Categories
Features

Foods From Fiction

For food lovers, there’s nothing more fascinating than seeing scrumptious dishes in films and television shows. Or reading about meticulously baked treats or lavish spreads of food in books. Immersive cinematic experiences in film or encapsulating writing styles in literature can make it feel like the audience is right there with the characters and food. But why stop there, as a mere viewer? What could be more satisfying than actually creating and tasting the dishes yourselves? To not consume media solely by flipping pages or staring at a screen, but instead leveraging your tastebuds (and culinary skills!) to transport yourself to a given fictional universe? Yes, that’s right. Recreating food from popular media can help bring us closer to our favorite media pastimes in a captivating way. 

The idea of creating food inspired by movies and television shows is not new. Binging with Babish (Babish Culinary Universe), a YouTube cooking channel created by Andrew Rea, seeks to “recreate the iconic and obscure foods from your favorite movies and TV shows.” With quality film production, culinary creativity, attention to technique, and a side dish of humor, Rea’s channel has amassed over eight million subscribers. Step-by-step, viewers can learn how to recreate dishes from all sorts of shows and movies, from the “Krabby Patty” from SpongeBob to “The Sloppy Jessica” from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. With the help of recipes from Binging with Babish and other chefs and creators, here are five different recipes inspired by television shows, movies, or books. Which fictional world will you dive into today?

1. Kevin’s Famous Chilli inspired by The Office

image courtesy of usmagazine.com

Kevin: “At least once a year I like to bring in some of my Kevin’s Famous Chili. The trick is to undercook the onions. Everybody is going to get to know each other in the pot. I’m serious about this stuff. I’m up the night before, pressing garlic, and dicing whole tomatoes. I toast my own ancho chiles. It’s a recipe passed down from Malones for generations. It’s probably the thing I do best.”

We’re starting this list strong with an iconic scene from The Office. Kevin Malone cooks up his famous chili and brings it to the office to share, an annual tradition. In a tragic turn of events, Kevin spills the huge pot of chili on the floor. But just because the office couldn’t enjoy his dish doesn’t mean you can’t.

Recipe: Binging with Babish recipe with video

2. Ladoo inspired by Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

image courtesy of bollywoodbubble.com

Avid Bollywood movie watchers are no stranger to Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, one of the most popular films in Indian cinema. “Ladoo” is the childhood nickname for Rohan, one of the characters in the film that helps unite his divided family. This name comes from ladoo (also written as laddu), a sphere-shaped Indian sweet that comes in all sorts varieties. Try your hand at making ladoo, a delectable accompaniment when watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, especially during festive scenes when the dessert appears.

Recipe: Dassana’s Veg Recipes’ Motichoor Ladoo recipe

3. Kronk’s Spinach Puffs inspired by The Emperor’s New Groove 

image courtesy of finction-food on Pinterest

One of my all-time favorite Disney movies, The Emperor’s New Groove, is incomplete without Kronk’s passion for cooking. Kronk is the loyal yet oblivious henchman for Yyzma, the royal advisor to Emperor Kuzco in the movie. During a memorable scene, Kronk frantically cries “My spinach puffs!” when he realizes he forgot to check on his puffs cooking. You too can experience the happiness Kronk felt with perfectly crisp, delightful spinach puffs.  

Recipe: Binging with Babish recipe with video

4. Jjapaguri inspired by Parasite

image courtesy of nbcnews.com

Parasite is a South Korean comedy thriller film that won numerous awards, including four at the 92nd Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. The film features a dish many foreign viewers were curious about upon seeing: Jjapaguri (Ram-Don). Jjapaguri is created by combining two instant noodle brands together (Chapagetti and Neoguri) and sometimes adding steak (as featured in the film). However, the dish’s placement in the film is more than a tasty and creative noodle concoction. Instead, it poses as a metaphor for class inequalities with the depiction of expensive steak resting on top of cheap noodles. Celebrate the remarkably layered and well-produced film with a bowl of jjapaguri.

Recipe: Korean Bapsang’s recipe with video

5. Butterbeer inspired by Harry Potter 

image courtesy of buzzfeed.com on Pinterest

“Harry and Hermione made their way to the back of the room, where there was a small, vacant table between the window and a handsome Christmas tree which stood next to the fireplace. Ron came back five minutes later, carrying three foaming tankards of hot Butterbeer. ‘Happy Christmas!’ he said happily, raising his tankard. Harry drank deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.” (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, quoted in article)

Harry Potter fans know Butterbeer is a classic beverage popular among Hogwarts students. While you’re mostly likely a Muggle reading this, that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a magical pint of Butterbeer like a true student in the world of wizardry. 

Recipe: Favorite Family Recipes’ recipe 

Next time you watch a movie or television show, or indulge yourself in literature, remember that you too can help yourself to mouth-watering meals along with your favorite characters. Bring food to life in your kitchen with your own adaptations, or through inspired recipes from creators like Binging with Babish. Blur the lines between fiction and reality as you travel universes. After all, you are the main character of your own life. Seize your story.

Categories
Features

Search for the Perfect Coffee on Newbury Street

I work 5 days a week as a Shift Manager at Starbucks. Over the past three years, I’ve tried almost every type of coffee Starbucks offers, invented recipes using anything and everything behind the bar, and have hosted coffee tastings for district managers and customers alike. It’s safe to say coffee is a passion of mine, so one January morning I went to every coffee shop on Newbury Street on a search to find the best, most affordable cup of Joe. 

My plan was unstructured at best: while Newbury Street has a good variety of coffee shops, things like caramel swirls or cinnamon powder can get in the way of natural flavor. I decided to ask each shop only for a black cup of coffee, but by the time I got to the register of shop number one, The Thinking Cup, I diverged from that idea. Instead, I asked the incredibly sweet barista what she thought their best coffee without added flavor was. She recommended their cappuccino and said it was the “perfect blend of milk, foam, and coffee.” As I sat outside in the crisp thirty degree air, the warmth of the drink worked miracles. At $4 for a 8-12 oz cup, I was expecting an incredible cappuccino. While the espresso was delicious (nothing burned, too bitter or too acidic), the drink itself seemed more like a latte than a cappuccino. There wasn’t a lot of foam; instead, I got a velvety smooth milk with that strong espresso flavor coming through. 

image courtesy of rellenah on Pinterest

Now a man on a mission, I hopped back in my car and drove slowly up the street until I spotted the next coffee shop up the road: Blue Bottle Coffee.Walking up the steps to the shop, I thought they might just sell coffee products. Their windows were lined with boxes of pour-overs, coffee kits, and teas. It wasn’t until I got inside that I noticed the coffee bar toward the back of the shop. The man on register said his favorite coffee was a single-origin Ethiopian roast that they prepared using a pour-over. This specific roast highlighted fruity undertones—an especially exciting flavor for coffee, since most blends highlight some form of cocoa, nuts, or spices. This 12 oz. cup of coffee set me back $5.35, although I think for a coffee connoisseur it was well worth trying. Most coffee houses prepare larger batches of hot coffee, so it’s a unique approach to rely on a single serve pour-over for every non-espresso transaction. 

Only a block or two down the street, DeLuca’s Market caught my eye. However, after discovering that they no longer had fresh coffee that day,  I instead stopped in Amorino: a gelato shop just next door. Just past the long glass counter of gold-brushed macaroons and seemingly plastic gelato, I spotted a shiny Italian espresso machine by the checkout counter. Again, I asked for whatever the cashier’s favorite coffee beverage was. Amorino did not offer brewed coffee, so she made me a latte. I spent $3.69 for a single shot latte with perfectly frothed milk and creamy espresso. The latte also came with a chocolate filled Italian wafer that perfectly highlighted the semi-sweet undertones of the espresso.

My last two stops were practically next door to one another, and they were both places I was familiar with. Trident Booksellers & Cafe is one of my favorite places in Boston. Pre-pandemic, I would get brunch there with my roommates, friends from Emerson and Tufts, and literally anyone that came into town to visit. It occurred to me that while I could swim in their French Onion Soup, I had never tried coffee there (and any good cafe should sell at least a decent cup of coffee). Although their cafe was only open for pickup, the cashier rang me up for a small black cup of coffee that came out to only $2.50. It was everything you would hope a cafe coffee would be: decently priced, piping hot, and delicious. I would have been content just sipping that cup for the rest of the night, but my journey would not be complete without hitting the Starbucks two doors over. 

Though I walked in with confidence, it was almost 5 p.m., and I knew they would only be serving the medium Pikes’ Place roast- my least favorite Starbucks blend. I leveled with them and told them this was my sixth coffee shop of the day. I didn’t like Pike’s Place, but since I couldn’t add flavor, I asked the barista to get as creative as he could with a regular latte. He gave me a tall latte with blonde espresso and ristretto shots instead of regular; switching to blonde or ristretto shots does not change the price of a latte, so this drink’s total was $3.45. The blonde espresso resulted in a much lighter flavor than I’d had in my other lattes, and since ristretto shots are pulled using less water, they’re more concentrated, resulting in a slightly sweeter flavor. 

image courtesy of Anthropologie Europe on Pinterest

By the end of the day, my choice was clear. Although slightly more expensive than a Starbucks latte, I was blown away by the quality of the latte at Amorino. The espresso was the perfect balance of sweet and tart, and only a truly skilled barista with great equipment could produce the creamy foam that spilled over the top of my cup. If you’re looking for an experience, this is it. However if you’re out and about shopping on Newbury and really just need a cup of coffee, the cup I got at Trident was amazing and is my top choice for a house brew. I am partially biased because Trident has never let me down when looking for good books or good food, but the flavor profile of  Trident’s coffee far surpassed that of its competitor up the street that charges over $5 for a cup of equal size.

Categories
Features

Foie Gras Controversy

For a small dish that is only available at specialty restaurants, foie gras has proved to be quite a divisive topic. The French delicacy is made from the fattened liver of a duck or goose, and has historically been a mainstay in French cuisine; it is, however, the product of potentially inhumane force feeding practices that are centuries old. 

Costing around $80 per pound, foie gras is a luxurious ingredient typically only found in high-end restaurants. It is rare to find it in a common grocery store, as one usually has to go to boutique farms and vendors to purchase it. Foie gras is a staple ingredient that embodies France’s iconic gastronomic heritage. The delicate, buttery taste combined with the silky texture epitomizes France’s rich cooking techniques. It has a creamy, velvety texture that melts in the mouth, as well as offering intense bursts of rich umami.  It is most commonly served as a pâté, pureed and spread on toast, seared, or cooked in a terrine

The production of foie gras on a mass scale, as is done today, requires force feeding the birds so that their livers grow to be up to 10 times the normal size. The controversy of foie gras revolves around the practice known as gavage. This practice, often criticized as invasize, involves farmers force feeding the ducks or geese by sticking a long metal tube down their esophagus to transport a highly fatty corn-based feed to ensure their livers grow to a desirable size for foie gras. Animal rights activists view this practice as unethical and invasive, but it is important to note that these birds do not have a gag reflex, which allows for the force feeding to occur. Gavage dates back to the ancient Egyptians, ultimately spreading across the mediterranean to France in the 16th century.  As a result of the controversy surrounding gavage, foie gras production is currently illegal in some countries around the world, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, and Israel

Animal rights activists have been expressing their concern over this for many years now. The harsh force feeding techniques used at duck farms were first documented by animal rights activists in California, in the United States. These activists shot pictures and videos of ducks clinging to life, as they were being force fed to the extent of being unable to walk or move due to their weight. 

Lawmakers listened to the concerns raised, and banned the product from being farmed in California in 2012. Foie gras is not illegal to eat in California but laws force consumers to pursue the product from out of state vendors. The City Council of New York  also voted to ban foie gras back in October of 2019, with the law coming into effect in 2022. However, this law only bans the act of gavage and permits the use of naturally harvested foie gras. These laws are a huge step forward for animal rights, as both New York City and California are home to many high-end restaurants where foie gras is served. Esteemed Michelin 7-star chef, Thomas Keller, uses foie gras in one of his Michelin 3-Star rated restaurants. Per Se, located in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, serves foie gras on its tasting menu, though this will be eradicated come 2022. His other Michelin 3-Star restaurant, The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., used to feature foie gras prominently on its tasting menus until the ban. 

Although the aforementioned process of gavage is invasive and damaging to the bird’s health, some farmers, such as the Catskill Foie Gras Collective, engage in more humane practices to develop their foie gras. The ducks are allowed to roam cage-free and fed through smaller rubber tubes, as opposed to the traditional harsh metal tubes. The Catskill Foie Gras Collective is one of the main producers of foie gras for the New York City restaurant scene and are challenging the city’s ban over the item, claiming it to be unconstitutional. Esteemed Michelin 2-Star Chef David Chang spoke out against the city’s ban, siding with the Catskill Foie Gras Collective, tweeting: “Stupid, short sighted, and a misunderstanding of the situation.” This highlights the stark divide between the opinions of the animal rights activists and the chefs who use the product. 

Many forbidden foods have gone in and out of fashion over the decades. To some people’s disappointment and others’ excitement, this French delicacy may have run its course, with the increasing spotlight and tension over the issue signaling a potential end to the production of this luxury item.

Categories
Features

Steps in Sustainability: Boston College Dining to Restaurants

Boston College’s dining hall is primarily à la carte—students select food items and pay for each item. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has adapted to include mobile ordering and grab-and-go options. This is different from other dining hall styles where students pay a flat rate upon entering the hall and have access to an unlimited amount of food. 

Boston College’s dining hall approach makes it so that about 60% of students take food to-go. Because of this trend, Boston College Dining wastes significant plastic, paper, and non-recyclable materials students use to carry food out. To help combat this problem, the dining hall ran an experiment in the fall of 2018. Two Boston College dining halls ran a pilot test of a reusable to-go container program.

The program, called Green2Go works like this:

Students must first pay a nine dollar, one-time fee for a single green container and receive a green carabiner, indicating participation in the program. Second, students bring the container to a participating dining hall to fill with food. Third, students drop off the used container at the dining hall. Lastly, students use the carabiner to exchange a new container, repeating steps first two steps in the cycle.

These boxes are BPA free, microwavable-safe, and are made of 50% recycled plastic. While there are certainly environmental benefits to buying into this college’s program, there are areas for improvement in its operation. For example, the current to-go containers are still being supplied in addition to this reusable alternative. It also costs students to participate in the program without offering an incentive, which may be a deterring factor. In addition, if a student forgets or loses the container, they must pay the fee again. Both the structure of the program and its marketing are critical elements in this experiment.

image courtesy of BC Dining

The Heights writer Riley Ford comments that for Green2Go to be successful “it is imperative that this initiative is properly publicized and incentivized to increase participation… many students will not want to go through the hassle of changing their current habits if information about the new program is not well-broadcasted.” It’s worth exploring improvements and opportunities of the program in order to accomplish its mission in an effective, accessible manner. Nonetheless, Boston College Dining’s sustainability efforts with the Green2Go program is a huge step in a battle to limit waste. Since fall 2018, the university has expanded this program to additional other dining areas on the campus, increasing the potential for a positive environmental impact. 

Sustainable containers expand beyond universities. In the restaurant industry, there is a rise in online food delivery and mobile ordering, catalyzed with the pandemic. To accommodate this trend, the world has seen an increase in take-out packaging. Some restaurants implement packaging similar to that of Boston College’s Green2Go. These include eliminating single-use plastics since take-out containers are notorious for ending up in landfills and containing chemicals detrimental to health. This can take the form of reusable takeout containers, compostable products, and reusable box programs such as OZZI and Go Box. Implementing sustainable practices occurs beyond the individual or institution level as well. 

image courtesy of BC Dining

In some cases, it’s the city. Berkeley, Calif., uses legislation to protect customers and the environment. Their law, which went into effect Jan. 2020, requires restaurants to provide food containers that are certifiably compostable and free of added chemicals. Additionally, they must charge 25 cents for disposable beverage cups. By July 2020, restaurants can only provide reusable foodware on their premises, with exceptions for “certified compostable paper tray/plate liners, paper wrappers, napkins, and straws” and “recyclable aluminum foil is allowed for wrapping/forming items” according to the Berkeley Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance. The goal of the ordinance is to “assist businesses with the shift away from environmentally harmful single use disposable foodware and toward reusable foodware.” City requirements like Berkeley’s put responsibility on businesses to be more mindful of the environment. 

In relation to the restaurant industry in particular, The National Restaurant Industry’s 2018 “State of Restaurant Sustainability” states that “about half of consumers say that a restaurant’s efforts to recycle, donate food or reduce food waste can be factors in where they choose to dine.” Thus, many restaurants today have started employing sustainable practices to help the environment and draw in environmentally-conscious customers. Some areas besides packaging including local sourcing, food waste, lighting, water usage, equipment, and food waste to name a few.

One thing to note about these environmentally friendly practices: it’s an investment. Greener practices often mean higher initial costs to reap long-term financial and environmental benefits. A U.S. news article by Megan Rowe gives an example about Coasterra, a fine dining Mexican restaurant in San Diego that “invested about $1.5 million on extensive solar panels that generate about a third of the restaurant’s energy needs. The owners, Cohn Restaurant Group, estimate it will take about seven years to pay for the panels, but view the installation as a hedge against rising electric rates.” Solar panels are neither feasible nor affordable for every restaurant, but in Coasterra’s case, the owners found it the best option considering the restaurant’s needs and the potential profit from its developments. The panels were installed by HMT Electric in San Diego, as the owners of Coasterra stressed importance on the local factor. It’s also a prime example of how ideas of investing in local businesses and long-term sustainability can overlap to promote both community and environmental good.

The trend towards increased sustainability is already taking shape across institutions and industries. Boston College Dining’s Green2Go program is just one example of an active, environmentally conscious system. For the program to sustain itself for the long-term, constant assessment and appropriate adjustment is essential. After all, effective, environmentally-friendly practices in a university context are only as powerful as they are accessible and actionable.

image courtesy of BC Dining

Cover image courtesy of BC Dining

Categories
Features

The Slow Food Movement

On the cobbled streets of Rome, visitors and residents see what they expect: the Trevi Fountain flowing abundantly, piazzas crowded with locals and tourists, rows of vespas lining streets too narrow for even the smallest of Fiats. They expect coffee bars, bakeries, gelaterias, and salumerias sprinkled between the long established structures, like the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. They expect the gastronomic experiences to be as traditional as the monuments and to taste the culture embedded in the food. They don’t expect the menus to be translated into English, but many are; they don’t expect the classic Italian recipes to be modified for an American palette, but some are; and they certainly don’t expect to see a McDonald’s only a few yards away from the Spanish Steps. But there it is.

Carlo Petrini was nearing 40 years old when the McDonald’s opened in Piazza di Spagna in the 1980s. He had been living in the Piedmont region, where the connection between producers and consumers was direct and clear. That relationship was fundamental to the culinary culture in all of Italy, a country that prides itself so much in the regionality of dishes that emerged out of the consumer’s familiarity with the ingredients sourced from farms in his or her region. With supermarkets and grocery stores acting as the middleman in that relationship, the Slow Food Movement regards this mediation as a hindrance to the joy in local food experiences.

In 1986, after the opening of that first McDonald’s in Rome, Carlo Petrini founded the Slow Food Movement in Bra, Italy, under the motto: good, clean, and fair. Three years later, it became an international movement expanding primarily in Europe. Bra is in the Piedmont region, home to the University of Gastronomic Sciences, which, in 2004, was also founded by Petrini. The movement prioritizes gastronomic experiences that bring joy and feed our bodies well. Its manifesto campaigns for humanity to slow down; it claims that we move too fast for our own good in life, restricting the pleasure to be found in the necessities of life. It values sustainability and regionality and rejects waste and excess.

Slow Food Logo courtesy of EdibleIndy

For decades, the movement has hosted events around the world to give independent and local food producers a platform to market their products. In the 1990s, the movement began publishing the Slow Food Editore and held the first Salone del Gusto, an event that occurs every two years to showcase regional culinary practices in Turin, Italy. The 2000s saw intercontinental expansion, with national chapters opening in Asia, South America, and North America, and the launches of the Foundation for Biodiversity and Terra Madre, an international network of producers and chefs international cooperation across foodways. In the 2010s, the continental branches expanded within their nations through interconnected webs of local communities that hold their own events more regularly between the greater movement’s international events. Slow Food Boston, for example, posts links to farm shares, delivery services, and other resources to substitute for the lack of gatherings due to COVID-19 at this time. 

Image courtesy of SlowFood.com

Since its inception in the 1980s, the Slow Food Movement has been weary of the fact that we live in a time where industrialization has led to technological developments that feed into a moment in which instant gratification is at our fingertips. With the lost connection between producer and consumer, we can get anything and everything we need blocks away at our local supermarkets. To find ingredients out of season all year long detracts from the joy and uniqueness that these ingredients bring to seasonal dishes. According to NPR, grocery stores dispose of 10% of their food inventory every year, and the average American household throws away 20% of the food in their refrigerators. The movement asks us to deconstruct the mechanics of life that have led to unhealthy and excessive habits and to live off the land as the land intends.

Image courtesy of Slow Food Galleries

With the globalization of communicative practices and transnational trade, though, international borders have become permeable to cultural influence and foreign products. The ability to experience various ways of life pervades all aspects of culture, and we often see these experiences emerging in explorations of food. We are able to experience foodways and access ingredients that we might not ever have before. Years after the opening of the McDonald’s, Petrini recalled feeling “alarmed by the culturally homogenizing nature of fast food,” but that doesn’t mean that passionate chefs will allow culinary traditions coalesce into a homogeneous mess.

It is evident that chains like McDonald’s, which offers the same base menu at its nearly 40,000 locations around the world, establish a global network that does homogenize the nature of fast food. Not everyone, though, is in socioeconomic positions to regularly shop at farmers markets, where prices are higher and options are fewer. Not everyone has time to prepare meals for hours just to enjoy the experience of eating it for a moment.

On the one hand, Slow Food shrivels in its elitism. But on the other hand, Slow Food shines in its idealism: the idea of living an intentional life that considers the sources of the food one ingests and takes care to support independent regional producers is enticing. That it benefits the earth, independent and local producers, and our own bodies creates the illusion of flawlessness. Even so, the movement ignores how inaccessible it is to the masses. It neglects to recognize that it exists on the assumption that all people have the resources – time, money, space – to live with such intention. With the societal hegemonies we’ve created for ourselves, there will always be people who can’t afford to slow down to survive.

Categories
Features

The Magic of Quick and Easy Delivery

What if you could snap your fingers and have your favorite meal delivered to your home? That’s the magic of restaurant and food delivery services. Now more than ever people are using these delivery options as an alternative to dine-in. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, demand for food delivery services has surged. These third-party services have adequately responded by offering quick, contactless delivery. From GrubHub to Postmates, from UberEats to Drizly, it all starts with the swipe of a finger, and the magical click of a button.

As soon as your order swooshes away, a chef graciously takes up your request. They take a step back from slicing, stacking, or serving to make your order as fresh as possible. I’d imagine there’s yelling back-and-forth to their cooks, the typical chaos you’d see in a restaurant kitchen. Amidst all of this, your order is packed up tight, sitting ready for the next part of the magic. 

Just as your food is tied up with a knot and set down ever so gently, a delivery driver affiliated with one of these platforms picks up your order. As if you haven’t been tracking your order since you made the order, you jump at the sound of a knock or the doorbell. The magic hits as soon as the door cracks open. You get a whiff of your favorite meal, giving you the slightest nostalgia of sitting in your favorite restaurant. Reality sets in when you see the bright light on the dashboard of the delivery car, but you’re just as grateful. With the swipe of your finger and the click of a button, your food was served-right to you. 

Since the start of the pandemic, almost half of all restaurants added delivery options, prompting the rise in popularity of third-party food delivery services. The convenience of ordering in has led to-go sales to skyrocket, with similar trends across third-party food services. This has benefited the food industry itself, resulting in a higher volume of sales. Over 65% of restaurants say that they were able to increase profits during COVID-19 by offering delivery via DoorDash. 

Boston College has also taken advantage of this opportunity, implementing its own delivery service through GETMobile. With the motto “skip the line to save time,” BC Dining services have embraced the low-contact, convenient option to bring students’ meals right to their doors. BC Dining employee, Isabel Kenny, CSOM ‘23, says that the delivery program is an innovative way to serve students, allowing her to explore campus and see friends along the way. 

These delivery services rely on their drivers for convenience. A recent study found that it takes 35 to 50 minutes to complete a delivery. Convenience has never been more achievable. Delivery driver Ellie Gray, MCAS ‘23, recognizes her role in this entire process. Working with DoorDash showed her the “power of delivery,” as it brought smiles to isolated people’s faces. 

Many of these delivery services have worked with restaurants to motivate more customers to “eat local.”  UberEats now adds a banner that tags local restaurants to encourage supporting community businesses. DoorDash started to reduce fees by 50% for orders made to local restaurants. Founded by Boston College allum, Nick Rellas, BC ’13, and Justin Robinson, BC ’11, Drizly has become increasingly popular in the Greater Boston area, especially given its recent partnership with Uber. COVID-19 has called for more delivery options, which is where these platforms have stepped up and served up.

Delivery services, especially throughout COVID-19, have transformed the concept of “from farm to table.” Today, your order moves through the chef to the food runner to the delivery driver to you. While the process seems much more intricate and expansive, that’s the magic of restaurant and food delivery services. It attaches a sense of consideration and attention to your food and to you.  Not only do third-party services offer a safe alternative to dining-in, but they also bring a level of convenience that is incomparable.

Categories
Features

Wine and Dine No More: Climate Change’s Impact on Vineyards

Walking into Trader Joe’s and quickly buying a bottle of “Two Buck Chuck,” is a staple in many people’s lives. This cheap but delicious wine may be threatened by the external force of climate change. The agricultural industry is sensitive to change, and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed its instabilities, specifically in the meatpacking industry. Its fragility will be tested again and again in the coming years as the effects of climate change continue to impact the weather patterns that farmers, specifically winegrowers, have become accustomed to. The global production of wine will be forced to adapt its methods of growing as more extreme weather threatens to destroy its perfect system of growing grapes. 

An abundance of grapevines across the East Coast were present dating back to the early settlements of what we now know as the United States. It was not until the late 1790s that large-scale vineyards began to pop up across the U.S. Although the climates of the various vineyards differed, many of the owners studied the impact of weather on the quality of grapes and their wines. As observed weather patterns continued to diminish the quality of grapes growing on the East Coast, more vignerons moved to California to take advantage of its temperate climate. Its mild seasons allow for wine grapes to grow in ideal conditions during an abnormally long growing season. These well-studied weather patterns shaped winegrowers’ practices and business for centuries. 

Image courtesy of Rockwood Manor

“Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified,” as defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a subgroup of the United Nations focused on climate change science. These identifiable changes in the climate are caused by human activity that increases the emission of greenhouse gasses, which results in increasing the average global temperature. Temperatures and rainfall in regions known for growing grapes will increase as a result of increasing average temperatures. These changes will drastically affect regions’ abilities to successfully grow grapes. The Journal of Wine Research stated in a study that explored climate change’s impact on wineries that “individual winegrape varieties have even narrower climate ranges…for optimum quality and production putting the cultivation of winegrapes at greater risk from both short-term climate variability and long-term climate changes than other crops.”

Napa Valley is a prime example of the effects of climate change on wine growth. The mild climate of Napa County in Northern California is ideal for growing wine grapes. The region also has an array of fertile soils that allow different types of grapes to grow. This combination of weather and soil allows Napa Valley to produce the most wine in the U.S. 

Image courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle

While Napa has reigned as one of the best growing regions for nearly 50 years, its great success is experiencing firsthand the horrific effects of climate change. The occurrence of devastating wildfires in Northern California also increased. Higher temperatures dry out wooded areas, making it easier for massive wildfires to start and spread. In September 2020, the Glass Fire damaged about 65,000 acres of land in Napa Valley. This catastrophic event annihilated the work of many wineries and demonstrated the destruction climate change can cause. Also, rising temperatures due to climate change will affect the ability of grapes to grow in Napa Valley. An increasing number of summer days during the growing season will eventually be too hot for grapes to grow. A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stated that by the end of the 21st century, the majority of Napa Valley will be unable to grow wine grapes and the U.S. will lose around 80% of wine production; however, Napa Valley is only one example of the massive impacts that climate change will have on the global wine industry. The melting of polar ice caps is estimated to cause sea levels to rise about 15 feet. This could result in earthquakes and floods that would damage vineyards around the world. 

As the international wine industry grapples with the effects of climate change, the average wine connoisseur should also consider how climate change impacts their access to wine. If fewer vineyards can grow wine grapes, fewer manufacturers can produce wine, and the price of this beverage will drastically increase, causing the price of the beloved two-dollar bottle of Charles Shaw wine to skyrocket. 

Cover image courtesy of Eat This, Not That

Categories
Features

Hillsides Goes Zero Contact

If you’ve passed through the first floor of Maloney at any point since the beginning of November, the first thing you probably noticed was the resurgence of life in an area that had previously been empty and gated off. Students are once again populating the tables: zeroed in on homework, chatting over coffee, or scarfing down a panini with chips and a pickle. For anyone not new to Boston College campus this year, this is a familiar feeling for Hillside Cafe. But look closer and you’ll see something startlingly unfamiliar about the new setup. Replacing the Starbucks coffee bar where you used to be able to sit is now two, hulking metal lockers labeled “B” and “C.” “Seems like a strange place to put an Amazon pickup center,” you might think. But then you see a student place their phone under a scanner, and just like magic, a locker pops open. What they take out is not a box from Bezos, but a smoothie and a bagel! This is the new Hillside experience at BC, one that more and more students continue to discover each day.

It’s no question that BC Dining underwent significant changes throughout the course of the semester. Students rejoiced at every win they could get. First, the return of Eagles Nest and Addie’s Loft, offering their old favorites made through pre-order only using the Get Mobile. After that, CoRo Cafe reopened with their signature Starbucks drinks and newly added smoothies, providing students on Upper and CoRo a place to grab a morning coffee or midday sugary pick-me-up. Perhaps the biggest victory to student morale was the return of late-night three nights a week, with returning favorites such as chicken fingers, fries, onion rings, and mozzarella sticks. And most recently, Hillside. 

Like Addie’s and Eagles, Hillside is exclusively doing orders through GET Mobile. What makes the Hillside’s experience different is that there’s zero customer contact along the way, not even when picking up your order. In a time when every interaction comes with the chance of spreading Covid, taking humans out of the equation is objectively the safest option. Assuming all employees behind the lockers are following CDC safety procedures, Hillside’s new method should be 100% Covid proof. In addition to maximum pandemic precautions, there are plenty of other benefits to the cafe’s new locker system. For students who are on the go, they have the option to place an order for a specific time and pick it up at their leisure. To summarize the pros of the system: quick, safe, and hassle free. 

Like any new implementation at BC, there are reasons for pushback as well. A common complaint is that because of limited locker space, an order will be removed from its designated location if it has not been picked up in a specific window of time. Thus begins the ordeal of ringing the doorbell, asking for a manager, showing them proof of your order and providing your name, and ultimately receiving your order, which may be too cold or too warm, depending on what you ordered. There’s also the question of, “What if your phone dies?” or, “What if the text message never goes through?” Logistically all these frustatations are valid, but solvable. The one complaint that can’t be solved is a remark I’ve heard from many of my friends and Hillside customers. The new system is, simply put, “weird.”

While working through this article, I’ve tried to pinpoint why I agree with the latter. I’m used to using mailboxes to retrieve mail, lockers to store my clothes and books. So why is food any different? I believe it is because food is meant to connect, but Covid, by nature, has created distance in exchange for protection. It all comes down to the question of safety versus service, a tension felt in almost every sector affected by the virus. For dine in restaurants, servers are told by managers and the CDC to stay distanced from their customers and limit time spent at tables. I know through my personal experience with BC dining as a barista that what I look forward to the most while doing my job isn’t making coffees, but connecting with customers. Think of your own experiences. Has a friendly conversation with the cashier at late-night ever made your evening? Have you ever made an odd connection with a waiter because they weren’t afraid to strike up a conversation? Do these interactions make you appreciate your food a little bit more?

At the end of the day, everyone has to make sacrifices for the sake of stopping the spread of the virus, and I don’t think that being able to have a chat with your neighborhood barista is the be all, end all. But for customers and food service workers, it’s a crucial part of dining, no matter if it’s at a five-star restaurant or right in our little BC backyard. The Hillside lockers may be here for now, but as long as they stay hunks of metal, it won’t be the same as a true BC dining experience. 

Cover photo courtesy of the BC Dining Instagram.

Categories
Features

Let Your Food Rot: How and Why Everyone Should Compost

Whether you are bunkered down in your dorm room or home for the rest of the semester, you are still producing food waste. Without the three color-coordinated trash cans in the dining hall, it can be difficult to know what waste should be recycled, thrown out, or composted. And while many have a basic knowledge of the items that can be recycled, composting can be an unknown frontier. 

The average person produces 219 pounds of food waste per year, the majority of which ends up in landfills. Items rotting in landfills are then incinerated, which produces almost one-fourth of all methane emissions in the US. However, if all eligible food and produce scraps were composted, landfills nationwide would be a quarter less full. 

Composting household produce is a simple task that all family units should strive to make a common practice. With basic knowledge of how and what to compost, a small-scale movement to reduce personal carbon emissions has the ability to drastically reduce the national carbon footprint. 

Compost is simply organic items that can break down and be used to fertilize soil and help plants grow. This loose definition sets the tone for the wide array of things that can be composted. All uncooked fruits and vegetables, egg shells, coffee grinds, tea bags, paper, cardboard, leaves, hair and fur, and house plants should not be thrown into the trash, as they can naturally break down. This long list of compostable items is matched with an equally lengthy list of things that should  strictly be tossed into the trash, however. Meat or fish scraps, dairy products, oils, and pet wastes cannot be composted because of their odors, which attract pests. 

Image courtesy of The Guardian

With “organic food items” defined, the at-home process of composting comes together nicely, as those produce scraps can be kept in any closed container. This prevents bugs from potentially being attracted to the food. There are also compostable bags that eliminate odor and allow for easy removal from the container. This little bin or bag can be kept in any easily-accessible place in your home or apartment. 

The unwanted produce, however, does not decompose into compost for months. As most people do not want food quite literally rotting in their apartments for long periods of time, there are many ways to dispose of the collected scraps, so that they can transform into compost eventually. 

Most apartment buildings have a compost collection system or have a nearby community garden that collects food scraps. Alternatively, many restaurants and grocery stores will accept food scraps. Some suburban towns, like Newton, MA, have even started a compost collection service alongside their trash and recycling programs. This gives households the ability to collect food scraps for a month, and then have it whisked away to a site somewhere in their community that collects and distributes the compost.

By actively collecting and properly disposing of food scraps, households can quickly slash their contributions to the massive landfills in the U.S. that are rapidly releasing methane. 

Methane is produced alongside carbon dioxide in landfills but has quickly become a more urgent worry for environmentalists, as it is 84 times as potent as carbon dioxide. This gas has a larger impact on the ozone layer than the other omnipresent gases in the atmosphere. Composting organic food scraps ultimately cuts down on the amount of methane released from landfills, which helps reduce the nation’s contribution to the rapid and harmful processes of climate change. 

It is worth noting, however, that this small step is not enough to completely eliminate the emissions of all greenhouse gases, specifically methane. Oil companies are the largest contributors of methane emissions in the U.S., and they need to be held accountable for their  environmental impact. 

Even though these emissions are due to the actions of large companies, everyday people can make palatable, small changes to help reduce the worldwide impact of these emissions. While one person’s actions may not make an enormous impact directly, the collective effort of consumers to reduce their trash productions and increase their compost production can add up to greatly reduce individuals’ contributions to climate change. 

Cover photo courtesy of City of Ames

Categories
Features

From CSOM to Cider Maker: The Story of Boston College Entrepreneur Jake Mazar

One of our very own, Boston College Class of 2008 graduate Jake Mazar, has blazed a path in the food and beverage industry as an entrepreneur. Mazar is the co-founder and co-owner of two successful businesses: Artifact Cider Project and Wheelhouse. Artifact Cider Project is a Massachusetts-based hard cider company, which collects apples from local orchards in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine to make hard cider. Artifact sells canned ciders and kegs, and has recently expanded to include two tap rooms in Cambridge, MA and Florence, MA.  Wheelhouse is an Amherst, MA- based catering company. “We take raw ingredients grown by local producers, which in this case is a variety of ingredients, including vegetables, meats, dairy, even grains, sourcing from over 40 different farms, and we turn them into dining experiences for people and catered events,” Mazar explains. Wheelhouse caters ticketed farm events and private events such as weddings. 

Soham Bhatt (on left) and Jake Mazar (on right): co-founders of the Artifact Cider Project.

Mazar’s path to being a food and beverage entrepreneur was nowhere close to traditional. “Life has a lot of twists and turns,” he says before beginning his story. Mazar was a finance and economics major at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. Despite a lacking interest in the subjects, he took the finance road because it was secure, and it reflected his father’s career. His first experience with the food world came during a summer internship after his junior year abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. “I spent that summer in Ghana, doing an internship with smallholder farmers and microfinance research,” Mazar begins. “I was in a relatively remote village in Ghana, working with farmers and with a bank… A lot of my CSOM friends were interning in New York in banking, while I was in a village living in a broken down house that didn’t have electricity and sometimes no running water. This was the first thing that really got me out of the bubble I had grown up in and spent a lot of my high school and college time in. This was a cool experience to get me to think differently about ways of being in the world and what I wanted to do.”

After graduation, Mazar spent some time in the corporate world, working at L.E.K. Consulting in Boston. Enduring 2 years of a desk job, Mazar felt “burnt out from long hours, 80-hour weeks, and staying past midnight at the office consistently.” Mazar shares, “I had gotten everything I could’ve out of that experience and I didn’t feel any moral value in what we were doing.” He then moved on to TechnoServe, an organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through which he returned to sub-saharan Africa to do more work with smallholder farmers, researching soybean farmers in Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa. “I loved it. It was awesome. It was a cool combination of the skills I’d learned in consulting and what I had enjoyed about the internship I had in college,” Mazar recounts. However, he confesses that it was too difficult to be away from his friends and family, so he returned to the United States at the end of his six-month contract. Back in Boston, Mazar worked at EnerNOC, a clean tech company, which he felt combined his interests in the environment and his business background. Unfortunately, a year into the job, Mazar once again found himself feeling “burnt out” and unfulfilled. He bravely decided to leave, spurring a big change in his life.

“This was actually the hardest decision I made during my career. I left the business world and I started vegetable farming. I took an apprenticeship in Martha’s Vineyard and spent a year working on a farm. I was pulling out weeds by hand, doing some harvesting, tractor maintenance, and driving a tractor. Doing the really nitty gritty stuff, and nothing business related,” Mazar reveals. He calls this “a really big departure from the path that he was on,” as his peers and colleagues headed to MBA programs and kept moving up in the business world while he started over on a farm. Mazar confesses, “I had a lot of doubts when I made this decision, but it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. It put me on a very different trajectory.” He spent the next two years working at a farm in Amherst, MA, where he met his wife Lila and his friend Will Van Heuvelen, who is now his business partner at Wheelhouse. Mazar reflects on his time working in farms, saying, “It was one of the most formative experiences in my life because [I discovered] what I was passionate about and cared about, [I met] these people who were so influential, and [I grew and developed] as a person.”

In 2013, during his third year doing farm work, inspired by Johnny Appleseed and the history of apple cider in our country, Mazar had the idea to start his own cider company.  He reached out to his high school friend, Soham Bhatt, an engineer who was passionate about food and beverage, and together they co-founded Artifact Cider Project. Bhatt handles the apple sourcing and production of cider, while Mazar handles the business management side of the enterprise. They rented a small space in Springfield, MA and grew Artifact slowly, while each still maintaining a full-time job as a farmworker and engineer, respectively. They would make cider and bottles during nights and weekends. As the business grew, Mazar and Bhatt transitioned to working at Artifact full-time and expanded the company by moving to a bigger production warehouse in Northampton, MA and hiring full-time employees.  “There’s many ways to start companies,” Mazar says, “but we did it in a very slow, bootstrapped, cautious way. We tried to invest as little as we could out front and slowly grew it.” Artifact cider now sells across over 2,000 locations in nine different states, and the business has grown to include twelve full-time employees and ten part-time employees.

In 2014, Mazar and his friend and fellow farm colleague Will Van Heuvelen had the idea to start a food business. They toyed around with the idea of a restaurant, catering business, or food truck, eventually buying a food truck on Craig’s List. Mazar recounts, “We started out super small, scrappy, barebones. We bought an old food trailer and renovated it, turning it into a nicer food trailer and started doing events, and the company has kept growing year after year. Wheelhouse expanded so much that Mazar and Van Heuvelen now own a brick and mortar location in Amherst, MA, in a building which used to be an old restaurant. Wheelhouse caters 75-100 events per year and has seven full-time employees and sixty part-time employees.

Mazar offers some advice for students who are interested in being a food/beverage entrepreneur but may not have a business/finance background as he does, “In my case, since I didn’t know as much about the cider production side of things, I found a business partner who did. I recommend doing the same. My business partners have learned more about the finance side and I have learned more about cider making. Finding people to complement your skills is very important. It doesn’t have to be a co-founder or co-owner, it can be people that you hire to help or teach you. And I’d also say that the business knowledge you need to run a small business is not that complicated. Business tends to be something that’s intimidating to people because of the accounting and the lingo, but it’s definitely something you can teach yourself. There are a lot of resources online. You can learn it. You don’t need to go get a degree.” 

Mazar leaves us with a few words of wisdom about big life and career changes. “I felt scared when switching from business to farming. It was a hard decision. The people that knew me best were very supportive and understood why I was making that decision, but there were definitely a lot of people, probably the majority of people, who thought I was crazy and going through a phase and would go back to business school after a couple of years. There was a lot of soul searching involved. The one thing I always like to remind people is you only have to figure out what you want to do for the next year. Just because you take a job it doesn’t mean that that’s what you are going to do forever or that that is who you are. It doesn’t have to define what you’re doing. You can always make changes. Life is so broad and there are so many things you can do. There is no right path. There’s only the path for you. There’s so many options that can work for you and fulfill you and add value to the world. Find what that is for you. Don’t be afraid to keep searching and finding different things. If what you’re doing doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to change it!”

All images courtesy of @artifactcider on Instagram.