cherry pie with stars on top

The Week in Food: December 13 – 19, 2020

Happy Friday on what I hope was your last full work week of the year. And Happy Beethoven’s Birthday, number 250! (What is he doing on his birthday? Decomposing). Enjoy our links and commentary including food assistance for military families, a boost for potassium, liberated cherry pies, cannibal sandwiches, problems with cacao and coffee, and the mysterious production of Chartreuse.


  • Financial markets head into their end of the year doldrums.
  • Two vaccines now approved though distribution seems to be poorly (or maliciously) executed.
  • The jostling for the front of the line is on. Who should get vaccinated first? Amazon workers? Restaurant employees? Grocery stores?
  • Vaccines give us hope for a robust recovery but unemployment may be worse than it appears.


  • Did you know that Military families that receive housing assistance can be excluded from federal food programs? This is problematic in normal times but job losses among military spouses can make the support crucial. The fact that either is necessary for people in service to the country is a longer discussion.
  • Consumers plan on spending 25% less on food this holiday season. They have already reduced mask wearing. (um, why?)
  • Salt is actually several different iterations of chemical bonds but the FDA has approved the use of potassium chloride as salt which is good because most of us don’t get enough potassium.
  • Post Holdings continues its ‘buy, don’t build’ strategy, purchasing a hard boiled egg manufacturer but more interestingly Peter Pan, which is outside of its breakfast core.
  • This is such a weird story. A former FDA Chief Scott Gottlieb bragging about how he got cherry pies deregulated in a completely inaccurate tweet. Because that’s what we were worried about…


  • Another iconic restaurant closes its doors – the Cliff House in San Francisco. Here is a list of sadness including K-Paul’s and Blackbird.
  • NYC passes a bill that makes it illegal to fire fast food workers without cause. Industry demands maximal flexibility but to my mind there has to be limits and recourse.
  • The Hofbrauhaus in Berlin opens for homeless meals. With real food on real plates. A heart (and foot) warming story.
  • I love steak tartare. But there is a fundamental difference between eating raw whole muscle meat prepared safely and carefully and eating raw ground beef that comes from a processor. And that difference is e Coli. Wisconsin tries to warn its citizens off the ‘cannibal sandwich‘ tradition.
  • The promise of vaccine has caused many restaurants to employ a hibernation strategy this winter.


  • Very serious, very personal. The coffee supply is in peril. Pickers are unwilling to risk COVID for low wages.
  • This fire at a Cal-Maine egg farm reminds me of a joke we had in the egg industry: what is the most common cause of fire in a chicken house? Falling egg prices. An estimated 1.3 million cage- free hens have died this year in fires nationwide.
  • A podcast about the harvesting of cacao in West Africa. The production is rife with child labor spilling into actual slavery. As demand for chocolate has risen so has the exploitation of workers.
  • An ill wind that yadda, yadda: a warming globe could be very advantageous for Russia; the increase in arable land could be huge.
  • A hard (non-negotiated) Brexit seems inevitable and, in addition to many other industries, it will be a disaster for perishable foods.


  • Even as a kid I never really liked Rice Krispies Treats. But if you are going to add booze maybe we can talk.
  • Movement to preserve and restore grasslands in conjunction with grazing animals.
  • I read this article partly interested in the process used by the Carthusian monks responsible for a 1000 years of Chartreuse production and partly curious as to whether the weird green stuff I used as a bartender had a higher quality iteration. Alas, the stuff in the square green label is the product of the monastery and is pretty much indefensible. There are so many better distillations and liqueurs; if the only 3 monks who know the recipe lose it, I am not sure we are worse off.
  • A woman received death threats for her video showing her rinsing ground beef. While this is an understandable reaction, we should endeavor to understand and educate without resorting violence.

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