The Salt

Last week, as official Washington obsessed over the Coming Of Trump, there was a gathering in our nation's capital that had almost nothing to do with the inauguration or politics.

It took place at a sleek and stylish restaurant/brewery called Bluejacket, built inside the walls of an old factory. It's a striking and airy space, the dining room framed by tall fermentation tanks made of gleaming steel.

Every day, Border Grill restaurant at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas uses a case of tomatillos and at least a case of cilantro. The tomatillos go into dishes like the pozole verde, a spicy stew with chicken and hominy. The cilantro goes into the green rice, the guacamole, the Yucatan pork roasted in banana leaves and just about everything else.

In the Central Valley, there's a bumper sticker you see all over the place. It's shaped like California, and reads "My job depends on Ag." In California, that agriculture depends on immigrant labor.

Many farmers in the state supported President Donald Trump despite his hard-line stance on immigration. So as the new Trump administration takes office, what's the thinking of those involved in the region's biggest industry?

Last year, Georgia's former governor, Sonny Perdue, called up a farmer named Gary Paulk for some advice about planting blackberry bushes. Paulk thought it was a prank.

"I picked up the phone and he said, 'Gary, how you doing? This is Sonny Perdue,' " Paulk recalls. "And I said, 'Yeah right, and I'm Mickey Mouse.' " Paulk says he apologized when he realized it actually was Perdue on the line.

Perdue is now Donald Trump's pick for secretary of agriculture, and Paulk expects that he'll keep calling farmers for advice, and maybe just conversation.

For many pregnant women, understanding what seafood is safe and healthy, and what should be avoided because of mercury concerns comes with a lot of hand-wringing. In part, that's because the federal government's advice on the matter, first issued in 2004, has long been criticized as unclear.

That guidance has included advice on how much seafood to eat, and which species pregnant and nursing women should avoid over concerns about mercury contamination.

Why America Is Growing The Most Sweet Potatoes Since WWII

Jan 19, 2017

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II.

War Effort

"A lot of things were hard to get during World War II, and potatoes were easier to raise than some of the other vegetables," my grandmother Joyce Heise tells me.

It took years of heated debate, but the federal government has finally decided just how much living space an organic chicken should have.

It's part of a new set of rules that cover many aspects of animal welfare in the organic food industry. But the biggest impact of the rule will be felt in the organic egg industry.

Chances are you or somebody you know has recently become the owner of an Instant Pot, the multifunction electric pressure cooker that can produce fork-tender pot roasts in less than an hour, as well as brown meat, cook beans without soaking, and even do the job of a rice cooker or crockpot.

Chamoy Is Mexico's Flavor Fiesta Condiment, Courtesy Of China

Jan 17, 2017

The first time I tasted chamoy was in the Mexican border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. At a street cart vendor, chamoy apples sat alongside elotes and tamales. The tart Granny Smith was rolled in a thick paste that was sweet, salty, spicy and sour all at once.

As I took the first bite, I thought: "There is no way this is gonna work." But it did, and after that, the mere thought of chamoy made me salivate like a Pavlovian dog. I had to learn more about it.

Several times a month, you can find a doctor in the aisles of Ralph's market in Huntington Beach, Calif., wearing a white coat and helping people learn about food. On one recent day, this doctor was Daniel Nadeau, wandering the cereal aisle with Allison Scott, giving her some ideas on how to feed kids who studiously avoid anything that tastes healthy.

"Have you thought about trying smoothies in the morning?" he asks her. "The frozen blueberries and raspberries are a little cheaper, and berries are really good for the brain."

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