food journalist

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Top image, Sierra Nicole Rhoden/Chicago Tribune. Bottom image by Donna Battle Pierce for NPR

“Inside the dark theater, during a recent showing of Hidden Figures, the pioneering food journalist and cookbook writer Freda DeKnight came to mind several times,” writes Donna Battle Pierce.

Born in 1909, DeKnight spent much of her 54 years collecting, protecting and celebrating African-American culture and traditions in the years after World War II up to the civil rights movement. Yet her name has been all but forgotten – she doesn’t even have that most basic of 21st century acknowledgements, a Wikipedia page.

As the first food editor for Ebony magazine, DeKnight wrote a photo-driven monthly column that offered her home economist’s tips, as well as regional recipes from the “Negro community” of home cooks, professional chefs, caterers, restaurateurs and celebrities.

Learn more here.

– Petra

They call it “The Hummus Wars.”

Lebanon accused the Israeli people of trying to steal hummus and make it their national dish, explains Ronit Vered, a food journalist with the newspaper Haaretz in Tel Aviv. And so hummus became a symbol, she tells us, “a symbol of all the tension in the Middle East.”

The war began over a 4,532-pound plate of hummus.

In 2009, Fadi Abboud — the minister of tourism ­­— led Lebanon to break the world record for making the largest tub of hummus in the world. At the time, Abboud was also chairman of the Lebanese Industrialists Association. “A group of us just came from a food exhibition in France. There they were telling us that hummus is an Israeli traditional dish,” he says. “I mean, the world now thinks that Israel invented hummus.”

Abboud could not let that stand. “I thought the best way to tell the world that the hummus is Lebanese is to break the Guinness Book of Records.”

Give Chickpeas A Chance: Why Hummus Unites, And Divides, The Mideast

Photo: Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images
Caption: Lebanese chefs celebrate in Beirut after setting a new Guinness record for what was then the biggest tub of hummus in the world — weighing over 2 tons — in October 2009. 

Is sourdough bread actually healthier than other breads?

In Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan, acclaimed food journalist, logged the process of making sourdough bread. It begins with a yeast starter, which creates microbes  that will soon be mixed with flour to become bread. Compared to eating white bread, Pollan believes that sourdough bread is superior. Medical professionals, however, suggest a different alternative altogether.

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If we are going to change our diets, we first have to relearn the art of eating, which is a question of psychology as much as nutrition. We have to find a way to want to eat what’s good for us.
—  Bee Wilson, food journalist and author. Read her latest article in The Guardian on how to relearn the art of eating.

93. “I believe in you.” + restaurant AU + first kiss

Stiles locks himself into the pantry and presses his forehead against the cool metal edge of the shelf, sighing in frustration. He can’t believe it. It’s the night of his first ever major restaurant review and two of his chefs haven’t come in to work, Allison is on maternity leave and he’s a waitress short because Erica has twisted her ankle badly. It’s going to be an absolute disaster. There’s no way that Lydia Martin, yes, the Lydia Martin, food journalist extraordinaire, will ever give him the brilliant review he’s been hoping for. Damn it, he’s been working for this night the whole year! Perfecting dishes, training chefs, making sure the menu is aesthetically appealing, he’s done it all.

He kicks the shelf in anger and is rewarded by four cans of tinned tomatoes falling onto his foot. “Ow!” he calls out in pain, hopping away from the shelf and sinking down onto a pile of flour bags in the corner. He cradles his head in his hands and closes his eyes. He might as well just give up now, he thinks. There’s no way he’ll get customers after an unfavourable review from Lydia Martin and an unfavourable review is clearly what’s going to happen.

“Uh, Stiles?” a voice calls out as the door cracks open a few inches. Stiles looks up in surprise; he’d locked the pantry door, hadn’t he?

“Scott sent me,” it’s Derek. He’s one of Stiles’ oldest employees; Stiles thinks he hired him just a few hours after he hired Scott. Derek is an amazing chef and Stiles loves to flirt with him and watch him blush red under all the scruff. Stiles won’t deny it; he’s had many a fantasy where he and Derek get locked into the pantry together and do, uh, things. But right now, he’s feeling too angry and upset to even think about any of those fantasies.

Derek walks into the pantry and shuts the door behind him. He’s carrying two covered plates which he sets down on a nearby shelf and then bends over to pick up the tins of tomatoes that Stiles had left on the floor. Stiles stares at him.

“I locked the door,” he says, rasing an eyebrow. Derek turns to him and gives him one of his rare, kind of shy smiles.

“Scott had a masterkey,” he explains, coming to sit on a bag of flour next to Stiles.

“I should’ve known,” Stiles mutters, shaking his head.

“Martin’s gonna be here in three hours, do you really want to spend all that time in here, sulking?” Derek asks, poking Stiles on the arm.

“Sulking?!” Stiles exclaims. “You tell me how I’m supposed to impress Lydia frickin Martin with only two out of the four best chefs I have and my most competent waitress not being able to be here because of a twisted ankle!”

Derek just stares at him calmly. “Did you call Isaac and Jackson again?” he asks.

“I called Isaac a million times, he’s not picking up his phone and Jackson picked up on the sixth try but said he couldn’t come because of a family emergency,” Stiles says, getting up to pace the room, running his fingers through his hair. “With Isaac and Jackson not here, there’s no way I’ll be able to serve Lydia Martin the full seven course meal I had planned!”

“Okay, first of all, calm down,” Derek stands up too. He walks towards Stiles and stills his anxious pacing by placing both of his hands on Stiles’ arms. “Take a deep breath,” he instructs. Stiles looks at him warily but then does as he says. Instantly he feels a tiny bit better. At least he can breathe properly now.

“Now listen to me,” Derek shakes him a little until he looks at him. “I believe in you,” Derek says carefully and slowly. “You can do this. You’re the most talented chef I have ever met and you’re very smart. I know you can do this.”

Stiles swallows as he looks at Derek’s intent face. There’s just something about the way he’s saying it all; like he really, truly means it, that Stiles begins to feel like, maybe, he can actually do it.

“I’ve seen you whip up amazing dishes in under five minutes, I’ve seen you manage full houses without breaking a sweat. Feeding Lydia Martin a great meal is nothing,” Derek grins, pulling his hands away and taking a little step back. “You just have to think a little differently.”

Stiles frowns, wondering what he’s doing as Derek turns away from him and reaches for the two plates he put on the shelf when he first came in. “I made these two courses. They’re not what you planned but maybe they could be a quick alternate?” He uncovers the plates and offers Stiles a fork and a spoon.

“Derek,” Stiles looks at him, eyes wide as he takes a bite of each dish. “These are amazing,” he licks the spoon to prove his point. He feels like hugging Derek but Derek’s holding two plates.

“Thanks,” Derek ducks his head and puts the plates back on the shelf. “Also, um, my sister, Cora? She’s waitressed before. I could call her to ask her if she can step in for tonight?”

Stiles can’t help it. He skips the hug and goes straight in for a kiss, smashing their mouths together. Their teeth clash and it’s the worst first kiss anyone could have asked for but they’re both giggling by the time they pull back.

“That would be wonderful, the, um, Cora thing,” Stiles says, rubbing the back of his head with one hand.

“Okay, then, um, I’ll call her,” Derek replies, blushing a little.

“Okay, good, then, uh, we better get going,” Stiles says but there’s a question mark at the end of his words.

“One more kiss? For good luck, maybe,” Derek looks adorably shy as he pushes his glasses up his nose. Stiles grins as he leans in.

“One more for luck.”