Harvest Desk

This story was originally published in April 2012.

It all starts with the egg.

In spring, chickens start laying again, bringing a welcome source of protein at winter's end. So it's no surprise that cultures around the world celebrate spring by honoring the egg.

Some traditions are simple, like the red eggs that get baked into Greek Easter breads. Others elevate the egg into an elaborate art, like the heavily jewel-encrusted Faberge eggs that were favored by the Russian czars starting in the 19th century.

I've been trying to get the perfect crust on my fried chicken for a while now. To be specific, I've been working on a dish called Chongqing Sichuan spicy chicken or chicken with chilies. This can be one of the most transformative experiences to ever come out of a wok, and I've been chasing a crisp, almost glassy crunch on my chicken for a long time.

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So, maybe your Instagram pics of #delicious #foodporn never look nearly as scrumptious as the real thing.

Don't despair — it's not you. It's just that your food is too real.

Beekeepers flock from all over the country to California every February and March to watch billions of honeybees buzz around the state's almond trees. Eighty percent of the country's commercial bees visit the Golden State each spring.

So I went to check out the scene at an almond orchard at the California State University, Fresno, in Central California.

"Really, the key is to stay calm around bees, because if you're afraid, then your body physiologically changes and they can sense that," beekeeper Brian Hiatt tells me. "They literally can smell fear."

Bubble Tea Is Back — With A Vengeance

Mar 22, 2016

Whether you call it "boba" or "bubble" tea, the Taiwanese beverage that allows you to chew your drink is back with a vengeance. It first got its start in the 1980s, after an inventor thought to pour tapioca pearls into a glass of iced, sweet tea. Though Asian communities have been drinking boba tea in the United States for many years, the texturally exciting drink is finally reaching a wider audience.

And boba isn't just back — it's playing ambassador to a whole host of other foods and trends.

During the season of Lent, many Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. Fish, though, is considered fair game, so the Friday night fish fry has become an annual tradition at churches across the country.

You've probably heard that a little booze a day is good for you. I've even said it at parties. "Look at the French," I've said gleefully over my own cup. "Wine all the time and they still live to be not a day younger than 82."

I'm sorry to say we're probably wrong. The evidence that alcohol has any benefit on longevity or heart health is thin, says Dr. Timothy Naimi, a physician and epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center.

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Good morning, I'm David Greene with a pretty enticing offer - beer internship.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Sounds like you might be interested in applying, David.

So you walk into the new Korean joint around the corner and discover that (gasp) the head chef is a white guy from Des Moines. What's your gut reaction? Do you want to walk out? Why?

The question of who gets to cook other people's food can be squishy — just like the question of who gets to tell other people's stories. (See: the whole controversy over the casting of the new Nina Simone biopic.)

Take a look at the next box of strawberries you find in the store. Depending on where in the country you happen to be, it may have come from Florida. But it won't for much longer.

Why?

An Upside To Climate Change? Better French Wine

Mar 21, 2016

While climate change threatens coastal cities and generates extreme weather, the effects of global warming could bring good news to some of France's most esteemed vineyards.

Here, the conditions needed to produce early-ripening fruit, which is historically associated with highly rated wines, have become more frequent, according to research published online Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

If you've ever dreamed about melt-in-your-mouth, out-of-this-world sushi, then you might have heard of Tsukiji, the largest fish market in the world. Most of Tokyo, and even high-end sushi joints in Hong Kong and San Francisco, gets its fish at this cultural landmark near the center of Japan's capital city.

Donna Davis thought she had hit the jackpot with the two bags of mushrooms she collected in the woods of Northern California's Salt Point State Park. Instead, she ended up in the hospital, facing the possibility of a liver transplant, after mistakenly eating a poisonous mushroom known as the death cap.

When it comes to milk production, Gigi the cow is queen.

"She's the diva of all divas," says Robert Behnke, a Brooklyn, Wis., dairy farmer and Gigi's owner.

And she's earned that diva status: Earlier this year, she produced more milk in one year than any other cow had done before — just shy of 75,000 pounds of milk, roughly equivalent to 8,700 gallons. That's triple the national average for a dairy cow to produce in a year.

You wouldn't expect a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic to take you to the sort of place that's wedged between a 99-cent store and a boarded-up meat market.

But that's exactly where I sat down for lunch with Jonathan Gold — at a downtown Los Angeles eatery called El Parian.

Grow Springfield

From novices to gardening veterans, you'll find plenty to keep you interested this weekend during the Homegrown Fest taking place at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield.  The event is combined with the 13th annual Composting Symposium.

2 Breakfasts May Be Better Than None For School Kids

Mar 17, 2016

When it comes to school breakfasts, two is better than none, says a new report released Thursday in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

If you're planning to hoist a pint of Irish dry stout for St. Patrick's Day, the folks at Guinness have a polite request: Don't slurp the foamy head off their beer. It's essentially a nitrogen cap, they say, that's protecting the flavors underneath from being oxidized.

St. Patrick's is a huge day for the legendary brewer – of the 70 million people who are estimated to be celebrating today, around 13 million will also drink a glass of Guinness.

Today is the day that the Guinness flows freely, tough brisket is transformed into tender corned beef, and we celebrate the Emerald Isle with humble cabbage. This holy trinity of meat, veg and stout is the communion of St. Patrick's Day.

But the history of that meal is relatively short, going back mainly to trade and immigration in the 18th and 19th centuries. Want to feast like St. Patrick would have celebrated more than 1,600 years ago? Let's party like it's 399.

I've been itching to get a standing desk. After all, America's sitting itself into an early grave. Sitting is the new smoking. Clearly, a standing desk would stop me from sitting, and standing is just so much better for you than sitting, right?

Contrary to popular belief, science does not say so.

Pot-infused edibles are big sellers in states that have legalized marijuana. The problem is, it's been tough to measure and regulate the potency of these ganja-laced gummy bears, lollies and brownies.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

It's been called "perhaps the most contentious issue in the food industry": Should food products be labeled to indicate they contain genetically modified ingredients?

Julia Ward Howe is renowned as the poet who woke up one night in an inspired state to pen the lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the song that would become the victorious psalm of the Civil War.

But what few know is that the writer, reformer and mother of six who wrote those stirring words – "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" – was adrift in a lonely war of her own, against a husband who sought to control every aspect of her life, from what she wrote to what she ate.

If you drive down any interstate in the South, you can't miss the giant black-and-yellow signs beckoning: Waffle House.

These ubiquitous, yellow-roofed chain restaurants have been serving up not just waffles but all manner of Southern comfort foods 'round the clock for more than 60 years.

And for the past 30 years or so, Waffle House has also been working on a side project: making music.

Like this peppy number:

Want to mark this St. Patrick's Day with something beyond the usual corned beef and cabbage (which aren't so traditionally Irish anyway)? Why not mix up your menu with a tasty tray of blaas?

By now, you probably know that Americans waste a lot of food.

Each year, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food that farmers grow never makes it to our plates. That's enough to fill 44 skyscrapers. And tons of it ends up in landfills, where it emits methane, a greenhouse gas.

The poet John Berryman once wrote, "My mother told me as a boy (repeatingly) 'Ever to confess you're bored means you have no inner resources.' I conclude now I have no inner resources, because I am heavy bored."

We've all been there: bored in class, bored at work, bored in stand still traffic. But why do we find boredom so unbearable? And, if we hate boredom so much, why do we still take boring jobs? This week on Hidden Brain, we try to answer these questions and more – hopefully, without boring you.

Bored at Work

You can't find a more intimate relationship between humans, food and nature than fishing, says Michele Mesmain, international coordinator of Slow Fish, a seafood spinoff of the Italy-based Slow Food movement. Think of all the thousands of boats at sea, catching wild creatures to haul back to shore and eat. "It's our last source of widely eaten, truly wild food," she says.

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