Archive for LAST BITE

Ethiopia Everywhere

blog_ethiopiaLast weekend Ethiopian distance runner Haile Gebrselassie, who holds the world record for fastest marathon at 2:03:59, schooled the competition in Berlin for the fourth straight year, calling the win “good for my collection;” farmers in Kansas lately have been growing an Ethiopian grain — teff — that is gluten free, packs more protein than wheat, and can withstand drought and floods; and the Washington Post profiles Haile Gerima, an independent Ethiopian auteur whose internationally acclaimed 11th film, Teza, has its American debut today; STOP SMILING took a taste of Ethiopian cuisine for a restaurant profile in its DC Issue. -SS

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Let Them Eat Meat!

blog_mcdonaldsDark days for vegetarians may lie ahead: The White House has called for the removal of posters from the DC Metro that urge lawmakers to support mandated veggie options in public school lunchrooms, because the ads use the president’s daughters as linchpins in their argument; while we noted months back that organic farming has been hit hard by the recession, McDonald’s version of “downscale, industrialized, aggressively unhealthy” meat-centric cuisine has buoyed the company through a stretch of growth and prosperity; farmers in the northeast United States face seriously dwindling supplies of tomatoes as their crops are hit with late blight, the same disease that caused the Irish potato famine; and even fauna like their fair share of flesh, we’re reminded, as researchers discover a pitcher plant large enough to eat rats. -SS

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American Education

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released a damning report yesterday on the affordability, or lack thereof, of higher education in the United States. The cost of tuition has risen 439 pecent since 1982, while the median family income has risen only 147 percent, after inflation (see the NY Times and Washington Post); meanwhile, parents, pastors and politicians in Chicago fight to reform Illinois state education policy, under which the state with the nation’s fourth-highest GDP ranks 49th in public school funding; and the senior vice president and publisher of adult trade books at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, one of the nation’s largest publisher of school books, has abruptly resigned after the company announced last week they would stop acquiring manuscripts in the adult trade division.

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Radio is a Sound Salvation

As print publications bite the dust left and right in the Internet age, radio remains largely unscathed, and seems to actually be flourishing. In today’s Washington Post, Kathleen Parker reminds us that for the cost of six Apache helicopters the US can continue to fund Radio Free Europe, which acts as an information lifeline in censorship-friendly places like Iran and desolate countries like Afghanistan; STOP SMILING has done a fair share of profiles on prominent radio personalities like Ira Glass, Studs Terkel, Garrison Keillor and Spalding Gray; and many of the events STOP SMILING puts on are recorded for WBEZ Chicago, 91.5 FM, and are available on its website — these include readings by Nathaniel Rich and Alexander Hemon, and musical performances by Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake and Plastic Crimewave. STOP SMILING plans to launch its own podcast early next year, the first shows of which will feature David Sedaris (pictured here), Kurt Vonnegut, Lewis Lapham and more.

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Further Destruction of Our Oceans

Despite overwhelming evidence of harm, humanity continues to push our oceans to the brink. The latest injustices: The Supreme Court decided to lift two restrictions on the Navy’s use of sonar in training exercises off the California coast, despite the fact that “the noise is earsplitting — as loud as 2,000 jet engines, according to environmental groups — to acoustically sensitive whales and other marine mammals”; Mark Bittman writes in the New York Times that “if current fishing practices continue, the world’s major commercial stocks will collapse by 2048“; and for more on the overfishing of our oceans, check out our DC Issue, where STOP SMILING contributor and seafood sustainability advocate Barton Seaver writes about the affects of our rabid consumption on the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. The depths to which we sink…

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Franchises Lose Their Patriarchs

Rocky Aoki, “who sought to offer diners a sense of magic and entertainment at his Japanese steakhouse Benihana,” has passed away at 69 — last month, Wilbur Hardee, founder of the Hardee’s franchise (along with a wave of fast-food joints in North Carolina) died at 89, joining such recently deceased pioneers of mass-consumed indulgences as JR Simplot (aka Mr Spud), who is “credited with giving the world the deep-frozen French fry” and Herb Peterson, the creator of the Egg McMuffin, making for solemn trips to the drive-thru this year.

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A Definite Loss of Appetite

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider a second helping. After swallowing a six-month-old deer whole, this python was sufficiently stuffed; commuters in Illinois might have had their fill of Oreos after witnessing a trailer loaded with 14 tons of them overturn on an interstate highway; Salon reports that watching Indiana Jones might make you fat; curious McDonald’s customers might want to take note, as the Times did, that the company’s new Southern Style Chicken Sandwich is a direct theft of the sandwich regularly served at Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain in Atlanta; and the “Annals of Drinking” column in The New Yorker offers some strong advice about skipping that second bottle of wine. “Through the lens of alcohol, the world seems nice,” writes Joan Acocella. However, “the body, to break down the alcohol, is releasing chemicals that may be more toxic than alcohol itself; these would result in nausea and other symptoms.” For tips on the ultimate hangover remedy, read the article.

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T.G.I. Foie Gras

May offers a mix of haute and low cuisine. First off, the New York Times filed reviews, many of them favorable, of Chili’s, Red Lobster, Outback Steakhouse and more, while in Chicago, the war on goose liver is over, as foie gras will return to Chicagoland restaurants. And Slate weighed in on the worldwide food crisis by tossing a T-bone to fine diners in this piece, “The Agony of the Food Snob.” The subhead says it all: “Basque cheese at $22 per pound! Olive oil at $43 per liter! What’s a gourmand to do?”

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The Big Appetite

On any given day, there’s no shortage of quality food writing in the American press. Here are some of the latest fresh catches concentrating on New York fare: The New York Times runs a follow-up story about the levels of mercury in the fish New Yorkers eat. (And yes, the Times does have a “Mercury in Tuna Navigator.”) The front-page bombshell from last week (read the story here) stirred this rebuttal from Slate’s Jack Shafer. Meanwhile, in the LA Weekly, the venerable epicurean Jonathan Gold takes Manhattan, critiquing pork preparation at various spots and eating “everything but the squeal.” And the Boston Globe rolls up its sleeves for the “Boston-New York Food Super Bowl.” Prediction: Heartburn by halftime.

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On Food Fights and Empty Seas

After 60 Minutes reeled in a piece on the cataclysmic over-fishing of bluefin tuna in order to supply Japan’s “Wall Street of fish,” the NY Times keeps on the seafood beat, reporting that “fish is now the most traded animal commodity on the planet” and that, in Europe, “the imbalance between supply and demand has led to a thriving illegal trade.” Slate recently instigated a food fight with the wildly popular and controversial epicurean Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, who they feel worships “the holy, catholic, and apostolic church of food, where only martyrs and lost souls have to shop at Safeway.” The Financial Times asks “What makes a pig organic?” in the same weekend edition that braved a lunchtime interview with a non-smoking Christopher Hitchens. For a second helping of food writing at STOP SMILING, check out our recent talks with Leah Chase and Nigella Lawson, pictured here.

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