National Geographic Magazine

Food

 
TheFutureofFOODNow onthe MenuShort takes on food, farming,cooking, and culture will whetyour appetite.

United States

Includes items such as bread, Tabasco sauce, Skittles, Chiclets, spaghetti and meatballs, dried cranberries, pretzels, cheese spread

Japan

Includes cooked rice, seaweed, curry with vegetables and sausage

Italy

Includes a mixed-fruit cup, portable stoves, jam, coffee, water-purification tablets and vitamins, biscuits, turkey, liqueur, toothbrushes, beef in gelatin, rice salad, pasta with beans, cereal bars

Russia

Includes meat with vegetables, instant noodles, stewed meat, instant dry milk, raisins, wheat crackers, chocolate, more stewed meat, whole sweetened condensed milk, instant buckwheat, black tea bags

Australia

Includes Scotch biscuits, chili con carne, tuna, a muesli cereal bar, diced andy, Vegemite, a sesame-seed biscuit

United States

Includes items such as bread, Tabasco sauce, Skittles, Chiclets, spaghetti and meatballs, dried cranberries, pretzels, cheese spread

Japan

Includes cooked rice, seaweed, curry with vegetables and sausage

Russia

Includes meat with vegetables, instant noodles, stewed meat, instant dry milk, raisins, wheat crackers, chocolate, more stewed meat, whole sweetened condensed milk, instant buckwheat, black tea bags

Italy

Includes a mixed-fruit cup, portable stoves, jam, coffee, water-purification tablets and vitamins, biscuits, turkey, liqueur, toothbrushes, beef in gelatin, rice salad, pasta with beans, cereal bars

Australia

Includes Scotch biscuits, chili con carne, tuna, a muesli cereal bar, diced andy, Vegemite, a sesame-seed biscuit

Field Rations Go Gourmet

If an army marches on its stomach, today’s troops are walking tall. Field rations are more delicious, nutritious, and diverse than ever. In the U.S., meals ready to eat are developed at the Natick Soldier Systems Center. Food technologist Jeannette Kennedy says 30 million 1,300-calorie MREs—which can last 36 months at 80°F—are produced each year. In 1984, says retired Lt. Col. David Accetta, they were unvaried and unappetizing. The 24 tasty options today? “A huge improvement.”

In Afghanistan one French field ration used to be worth six U.S. meals in a swap. Now, thanks to a much improved U.S. menu, that’s reversed. Contents vary by country, but nutrition and nostalgia are universal. “MREs,” says photographer Ashley Gilbertson, “are what home tastes like.”

What can you get for ten dollars?

You’ve got hunger pangs, an empty refrigerator, and ten dollars. What kind of food will you buy, fast food or ingredients for a home-cooked meal?

Time, not nutrition, is often the deciding factor. “Cooking at home requires planning ahead,” says Jessica Todd, an economist with the USDA. According to her research, people ate out less often during the recession. One likely reason: more time at home to cook. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study shows that the time difference can be significant: 128 minutes for grocery shopping, food preparation, and cleanup versus 34 minutes, including travel time, for the aptly named fast food.

Read this month's story, "The New Face of Hunger," and follow our food series at natgeofood.com.

*McDonald’s is the largest hamburger fast-food chain in the world, serving food in about 119 countries.

ART: JOHN GRIMWADE AND HAISAM HUSSEIN

Behind theMoveableFeast

A Moveable Feast

This isn’t a still life from 17th-century Europe. It’s fresh produce from four upscale markets in Manhattan. Eating locally and reducing carbon footprints may be in, but these fruits and vegetables made big trips to the Big Apple—in some cases covering nearly 9,000 miles. In fact, in the United States, produce imports have increased significantly since 1980. Amit Ratanshi, a seller at a Bronx distributor, says New York chefs and shoppers “want to know where their food is coming from.” That can mean a farm down the road, across the country, or—if it’s exotic goods—half a world away.

Find this month’s story from the National Geographic Future of Food series at natgeofood.com.

Photo: Paulette Tavormina

Stick a Fork in It

Although ancient Romans used metal spikes to winkle out snails, the fork didn’t appear with regularity until the 17th century. In the gilded world of late 19th-century America, flatware sets could stretch to 30 types of forks, with various ones for shrimp, sardines, lobster, scallops, and oysters. “Americans became fork crazy. It played to social-status building,” says Sarah Coffin, a curator at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City. Gentle reader, should you encounter multiple forks at table, fear not. The rule is: Start with the one farthest to the left, and work in from there.

Click numbers for more about each fork.

Beyond Delicious

You might say the apple fell from grace in the 1920s and ’30s with the advent of refrigerated long-distance shipping. Thanks to supermarket Darwinism, thousands of heirloom varieties, like many of those pictured here, went commercially extinct. Produce bins featured Delicious, Jonathan, and Rome—selected for durability and beauty, but boring in taste. “People switched off their tastebuds,” says Diane Miller, an apple geneticist at Ohio State University. Apple consciousness-raising, says Miller, came with the release of the aptly named Honeycrisp hybrid in 1991. Now breeders create dozens of flavorful new hybrids a year and heirlooms are back in style.