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School Lunch Revolutions, Mezcal’s Growing Market, and More Great Reads

Nine food-inspired stories to dive into this weekend

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From the review that sparked yet another President-Elect tweetstorm to the race to increase mezcal’s production, this week’s top stories cover issues both political and practical. Start off light with a reporter’s investigation of one of the world’s great conundrums: “Can you think of three foods where any two of those foods taste good together, but all three combined taste disgusting?” It’s more difficult than it sounds.

On the political side, a range of American chefs reflect on the election of Donald J. Trump and Rodney Taylor of Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia shares his vision for a better school lunch program. In Miami, the child of Cuban immigrants revisits one of the most well-known Cuban restaurants in the city following the death of Fidel Castro. Elsewhere, cafes are learning how to adapt to customers that mooch off their free WiFi and a reporter looks at state of prison food. Here are nine great reads to catch up on this weekend.

The Incompatible Food Triad Is The Most Delicious Philosophical Problem Of Our Time

Atlas Obscura

Mathematicians live out their days haunted by many questions. They may wake up some mornings already trying to prove the Hodge Conjecture. They may travel to work ruminating: Is every number greater than two truly the sum of three primes? And at the end of the day, they may drift off to sleep trying to figure out, once and for all, whether there are any odd perfect numbers.

But one problem, in particular, scourges them at dinner—that of the Incompatible Food Triad.

Trump Grill Could Be the Worst Restaurant in America

Vanity Fair

As my companions and I contemplated the most painless way to eat our flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings with their flaccid, gray innards, as a campy version of “Jingle Bells” jackhammered in the background, a giant gold box tied with red ribbon toppled onto us. Trump, it seemed, was already fighting against the War on Christmas.

How Chefs and Restaurant Owners Are Reacting to the Election of Donald Trump

First We Feast

Back in 2015, Anthony Bourdain had a premonition. Speaking to SiriusXM host Pete Dominick, the celebrity chef said that if Donald Trump ever succeeded in his pledge to deport the country’s some 11 million undocumented immigrants “every restaurant in America would shut down.” They’re “the backbone of the industry,” he continued. “I walked into restaurants and the person who’d always been there the longest, who took the time to show me how it was done, was always Mexican or Central American.”

Feeding the Prison System: Some Inmates Buy Way Around 'Institutional Cooking'

The Post and Courier

On the first day of the sixth week of the South Carolina Department of Corrections’ master menu cycle, inmates across the state have a slice of mixed meat bologna for lunch.

A man may have been sent to Kershaw for writing bad checks, to Lee for fatally shooting a stranger or to Tyger River for dealing cocaine. Regardless of his crime, on a recent Monday morning, he was served a tray that looked very much like the one I faced at Kirkland, where I’d gone to learn more about food service in the state’s prisons.

This Tiny College Town Is the Epicenter of a Food Revolution Taking Place in Coal Country

Fast Coexist

Berea, a tiny college town of just 16 square miles, is dense with agricultural and food-specific organizations, and businesses and initiatives committed to the Appalachian food economy. Out of a tiny storefront office up the block from Herb & Willow, the 31-year-old Community Farm Alliance lobbies for changes like home-based processing legislation to allow local entrepreneurs to make certain value-added products in their own kitchens. Grow Appalachia, which director David Cooke describes as "the largest community garden-based food program in the country," has spent the last seven years offering advice, education, and equipment that’s helped 4,500 regional families grow over 3 million pounds of food.

How the Hospitality Industry Is Adapting to Laptop Squatters

Eater

In the past decade, coffee shops have evolved from a place where one could lounge and enjoy a cup of joe into a free-for-all wifi hub, making their transition to the modern Internet cafe predestined. (This is not to say that management teams at local independent and national-chain coffee shops have welcomed this change: Many have made attempts to stymie the tide of laptop squatters.) Meanwhile, upscale metropolitan restaurants, with high rents to match their prestige, are packed to the brim during cocktail and dinner hours but sit empty during the day. With a few adjustments — the addition of outlets and more power cords, improved wifi — they too could function as de facto offices of the independent and startup workforces.

Can Mezcal Survive Being Popular?

Roads and Kingdoms

“They say that people in America like mezcal a lot,” says Fortunato Angeles, leaning on a wooden tank of fermenting agave. “I like the work because it puts food on the table.”

Four generations of his ancestors have distilled the smoky spirit from ripemaguey, or agave, toiling under the Oaxacan sun in southern Mexico to provide the fuel for festivals and family celebrations in the village of San Juan del Rio.

He Grew Up Hungry. Now He Wants to Revolutionize School Lunch.

The Washington Post

School cafeterias often draw on less-than-pleasing stereotypes, with many thinking back to the days of servers in hairnets peddling unappetizing slop to lines of disappointed schoolchildren.

Rodney Taylor, Fairfax County Public Schools’ food services director, sees something entirely different. In his ideal school cafeteria, children would have options much like they would in a mall food court. They would find meals similar to those in their favorite fast-casual eateries, with salad bars, fresh wraps and made-to-order burritos. Produce would come from local farmers.

Life After Castro at Miami’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant

The New Yorker

Though my own father liked to slyly refer to Versailles by the nickname El Pentágono, for much of my early life I viewed the restaurant less as a political nerve center than as a place to get consistently good plates of ropa vieja with rice and sweet plantains. Versailles is where my parents, Cuban exiles who left the island in the early sixties and eventually settled in New York, would take the family for dinner whenever we visited cousins in Miami.

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