should be nourishing hungry humans. Lately, critics have blamed bovine burps, flatulence and even breath for climate change.

“As a longtime vegetarian and environmental lawyer, I once bought into these claims. But now, after more than a decade of living and working in the business—my husband, Bill, founded Niman Ranch but left the company in 2007, and we now have a grass-fed beef company—I’ve come to the opposite view. It isn’t just that the alarm over the environmental effects of beef are overstated. It’s that raising beef cattle, especially on grass, is an environmental gain for the planet.”

Condiments Reconciled

Unilever, which produces Hellmann’s mayonnaise, has ended its lawsuit against the maker of Just Mayo, an eggless mayonnaise product:

“You may recall that the multinational company had argued Just Mayo was doing ‘serious irreparable harm’ by ‘falsely communicating’ the nature of its product, which perhaps convinced meat-eaters to eat vegan stuff. The official FDA definition of what it means to be mayonnaise was invoked, and in general, the ugly specter of a looming legal battle over condiments upset the normally peaceful world of the sandwich-eating public.”

Egging Us On

Emma Christensen says we should really try making homemade eggnog:

“Besides being a revelation in deliciousness, homemade eggnog is made with just five ingredients — four if you leave out the booze. Compare this to the laundry list of additives in most commercial brands of eggnog. Most of those additives are there to artificially thicken the eggnog and give it a longer shelf-life — but if you make your eggnog at home, you don’t need to worry about any of this.”

Books for the Conscientious Eater

Among Barry Estabrook’s 10 picks: Defending Beef.

“Leave it to Nicolette Hahn Niman—lawyer, environmentalist, rancher, mother, and (Santa isn’t kidding) practicing vegetarian—to lay out a vigorous, intellectually robust argument in favor of beef. With one huge caveat: Meat has to be raised the right way. From an environmental point of view, Nicolette argues, there is a huge difference between grass-fed, pastured cattle and those that consume a diet based on corn (and a host of chemicals) in massive feedlots.”

Truth in Spending

Emily Cassidy says that the spending bill passed recently by Congress contains a statement to hide the environmental impact of our industrial food system:

“The statement, crafted by the House and Senate appropriations committees, orders the Obama administration to make sure that the 2015 edition of the federal government’s ‘Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ contains ‘only nutrition and dietary information, not extraneous factors.’

“Sounds innocent but by ‘extraneous,’ the Congressional authors meant that the Dietary Guidelines report, which represents the federal government’s official position on nutrition and food, must not disclose inconvenient facts about how food is produced.  Specifically, these members of Congress don’t want the white paper, issued every five years, to describe environmental damage inflicted by some industrial agriculture methods that pollute air and water and contribute to climate change.”

“A Bona Fide Agro-Religious Experience”

The Pope is opening up the Vatican’s farm to the public, says Jason Best:

“No doubt plenty of devout Catholics will be eager to see where the Holy Father gets his tomatoes. But at a time when a nagging wariness in both Europe and the U.S. over the ramifications of industrial-scale agriculture has spawned something of a cult for smaller, more organic farms, the farm at Castel Gandolfo would seem like heaven on earth.”