March 22nd, 2014

Prison loaf on the air

My most recent radio story aired in December, and it’s all about the controversial practice we still have in this country of feeding prisoners a bland lump, known as “the loaf,” when they misbehave. I spent a few months investigating the loaf, and trying to figure out how many prisons or jails still use it as a disciplinary measure. Listen to it here.

December 19th, 2013

Hooray for restored archives

On a whim I went looking for two stories I wrote for The New Republic back in 2007 when I was living in Mexico. The last time I tried to search for them was in 2009, when they vanished during a site reboot.

Sometime in the last 3 years, they were resuscitated from the Internet underworld. And so,  from the vaults, here’s the U.S.-Mexico spat on who’s got a worse drug problem, and a celebrity gossip blogger’s failed attempt to call Castro’s death.

October 28th, 2013

Shutdown & Colbert Report

Earlier this month, a story Allison Aubrey and I wrote about how the shutdown impacts WIC recipients was on The Colbert Report. Here’s the story: Shutdown Leaves Program Feeding Women And Infants In Lurch. It appears at the 5:26 mark in this Oct. 2 episode.

Also from the last couple months:

Why Doctors Oppose Force-Feeding Guantanamo Hunger Strikers

This one has great photos and audio collected by Heather Rousseau: How Well Do You Know Your Fish Fillet? Even Chefs Can Be Fooled

I plan to get out to WV sometime to do more reporting on this fascinating topic: ‘Mountain Dew Mouth’ Is Destroying Appalachia’s Teeth, Critics Say

Maybe It’s Time To Swap Burgers For Bugs, Says U.N.

Taking Down Big Food Is The Name Of Chipotle’s New Game

My story on one of the biggest news events in the food world this year: Long Awaited Lab-Grown Burger Is Unveiled In London

Q&A with UC-Berkeley medical anthropologist Seth Holmes: Why Picking Your Berries For $8,000 A Year Hurts A Lot

Allison Aubrey and I have been following the debate about what’s really to blame for the rise in celiac and gluten sensitivity. Here’s our feature: Doctors Say Changes In Wheat Do Not Explain Rise Of Celiac Disease

Stay tuned for the follow-up on the radio to this story on punishment food, which should air sometime in November: The Latest In Adventurous Tastings? Prison Food

 

 

August 18th, 2013

Coffee Week

Better late than never, I’d like to shout out Coffee Week, a fun little run of NPR stories in the tradition of Meat Week and Pie Week. I made two contributions: finding a San Diego coffee shop gossip columnist for a two-way on Morning Edition, and this blog post on why caffeine is a miracle drug for the tired. And it seems NPR isn’t finished with food weeks. Stay tuned for Dumpling Week at the end of August!

March 24th, 2013

The Trouble With Food Waste

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

Why do we turn to ritual to get what we want?

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

Meat Into Pie

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

I’m under construction

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 Has Launched!

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

Looking Back At Fukushima

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.