March 24th, 2013
Late last year, I had a two-part series on the radio that I’ve neglected to add to the archive. Over the course of several months, I dug deep into restaurant food waste, which meant hanging out around stanky Dumpsters and following an experiment in the more fragrant kitchen of LUPA in Greenwich Village. Cruz Goler, the head chef there, let a company called LeanPath come in and test out its waste tracking software. Goler also kindly allowed me to tag along the day he and his staff got trained up on how to use it. Their story was the second segment in the series, while the first looked at precisely why all the scraps generated by restaurants are such a nuisance. For that story, I had the pleasure of interviewing the great Dr. Robert Corrigan, who heads up the New York City Rodent Control Academy.
In other news, we learned last month that The Salt won a Gracie Award in the Outstanding Blog category. We’re super psyched and honored.
August 5th, 2012
This is not a question I had ever actually asked myself, but it is a question cognitive psychologist Cristine Legare has been asking herself for a while. I stumbled across Legare’s research about 10 days ago — it was a paper she has out in the latest issue of the journal Cognition — and was hooked by what she calls “supernatural reasoning.” Supernatural reasoning is essentially the reasoning we turn to when we engage in ritual, superstition or any other kind of behavior where there’s no clear physical evidence of cause and effect. When I talked to Legare last week, I realized that I had just participated in exactly the kind of ritual she wants to understand and explain; a chanting session at a yoga studio in support of a D.C.-area yoga instructor who’d recently been hospitalized for injuries sustained when he was attacked on the street while walking home. For more, read my post on Shots.
July 4th, 2012
We’ve had some fun the last two weeks on The Salt with Meat Week and Pie Week. These brainchildren of a Morning Edition producer have yielded a motherlode of stories detailing just what it means to be a people that loves their meat and their pie.
Last week I had two posts on meat consumption in the U.S. One was a charticle with an infographic on what goes into a hamburger, which was surprisingly tricky to put together given the mushiness of data on the land, water, food and energy required for livestock production. Then I wrote about a survey we did with a health polling firm of 3,000 Americans on changes in how much meat people are eating. There’s actually not a lot of great data out there on this, and as many food reporters have noted, attitudes about meat consumption seem to be changing relatively fast right now, so it was a timely and revealing survey.
This week, we’re all about pie. I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed it, but it turns out many people have a very strong emotional response to stories about making pie. On Friday, I’ll pull together some of the cutest, funniest, and most absurd pie stories people have been sending on Storify, a cool little social media reporting tool I used for the first time last month for this story for Shots on the paleo diet.
April 7th, 2012
Everything’s under construction these days — this website, the former site of the Nehemiah Center across the street from my apartment, even the triangle of land between New York Ave, K St and 6th St NW by NPR. But hoping the renovation of this site will beat the other two projects, and my past and present journalism work will be better organized for reading pleasure very soon. Stay tuned!
November 21st, 2011
The Salt, NPR’s new food blog, had a soft launch in September and has been quietly gaining steam since then. While blog queen April Fulton is on maternity leave, I am the host and editor and try to maintain a mix of the most interesting news stories that our ever-complex, ever-changing food system spits out. We’re leaving room for lots of fun stories, too, like cheese sculpture and Halloween candy economics. We have an excellent team of contributors mainly from NPR’s science desk who bring a freighter of experience with them covering nutrition, food trends, agriculture, hunger, sustainability and much more.
Here is a sampling of some recent stories I’ve been most pleased with:
A Food Sculptor On Her Passion: ‘The Cheese Found Me’
Farm-Raised Tilapia, With A Dash Of Antibiotic
From Grille To Grill: When Roadkill Is Good Enough For Dinner
From Nebraska Lab To McDonald’s Tray: The McRib’s Strange Journey
New Varieties Haven’t Taken The Nutrition Out Of Broccoli
A Coconut Cake From Emily Dickinson: Reclusive Poet, Passionate Baker
How That Food You Throw Out Is Linked To Global Warming
May 11th, 2011
I spent most of March and the first part of April covering the Fukushima nuclear crisis for NPR. While a lot of the work I did was behind the scenes, I wrote one featurey piece on some of TEPCO’s most avoidable mistakes. There were loads of fluky incidents precipitated by the tsunami that the electric company couldn’t have foreseen, but a number of nuclear experts I spoke to felt that there were also some clear missteps once the power was out and the plant went into emergency mode. That piece, In Wake Of Nuclear Crisis, TEPCO’s Plans Questioned, ran in early April on the NPR web site.
May 11th, 2011
I wrote captions for a slideshow a while back for National Geographic’s water series; it’s called China’s Wetland Revolution. The biggest attraction is the photos by Sean Gallagher, who did a pretty remarkable job documenting a not-so-sexy environmental issue — disappearing wetlands — in a country not so keen on dispensing information on environmental predicaments. The story was part of NatGeo’s ongoing series on global water issues, which was kicked off with its ASME award-winning issue on water in April 2010.
February 1st, 2011
Last week I wrote a blog post for NPR’s Shots that went viral. The post, entitled Why Bacon Is The Gateway To Meat For Vegetarians, was based on my accumulated observations over many years that bacon makes turncoats out of vegetarians. Now, many people have asked me if I am or was ever a vegetarian, and the answer is yes, I was, for roughly 13 years. Bacon didn’t lure me back to meat eating (it was tacos al pastor in Mexico), but I admit I sneaked the occasional slice off grease-soaked paper towels when no one was looking.
January 26th, 2011
A piece I reported back in September in Juarez, Mexico appeared on TheAtlantic.com this month. I discovered during my visit there that there is a small but vital movement of citizens eager to refashion their city into a more trusting, law-abiding place. The violence rages on, however, and the city remains the most violent in the hemisphere. As the LA Times reported this week, an artificial-intelligence model generated by a university researcher there projected that 5,000 people will be killed there this year. It’s a bit of a bizarre way to project such a figure, but it’s entirely believable. That violence will have to plummet before enough citizens feel safe enough to leave their homes and really participate in rebuilding the city. Whether that will happen in the short or medium term is pretty unclear.
December 28th, 2010
Here’s another reason to save those bacon drippings: They can be converted into diesel fuel, that is if you have the the equipment handy to hydrogenate the fats and turn them into renewable diesel. Meat conglomerate Tyson Foods would like to see more Americans driving on lard if a new venture with Syntroleum works out. For more, see my recent piece in National Geographic News entitled Fat’s Chance as a Renewable Diesel Fuel.