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America’s strip club capital sees push for fair terms, labor rights and food

Meals 4 Heels is offering healthy late-night takeout for sex workers and strippers, and its just part of a discussion on wellness and working conditions in the industry

Nikeisah Newton has cornered a market in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, which she calls strip city.

Shortly before 10pm on a Friday, Newton bounces around her kitchen, steaming kale and packing take-out boxes into a tote bag. Newton is working for herself in a business she created called Meals 4 Heels, a one-of-a-kind food service that delivers fresh, nutritious bowls to sex workers and strippers during late-night hours.

After 13 years of living in Portland and hustling in food service, Newton launched Meals 4 Heels in January. Her ex-girlfriend is a stripper and she has several friends who work in the industry. She quickly noticed that no one was looking out for their basic health needs like sustenance.

Were known for our food carts and strip clubs, but yet the human aspect is missing, said Newton. It doesnt make sense why there hasnt been something like this.

Better eating is just a part of a wider discussion on wellness and labor rights and conditions taking place in some of the countrys strip clubs. Just as in more conventional workspaces, there is now a debate over workers rights, the complex pros and cons of contract work and a struggle to wrest better terms from employers.

Cha Cha plus chicken sausage, a dish produced by Meals 4 Heels. Photograph: Nikeisah C Newton

Portland is home to the most strip clubs per capita in the US. According to research by Priceonomics, the city boasts 54 and has more than twice as many strip clubs as it has public restrooms. That is largely because Oregons constitution protects obscenity under the first amendment. Moreover, zoning laws state that businesses cannot be denied locations based on their sexual content or nature.

Yet despite their numbers, strippers and sex workers are rarely free from disparagement in many instances their industry is the first to face harassment and the last to be protected.

For Newton, Meals 4 Heels is her way of putting a diverse and caring face on Portlands sex industry, while nourishing its workers.

From an online menu, clients can choose from several south-western and Mediterranean-inspired bowls, like the GTP ($Gettin That Paper$), a gluten-free and vegan dish that includes roasted cauliflower and sweet potato noodles; or the Freegan Vegan, piled with roasted yams, apples, sauted mushrooms and brown rice. Almost all ingredients are organic and locally sourced.

The menu is curated for dancers, said Newton. No legumes, low on nightshades, low garlic, onions and acids, so theyre not gassy or breathing garlic. I keep that in mind.

Newton does all the prepping and cooking herself and delivers to about 20 clubs. Shes also running a GoFundMe campaign to help cover costs and wants Meals 4 Heels to be recognized as a business of color in Americas whitest city.

At Riverside Corral, a strip club in Portlands south-east neighborhood, a dancer who uses the stage name Plum ordered the Verbal Tipper, which comes with lemon pepper couscous, massaged kale, pickled veggies and marinated artichokes.

What she likes most about Meals 4 Heels, said Plum, is the delivery, number one. And its so nice to have food thats healthy thats not going to make me fart or shit my pants. And its just made with love.

Julie Flores, a stripper at Club Rogue, said her favorite was the Cha Cha Cha, which blends brown rice, citrus slaw, black olives, avocado and tortilla chips.

Its just a really good, clean option for us, said Flores. Where I work, we just have fried shit, like wings. So [Meals 4 Heels] provides wholesome meals that fuel our bodies, because every time I come home I feel like I just did a workout.

Late-night employees would be hard pressed to find food options that are open at 2am and not teeming with trans fats and cholesterol.

But a healthy diet is just one of the issues facing Portlands sex workers and strippers.

Matilda Bickers, a former stripper, and Amy Pitts, another dancer, sued Portlands Casa Diablo strip club in 2015, citing unpaid wages and harassment, on the part of the customers and employees. They settled out of court.

A strip club in Portland, Oregon, which has more strip clubs per capita than any other US city. Photograph: Melanie Sevcenko/The Guardian

Since then, Bickers, who now works as an escort, has been a vocal proponent of sex workers rights in the city. One of her most publicized platforms is lobbying for strippers to be classified as employees in Oregon.

Most strippers in the US are deemed independent contractors. Theyre paid in tips, rather than an hourly wage or salary.

Many of them prefer the freedom to schedule their own shifts, wear whatever they want, do the job in the way they want, work for competitors even, said the labor lawyer Rich Meneghello. Now if they became employees, a lot of that freedom goes away.

But freedom also means contractors dont pay into social security or Medicare, are not eligible for sick leave, overtime or unemployment benefits and are not protected in the same way as employees from workplace harassment.

In addition, as contractors, strippers essentially have to pay to work, through what are called stage or house fees. They can range anywhere from five dollars to well over a hundred. Its a pay for the pole policy that is typically meant to cover expenses like advertising and club maintenance.

If theyre late to a shift, get sick or dont make enough in a night to pay those fees, the stripper then owes back rent to the club.

In January this year, a Democratic state senator, Kathleen Taylor, introduced a bill that would have classified strippers as employees. The bill was eventually laid to rest, marking the third attempt to get this type of legislation passed.

According to a study by Portland State University, because Portland strippers dont require a permit, can perform fully nude, allow clients to touch them with consent during private dances, and, as contractors, lack protection from workplace agencies, the research suggests that exotic dancers are at risk of experiencing various forms of violence while at work with limited resources to turn to for help.

Of 33 strippers who participated in the study, 32 reported experiencing some form of violence while at work, while 84% reported they had experienced unwanted groping, rape, forced or coerced unwanted sexual acts.

Elle Stanger, who dances at Portlands Lucky Devil Lounge, is fiercely committed to maintaining her independent contractor status. She makes good money, has control over her performances and schedule, and keeps all her earnings from private dances.

But she recognizes that her club is not all clubs, which means theres no silver bullet solution.

I just want to caution people to be wary of a quick fix approach to labor problems, when the issues tend to be so different in some cases, said Stanger.

Elle Stanger has been co-organizing the Portland Slutwalk since 2014. Its a demonstration against sexual violence and victim-blaming. Photograph: Courtesy Elle Stanger

In neighboring California, a bill passed the legislature in September that designates independent contractors in several industries as employees, including strippers. At first sight, it sounds good.

But Stanger, who co-hosts the sex worker industry podcast Strange Bedfellows, has been asking for feedback from strippers in California who have recently become employees. According to Stanger, the majority say the bill is damaging to their industry, claiming lower earnings and fewer bookings.

Stanger foresees clubs forced to fire dancers, simply because they wont be able to afford their wages.

I heard from dancers who said: I was deemed too fat for my club. Or due to racist management practices, they cut a lot of dancers of color, said Stanger.

Aaliyah Topps, who danced in Seattle, said she believed club managers and owners favored Caucasian strippers. I know multiple girls who arent allowed back to the club due to back rent and most of these are women of color. They dont advertise women of color on any flyers, posters or websites, she said.

Topps is part of a coalition called Strippers Are Workers, which formed in the summer of 2018 through the not-for-profit Working Washington. It was co-founded by the dancer Angelique, who declined to offer her last name. She works at one of the only clubs in Seattle that is not owned by Dj Vu, which runs roughly 132 strip clubs in 41 states. It owns 11 of Washingtons 14 strip clubs.

More and more customers were becoming aggressive, they were starting to not pay for services, said Angelique of why she started the coalition. [The clubs] were treating us like employees in terms of scheduling us, having control over our work and setting our prices, which is illegal.

The coalition took its complaints to the Washington legislature last October. Topps, who stripped at Dj Vu, testified about the lack of running water at the club, having to use a portable toilet as a restroom, harassment from management, and the $140 to $200 stage fees the dancers had to pay the club per night, which can quickly become back rent.

This May, Strippers Are Workers succeeded in getting House Bill 1756 passed. Its a landslide piece of legislation for the sex worker industry that requires Washington strip clubs to install panic buttons in VIP rooms; offers a Know Your Rights training for dancers who apply for a business license; creates a record and blacklist of violent customers; and establishes an advisory committee to help implement and enforce the bill.

The efforts in Washington echo another reform movement in Minneapolis. In August, its city council unanimously voted in a new ordinance that mandates adult entertainment workers receive a copy of their contracts, prohibits retaliation against those who report violations and requires businesses to post customer conduct and workers rights information.

Back in Portland, Nikeisah Newton knows the importance of lifting up those who are sidelined as a gay, black woman working for the sex worker industry: Its all about marginalized groups. Weve got to take care of each other.

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Girl says she was fired over exposing how Panera makes its mac and cheese on TikTok

The girl who created a viral TikTok video exposing how Panera makes its mac and cheese is going viral againthis time for tweeting that she lost her job because of it.

I lost my job for this video, Twitter user @BriiRamirezz, who goes by @briannaraelenee on TikTok, responded to @UberFacts tweet of the clip.

The short video shows BriiRamirezz walking into the Panera kitchen over to a box of frozen bags of mac and cheese, putting one into boiling water to defrost it, then cutting it open and dumping it out into a bowl. It ends with her flashing a thumbs up to indicate to viewers the cooking process is all done.

BriiRamirezz revealed that Panera found out about the clip after it went viral online and ended up on the local news in her hometown.

Twitter users responded with support and praise for BriiRamirezz, but also noted that they were not at all surprised by how Panera prepares its mac and cheese.

Whats yo cash app queen? one supporter questioned.

Chef Proves You Dont Need $1000 Knives To Cut Slices Like A Pro, It Only Takes 2 Steps

Most of us have daydreamed about becoming professional chefs and wowing everyone with our superstar skills in the kitchen. Sadly, not all of us are equally good when it comes to cooking, and intense training in the secretive ways of the culinary arts seems like a grueling task.
Petteri, a chef from Finland, is here to tell you that absolutely anybody can act like a professional cook — if they know the right techniques. He uploaded a series of photos to imgur, demonstrating how to use average kitchen knives to cut food into ultra-thin slices.

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

Bored Panda interviewed chef Petteri from Finland about how to properly use cooking knives for cutting food, and how to take proper care of them. Petteri told us that he spent 3 years learning the trade at a hotel, restaurant and catering college, and a further 8 years working at fine dining, a la carte and lunch restaurants, as well as in the catering business.
“You don’t get the benefits of a high-end knife if you use them only for home cooking,” Petteri shared some of his in-depth knowledge about knives with Bored Panda and explained that the main difference between expensive and cheap knives is the quality of steel. “For example, my expensive knives actually dull faster and need more sharpening and maintaining compared to the knives I have at home because they are in constant use. Good mid-range knives last for a lifetime if cared for properly.”

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

The chef also recommended anyone interested in taking care of their cooking knives to get a whetstone and honing stick: “They are easy to use and the Internet is full of great guides on how to use them. Honing the blade will straighten the blade and keep it sharp and the whetstone will reform the actual blade and remove little nicks and dents from it. Hone the knife when you feel it isn’t cutting smoothly. And use whetstone when you feel that the honing isn’t helping anymore.”

Finnish chef Petteri taught Internet users how to cut vegetables super-duper thin

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

Petteri warned us that we should never, ever put a knife in a dishwasher. “Rinse the blade with water and use a brush if there is something sticky, rinse and repeat. Avoid using soap and always store knives separately, such that the blade part does not come in contact with other knives and other utensils. I recommend getting a magnetic rack or a knife rack.”

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

“When testing the quality of a knife, I look for a few things. Is the handle comfortable in your hand? Do you like the grip? Is it well balanced? How fast does it lose its edge? Sadly, there is no sure way to tell if the knife is fantastic on the spot. Usually, after a month of use, I have a clear idea if I like the knife or not. I have had knives made of really high-quality steel but the handle falls apart or the blade is really top-heavy which makes the knife cumbersome to use,” the chef added.

This cutting technique can be used even with very cheap kitchen knives

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

Image credits: hewari

He also had some final advice for anyone planning on going shopping for cooking knives in the future: “Don’t buy those knives that market themselves as “never needs sharpening” or “never dull”. They actually can’t be sharpened and once it’s dull or you accidentally drop it and the blade nicks a little, it’s gone and you wasted money. It’s important to get the right knife for the right job and I recommend, at the very least, to get one knife for meat, one for veggies, and one for pairing. In the end, it’s not how expensive your knife is, it’s how well you treat and use it that counts.”

Here’s what people had to say about cooking knives

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Nigel Slaters high summer recipes

Make the most of bright summer produce with saffron and yogurt grilled chicken, tomato and roast pepper bruschetta and cherry jelly with orange cream

You come back from the shops with cherries, their skins tight and bright, the colour of beaujolais. Green-shouldered tomatoes too, fat red peppers and a bunch of basil, its leaves as big as bay. A heavy wedge of watermelon perhaps, a cool cucumber and spiky bunches of hot rocket. Summer shopping is frustrating. Peaches or nectarines? Peas in the pod or broad beans? Should we buy radishes and artichokes? We need food for the grill, something to marinade, and yet we still want something of substance. (Seafood for a potato-topped pie, chicken for the barbecue.) From now till late autumn there is almost too much from which to choose. We should make the most of it.

Watermelon, salted ricotta and pumpkin seeds

A halved watermelon becomes a fixture in the fridge from now till early autumn. Its ruby flesh chilled and waiting to become part of a salad or cut thick and brought out on a plate of crushed ice to finish a garden lunch. A watermelon laughs loudest when it is matched with chilli as it is so often in Mexico, but also when in the company of salty cheeses such as feta or ricotta salata.

In deepest summer, I soak iceberg lettuce, bunches of thick-stemmed watercress and white-nippled radishes for 20 minutes in a bowl of ice and water to crisp and refresh. The watermelon needs a good hour or two in the fridge before slicing. The marriage of ice-cold melon, salty cheese and chilli is dazzling. Tweak the amount of chilli flakes to suit your own taste. The batch I have at the moment is fiercely hot, so I proceed with caution, a pinch at a time.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish
watercress 1 bunch
red chicory leaves 100g
radishes 200g
coriander seeds 2 tsp
olive oil 4 tbsp
pumpkin seeds 45g
fennel seeds 1 tsp
chilli flakes a pinch
watermelon 1kg
mint 10 leaves
salted ricotta 50g

Wash the watercress, discarding any tough stems or less than perfect leaves then submerge in a large bowl of ice and water. Separate the chicory leaves, halve the radishes, then add both to the bowl. Leave them for 20 minutes to crisp and curl.

Use a pestle and mortar or spice mill to grind the coriander seeds to a coarse powder. Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan, then add the coriander, pumpkin and fennel seeds, moving them around for a minute or two until they are warm and fragrant. Add the chilli flakes, continue cooking for a minute, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Peel the watermelon, cut into thick slices and then into large chunks into a bowl, removing the seeds as you go.

Finely chop the mint leaves, add to the melon then crumble or coarsely grate the ricotta over them. Drain the watercress, chicory and radish and add them to the bowl.

Tip the seeds, spices and their oil over the watermelon and tumble everything together gently then transfer to a serving dish and bring to the table.

Grilled chicken with saffron and yogurt

Grilled chicken with saffron and yogurt. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

A spice-speckled yogurt marinade is something I use a lot with chicken I plan to grill. It must be said that it does have a habit of sticking to the bars of the grill and the smoke that ensues sets off the fire alarm, so I have taken to browning the marinated chicken under an overhead grill in the oven. The meat shouldnt be too close to the heat, lest the skin brown before the flesh is cooked through. I move the oven rack closer to the heat towards the end of cooking, to encourage a crisp skin. I think a little charring here and there is to be positively encouraged.

Serves 3
saffron a pinch
hot water 80ml
chillies 3 small, hot, assorted colours
garlic 3 cloves
natural yogurt 200ml
chicken thighs 6
rocket 150g
cucumbers 2 small
parsley a generous handful
olive oil 2 tbsp
white wine vinegar 1 tbsp

Grind the saffron to a powder, tip it into a small bowl then pour the hot water over and leave for 10 minutes.

Finely chop the chillies and put them into a large mixing bowl. Peel the garlic, finely chop and add to the chillies, then stir in the yogurt and the saffron liquid and set aside.

Place a chicken thigh skin-side down on a chopping board then cut out the bone with a sharp knife. Open each boned thigh flat, skin side down, then bat out with a heavy weight such as a rolling pin or cutlet bat, till the meat is about cm thick. Submerge the meat in the yogurt marinade and set aside for a good hour.

Put the rocket leaves into a large bowl of ice and water and leave for 15 minutes. Peel the cucumber, then cut into large diagonal chunks. Pick the parsley leaves from the stalks and add to the cucumber, then drain and shake the rocket dry and toss with the cucumber, olive oil and white wine vinegar. (No salt or pepper is needed here.)

Heat an overhead (oven) grill. Line a grill pan or oven tray with foil, lay the pieces of chicken on it skin-side down and cook, a good 15-20cm from the heat source, for 8-10 minutes, then turn over and cook the other side. Check the flesh is cooked right through and adjust the proximity of the oven shelf to the heat as necessary. The chicken should be nicely browned, cooked all the way through, its skin patchily gold and dark brown.

Serve the chicken hot with the cucumber salad.

Hake and prawn pie with a potato crust

Hake and prawn pie with a potato crust. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Prawn shells make a light but flavoursome stock. Stuff the usual aromatics in with them bay, peppercorns, parsley stalks but not carrots, which can introduce too much sweetness. I used hake, which was snow-white, cheap and sustainable, but haddock or cod are suitable too, especially if the fillets are thick.

I prefer a filling that is mostly fish, but the recipe lends itself to some improvisation. You could cut down on the fish and add instead a couple of handfuls of lightly cooked and skinned broad beans or a large leek sliced and softened in butter.

Serves 4
raw prawns 500g large
bay leaves 3
black peppercorn 10
water 600ml
floury potatoes such as maris piper 850g
olive oil 5 tbsp
hake 700g
spring onions 3
butter 50g
plain flour 50g
double cream 100ml

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Peel the prawns, putting the shells into a medium-sized saucepan and returning the prawns to the fridge. Add the bay, peppercorns and water to the pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, partially cover with a lid, then leave to simmer for 30 minutes before removing from the heat.

Peel the potatoes then coarsely grate them. Warm the olive oil in a shallow pan over a moderate heat, add the potatoes and let them sizzle for a few minutes until pale gold. Using a draining spoon or fish slice, transfer them from the pan to a piece of kitchen paper.

Strain the stock and discard the prawn shells and aromatics. Skin the hake and cut into thick pieces about 4cm in length. Roughly chop the spring onions.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, add the flour and cook over a moderate heat, stirring constantly till you have a smooth paste. Pour in the prawn stock, stirring with a wooden spoon until you have smooth sauce. As it bubbles, stir in the cream and a few grinds of salt and pepper. Add the hake, pushing the fish under the surface. Leave them for three or four minutes then add the prawns and the chopped spring onions.

Transfer the filling to a pie dish, scatter the fried potato over the surface, leaving a few gaps here and there. Bake for 30 minutes till the sauce is bubbling up through the crust.

Tomato and roast pepper bruschetta

A scarlet slice with which to start dinner; a light garden lunch or a weekend breakfast, there is almost no stage on a summers day when this tomato toast isnt appropriate. The roast vegetables, sweet-sour and smoky, will keep in the fridge for a day or two. A useful sauce in which to toss bucatini or perhaps gnocchi that you have fried in a little olive oil till crisp.

Tomato and roast pepper bruschetta. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Serves 4
shallots 3 medium-sized
red peppers 2 large
cherry tomatoes 1kg
olive oil 6 tbsp, plus a little extra
pine kernels 4 tbsp
beefsteak tomatoes 2
fresh basil 20g
ciabatta 1 large

Set the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Peel and roughly chop the shallots. Halve, seed and roughly chop the peppers. Put the peppers, shallots and the whole cherry tomatoes snugly in a roasting tin, pour over the 6 tablespoons of olive oil and roast for an hour until all is soft and the skins are blackened here and there.

Toast the pine kernels in a dry, shallow pan till golden, shaking them now and again, so they colour evenly. Cut the beefsteak tomatoes into large pieces, put them in a bowl then tip in the pine kernels. Tear the basil leaves from their stems and add them to the tomatoes together with a little salt and a splash of olive oil.

Slice the ciabatta in half horizontally. Toast the cut sides until golden and lightly crisp, then place on a serving board or plate. Crush the roast vegetables to a rough puree with a fork, or in a blender or food processor, and spread generously over the toasted bread. Pile the chopped tomatoes and basil on the toast, cut each piece into four slices and serve.

Cherry jelly

Cherry jelly. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

Jelly and cream was one of the most looked-forward-to desserts of my childhood, albeit orange jelly from a packet and tinned cream. Dont even think of juicing your own cherries for the recipe that follows. Better I think is to find a brand of bottled cherry juice without added sugar. (Health food stores are a good hunting ground.) I like a soft, barely set jelly that glows in the glass and shimmers on the spoon rather than one you can set in a mould and turn out. Put a spoonful of the cherry cream on top of the jelly and dig deep for a little of both the sweet, orange-scented cream and sour garnet red jelly.

Enough for 6 large wine glasses or 12 small ones
gelatine 7 sheets
cherries 200g
cherry juice 1 litre

For the cream
cherries 150g
caster sugar 3 tbsp
orange finely grated zest of 1 small
double cream 250ml

Place the gelatine in a bowl of cold water and leave for a few minutes to soften. Halve and stone the 250g of cherries for the jelly and divide them between your glasses.

Warm 250ml of the cherry juice in a small pan without letting it boil. Lift the softened gelatine from the water and stir into the warmed cherry juice. When the gelatine has dissolved, stir in the remaining juice and pour into the wine glasses. Place in the fridge and leave for five hours or until lightly set.

Make the cherry cream. Shortly before serving the jellies, halve and stone the 150g of cherries. Put the sugar and orange zest into the bowl of a food processor, and process briefly until the sugar has turned a pale lemon colour.

Pour the cream into a chilled bowl and whisk until it will sit in soft folds (stop before it is stiff enough to stand in peaks). Fold the cherries and most of the orange sugar into the whipped cream. Do this lightly, without further whipping the cream.

Serve the cherry cream with the jellies. I like to pile a spoonful of cream on each jelly at the table and a sprinkling of the remaining sugar over the top.

The Guardian and Observer aim to publish recipes for sustainable fish. For ratings in your region, check: UK; Australia; US

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Launching from YC, Eclipse Foods casts a long shadow over the $336 billion dairy industry

Eclipse Foods may be the company that finally takes milk out of the dairy business.

Ever since the acquisition of WhiteWave Foods by the French dairy giant Danone for more than $10 billion, investors have been thirsting for a technology that would give consumers a better tasting, more milky (for lack of a better word) milk substitute than the highly valuable (but not very tasty) almond, soy and other plant-based dairy alternatives.

There are at least $37.5 billion worth of other reasons for investors’ interest in the milk-alternative category. That’s how much money will be spent on dairy alternatives by 2025, according to a newly released study by the market research firm Global Market Insights.

Enter Eclipse Foods. Founded by two veterans of the alternative sugars and proteins business, the company is going after the whole dairy industry, starting with a line of spreads and select additives for restaurants around San Francisco.

“We had an ‘oh shit’ moment when we got our plant-based milk to act just like the real thing,” says Thomas Bowman, Eclipse Foods co-founder and the former director of product development at Hampton Creek (now known as Just Foods). “We’re not pureeing nuts or seeds or legumes. We asked, ‘What are the properties of milk?’ and built this dairy base of the exact amino acids and fat profile.”

Thomas Bowman in the kitchen (Courtesy Eclipse Foods)

Joining Bowman on the journey to create the perfect milk substitute is Aylon Steinhart, a former specialist working with the Y Combinator -aligned food technology incubator and think tank, the Good Food Institute.

The two men met at the launch event for Just Egg, the fourth product to debut from Just Egg after the release of the company’s mayonnaise alternative, cookie dough and porridge.

“We started talking about ideas and landed on this dairy platform,” recalls Steinhart. “It’s a place where we can make a big change very fast given the technological breakthroughs that we solved for early on.”

The demand is certainly coming on strong. According to Steinhart about 80 percent of millennials are consuming dairy replacements at least once a week.

Aylon Steinhart (Courtesy Eclipse Foods)

Humans didn’t start out drinking milk. Over the 300,000-odd years that some form of homo sapiens has been stalking the planet, it has only been in the past 10,000-odd years that people decided to squirt the liquid out of a cow’s udders to consume it.

At first, humans couldn’t even consume the stuff without getting at least a little nauseous. They needed to develop a genetic mutation to even process the lactose sugars properly.

“The first time that we see the lactase persistence allele in Europe arising is around 5,000 years BP [before present] in southern Europe, and then it starts to kick in in central Europe around 3,000 years ago,” assistant professor Laure Ségurel of the Museum of Humankind in Paris, told the BBC earlier this year.

Ségurel speculates that the health benefits of consuming milk might have been related to the exposure (and potential inoculation) to various diseases that may have otherwise spread from the animals to the humans that were raising them.

If that was the rationale, it’s increasingly unnecessary for modern living, and may indeed be more of a hazard to human health.

Global meat and dairy producers could count among the largest contributors to climate change if their growth remains unchecked, according to a report from the nonprofit Grain.

They estimate that meat and dairy consumption should be reduced by 81 percent in order to meet global emissions reduction targets.

With the production of Eclipse’s dairy alternative, there’s no animal required.

“We have an off-the-shelf platform right now. The only additive will be water,” says Bowman.

And unlike other alternative dairy products, Bowman and Steinhart claim that theirs actually tastes good. And, as a Michelin-starred chef, Bowman should know.

The company’s first line of products will be a line of cream cheeses, including one for the bagel and schmear-loving crowd. However, the majority will be more millennial-focused, according to Steinhart.

“There will be various unique flavors that are culinarily focused,” he said.

Expect the first products to debut in an exclusive pilot with Wise Sons and through the ice cream maker Humphry Slocombe, a leader in high-end ice cream in SF.

However companies decide to label their Eclipse-based products, they certainly shouldn’t call them vegan, according to Bowman.

“Vegan cheese is gross,” he says.

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Baked cod, miso and bok choy: unpacking Japan’s healthy school lunches

Japans state-run kyushoku system combines flavour with fresh ingredients and high nutritional value at low cost

The list of dishes reads like a health-conscious menu at an upmarket cafe: mackerel cooked in miso, a light salad of daikon radish and sour plum, thinly sliced pickled vegetables and a selection of fresh fruit. But the restaurant is actually a classroom at Konan primary school in central Japan, where the pupils need only the gentlest encouragement to eat their greens.

When the Guardian visited the school in the Pacific coastal city of Fukuroi, the classroom, momentarily transformed into a lunchtime cafeteria, reverberated to a chorus of Itadakimasu a polite Japanese term for lets eat.

On the menu today is baked cod, sauted sweet corn and bok choy, minestrone soup, a small carton of milk and, as a Friday treat, a slightly less wholesome combination of white bread with a soy-based chocolate cream a challenge to spread evenly on the bread with chopsticks.

The portions are modest, but then so is the total calorie count 667 kcal for a meal that will sustain the 11-year-old children until they get home.

Something different every day

Konan is not the only school in Japan producing a range of lunches or kyushoku that combine flavour with fresh ingredients and contain levels of iron, calcium and fibre stipulated by a government-run programme for children attending kindergarten through to the end of junior high school.

The kyushoku system was introduced in the 1950s to ensure that children did not have experience the dietary privations of the immediate postwar years. More than seven decades on, the programme is credited with contributing to Japans impressive life expectancy, and child and adult obesity levels that are among the lowest in the OECD group of nations.

Lunch served to 11-year-olds at Konan primary school: bok choy and sauted sweet corn, baked cod, minestrone soup, milk, white bread and soy-based chocolate spread. Photograph: Justin McCurry/The Guardian

Local officials refer to their school meals as the healthiest in a country with one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. It is no empty boast: last year Fukuroi won a World Health Organization best practice award for promoting healthy dietary habits among schoolchildren, with the help of local producers.

The citys school lunch centres prepare and send out more than 10,000 lunches to kindergartens, primary and junior high schools every day. Most of the meals are inspired by Japanese cuisine, with the occasional inclusion of Chinese, Korean and European dishes. Parents pay 250 (1.70) a meal, about half of what they cost to make, with the local government contributing the rest.

We devise the monthly menu so that there is something different every day, says Koji Ishizuka, the manager of the school lunch division at the citys board of education. And each month differs depending on whats in season.

In 2005, the government took its school lunch programme a step further by requiring school boards to educate children about the provenance and composition of their lunches.

As the children at Konan tuck into lunch, Mihoko Kobayashi, one of two nutrition educators in Fukuroi, tells them where the bok choy they are eating was grown and why, despite clear reservations among some pupils, they should eat every last morsel.

Please remember that a lot of people were involved in preparing your lunch, she says. Especially when you come across a vegetable you think you wont like.

The joy of no choice

The bok choy converts have Toshiyuki Suzuki to thank for a portion of their lunch. The local farmer sends 4 tonnes of the leafy vegetable to Fukuroi schools every year. Freshness is absolutely essential, he says. The vegetables I sell commercially have to go through a distribution system, but I sell directly to schools, so the vegetables the kids are eating are the freshest around.

Working closely with the citys board of education, Suzuki and other farmers in the area have helped push the proportion of locally grown vegetables in school meals from just over 13 % in 2012 to almost 32% last year.

Children generally acquire their long-term eating habits by the time theyre 10, so thats why we think school lunches are so important, says Ishizuka. The results of regular health checks on the children are generally good, and we believe school lunches have something to do with that.

Since its inception, the kyushoku programme has been taken up by almost all primary schools and about 80% of junior high schools, according to education officials.

Ingredients in school meals are locally grown Photograph: Brown/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

Dr Atsushi Miyawaki, a health policy specialist at Tokyo Universitys graduate school of medicine, says removing choice from the menu and banning packed lunches are the most remarkable features of the programme.

It offers a uniform menu to all children in each school five days a week, unlike the cafeteria-style school lunches often found in the US and UK, Miyawaki says. That means the children have no choice regarding menu items, or whether to eat school lunch or bring it from home.

That helps avoid an imbalance in nutritional intakes. And the lack of choice can help hide disparities in the childrens socioeconomic background that may be evident in packed lunches.

The lunch break is coming to an end for year 5, class 3. There is not a single leftover vegetable or cod flake to be seen, supporting staff claims that the children eat 95% of the food theyre given. A quick survey of the Guardians dining companions reveals, unsurprisingly, that the bread with chocolate spread is a big hit.

The lunch monitors load trays of empty plates on to trolleys and wheel them to the kitchen while their classmates file out to complete the final task of their days food education: brushing their teeth.

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What happens to your body when you eat spicy food?

Let the bloggers blog.
Image: Enrique Das / 7Cera / Getty Images

Every so often, someone will act very angry online because a recipe they clicked on has “too much text.” They wanted to make mushroom ravioli, but instead had to scroll through a bunch of words about what mushroom ravioli means to a blogger’s family. Boring!

It’s true that many (if not most) food bloggers write long narratives preceding their recipes. Sometimes, they explain how they developed the recipe. Other times, they share why they chose to post this particular food, or explain the modifications they’ve made to accommodate family members with dietary restrictions. They might share a story about the dish providing them comfort in a difficult time, or how cooking the dish with a loved one healed a broken relationship. Food is personal, after all; it comes with stories. 

So why do so many people rush to mock them?

Cadry Nelson, a food blogger who runs the vegan website Cadry’s Kitchen, includes narratives with her recipes regularly. (She’s also written an essay about recipe narratives.) This is partially because she wanted to document her transition to veganism, the context in which she developed much of her work. In doing so, she’d create a reference point for readers curious about going vegan themselves.

“I was trying a lot of produce I’d never had before, as well as re-creating old familiar flavors but without meat, dairy, and eggs,” she explained in an interview. “I didn’t have many other friends who were vegan at that point.”

Sharing this information doesn’t just benefit her readers, either. It also helps her secure a place in the saturated food blog realm. “Through these posts, I’ve gotten to know bloggers’ flavor preferences too,” Nelson said. By sharing stories on blogs, people get to know the types of foods [and] flavors that specific recipe creators enjoy. You figure out who is a good match for your own palate.”

So why do people have such an issue with people writing about their own food? It seems to come down to convenience. Generally, perturbed readers complain that it takes too long for them to scroll down to the recipe itself.

Historian Kevin Kruse, for example, tweeted his disdain for recipe narratives last weekend: “Hey, cooking websites?” he wrote. “I don’t really need a thousand words about how you discovered the recipe or the feelings it evoked for you … I’m trying to feed my family. No need to curate the experience for me.”

“GIMME THE RECIPE HON MY SCROLL FINGER HURTS,” tweeted Chelsea Peretti last November.

Admittedly, it is irritating when anything is difficult to find on the internet, especially when we’ve come to expect an easy-as-pie user experience from every app and every website. It can feel like a slog to scroll through paragraphs of text when all you want is a list of ingredients.

But the thing to interrogate here isn’t necessarily whether blocks of text are annoying — it’s why people think these particular blocks of text don’t deserve to exist.

Nelson thinks there’s an element of sexism to the critiques she sees about recipe writing. Home cooking is still a deeply gendered pursuit, and writers whose work centers on home cooking are still perceived as less professional, less valuable, and less worthy voices.  “The feeling seems to be that they don’t think these writers have something of value to offer,” Nelson said.

There’s been high-profile backlash to the backlash against recipe narratives. After Kruse’s tweet, Smitten Kitchen creator Deb Perelman tweeted a thread on the matter, encouraging recipe writers to “write as long and as in-depth as your heart desires about recipes and anything else they drum up in your mind and ignore anyone who says you shouldn’t.”

Like Nelson, she also called out detractors’ casual sexism. “Congratulations, you’ve found a new, not particularly original, way to say ‘shut up and cook,'” she tweeted. “I just don’t see don’t see the same pushback when male chefs write about their wild days or basically anything. Do you?”

“I wish more people who cooked got to tell their stories,” she added.

There’s also a more technical element at play where recipe narratives are concerned: search engine optimization (SEO). Recipe bloggers want to catch the attention of the illusive Google algorithm —  and, ideally, land their recipe on the coveted first page — so they must demonstrate “authority” in their field. This means more comprehensive content, which is really hard to pull off with a concise recipe alone. (Tons of people will be using the phrase “apple crumble,” for example, but only you can write your own story about it.)

“When I’m writing, I try to tell a story that has a hook as well as please[s] the Google algorithm,” Nelson said. “I do keyword research … I see what kinds of questions people have around the topic, and look for ways to anticipate their problems, and answer their questions, so that they will have a successful cooking experience. Lately, I’ve been adding more step-by-step pictures of how to make dishes, as well as videos, because Google says that readers want that.”

‘I wish more people who cooked got to tell their stories.’

Even though she’s noticed people criticizing lengthy posts, Nelson maintains that writing a lot — authoritatively, of course — is what’s going to get eyes on her recipes. “People say they want shorter posts, but Google values information,” she said. “It’s hard to give information without using some words along the way.”

SEO and marketing experts agree that Nelson’s approach is a smart one, especially in such a saturated landscape. “Because a recipe usually consists of a listing of ingredients and steps, it’s often very difficult for a search engine to discern what this article is trying to convey,” Pete Herrnreiter, who is the VP of digital strategy at The Motion Agency, explained via email. “By developing a richer upfront with background on the dish … it [helps to] define the post.”

Content strategist Abby Sanders, who works for Von Mack Agency, also emphasized the advantages of differentiating one’s recipe from the pack. “These days, search engines are pretty effective at determining whether a page can serve as an ‘expert source’ on a specific query,” she said. “So any additional content that includes certain keywords, as long as it’s coherent and well-written, will improve that page’s ranking.”

As a caveat, Sanders mentioned, there are “plenty of other factors that play a role in rankings, such as domain authority, links to that page, and the list goes on. But from a sheer content standpoint, it does make good sense for a food blogger to write some extra, interesting copy around their subject.”

So, fine. Finding a list of chili ingredients would be easier if we didn’t have to scroll. But recipe bloggers are writers, and they have stories to share that are poignant, funny, and valuable — even if you (and I) don’t love every single one you read. And if you really don’t like the narratives? There are plenty of places for you to find story-free recipes online, though you might have to pay for a subscription to see some of them. Also, cookbooks exist.

“My food blog is my own. It’s my creative space. I spend a lot of time testing the recipes, taking photographs, making videos, and writing my stories,” Nelson said. “If people aren’t interested in any aspect, so be it.”

“My blog is Cadry’s Kitchen. It’s literally the place where I cook,” she added. “I don’t know why I would write myself out of it.”

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Asian food delivery startup Chowbus raises $4M

When one food delivery startup fails, another gets funded.

Chowbus, an Asian food ordering platform headquartered in Chicago, has brought in a $4 million “seed” funding led by Greycroft Partners and FJ Labs, with participation from Hyde Park Angels and Fika Ventures. The startup, aware of the challenges that plague startups in this space, says offering exclusive access to restaurants and eliminating service fees sets it apart from big-name competitors like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates.

The Chowbus platform focuses on meals rather than restaurants. While scrolling through the mobile app, a user is connected to various independent restaurants depending on what particular dish they’re seeking. Chowbus says only a small portion of the restaurants on its platform, 15 percent, are also available on Grubhub and Uber Eats. 

The app is currently available in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Champaign, Ill. and Lansing, Mich. With the new investment, which brings Chowbus’ total raised to just over $5 million, the startup will launch in up to 20 additional markets. Eventually, Chowbus says it will expand into other cuisines, too, beginning with Mexican and Italian. 

Chowbus was founded in 2016 by chief executive officer Linxin Wen and chief technology officer Suyu Zhang.

“When I first came to the U.S. five years ago, I found most restaurants I really liked [weren’t] on Grubhub nor other major delivery platforms and the delivery fees were quite high,” Wen told TechCrunch. “So I thought, maybe I can build a platform to support these restaurants,”

TechCrunch chatted with Wen and Zhang on Tuesday, the day after Munchery announced it was shutting down its prepared meal delivery business. Naturally, I asked the founders what made them think Chowbus can survive in an already crowded market, dominated by the likes of Uber.

“The central kitchen model doesn’t work; the cost is too high,” Zhang said, referring to Munchery’s business model, which prepared food for its meal service in-house rather than sourcing through local restaurants.

“We don’t own the kitchen or the chef, we just take advantage of the resources and help restaurants make more money,” Wen added. “The food delivery space is really huge and growing so quick.”

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I ate 100 different types of ‘pigs in blankets’ and lived to tell the tale

Gav takes on the sausage world and it proved almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Image: Gav murphy

What’s the best accompaniment to Christmas dinner? Red cabbage? Get out of here. Parsnips? Come on, now. Sprouts? That’s an argument for another day. 

The obvious correct answer is: ‘pigs in blankets’. And I mean proper pigs in blankets which, in the UK, means a sausage wrapped in bacon — none of this pastry nonsense. 

Whoever thought of taking a sausage and giving it a little pork jacket deserves some kind of medal or at least a little mention in a national anthem. There are people in the world who also think like this, which is why they’ve set up the world’s first “pigs in blankets party” in Margate, a seaside town in Kent in the south of England. 

The party features 100 different variations of pigs in blankets including just about every sausage that exists, from foot-longs to cocktails to whole wheels of pork. And all these sausages were covered in bacon combinations you could never have dreamt up. 

A feast fit for a sausage king.

Image: gav murphy

Obviously, I was more than a little excited to take on the challenge of trying every single one. 

The whole thing was conceived by culinary genius and PR creative Emma Thomas and her food PR company Messhead which previously created such magnificent-sounding food shenanigans as ‘Fry Hard’ — a pop-up shop where they’d literally fry anything — and also the less appetizing sounding but equally incredible ‘Human Butchery’ which consisted of various meats arranged to look like human flesh on a body. 

You can experience this for yourself on the 29th of December but I was invited along to have the best dinner for one that has ever existed at the Cinque Ports restaurant right on Margate beach where the party is being held. 

“Shall we start with the two-metre long cumberland with streaky bacon?”

I was greeted by a ham-flavoured daiquiri on arrival by chef Jim Thomlinson who’s worked across the UK in some fancy Michelin Star restaurants but thankfully now he’s doing the Lord’s work with sausages.

“Shall we start with the two-metre long cumberland with streaky bacon?” he asked. 

“Shall we run away and get married, Jim?” I replied. 

The romance with Jim didn’t stop there as he brought out a wooden tray with two different types of pork-wrapped black pudding and an intimidatingly long-looking monster. 

Genuinely couldn’t fit the whole thing in one photo.

Image: Gav Murphy

Jim and Emma presented plate after plate of blankety delight to me —a saveloy (a bright red banger popular with cockneys) wrapped in smoked back bacon, fennel sausage with Parma ham, a venison and red wine banger with a thick bacon coat. 

You know that Kanye West song that goes “Welcome to the Good Life”? I’d bet actual money that he wrote that on a rainy Sunday in Kent whilst stuffing himself with a sausage made of white pudding coated in turkey bacon.

Just when I was thinking there was no way these mad sausage lovers could surprise me any more, up pipes Jim: “How do you feel about stuff that’s been battered?” 

“I feel like that’s something I could get on board with, Jim. I’ll be honest” 

If there’s any food that isn’t better battered, I don’t what to know about it.

Image: gav murphy

Not content with wrapping a bit of bacon around a battered sausage, however, Jim also had the bright idea of deep frying an entire pig in a blanket. We need more forward-thinking individuals like this taking control of our meals, if you ask me. 

I know you’re reading this and thinking “Wow. This man has it ALL right now. The guy is full of pork ‘n’ just loving life”. I’d be thinking the same thing but I’ll tell you what though, trying to work your way through 100 different types of pig in 100 different types of blanket really takes its toll on you around pig number 60. I was trying to take little bites of everything, which was easy when faced with two metres worth of Cumberland (a big ol’ chunky sausage from England), however as the pigs got more and more interesting, the urge not to just scoff the lot down became worryingly hard. 

I assume it is very similar to running a marathon. Sure, those first 10-15 miles are just a breezy little joy but then as you near the finishing line, things get slightly more challenging. 

Quite honestly, I had run flat up against a wall.

Image: Gav murphy

I was experiencing what runners call ‘The Wall’. Except, instead of a bit of a stitch fixed by chomping down some Haribo, I actually had a bit of a job in front of me. Somewhere around blanket number 80, I was really starting to flag. Surely there couldn’t be many more ways of blanketing a bit of sausage?! Then I heard it from the kitchen: “Do you want some lobster?” 

I’d forgotten about lobster, the pig of the sea.

Even the underwater oinks were getting involved.

Image: gav murphy

Now, I don’t make the kind of money that’ll see me turning down lobster at any point and if I can give you one piece of advice it’s that if you’re ever offered lobster, YOU TAKE IT! Particularly when that lobster is wrapped in bacon (unless you’re a  vegetarian, of course). 

The final stretch of pigs in blankets presented itself before me as a host of cheese-wrapped big boys — a Toulouse sausage wrapped in Raclette, a Frankfurter with cheese coursing through its centre, a bit of venison in blue cheese. The home stretch was a decadent bastard, to say the least. 

Then it happened: I reached the final pig in blanket. I was so horribly full of pig and I honestly thought I would feel absolutely disgusting and sick, but actually I was more intrigued to see what mad delight Jim had cooked up for me to finish this party. I ran through all the variations that could possibly be left and kept coming up short. Then I saw it. 

The final boss.

Image: gav murphy

A mince pie. A mince pie wrapped in thick bacon. Although not technically a sausage, I feel like this spin on the classic might’ve been the change I was looking for, because I wolfed down the warm treat without even thinking. 

100 variations of pigs in blankets, done. I’d like to say that I learned something after taking on this challenge, but I’ll be honest I already knew that pigs in blankets were food sent from the Meat Gods and this entire adventure just confirmed it. 

Mince pie wrapped in bacon? Yes please.

Image: gav murphy 

If you’d like to experience the same level of greatness as I experienced that day, then the Cinque Ports in Margate is hosting the second installment of their Sausage Parties on the 29th of December where you can get all the pigs in blankets you can eat for £20 — just in case for some reason you don’t get enough pigs in blankets on Christmas Day. 

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Corporate food catering startup Chewse raises $19 million

Chewse, a food catering and company culture startup, just announced a $19 million fundraising round as it gears up to expand its operations in the Silicon Valley area. This brings Chewse’s total funding to more than $30 million. Chewse’s investors include Foundry Group, 500 Startups and Gingerbread Capital.

Instead of plopping down meals in the office and bouncing, Chewse aims to create a full experience for its customers by offering family-style meals. In order to ensure quality, Chewse employs drivers and meal hosts so that it can provide them with training. Chewse also offers it drivers and meal hosts benefits.

“We initially started with a contractor model but then very quickly started to realize our customers often mentioned the host or the driver in their feedback,” Chewse CEO and co-founder Tracy Lawrence told TechCrunch.

“I know there’s a lot of other companies that are like food tech or logistics but for us, it’s all about elevating and improving company culture,” Lawrence said. “We have technology but we’re investing in it to create an exceptional real-life experience.”

“On the tech side, we’re using a ton of machine learning and algorithms to learn what people like to eat and create custom meal schedules,” Lawrence said.

To date, Chewse has hundreds of customers across three markets. Chewse initially launched in Los Angeles, but paused operations for a little over one year in order to focus on achieving market profitability in San Francisco. Chewse has since relaunched in Los Angeles, in addition to launching in cities like Palo Alto and San Jose. As part of the Silicon Valley launch, Chewse has partnered with restaurants like Smoking Pig, HOM Korean Kitchen and Oren’s Hummus Shop.

Within the next year, the goal is to double the number of markets where Chewse operates. But Chewse faces tough competition in the corporate meal catering space.

Earlier this year, Square acquired Zesty to become part of its food delivery service, Caviar. The aim of the acquisition was to strengthen Caviar’s corporate food ordering business, Caviar for Teams.

At the time, Zesty counted about 150 restaurant customers in San Francisco, which is the only city in which it operates. Some of Zesty’s customers include Snap, Splunk and TechCrunch. Zesty, which first launched in 2013 under a different name, had previously raised $20.7 million in venture funding.

“Zesty is a direct competitor of ours for sure,” Lawrence said. “When we’re thinking about the things that set us apart from Zesty and ZeroCater, the investment in using the technology and building a meal algorithm — which is something we know they’re doing by hand — and then automatically calibrate when we’re getting feedback because we employ our hosts and our drivers. Yes, it’s more expensive for us but because it provides such a superior experience, we retain our customer longer.”

*Zesty has reached out to clarify it, too, has an algorithm at play to determine best foods and meals to serve.

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‘Ick’: rats, roaches and rank smells dampen NYC composting program

Plans to expand program are on hold as gag-inducing pong and vermin are holding back residents, foodies and hipsters from saving food scraps

It was meant to be an ambitious environmental program but efforts at composting in New York are breaking down amid rats, roaches and rank smells.

New Yorkers are relatively good at recycling but an ick factor is holding them back from saving food scraps for reprocessing, the authorities admitted.

In a sweaty city that regularly has back to back humid days in the eighties and nineties Fahrenheit all summer, some householders are recoiling from the scheme in a cloud of fruit flies.

Now plans to expand New Yorks organics collection program are on hold as even eco-minded residents, foodies and hipsters wrestle with the idea of bags of putrid mush sitting on their kitchen counter tops awaiting disposal.

City-issued large brown plastic collection bins that are put out on the sidewalk have special fastening lids to keep out vermin but, full of deteriorating leftovers, still often exude a gag-inducing pong when opened.

New York mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a pilot program five years ago, hoping hundreds of thousands of tons of this food-loving citys leftovers and grass mowings would be churning their way through the system, to be turned into alternative energy or fertilizing compost.

But expansion has been put on hold because there is insufficient participation to be cost-effective. The city collected only about 13,000 tons last year and found that the 3.5 million people currently in the voluntary program are only separating 10.6% percent of their potential scraps.

Honestly, I think its a complete waste of time, says Anselmo Ariza, who maintains the trash and recycling bins for several blocks of apartment buildings in Brooklyn. Some people use them, but most of them just put trash and plastic bags in there.
Marzena Golonka complained that the citys weekly pickup at her apartment building in Brooklyn is not frequent enough to keep the stink and rats away.

Its vile, she says. Until sanitation starts doing their job effectively, Im not going to have a brown bin.

De Blasios goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030 depends on residents and businesses separating their organic waste, which currently makes up a third of the trash that ends up in landfills and is a major producer of greenhouse gases.

The city is still committed to expanding the program to all 8.5 million New York City residents, but right now is focused on making the system more efficient, sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.

We are having to overcome the ick factor, Garcia said.

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Not hog dog? PixFood lets you shoot and identify food

What happens when you add AI to food? Surprisingly, you don’t get a hungry robot. Instead you get something like PixFood. PixFood lets you take pictures of food, identify available ingredients, and, at this stage, find out recipes you can make from your larder.

It is privately funded.

“There are tons of recipe apps out there, but all they give you is, well, recipes,” said Tonnesson. “On the other hand, PixFood has the ability to help users get the right recipe for them at that particular moment. There are apps that cover some of the mentioned, but it’s still an exhausting process – since you have to fill in a 50-question quiz so it can understand what you like.”

They launched in August and currently have 3,000 monthly active users from 10,000 downloads. They’re working on perfecting the system for their first users.

“PixFood is AI-driven food app with advanced photo recognition. The user experience is quite simple: it all starts with users taking a photo of any ingredient they would like to cook with, in the kitchen or in the supermarket,” said Tonnesson. “Why did we do it like this? Because it’s personalized. After you take a photo, the app instantly sends you tailored recipe suggestions! At first, they are more or le

ss the same for everyone, but as you continue using it, it starts to learn what you precisely like, by connecting patterns and taking into consideration different behaviors.”

In my rudimentary tests the AI worked acceptably well and did not encourage me to eat a monkey. While the app begs the obvious question – why not just type in “corn?” – it’s an interesting use of vision technology that is definitely a step in the right direction.

Tonnesson expects the AI to start connecting you with other players in the food space, allowing you to order corn (but not a monkey) from a number of providers.

“Users should also expect partnerships with restaurants, grocery, meal-kit, and other food delivery services will be part of the future experiences,” he said.

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