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food

Two women enjoy a tasty early dinner.

Eating an early dinner has always been a stereotype associated with older, retired people who don't have to worry about work schedules and traffic. Plus, older people tend to have an early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule and are more concerned about thoroughly digesting their meals before hitting the hay.

But an unexpected change in the great American culture means that older people and Gen Zers are more likely to fight each other for a 5 p.m. reservation at their local diner. A recent story in The Wall Street Journal shows that an increasing number of Americans are going out to dinner earlier.


According to Yelp data cited by the WSJ, restaurants currently seat 10% of diners between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. That number has doubled since 2019 when only 5% of people went to restaurants between those hours. People are also taking Ubers to dinner earlier these days, with a 10% jump in rides between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. and a 9% drop in those after 8 p.m.

The trend has also caught on in New York City, which, at one time, was known for being a city that never sleeps. RESY reports that reservations across New York City made at 5:30 p.m. have jumped from 7.75% to 8.31% over the past two years, while 8 p.m. reservations have fallen to 7.8%, down from 8.31%.

So what has happened? Have Americans been so run down by the last few years that they’re now acting like their grandparents? Is it more important to binge TV before bedtime than burn the midnight oil with friends? The Robb Report attributes the change to hybrid work. These days 34% of people work from home most of the time, so they can leave the house a lot earlier than before. Plus, when you’re cooped up in your house all day it’s nice to get out and enjoy a bite to eat as soon as possible.

Broadway has adapted to the new trend by scheduling its performances earlier in the day. Movie theaters accommodate the new early-bird lifestyle by adding more early screenings and canceling those that run late at night.

eating early dinner, American habits, Amer

A group of friends enjoying an early dinner

via Alex Haney/Unsplash

Devorah Lev-Tov from RESY New York applauds the change. “A few years ago, we would’ve joked about dining with all the old folks or being condemned to screaming children. Yet now, 5 or 5:30 p.m. is my preferred time to dine … And I’m not alone,” Lev-Tov writes.

According to research, this new change in the American lifestyle could benefit our collective health.

A study published by Cell Metabolism found that people who eat all their meals within a 10-hour window and finish dinner earlier in the day are less hungry, burn calories faster and have a lower risk for obesity.

This rapid change in America’s dining habits shows how sometimes the things we think are deeply embedded in our culture can easily change overnight. The next question is, will brunch still be brunch when people begin eating it at 7:30 a.m.? Because then it’s just breakfast, and drinking champagne for breakfast feels uncouth. But then again, that could change, too.


This article originally appeared on 7.4.23

Pop Culture

Guy gives an Asian spin on classic American foods, and the results are truly delectable

From matcha Twinkies to pork bun Happy Meals, Frankie Gaw's creations are a delicious way to bridge a gap between cultures.

Polina Tankilevitch/Pexels, Larry D. moore/Wikipedia

Imagine: Scallion pancake french fires and mochi Twinkies. Mouth watering yet?

We know that food and identity are intricately linked. And when we shame a person’s food choices—especially when the dish is representative of their culture—we are also shaming the individual’s heritage.

Asian-Americans in particular have been on the receiving end of this type of discrimination. It’s such a universal childhood experience that the term “lunchbox moment” was coined to describe having their school lunches being ridiculed.

Fortunately, society is evolving. Diversity, inclusion and blending culture is becoming more the norm. And food, like every art form, follows suit. Hence, delectable fusions that not only delight the taste buds, but cook up a more curious and compassionate world.


Which brings us to Taiwanese-American designer turned food writer and photographer Frankie Gaw.

On his website, Gaw claims he’s “not a chef by any means,” but just one scroll through his blog, titled “Little Fat Boy,” will have you thinking differently.Gaw’s recipes are heavily inspired by the meals prepared to him in childhood by his grandmother, who makes several guest appearances during his videos.

“My hope…is to capture the melting pot of food experiences that I love through recipes, videos, pop-up events, and more. I just want it to feel like you’re eating in my grandma’s kitchen and getting the best kind of fat with 10-year-old plump me with a bunch of steamed buns stuffed in your face, coupled with a little slice of Midwestern suburban goodness,” he says.

That intention certainly comes across with his “American Classics turned Taiwanese” series, where everything from Twinkies to Mcdonald’s Happy Meals to good ol’ mac n’ cheese gets an Asian spin.

Did we mention that he even creates his own version of the food packaging? Yeah, he’s extra in the best way.

With each recipe video, Gaw shares moments of his life, like how he would screen his lunch for non-American snacks and throw them away, or pontificate how life might be different if iconic brands capitalized on different flavors from around the world. Like if Campbell's soups introduced congee to “made congee into a pantry staple,” or if Cheerios introduced Asian flavors like sesame and miso.

After seeing his creations, it’s hard not to wonder that too. See more below:

I could eat 7 strawberry match "Twunkies" in one go, easily.

Congee is just like soup, but with more flavor and fillings? Sign me up.

Gaw is right. More cereal flavors, please.

Taiwanese fried chicken + Cheetos = tastebud heaven

Not only is this version of Lunchables way more pleasing to the eye, it would probably be more satisfying for the tummy.

Caramalized onions make everything better. So why not mac-n-cheese.

Hoping to explore some of Gaw’s recipes yourself? Gaw recently came out with a cookbook, titled “First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home,” which is filled not only with unique, scrumptious meal ideas, but deeply personal stories from his childhood, giving viewers a real opportunity to be transported to new places. And all through food! What’s not to like?

Internet

Food stylist reveals her best tricks for getting mouthwatering photos

From smooth, delicious ice cream to Instagram-worthy eggs, Diana Jeffra dishes on all the secrets behind food photography.

Representative Images from Canva

Who knew there was so much craft behind a photo of a milkshake?

Has this ever happened to you? You’re minding your own business, when suddenly an ad for food pops up. A perfectly stacked burger with nary a sesame seed out of place…fries the color of the sun at summertime…a milkshake so impossibly frothy you don’t know whether to sip it or slather it on your body…you had only eaten lunch an hour ago, but now, as if by magic, you’re starving again.

Of course, when you finally do make it through the fast food window, your order looks nothing like that dreamy photograph. Many of us know that this expectation-vs-reality moment is because an entire team of creatives work together to create the image that sold you the idea of the food.

In other words, it’s an art form. And if there’s any doubt of that, just watch a food stylist at work.


Food stylist and recipe developer Diana Jeffra has wowed over 18 million people on TikTok with her video of what appears to be delicious cookies n’ cream ice cream, which actually contains no ice cream at all.

In the video, Jeffra explains that the faux ice cream was created to appear in the background of a photo for an ice cream sandwich company. Which in turn meant that the product would have it last a couple of hours without melting.

Though she does use non-food products on occasion to get the look she wants, Jeffra tries to stick to the real deal. So for this recipe, she whips together a combination of frosting and powdered sugar, adding in additional scoops of the latter ingredient until she reaches her desired texture, after which she kneads in Oreo bits.

And voila, smooth, mouthwatering “ice cream.” And it’s still edible, so win win!

@culina_creative How to make fake cookies and cream ice cream for photography. #foodstylingsecrets #foodstylingtipsandtricks #foodstylingvideo #foodphotographyandstyling #foodstylist #foodstylingtips #fakeicecream #foodstylinghacks #foodstylingtiktok ♬ Live Your Beautiful Life - Gray Griggs

Also, an interesting caveat: Jeffra mentioned that this image would not be used on the product’s packaging, and therefore it’s “not considered false advertising.”

She also mentioned that since food stylist can be a hard business to break into, she wanted to give others some helpful tips on the creative side, hence her behind-the-scenes videos which on more than one occasion have been called “fascinating” by viewers.

Take this video for instance, which has 445,000 views, where Jeffra shows how to create perfectly photogenic eggs.

@culina_creative How to food style eggs for food photography. #foodstylingtips #foodstylingvideo #drippyeggs #foodstylingsecrets #foodstylingandphotography #foodstylingtipsandtricks #eggphotography #foodstyling ♬ Souvenir De Paris - Martin Taylor

If Jeffra is creating eggs that will show by themselves—i.e, on a plate next to bacon or pancakes—she drops the whites into a pan with oil, then drops the yolk into the center. But if the eggs are supposed to go on a sandwich, she might place the yoke further on the edge so that it’s visible. She might even use a pipette to give the sandwich that delectable “egg drip.”

“Food styling is all about controlling the food to get it to look a specific way for the camera, “ she says in the clip.

Or this one of a milkshake, which has nearly 2 million views.

“I know it looks delicious, but trust me, it’s not,” she says, revealing that what you see is actually a cup of mashed potatoes in a very glamorous disguise.

@culina_creative Food styling a fake milkshake for food photography. #foodstylingtipsandtricks #foodstylingtips #foodstylingsecrets #milkshake #foodphotographyandstyling #foodstylingandphotography #foodstylist #fakeicecream ♬ Souvenir De Paris - Martin Taylor

Jeffra apparently takes instant mashed potatoes, adds chocolate syrup, and whisks in water until she gets her desired texture (because, again, texture matters with ice cream). She then transfers the mixture to a cup, and tops it with whipped cream, aka “white chocolate pudding mix and cream.”

Once the milkshake is placed on set, Jeffra sprays it with a glycerin-water mixture to “make the cup look cold.” Talk about insider secrets.

And if you’re thinking, “I could get down with some chocolate potatoes,” you’re in good company with folks in the comments section.

Or how about this: ever wondered how they get non-melting ice for fancy drinks? Sure, you can order some pretty uniform ones, but in this video, Jeffra shows how she makes them herself:

Even this simple trick for how to get a perfectly unwrapped candy bar is so so cool:

@culina_creative How to style a candy bar in its packaging with @Kate Grewal #foodstylingandphotography #foodstylingtips #foodstylingtiktok #candyphotoshoot #foodphototips #foodstylist #foodstylinghacks #lifeofafoodstylist ♬ Golden Hour: Piano Version - Andy Morris

Food styling really is a unique blend of art and science. There’s a need for precision and attention to detail, a willingness to think outside the box, probably a healthy dose of perfectionism and of course, a good eye. Kudos to the folks who can do it, even if your work leaves us with some uncontrollable cravings.

By the way, if you’re hoping to get into food styling yourself, Jeffra swore by a book titled "The Food Stylist's Handbook" by Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flannigan in her interview with Good Morning America.

Plus, you can follow Jeffra on TikTok for even more amazing insider tips. Or check out her website: www.culinacreative.com.

Pop Culture

These 10 super-popular and swanky foods from 1924 are still our biggest favorites in 2024

We love baked ham. Our great-great grandparents loved it, too, but theirs had an extra kick.

Jell-O and pineapple upside-down cake.

If someone mentioned Jell-O, deviled eggs, baked ham and Chicken à la King to you and then asked you what era these foods were most popular in, you’d probably guess the '70s.



Turns out you’d be wrong by about half a century. The above foods were among the most popular in the 1920s. That’s right, a whole hundred years ago! When flappers were flapping and people were drinking bathtub gin and ladies were bobbing their hair and drawing lines up the backs of their legs.




Advances in refrigeration, farming, marketing and technology meant that a full century ago, people were eating in a fashion that really isn’t all that different from what we consume today.

But while the foods weren’t that different, the prep was. It’s estimated that in 1920, people spent 44 hours per week on meal preparation and cleanup. Six and a half hours a day!

salad, 1923 salad, mrs. beeton

Ten beautiful salads from 1923.

via Free Public Domain Illustrations by Rawpixel/Wikimedia Commons

Compare that to 2014 when Americans spent an average of just 37 minutes a day (roughly four and a half hours a week) on meal prep. In 2024, one imagines that number has gone down even more given the ubiquity of meal delivery apps.

Read on for some top foods of 1924 compared to 2024.

Here are 10 of the top foods in 1924 that people still love today.

Spinach dip: Popular in speakeasies, this dip made with sour cream, mayonnaise and thawed spinach was affordable, easy to make, and quietly elegant.

Do we eat it today? We do! Fancy people add artichoke.

Inexplicable '70s factor: 5 out of 5 bell bottoms

snacks, pretzels, 20s

Pretzels!

via Couleur/Pixabay

Pretzels: Native to Europe, pretzels were a popular appetizer and bar snack in the 1920s.

Do We Eat Them Today? Yes!

Inexplicable '70s factor: 1 out of 5 feathery Farrah Fawcett hairdos

deviled eggs, mustard, mayonnaise

Deviled eggs

Busra Yaman/Pexels

Deviled eggs: Now a relic of potlucks and the occasional too-hip boutique bar, these eggy treats were hugely popular in 1924 because they were easy to make, customizable, and traveled well.

Do we eat them today? Yes, but they’re certainly less popular than they once were.

Inexplicable 70s factor: 5 out of 5 lava lamps

Clam Chowder: This creamy uber soup has been a staple of American cuisine for over a century.

Do we eat it today? You bet your clamshells we do.

Inexplicable '70s factor: 2 out of 5 sideburns

Baked Ham: in 1924, alcohol would be banned for 9 more years but recipes that called for alcohol were popular, perhaps because of the scarcity. Prohibition-baked ham, which was popular at home and at speakeasies, incorporated whiskey or bourbon.

Do we eat it today? Yes, but it isn’t sought after in the same way it was.

Inexplicable 70s factor: 2 out of 3 Charlie’s Angels


Chicken a la King: Another dish served both at home and at restaurants, Chicken à la King involves a cream sauce over chicken and vegetables. It’s served on top of or alongside rice or pasta. Sometimes sherry or mushrooms are incorporated and sometimes tuna or turkey is used in place of chicken.

Do we eat it today? Occasionally, but it’s hardly on every menu like it once was.

Inexplicable '70s factor: 5 out of 5 disco balls

pineapple upside down cake, cherries, dessert

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Derrick Luciano/ Pixabay

Pineapple upside-down cake: Combining pineapples, cake ingredients, maraschino cherries and gravity, this delectable confection has remained one of America’s most popular desserts.

Do we eat it today? Yes, but it feels kitschy and retro.

Inexplicable '70s factor: 5 out of 5 Watergate scandals

Jell-O: In 1924 you couldn’t swing a watch chain without hitting Jell-O. It was everywhere: on dessert tables, in recipe books put out by Jell-O themselves, and even served with seafood.

Do we eat it today? Yes! And if you’ve ever found yourself at a frat party, you know a whole cottage industry has sprung up around clever ways to combine it with alcohol.

Inexplicable '70s factor: 8 out of 10 shag carpets


Devil’s food cake: In 1924 they deviled eggs, they deviled ham and they also deviled cake. Supposedly more sinfully indulgent (hence the “devil”) than regular chocolate cake because it’s made with chocolate squares instead of cocoa powder, this was a popular dessert.

Do we eat it today? Yes!

Inexplicable 70s factor: 2 out of 5 Macrame plant holders

For comparison, here are the most popular American food dishes in 2024 as determined by YouGov.

10. Corn on the cob

9. Southern Style Fried Chicken

8. Fried Chicken

7. Steak and Baked Potato

6, Cheeseburger

5 Hashbrowns

4. Grilled Cheese

3. Mashed Potato

2. French Fries

1. Hamburger