The Year 2013 In Review (Kinda)

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


Editor’s note: The year 2013. Yikes. While reading end-of-year columns, we came upon this beauty from Food Arts. Written by Merrill Shindler, we have hand-picked some pertinent facts, figures and thoughts from their 2013 review that we thought might enlighten and or inspire you. Thank you to

Chefs are the new thinkers. So it was proclaimed at the Dan Barber–hosted conference “Seeds: Cultivating the Future of Flavor” at the bucolic Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York, this fall. Every month, it seems, the philosopher chefs are jetting off to conferences around the world to ponder and discuss the inner meaning of food.

It was the year when cooking went deeply cerebral, at global confabs with names like Cook It Raw (Charleston, SC), Madrid Fusión, Mesamérica Cumbre Gastrónomica de México, Mistura (Peru), and MAD (Denmark). And this conference’s attendees also seem to be that conference’s attendees: the Adrià brothers, René Redzepi, Alex Atala, Daniel Patterson, Sean Brock, Massimo Bottura, Claude Bosi, Magnus Nilsson, Gastón Accurio, Enrique Olvera—the list of golden names goes on. The phenomenon inspires criticism: Are they ever in their kitchens? Jealousy: “How come I’ve never been invited to one of these things?” Gabrielle Hamilton asked Patterson when she recently interviewed him on stage at New York City’s 92nd Street Y; “Are there chicks at these things?” And mostly admiration: These really are cool guys who believe they can change the world, and the conferences both inspire them and give them the opportunity to meet their like-minded peers and spread their gospels.

anise • Asian pear • borage • brisket • candied olives • cauliflower • chamomile • chicken liver • clafoutis • cold pea soup • daikon • dates • Easter Egg radish • figs and fig jam • flatiron steaks • frog’s legs • garlic, green and black • goat • grains • harissa • honey • hot cakes in pots • house-made flavored misos • Ibérico ham • lime • marrow • nasturtium flowers • nopales • oats • oyster mushrooms • pickled everything • pig’s ears and tails • pimento cheese • pistachios • poached eggs • pomegranate • pork osso buco • pork shoulder • poutine • pretzel rolls • raw Brussels sprout leaves • raw scallops and shrimp • savory • schmaltz • shrimp and grits • smoked flavors • soft serve • sole, Dover sole meunière • sorrel • sticky toffee pudding • summer truffles • sunchokes • tapenade • toasted hazelnuts • tongue

In late August, more than a thousand fast-food outlets in an estimated 60 cities across the country were shut down by workers—backed by the Service Employees International Union—demanding their wages be raised to a minimum of $15 per hour. As one protester said, “The economy is doing poorly. Everything is expensive. With high taxes, we’re not going to be able to pay rent.” The National Retail Federation dismissed the protests as “a publicity stunt…further proof that the labor movement is not only facing depleted membership rolls, they have abdicated their role in an honest and rational discussion about the American workforce.” To which a managing partner at the labor law firm of Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger added, “I can’t see the federal minimum wage rising to anywhere near $15 an hour. It would have a devastating effect on the economy.” Not long after, during an address to the Union League Club in Chicago, McDonald’s president Jeff Stratton was confronted by workers, one of whom, a single mother, asked him if he thought it was right that she was paid $8.25 an hour after 10 years of working for the chain. Stratton’s response was a terse, “I’ve been there for 40 years.” A bit of verbal apples and oranges went viral soon after. And, in the middle of October, a study was released by the National Employment Law Project at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrating that low wage, no benefit fast-food jobs force workers to rely on public assistance programs, costing taxpayers an estimated $7 billion a year, with McDonald’s accounting for $1.2 billion.

In August, a SWAT team raided the small Garden of Eden organic farm in Arlington, Texas, searching the property for 10 hours while handcuffing the workers suspected of marijuana growing and holding them at gunpoint for a half-hour. They seized “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants…native grasses, and sunflowers.” No drug-related violations were found. Citations were issued for “grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, a couch and piano in the yard, chopped wood not properly stacked, and a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house…” According to owner Shellie Smith: “They destroyed everything. There were sunflowers for our bees and gifting, lots of okra, and a sweet potato patch.”

One side claims it will save the world, feeding millions; the other warns of consequences, medical and economic. 2013 saw no abatement in the GMO war among scientists, agriculturalists, doctors, politicians, economists, and more. It even cropped up in a woman’s fashion magazine, Elle, when writer Caitlin Shetterly documented her struggle with a severe and long-term allergic reaction to GMO corn in “The Bad Seed: The Health Risks of Genetically Modified Corn.” Her allergist, Dr. Paris Mans­mann, claimed that genetically modifying corn results in changes to its DNA that are “expressed as proteins,” to which certain people are allergic. Forbes countered by noting that the piece was “a classic example of misleading reporting” and that Elle had “waded into the GMO debate so irresponsibly.” For now, the U.S. and E.U. remain on opposite sides of the fence: the former in favor, the latter opposed. Although that’s up for debate.

It may seem forever ago that Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast. Yet more than a year later, restaurants along the Manhattan shore, Queens, Staten Island, and throughout the Jersey Shore continue to struggle to rebuild. Dozens missed the lucrative summer tourism season, while unfortunate proprietors in Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, New Jersey—who saw their businesses literally go underwater last fall—watched their rebuilt shops go up in flames when a fire in September consumed an estimated 50 eateries, including Kohr’s Frozen Custard, where the fire is believed to have started. One glimmer of hope: Manhattan’s Water Club reopened in October and Brooklyn’s River Café reopened this month, once again offering one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. The September flooding in and around Boulder, Colorado, led to the closing of some two dozen restaurants, including Curd, Basta, Black Cat, Flagstaff House, and Chatauqua Dining Hall—and the cancellation of the Civic Center Eats Festival.

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Happy New Year to all of the HandPicked Nation and may your 2014 be prosperous, healthy and delicious.

Photo credit: LuLu Strauss McCord