National / International News
This week, the Federal Reserve ended the quantitative easing program. Author John Lanchester says Anthony Trollope's 19th century novel The Way We Live Now clarifies the current financial situation.
The Day of the Dead is a time when Mexicans remember loved ones with grand floral tributes. But the atmosphere is downbeat in the state of Guerrero, where 43 students are still missing.
Pecan Pumpkin Instant Oatmeal (with "rich pumpkin flavor")
Pumpkin bar baking mix
Pumpkin pancake and waffle mix
Pumpkin cream cheese muffins
Mini ginger pumpkin ice cream mouthfuls
Pumpkin pie mochi ice cream
Pumpkin bread pudding
Pumpkin cornbread croutons
Have we reached peak pumpkin? How does one flavor take over the marketplace?
Kantha Shelke, a food chemist and principal at Corvus Blue, says that one big reason pumpkin has become popular is the cost.
"Pumpkin spice is an affordable pleasure. Anybody can have it. And it takes you back to the holidays and you don't have to travel anywhere," Shelke says. "You can sit at your desk and go anywhere instantly. And I think that is something that no other food can give us today and that it why pumpkin spice is so popular in the western world."
Flavors like pumpkin have become easier for food companies to re-create as well. "We are becoming more adventurous because food companies have done a tremendous job of delivering exactly the same notes. If you closed your eyes you would actually think there was a pumpkin pie baking right next to you. We couldn't do that a few years ago. We can do that today."
What flavor could be the next pumpkin? Shelke says think spicy.
"I think we're going to see more peppers. Because while people get used to this nice pumpkin pie spice flavoring, they now want a small kick to it. That kick can come from peppers. And peppers are growing in leaps and bounds. People like peppers. People think that the capsaicin, the heat in the pepper, is good for them."
This week, guest host Barbara Bogaev sits down for a virtual brunch with Neil Irwin, a senior economics correspondent at the Upshot for the New York Times, and Shannon Bond, a media correspondent for the Financial Times.
This weekend's reading list:
PBS Newshour: From guns to book, 11 midterm ballot measures to watch
The Washington Post: America's top fears: public speaking, heights and bugs
Wall Street Journal: U.S. economy grows at steady clip
More than 30 million U.S. homes lack high-speed internet, and as David Crow from FT finds, that has a big impact on inequality in the country:
The majority of families in some of the US’s poorest cities do not have a broadband connection, according to a Financial Times analysis of official data that shows how the “digital divide” is exacerbating inequality in the world’s biggest economy.
Barack Obama has pledged to close the digital divide, and in 2010 the president unveiled a national broadband plan with the aim of giving “every American affordable access to robust broadband” by 2020.
But the new figures from the Census Bureau, which collected data on internet use at a sub-state level for the first time last year, show how hard it will be to hit that target in the next five years. There are still 31m households in the US without a home or mobile broadband subscription.
Bonnie Robinson Beck from Larchmont, New York, has always wondered why butter cubes are long and skinny in the east, and short and squat in the west. Where do the two sizes meet, and why did this come about?
Until we got this question I had no idea this was a thing. But then I moved to Los Angeles, and it's true: I grew up with long, skinny sticks of butter in the east… and out here they are short and fat…
As we've learned, there is an expert out there for absolutely everything. The University of California Davis used to have a Dairy Research and Information Center. I say "used to have" because it was basically one guy who's now retired. His name is John Bruhn, and I called him up.
He said that the West Coast used to be very far behind in terms of dairy production. In his words, "In the 1960s the West Coast was [deficient] in terms of milk production to make...dairy bi-products like cheeses – and butter in particular. All our milk went to fluid needs. Whole milks, low fat milks and non-fat milks, for example."
Basically there was enough milk to drink, and that was about it. But it changed quickly – in fact, California was on its way to becoming the number one dairy producing state.
However, because the butter industry started so much earlier in the east than it did in the West....
"...the size of the cube you see is a result of newer equipment purchased at the time to package the butter," Bruhn says.
Now, that kind of answers the question, but when you stumble upon the nation's foremost dairy research institution, you've got to go further. So I did some digging deep in the annals of UC Davis's archives, and I found this old research paper written in 1948 by a researcher named Milton E. Parker. Turns out, the reason so many items in the grocery store come in a sealed bag inside of a cardboard carton is because of a guy named Frank Peters. He created that design for a line of crackers called "Uneedas" back in 1889.
It was revolutionary. It kept the crackers fresh and stopped them from breaking.
Like everyone else, the butter industry thought the "Peter's package" idea was great. For a long time, butter had been shipped in wooden tubs and scooped out into cheese cloth dipped in ice water, then handed to customers in a ball – not the most appetizing sell. This new packaging made it clean and more appealing. Plus, customers could tell they were getting the right amount.
Butter was traditionally sold a pound at a time, so they made the box to fit a pound. A restauranteur in New Orleans wrote a letter to his butter supplier, Swift and Company in Hutchinson, Kansas, and asked if he could get ¼ pound sticks. He was a big buyer so they complied, the idea caught on, and that's when the stick as we know it was born.
A lot of people continue to be passionate about butter. In fact, since 2007, Land O' Lakes actually started making both sizes to sell in different parts of the country.
And finally, for the record: The long and skinny sticks of butter are called Elgin, because that's the company that made the machines. The other ones are called "Western Stubbies."
Eric Hesse is a fisherman based in Cape Cod. Here's how he describes his job:
When I started, there were hundreds of boats that would go out especially in the winter chasing codfish. But there aren’t really any codfish left.
They were severely depleted by overfishing and it’s made for kind of a bleak picture. There’s no telling when it’s going to come back. We’ve started to look for alternatives and the dogfish is one of those that’s really hard to ignore since the ocean is full of them.
Dogfish is a good tasting fish but a hard one for us to market. The name isn’t particularly attractive and right now the only market for dogfish is in Europe. In Italy, it’s spinarolo and in Britain and Spain and France, it’s fish and chips…or fish and chips.
It’s great that we have a market. It’s unfortunate that the market we have results in a very low price to the boats here on the order of 15 to 20 cents a pound to the boat. It’s hard to make a go with those prices.
My kids are about to go off to college. And from the time they were about 4 years old, they said 'we’re going to be the best fishermen ever!' They haven’t said that the last few years because they’ve seen that it’s been getting harder and harder and there’s not a lot of excitement or great moments anymore. I think the next generation probably enjoys fishing as much as I did or any other generation did. I think if the dogfish took off and we had domestic markets, there is room for younger people to get involved.
It’s one of the greatest jobs you can have. You can’t beat the view, nobody tells you what to do, and the harder you work, historically, the better you do. It’s a great way to go about making a living when there’s something to catch.
Hear more stories in our Disappearing Jobs series: