The Juicy Bits
It's not every day that a new pasta shape comes along. But podcaster Dan Pashman's dislike of spaghetti drove him to create a new, more pleasing shape he calls cascatelli (waterfalls). If you try it, maybe toss the pasta with a creamy, fatty sauce and serve it with a big Barolo wine. Trust me: it will work. Scientists have finally explained the mysteries of why fatty foods pair so well with bold red wines. Or maybe you're more of a whisky lover than a wine lover. In that case, have you ever wondered, just what is Japanese whisky? A new set of regulations helps to set the record straight. (Hint: it's like Scotch, from Japan). But the big news this month is in the restaurant industry. American restaurants are finally getting some financial relief from the pandemic bludgeoning: The new federal stimulus package includes $28.6 billion in government grants, most of it specifically earmarked for smaller restaurants. As our favorite places reopen, let's hope they're able to get all the ingredients they need. A shipping container shortage is wreaking havoc on the food supply chain. Food shortages are unlikely, but if another giant cargo ship gets stuck in the Suez canal, who knows? The past year has been a major stress test of food systems around the world. Thankfully, there is mounting evidence that the pandemic is actually strengthening global food systems not weakening them. Some other good news: mayonnaise is helping to heal endangered sea turtles in Israel. Who knew? Could 2021 be the year that mayo gets a health halo? Stranger things have happened.
Forkability, Sauceability, And Toothsinkability Lead To New Dried Pasta Shape, Cascatelli
Image Source: Sfoglini
Dan Pashman thinks spaghetti is boring. To create something better, he embarked on a three-year journey and documented his pasta quest on his award-winning podcast The Sporkful. Pashman sank $10,000 into the project, traveling to North Dakota to learn about semolina, the flour used to make dried pasta. He interviewed designers and consulted with pasta makers. And he sketched umpteen shapes, all judged by three criteria: Forkability, sauceability, and toothsinkability. "A lot of pasta shapes are great at one or two of these three things. But very few nail all three," said Pashman. He ultimately partnered with Sfoglini, an upstate New York pasta company that now manufacturers his ideal shape, cascatelli. In Italian, it means "waterfall." The pasta is cascading all over the news, and so far reviews from chefs and food pros are positive. Mine's on order.
$28.6 Billion "Restaurant Revitalization Fund" To Open For Grant Applications In April
Image Source: Open Table
Finally, some good news for American restaurants and bars: The federal $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package includes $28.6 billion in grants to help stop the bleeding. The fund offers a maximum of $10 million per restaurant group or $5 million for individual venues. Since most of last year's funds were scooped up by chain restaurants, to be eligible in this go round businesses cannot be publicly traded or have more than 20 locations. Over $5 billion of the grants are set aside for smaller venues with annual gross receipts below $500,000, and for the first 21 days, establishments owned by women, veterans, and economically or socially disadvantaged groups will be prioritized. The Small Business Administration is currently building digital infrastructure to administer the grants and expects to begin accepting applications by the end of April. Whew, just in time.
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Regulators Set Requirements For "Japanese Whisky" Labels To Avoid Fraud
Image Source: Gabi Porter
What is Japanese whisky? Historically, it's been modeled on Scotch whisky but vague rules and surging demand have allowed whisky distilled outside of Japan and liquor that isn’t whisky, like shochu, to be labeled as Japanese whisky. The Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association is setting the record straight. Effective immediately, distillers of "Japanese whisky" must use malted grains, and their water must come from Japan. Mashing, fermentation, and distillation must take place at a Japanese distillery. Whisky must be matured in wooden casks stored in Japan for at least three years, and bottling must be done in Japan with a minimum of 40% alcohol by volume. Whiskies that don’t meet these requirements may not use the Japanese flag, Japanese place names, or the names of Japanese people on labels. The catch: These rules apply only to association members. Buyer beware. For relaxing times...make sure it's actually Japanese whisky.
Shipping Container Shortage May Drive Up Food Prices And Extend Delivery Delays
Image Source: Coley Brown
The pandemic has been great for the shipping business. But a container shortage is now wreaking havoc on the global supply chain. Shipping container factories are scrambling to keep up with demand, causing delays in shipping everything from US soybeans to Thai rice. China is also paying huge premiums for containers, making it more profitable for shippers to return the containers to China empty instead of refilling them for the return trip as usual. That means the US is stuck with tons of grains and India can't ship its mountains of sugar. As a result, white sugar prices recently surged to a three-year high, and delays in US soybean shipments could mean higher tofu and soy milk costs for Asian consumers. Analysts expect shipping containers to remain scarce through the end of 2021. At least the giant Ever Given cargo ship was finally freed from the Suez Canal Monday, easing tensions in the frantic shipping industry.
USDA Announces Another $12 Billion In "Pandemic Assistance For Producers," Including Farmers Previously Underserved
Image Source: Chris Machian
In 2020, most agriculture stimulus payments went to large corporate farms. To help reach small, local farms, the USDA's latest round of aid includes about $6 billion for fruit and vegetable growers, beginning farmers, organic farms, and biofuel producers, as well as supplementary funds for commodity producers and cattle ranchers. The new $1.9 trillion stimulus package also adds $4 billion for debt relief among minority farmers and $1 billion to improve access to land, resolve property disputes, and provide legal aid to socially disadvantaged farmers. The package even provides $3.6 billion to facilitate food donations and to protect food system workers from COVID-19. These funds should go a long way toward helping America's agricultural sector get back up and running.
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Baby Food Safety Act Aims To Limit Toxic Metals In Popular Brands
Image Source: Mario Tama/Getty Images
A recent congressional report found dangerous levels of toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in baby foods. In response, US lawmakers have introduced a bill to limit the heavy metals. The Baby Food Safety Act would set new maximum levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in baby food. Manufacturers would be required to comply within one year, and levels would be lowered further within two years following Food and Drug Administration guidance. The bill also mandates that manufacturers test final products for toxic heavy metals and post test results online. While the FDA claims that children are not currently at risk, the report says the baby food industry "has been allowed to self-regulate baby food safety, and the results have been appalling and extremely harmful to our kids.” Let's hope the lawmakers and FDA come to a resolution. For the kids.
USDA Data Reveals Which Produce Is Highest And Lowest In Pesticide Residues
Image Source: iStock
Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzes USDA data to find the fruits and vegetables containing the most and least pesticide residues. This year, strawberries once again top the so-called "Dirty Dozen" list, along with spinach, kale, nectarines, and apples. While health agencies like the World Health Organization recommend avoiding excessive pesticide exposure, the solution isn't to stop eating good-for-you produce. Nutritionists say to choose organic for items on the Dirty Dozen list, since several studies have shown that organic produce contains fewer residues. Or lean more heavily on vegetables and fruits in EWG's "Clean Fifteen" list. This year, avocados top that list, joining sweet corn, pineapples, onions, and papayas. It's the perfect excuse to mash up a bowl of guacamole.
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Fats Reduce The Bitterness And Astringency Of Tannins In Wine, Study Finds
Image Source: cafotodigital/Getty Images
A big red wine always pairs so well with a cheese and charcuterie board. But why? According to a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the fats in the food tame the tannins in the wine. Tannins are astringent and develop from grape skins and stems, and from aging in oak barrels. They're what constrict your tongue when you sip a complex aged wine like Cabernet Sauvignon. It turns out that meat and cheese (or any fatty foods) ease the constriction. A team of French scientists analyzed the interactions of tannins and fats using optical microscopy, electron microscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, as well as measuring fat droplet size with static light scattering. They also asked study participants to taste tannic solutions alone and with a spoonful of rapeseed, grapeseed, or olive oil. The results showed that oils make tannins less likely to bind with proteins in saliva, reducing their astringent effect. Fats and tannins go together like...well, peanut butter and jelly.
Mayonnaise Helps Heal Endangered Green Sea Turtles
Image Source: Ariel Schalit
Mayonnaise isn't generally considered health food, but it's certainly helped a group of sea turtles in Israel. A recent 1,000 ton oil spill off the Israeli coast, considered one of the country's worst ecological disasters, has caused extensive damage to wildlife, including endangered green sea turtles. The reptiles have been ingesting loads of sticky, black tar. At Israel’s National Sea Turtle Rescue Center, employees found a creative way to flush the toxic substance from their digestive tracks. “We continue to feed them substances like mayonnaise, which practically clean the system and break down the tar,” said Guy Ivgy, a medical assistant at the center. The turtles are expected to recover in a week or two, and then be released back into the wild. Remember that the next time you accidentally ingest some toxic black tar. Mayonnaise to the rescue!