Here is a look at The New Yorker's annual food issue, which will hit newsstands and mailboxes this week. For those who do not subscribe, the articles are also now available online. First up is a piece about the evolution of fast food in America by Michael Specter called "Freedom From Fries." It explores the question of whether fast food can actually be good for you and discusses the rise of fast casual chains with a healthy skew like Chipotle, Lyfe Kitchen, and Sweetgreen. Specter also travels to McDonald's corporate headquarters to see just how McDonald's plans to "win back deserters" by shifting to more natural offerings.
Next, in "Who's to Judge," Lauren Collins looks at how the World's 50 Best Restaurant list came to be. The guide was initially supposed to be a one-time stunt but turned into an "arbiter of fine food." The piece also dives into the controversy surrounding the list which is put together by a volunteer group of "restaurant-industry experts." While these "experts" are supposed to remain anonymous, they often reveal themselves so they can get their meals for free. "The organization does not reimburse jurors for their meals, nor does it insist that the jurors themselves pay. Freebies, therefore, are O.K.," writes Collins.
Seaweed is the focus of a story by Dana Goodyear. Called "A New Leaf," the article takes a look at how seaweed "could be on its way to replacing kale as the most culturally ubiquitous green." Turns out that seaweed is actually one of the world's "most sustainable and nutritious crops," and it has a negative carbon footprint. Goodyear writes that seaweed is basically the "culinary equivalent of an electric car."
Can packaging make food taste more flavorful? That's the question Nicola Twilley explores in "Accounting for Taste." In the piece she takes a look at the work of Oxford University professor Charles Spence who specializes in experimental psychology. Spence runs a lab in which he explores how the five human senses can combine to affect taste. The professor has discovered that strawberry-flavored mousse tastes sweeter when served in a white container instead of a black container. Twilley writes that these discoveries are being incorporated into commercial food packaging design and that can be controversial: "A food company that uses visual or sonic cues to alter consumer experience could readily be accused of manipulation."
Last but not least, legendary food writer Calvin Trillin tackles the regional varieties of North Carolina barbecue in "In Defense of the True ‘Cue." Trillin writes about how "barbecue" automatically means "barbecued pork" in the state, not any other type of meat. He speaks to the team behind Campaign for Real Barbecue, an organization that is dedicated to getting North Carolina barbecue recognized as "a significant element in the culture of the South." The organization only counts pork as "regionally appropriate" barbecue for the state.
The New Yorker's food issue hits stands today Monday, October 26.