What are the best practices that will eliminate food-borne disease, the obesity epidemic and the plight of the American farmer? What should you do when you've drunk too much? Who parties harder: chefs or DJs? What is a foodie to do? Being into food requires a lot of decision-making these days, from which policies you support to which blogs you read to whether or not your juice.
Related: The Pros and Cons of Juicing »
Whatever your food cause, there's guaranteed to be some debate around it. Here are 14 food issues currently making their rounds of polite dinner conversation, heated arguments, desperate web searches and changemakers' desks. And, while these issues are always open to debate, we offer up solutions. Finally!1. Is foodie-ism elitist?
If you've ever considered photographing the contents of your CSA box, or waited more than half an hour for a table at the place du jour because you haven't photographed food in more than half an hour, are you elitist? Has our worship of food overshadowed the larger problems at hand? Where lies the balance between hobby and snobby?
VERDICT: Yes. While it's great that people are eating healthier and taking more interest in where their food comes, the whole concept of farm-to-table dining is flawed and overbaked. If it's not coming to your table from a farm, where the heck is it coming from?!
Related: Has Food Worship Jumped the Shark? »
2. Are humans supposed to eat meat?
Everyone has a vegetarian or vegan friend who extols the virtues of shunning meat. You may agree, and vow to mend your ways. You may agree that it's a virtue, but still sink your pointy canines (meant for tearing meat) into a juicy chicken breast later on. You may look at these individuals as though they are mentally unsound. This begs the question: are we meant to eat meat? And if so or not, how can we find common ground?
VERDICT: Well, technically yes. I mean, we have the teeth and digestive tracts for it. But if you're vegan or vegetarian, we still like you (just don't preach to us about not eating meat, because we're supposed to!)
Related: Vegan Question: Where Do You Get Protein? »
3. Should foie gras be banned?
If you've tasted duck or goose liver and loved it, it's very difficult to go back. That said, the methods used to obtain said liver are indeed controversial. But with recent talk of pregnant pig crating and a chicken's right to range freely, is it right to single out one practice as the worst of them all?
VERDICT: A tough one! Wolfgang Puck said no, but then switched sides and now lobbies against it. Still, we're saying that foie gras is delicious, and when raised humanely (as possible), we don't need to legislate it out of our diets.
Related: 5 Controversial Foods to Eat or Avoid »
4. Is food "the new rock"?
It used to be that rock stars sold out shows, worked fans into frenzies and traveled in style with sizable entourages. While this is still the case, now chefs and food personalities sell out pop-up events in minutes, have their own stylists and publicists and are consequently photographed as much as the top celebrities they marry. (Or just "hang out with.") If competitive eaters are coining terms like "food tang," could food potentially be the new rock?
VERDICT: Yes! It might be trite to say chefs are the new rock stars, but the cool crowd today obsesses about food, wine, spirits and craft beer the way an earlier generation did about rock musicians, DJs and MCs.
Related: Theophilus London's Jamba Juice Revenge »
5. Terroir: Old World vs. New World
Whether you're a French Burgundy snob or Walla Walla wine-lover, the question remains: is Old World or New World wine superior? Is there such a thing as heirloom terrior? Do old vines age as well as the wine they make? For the neutral, it's simply a matter of who has more of it.
VERDICT: With all due respect to the big bold flavors of California wines, we'll take a real Bordeaux, Chianti or Rioja anyday.
Related: Top 5 Emerging Wine Regions »
6. Should people keep backyard chickens?
Yes, the eggs are just that good. Despite zoning laws, lack of experience raising farm animals and neighbors who complain and snitch, people in urban areas with any extra outdoors space at all are building or buying coops. Practical? Maybe. Trendy? You betcha. But is the bottom line of chicken-keeping harmful or helpful?
VERDICT: Sorry locavores, keep your chickens out of the city and leave chicken-raising to the farmers. Grow your own vegetables instead.
Related: Urban Agriculture is On the Move »
7. Does In-N-Out have the best fast food burger?
California, Nevada, Arizona and most recently Texas are filled with loyalists when it comes to fast food burgers. In-N-Out or bust. As if the coasts needed a new rivalry, NYC-based Shake Shack garners an equal, if not slightly more aggressive population of devotees. Chill out, man. Whether you're waiting for Shack sauce or secret spread, you're still looking at a half hour line for a burger. Just for kicks though, does In-N-Out have the best one?
VERDICT: In-N-Out wins out. Make mine a double-double, animal style.
Related: Burger of the Week or Weak Burger? »
8. Mixology or bartending?
And speaking of things that take too long for often-questionable results, should we really be juicing organic celery and brewing bitters out of smoked Vietnamese cinnamon for cocktails when, long story short, you're just trying to get a buzz? Who are the people paying $13 for the privilege of a cocktail dispensed by a skinny, fedora-topped vegan Brooklynite when a stiff gin and tonic from a busty chick in an undershirt will do the trick just as well? Do we call for a return to bartending, or simply embrace (and learn to pronounce) chartreuse? Can these two parallel worlds co-exist, judgment-free?
VERDICT: We're all for a stylishly made, artisanal-crafted cocktail, but geez, let's just call it bartending please.
Related: Bartending v. Mixology »
9. Beef: grass-fed vs. corn-fed
Ah, this old debate. Palate preference meets ethics meets meat. While some sing the praises of grass-fed beef until...well, the cows come home, others insist that corn-fed or at least corn-finished retains more of the tasty fat and rich, beefy flavor that made you order a steak in the first place. Is grass-fed the solution to all our bovine problems?
VERDICT: We like grass-fed a lot, but you can't make a good burger out of it, so corn-fed it is. (Though grass-fed, corn-finished is pretty damn good too.)
Related: Grass-fed Beef: The Grass Matters »
10. Can you cure a hangover?
You swear by a Western omelet, a couple of Advil and a nap. Your friend says a torta from the Mexican grocery, a gallon of water and a shower. You were stunned by the ex who hit the gym. And impressed by the roommate who drank through it. The question, like your hangover, rages on: can you cure it?
VERDICT: We wish the answer was yes, but it's no.
Related: 8 Ways to Survive a Wicked Hangover »
11. Should people take photos of food at restaurants?
Sure, chefs hate it. But they're the ones making money off the food you're photographing as discreetly or non-discreetly as you damn well please, right? (See: Is foodie-ism elitist?) Disruptive as it may be, have you paid for your right to remember your perfectly plated meal? Or is it a photo faux-pas?
VERDICT: Yes for food photos. Just have respect for the chef/restaurant, be discreet, and don't use a flash.
Related: Food Republic Is Now on Instagram! »
12. Milk: raw vs. pasteurized
For many, raw milk is a religious flavor experience unmatched by anything poured out of a carton. Unfortunately, those who aren't down with pasteurization are getting sick - seriously sick - more frequently. Like the adventurous who chow down on blowfish sashimi and leave their pork pinker than even the new FDA rules advise, the risk of illness won't sway these dairy purists. Should all milk be pasteurized if there's evidence raw milk may not be safe to drink?
VERDICT: Better safe than sorry. Pasteurized.
Related: 10 Myths and Facts About Raw Milk »
13. Are alfalfa sprouts worth it anymore?
Fans of the California sandwich may want to switch to something less healthy until sprouts are back on the list of reliably safe produce. Due to a number of salmonella and E. coli outbreaks, chain after chain has pulled alfafa sprouts from menus, "just in case." With apologies to those who just can't live without their favorite vegetable ever, should we be avoiding sprouts until we've gone a few months without an accident?
VERDICT: Not worth it. We're not saying to boycott alfalfa sprouts, but proceed with extreme caution.
Related: 2 Chains, 9 Health Outbreaks, 1 Solution »
14. Eat or avoid: GMOs
Here's a debate that's been settled for us: we don't know if what we're eating has been genetically modified. Should we? Enough people say yes that this debate is here to stay. When GMOs are labeled as such (as is the case in over 50 other countries, like the entire EU and China), we'll pick up the issue of eat or avoid.
VERDICT: Just label it.
Related: Robert Kenner Says: Just Label It »
Read More on Food Republic:
Food Bans in the News
Trending: GMOs Become a Big Deal
8 Walla Walla Wines to Drink Right Now