Halloween: The Boo-tiful Holiday

By Ana Kinkaid, editor of the culinary magazine CONNECT

Halloween is the holiday that invites the world to enjoy candy and chocolate. Americans alone will buy 90 million pounds of chocolate in just the week before Halloween, generating an annually revenue for candy bar manufacturers of over $2.75 billion!

Yet all is not cavities and sugar highs. Ghosts and goblins have been celebrated (and feared) around the world for centuries, and immigration brought those diverse traditions to America, enriching and broadening our national culture.

In the early days of the country, conservative Puritan New England did not approve of the holiday or any other joyous holiday for that matter. They believed that such days of merriment and fun distracted from the more serious contemplation of the divine.

It was in the South, where the Church of England held sway, that Halloween gained its first foothold in colonial America. Though sometimes denounced as “the Devil’s birthday” by a local pastor, the holiday featured harvest festivals, elaborate dances and balls, playing games, wearing costumes and even a bit of harmless mischief-making.

These practices came from the Anglican and Catholic traditions of England, when on the eve of All Saints’ Day, the churchgoers remembered and celebrated “all the saints.” Within a short time, “all hallow [honor] the Eve” was shortened to “Hallowe’en” by Southern Colonialists.

Southern children enjoyed dressing in costumes and going door-to-door singing prayers or reciting poetry in exchange for treats such as pralines and caramel apples. Inside, adults livened up their evening with forerunners of such legendary beverages as the Chatham Artillery Punch, considered by many as the strongest drink in America.

Spanish colonists in the areas that would later become the American Southwest added Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead to American holiday traditions. Celebrated on October 31, the same date as the Anglican Southern holiday, candy sugar skulls and graveyard imagery became part of the expanding national Halloween traditions along with caramel flans and tamarind flavored drinks.

When over half a million Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s, fleeing the starvation of potato famine, arrived in America they added their Celtic traditions to Halloween. In ancient Ireland, the holiday was known as Samhain and was the largest and most significant holiday of the Celtic year.

The Celts believed that during the last days of October, the ghosts of the dead would try to mingle with the living. The ancient Irish sacrificed animals and displayed scary carved fruits and vegetables to keep the harmful ghosts, spirits and demons away from the living.

Missionaries such as St. Patrick converted the Celts to Christianity and sought to wipe out the “pagan” holiday. Rather than try to obliterate native peoples’ customs and beliefs, the priests simply converted the pagan holiday to Christian celebration: Halloween.

Even the pre-Christian spice cakes were renamed as “soul cakes” and enriched with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and raisins to ‘spice up’ the experience of conversion. Each sweet cake was topped with a cross to remind the diner of its origin.

Celtic revelers often wore masks to confuse hostile angry spirits looking for their living relatives. That tradition carried over to America where today’s masks are modeled on characterized images of envied movie stars and disliked politicians.

Halloween has been largely enhanced by the many immigrants who added their many traditions to America’s culture. Given the enduring benefit of the contributions made by immigrants from pralines to spice cakes, we should say perhaps a grateful, “Thank You!” rather then a hurried (and commercialized) “Trick or Treat.”

ACF Members Serve Up Comfort During Hurricane Relief Efforts

 by Kenya McCullum

Whenever there’s a hurricane, like Hurricane Florence that hit the Carolinas last month, people around the country will see news images of torrential rainfall, bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway as people evacuate to safety, and trees fighting — and often succumbing to — rough winds. But what they usually don’t see is what happens next — what Geoff Blount, ACF Myrtle Beach President, describes as “flooding of Biblical proportions” that is caused when the waters of five rivers all converge and move in their direction.

“People saw the devastation from a hurricane,” he says. “What hit us here was not a hurricane; what hit us here was all the floods from the hurricane that was North of us.”

And people watching the national news also won’t see what Blount did to help those on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach who were in need of meals and comfort. Since the International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach, where Blount teaches baking and pastry arts, was going to be closed, he decided to use the time — and the food delivery that the school received on the same day as the evacuation — to mobilize his students and area chefs to cook meals at ICI’s Conway campus. The meals were then distributed by the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.

International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach student volunteers pitching in to make 600 portions of chicken and rice bog. Photo by Geoff Blount

As soon as he put out a call for help on Facebook, the culinary community was quick to assist. Blount received food donations from several chefs, including ACF member Amy Sins of New Orleans, who is no stranger to the aftermath of hurricanes and the devastation they can cause.

“As someone who went through Katrina — eight feet of water in my house, about 12 in my garage, and a resident of the levee break on the 17th Street canal in New Orleans — I knew what was going to happen in the Carolinas if the flood water rises,” she says. “Food makes people feel better, so you always want to get a hot meal in the hands of someone in need. I’ve learned that during disaster situations, that is not easy. The logistics can be overwhelming. Everything from flooded streets, rising backwaters, relocation of shelters to the lack of running water and electricity.”

Loading meals being flown to North and South Carolina Hurricane Florence survivors. Photo by Jay Vise

In order to help make people in South Carolina feel better, Sins worked tirelessly with her network of professionals to cook 1,200 pounds of food in the Second Harvest Kitchen, and arranged to have it delivered by a private plane. This contribution, which Blount and his team were able to use to make 2,000 meals, included items such as hummus, shrimp creole, grits and butter beans. In addition, he received donations from other chefs including 10,000 cookies from the DoubleTree Hotel and 800 pounds of chicken from the ACF Triad chapter. When it was all said and done, over the course of 18 days, Blount and his team produced 15,400 meals that were given to evacuees, as well as the first responders, National Guardsmen, and police officers involved in the relief efforts.

And if given the chance, Blount and Sins would do it all over again.

“Things like this let you remember that there is something about our humanity that is still good,” Blount says. “We’re not all just looking out for ourselves, we are trying to look out for each other and help each other. Sometimes I know that’s in question, when people are just mean and rude, but then something like this happens and you see a community come together.”

Struggling to recruit new members? Try these six tips

 by Kenya McCullum

The ACF 90-Day Chef to Chef Challenge has entered its final month and you may be wondering what you can do to increase your chapter’s new member enrollments before the October 31 deadline.

ACF of Greater Buffalo New York, which is led by Chapter President Jacqueline Bamrick, has been extremely successful getting new people on board. Want to know how you can emulate their results? Bamrick, along with Mark Wright, the chapter’s Certification Chairman, provides some helpful recruitment tips below.

Give personal attention. When Wright and Bamrick talk to potential members, they start the conversation by calling them directly, or even stopping by to see them in person. As a result of this individualized attention, people’s interest in joining is piqued more than it might be if they were only contacted with an impersonal group email.

Stress the long-term benefits of membership. Once Wright does get the conversation started with potential members, he goes on to let them know how membership can be helpful for their career in the long term.

He explains his pitch this way: “I just say think about joining because you might need it someday since there’s a lot of jobs out there that require ACF certification. It might not seem like a lot right now, but down the line in ten years from now if you’re thinking about getting out of a hot, small kitchen and into a larger kitchen or corporation, that ACF certification or that ACF membership will go a long way.”

Invite prospective members to a chapter meeting. Bamrick says another reason the Buffalo chapter has been so successful at recruiting new members is because they encourage people to come to a meeting to see what the ACF community is like first-hand.

“Once they come to a chapter meeting, they see the enthusiasm, they see what we do for the community, and they always want to get involved,” she says. “We try to actually do a tangible type of involvement with them, not always talking to them.”

Tell your story. Why did you join the ACF? Why is membership so important to you? If you tell people your story, you not only get them interested in joining your chapter — you can also inspire them in their own career path.

“I joined because I wanted to get involved in something that I was very passionate about, which is culinary arts. I was a student at the time, and I also wanted to network and get certified. I achieved all that through my relationship with colleagues I met through the ACF,” Bamrick says. “Being a female role model [as] a chapter president, as well as being involved with the organization for 20 years, builds enthusiasm and interest when I represent the chapter.”

Avoid a hard sell. Although you want to be convincing when you speak to would-be members, you don’t want to annoy them and turn them off to joining your chapter entirely. Personally contacting people twice is enough to tell them how ACF membership can benefit them, as well as answer their questions, without becoming a nuisance.

Don’t forget quality. Boosting membership numbers is a great way to strengthen your chapter — but only if you recruit the right people. Bamrick suggests that while looking for new members, chapters should not sacrifice quality for quantity because in the long run, numbers alone won’t help your chapter or its members.

“I would say two really good, solid members are better than ten members that aren’t going to do anything whatsoever,” she says. “You won’t ever see them and they won’t support anything, so I would focus on the people you think are really going to make a difference, that are really going to commit. Focus on having that strength versus having just a few random people that aren’t going to be there when you need them.”

5 trendy foods invented by hippies

By Ana Kinkaid, editor of the culinary magazine CONNECT

The 1960s were a time of social conflict in America when millions of concerned citizens went into the streets to protest the Vietnam War and social injustice. Yet those same protesters launched enduring culinary changes in American cuisine. Just consider…

Avocado Toast. If you’ve stopped recently at any trendy coffee shop, you’ve probably seen that their menu most likely offers mashed avocado on a warm slice of toasted whole-wheat bread. This au courant delicacy first became an L.A. hippie favorite at the Aware Inn where they served “moonshine-whiches” made with sprouts, havarti cheese and avocado on soya bread, instead of tasteless commercial loaf bread.

Vegetable-Forward Cooking. For several decades, food writers have reported that leading chefs are (1) serving vegetables center plate, and (2) using meat as a flavor accent instead of the main course. Here again the Flower Children started a trend that would only grow over the years. Seeking a simpler life in troubled times, they turned their backs on TV dinners and made simple, healthy meals that featured whole grains, a wide assortment of vegetables and fruits and little meat. Several decades would pass before nutritionists acknowledged the wisdom of their healthier choices.

Plant-Based Protein. The Hippies of the ’60s sought to express an increased appreciation of nature, often by becoming vegetarian. The publication of “Diet for a Small Planet” further supported the trend to switch from meat based protein to protein obtained from plants. Today it is a topic discussed at nearly every national culinary conference and seminar.

Energy Bars. Athletes owe a debt of thanks to a group of culinary entrepreneurs named the Nature Boys who hung out at Venice, California’s Muscle Beach during the ’60s, preaching the gospel of healthy eating. The end result of their influence was the Boots Bar, a mixture of sesame sunflower seeds, honey, and dried fruit — the forerunner of today’s energy bars.

Grain Bowls. Today grain bowls are a major culinary trend. Made with rice, farro, barley, quinoa or kamut, they are often topped with an array of vegetables, a small amount of protein and finally, a healthy dressing. Though they may seem the latest culinary creation, they are actually a direct descendant of the macrobiotic craze that first took root in the United States in the 1960s, featuring protein-rich tofu over brown rice and vegetables.

So here’s to the ’60s, an era that firmly established the right of Americans to protest as well as giving us some of our best and most progressive culinary trends. Like, cool man!

FDA Food Code Process and Changes: Keeping Foods (and Consumers) Safer

By Susan Algeo, MPH, CP-FS, Director of Project Management, Savvy Food Safety, Inc.

photo by Kyle Klein

Food safety is one of the most important issues in the food service industry. Restaurants, hotels, retail stores, institutions, and other food businesses need access to the most updated information around food safety so they can adjust their protocols accordingly. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Model Food Code provides regulators and facilities with the most up-to-date means of keeping food safe in food service and retail operations. By following the guidelines set forth in the Food Code, operators can help increase the safety of the foods they’re serving.

The Food Code guidelines are science-based and provide practical application for operators. As new technology, food products, preparation and cleaning procedures are being developed and researched all the time, it’s important that Food Code continues to meet these up-to-date standards. That is why the FDA releases a new Food Code approximately every four years. The most recent 2017 edition was released in February 2018.

So how are these changes made to the Food Code? The Conference for Food Protection (CFP), an organization with members from regulatory, industry, academia, and consumer groups, created a process to collaborate with each of these groups to gather input to improve food safety guidance. Issues (suggested changes that people want made to the Food Code) can be submitted by anyone. These issues are reviewed at the bi-annual CFP meeting where council members debate on the need to accept the issue. Accepted issues are sent to the FDA, who makes the final determination on changes that will be implemented in the next Food Code or supplement.

The most recent updates to the Food Code include changes to the Person in Charge (PIC) requirements, the use of bandages, finger cots, or finger stalls, updated cooking time/temperature requirements, and written procedures for emergency situations. These changes include:

  • The PIC – The PIC shall be the Certified Food Protection Manager, and needs to be designated and on-site during each shift. The PIC is responsible for food safety, so it’s critical that this person is trained in food safety and has passed an exam to demonstrate their knowledge on the topic. By having this properly trained person on-site during each shift, they can oversee other employees to ensure food safety practices are being implemented.
  • Bandages – When a food service employee needs a bandage, finger cot, or finger stall on their wrist, hand, or finger, the bandage must be covered with a single-use glove. This means that open wounds must be covered, and that a glove must be worn on top of the cover. The reason for this change (adding the glove as an added layer of protection) is to reduce the risk of a physical hazard. By wearing the glove, the bandage, finger cot, or finger stall is less likely to fall off and get into the food, creating a safety hazard.
  • Cooking time/temperature requirements – The updated Food Code includes new cooking time for ground meat, ground fish, eggs that will be hot held, poultry and stuffed foods. Ground meat, ground fish, and eggs that will be hot held must be cooked to 155ºF for 17 seconds, which was changed from 15 seconds. Poultry and stuffed foods must be cooked to 165ºF for less than 1 second, changed from 15 seconds. By cooking these foods to the proper internal cooking temperature, the potential pathogens can be reduced to safe levels. The change in time is to align the FDA guidelines with the USDA cooking times and temperatures.
  • Bodily fluids – Procedures for clean-up of vomiting and diarrheal events shall be written, so all staff members are clear on what to do during an event. Pathogens, such as the highly contagious Norovirus, can spread through vomit and diarrhea, so it is important to properly clean when these incidents occur in a food establishment. When there is a written plan, employees will be able to properly follow procedures to reduce the risk of spreading the pathogens and contaminating others. The written plan should include the equipment required, which chemicals to use, and how to contain the area, properly clean, and properly dispose of bodily fluids.

Operators need to keep in mind that the FDA Food Code is a guidance document, meant to help keep foods (and consumers) safe. However, city, state, and county regulations have the final say on the rules and requirements for all facilities in their jurisdiction. Not all local jurisdictions adopt the current Food Code as written. As of last year (and prior to the newest Food Code being released), only 17 states had adopted the most recent (2013) Food Code, 20 states had adopted the 2009 version, and 16 agencies were using the 1995-2005 version of the Food Code. Some regulatory agencies adopt the Food Code as written, others make changes to it. If changing the FDA Food Code, however, it’s recommended that these changes are to make the guidelines stricter than the Food Code to ensure the safety of the food and those that consume it.

As operators and PICs, it is imperative to stay up to date on the local requirements. This will help the facility meet standards and pass inspections. More importantly, it will keep the food safe and protect customers and the business. And get involved! CFP welcomes industry members to be a part of the process. Submit issues, attend the conference, join committees. By allowing industry members to have a voice, it verifies that the guidelines the FDA sets in the Food Code are manageable by facilities.

Susan Algeo is the Director of Project Management at Savvy Food Safety, Inc., where she facilitates food safety training classes, including ServSafe® and NRFSP®, for corporations nationwide. Susan also provides other food safety services, including food allergy training, as well as consulting, helping operators and their teams improve their standards, procedures, and overall commitment to food safety. Additionally, she conducts third-party inspections of customers’ operations to improve their health inspection results. She is also co-author of the SURE™ Food Safety series. These training manuals are aimed at improving food safety procedures for employees, managers, and trainers in food service and retail establishments.