Marc Halperin

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.

Taking Sides

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.

Chew On This

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.

Your Way or the Highway

I made my own pizza for lunch the other day, and I have to say it was pretty great. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit I’m taking a little license with the language by saying I “made” this pizza. I didn’t roll out or toss the dough, though I did choose my crust from a few available varieties, as was my prerogative. I also didn’t slave over a saucepan to get the tomato sauce a little smoky, a little spicy, and distinctly tangy, the way I like it.

Milking It

In its most recent Statistical Abstract of the U.S., the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that per-capita consumption of dairy products grew about 7 percent between 1990 and 2009, from roughly 568 to 607 pounds per person per year. That’s a slow and steady rise, though not the sort of eye-popping increase that typically sends menu developers scurrying to the ideation kitchen with dollar signs in their eyes. But dig a little deeper into the bureau’s findings, and some interesting trends reveal themselves.