Marc Halperin

Amazing Grazing

If you’re reading this column at work—in an office, cubicle, or break room—take a moment to survey the coworkers in your line of sight. If your workplace is anything like mine, you’re probably going to notice a lot of moving mouths, whether or not people are talking. Most office environments are Snack Central, which makes them excellent places to observe the All-American Grazer (Ravenous Maximus) in one of his or her natural habitats.

Surprise Pies

According to Datassential’s Menu Trends report, more than 35 percent of the nation’s restaurant menus feature pizza among their offerings. At quick-service chains, the figure is slightly higher, at 38 percent. And those are just the outlets that actually use the word pizza to characterize their handiwork. If you expand the definition of pizza to include so-called flatbreads—a crafty synonym that usually connotes a smaller but more expensive pizza—the percentages nose even higher.

The Greatest of Feasts

It’s hard for aficionados in any field to avoid the desert-island question. For music mavens, it boils down to, “Which album would you take with you, if you could only take one?” Movie lovers have to decide which film they’d want to watch, possibly in perpetuity—a question that bears careful consideration, especially if you consider the perils of spending the rest of your natural life with only Ishtar or Ernest Goes to Camp to keep you company.

Reading the Tea Leaves

It’s summer. It’s hot. And chances are good that if you’re nestled comfortably in a backyard hammock—or perched on a porch swing, sprawled out on the beach, casting a line at the ol’ fishing hole, or engaged in any number of other stereotypical warm-weather activities straight out of a Norman Rockwell illustration—you’re reaching for an ice-cold tea to wet your whistle.

Lightening Strikes

Ask a typical male heavy fast-food user what would make his favorite pepperoni pizza even better, and it’s a reasonably good bet he’ll tell you “more”: more pepperoni, more cheese, and a bigger, thicker crust. Ask him what he’s looking for in a burger, and you’ll likely hear something similar: more toppings, bigger patty, more bacon, extra cheese, heavy condiments, and a hefty bun.

More Pork Per Fork

Slowly, quietly, and without a great deal of fanfare, pork has staged a kind of revolution on U.S. plates. Between 1990 and 2013, Americans’ pork consumption increased about 18 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That jump seems particularly noteworthy when compared with beef consumption, which edged up just over 5 percent during this same period.

Culture Shock

For a food that’s only been available in the U.S. on a significant commercial scale since World War II, yogurt has certainly embedded itself into our national culinary consciousness in a hurry. The vast variety of brands, flavors, styles, consistencies, and packaging formats now available at your local grocery store is a testament both to yogurt’s increasing mass appeal and its unusual versatility and flexibility.

The Art of “Right-Spicing”

Sometime in the late 1990s, I was in Albuquerque with a sweet tooth and a few extra minutes before my flight. Working my way through a busy retail area, I happened upon a hole-in-the-wall pie shop offering what were, at the time, some of the most unusual pastries I’d ever seen or heard of. Out of sheer curiosity, I ordered two specialties of the house: apple-jalapeño and peach-habanero. And what a memorable decision it turned out to be.

Bowled Over

In the fast-food breakfast world, the carrier has long been king. From McMuffins to Croissan’wiches, burritos to breakfast wraps, flatbreads to breakfast paninis, and now—thank you, Dunkin’ Donuts—even breakfast sandwiches served on a glazed doughnut, fast-food chains have dedicated an inordinate amount of ingenuity to finding tasty, portable, hand-held ways to deliver the day’s most important meal to us with a minimum of fuss and mess.

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