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The history of soda is full of Norman Rockwell paintings, nostalgic Americana, athletes and other celebrities—so many familiar faces that soda companies seem like the industry next door. But these are the same companies that use municipal water supplies in drought-stricken areas and spend large amounts of money on lobbying. So how much do you actually know about the soda industry? Take the quiz and find out.
The past two decades have seen globalization of the world's wine markets proceed like never before, in both speed and comprehensiveness. There was a degree of trade expansion in the five decades to World War I but, until the late 20th century, interactions across continents involved little more than the exporting of vine cuttings and traditional production expertise.
Fried dough has been enjoyed for centuries in various forms, from the celebratory zeppole of St. Joseph’s Day to the doughnuts the Salvation Army distributed to soldiers during World War I. So important were doughnuts for boosting troop morale that when World War II came around, the Red Cross followed closely behind the US Army as it advanced across Europe, offering doughnuts from trucks specially outfitted with vats for deep-frying.
Is the "sweet tooth" real? The answer may surprise you. Humans vary in their preference towards sweet things; some of us dislike them while others may as well be addicted. But for those of us who have a tendency towards sweetness, why do we like what we like? We are hardly limited by type; our preference spans across both food and drinks, including candy, desserts, fruits, sodas, and even alcoholic beverages.
When trying to gauge someone's personality, a few well-phrased questions are sometimes all it takes to light the fire of passions within someone. We had the pleasure of speaking with Darra Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, and asked her a number of questions that reveal what "bakes her cake."
Many people have influenced the world of wine over the course of the last 400 years. They have changed, developed, and perfected the winemaking process, introduced grapes and viticulture to different continents, and left their mark on an industry that has been with us since the dawn of civilization.
Silent-screen star ZaSu Pitts is usually remembered for her extraordinary name, her huge eyes, and her fluttering fingers, but not many know that she also put her nimble fingers to confectionery use, crafting elegant candies that were famous on Hollywood sets.
What do Russians poets eat? When does food heritage become international politics? How has sugar been used as medicine? Darra Goldstein, the editor-in-chief to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, shares her insights on how a three-year project transformed into the lively compendium of all things sweet. She takes us through the process of what it was like to oversee 265 contributors and over 600 entries, and the journey she took to get where she is today.
No matter where in the world you go, pastries are a universal treat. From Turkish baklava to Italian cannolis, French croissants to American cherry pie, these morsels of sweetness are a culinary tradition that knows no borders. Whether you're boarding an overseas flight or hanging around the neighborhood, we've hand-picked several pastry shops from the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets to add to your personal itinerary.
In May, we celebrated the third annual workshop on food justice at Michigan State University. Few of the people who come to these student-organized events doubt that they are part of a social movement. And yet it is not clear to me that the “social movement” framing is the best way to understand food justice, or indeed many of the issues in the food system that have been raised by Mark Bittman or journalists such as Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan or Barry Estabrook.
How much do you know about all things sweet? Are you an obsessive "Top-tier Sugar Scholar"? Or are you a dabbling "Sugar Novice"? No matter your level of scholarship, if sweetness and obscure facts are your game, we have just the perfect quiz for you.
Jonathan Green, an expert lexicographer and contributor to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, gives us the rundown of the sweet terms and phrases that have been re-imagined and incorporated into slang.
Though many of us are familiar with the use of fresh fruits in desserts, flavorings in candy, and other ubiquitous ingredients, a great deal are unusual. They're unusual in the sense that they're "not commonly occurring," or that we believe them to be so. With that, here are five ingredients you might find, but not expect, in your next dessert.
Sugar has had an important hand in many facets of history, not all of it fun and games (but certainly not all of it dreary, either). Did you know fudge played a huge part in American women's college education? or that slavery in sugar plantations was rampant? We asked Darra Goldstein a number of questions on sugar and its history, unearthing the good, the bad, and everything in between.
With the holiday season upon us, many of us are busy in our kitchens cooking secret family recipes and the season’s favorite delicacies. Looking at the delicious options in The Oxford Companion to Food, we compiled a list of various holiday specialties and treats from around the world that you may want to incorporate in your next holiday feast.
Speculaas, otherwise known as Christmas biscuits were traditionally baked for St Nicholas’s Eve on 5 December. They are made of wheat flour, butter, sugar, and a mixture of spices in which cinnamon is predominant. The dough is baked in decorative molds. The biscuits are crisp and flattish and may have cut almonds pressed into the underside.
Sufganiyah are a type of doughnut made in Israel for Hanukkah celebrations. Using a yeast-leavened dough they are enriched with milk, eggs, and sugar. After being deep-fried they are filled with jam, often apricot, and rolled in caster sugar.
Oatcakes are made from oats (in the form of oatmeal), salt, water, and sometimes have a little fat added into them. Oatcakes are made for the Scottish celebration, Hogmanay, traditionally the most important holiday of the year in Scotland, celebrating New Year’s Eve.
Spiced beef, a type of preserved beef, is an important part of traditional Christmas fare in Ireland. The beef is soaked in brine, brown sugar, juniper berries, and spices which can include black peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, and pimento for any time between three weeks and three months.
Vasilopitta is a traditional Greek New Year bread, also known as St Basil’s bread. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated more elaborately than Christmas in Greece. The Greek equivalent to Father Christmas is Aghios Vasilis—St Basil—and he arrives on New Year’s Eve when the children receive presents. The vasilopitta occupies a prominent position on the table for the arrival of the New Year.
Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent), made from a rich pastry type of dough containing almonds and flavored with vanilla or lemon peel is popular in Germany and Central Europe, especially as a Christmas specialty.
Bakewell Pudding, a rich custard of egg yolks, butter, sugar, and flavouring—ratafia (almond) is suggested—poured over a layer of mixed jams an inch thick and baked wasis famous not only in Derbyshire, but in several of northern counties of England, where it is usually served on all holiday occasions. In this form, it bears some resemblance to various cheesecake recipes.
Choerek (or choereg, choereq, churekg etc.—the name has seemingly innumerable transcriptions) means ‘holiday bread’. This is an enriched bread (using sour cream, butter, egg), oven baked, made in a variety of shapes and sizes and flavours in the Caucasus. The most common shape is ‘knotted’ or braided bread, but it also is made in snail shapes in Georgia. Flavourings include aniseed, mahlab (a spice derived from black cherry kernels), vanilla, cinnamon, and grated lemon or orange rind
The Chinese practice of eating noodles on special occasions as a symbol of longevity is also found in Japan. A typical example is the custom of eating soba on New Year’s Eve. Soba are thin, buckwheat noodles, light brown in colour. Though it is possible to make soba purely of buckwheat flour (kisoba, or ‘pure soba’), it is common to add some wheat flour to the buckwheat in order to make the dough less crumbly.
Featured image credit: Dinner Table for Christmas by Cam-Fu (camknows). CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr.
In many parts of the world, Christmas does not lack in spirit or rich flavors. Though sweets are a major highlight to this festive holiday, there are quite a few notable savory foods to consider. As you are sitting down to your third helping of turkey, take a look through just some of the Christmas foods people will be eating this year:
What sorts of Christmas foods do you have every year? Let us know in the comments below.
Headline image credit: Christmas decoration. Image by Hades2k. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.
Tea, tea glorious tea! When hot water hits the leaves of the tea plant, an alchemical reaction takes place producing an invigorating and refreshing cupful of pure bliss.
Originating in the East, for thousands of years tea was a bitter medicinal draft. Finally, in the 17th century tea came of age with the historic addition of milk and sugar. This match-made-in-heaven oiled the wheels of the British Empire and it developed more than just a passing fancy for the beverage, swilling down its heavenly hot-and-wetness by the drum-load.
Tea has weathered many a storm since (not least the controversial debut of artificial sweetener in 1917) in 2003 the Royal Society of Chemistry claimed to have scientifically proven that a ‘milk first’ cup of Assam made the superior brew. Rioting in the streets was only avoided because the 4:00pm announcement coincided with the afternoon tea break.
The perfect cup is still hotly debated today and tea continues to fuel innovation here at Oxford University Press. This January is Hot Tea month, so be prepared to defend your choice of brew!
“My collection of fruity and flavoured teas for when I need warming up on a cold grey day.”
“Say TEAs! Ladies of OUP Cary chat about the season premiere of Downton Abbey over a cup of tea in their matching mugs. Molly, Abigail, and Courtney enjoy peppermint.”
– Megan McPherson and Molly Hansen, Institutional Marketing; Courtney Flaherty, Creative Services
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“I’m drinking Twining’s green tea. I usually go for coffee in the mornings, but decaf tea is perfect for the afternoon.”
– Mackenzie Warren, Marketing Associate
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“I tend to go for an afternoon redbush tea from my super-manly Jemima Puddleduck mug. Props from the OUP Christmas Show in the background create a somewhat eerie backdrop to my tea-drinking experience.”
– Dan Parker, Social Media Marketing Executive
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“Although I usually alternate between coffee and tea throughout the day, I must admit I’ve been leaning a bit more towards tea since I picked up this ‘mana-tea’ strainer. Whether it’s chai, black tea with lemon, earl grey, or green tea, whatever I’m drinking magically becomes cuter when I’m sipping it alongside an adorable marine mammal!”
“365 mornings a year, I order a Grande Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks. I’ve been going to the same Starbucks during the work week for some time now and my favorite baristas, Frank and Denize, are the best and usually have my order ready for me when I get to the counter. On the weekends, my home Starbucks also knows me and my love of chai tea. I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life but I need caffeine so green tea does the trick. I usually drink an afternoon cup and choose from my ever-growing tea shelf in my office. Bigelow Green Tea with pomegranate is my favorite for the afternoon.”
– Michelle Kelly, Marketing Manager
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“I start the day with fresh, loose, English breakfast tea from a specialty shop. My mid-morning second cup is Barry’s Tea from Ireland. My afternoon cup is usually run-of-the mill Lipton tea – not sure why I bother – it’s pretty bad.”
– Greg Bussy, Marketing Director
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“Simon Jared is drinking a lovely cup of earl grey in the picture above. He likes strong tea in the morning so has it black (often the cause of controversy during tea breaks). Miranda Dobson is drinking oolong tea, which is known for improving mental alertness.”
– Simon Jared, Marketing Executive for Commercial Law, and Miranda Dobson, Marketing Assistant for Commercial Law
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What’s your favourite type of tea? Let us know in the comments below.
Headline image credit: Tea in different grade of fermentation, by Haneburger. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Hey everyone! After a long hiatus, we’re excited to announce the re-launch of The Oxford Comment, a podcast originally created by OUP’s very own Lauren Appelwick and Michelle Rafferty in September 2010. From the drinking habits of the Founding Fathers to Cab Calloway, we’ve talked to people about every hot-button issue under the sun.
In this month’s episode, Max Sinsheimer, a Trade & Reference Editor at the New York office, chats with a few contributors to The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets discuss their work on the historical, chemical, technical, social, cultural, and linguistic aspects of sweetness.
Cocoa and chocolate have a long history in Central America but a relatively short history in the rest of the world. For thousands of years tribes and empires in Central America produced cocoa and consumed drinks based on it. It was only when the Spanish arrived in those regions that the rest of the world learned about it. Initially, cocoa production stayed in the original production regions, but with the local population decimated by war and imported diseases, slave labor was imported from Africa.
The ‘First Great Chocolate Boom’ occurred at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. The industrial revolution turned chocolate from a drink to a solid food full of energy and raised incomes of the poor. As a result, chocolate consumption increased rapidly in Europe and North America.
As the popularity of chocolate grew, production spread across the world to satisfy increasing demand. Interestingly, cocoa only arrived in West Africa in the early 20th century. But by the 1960s West Africa dominated global cocoa production, and in particular Ghana and Ivory Coast have become the world’s leading cocoa producers and exporters.
Not surprisingly, given the growth in trade of cocoa and consumption of chocolate, governments have intervened in the markets through various types of regulations. The early regulations (in the 16th–19th centuries) focused mostly on extracting revenue from cocoa production and trade through, for example, taxes on cocoa trade and the sales of monopoly rights for chocolate production.
The world is currently experiencing a ‘Second Great Chocolate Boom.’
More recent regulations have focused mostly on quality and safety. With growing demand for chocolate in the 19th century, chocolate producers substituted cocoa with cheaper raw materials, going from various starchy products and fats to poisonous ingredients. Scientific inventions of the 18th and 19th centuries allowed better testing of the chocolate ingredients. Public outrage against the use of unhealthy ingredients (now scientifically proven), led to a series of safety regulations on which specific ingredients were not allowed in chocolate – and in countries such as France and Belgium also in a legal definition of ‘chocolate’.
Chocolate consumption has many fascinating aspects. It is bought both for the pleasure of consumption and as a gift. It has been considered a healthy food, a sinful indulgence, an aphrodisiac, and the cause of obesity.
For much of history, chocolate (or cocoa drinks more generally) was praised for its positive effects on health and nutrition (and other benefits for the human body). As people were poor, hungry, and short of energy, chocolate drinks and later chocolate bars became an important additional source of nutrition.
In recent years, chocolate consumption is often associated with negative health issues, such as obesity. Recent research has shown that its health potential is closely linked to the composition of the final product and, not surprisingly, to the quantity consumed: darker, lower-fat, and lower-sugar varieties, consumed in a balanced diet are more likely to be healthy than the opposite consumption pattern.
In today’s high income societies where hunger is an exception, food is cheap, and obesity is on the rise, systematic overconsumption of chocolate – often associated with impulsive consumption and lack of self-control – is more associated with health problems. New research in behavioral engineering is targeted to help consumers deal with situational influences, and change behavior in a sustainable way, i.e. by ‘nudging’ them to change their consumption behavior and resisting the lure of chocolate.
One of the intriguing aspects of chocolate is its ‘quality’. Different from many other foods (such as cheese or wine) perceived chocolate quality is not related to the location where the raw material is grown or produced, but to the chocolate manufacturing process and location.
Some countries, such as Switzerland and Belgium are associated with prestigious traditions of chocolate manufacturing. However, perceptions do not always fit reality. ‘Belgian chocolates’, such as pralines and truffles, are now world famous but until 1960, Belgium imported more chocolate than it exported. Since then its “Belgian chocolates” have conquered the world – while the world has taken over the Belgian chocolate (companies). Most “Belgian chocolates” are now owned by international holdings – and a sizeable amount is produced outside the country.
Moreover, consumer perceptions of ‘quality’ are strongly influenced by consumer experiences with their local chocolate – this includes the smoothness of Swiss chocolate from long conching, the milkiness of British chocolate, and the preference of American consumers for chocolate that Europeans consider inferior.
In fact, the integration of the UK, Ireland and Denmark into the (precursor of the) European Union, which included France and Belgium in 1973 resulted in a ‘Chocolate War’ which lasted for 30 years. Disputes between the old and the new member states of the definition of “Chocolate” (and its ingredients) made that British chocolate was banned from much of the EU continent for three decades.
Ethical concerns about chocolate have been triggered by the specific structure of the structure of the global cocoa-chocolate value chain. For most of the past century, the value chain was characterized by a South-to-North orientation, with most of the raw material (cocoa beans) produced in developing countries (‘the South’) and most chocolate manufacturing and consumption in the richer countries (‘the North’). Another characteristic is that cocoa production in the South is almost exclusively by smallholders, while cocoa grinding and (first stage) chocolate manufacturing processes are often dominated by very large companies.
The cocoa-chocolate value chain has undergone significant transformations in recent years. First, in the 1960s through the 1980s the cocoa production and marketing in developing countries was strongly state regulated, often dominated by (para-)statal companies and state regulated prices and trade, etc. In recent years there has been substantial liberalizations of these sectors and the market plays a much larger role in price setting and trading, often resulting in new hybrid forms of ‘public-private governance’ of the world’s cocoa farmers.
Second, these new regulatory systems are reinforced by consumer awareness around labour conditions and low incomes in African smallholder production related to structural imbalances in the value chain. Consumer concerns and civil society campaigns around poor socio-economic conditions of producers (such as child labor) have affected companies’ strategies and responses. These involved (a) sustainability initiatives with civil society and governments, (b) certification initiatives including Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Utz, and (c) various forms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
The world is currently experiencing a ‘Second Great Chocolate Boom’. Rapidly growing demand is now not coming from ‘the North’, but from rapidly growing developing and emerging countries, including China, India and also Africa. The unprecedented growth of the past decades, the associated urbanization, and the huge size of their economies have turned China and India into major growth markets for chocolate. While consumption is highest in China, and the growth is strong, the country with – by far – the highest growth rates in chocolate consumption is India. In addition, significant African growth of the past 15 years is now also translating into growing chocolate consumption on the continent where most of the cocoa beans are produced.
Headline image: Fresh Cacao from São Tomé & Príncipe, by Everjean. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.
Everyone knows that aerobic exercise is good for the body, but is it always as good for brain? Furthermore, is exercise better than eating lots of chocolate for the aging brain? A recent study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience by a group of scientists from Columbia University and NYU gave a large daily dose […]
Caffeine is the world’s most commonly abused brain stimulant. Daily caffeine consumption by adolescents (ages 9-17 years) has been rapidly increasing most often in the form of soda, energy drinks, and coffee. A few years ago, a pair of studies documented that caffeine consumption in young adults directly correlated with increased illicit drug use and generally […]
Does coffee enhance marijuana? A study published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience (Vol 34 (19):6480-6484, 2014) by neuroscientists from the Integrative Neurobiology Section of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, has finally provided a definitive answer: Yes, No, and it depends.
From its journey to Europe from the New World at the beginning of the sixteenth century to its modern-day iteration as we know it, chocolate climbed its way into the hearts and homes of people all over the world. In its long and fruitful evolution through time, we've pulled together a timeline of chocolate's history from Europeans first encounter with the substance with the Aztecs through the Heirloom Cacao Initiative in 2014.
Incorporating the idea of sweetness in songs is nothing new to the music industry. Ubiquitous terms like "sugar" and "honey" are used in ways of both endearment and condescension, love and disdain. Among the (probably) hundreds of songs about sweets, Aaron Gilbreath, essayist and journalist from Portland, Oregon, curated a list of 50 songs, which is included in The Oxford Companion of Sugar and Sweets.
Have you ever tried vinarterta? How about gugelhupf? Whether these are familiar or completely foreign to you, this list of sweets are a must for everyone with a sweet tooth. All the sweets, cakes, desserts, and treats on this list come from The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, so give them a go and try one, some, or all!