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Table Talk

The Foxfire Book Series That Preserved Appalachian Foodways

Foxfire started as a class project at a Georgia high school in the '60s, but soon became a magazine, then a book, and even a way of teaching about the region's simple, self-sustaining way of life.

Students in 1969 look on as Hobe Beasley, John Hopper and Hopper's wife suspend a hog for finishing the work of scalding and scraping.

The 1,500-mile Appalachian Mountain range stretches so far that those on the northern and southern sides can't agree on what to call it: Appa-LAY-chia or Appa-LATCH-ia. The outside perspective on the people who live there might be even more mangled. Stories about Appalachia tend to center around subjects like poverty, the opioid epidemic and coal, but since 1966 a series called Foxfire has been sharing food, culture and life as it's actually lived in the mountain region.

  • March 20, 2017

Let Them Eat Bread: The Theft That Helped Inspire 'Les Miserables'

Anyone who has read or seen Victor Hugo's masterpiece knows the plot turns on the theft of a simple loaf of bread. There was no sharper barometer of economic status in 19th-century France than bread.

A watercolor of a young chef standing before the french flag. She holds scales with black bread and white bread on them.

On a bitterly cold day in February 1846, the French writer Victor Hugo was on his way to work when he saw something that affected him profoundly.

A thin young man with a loaf of bread under his arm was being led away by police. Bystanders said he was being arrested for stealing the loaf. He was dressed in mud-spattered clothes, his bare feet thrust into clogs, his ankles wrapped in bloodied rags in lieu of stockings.

"It made me think," wrote Hugo. "The man was no longer a man in my eyes but the specter of la misère, of poverty."

  • March 20, 2017

Save Hide And Seek For The Playground: Why Kids Should See Their Veggies

Getting kids to eat veggies through subterfuge – say, spinach smoothies – sets the bar too low, researchers say. Your child must actually learn to like veggies, weird textures and all. Here's how.

Getting kids to eat veggies through subterfuge — say, by sneaking spinach into smoothies -- sets the bar too low, researchers say. Your child must actually learn to like veggies, weird textures and all. (Photo Credit: Alex Reynolds/NPR)

When my daughter turned 1, a routine toe prick revealed that her iron levels were low. Because our family doesn't eat much iron-rich red meat, the pediatrician advised that we feed our daughter spinach. Every. Single. Day. This was bad. My daughter had just entered a picky eating phase and leafy greens were "yuck."

  • March 13, 2017

How Lemonade Helped Paris Fend Off Plague And Other Surprising 'Food Fights'

Tom Nealon's new book searches through patchy historical records to trace subjects like how chocolate helped lead to war in the Caribbean, or the role a grain fungus played in the Crusades.

La Belle Limonadiere, hand coloured etching (1816)

Did a thirst for lemonade, the beverage that launched a thousand childhood businesses, keep Paris safe from the bubonic plague? Did ergot poisoning lead to the Crusades? According to a new book by Tom Nealon, food writer and antiquarian bookseller, it's a distinct possibility.

Nealon's book, Food Fights and Culture Wars, searches through patchy historical records to trace subjects like how chocolate led to war. In a chapter on "cacao and conflict," Nealon traces some of the violent history spawned by a love of chocolate.

  • March 13, 2017