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Best of 2013: The Year in Food

In the food world, 2013 may go down as the year of the cronut, but here are my picks for best food ideas of the year.

Best Tech Innovation: Cultured Beef

Funded in part by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the world’s first in-vitro hamburger, created by tissue engineer Dr. Mark Post, debuted in August. Scientists grew the meat in a laboratory using stem cells taken from the tissue of a cow at a slaughterhouse, taking three months to create the 20,000 muscle fibers that made up the burger. It’s not quite at Big Mac prices yet, as the first prototype cost $330,000 to produce, but we featured it in our (re)design issue this year as a proposed solution to our fast food crisis. The next step will be bringing costs down and making the patty taste less dry. Once it comes to market, the goal will be to reduce the mighty greenhouse gases the cattle industry produces to meet our rising red meat demands. According to a recent study out of the University of Michigan, red meat contributes a greater carbon footprint than grains and vegetables combined because it entails deforestation, corn production for food (which requires fertilization, storage, transportation), water waste, methane emissions, nitrogen excretion, mass slaughter practices (often involving animal transport), and even more transportation to get the meat to its destination. Cultured beef grown in labs removes a lot of that energy by reducing our reliance on cows.

Best Book: Roy Choi’s LA Son: My Life, My City, My Food

We always knew chef Roy Choi was a master in the kitchen, a food truck impresario, and the maestro of fusion (minus its banal trappings), but he’s also a gifted writer? And not just any writer: Choi’s memoir with recipes is the only page-turner cookbook I’ve ever read. His soul-stirring stories of life on the streets of LA—from low-fi immigrant vernaculars to high-class rollers—will have you salivating, laughing, and shedding a few tears. Plus what other book has recipes for abalone porridge as well as chili spaghetti? Here’s some Life Lessons we learned from the man himself.

Best Trend: Veganism

This year veganism—or at least part-time veganism—has finally come to the mainstream through grassroots and social media-motivated re-branding like #meatlessmondays and Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 (VB6). And with powerhouses like Jay Z & Beyoncé dabbling in vegan lifestyles and chef-driven vegan restaurants and products cropping up all over the place, we might just wean ourselves a bit off our meat dependency. We’re not saying y’all have to give up mozzarella or chicken pad thai, but try it once in a while. It’s good for you, for the animals out there, and for the planet.

Best Blog Post: René Redzepi on Trash Cooking

What inspires the chef at the best restaurant in the world? Trash. This year René Redzepi astonished us by sharing an entry from his journal, a year-long musing on his creative process, frustrations, and ingenuities that makes up one third of his recently-released book A Work in Progress.

Best Health Advancement: Banning Transfats

This year the United States Food and Drug Administration has taken the first steps to ban the artificial use of transfats in American foods, thereby removing the worst types of fat (so long, partially hydrogenated oil). It’s also the backbone to many processed foods that have long shelf lives—from margarine and coffee creamer to frozen pizza and microwave popcorn. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that an FDA ban on trans fats could prevent 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year. Banning transfats isn’t going to solve the obesity epidemic, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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