Better Starbucks Food Can't Come Soon Enough

As Starbucks started hitting troubles even before the economy last year, Howard Schultz, back at the fore, announced as if it were a done deal that the embarrassingly sawdust-y baked goods would be first to go--and to get better. I was heartened. Even if you're not supposed to think about the "and' in the "coffee and" when you're a serious coffee man, you'd like a nice choice--especially if you believe that baked goods should make up an extremely imbalanced portion of the daily diet.

Alas. The profusion of locally baked muffins and scones I expected to proliferate across the land failed to appear. Just the same sawdust, from airport to airport and mall to mall. The company was too busy retraining baristas and installing single-brew Clover machines, and not removing the breakfast foods that were also part of the Schultz vows to think about baked goods.

Lost sales have a way of focusing the mind, and so, I would think, do calorie-labeling laws like New York's and the many other states, like California and Massachusetts, whose own requirements will soon kick in and show people that, for instance, a doughnut often has fewer calories than a muffin or cookie. Okay--I'll have the doughnut!

So now Starbucks will, it says, reformulate 90 percent of its baked goods, removing high-fructose corn syrup and preservatives where possible, and coming up with recipes that have tens rather than dozens of ingredients. "Food has been the Achilles' heel of the company," Michelle Gass in charge of marketing, told Reuters. Yes, ma'am!

She didn't say whether cookies and muffins will still be almost uniformly more than 400 calories or whether they will use local vendors where possible and allow them any latitude in thinking of what they'd like to make for the local market--or whether the flavor will improve. But there's 90 percent room for hope.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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