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Niche Blogs: What Kids Eat

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Chicken nuggets and pizza, right? That's what kids would eat if we let them decide for themselves, but we're concerned about raising the quality, and sometimes regulating the quantity, of children's nutrition. And of course, that leads to blogs that impress us one way or another.

Nine-year-old Martha Payne posts pictures of her meals at NeverSeconds, a school lunch blog that's caused a stir in England. The blog was only started last month, so it doesn't have a lot of posts yet. What the Sun doesn't know (they discovered LOLcats just this month) is that there are quite a few blogs dedicated to school lunches.

Sarah Wu started an interesting project in January of 2010. The public school teacher decided to eat a cafeteria lunch at school every day for a year and document her thoughts and post photographs, to raise awareness about the poor quality of school lunches in the U.S. It's all in the blog Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project and the book she wrote about it. After 2010, she continued blogging about various subjects related to school lunches and nutrition, with an occasional lunch post.

In contrast to the dissatisfaction of school lunch, Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything, has a blog that posts school menus from France. At French schools, there is no "kids' food," but school menus that adults would appreciate. Could they be as good as they sound?

If this picture is any indication, the answer is yes! It's from the blog What's For School Lunch? which brings us photographs of school lunches from around the world. The first page is heavy on Japanese lunches right now, but if you look through the archives, you'll find examples, both found and submitted, from nations all over the world. From what I gather, school lunches look delicious but skimpy in Africa and India, an adventure in Asia, sad in the former Soviet bloc countries, and vary widely in the U.S. and U.K. ...and a French school lunch is to die for.

Japanese School Lunches is by a student who has documented lunches for a couple of years now, with pictures and menu, but no commentary. Most look yummy if you like Japanese food, and the dishes are quite nice, too!

The Lunch Tray by Bettina Elias Siegel is about kids' food in general, but you know that includes a lot about school lunches -not necessarily documenting them, but information and advocacy about the school lunch program in the U.S. Siegel also has recipes, stories, and information about getting kids to eat right.

Blog for Family Dinner is a collaborative blog that invites your input. Recent posts cover recipes, policy, and meal planning, but what interested me was the personal stories of what a family dinner means, and how different they can be around the world and in other times. Dietician Natalia Stasenko wrote about the difficulties her family had eating in Russia 30 years ago, and how different her family life is now. It is only one of many thoughtful posts on family dining.

So maybe you want to pack your child's lunch? You can make it not only nutritious and delicious, but fun to look at! Anna the Red runs one of the premier bento blogs, as she is an artist with a lunchbox. A recent entry shows lunch in tribute to author Maurice Sendak. But there are plenty of bento box blogs, like Just Bento, What's for Lunch at Our House, Happy Little Bento, Lunch in a Box, My Meal Box, Leggo My Obento, and you'll find more at the Bento Blog Network.

One thing kids will eat is pancakes. But if you have a stubborn child, pancakes are easily made into artworks that will entice them! There are several pancake art blogs. The taco meal shown above is completely made of pancakes. It's from Michael Goudeau’s Pancake Project, which seems to have been discontinued since he published a book, but there are plenty of artful pancakes in the archives.

Jim's Pancakes appears to have gone the same way, ceasing publication when his book came out. Jim creates wonderful pancake sculptures inspired by his children, Allison and Ryan. One of the last posted was this all-pancake Star Wars At-At.

The latest pancake blog sensation is Saipancakes, by Nathan Shields, a stay-at-home-dad on leave from teaching math. His pancake creations show his interest in science (as well as everything else) as he pours pancakes in theme groups. A recent post has a video tutorial on how he does it.

Once again, I confronted a long list of interesting blogs to tell you about and got distracted when I explored more from the same genre. There will be a list of niche blogs on a variety of subjects to check out soon. See previous posts in this series also.

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Big Questions
Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Food
Here's the Butterball Hotline's Most Frequently Asked Turkey Question
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If you’re preparing to conquer a whole turkey for the first time this Thanksgiving, you may have some questions. Like, is bigger really better? How long should the turkey rest? And is dunking the bird in a deep-fryer a bad idea? But if data from the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is any indication, the first and most important question you have concerns defrosting. As Fox News reports, how to properly thaw a turkey is the hotline's most frequently asked question—and has been for some time.

Dial the Butterball experts in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and they’ll likely tell you that there are two ways to handle a frozen turkey. The first is to unwrap it, place it on a tray, breast-side up, and leave it to sit in the refrigerator for a few days. The rule of thumb is to allow one day for every four pounds of turkey you’re thawing. So if you have an eight-pound bird, begin the defrosting process two days before Thanksgiving; if it’s 16 pounds, you need to let it thaw for four days.

Don’t panic if you’re reading this Wednesday night. There’s a quicker method for home cooks who prefer to wait until the last minute to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Empty and clean the sink in your kitchen and fill it with cold water. With the plastic wrapping still on, submerge the turkey in the bath, breast-side down, and leave it alone. After 30 minutes, change out the water and flip the turkey so that it’s breast-side up. Repeat the process until the meat has fully thawed, which should take half an hour per pound. (So if you’re willing to stay up the night before, you can have a frozen turkey oven-ready by Thanksgiving morning.)

Have more burning questions about your dinner’s starring dish? You can call or text Butterball for guidance between now and December 24 (for those Christmas Eve questions). For additional turkey-cooking expertise, check out our list of tips from real chefs.

[h/t Fox News]

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