The complicated politics of the school cafeteria
July 16th, 2014
09:30 AM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Kat Kinsman is the managing editor of CNN Eatocracy. She wrote this essay for the place-themed issue #52 of the SFA's Gravy quarterly.

Angela H. pulled me aside in the lunchroom to tell me that everyone thought my family was poor. This was news to me. So far as I could tell, my sister and I didn’t look anything like the barefoot, swollen-bellied children on the sides of the UNICEF cartons into which we slipped spare pennies. Nor did anyone attempt to gift us with sacks of half-eaten sandwiches, the likes of which our Grandmother Ribando said starving Armenian children would be most grateful to have. (Clean your plates, girls. Clean your plates.)

I pressed her for evidence and she relished the words, tumbling them around in her mouth like a disc of butterscotch before spitting them out on her Jell-O dish: “My mom says it’s weird that your mom wraps your sandwiches in Saran Wrap instead of a Ziploc. And why do you always have carrot sticks and a couple of potato chips when we all have cookies? Did your dad lose his job or something?”

I bought my lunch for the rest of sixth grade, making sure to spring for the chocolate milk instead of white—extra nickel be damned (and sorry, faraway UNICEF urchins). It’s not that I especially enjoyed the grey-meated burgers and leathery green beans slopped on my plate by a rotating cast of conscripted parents, but I loathed the notion that my peers thought they could infer anything personal from my lunch tray.
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July 14th, 2014
07:00 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

In July, we get to celebrate many things. It’s our nation’s birthday. It’s also National Ice Cream Month. On July 21, you can revel in National Junk Food Day, which I have several ideas for.

And now, I’m excited to celebrate Plastic Free July. The three-year-old project aims to eliminate single-use plastic for the entire month. I love this idea—beaches get so littered with plastic bags, straws, bottles and more, so it’s the perfect time to use reusable totes, those adorable paper straws and biodegradable plates and cutlery.

As usual, several chefs and restaurants are way ahead of me, including my hero Mario Batali. Let’s salute some of the especially environmentally friendly spots as we celebrate Plastic Free July with biodegradable cups and no plastic straws!
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Filed under: Content Partner • Environment • Food and Wine • Ocean • T1 • Waste


July 10th, 2014
01:30 AM ET
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America's Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-­time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most­ foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, and on our two public television cooking shows.

Potato salad is an easy dish to make and transport to a summer potluck. But all too often the star of the show is mayonnaise, rather than the recipe’s namesake ingredient. We found that the secret to a creamy and light potato salad is to emulate the Austrians: Ditch the mayo and look to the soup pot.

We boil the spuds in a shallow pan with chicken stock, water, sugar, and salt, which leads to deeply flavored potatoes. We also found that adding a surprising ingredient, white vinegar, expanded the window of time during which the spuds go from properly cooked to mushy and broken.

This is because potato cells are held together by pectin, a large molecule that acts as a glue. This glue weakens when heated in water, allowing the cells to come apart, which first softens the potato and then breaks it apart. Vinegar’s acidity slows the breakdown of pectin, expanding the amount of time between the point when a potato starts to soften and when it fully breaks down.

We use Yukon Golds in this dish, as they have just enough starch to contribute creaminess without breaking apart. To finish our potato salad recipe, we add mashed potatoes to the dressing, which thickened it perfectly every time.
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Filed under: America's Test Kitchen • Content Partner • Dishes • Potatoes • Recipes • Salad • Sides • T1


June 25th, 2014
08:45 PM ET
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CNN Exclusive by CNN Investigative Correspondent Chris Frates

Wake County, North Carolina – Chickens buried alive. Pigs so sick that their intestines hang out of their bodies. These are some of the grisly scenes from videos taken by animal rights activists who went undercover at farms that produce food destined for dinner tables.

It’s a tactic animal rights activists have used for years, going undercover at slaughterhouses and factory farms to document squalid conditions, abuse and neglect. Their videos have gone mainstream and led to criminal charges, fines and even the largest meat recall in American history.

But undercover video is under attack and with it, activists argue, their ability to expose animal abuses that can make meat dangerous to eat.
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