Our favorite posts of 2011
January 2nd, 2012
11:30 AM ET
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Last week, we showed you our most popular posts by the numbers - which is dandy, to be sure - but sometimes the stats don't tell the whole story.

2011 was a massive year for us; we won an EPPY award for Best Food Website with 1 million unique monthly visitors and over, traversed this wide, wild and wonderful country hosting Secret Suppers with some of the most passionate and intriguing people in food, the arts, politics and social justice. We also popped up on TV a whole bunch and pretty much spent every single day pursuing food stories that made us think, laugh, feel, scream, discuss, debate and, perhaps most importantly, get ourselves into the kitchen, where on occasion, we cooked squirrel.

Here are a few of our favorites.

Sarah's picks:

Missing home cooking? Borrow a grandma
The only thing better than one grandma is five Italian nonne. We visit Enoteca Maria, a Staten Island restaurant owned by Joe Scaravella that employs an arsenal of local, authentic Italian grandmothers to cook up the specialties of their respective native regions. Scaravella opened the restaurant because he lost his own nonna before he was able to document her delicious (and love-fueled) traditions, and didn’t want to same fate to befall anyone else. The resident grandmas keep the home fires burning and prove food can provide not only physical nourishment, but emotional nourishment too.

Serving up gratitude in troubled times
The old adage goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” What’s even better is when somebody makes it for you. Drew Robinson reflects on how sometimes even the smallest offering – like a bowl of potato salad – in trying times can provide a world of comfort, and that nudge of support to move forward knowing someone is there to stand you back up.

Stall confessions: Life lessons from my lunch box
It’s not easy being a kid. It’s especially not easy being a kid that’s a little bit different from everybody else. As much as food can bring us together, when you’re young and still trying to find your own identity, it can also set you apart. Devna Shukla shares an honest tale of eating in her elementary school’s bathroom after her Indian mom forewent the usual brown bag PB&J for traditional Indian fare. While shameful at the time, the experience ultimately helped her embrace her Indian heritage.

Wines you should be drinking
Let’s face it, wine can be intimidating (yeah, we’re looking at you Mr. Tastevin-wearing sommelier). BUT – it doesn’t have to be. In any uncomfortable situation, it’s human nature to go to – where else – your comfort zone. In the world of wine lists, that usually means a varietal you recognize and/or can pronounce. The very talented Mike Madrigale explains how this might be doing your taste buds a disservice. Pinot Grigio gets a lot of lovin’ – share the wealth.

The psychology of food aversions
There are foods that we can’t even look at – let alone eat – without turning the color of Kermit. (Hey, it ain’t easy being green.) The good news is it’s not your fault! Blame a million-year-old survival mechanism.

David Kinch: Why culinary Japan matters – and even more so now
If you ask any chef out there what country they admire most in terms of culinary culture, more often than not, the answer is Japan. And what a challenging year it’s been for the Pacific country. One can only hope food will help them cope – and survive. If this piece teaches us anything, it’s simplicity and respect for the ingredients. Whereas we live in a country often lambasted for our consumption of processed foods (we’re working on it!), it’s nice to highlight a culture where as Kinch said “it’s only the good stuff with no place to hide.”

Pouring whiskey in the wound
Some of the best food writing isn’t about food at all – but rather adds it as an relatable element. A poignant piece about the ability of finding comfort in food during one of the nation’s most trying times.

A life in waiting
It’s not just the chefs making it happen. Waiters often get a bad reputation as struggling actors or deadbeats, but for many, serving food is a conscious, calculated career choice. This piece shows the depth in which passion is so vital and important to work and thrive in this industry.

Honorable mention:

Stuffpuppies. Stuffpuppies! STUFFPUPPIES!
Because, dude, they’re mashed-potato-filled, deep-fried balls of stuffing.

The best sandwich in the universe – at least for the month of August
Because, dude, it’s a tomato-mayonnaise sandwich.

Kat's picks

New Orleans: The food that got them through
In the wake of unspeakable tragedy, sometimes a hot meal - or any meal at all - can be what gives you the strength to go on. Part of our week-long love letter to New Orleans, including the dinner of a lifetime with John Besh, Leah Chase, Mary Matalin and James Carville.

Five sustainable lessons from a family farm
Sometimes, it takes a shepherd to lead you to a better way. Craig Rogers explains what "sustainability" means for a small family far, and how you can help at home.

The kid with the stinky lunch, Sundays are for Dim Sum, My first Thanksgiving with white people and Stall confessions: Life lessons from my lunch box
Food says so much about where you’ve come from, where you’ve decided to go, and the lessons you’ve learned. It’s geography, politics, tradition, belief and so much more - but that's not the easiest lesson to digest when all the rest of the kids in the lunchroom are munching PB&J and you've got a plastic tub of kimchi from home. What makes you weird as a kid makes you one heck of an adult.

Why barbecue matters
In the words of Drew Robinson, "When we sit down together now, barbecue can help remind us that we need to be thankful for what we have. Hogs are one part of a food chain that have helped sustain a people and create a meaningful culture. Barbecue manifested itself as a piece of that cultural tapestry so powerfully that it even has its own subcultures. Tracing those lines back from a rack of ribs or a barbecue sandwich enjoyed with friends and family reminds us that we have a lot to be thankful for. In fact, in some households, particularly in the South, grace doesn’t end with 'Amen,' it ends with 'Amen, let’s eat.'”

How the modern day tomato came to be
Why does that ripe, red, juicy-looking tomato taste so...grim? "Tomatoland" author Barry Estabrook spoke with us about the farming conditions that led to the nearly taste-free tomato of today - and the allegedly inhumane conditions in which the pickers live. Naturally, the industry had something to say in response.

Give squirrel a whirl
I was delighted when Dave Barry picked up my "chicken of the trees" monicker for squirrel meat and a blogger wrote that I "give internet food bloggers a bad name" for suggesting that good, decent people make a meal of the fluffy-tailed terrorists. It delighted me even more to have to the opportunity to serve it to some of the country's best chefs and food writers at a party at my home. I warned 'em, but not a single person turned it down.

$30 a week - the food stamp challenge
Producer Sheila Steffen, inspired by the women she met while filming a story on hunger for American Morning, put her money where her mouth was, and gave herself a $30 budget for food for the week - the amount allotted to food stamp recipients - and found the results to be both stomach-rumbling and eye-opening. She wrote a follow-up at the end of the week - and raised a whole lot of discussion among our readers.

My colleague Sarah LeTrent tore it the heck up with her stunning series of tutorials on making the perfect biscuit, burger, gingerbread, grilled corn, lobster rolls, creme brulee, gnocchi and pie crust. I hold her solely responsible for any and all bite marks on my laptop screen.

Honorable mention:

Taking a ribbing – testing out McDonald's cult sandwich
I ate a McRib so you didn't have to. You still totally owe me.

Customers who are better off if I decide their orders: Douglas Quint of Big Gay Ice Cream
This may be my favorite 5@5 of all time, but then again, there are many, many things wrong with me.

An open letter to my neighbors who are very bad at grilling
Because frankly, it stinks. So does eating in the bathroom.

After Irene, a community bands together to feed its own
My county almost washed away in the flood waters of Tropical Storm Irene. My resilient, brave, industrious, generous neighbors didn't sit around and wait for help.

I also stopped drinking Diet Coke and got in a fight with a well-known television personality, ended up in the emergency room, lost my beloved uncle, talked with former governor Eliot Spitzer about his love of jam making and got super-Goth with Sanjay Gupta. I need a nap.

Previously - One year of Eatocracy and Second helpings of 2011's most popular posts

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jon

    The article on the best sandwich in the universe changed my perception of mayonnaise and sandwiches forever. I have made this sandwich using heirloom tomatoes and Duke's mayo for many people and everybody loved it. However, one thing I changed was the bread: San Francisco sour dough from the cellophane wrapped loaf. Thin slices, no heavy crust. The tang of the bread, the mellow of the Duke's mayo, and sweet of the tomato will challenge any sammy made with plain white bread.

    January 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm |
  2. Grace Thomas

    I Like Your Blog About Our favorite posts of 2011.I Am Very Happy To Read Of Your Blog.Really Great Post.Its brilliant.


    January 3, 2012 at 1:00 am |
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