Congratulations, you made it to Thursday. It's also December 17, which marks the beginning of the ancient Roman festival Saturnalia, honoring the god of agriculture and harvest. Considered to be the precursor to Christmas, it was celebrated with gifts, partying, and general merrymaking — and depending on who you ask, maybe also human sacrifice. We'll stick to gingerbread houses and rabid consumerism, thanks.
In more modern-day food news, spending at restaurants is on the rise this holiday season. According to Mastercard, November restaurant sales rose just over eight percent compared to last year, and 63 percent of shoppers who hit the mall on Black Friday also dined there. Also: There's a meaty new alternative to the classic Yule Log programming, Trader Joe's is recalling an exploding beverage, and Christmas came early for prisoners in New York — plus, find out what food and drink people Googled the most in 2015.
Google has just released its annual list of the most popular searches, and some of the results are rather surprising. The number-one recipe search was for pumpkin seeds, which seems awfully strange for something people tend to only make around Halloween. Number two was sweet potato fries, and the oh-so-vague but understandable "chicken recipes" was fourth. The most searched for cocktail was sangria, followed by the oh-so-trendy Moscow Mule. The most popular searches for Google users looking for calorie content info included the Starbucks toasted graham latte, Starbucks flat white, and Taco Bell's Grilled Stuft Nachos (spoiler: they have a whopping 570 calories per order).
Attention Moscow Mule and Dark 'N Stormy drinkers: That bottle of ginger beer in your fridge could be hazardous to your health. Trader Joe's has issued a voluntary recall of its house-brand Triple Ginger Brew, following reports of unopened bottles exploding. The company says any bottles that were purchased between November 9 and December 14 should be disposed of in an outside container, and is offering refunds for anyone who has purchased the product in the given time frame.
As Christmas draws near, select TV stations will show the annual Yule Log programming, a seemingly infinite video of a roaring fireplace set to traditional Christmas music. But if ye olde Yule Log just isn't cutting it anymore, sausage-maker Jimmy Dean has a solution: an 11-hour video of sausage cooking in a cast iron pan over a crackling fire. Watch long enough and you might even get a coupon. (For something decidedly less commercial, how about 45 minutes of Nick Offerman aka Ron Swanson drinking whiskey by the fire?)
As Prices Soar, Wagyu Beef Ranchers Are Switching to Cheaper Feed
As the price of beef has surged over the past several years, already-expensive Wagyu beef has gotten even pricier — in fact, the average cost of a Wagyu calf in Japan has nearly doubled in the past five years.To stay profitable, Japanese beef producers are switching to cheaper feed, replacing their cows' usual diet of Australian grain with cheaper European barley. Does that mean Wagyu (or the even more prized Kobe) steak will soon become more affordable for diners? Don't count on it.
New York Prisoners Will No Longer Be Punished With Pseudo-Meatloaf
A (small) victory for New York State's incarcerated population: Prisons will no longer serve the punitive meal known as Nutraloaf or Disciplinary Loaf. Served to inmates who misbehaved in some way, recipes for this culinary monstrosity vary, but typically included a bland mishmash of disparate ingredients like flour, milk, yeast, potatoes, carrots, margarine, and sugar mixed together and baked into a one-pound loaf (and served with a side of cabbage and water). It's being replaced with a relatively tasty-sounding repast of hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, American cheese, and bread.