Thinly sliced: What’s the deal with chicken sandwiches all of a sudden?

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.

UPDATE: This week we reported that Randy Constant, owner of a massive Iowa grain brokerage, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the biggest organic fraud case in U.S. history. Shortly after our story published, the Associated Press reported that Constant was found dead in a vehicle in his garage, an apparent suicide by carbon monoxide.

Make a wish. You’ve heard tale of prisoners crafting burritos and casseroles and ramen from their commissary purchases. But birthday cakes? They finally get their due in The Post and Courier. One former inmate shares his jailhouse recipe, and it involves graham crackers, cream cheese boiled in the microwave in Kool-Aid, and bananas and canned peaches. Then it’s chilled in a trash can for an afternoon. All that’s missing is candles and icing.

Clouds ahead. A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the UN climate committee that told you not to raise the earth’s temperature by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius—finds the planet is headed towards a 1930s-style Dust Bowl situation. As the globe warms, water will disappear, which will cause irrigated farmland to become dessicated. And when the soil degrades, it releases more greenhouse gasses into the air. It’s a vicious cycle, and Popular Science offers some solutions. Robots are involved.

I can’t believe it’s not water. A third of the fat. A quarter of the calories. All the mouthfeel. That’s the promise of a new emulsified form of “butter” developed by researchers at Cornell University. Using a technology called “high-internal phase emulsions,” scientists created a low-fat butter-water spread that still works on toast. Sounds a little too good to be true? Maybe. At least it’s not Olestra.

Hot takes on takeout. Even people who don’t work in food media or live inside Twitter have been asking us: What’s the deal with chicken sandwiches all of a sudden? All we can say is, whoever does PR for Popeye’s better be sleeping on a mattress full of cash, because they’re hustling hard right now. Bloomberg offers high-minded analysis presaged by the chain’s new chicken sandwich, and here is an essay in The New Yorker that gamely takes the whole phenomenon seriously.

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