Thinly sliced: The beginning of the end of kale

This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.

Straight jackets. Have you ever eaten at an establishment that had special dress codes (jackets for gentlemen, no open-toed shoes, etc?) It’s a throwback to an earlier era of fine dining, where a certain elegance was always expected among a restaurant’s clientele. The tradition persists in high-income cities like San Francisco and NYC, Soleil Ho writes at The San Francisco Chronicle, but has not caught up with evolving gender norms. “When certain items are recommended or required for ‘gentlemen’ and ‘ladies,’ what do you wear when you straddle the line—when you’re a masculine-of-center nonbinary person or a trans person who struggles with passing as your gender?” asks Ho. A fair question.

Kale-ing me softly. If we accept Google Search data as a reliable cultural thermometer, then it appears kale is no longer king of the leafy green aisle. Ever since it peaked in search interest in 2014 (tying with spinach), kale has seen a gradual decline in internet popularity. Though it continues to see a spike in searches every January—arguably in conjunction with New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier—it’s no longer pulling the numbers it used to. Could it really be that, as a country, we’re done pretending to enjoy kale’s tough texture and bitter flavor? Amanda Mull makes the case in The Atlantic.

RAD makes you sad. Looks like your autumnal apple-picking series on Instagram may be at risk. Apple growers in North Carolina and Pennsylvania are facing a mysterious threat that has been killing their trees. Researchers call it Rapid Apple Decline or RAD, and they have yet to determine its cause. According to Kari Peters, associate research professor at Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center, soil pathogens, viruses and rodents are not to blame. The problem could be linked to the fast-paced way in which apples are grown, according to The Allegheny Front.

Go big or go home. That’s the message coming out of the White House today, as Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visits the World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. The state has lost 551 dairy farms so far in 2019 and lost 638 in 2018, the Associated Press reports. Many of those have been small-scale family farms, and Perdue seemed to suggest saving them is not the administration’s top priority: “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” The pronouncement, though perhaps unsurprising, is striking, as the Trump administration has long positioned itself as farmer-friendly. Today, it just seems big farmer-friendly.

Seeing red. News flash: Red meat isn’t bad for you after all, according to a new set of analyses published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that recommend “adults continue current processed meat consumption.” NPR reports that many in the nutrition community are up in arms about the findings, and researchers at Harvard and other institutions even requested that the journal postpone publication until they undergo further review. Why the sudden challenge to conventional wisdom? Allison Aubrey writes that the new study uses a different approach to evaluate the available evidence. The new approach, which is borrowed from drug trials, rates observational studies—which comprise most of the available nutrition research—as less reliable than controlled studies. Different math, different results.

The Counter Stories by our editors.