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What Can We Expect From Donald Trump’s Secretary of Agriculture Pick?

Today, President-elect Donald Trump nominated former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue to take the helm of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as Secretary of Agriculture. The Secretary of Agriculture was Trump’s final cabinet position to be filled, coming in just one day before he is sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. If accepted, he will succeed Tom Vilsack who was appointed by the Obama Administration in 2009.

Here’s a quick backgrounder on Perdue:

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Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue (right) and former US Representative Jack Kingston (left).
Photo by Bruce Tuten

As The Washington Post notes, Perdue, now 70, is a former Democrat who switched to the Republican Party before he became governor of Georgia in 2003. He was the first Republican to take that office since the Reconstruction era in 1868. Perdue was born into a farming family, and as the New Georgia Encyclopedia states, he attended the University of Georgia and went on to earn a doctorate from the UGA College of Veterinary Science, eventually becoming a small-business owner in Bonaire.

He rose through the ranks of Georgia politics in the 80s and 90s. After assuming the the top-ranking office of the state, he governed primarily conservatively with an eye on the international stage (for example, he brought the first Kia factory to the United States in Georgia). After he left office, he founded Perdue Partners, which Bloomberg describes as “a global trading company that facilitates U.S. commerce focusing on the export of U.S. goods and services through trading, partnerships, consulting services, and strategic acquisitions.”

But what does the USDA even do? I needed a refresher myself, so here’s how they describe themselves on their website:

We provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management. We have a vision to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve our Nation’s natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.

To get a better idea of what we can expect from Secretary Perdue, I spoke to Sam Fromartz, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN). “Perdue is expected to keep the status quo. The question, of course, is whether he will favor the conservation measures that Vilsack pursued to reduce environmental problems,” he explained.

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Photo by cjuneau | Flickr

Fromartz went on to add that Perdue will most likely not play a pivotal role in keeping things neutral between hunger advocates and farm states on the Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that supports farms and farming —as well as SNAP, or the food stamp program—that expires and is updated every five years (the last bill was signed in 2014, so it won’t be up for changes until 2019). “Much of the direction will come from Congress, where the battle over severing food stamps from farm support programs comes up repeatedly but has never gained traction beyond zealots,” Fromartz said. “But this is also a time when the most unexpected and unimaginable has become the new normal.”

What this means in layman’s terms is that there is, in Fromartz’s words, a “historic compromise” that’s long been followed to balance the needs of rural farming communities and SNAP recipients. He says that urban lawmakers will generally vote for the Farm Bill if that nutrition assistance is kept up. “What rural lawmakers get in return are farm supports for farmers, things like what crop insurance is today,” Fromartz added. (Crop insurance is pretty self-explanatory: It helps protect farmers against loss of crops due to natural disasters, like hail or drought.) This historic compromise, as well as the renewable fuel program, are where the big policy changes may occur with a new administration keen to cut spending. Additionally, while not the focus of the position, Fromartz mentioned that trade often comes in to play for the Secretary of Agriculture because of their involvement with exports. He explained that our main trading partners—China, Mexico, and Canada—are all a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and have been targeted under complaints by Trump, leaving an uncertainty unlike what’s been seen in many years of what is to come in that arena.

So, what does Fromartz think will happen? To him, based on everything Trump has said, he predicts there will be spending at the same time as cutting taxes, especially for things like farm supports, which are big programs. “I think it’s politically impossible because Congress would never cut it,” he explained. “If you are cutting back on those specific supports it’s going to have direct impact on people who voted for [Trump].”

How Many Times Did I Almost Walk Out of This New Movie About McDonald’s?

There was a time when a burger, french fries, and bottle of soda from McDonald’s had an asking price of 35 cents. The restaurant, which has ballooned into an international chain since 1953, began as a tiny shack in San Bernardino. Customers would come to open windows, dictate their orders to a teenager, and, within seconds, exit with their food in hand.

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Michael Keaton in 'The Founder'.
Photo by Daniel McFadden & The Weinstein Company

John Lee Hancock’s The Founder, the 115-minute movie that opens tomorrow in theaters, begins at this point in American history. It centers on Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), the Illinois man best known today for purchasing McDonald’s from its original owners and becoming the chain’s franchisee. At the film’s beginning, Kroc is a fifty-year-old salesman who’s shilling other people’s shitty inventions to buyers who don’t bite, mostly small restaurants across the country. In this process, he meets the chummy McDonald brothers (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman), proprietors of the eponymous fast-food joint. The pair is one of the few to express interest in the product Kroc’s selling (in this case, it’s a Prince Castle-brand milkshake machine made of tin). Kroc is utterly transfixed by the origin story of McDonald’s, which the brothers relay to Kroc over a five-minute dinner conversation.

Kroc offers to help them sustain and grow their business. He has visions so grand for McDonald’s that he begins to proselytize like the Elmer Gantry of fast food. “Franchise, franchise, franchise!” he exclaims one day in a parking lot to the brothers, convincing them to add his name to the contract with an eye on national expansion. He delivers his elevator pitches with sermonic fervor. His philosophy? McDonald’s can be the new American church.

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Michael Keaton in 'The Founder'.
Photo by Daniel McFadden & The Weinstein Company

Kroc slowly encroaches upon the brothers’ territory as he builds this operation into a chain. He strips the brothers of ownership of the very property they began. Keaton’s slimy, loosey-goosey style lends itself well to this particular role: In this film, we bear witness to Kroc’s transformation from an easily pitiable failure of a man to a titan of his own greed.

The charge of Keaton’s work is dampened by the film that surrounds it. As a director, Hancock, who directed The Blind Side (2009) and Saving Mr. Banks (2013) before this, lacks a sense of rhythm that’s enough to sustain interest in this narrative of one man’s ravenous appetite for capital. The Founder follows a ploddingly episodic template: Kroc hits one roadblock, stumbles for a bit, and eventually overcomes. When he’s pitching the franchise to prospective clients, there are moments when the baggage of Kroc’s past entrepreneurial failures seem to risk haunting him, but they soon subside. Hancock fails to intersperse the film’s early scenes with a nuance that could foreground what’s to come, to give the blow of Kroc’s monstrous eleventh-hour reinvention that much more weight.

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Michael Keaton in 'The Founder'.
Photo by Daniel McFadden & The Weinstein Company

This is to say little of the film’s unimaginative rendering of food. I’m not sure I’ve seen a movie that’s ostensibly about food whose aesthetic expresses such a profound disinterest in food. The film’s early scenes resemble a clunkily romantic McDonald’s ad campaign, with slow-motion shots of cheery families biting into burgers and frames of patties dolloped with ketchup and mustard. These shots are meant to represent the pure, aspirational culinary ideals that McDonald’s was originally founded on before Kroc poisoned the franchise. Yet these shots feel clinical and efficient, first drafts of failed advertisements for a restaurant that no longer exists.

By the film’s last scenes, Kroc has become a capitalist Godzilla, uncaring of the souls he’s knowingly stepped over. The conclusion may make you radically reconsider what came before it, because it seems that Hancock had inadvertently stumbled upon a message—don’t be a corporate asshole—after flailing his way toward charting this everyman’s ascent to stardom. By the film’s end, the plight of these brothers, who didn’t see a cent of the profits they were promised via an unofficial handshake agreement with Kroc, lingers. How exactly this franchise so swiftly fell out of these brothers’ hands, and to a man motivated by such egotistical intentions, merits more rigorous treatment. It’s a story still waiting to be told.

The Founder opens in theaters on January 20th in the United States.

13 Boneless, Skinless, Anything-but-Boring Chicken Breast Recipes

It’s true that ‘boneless’ and ‘skinless’ are often equated with flavorless—and that skin and bones are what breathe life and soul into many of our favorite chicken recipes. But prepared thoughtfully, they can be just as appealing as other cuts of the meat. Not buying it? Here are 13 boneless, skinless, anything-but-boring chicken breast recipes that will convince you otherwise:

Hot Chicken and Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Waffle by Karrie / Tasty Ever After

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Chicken Fingers by Merrill:

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Chicken Kiev by Bevi

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Chilaquiles Verdes by lisina

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Spicy Orange-Ginger Chicken by foxeslovelemons

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Green Goddess Chicken Sandwiches by foxeslovelemons

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Walnut-Crusted Chicken Breasts by pretty

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Classic Chicken Piccata by Linda Johnson

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Chicken Tamale Pie by Kendra Vaculin

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BFF Crispy Coated Chicken by monkeymom

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Massaman-Inspired Chicken Noodle Soup by hardlikearmour

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Lemon Chicken by mrslarkin

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Alabama-Style Chicken Kebabs by inpatskitchen

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This article was originally published in January of 2015.

How to Measure Minced Garlic—Helpful Tips + Heated Opinions

In the perfect kitchen, all cooking guesstimations are foolproof; in our real kichens, though, variation in ingredients, cooking conditions, and personal tastes make universal kitchen conversions nearly impossible. So, we experiment and survey our fellow cooking comrades in an attempt to nail down what works best.

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Food52er Sean,Murray turned to the Food52 Hotline for a simple clove-to-teaspoon conversion for garlic. As it turns out, it’s not that simple:

Using Fresh Garlic (recommended by us, and lots of opinionated Food52ers!)

  • In the Food52 test kitchen, we go by the guesstimation that a medium-sized clove equates to a half teaspoon once minced. ChefOno is a little more generous, and assumes one teaspoon.
  • Looking for the pungent flavor of fresh garlic with the convenience of the jarred kind? A Whole Foods staff member recommends peeling a handful of cloves and mincing them in a food processor. Store the minced garlic in an airtight container in the fridge, and you’ll have fresh, prepped garlic on hand to use throughout the week.

Using Pre-Packaged Minced Garlic

  • The amount of packaged, minced garlic needed to make up for one clove depends on how finely minced the garlic is. Because each brand varies, conversion amounts are usually listed on the label or lid of the individual jar. If not, assume one-quarter to one teaspoon of minced garlic roughly equates to a whole clove. As this is a wide range, ATG117 recommends tasting as you go and adjusting accordingly.

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As sheilag points out, the amount of garlic used in a recipe ultimately depends on taste. Garlic fans like Sara,Comerford and Bob Likes to Cook may throw in an extra clove, while those who prefer a more mellow dish may opt to only add a sprinkle. So add gradually, taste often, and you’ll be able to build flavor to your liking every time.

Do you have a go-to garlic conversion? Join in the conversation over on the Hotline, or tell us in the comments below!

Photo by James Ransom

For an Honest Take on Dieting, Look to…Oprah?

I struggle with my weight. There, this food editor said it. There are ups and downs, literally. It’s a daily, pervasive sort of thing, especially when, as Ruby Tandoh put it in the New York Times, “diet culture [is] creeping into general food writing.”

And after years of disordered eating and paging through diet cookbooks (no carbs! high protein! gluten-/sugar-/meat-free!), I’ve found one that gets it. And it’s by Oprah. Yes, Oprah.

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Oprah’s Food, Health, and Happiness is probably not the best diet book or cookbook around, and it’s clear she has a team of professionals and a personal chef to help with her weight loss. However the book addresses two very important points that you won’t find in many diet or even health-focused cookbooks:

  1. The shame that comes with dieting. And the shame attached to body image.
  2. Finding a sustainable way of eating that works for you.

Oprah approaches shame anecdotally, talking about how as her career was first starting to take off, she was rapidly gaining weight, too. At one point, she went on a talk show and the host’s first question was something along the lines of, “So how did you gain all that weight?” That’s shame.

I remember weighing in during gym class in high school. We had to do quarterly weigh-ins—I don’t know why, probably as a metric for one’s health or something. My weight had been steadily climbing upwards (a result of, despite being on the track team, not being aware of the fact that I no longer had a kiddo’s metabolism). I clocked in at the heaviest I’d ever been—in front of not only the gym teacher, but my entire gym class. That was shame.

And, conversely, when I subsequently lost a ton of weight through diet and exercise in a span of a few months, my social studies teacher confronted me in front of the entire cafeteria, as I was microwaving braised pork left over from my dad’s football party. She asked me if I was sick. I said no. She then asked me, in a voice loud enough for the surrounding tables could hear, if I was bulimic—I wasn’t, nor have I ever been. Shame.

It was then, standing there with my tub of pork, I realized there probably wasn’t going to be a time in my life when I didn’t feel shame from someone, somewhere. I think of shame like this as a downwards spiral, one that certainly doesn’t foster a healthful mentality towards food.

“For one brief moment, back in 1988, it seemed like I’d found the secret: After a four-month liquid diet (which is a nice way of saying: fast), I practically leapt onto the stage of my show to reveal my brand-new body in a pair of skinny-minnie Calvin Klein jeans,” Oprah writes. “To prove the point, I hauled out a little red wagon loaded with actual fat representing the pounds I’d starved myself to lose.” And then she, like most who make a radical diet that can in no way last, started eating again—eventually gaining weight and, as Oprah says, feeling like a “spectacular failure.” Like me, Oprah’s gain-lose cycle happened over and over again. Which brings us to major point number two.

In 2015, Oprah found Weight Watchers. Under the point system, she thrived. Each meal, food, snack, etc. is assigned a number of points, and since you’re only allowed so many points a day, it’s easy to keep track of when you’ve reached your limit. (She’s since invested $43 million in the company.) At the end of each recipe in Food, Health, and Happiness, there’s a breakdown of calories and Weight Watchers points, with recipes ranging from unfried chicken to breakfast cookies to lavender shortbread. You can choose to ignore them if you like, but if you’re already on Weight Watchers and understand the point system (unlike me), I imagine this is quite helpful.

While I don’t fully understand Weight Watchers, I do understand why Oprah likes it: “…it’s one thing to be able to recite the rules of dieting, and quite another to fully internalize and know the truth of maintaining a healthy weight.” Because while you can cut carbs and portion control all you want, until you find something that makes sense to you, it’s probably not going to stick—at least not for long.

With Weight Watchers, she was able to stop yo-yo dieting and feeling guilty about food, and started finding the pleasure in eating again. It’s the kind of balance longtime dieters hope to achieve. And even if readers aren’t on Weight Watchers, bringing the recipes that got her to where she is now is doing us a great service. (Peppered amongst the recipes are photos of Oprah: in her garden, smiling while holding a bowl of soup. Yes, I know they’re staged. But she just looks so dang happy.)

Food, Health, and Happiness isn’t like a Whole30, Zone, or even a Weight Watchers cookbook in that there isn’t a concrete diet plan, but that’s why it’s a great diet book. It doesn’t have the best recipes, I don’t think, nor do its recipes often make sense for many home cooks (the book instructs you to make homemade curry paste and pasta).

The mushroom soup I made was good, and I was happily surprised by the touch of cream, however the naan I tried was too dense and hockey puck-like in a whole wheat way. I’m also fairly certain Oprah didn’t have a huge hand in creating its recipes (that’s what the chefs featured at the beginning of the book are for!), but I also don’t think that matters here. At its core, the book’s about a diet that worked for one woman, one that leaves her sane and happy and able to eat with enjoyment. Sharing that message is powerful. It’s something I’m looking for, and after reading through Oprah’s cookbook, I feel more hopeful about being able to find it.