All Posts By Food Network Kitchens

It Came From The Library 10: Street Eats

by in News, June 12th, 2009

Canning, kitchen gardening, gourmet comfort food: There’s hardly a food trend these days that doesn’t owe something to the recession. This month’s most attention-grabbing trend, street eats, is no exception.

From Austin to San Francisco to NYC to Portland to D.C. to Seattle, across the country a new generation of food trucks and carts is emerging and expanding notions of what street eating can be in the process. The trend is drawing strength from a number of factors: cheap prices, of course; but also low start-up costs; and, not least of all, a large and growing pool of the newly jobless (many of them chefs) looking for entrepreneurial opportunity.

For these and other would-be street vendors, street food presents itself as a tradition-bound corner of the food service industry ripe for experimentation and ideally-suited to thriving in an economic downturn.

As a result, the new wave sets many of today’s prevailing food world trends-e.g. ethical eating, gourmet sophistication, cupcakes (enough already!)-on four wheels. Increasingly taco and kebab trucks find themselves competing for curbside real estate with crème brulee carts, cupcake trucks, mobile purveyors of escargot-on-a-stick and the like.

For their part, chefs and restaurateurs have seized on trucks and carts as a marketing tool for their restaurants.

Twitter has proven a major enabler of the trend. As Serious Eats points out, in mobile vendors, who use the micro-blogging service to relay info to customers, Twitter almost seems to have found its raison d’etre.

Ironically, even as street food gains cachet in some urban settings (and increasingly shows up in the world of fine dining) taco trucks find themselves under assault across the nation, beset by increasingly restrictive ordinances designed to curb their operation. All of which serves as a worthwhile reminder of just how race- and class-specific this street food trend really is.

Fortunately here in New York, the rights and interests of the city’s 10,000+ street vendors are fiercely defended through the heroic work of the Urban Justice Center and its Street Vendor Project. And it’s probably fair to say that here in NYC, the Project, through its efforts to raise public awareness about vendors, and in particular through its wildly successful (and wildly awesome) Vendy Awards (full disclosure: our own Rupa Bhattacharya is a longtime Vendy backer, volunteer, and fiend) has been a major motivating force behind the current trend.

Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian

Inner Farmer

by in In Season, June 11th, 2009

As a kid, I looked forward to three things about my summer trips to my grandparents’ 160-acre Iowa farm: hiding out with my favorite book in the abandoned chicken coop, letting the calves suck my thumb, and feeding piglet runts from a baby bottle. Other than that, I thought everything about farm life was utterly uncool. The infamous swine smell, the coffee cans of rendered pork fat, and early-morning chores. Those things gave me the heebie-jeebies. I never dreamed that the habits of my grandparents, like collecting kitchen scraps for compost or putting up green beans for the winter, would be ones that I adopt, embrace, even exalt.

So I’ve grown up a little. And embraced my farm heritage. And experienced my first recession. It seems the rest of the country is right there with me—we’ve all grown up a little, and are finally seeing farming for what it really is—challenging, necessary and beautiful.

It doesn’t hurt that farmers, food journalists and chefs have laid the groundwork of making farm-to-table the chicest catch-phrase of the decade. So it won’t hurt for me to use that phrase just one more time—farm-to-table starts with you, in your own backyard (or fire escape, or windowsill). You don’t have to own overalls or piglets to embrace your inner farmer. Just a pot, some dirt, and a few seeds. And go ahead and collect your kitchen scraps while you’re at it. Ask a neighbor or a farmer at your local market if you can add them to their compost pile, or better yet, start your own.

Watch for more tips on how to get started when our second episode in our Good Food Gardens series airs this Friday.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens spokesperson

Poppin' Fresh

by in View All Posts, June 10th, 2009

Here at FN, we’re all in favor of home-made popcorn, but you probably shouldn’t be trying this at home. And no, I have no idea why he’s not wearing a shirt.

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Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer

Feed Them Well

by in In Season, June 4th, 2009

I hate to be dismal and risk ruining my Pollyanna reputation, but with a record 32.5 million Americans on food stamps, and more American families facing hunger for the first time in their lives, food insecurity is a very real part of the American fabric.

The Victory gardens of the early 1940s, inspired by wartime need and promoted by a Department of Agriculture campaign, proved that many folks are willing to dig in and become a part of the solution through growing their own food.

The government is now at it again, with a Victory garden on the White House lawn and a People’s Garden on USDA soil, soil that was blacktop just a few months ago. Yesterday, in our nation’s capital, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack lent his own green thumb to support our fourth Good Food Garden, at the SEED School, a pioneering charter school in DC. He led the students, our new Good Food Ambassadors, in planting cucumbers, squash, eggplant and artichokes, among dozens of other plants, and joined us in tasting some of the varieties of melons, tomatoes and herbs that the students will grow.

One of our Good Food Garden Ambassadors with her prized zucchini plant
One of our Good Food Garden Ambassadors with her prized zucchini plant

While Good Food Gardens are intended to teach and inspire interest in where food comes from, give students valuable skills and growing methods, and encourage students to eat a larger variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, their larger message is that anyone, anywhere, can grow their own food, becoming part of Secretary Vilsack and President Obama’s goal to end childhood hunger by 2015. The Food Network and Share Our Strength share their mission.

He left us with these words:

“The first directive President Obama gave me when I came into office was this: Feed our children; and feed them well.”

We hear you, Mr. President.

Check out for more about the Good Food Gardens, and a few ideas how you can feed your children well too.

Sarah Copeland, Recipe Developer and Good Food Gardens Spokesperson

Contain Yourself

by in View All Posts, June 1st, 2009

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If the question “paper or plastic?” drives you to near-psychotic episodes of decidophobia, then do yourself a favor and stop reading now.

Because here’s another one for you: carton (paper), canned (metal), jarred (glass), or pouched (huh?)?

Fortunately, researchers at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research were brave enough to tackle that one for you.

Their resounding conclusion: based on resource requirements and ecological impact, paperboard cartons are far and away the most environmentally friendly form of food packaging, cutting carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption by up to 60% compared with other forms of packaging.

How’s that for a takeaway?

Jonathan Milder, Research Librarian

Could Totally Go for a Palatschinke Right About Now

by in View All Posts, May 29th, 2009

So I’m kind of a huge fan of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Not because Scripps pays my salary (which it does), nor because it’s my one chance a year to be an unabashed nationalist (which it is), but rather because the food vocabulary is always fascinating.

Both Eat Me Daily and the The Life Vicarious have roundups of this year’s spelled food; TLV takes it a step further with where to find those foods in New York.

Two additional notes:

1) The Caerphilly at Tonjes Farm Dairy (Saturdays at the Union Square Greenmarket) is highly recommended.

2) “Deipnosophist” has the same derivation as “deipnetic,” which I have now used in the blog twice. I’m pretty sure Katherine owes me a drink.

Rupa Bhattacharya, Culinary Writer