Thinking Out of the Box

In an interview with Cooking Light magazine, Michelle Obama reveals one food she won’t let her kids eat: boxed macaroni and cheese.

“My kids loved the macaroni and cheese in a box. And [White House chef Sam Kass] said, if it’s not real food then we’re not going to do it. If we want macaroni and cheese, we’ll cook it with real milk and real cheese. He said, there’s nothing wrong with mac and cheese, but it’s got to be real food.”

Maturing Market

At NPR, Luke Runyon explains how farmers market sales are slowing—and why that might be a good thing:

“Farmers markets may be a good marketing tool for a small farm, but they can be onerous to prepare for, with slim profit margins, says Sarah Low, a USDA economist and lead author on the report.

“Because of that Low says farms are increasingly using middlemen to sell to restaurants, grocery stores and distributors. With an increasing share of their produce, dairy or meat going to those channels, some farmers may choose to forgo the farmers market.

“‘It’s just not as cost-effective for producers to be face-to-face with consumers,’ Low says. ‘A lot of farmers like to spend their time farming, not necessarily marketing food.'”

Problems with Going Paleo

At Treehugger, Katherine Martinko questions the sustainability of the Paleo diet:

“[The] reality is that buying pastured, grass-fed meat is far more expensive than buying CAFO meat, and to maintain the sort of eat-meat-multiple-times-a-day model suggested by the paleo diet would probably push it well beyond the means of normal salaries. I guess that cost is why many paleo eaters continue to buy factory-farmed meat, which, in my opinion, defeats the purpose of pursuing the diet for health reasons.”

Residual Effect

A new study shows how eating organic foods can reduce your exposure to pesticides, reports Civil Eats:

“Curl and colleagues analyzed participants’ urine samples for evidence of [organophosphates], then they compared these results from a subset of 720 people to the USDA’s measurements of pesticide residues on the fruit and vegetables the participants reported eating. They found that people who ate conventionally grown produce had high concentrations of OP metabolites in their urine, while people who reported eating organic produce had significantly lower levels. In fact, those who ate the least organic produce had as much as twice the pesticide levels as those who ate organic the most frequently.”

Brisket Boom

The cut of meat’s newfound popularity is driving up prices, reports the Wall Street Journal:

“Smoked brisket, a spice-rubbed hunk of slowly cooked meat traditionally eaten without sauce or cutlery, has always been treated with near-religious zeal by devotees in the Lone Star State.

“But the infatuation with Texas-style brisket is spreading across the country. Foodies are stampeding to restaurants in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, waiting in long lines to secure a few slices from a true practitioner of the smoking arts. Connoisseurs are embarking on barbecue-joint pilgrimages, ingesting pounds of meat a day and waxing eloquent about its perfectly rendered fat and crusty exterior.”

Cautionary Tale

Daniel Tapper contemplates the use-by date:

“The global population can be divvied into two camps: the cautious and sensible that consign their food to the bin seconds after its use-by date. And the hardy, thrifty, throw-caution-to-the-winders who dare to devour even the hairiest slice of Mighty White – so long as it’s given a fiery blast in the toaster. But who is right?”

Hamfisted Approach?

The USDA is piloting a new inspection program to help hasten pork production, reports Lindsay Abrams. Inspectors are balking:

“The Government Accountability Project released affidavits Friday from three USDA inspectors working in plants running the pilot program, known as HIMP, as well as from a fourth, Joe Ferguson, who retired last year after 23 years with the agency. All voice concerns about the public health implications of increasing line speeds, which adhere closely to the criticisms from outside parties. The gist, in the words of one anonymous inspector: ‘There aren’t enough eyes on the line to monitor carcasses coming by at such high speed.'”

Worth Their Salt

Jonathan Sawyer, chef at Restaurant Trentina in Cleveland, and Jeremy Umansky, the restaurant’s “resident forager and ‘fermentationist,'” are growing their own seasoning salts:

“The process starts with a super-salty solution of the recycled salt and water. Sawyer ties a string to a spoon or stick, suspends it into the solution and waits. As the water evaporates, salt crystals begin to form on the string. When the whole string is covered in giant crystals after about 30 days or so, it’s removed and set out to dry. Then, the salt gets misted with the brine, which hardens onto the crystals, imbuing them with color and the flavor of whatever it came from.”

Computer Cuisine

Coming this spring: Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson, a cookbook produced by IBM’s supercomputer, Watson.

“Watson was fed data about foods traditionally enjoyed by humans. The computer was able to learn and find reason behind recipes, taste profiles and chemical compounds, so that it (he?) could suggest new flavour combinations. The resultant ingredient lists were converted to recipes by chefs at the US Institute of Culinary Education, and the publisher promises ‘unusual ingredient combinations that man alone might never imagine.'”