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Fighting Voter Suppression in Hog Country, North Carolina

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This story was originally published on Civil Eats.


Elsie Herring spends many days documenting and responding to complaints from her neighbors — about everything from the stench coming off of factory farms to the clearcutting of trees for timber to the emissions from nearby factories. But lately, when Herring, a community organizer for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (EJN), gets a call, she’s also been making sure the person on the other end of the line has a plan in place to vote.

With almost two million swine within its borders, Herring’s native Duplin County in eastern North Carolina is the top hog-producing county in the United States. And because many residents have pre-existing health conditions, in part from living alongside the waste produced by so many animals, many are choosing to mail their ballots in this year rather than venture to the polls, where COVID-19 presents an additional threat.

But, in a part of the state home to many people of color, Herring worries about reports of minority ballot rejection rates. In North Carolina, the ballots of white voters are being rejected at a rate of .5 percent, while Black voters’ ballots are being rejected at a 1.8 percent rate and Native American voters’ ballots are being rejected at a 4 percent rate (eight times more than white voters’), according to October 21 data from the U.S. Elections Project.

“They’re disproportionate, and right there, that tells me they’re trying to suppress the Black votes,” Herring says. “That has always been their focus, to suppress our vote and not allow us the right.”

And so, she carefully walks her neighbors through the mail-in voting process: “We’re telling them to be careful and aware of what they’re writing and not writing on their ballots. The witness name has to be printed, and you have to have their signature and address. If that’s not there, they kick it out.”

Herring’s fears about the suppression of minority votes are not ill-founded, given recent and long-term efforts in North Carolina. Over the last decade, the state’s General Assembly, which the Republican party has controlled since 2010, has gerrymandered voting district maps along racial lines and passed numerous laws aimed at making it harder for minorities to vote (though many of the measures have not held up in court and are no longer in place).

In the midst of these ongoing efforts, many Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities in the eastern part of the state say they’ve repeatedly watched as their elected officials promote the interests of hog and poultry companies over their safety and well-being — as evidenced by the number and density of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) permitted in their communities and the ineffectiveness of the facilities’ waste-disposal systems.

In addition to enabling the industry to concentrate around low-income communities of color, residents say state lawmakers have limited the tools those communities once had at their disposal to protest the resulting pollution.

Voter suppression and environmental injustice often perpetuate and compound each other: Without people in office to protect their interests, polluting industries such as the state’s industrial hog and poultry operations proliferate and remain largely unchecked, Herring says. And when industries pollute with little consequence, damaging the health and quality of life of the people around them, people are less likely to prioritize getting to the polls, especially given the fact that many are already dealing with myriad other issues, including poverty, food and housing insecurity, and lack of quality education and access to healthcare.

“It’s particularly troubling that when someone who is harmed by all these cumulative impacts seeks to remedy that . . . they find [that] the legislature in recent years has taken very intentional steps to deprive them of long-available remedies,” says Will Hendrick, staff attorney and manager of the Waterkeeper Alliance’s North Carolina Pure Farms, Pure Waters campaign.

Sherri White-Williamson, who worked for years in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office for Environmental Justice before returning two years ago to her hometown in Sampson County, says she has tried to encourage young people in her town to vote. “The reaction is, ‘Why should I? My vote won’t matter — they [corporations] control everything, and that won’t change,’” says White-Williamson, who now works as the NC Conservation Network’s environmental justice policy director. “People who live in communities and get stuff dumped on them feel less empowered to be able to effect any change.”

As a swing state that voted for Barack Obama in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012, and Donald Trump in 2016, North Carolina will be pivotal in this election. The U.S. Senate race between Republican incumbent Thom Tillis and his Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham could affect which party controls Congress as well. And while there are many conservative parts of the state, the demographics are changing as metropolitan areas continue to grow and more Latinx and young people register to vote.

Despite the factors stacked against them — made worse by the pandemic — Herring says many people in eastern North Carolina are still determined to make their voices heard. This year, groups like the one she’s involved with are working to educate voters and ensure they have transportation to the polls. And while Herring’s biggest concern is that her community’s votes will be under attack, she asks: “What can we do to combat that? I don’t know, other than just showing up at the polls to bring about a change.”

Man holds up a yellow piece of paper that reads “Required to be counted.”
An employee of the Mecklenburg County Board of Election in Charlotte, North Carolina holds up instructions that are mailed with absentee ballots for the 2020 election.
Photo by Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Suppressing the vote

In 2011, Republicans gained control of both of North Carolina’s Congressional houses and redrew the legislative district maps in the once-a-decade redistricting process to favor their party. In 2017, a district court and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the maps were illegally racially gerrymandered, meant to dilute the voice of Black voters. Two years after lawmakers submitted new maps, federal judges struck down the voting districts again, this time as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders, saying they had been drawn with “surgical precision” — and were among the most manipulated in the nation. Lawmakers were ordered a second time to redraw the maps, which will be redone yet again in 2021, based on the 2020 Census.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the state have made two other attempts at passing voter suppression laws. HB 589, one of the most dramatic voting rights rollbacks in the U.S., was overturned in federal court after it had been in effect for several years, and the voter ID requirement HB 1092 was blocked by a federal judge.

“There are a lot of different ways people are trying to cut back who is eligible to vote, whose votes count after they are cast, and who is going to feel comfortable voting,” says Kat Roblez, staff attorney with Forward Justice, a nonpartisan organization advancing racial, social, and economic justice in the South. In the Old North State — and nationwide — these tactics commonly include in-person voter intimidation at the polls, periodic purges of voter rolls, the spread of misinformation, voter ID requirements, and felony disenfranchisement laws, she says.

This year, the pandemic and the divisive nature of politics bring additional concerns. While in 2016, about 25 percent of total votes were cast by mail, this year that portion will be almost twice that, according to the Pew Research Center — and voting in a new way comes with its own complications. “It doesn’t have to be active voter misinformation as much as confusion,” says Roblez. At the same time, many residents have concerns about the effectiveness of the postal service itself, prompted by budget cuts and policy changes put in place over the summer.

The increased number of demonstrations by white supremacist and neo-Confederate groups is also worrisome, Roblez says. “What we’re most concerned about in some of the more rural areas is . . . Confederate parades coming to the polls,” she says, recalling how last February, demonstrators hung Confederate flags at a polling site in Alamance County, North Carolina.

Social distancing requirements will also necessitate larger polling places, which can put rural precincts, with less infrastructure available, at a disadvantage. “In an instance where a bigger polling location is needed, they might close two others that are smaller, but that [new] location may not be as accessible,” explains Joselle Torres of Democracy NC.

White-Williamson remembers seeing voter suppression growing up in Sampson County — a particular business owner showing up at the polls to confuse and discourage Black voters, for example — but she hasn’t been aware of polling-place suppression efforts in recent years.

Still, she could see it happening this year. George Floyd was originally from Clinton, the town where she lives, and after his murder at the hands of a white police officer in May, protestors pulled down the Confederate statue in front of the Sampson County courthouse, sparking heated public debates.

“There are a lot of things fresh on people’s minds,” she says. “As a Republican county, I see the potential for there to be efforts at polling places to discourage voting, like what we’re seeing around the country.”

Jeff Currie, a member of the Lumbee Tribe who works as a riverkeeper protecting the Lumber River watershed, believes the poor education system in low-income parts of the state also has a role to play in the area’s disenfranchisement.

“If the education system is not saying ‘vote,’ people don’t understand what voting is — they lack civics training and education and the cultural sense that that’s what you do,” he says.

As Election Day approaches, Democracy NC and Forward Justice are placing volunteer vote protectors at polling places across the state who “are ready and trained to sound the alarm” if they see signs of suppression, adds Torres.

Young pig looks directly at the camera from within a pen full of pigs.
A pig at Silky Pork Farms in Duplin County, North Carolina
Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Corporations over constituents

While legislators have tried to limit voting, the hog and chicken industries in eastern North Carolina have grown exponentially in ways that damage their surroundings, residents say. In the 1970s, family farmers in North Carolina raised an average of 60 pigs per farm, and the animals were free to roam around outside. That began to change in the 1980s and ’90s, however, as state lawmakers like teacher and farmer Wendell Murphy sponsored and helped pass bills that shielded large-scale hog farms from local zoning regulations and gave the industry subsidies and tax exemptions.

Now, North Carolina ranks second in the country for the number of hogs it produces, and the state’s average hog farm houses more than 4,000 animals. The 4.5 million hogs in Duplin and Sampson counties — the top two hog-producing counties in the country — produce 4 billion gallons of wet waste a year, making up 40 percent of the North Carolina’s total. The waste is stored in open-air pits and periodically sprayed on nearby fields.

The foul-smelling chemicals the facilities release — ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, in particular — have been associated with difficulty breathing, blood pressure spikes, increased stress and anxiety, and decreased quality of life. Additionally, a 2018 study found higher death rates of all studied diseases — including infant mortality, mortality due to anemia, kidney disease, tuberculosis, septicemia — among communities located near hog CAFOs.

For years, residents have spoken out about their suffering. They’ve told their representatives that the odor from the facilities forces them indoors all the time; they can’t sit on their porches, play in their yards, open their windows, or hang their laundry on the line; they have to buy bottled water rather than drinking from their wells; and “dead boxes” containing pig carcasses line the roads, and buzzards, flies, gnats fill the air.

And yet, says Naeema Muhammad, organizing co-director of the NC EJN, the state legislators and regulatory agencies don’t listen — and repeatedly prioritize large corporations as they make decisions about the permitting and regulation of these facilities. Time after time, she says, “legislators pass bills unmistakably against their constituents, in favor of the industry.”

In 2013, 500 residents of eastern North Carolina filed nuisance suits against the Chinese-owned Smithfield subsidiary Murphy-Brown, LLC, which owns the majority of the hogs in the state, complaining of the health problems and unpleasant ills the company subjected them to. In a victory for the hog-farm neighbors, juries ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the first five of the more than 20 cases to be tried, awarding the 10 plaintiffs in the first lawsuit more than $50 million in damages. (This number was reduced to a total of $3.25 million due to the state’s punitive-damages cap.) The industry is currently appealing the ruling.

As these lawsuits worked their way through the justice system, though, Herring watched in horror as her county’s representative in the state legislature, Jimmy Dixon, sponsored a bill that tied the hands of disadvantaged people looking for protection from factory farm pollution. The bill, passed in 2017, limits the compensation plaintiffs can receive in civil suits like the Smithfield case to a sum related to the diminished value of their property, and prevents them from receiving damages related to health, quality of life, and lost income.

Dixon, who did not respond to a request for comment in this story, said the bill was designed to protect farmers from the “greedy” lawyers who would sue them. “This bill is designed to protect 50,000 hardworking North Carolina farmers who are feeding a hungry world,” Dixon wrote in a 2017 op-ed in The Raleigh News & Observer.

In 2018, Senator and farmer Brent Jackson sponsored a similar bill that practically eliminates the right of residents to sue industrial hog operations by declaring that agricultural operations cannot be considered nuisances if they employ practices generally accepted in the region (like spraying hog waste on fields, for example). “With Senate Bill 711 on the books, we don’t have a leg to stand on,” Herring says. “We have to take what they give us, and [we don’t] have an avenue for recourse.”

Though legislators say they have the interests of farmers and consumers in mind, Muhammad thinks it’s more about campaign contributions. “You have people in power that are owned by the corporations — they’ve taken so much money from them, even if they wanted to do better, the industries would go after them,” she says.

Flooded farm as seen from above.
In 1999, floodwaters from Hurricane Floyd engulfed a Burgaw, North Carolina hog waste lagoon.
John Althouse/AFP via Getty Images

Disproportionately polluting poor and minority communities

Those most affected by CAFO pollution are people of color. Duplin and Sampson counties have the highest share of Latinx residents in the state, with 23 and almost 21 percent, respectively. The residents of these two counties are also about 25 and 26 percent Black, as compared with the statewide average of 22 percent.

In 2014, NC EJN, Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance filed a Title VI Civil Rights complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. EPA claiming the North Carolina environmental regulatory agency allowed industrial swine facilities in the state to operate “with grossly inadequate and outdated systems of controlling animal waste and little provision for government oversight” — and that they had an “unjustified disproportionate impact on the basis of race” against Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people.

In 2018, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) settled the complaint, and this year, they put measures in place including a program of air and water monitoring near hog operations and involving impacted community members in permitting decisions. “I believe there’s a group of people [at the DEQ] who are trying to do the right thing,” says Muhammad. “With more collaboration with communities, we’ve seen some change. But you have a body of people who want to hold onto those old ways.”

Another complicating factor is the fact that the state has cut the regulatory agency’s budget year after year. “If you don’t have the budget to hire the staff to do the inspections, that’s a problem,” White-Williamson says.

While the size of pork industry has stabilized since a moratorium on new facilities with the lagoon-and-sprayfield system went into effect in 1997, no such limit was put in place on chicken operations, and as a result, the size of the poultry industry has tripled since then.

According to a report released this summer by the Waterkeeper Alliance and Environmental Working Group, between 2012 and 2019, the estimated number of chickens and turkeys in Duplin, Sampson, and Robeson counties increased by 36 percent to 113 million, compared to only 17 percent in the rest of the state. The racial disparities continue as well: In Robeson County, 42 percent of residents identify as Native American — compared to 1.6 in the state as a whole, according to 2018 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The concentration of chicken CAFOs worries environmental advocates, because rather than being kept in pits, the drier chicken feces is stored in large, uncovered piles and runs off into waterways when it rains. North Carolina chickens produce three times more nitrogen and six times more phosphorous than its hogs, causing environmental damage like toxic algal blooms and fish kills.

Unlike with hogs, the chicken industry does not have to notify the government when it opens a new facility, even if it is in an area prone to floods. As a result, the state environmental regulation agency often does not even know where chicken CAFOs are located, and inspections occur only when a complaint arises.

Lumber Riverkeeper Jeff Currie, who can smell poultry CAFOs from his house, says in the two years that have passed since Hurricane Florence, he’s documented 17 new operations consisting of 320 new barns in the watersheds he watches over.

Currie points out that, in the name of “creating jobs,” governing bodies allow all sorts of polluting industries to cluster in communities of color. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a controversial wood pellet plant were both slated to be built in low-income communities of color in the area this year. While the pipeline was cancelled in July, the pellet plant is on its way to completion. If you don’t have the money to hire a private attorney and exert influence, Currie says, “you get dumped on.”

The effects of disenfranchisement

The environmental injustices piled onto low-income communities of color stem in part from their lack of political influence; disenfranchisement efforts on the part of politicians and parties who’d like to stay in power only make it worse.

Eastern North Carolina residents say that even without the state’s attempts to make voting difficult for them, the democratic process is frustrating, because when it comes to protecting them from agricultural pollution, there are no candidates who actually represent their interests.

“You get to the point where you’re like, what’s the point?” Currie says. “It’s not party-based — they all took the money. So who do you go to to try to get a bill introduced to end poultry operations in the 100-year floodplain?”

White-Williamson believes even if solid state- and federal-level lawmakers were elected in 2020, it would take decades to recover from the damage that has resulted from the regulatory rollbacks, budgetary priorities, and culture of hatred that elected officials have promoted over the last few years. “It’s going to be hard to reverse a lot of the environmental damage that has been done, as well as the cultural and racial damage,” she says. “I feel like this is going to [take] almost a generation to straighten out.”

Muhammad is similarly concerned. “I’ve looked at everybody running from the federal level down to the local level, and I don’t hold out hope it’ll be a process that’ll bring about a lot of change,” she says.

And yet, despite the lack of strong local representation on CAFOs, many eastern North Carolina residents are still motivated by a desire to see change at the top, and they’re mobilizing to help each other get out the vote. Because, despite the roadblocks placed in their way and their lack of expectation for change, they have hope that things can get better — they offer as examples the victory in the Smithfield nuisance cases and the collapse of the oil pipeline project. Though the overall system is structured against them, they’ve seen small successes, and they plan to keep at it.

“If we have to continue to fight for the right to vote, so be it,” Herring says. “Whatever the issue is in our communities that is keeping us from living the best lives we can for our families and children, we have to organize, stay informed, hold meetings, make trips, write letters, make phone calls — do whatever we have to do to keep the issue on the forefront until we bring about change. We can’t give up.”

Fighting Voter Suppression, Environmental Racism, and Corporate Agriculture in Hog Country [Civil Eats]

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The Eater Guide on How to Help During the Crisis

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Not all that long ago it seemed like if the pandemic weren’t exactly over by now, then at least the worst of it would be. But the summer didn’t make things any simpler. Cases continued to spread, and fires and hurricanes ravaged the West and Gulf Coast. As the weather turned colder, more states began allowing indoor activities and face-to-face school. As a result, the virus appears to be surging once more. It is increasingly clear that not only will thousands more Americans likely die as a direct result of COVID-19 by the end of 2020, but the mass misery of the economic devastation it has unleashed — suffering disproportionately endured by Black and Latinx communities — will not lift anytime soon. 

Benefits like the federal $600 a week unemployment expansion ran out or contracted for more than 25 million Americans in July and the federal government has failed to agree on the terms of a new aid package. Organizations that provide food and housing assistance to low-income people across the country, already strained by the last several months of the pandemic and the government’s appallingly incompetent — and at times malevolent — response, are scrambling to meet a tidal wave of need. As roughly 40 percent of restaurants on the brink of closing forever, programs that aid people in the food industry are also seeking further support so they can continue to provide assistance to worker who remain unemployed or underemployed. Groups representing Indigenous communities, undocumented immigrants, farmworkers, and people of color are also mobilizing to get assistance to marginalized people and lay a foundation for a more resilient food system — because while it’s an extraordinary time of need, it’s also not new. 

Hunger and poverty have always been the U.S.’s most shameful open secrets. Despite being the wealthiest country in the world, as of 2018 more than 13 percent of people in the U.S. lived below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau, while a full 78 percent of U.S. workers lived paycheck to paycheck. The pandemic and its economic fallout have put those statistics into ever starker relief, as the nation’s working class and its poorest residents have faced the largest health burden from the virus. Several studies have estimated that pandemic-related job losses and increased food costs have roughly doubled food insecurity in the U.S., and No Kid Hungry estimates that one quarter of children around the country could face food insecurity in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus. 

In this guide, Eater has identified a range of programs, organizations, and charities fighting hunger, developing sustainable food networks, and providing support to the roughly 31 million people who are unemployed or are working less than they’d like to be due to this global medical disaster. These are places that are stepping in to do work in their communities where governments and elected officials have left people behind. Collected here are opportunities for giving and volunteering in and around the United States and its territories, at both the national and the local level, as well as in the U.K. Editors have done their best to vet the charities included here, but it’s always important to make sure when you give money or time that the organization you’re supporting aligns with your values and has a transparent, proven track record. If you only have time or resources to give, give it, but monetary donations — especially those offered over an extended period — can be even more impactful because charities tend to know where the greatest need is. If you’ve chosen a group and aren’t sure what’s the best way to help, it’s worth reaching out and asking.

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Trump Teases an ‘EPIC’ Election Night Party at His D.C. Hotel Despite Capacity Limits

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Despite D.C.’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, President Donald Trump’s campaign has teased plans to host a party for election night on Tuesday, November 3, at the Trump International Hotel downtown. Fundraising emails from Donald Trump Jr. include details on a “sweepstakes” to fly a supporter to D.C. for a party described in all-caps as “EPIC,” “ELECTRIC,” and “INCREDIBLE.”

Under D.C.’s Phase 2 reopening restrictions, mass gatherings are capped at a maximum capacity of 50 people. Restaurants are still limited to half-capacity seating with no standing and no countertop service from bartenders. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says she wasn’t aware of plans for the party until Monday, October 26, Washingtonian reports.

The location of the election night party is unclear, but the opulent hotel has multiple ballrooms and event spaces. The hotel includes a location of celebrity chef David Burke’s BLT Prime steakhouse. Lobby-level bar Benjamin serves $23 glasses of sangria and $120 seafood towers. Nearby, more affordable pub Harry’s has already seen pro-Trump crowds openly flouting mask requirements and other protocols meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. After he survived a case, Trump told Americans, “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

On election night four years ago, the recently opened hotel was the site of an impromptu and raucous gathering for supporters watching the numbers roll in on large TVs framing its gold bar. The controversial Pennsylvania Avenue hotel near the White House has been sold out for weeks on and around Election Day at rates going for $1,200 a night, the Associated Press reports.

The fine print in the sweepstakes notes the campaign can move the date of the trip and the location of the hotel stay at its discretion. The prize also includes a photo op with Trump. The supposedly randomly chosen winner, who is subject to a background check, will be responsible for all ground transportation, meals, and all other expenses during the duration of the trip.

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Eater Staffers Pick Their Favorite Instant Pot Recipes

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Now that we are over the sourdough-and-regrowing-scallions part of the pandemic, but in no way over the actual pandemic, we must prepare for The Hunkering. Every winter is a time for stews, roasts, and hearty pasta bakes, but this winter it feels extra important, both because most of us are going to be indoors way more than any previous season, and have completely lost the energy to do anything but throw a bunch of stuff in a pot. Which obviously means it’s time to break out the Instant Pots.

A few years ago it seemed like electric multicookers, especially the Instant Pot, may have just been a fad. But the fact that in one appliance you can cook anything from soup to pudding to bread makes it pretty ideal for cooking during quarantine fatigue. Eater’s staffers rounded up our favorite go-to Instant Pot recipes, perfect for the many nights when you’re in the mood for something delicious, but you know, wanting to do as little as possible to make it happen. And as Eater Dallas and Eater Houston editor Amy McCarthy noted, you could always go with “just some fucking chicken breasts,” and let the machine do the rest.


Beef barley soup: This is the first that comes to mind. It’s basically a textbook version of this classic soup, and perfect for chilly weather. It’s low-lift, reasonably quick to put together, and freezes well. — Missy Frederick, cities director

Dakbokkeumtang: I make this recipe when I’m craving a savory chicken dish with the volume turned up. All that delicious flavor comes from the sauce. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and spicy from gochujang and sugar. Doenjang and oyster sauce adds another layer of depth. Typically to make this Korean comfort dish, you would need to watch over the pot, making sure that the chicken pieces are soaking up the sauce. But everything is done in the Instant Pot, so the result is fall-off-the-bone, tender chicken with potatoes that just break apart with no effort at all. Also, who doesn’t love a dump-everything-and-press-the-button recipe?! — James Park, social media manager

Mac and cheese: I make this one once a week when I’m lazy and cooking sounds hard. I use whatever cheese is in the fridge, add a little brown mustard to the mix, and usually skip the milk or add it at the very end. Would suggest you grate the mozzarella or it becomes a blob. — Brenna Houck, editor at Eater Detroit

Chinese poached whole chicken: Basically, I get a whole chicken every week, and I got tired of roasting it. This recipe is a really easy — not entirely foolproof, but a good enough way to poach a chicken whole in about 40 to 50 minutes, with not too much work on my part. You can use it specifically as white-cut chicken over rice with, say, a ginger scallion sauce, but just as often I pull the meat off the carcass and use it for meals throughout the week. Two caveats: You really do need an instant-read thermometer to tell when it’s done, and I find it’s much better to salt the chicken 24 hours in advance (I use the method in Salt Fat Acid Heat), so it has enough taste. And after poaching the chicken and pulling off the meat, I often toss the carcass right back into its cooking liquid, cook it on manual for another 60 minutes, and end up with a bunch of chicken stock. — Meghan McCarron, special correspondent

Kosha mangsho: This is a traditional Bengali goat or lamb stew in a heavily spiced, yogurt gravy, and it’s intensely rich and comforting. This recipe uses a pressure cooker to save time, but on the offchance you landed on this page and don’t have an Instant Pot or the like, you can still just simmer it in a large pot. — Jaya Saxena, staff writer

Lemongrass coconut chicken: The sauce is unbelievably tasty for just a few ingredients and it comes together so quickly. The labor to flavor ratio makes it one of my go-tos when I get bored with cooking or can’t be bothered to put in much effort. It’s also great over rice or any other grain. — Brittanie Shey, Eater Houston and Eater Dallas associate editor

Basic chicken noodle soup: I make a basic chicken noodle soup in the Instant Pot probably every week in the winter: The base recipe is two chicken breasts, a carton and a half of broth, a few cups (I eyeball it) roughly chopped diced celery, carrot, and onion, and whatever spices you want. Cook everything together on high pressure for 25 mins. You can quick-release the pressure and remove the chicken breasts, and shred them — while you’re shredding, set the pot’s saute function so the broth remains boiling and add egg noodles. Once the noodles are cooked, dump the shredded chicken back in and you’re done! This is perfect because frozen chicken works just as well (and at the same cook time), and you can experiment with any leafy greens at the end (throw them in when you add the noodles) and any noodle types you want. — Erin DeJesus, lead editor, Eater.com

Pork chile verde: This recipe is very good; I found it last year when I had a truckload of tomatillos from my garden. It is a great comfort food and works well as stew or tacos. — Brenna Houck, Editor at Eater Detroit

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