In which Food52's News Editors Shelly & Fran (not pictured) weigh in on the week's top food news.
• Winner: Food bloggers-cum-cookbook authors
Where else can literary agents and book publishers find as tasty a package: tested recipes, engaging writing, seductive photography, and a built-in fan base? Food bloggers are the new black in cookbook publishing. Early on, savvy blogger Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks laid the groundwork for a new 'net-to-page' era; and while the big-time food bloggers continue to score the big-time deals (Pioneer Woman, Orangette, and Gluten-Free Girl), newer names, like Homesick Texan, are coming to the table as well. Agents continue scrambling to discover the next main dish; Will it be Dessert First, or maybe the bubbly twosome of Big Girls Small Kitchen. Either way, we like where this is going.
• Losers: Children (working) in the chocolate industry
Some 70-75% of the world's cocoa beans are grown on small farms in Africa's Ivory Coast. And though child labor has been illegal for the last 10 years (since the Cocoa Protocol was established in September 2001), the fallout from Ivory Coast's civil war (2002-2004) has made monitoring the protocol nearly impossible. The U.S. State Department now estimates more than 100,000 children (many smuggled in from Mali and Burkina Faso to work on chocolate plantations) are forced into some of the worst forms of child labor. Multinational chocolate companies are now under the gun, feeling pressure from consumers demanding fair trade products. How many of us really think about where the chips in our cookies are coming from?
• Opposing Argument: Food Safety
Following a run of recent recalls on tainted meat, eggs and peanuts, Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann this week claimed that new food regulations overburden food producers. Despite the cantaloupe listeria outbreak that resulted in the deaths of four people in New Mexico and sickened 35 people in 10 other states, Bachmann says, "We want to have safety, but we also want to have common sense." Wouldn't common sense mean reducing the number of recalls and deaths? And while Bachmann was asking for a more hands-off approach, Michelle Obama went hands-on with Darden's, the restaurant chain owning Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and a fleet of other "family dining" establishments, by encouraging them to improve the nutritional content of their children's menu. The move was annouced this week, and we think that's just good common sense.
• Loser: Belgium's "bintje" potato (le pauvre!)
Legend has it that American soldiers first acquired a taste for French fries in Belgium almost a century ago, during two world wars. Legends and loyalties run deep, especially in a tiny country lacking a common language but sporting the world's only "fry museum." But now the Belgian bintje -- the potato widely regarded as making the most delicieux frites and putting Belgium on the culinary map -- is going from "storied spud" to "global dud" as the international and fast-food demand for frites has restaurants looking for more mainstream varieties. Fans of the bintje proudly defend its preparation ("You have to fry them twice in beef drippings, once at 160 degrees, then again at about 175, and they mustn't be cut too thinly") and its heritage. With no Belgian vacation on our horizon, we might ditch tubers entirely and switch to roots for a while.
• Winner: Alton Brown and his 'fanifesto'
Before heading out later this month on his 'Good Eats 3' national book tour, celeb chef Alton Brown took a stand on, well, fans. Brown, host of Food Network's 'Good Eats', published a 'fanifesto' on his blog and spelled out the do's and dont's of being a rabid Alton aficionado. No hugging, no cutting in line at book signings, no photographs of his family, and for the love of God, no talking to him in the men's room. We have to wonder if many of Brown's fans will read and/or adhere to his rules of the road. But we imagine the multitude of food celebs out there (did you know there are currently 11 reality shows just about cupcakes and cake?? 11!!) will thank him for putting in writing what they probably only dream of saying to some of their own followers. As long as they don't thank him at the urinal.