How Scientists are Racing to Save our Bees

24 April Saveur

In 2007, beekeepers across the United States noticed something strange happening in their hives: Their bees were disappearing. They left behind no carcasses or signs of disease; the honey bees had simply fled, abandoning their colonies in an eerie arthropod echo of Roanoke.

The new phenomenon was called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, and it sparked panic across the U.S.: What would our world (not to mention our dinner tables) look like without honey bees? Beyond producing honey, Apis mellifera, our domesticated honey bees, are responsible for pollinating $15 billion worth of American crops each year, everything from kiwis to cashews to kidney beans. Our food system as we know it cannot exist without them. (more…)

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The Great, Weird, Largely Unsuccessful Baja Road Trip

5 April – Roads & Kingdoms

Alejandro Cota Maclis looks gravely at the remains of his grandmother’s garden, a five-by-fifteen-foot patch of limestone and churned dirt. At the back, grape vines lean like broken caryatids against a ramshackle fence of sticks and wire. A committee of vultures perch in the high, green tops of date palms. Behind him, an austere limestone church—the Mission of Santa Gertrudis—stands on a lonely rise in the center of the silent village. (more…)

The Uni King of Ensenada

9 March – Lucky Peach

Alan Pasiano had spent a quarter century on or below the water before he struck gold. He’d worked diving for abalone and saragassum seaweed in small towns on the pointed western elbow of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, fished for tuna on big ships in the Pacific, cooked sea turtle (before it was illegal) on a cargo boat in Panama, and welded the hulls of oil tankers for Mexico’s state-run oil monopoly, Pemex, in Rosarito. But it wasn’t until the 80s, when he started diving for urchin, that he got rich. (more…)

In Search of the Clamato Preparado, Tijuana’s Perfect Hangover Cure

13 February – Extra Crispy

Tijuana isn’t exactly known for mornings. Vegas’s naughty cousin, San Diego’s Upside-Down, a deranged refraction of the American Dream, Tijuana has, for decades, been synonymous in the American cultural imaginary with sex, booze, drugs and all their itchy, throbbing consequences. Which makes it the ideal place to drink the greatest hangover cure known to man: the clamato preparado. Made by pouring a Bloody Caesar (a Bloody Mary variation made with clamato instead of tomato juice) over heaping spoonfuls of chopped clams, a clamato preparado is sweet, sour, hot and briny, the chewy morsels of clam at the bottom a booze-soaked coercion into eating. And the best clamato preparado in town is served over the long wooden bar at Caesar’s, Tijuana’s most venerable restaurant. (more…)

Californians Cheer the Home Team, in Tijuana

27 January – The New York Times

TIJUANA, Mexico — The sky had been dark since morning, the Baja sun a rumor behind banks of clouds settled comfortably over Tijuana’s haphazard hills. But that had not deterred hundreds of fans from gathering outside the high concrete walls of Club Tijuana’s Estadio Caliente hours before the Xoloitzcuintles, better known as the Xolos, played the first home game of their winter season. (more…)

The Free, The Proud, The Donut Eaters of Detroit

27 December – Roads & Kingdoms

In July, I went to Detroit to report a story on the food businesses at the heart of that city’s vibrant Arab community.

The story was important to me. I’d returned to the U.S. a few months earlier after nearly five years living in India, a country where Muslims—180 million of them, about 14 percent of the national population—are consistently treated as second-class citizens, more so since 2014 when the Hindu Nationalist party swept the country’s elections in the largest democratic event in history. I returned home in the midst of this hideous election to a climate of Islamophobia in the U.S. that was discomfiting in its familiarity. (more…)

A Guide to the Breads of India

December 7, 2016 – Lucky Peach

If you’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant anywhere in the world, chances are you’ve mopped up a red slick of butter chicken with a folded wedge of naan. And yet that ubiquitous flatbread, like so much else that defines the cuisine of the subcontinent (potatoes, tomatoes, chilies, tea), is really a foreign dish, prepared using refined flour, which came across the Himalayas from central Asia in the twelfth century, along with Muslim settlers. Before that, North India’s unleavened wheat-based flatbreads—rotis, chapatis, and puris—would have been made from whole grains, while the rice-eating South elaborated its own distinct set of breads from batters of rice and lentils.

Like so much else in India, the bread traditions vary along a North-South/wheat-rice axis (with other grains like sorghum, millet, amaranth, and semolina making occasional appearances). But the staggering diversity of India’s breads also reflects a long history of trade and invasion, of cultural and culinary syncretism. It would be virtually impossible to capture the full diversity of India’s breads (though Saee Koranne-Khandekar makes an admirable attempt in her new book Crumbs!), or even to say what, in India, counts as bread. But here we’ve given it a go. I went about it like this: if it’s starchy and used as a utensil, it’s bread. (more…)

La Paz’s Culinary Renaissance

December 6, 2016 – Bloomberg Pursuits

Even in the context of a huge and under-appreciated continent, La Paz, Bolivia’s high-altitude administrative capital, is something of an obscurity. Most travelers barely pass through for a stopover en route to the jewel-like mineral lakes, fuming volcanoes, and the lunar salt flats at Uyuni. All that is about to change.

Ignore what you’ve heard about the city’s lack of obvious attractions. Forget about the protests that used to regularly shut down the colonial center. And cast away all your doubts about the food: notoriously bland mountains of meat and potatoes, washed down with tepid coke or a passable lager called Paceña.

Thanks to an unprecedented period of political stability and peace (courtesy of the country’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales), improved infrastructure, and a bonafide culinary revolution spearheaded by the co-founder of Copenhagen’s Noma, La Paz is ready for its moment in the spotlight. (more…)

Detroit’s American Dream

21 November 2016 – Eater

(all images are the work of Ali Saloum)

The line that divides Detroit and Dearborn, coterminous cities in the sprawling grid of roads that traverse southeast Michigan, is invisible — but it’s almost impossible to miss. On one side, there’s a city that lost a quarter of its residents between 2000 and 2010, is home to tens of thousands of vacant buildings, and is at its smallest population since 1850. On the other, there’s a suburb where the number of businesses on its main commercial corridor has doubled in the last decade, the median income is nearly twice Detroit’s, and housing demand has seen bidding wars for single-family homes end over a hundred thousand dollars above asking prices. (more…)

Coca leaves are proving addictive to Bolivian chefs

8 November 2016 – The A.V. Club

Head to a local market in Bolivia, and the first thing you’re likely to notice is a smell, damp and vegetal, emanating from huge bushels of dried green leaves that are being sold for a few bucks a pound. These leaves are coca, and to Bolivians they’re far more than just the raw material used to make cocaine. Andean peoples have chewed or brewed the leaf for thousands of years, using it to increase stamina, aid digestion, and combat altitude sickness. More recently, it’s become a gourmet ingredient in the nation’s administrative capital of La Paz, a city that has in recent years been transformed from a culinary backwater to an unexpected darling of the global eaterati.

(more…)