Harvest Desk

Parking fines aren't usually the stuff of holiday cheer. But a few cities around the country are turning them into an opportunity to promote giving, letting drivers cover part or all of their fines with food donations.

#NPRreads is a weekly feature on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers from our newsroom share the pieces that have kept them reading, using the #NPRreads hashtag. On Fridays, we highlight some of the best stories.

This week, we bring you four items.

From foreign digital editor Hannah Bloch:

A Southern cooking pioneer has died in her native Tennessee. Phila Rawlings Hach hosted the first television cooking show in the South, evangelizing the virtues of Southern cuisine. She went on to become a cookbook author, restaurateur, innkeeper and catering chef to politicians and military flights.

Hach died Wednesday at the age of 89, according to her son, Joe Hach.

More people who are overweight or obese may get screened for diabetes under guidelines released Tuesday by a panel of prevention experts. As a result, insured people whose blood sugar is higher than normal now can be referred to nutrition and exercise counseling without paying anything out of pocket for it.

"Obesity and overweight have been risk factors all along for diabetes," says Dr. Wanda Filer, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "But we haven't had guidelines that actually said, 'Screen those folks.'"

A Confederacy of Dunces has been called a love letter to New Orleans and hailed as a modern comedic classic. Now, a new cookbook looks at the food and culture that help define the characters in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

Set in New Orleans in the 1960s, the novel centers around Ignatius J. Reilly, an over-educated, rotund 30-year-old who lives with his mother in a tiny house and goes about ranting against the modern world while selling hot dogs from his pushcart.

If it's the future, and the end of the world is nigh, it's probably safe to assume that things are looking grim. If all you have to eat is the survivalist food you bought from televangelist Jim Bakker in 2015, then your situation may be considerably worse.

It's impossible to pinpoint the exact moment Americans embraced industrialized food. But the first Christmas after the Civil War is a key date to note. That's when Chicago's infamous Union Stock Yard opened to the public, in 1865.

Mariama Keita grows peanuts the old-fashioned way: using hoes, pitchforks and, when needed, horses as beasts of burden.

She doesn't have a tractor or any mechanized tools.

But the mother of two does have one new weapon in her agricultural arsenal to help keep her farm running: her cellphone.

For the last eight years, Keita has been farming the 10 acres she inherited from her father. The property is in Kaffrine in central Senegal — the country's peanut-growing region.

The coconut has developed a bit of a faddish following in the West.

Today, devotees add coconut oil to coffee, dab it on acne and, following Gwyneth Paltrow's example, swirl it around in their mouths to fight tooth decay. Starbucks has launched a coconut-milk latte. And the coconut-water business has surged to $400 million, with a little help from Madonna and Rihanna.

No one would be more delighted at the coconut's rising star than August Engelhardt, a sun-worshipping German nudist and history's most radical cocovore.

On a recent Saturday, well past lunchtime and nowhere near dinnertime, a line of about 25 patrons ran along the length of a restaurant. Outside, a dozen cars idled at the drive-thru window. By dinnertime, the line had tripled.

When I kick back to watch a show, I tell myself I'm just going to watch one episode. But 45 minutes later, I'm watching another. And then another. For the rest of the day. There are a lot of things that TV and chilling can lead to, but among the less fun? Maybe more cognitive decline over time.

On a mile-long stretch of Tottenham High Road in north London, there are at least 10 fried chicken shops. These greasy fast-food joints are a feature of poorer city neighborhoods in the U.K. They serve chicken deep-fried from frozen, drowned in salt and ketchup. In an area with childhood obesity rates well above the national average, it's a standard after-school snack for teens.

Nothing says breakfast in Myanmar more than a hot bowl of mohinga, a flavorful fish soup with rice vermicelli. It's the taste of the Irrawaddy Delta in the Burmese heartland, and an iconic national dish.

It's an "all-day breakfast" food, sold across the country by curbside hawkers, carrying their wares on shoulder poles or bicycle carts, as well as in shops and restaurants in every price range.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The number of people newly diagnosed with diabetes continues to decline after decades of increases that transformed what was once a disease of the old into a public health crisis that affects even children.

That's not to say the crisis is over; 1.4 million people were diagnosed with diabetes in 2014, according to numbers released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's down from 1.7 million new cases in 2009, the fifth straight year of decline.

A new sodium warning requirement goes into effect in New York City restaurants Tuesday: Diners who eat at chain restaurants will now see warnings on menus next to items that contain high levels of salt.

From now on, the New York City Health Department says chain restaurants with 15 or more locations must display a salt shaker icon next to menu items or combo meals that contain 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more.

In South Carolina, catastrophic rainfall is making this a grim year for one of the state's biggest industries: farming. Just when fall crops were ready to harvest, extensive flooding drowned fields and sidelined farm workers.

Coffee lovers may have noticed a new offering in their local cafés. Cascara is a tea-like drink with a fine, fruity flavor and plenty of caffeine, and it's popping up everywhere. For this new addition to chalkboards nationwide, credit Aida Batlle.

Chances are, you've picked up some chatter about the new global talks on climate change. If you can't quite see how it matters to you, personally, you might want to take a peek inside your pantry. Or your candy jar. Because it might just affect your access to everything from cheese to chocolate.

"It's very clear now that a changing climate will have a profound effect on agriculture," says Molly Brown, a geographer at the University of Maryland.

Take one simple example, she says: Vermont.

Providence is considered by many to be the finest restaurant in Los Angeles, a gourmet seafood eatery run by chef Michael Cimarusti. He's won several James Beard awards and two highly coveted Michelin stars. He is also a fisherman who is piloting a program to support local, small-scale fishermen.

Today's restaurants abandoning the tipping system are part of a long heritage of people — including Emerson and Twain — raging against the gratuity system.

Matt Turner/flickr

How many are there?  Chuck Pell says maybe 20 or more.

He's the Chairman of the Sangamon County Historic Preservation Commission.  The group has teamed up with the county's Farm Bureau to find out more about the long standing structures.

"I am confident many of these we will learn about are those type of families where they are fairly confident of their history of the last 150 to 200 years," Pell said.  He points out the homes don't need to be a current residence. 

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Native American Tribe Bets On Olive Oil

Nov 29, 2015

The bucolic Capay Valley is about an hour outside Sacramento, Calif., and its ranches, alfalfa fields and small, organic produce farms have earned it a reputation as an agricultural gem. It's pretty serene, except for the cacophony inside the valley's most lucrative business, the Cache Creek Casino.

How Do We Get To Love At 'First Bite'?

Nov 28, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

While others are thinking about the holidays, in Florida November is the beginning of citrus season. Grower Jeff Schorner sells citrus fruit gift boxes by mail order and at his store, Al's Family Farm in Fort Pierce.

"We began our harvest about three weeks ago," he says. "And we'll harvest all the way about until the beginning of June." Right now, it's navel oranges. Next come tangerines, ruby red grapefruit and the popular honeybell tangelos.

Sweet Name Of Kids' Clinic Gives Some People Heartburn

Nov 27, 2015

The name that UNC Health Care is giving its children's clinic in North Carolina has been raising a lot of eyebrows. The facility is slated to be renamed the Krispy Kreme Challenge Children's Specialty Clinic. But criticism from the medical community at the University of North Carolina and elsewhere is making the health care system rethink that choice.

Urban foraging might call to mind images of hipsters picking food out of the trash.

But one group in Massachusetts eats only the finest, freshest produce. The League of Urban Canners harvests fruit from trees in Cambridge and Somerville and turns it into jam.

Sam Christy, a local high school teacher, started the league four years ago.

This time of year we tend to do a lot of writing about food. Usually we describe delicious dishes that remind us of home and our favorite family traditions, but there's something missing from that conversation: the tale of the kitchen disaster, the wreck, the unsalvageable mess for which the only remedy is take-out.

To fully appreciate the special anguish that is a home-cooked meal gone wrong, we've asked three people with particular knowledge in this area to tell us about their worst-ever kitchen debacles.

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