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Michele Kayal grew up in a Syrian-Irish family but all she ever learned in Arabic were the food words. After years writing about “important” things – politics, business, the Federal Aviation Administration – she finally caved in to the lifelong knowledge that all she really wanted to talk about was food and how it expresses culture and identity. She has lived and traveled around the world, from England to India, Prague to Hawaii, from Syria, Singapore and Seoul to Jakarta, Japan and Jordan, eating and writing every step of the way.  A regular contributor to Associated Press and NPR.org, Michele’s pieces also have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler and The Huffington Post. Her work has been recognized by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and by the Association of Food Journalists. She truly believes ice cream eaten from the carton has no calories.

By Michele Kayal

Vermont farm vacation means food and family

One of my family’s favorite summer rituals is a trip to Liberty Hill Farm in Rochester, Vt. Tucked along the banks of the White River, this working dairy farm has about 300 cows, a hayloft with a tire swing and so many kittens the kids never have to fight over who gets to hold them. …

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Maya Angelou was also a poet in the kitchen

Many people know Maya Angelou as a poet, civil rights activist and revealer of why caged birds sing. What fewer know about Angelou, who died yesterday at the age of 86, is that she was a passionate — and acclaimed — cook. Like so many of us, she learned to cook at her grandmother’s knee. …

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Chop Talk: Cory Bahr urges small-town food stops

It makes Cory Bahr angry when people blow through the small cities of the South on a tear to reach New Orleans or Nashville or the region’s other culinary giants. But Bahr’s having the last laugh. The 37-year-old chef-owner of Restaurant Cotton in Monroe, La., was just named “Food and Wine” magazine’s people’s choice chef …

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Chop Talk: Aarón Sánchez on Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is more than an excuse to drink margaritas. And it is not — repeat, not — Mexican independence day (that’s Sept. 16). Instead, it commemorates the victory of outgunned and outnumbered Mexican soldiers over Napoleon’s army in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It’s a low-key holiday in Mexico — …

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Hawaii’s ‘local’ food is diversity on a plate

Today in Honolulu, the discerning diner can eat at lots of upscale places from Nobu to Bill’s Sydney, creation of the Australian chef Bill Granger. But on a recent trip, the only thing I wanted were the flavors that brought me home. I lived in Hawaii for seven years, learning about the state’s intensely multi-ethnic …

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Mother love comes fresh from the oven

No matter how old you are, your mommy is still your mommy. Especially when you’re sick. I am a grown-up. I have a job, a husband and a child. But when my doctor recently ordered me to bed for a couple of weeks, the first call I made was to my mom. She arrived, as …

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Vote for Nothing in the House as best blog

Nothing in the House, the witty and engaging pie blog from our very own senior pie correspondent, Emily Hilliard, is a finalist in The Homies, the annual awards given by The Kitchn/Apartment Therapy. Hilliard has shared with AFR readers her secret for perfect piecrust, her discovery of the world’s best football snack, and many other …

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The ABCs of Michigan almond boneless chicken

The acronym ABC usually stands for “American-born Chinese.” But if it’s shorthand for your favorite Chinese dish, chances are you’re from Michigan. “It’s a Michigan thing,” restaurant owner Margaret Yee says about almond boneless chicken, #7 on her menu at Kim’s in Troy, and the restaurant’s best-selling item. Far from one of the symbolic dishes …

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Sugar on snow makes bad weather sweet

Silly me to think that pancakes on a snowy day would satisfy my 9-year-old. My daughter Nazrana was apparently a resident of Vermont in a previous life (she is Hindu by birth). Years ago, after reading the wonderful book “Maple Syrup Season” by Ann Purmell, we made “sugar on snow,” the maple taffy made by …

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Rosca de reyes: A king cake from south of the border

  Each Jan. 5, Catalina and Danny Graves of La Poblanita bakery in Dallas, Texas, begin baking at 3 a.m. and they don’t stop until almost midnight the next day. ‘That day is the craziest day in the bakery,” Danny Graves says, noting that they do about three times their normal business. “That’s the best …

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