Looking back at 2012, we noticed a big trend -- weirdness. A lot of weird stuff happened in the food industry.
From a fast-food joint with a political stance to a sweet grandma becoming an overnight sensation for a restaurant review, the food industry took a ride to crazytown this year.
A lot has happened to make us laugh, yell, and think.
- Short Order's Most Popular Stories of 2012
Here are the ten strangest food stories of 2012:
10. Marilyn Hagerty Reviews Olive Garden and Becomes a National Sensation
When Grand Forks Herald food reviewer Marilyn Hagerty wrote a stellar review of the local Olive Garden, she never thought her article would receive more than 400,000 hits. The 85-year-old wrote that "the place is impressive" and the décor is "fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse-style." Of course it garnered snarky tweets, but in the end, Hagerty became a sensation. Since the review was published, Hagerty was written about in the New York Times, made the network morning show circuit, guest-judged on Top Chef, and was handed a book deal by Anthony Bourdain.
9. Chefs Head Out to Sea
Twenty-twelve was the year for chefs to answer the siren song of the sea. The queen of butter, Paula Deen, has an annual cruise, filled with games, drinking, and lots of butter. The highlight of the 2012 cruise? A picture snapped of Deen enjoying a burger with gusto. Other celebs who jumped aboard the theme-cruise party boat are Therese Guidice, who's Fabulicious cruise set sail from Fort Lauderdale December 28, and the Top Chef cruise, where fans can join in on quick-fire challenges this April. Hmm, unlimited piña coladas, knives, and the open ocean. Sounds like the makings of a really good time.
8. Guy Fieri Takes a Beating from the New York Times
No one expected Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, to compete with five-star Manhattan restaurants, but New York Times food critic Pete Wells probably thought the place could make a burger comparable to those at the Hard Rock Café and T.G.I. Friday's in the area, right? Well, apparently not. Wells's review is simply a series of questions -- some snarky, some downright confused -- leaving us with an amazing read and that question for the ages: "Just what part of the donkey does donkey sauce come from?"
7. Anthony Bourdain Writes a Comic Book, Makes a Leap to CNN, Tweets His Ass Off, Fights With Everyone
It was a big year for everyone's favorite snarkmeister, Anthony Bourdain. The outspoken author, traveler, and chef-at-large got his own book line at Ecco (Marilyn Hagerty is in his stable of authors), published a comic book titled Get Jiro, severed ties in a most verbal way with Travel Channel, moved to CNN, and started a Twitter war with everyone -- including Short Order. Also in the works: producing a PBS series with David Chang and cohosting an ABC reality competition with Nigella Lawson. While most men just buy a fancy car, Bourdain has turned his midlife crisis into a mega-career, and we're all watching!
6. Emeril Hocks German Knives, Made in China
Let's face it. Most celebrity chefs take their good names and lend them to cookbooks, cookware, booze, and whatever else they can peddle. Nothing wrong with a little endorsement deal, right? Emeril lent his name to a series of knife sets that were sold on HSN, Amazon.com, and other outlets. The sets were touted as German steel knives that have the Solingen name imprinted on the blades. However, closer inspection reveals the knives are made in China. Since Martha Stewart Omnimedia owns the Emeril product line, the domestic diva is also named in a lawsuit filed by the Wuppertal-Solinger-Remscheid Chamber of Industry and Commerce, which owns the Solingen name.
5. Chick-fil-A Hates Gay People
It's no secret that Chick-fil-A is a right-wing Christian company. Its restaurants are closed on Sunday (it's written into their mall contracts), a portion of their proceeds go to Christian organizations, and their WinShape Foundation is a cross between a Christian mission and a Boy Scout jamboree -- without any of the fun parts. But it took company president Dan Cathy to spell out exactly how he feels about gay marriage to bring the fast-food chicken company's agenda to the masses. In an article for the Baptist Press and on the über-Christian Ken Coleman Show radio show, Cathy stated, "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage,' and I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about." What ensued was a lot of chicken-eating by right-wing conservatives, celebrity tweets, a Muppet protest, and a same-sex kiss-in by proponents of gay marriage. The dust has since settled, but one thing remains: Chick-fil-A sandwiches are still sodium-laden and soggy.
4. Twinkies Go the Way of the Dodo
A beloved maker of childhood treats closes after corporate bigwigs and a bakers' union cannot reach an agreement. Nearly 18,500 jobs are lost right before Christmas, and dozens of iconic cakes -- Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos -- become an endangered species, with greedy people on eBay and Amazon selling the little treats for as much as $20 a pack. Before you pony up the money in the hopes of stockpiling the little devils, know this: According to a Hostess Brands spokesperson, the shelf life of a Twinkie is not a million years, as many people think. It's 28 days.
3. Fifty Shades of Chicken Is Full of Fowl Play
I admit it. I read Fifty Shades of Grey. It was between that and an issue of Runner's World as reading material on a flight to New Orleans. I chose smut over "Five Ways to Improve your Half Marathon Time." The result: a few hours of my life I'll never get back. What I should have read was Fifty Shades of Chicken. This parody of the poorly written mommy-S&M tome features lots of fowl play, indeed. Chickens are tied up with juices dripping down their thighs are turned into dishes featuring lardon and bacon-bound wings. Written by F.L. Fowler, it could be the first poultry porn ever written.
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2. Ben & Jerry's Porn Lawsuit
It's been said the most sincerest form of flattery is imitation. The porn industry has taken that and run with it, making spoofs of everything from Forrest Hump to Chinny Chinny Gang Bang (no, we didn't make those up). But isn't ice cream sacred -- even when it's Ben & Jerry's, the company known for cheekiness with names like Schweddy Balls? While parodies are generally protected against trademark infringement lawsuits, the Ben & Jerry's company filed a lawsuit against Rodax Distributors and Caballero Video for their hard-core Ben & Cherry's DVDs. Instead of suing the porn company, Ben & Jerry's missed an opportunity by not turning these porn titles into ice-cream flavors. After all, who wouldn't buy Boston Cream Thigh, New York Fat & Chunky, and Peanut Butter D-Cup?
1. Man Dies From Eating Cockroaches
It's no surprise that the most bizarre food-related story of 2012 comes from South Florida. When Edward Archbold entered a cockroach-eating contest at Ben Siegel Reptile Store in Deerfield Beach, he probably thought that a few minutes of being grossed-out would land him a free ball python. After all, we've seen extreme insect eating on Fear Factor, and the contestants usually just puke and take home some cash. Unfortunately for Archbold, things took a turn for the worse. Almost immediately after winning the contest, the unfortunate contestant threw up and then collapsed in front of the store. He was pronounced dead at Broward Health North. The official cause of death: According to the Broward Medical Examiner, Archbold died of "asphyxia due to choking and aspiration of gastric contents."