Weekend Reading: Chile-Eating Contests, Barbecue Etiquette, Wearable Food, and More

What we're reading, cooking, and clicking this week

Yeonju Sung

• It's Memorial Day weekend, and chances are good that someone, somewhere is participating in a hot dog contest. That's child's play compared to the annual Naga King Chili-Eating Competition held in Northeast India, where the winner eats as many Bhut Jolokia peppers as possible in 20 seconds. This particular strain of capcaisin scores up to 1.5 million on the Scoville scale... a jalapeno is around 4,000. It's been turned into a type of grenade. Literally. An article by Mary Roach in next month's Smithsonian mag explores not only this insane competition and the Naga people's obsession with peppers, but also discusses the science behind super hot peppers. —Sophie Brickman

• While visiting the West Bank on official business, John Kerry made an unofficial stop for shawarma—which reportedly compelled him to utter "man, that is good"--as well as knafeh for dessert. Somehow, these good food choices makes me feel that U.S. diplomacy is in good hands. —Gabriella Gershenson

• I've been on the road a lot lately, which means I haven't been sleeping well, which means I haven't been waking up well. A friend suggested (tongue-in-cheek, I hope) that I supplement my daily coffee intake with any number of the caffeinated foodstuffs on offer at ThinkGeek.com: hot sauce, maple syrup, hard candies, even straight-up baking sugar, a teaspoon of which packs a walloping 46mg of caffeine—about the same as an average espresso. I think I'll try to fix my sleep cycle in other ways, but I guess it's good to know these things are out there. —Helen Rosner

• I'm looking forward to the release of Jo Robinson's new book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health, previewed this weekend in the New York Times. In the book (and this article), Robinson, an investigative journalist, discusses how and why the fruits and vegetables we eat today aren't nearly as healthy as the ones our ancestors enjoyed—and it isn't because of the usual suspects of pesticides and herbicides, but because scientists for years have been essentially breeding the nutrients right out of our produce supply in their quest for sweet, more mouthwatering foods. The book also passes along some useful information: scallions contain five times more nutrients than onions; arugula is one of the healthiest greens at the supermarket; adding a cup of Italian parsley to your burgers can turn them into something just shy of a superfood. —Keith Pandolfi

• Ever order a martini and think, Hmmm, this doesn't taste right—maybe it was stirred instead of shaken? Well, it may be worse than you think: Officials in New Jersey have accused 29 restaurants and bars of passing off cheap alcohol—and even rubbing alcohol—as top-shelf liquor. —Greg Ferro

• We could all stand to brush up on our barbecue etiquette, but in this week's Washington Post, writer Time Carman tackles the matter of Texas barbecue-hosting etiquette in particular: invite punctual guests, skip the collards and corn bread, and other rules. Although it's a different beast from the "barbecues" most of us will be hosting and attending this holiday weekend, there's still plenty of the same advice applicable to any Memorial Day party. So enjoy yourself this weekend, but most importantly, "don't cheat the meat." —Farideh Sadeghin

• As a kid, I always thought freeze-dried space ice cream sounded like the pinnacle of awesome. Astronaut Chris Hadfield and Momofuku's David Chang changed my mind about the novelty of space food in a video they filmed about challenges of food preparation aboard the International Space Station. While gravity thwarts Chang's attempts to make space food more tasty, this video's combination of nifty science and hilariously hokey commentary is a recipe for viral success. —Anna Perling

• [pictured at top] I'll never get tired of artists using the vibrance and texture of raw ingredients to highlight the shapes and forms of non-food objects. Artist Yeon Ju Sung forms dresses out of raw shrimp shells, ribboned eggplant, woven chives, exquisitely lace-like lotus root, and more--and they're absolutely beautiful. —Helen Rosner