The Year in Food 2006


A Danish by Any Other Name

When food becomes a political football, the result is almost always unappetizing. No exception to this rule in 2006, when Iran, in a fit of pique against Denmark’s prophet-mocking cartoonists, decided that Danish pastries should be called “Roses of the Prophet Mohammed.”

Back in the States, Congress woke up and smelled the fryer grease. “Freedom fries,” the more patriotic and less despicably Continental version of good ol’ french fries, quietly reverted to their old name in June.—James Norton

Weapons of Mass Indigestion

A chow hall became a battlefield this year when food poisoning struck more than 350 Iraqi policemen in the southern town of Kut. Six food-service workers were arrested, suspected of waging an intestinal insurgency. Meanwhile, on some of Iraq’s largest U.S. military bases, U.S. troops are eating safer (if not healthier) at Halliburton-supplied fast-food restaurants. These front-line Burger Kings (and the like) are crucial components of U.S. military mini-cities, which also boast multiple bus routes, pools, and even mini-golf courses. So while it may be tough to get body armor or helmet liners, a Whopper is just around the corner for America’s brave troops.—James Norton

The Great Massachusetts Fluffernutter War

In a year rife with food-related controversy, the most paradigm-shifting story originated in Boston, Massachusetts. The Hub raged over a proposed ban on Fluffernutters, sandwiches composed of peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff. Outraged that his son had been served one at his Cambridge, Massachusetts, elementary school, State Senator Jarrett T. Barrios introduced legislation in June that would have severely limited the serving of marshmallow spreads in state school-lunch programs. But with state pride swelling and even nutritionists weighing in to defend Marshmallow Fluff as (relatively) harmless, the Barrios amendment went down in a toastily delicious ball of flame later in the month.—James Norton

Nola's Stutter-Step Revival

If 2005 was the Year of Hurricane Katrina, 2006 was the Year of Cleaning Up All the Crap Left Behind by Hurricane Katrina. In New Orleans, this meant dealing with damaged homes and trying to revive a world-class culinary culture. A year after the hurricane hit, 54 percent of the city’s restaurants were still closed, according to the Louisiana Restaurant Association. And although that number is slowly ticking upward, many of the city’s eateries remain closed down. Even as high-profile French Quarter and Uptown restaurants, such as Antoine’s and Commander’s Palace, have reopened, many smaller family places have closed for good. NOLA’s still home to great food, but the long-term vibrancy of the culinary scene remains an open question.—James Norton

Winemakers Feel the Heat

In addition to coastal cities’ being flooded off the map and extreme (meaning bad, not awesome) weather, global warming could have a serious impact on the world’s winemakers. To quote USA Today: “If it gets much hotter, many world-class wine regions, including southern France and the Napa Valley, may be either at or nearing their optimum climates for the varieties now grown there.”

France and California’s loss may be Britain and Oregon’s gain in the short term. But over the next 100 years, if climate trends proceed as expected, “viable grape-growing regions in the world will be reduced by nearly 80 percent.”

Gulp. Drink ‘em while ya got ‘em.—James Norton

Like a Slayer: Madonna's Canned Hunts The international Kabbalah community must have been glowing with pride this year as Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie purchased 1,000 baby shootin’ pheasants to be raised alongside a further 31,000 birds on their 1,200-acre Wiltshire estate.

Although the material girl and her film-maker hubby say they’ve given up shooting, they opened their estate to pheasant-plugging clients who paid up to £10,000 a day. Although 2006 wasn’t the Year of the Canned Hunt, Madonna and hubby managed to bring Dick Cheney’s favorite sport back for another unseemly twirl in the limelight.—James Norton

Katherine Harris and the $2,800 Tab

You gotta hand it to Representative Katherine Harris—when she set out on her failed run for U.S. Senate in Florida, she blew it with verve and style. When she wasn’t saying, “If you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin,” she was wearing bosomy outfits and going horseback riding.

But it was a $2,800 check at D.C. hot-spot Citronelle that may have sunk the campaign. Harris atoned for her meal with defense contractor Mitchell Wade by donating $100 to a Jacksonville church. But that didn’t erase the perception that something more significant than “a beverage and appetizers” went down between the lawmaker and the contractor.—James Norton

The Overweight Outnumber the Underfed

We’re winning the war on hunger: In 2006, the number of overweight adults (1 billion) outstripped the number of people who don’t have enough to eat (800 million). And although out-and-out obesity is largely a problem in rich countries these days, the World Health Organization estimates that by 2010, the developing world will have more than caught up, likely making heart disease, diabetes, and stroke serious issues for overweight people from Tanzania to Terre Haute.

The problem doesn’t end with chunky adults; an estimated 22 million children worldwide are considered obese. The future doesn’t look bright so much as it looks very, very large.—James Norton

The War on Liquids Winds Down Semi-good news! After the initial scare of August’s “liquid explosive” plane plot, the Transportation Security Administration has relaxed its initial restrictions on carrying liquids aboard flights … somewhat. While liquids, jellies, sauces, and everything in between is no longer completely forbidden, you still can’t tote such items on the plane unless they fit within the 3-1-1 guidelines: Liquid “item(s)” must be in three-ounce plastic containers, which all need to fit in a clear, one-quart plastic zip-top bag—one bag per customer. But starve not! Three ounces may not seem like much, but it’s enough to make an in-flight PB&J. Or save yourself the embarrassment of begging for a second pack of pretzels and consider freezing your food. As long as it’s still frozen when you pass through security, you’re in the clear—no three-ounce containers necessary.—Laura Neilson