Here are the six food news stories that changed the way we think about eating, buying, and cooking our food in 2011.
1. Release of Nathan Myhrvold's "Cookbook," Modernist Cuisine: The Art & Science of Cooking (March 2011): Called "one of the defining cookbooks in history" by Josh Ozersky, this $625, six-volume exhaustive tome covers mostly "modern" cooking (aka "molescular gastronomy"), along with the science of what happens when you cook (e.g. what happens when you roast a chicken or boil veggies) and the history of food. Hefty in both weight and price tag, this cookbook is not for everyone, but it certainly marks a watershed moment in cookbooks as more than just a bound collection of recipes.
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2. USDA Lowers "Safe" Pork Cooking Temperature (May 2011): The USDA lowered the recommended cooking temperature for pork, steaks, roasts, and chops to 145 from its previous recommendation of 160 and says not to take pinkness or color as an indication of safety. Juicy pork lovers rejoice!
3. EWG's Updated "Dirty Dozen" List (June 2011): Since 1995, the Environmental Working Group has used data from the USDA to compile an annual list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticide residue. Between 2010's list and the one for 2011, there's been some movement; most dramatically, apples have moved up to the top of the list and lettuce has made its first appearance, while cherries have dropped off the list. So much for an apple a day...
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4. Release of USDA's MyPlate Icon (June 2011): Replacing the outdated and often confusing nutritional pyramid, the MyPlate icon, introduced by the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity program, presents a simple image meant to convey a fairly simple concept: make half of every meal consist of fruits and vegetables and the other half of lean proteins and grains. There are more recommendations, which can be found at choosemyplate.gov, such as "avoid oversized portions" and "make half of your grains whole grains." Seemingly simple ideas that, up until now, have not been fully adopted into the average American's diet.
5. Rocky Ford Cantaloupe Recall (Sept. 2011): With 146 people infected across 28 states and a death toll of 30, the listeria outbreak linked to these Colorado melons was the second deadliest case of food-borne illness since the CDC began keeping track in the 70's.
6. Premiere of ABC's The Chew (Sept. 2011): Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Carla Hall, Daphne Oz, and Clinton Kelly co-host this daytime talk show that revolves around food, cooking, and celebrities. The Chicago Sun-Times panned it for its "mundane rehashing of food-related 'news'" and "patronizing" attitude towards viewers, whereas the New York Times lauded it for its "amusingly mismatched hosts." Whether this unique daytime talk show format will spawn imitations remains to be seen.
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