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.
If you want to get a group of barbecue fanatics all fired up, just try using the words grilling and barbecuing interchangeably.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The composition of the modern American meal is pretty well established. The main dish/side dish/beverage/dessert formula hasn’t changed appreciably in eons, and though occasional upstarts surface to challenge this sequence from time to time (think small plates, one-pot meals, sharing menus, and tapas), the basic arrangement seems pretty stable and generally well suited to our appetites and mealtime rituals.
When I was growing up in California’s San Joaquin Valley—once commonly known as the nation’s breadbasket—local farmers grew a significant percentage of the fruits and vegetables eaten by people in the rest of the country. They still do. Today, the Vegetable Research & Information Center at the University of California, Davis, reports that the Valley produces more than 250 different crops.
When you consider that one of the world’s most perfect comfort foods—the basic French baguette—is made of nothing more than flour, yeast, salt, and water, it’s a wonder we, as human beings, ever decided to expand on this basic formula.