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The year in food: goodbye Gourmet, hello backyard chickens (Mario Tama/2009 Getty Images)
The year in food: goodbye Gourmet, hello backyard chickens (Mario Tama/2009 Getty Images)

Lessons Learned

Top 10 stories to chew on from the food world Add to ...

Hot dogs (still) rule the street The spring launch of the Toronto a la Cart pilot project raised hopes that the city would usher in a smorgasbord of international street-food options, from pad thai to jerk chicken. Alas, within months, vendors complained about high costs and strict regulations, and several involved in the project shut their carts down. Bye-bye streetside biryani, so long souvlaki.

Local isn't always better Just when we were about to pat ourselves on the back for eating local, academics emerged with arguments debunking the locavore principle. It turns out that the distance our food has travelled is only a small fraction of the overall food-energy equation; some places in the world are simply more efficient at growing certain items. As we stand scratching our heads in the grocery aisle, food shopping has never felt so political.

Bacon goes with everything In coleslaw, on pasta, even in cookies and ice cream: Bacon found its way into every recipe imaginable. In case we had any doubts about the endless applications of cured pork, Maple Leaf Foods launched RepublicOfBacon.com, linking visitors to recipes like chocolate-covered bacon and bacon Bloody Mary. Can a site called CountryOfCoronaries.com be far behind?

We all want to be Julia

That throaty chuckle. That can-do attitude. That unrestrained use of butter. Julia Child died in 2004, but sales of her cookbooks went through the roof this year, thanks to actress Meryl Streep's acclaimed portrayal in Julie & Julia . The box-office hit reminded us that we too can master the art of French cooking. And it's never too late either. Ms. Child was in her late 30s when she learned to cook. No wonder late bloomers adore her.

Recession plus excess is a recipe for demise

Publisher Condé Nast attributed its shutdown of Gourmet magazine to the poor economic climate, while pundits pointed to increasing competition from food blogs and an editorial focus that no longer reflected readers' simpler tastes. Among all the Gourmet obituaries, a clear message emerged: The shuttering of the 68-year-old glossy marked an end to an era of food porn.

If you're gluten-free, you're not alone

There's more reason now than ever to ask dinner guests about their dietary restrictions. Celiac disease, a digestive ailment triggered by gluten, is far more common today than it was in the 1940s and 50s, raising questions over whether modern food production and processing might be to blame. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found that one in 100 people are now affected, compared with only one in every 400 to 500 half a century ago. Lest we exclude anyone, the bread we break better be gluten-free.

There are limits to what you can grow yourself

Plucky Calgary mom Mary March found herself in trouble with city bylaw officers when she refused to get rid of the chickens she was keeping in her backyard. Arguing that people have a right to food, March decided to fight a $200 fine and pleaded not guilty in front of a justice of the peace to keeping livestock in the city. Supporters of a growing urban chicken movement are anxiously awaiting her trial.

Vietnamese is the new Thai

Banh mi, the Vietnamese version of the submarine sandwich, finally got the attention it deserved this year, as bloggers and mainstream food writers alike extolled the delights of aromatic cilantro, crunchy pickled carrots and daikon, and mystery meat. Now if only we linguistically challenged folk could get the pronunciation right. (We're going with "buhn mee.")

Go easy on the salt

Health experts sounded the alarm over the dangerously high levels of salt in our diets. According to research published in the British Medical Journal, an extra teaspoon of salt a day raises the risk of stroke by 23 per cent and heart disease by 17 per cent, which makes our resolution to cut down on sodium a no-brainer.

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