In which Food52's News Editors Shelly & Fran pass judgment on the week's top food news.
• Loser: Teenage farm workers.
While U.S. child labor laws lay out specific guidelines to protect and promote child welfare, they conveniently bypass teen (and tween) farm workers. Children as young as 12 who are not in school can work in the fields alongside adults for an unlimited number of hours, which too often translates to twelve-hour days, seven days a week, many times in extreme heat. Aside from dangerous (and sometimes deadly) conditions, many of these kids never finish high school and fall into a continuing cycle of poverty.
• Winner: (and one of our personal food heros) Jamie Oliver.
Never one to accept a 'talk to the hand' approach, Jamie Oliver charges forward, joining a coalition of health and nutrition experts for a UN medical conference later this month in New York. His aim? To get UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon to "sit up and take notice" of the growing obesity epidemic. While the EU is focused on encouraging insect-based diets, Jamie is urging countries to treasure and celebrate their national dishes. Always on the lookout for ways to support his cause, we'll happily celebrate zucchini season here because we're not ready for a plate of grubs and crickets just yet.
• Hung Jury: Culinary School Education.
Culinary school grads are getting angry and now they're getting even: Lawsuits are the new post-grad career choice. Disgruntled students claim they were misled, oversold, and now face mountains of debt with no kitchen job prospects on the horizon. But is culinary school really necessary for a food career? Many chefs think hands-on experience (read: hazing?) beats a culinary degree any day.
• Guilty of Fraud (and now serving humble pie): ConAgra
Invited to a NYC underground restaurant for a "delicious four-course meal", food and mom-bloggers were served (by celebrity chef George Duran) Marie Callender's Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna, a frozen meal from ConAgra foods. Adding insult to injury, the company used hidden cameras to record diners' reactions to the lasagna and dessert (Marie Callender's Razzleberry Pie). Feeling duped by the bait-and-switch, bloggers took to their keyboards and ConAgra turned tail. The company cancelled an additional event and announced they would not be using the hidden-camera footage for promotional purposes.
• Winner: Women Wine Lovers
After numerous studies claiming a drink a day can cause cancer in women, a new research study shows that middle-age women who enjoy one alcoholic drink per day may improve their overall health by 20% compared with nondrinkers. All the more reason now for us to rejoice in these, ahem, fiscally feasible NYC restaurant wine lists, which will save us money to spend in our later (and now -- yay! -- healthier) years.
• Flight Risk: Chicago's Soul Food
Chicago's once thriving soul-food scene is dying out as an increase in fast-food combined with a battered economy send an older generation of blacks "home" to the sunbelt in a reverse emigration. Soul-food standards like liver and onions, juicy fried chicken, and sweet potato pie, once an integral part of Chicago's culinary heritage, may become the domain of celebrity southerners (the Neelys?). And if this week's food news is any indication, maybe we'll one day be eating those sweet potato pies on the moon.
Photo: Russell Lee