Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More Food History

Looking at "American" food history--which can really only be defined as food cooked & eaten in America--a few things have struck me which might make America's food story a bit unique.  I say "might" because I can't say for sure since I haven't finished reading about our food history nor have I read about anyone else's, so these are TRULY just some thoughts I have about the things that might be unique to our food history:

*  Bounty.  One thing about America's first settlers--there was no shortage of food available if they could catch it.  Early American diets (as well as today's, probably) were incredibly meat-centric because there seemed to be no end of fresh birds, fish, and game available.  Back in Europe, the poor rarely ate meat as it was expensive or unobtainable.  Even the poorest of early settlers in America could eat meat if they could catch it, which it appears they did.  In the 1800s, diets were so lopsided toward meat & away from vegetables that Harvey Levenstein calls constipation the "national curse."

*  Sweets.  Everything I've read talks about how much Americans throughout history have liked sweets & sweetened things.  Not being much of a sweets fan, this one is out of my realm, so I thought I'd throw this one out for discussion.  Thoughts?

*  Protestantism.  Believe it or not, the sort of self-denial puritanism that pervades America's past may have had a huge impact on our food choices.  Whether believing that spicy food led to immoral behavior--or at least a lot of children--or  the Yankee ideal of plain living & high thinking that led to a reception featuring  bouillon, tea, and candy being praised for it's "simplicity" rather than its resemblance to hospital fare for one who has just had at least one vital organ removed.  William Henry Harrison's supporters actually campaigned that he lived on "raw beef and salt" and that it made him a better candidate than President Martin Van Buren who had a French chef in the White House (which may have worked as Harrison did win the election but died 32 days into his term--which doesn't speak well of that raw beef diet).  It seems that really awful food has quite often been a virtue in this country--which might explain McDonalds....

*  A very savvy food marketing industry in a young country.  We had food marketing & lots of methods of distributing information WAY before there were any limits to what sorts of claims advertisers could make, or any limits on how they could say them.  Betty Crocker informed her radio audience that Gold Medal flour made her food better, since Betty & Gold Medal Flour were owned by the same company.  Food magazine articles extolled whatever virtues their advertisers told them their products had.  Good Housekeeping even has ARTICLES--not ads--calling Jell-O an excellent and inexpensive source of nutrients.  "Experts" such as doctors, home economists or food magazine editors were hired to promote even the most revolting foods.  Remember the cookbook I found last summer which seemed to be written by a woman completely obsessed with Crisco?  Proctor & Gamble (who had introduced Crisco in 1911) hired Sarah Field Splint, editor of the food department of McCall's Magazine at the time and formerly Chief of Division of Food Conservation, U. S. Food Administration (later the FDA I believe), to write this book as well as several pamphlets, encouraging people to use Crisco in place of butter--even in sandwiches, where I'm assuming that weird white goo and its total lack of flavor might have been noticed.  I don't suppose professional pride existed if one can call oneself a "food expert" and still hawk something as tasteless as Crisco. 

* Prohibition.  I've discussed this one earlier as far as essentially killing off fine dining in America, but it seems to have given a huge boost to our consumption of ice cream, soda, and sweet cocktails (to cover up the nasty taste of illegal alcohol).  I guess if you take away one pleasure, people are going to find another.  Hm........makes me wonder what ELSE increased during Prohibition?  Birthrates?  Infidelity?  Gambling?  All of the above?????

Monday, June 28, 2010

Harder Than It Sounded

Remember my list of foods we were going to eat each week?  Yeah--it's harder than I thought it might be.  We did manage to get almost everything on there, but there were a few strange meals involved.

We have made a few alterations:

* Eliminated brown rice, as it probably isn't as nutritious as many other whole grains, but could be lumped into that category

*  We are each keeping track of our own eating habits, as I am not about to ask Andy if he's had his weekly allotted snacks of apples & oranges.

*  As neither of us actually like iced tea and hot tea when it's 100 degrees out is just too dreadful to contemplate, that one may become a "winter only" sort of thing.

*  No one is allowed to complain about gritty smoothies.  It's the best delivery device for ground flax seed, and I can take care of yogurt, blueberries, AND flax seed with one flick of the blender.

*  The "citrus" category may be troublesome, as oranges are out of season and neither of us like grapefruit. 

*  Sometimes 19 out of 21 isn't bad

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Things I Have Learned This Week

*  One can actually cut oneself while picking strawberries.  Exactly how is still a bit of a mystery, but the cut is real all the same.

*  If its red but rather watery and clear, it's strawberry juice.  If it's red but hard to see through, it's blood.

*  Castor oil only deters the less-determined of the mole species.  Some listen to nothing short of Mole Flambe.

*  When one is rolling moth balls into a mole hole to drive it away, the sight of a ticked-off mole immediately rolling them back out is right about where my "strong female" persona gives out in favor of "Eke!  A rodent!  Save me!!!!!!!!!!"

*  Oh sure, I could explain to the neighbors that the jumping up and down in the flowerbed and jabbing at the dirt with a stick was to collapse mole holes, but then they might not think I'm crazy and will want to start borrowing things.

*  Only the foolish plant 9 broccoli plants all at once, then decide to "give it one more day" before harvesting all the heads.....unless one prefers the taste of broccoli flowers

*  "Live and let live" is an easier philosophy before the Mole From Hell destroys your petunias

Well, Now We're REALLY Getting Going

Idaho Republicans push to the right at party convention | Idaho Politics | Idaho Statesman

The Idaho Republican Party is having its convention this weekend. Just in case you thought having a candidate who thought Puerto Rico was a foreign country was as low as the Idaho Republican Party could get, that was just a warm up. Among the proposals being tossed around by Idaho's dominant party:

* immediately disband all public schools (which almost makes sense. If we're going to be this stupid, why pay for schools?)

* repeal the 17th amendment to the constitution, which would take away the public's right to elect their own state senators (you know, a nice warm up for the next convention when they can try to repeal that pesky 15th amendment and 19th amendment--giving blacks and women, respectively, the right to vote.)

* deny federal order declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant would be ignored by Idaho as "junk science." (because if you're locked in a small space without any holes or windows for many hours, it really isn't the carbon dioxide that kills you....it's little green men from Mars who do it....)

and my personal favorite:

* define marriage as between a "naturally born" man and woman, barring transgender individuals (I can only guess that some whackadoo is afraid that someone will be able to get a sex-change then get married in Idaho? Which, you know, I'm sure is likely because if you are "transgender," gay, black, Latino, non-Christian, or anything but an extremely heterosexual white male, Idaho is certainly on the top of your list as a hot place to move to. Right after the top of an active volcano.)

Honestly, every time I think the far-right in Idaho has been as embarrassing as they could possibly be, they find new ways to prove me wrong........

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just Had To Share This One: Most Bizarre Cookbooks of All Time

The Most WTF Cookbooks Of All Time (PICTURES)

Answering A Few Questions

Blogger, in it's infinite wisdom, only allows me to send replies to comments from a few people.  I've looked at my profile & can't figure out if I have my settings correctly set for when I leave comments, so I don't really know how this happens or what needs to change.  BUT, I don't want to appear to be ignoring anyone--I've gotten quite a few laughs, lots of encouragement, and some great ideas from the comments, so I do love them.  A few follow ups:

Carolyn asked how we got such great looking strawberries.  I have no idea.  I wish I actually knew what I was doing, but we just planted them last year, so this is the first year we've really gotten any.  We have a mixture of June-bearing & ever bearing, though since we let them send runners out everywhere, I can no longer tell you which is which.  When we prepared the bed, we mixed in compost & sand with the dirt because they supposedly like well-drained soil, and since I guess they are really heavy feeders, I gave them some of my fall horse manure endeavors.  With all the rain we've been having, we have had slugs, but we must have gotten Italian slugs as they mostly went for the basil.  The beer thing was only moderately successful, so last week I put down diatomaceous earth (and here's a little tip--don't try to spread that stuff in any kind of wind), and so far the little devils have not invaded the strawberries.  I'm losing a few to birds, but I think the fence people largely scared them off.  The birds must have seen what happened to the blueberry bush....and the compost bin.

Chica (who, by the way, has a totally amazing garden that is at least a month ahead of ours) asked if we could just freeze chicken or vegetable stock, and the answer would be--depends what we've recently done involving the freezer. 

We have a mid-size chest freezer out in the garage, and frankly, I don't think our lifestyle would be possible without it.  LOVE it.  And I have, on a few occasions, been able to make & freeze stock to keep for soup night, but the space available in the freezer is always the determining factor.  Right after I finished baking & freezing about 20 bags of squash puree, we couldn't have even fit a single fudgesicle in there.  (I should know--I bought a set of frozen pop molds and have been waiting for enough squash to be used to fit it in the freezer). 

What's interesting is that I just realized our freezer has "seasons" as well.  We're still in pumpkin season, though thankfully zucchini season (which did work well) is almost over, but broccoli season is about to kick in to high gear, and I've been freezing a few strawberries from each harvest until I have enough to make more of that marvelous strawberry-balsamic jam from our own strawberries.  Then in July it will be cherry season....and on it goes.  I also have to reserve some freezer space for the few things I've found that freeze well, since it's our only shot at convenience food.  SO, when my spine and I are reunited and I am ready for another shot at the pressure canner, vegetable stock would be the best choice to be canned instead of frozen. 

Abby had asked if I knew why onion sets couldn't be shipped to Idaho.  I actually didn't, but I did find the answer.  There are a LOT of onions grown around here & in the neighboring areas of Oregon, and the restriction is to protect the crops from a bad onion virus going around--the pronounceable being allium root rot.  Seeds can be imported, but not even ornamental allium bulbs can be brought here.  I think it's our version of the California fruit police that take your after-lunch apple at the state border (a very scarring experience).

*  And my personal favorite, Cindi asked if they had been served SPAM when she & her husband were over--having been given the hard-hitting white chocolate martinis.  To that, I answer:

What happens at Chateau Sutton-Goar
STAYS at Chateau Sutton-Goar........

Monday, June 21, 2010

What We're Eating Now

I've been getting a lot of questions about what--if anything--we're eating now.  Since we're both firmly convinced that processed foods are better OUT of our diet, we are really trying to stick to the diet, though a few exceptions have been made:

*  We each get a Diet Pepsi on Fridays.

*  I can use commercial broth for Soup Night....or at least until I lose my fear of the pressure canner and start canning my own broths.  The fact that I did not blow up the house when I canned pumpkin doesn't seem to have lessened my fears any.  Probably because I know my potential for such things--boeuf bourgignon may have scarred my forearm for life.

*  We can have commercial chicken noodle soup if we are sick.  No faking.

*  We are slowly working our way through using up some of the "illegal" stuff still lurking in the pantry.  It has to be in limited amounts, and we won't be buying any of it again, but as we are NOT independently wealthy, we're going to use it since we bought it.

*  Colored American cheddar has been forgiven for the food coloring & has been allowed back.  Ditto black olives.  A year without olives I could live with.  A lifetime--no.

*  We're not cooking with cream for a very long time because it has MADE MY BAD SIDE.  A product calling itself "cream" and masquerading in the dairy case with such simple things as "milk" and "eggs" would, one would presume, be cream.  Whipping cream is, in fact:  cream (milk), carrageenan, mono- and diglycerides, polysorbate 80.  The bastards.  That means we had a few inadvertent "cheats" last year even AFTER I figured out the olives, pickles, and cheese "whoopsies."  I'll have to look into that one further to see if to get cream in a liquid (non butter) state if one has to be there right at the time of milking, or if it is just a "whipping cream" issue, but cream and I are not currently on speaking terms.

The more I have studied food and food history, the more I am convinced that much of our information is slanted toward products that can pay to advertise in the source providing the "nutrition" information.  I noticed a recent article in a health magazine mentioned all SORTS of products one could buy to add more fiber to one's diet.  Know how to add fiber to your diet?  Add pumpkin.  And beans.  And legumes.  And quit pealing fruit & vegetables.  BUT, I don't think pumpkin has much of an advertising budget, so it wasn't mentioned. 
My assumptions are that we can
     A) get most--probably ALL--the nutrients we require from actual food.  If our ancestors managed to survive for thousands of years without "nutritional supplements," we probably will as well.
     B)  To get everything we need, we need to eat a wide variety of foods.

SO, yesterday I made a little chart for us (Andy is SUCH a sport).  Every week, we need to have the following:

whole grains
brown rice
winter squash
green tea
flax seed
hot cereal

The list is probably a little bit arbitrary, and I left some things off that we eat so regularly that I didn't bother to include them--like soy & spinach--though I may add them just so I get to check off a couple things very quickly.  (checking things off is just SO satisfying)  We're trying to cover a wide variety of proteins, grains, and colors.  The list is going to push us a bit, as I in general--in case I haven't mentioned it recently--loathe eggs, and could live the rest of my life quite happily without green tea. 

This morning, I fixed steel cut oats with toasted hazelnuts for breakfast, so check off nuts & hot cereal for the week.  (YAY!)  We're not counting that as whole grains because the oats are, in fact, cut (presumably with steel), so some of the nutrients may have been lost.  When WE say whole grains, we don't mess around.  It's the whole stinkin' grain here or NOTHING.

We had chicken yesterday, so that is THREE things down--18 to go.......

Friday, June 18, 2010


Since many of you wondered how I got here
I can only say that I think that when I turned on my iron to heat up, and placed the pants I intended to iron on the ironing board, the hanger was probably up against the iron.  This
is what makes me think so.  I'd like to say that I caught it immediately, or that I immediately figured it out when I saw the hanger missing a large part of itself, but......
no, that would not be the case.  I discovered the problem after having ironed melted plastic onto my pants.  I have managed to remove all but that little blue dot, and I am happy to say that the big blue smear DID finally clue me in. 
Some days, I think I embarrass Theo.......

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Flashing the Neighborhood

Not having a back fence--or actually any fence--has been rather unnerving.  People walking past stop and ask about our garden, which is really quite cool and I'm very happy to be getting to know more of our neighbors, except that A) I can't be out back in my pajamas, which happens more than I'd care to admit, and B) I'm a bit embarrassed by the manginess of our backyard.  It's probably good for the garden as I'm being FAR more diligent about weeds than I normally am, but I'll be glad when the fence is done and I can go back to being my normal lazy self. 

The cats are finding the whole experience rather interesting,
though Calisto
 more so than Theo
I think all the activity is keeping the birds at bay, so
the strawberry Bird Wars haven't really started.  Or maybe they're conserving their energy for the Great Blueberry Assault again this year.....

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Questions While Waiting For the Coffee To Brew......

*  If a cat has no owner, how does it find a door to always be on the wrong side of?

*  The other day I was in a public restroom, and a woman came in, entered a stall, presumably sat down, and THEN made a call on her cell phone.  What kind of a relationship do you have with someone when THAT MOMENT is when you're reminded to call him or her?

*  How annoying does the ice cream truck music have to get before it would no longer be wrong to rip the speakers right off the truck?

*  Even in a loving committed marriage in a community property state, can't a few things be "finders-keepers?"  Like the first strawberries in the garden?

*  I'll admit--sometimes when my cat is sleeping, he looks so cute that I just have to pet him.  When I'M asleep and he feels the need to wake me up, does he think I look cute sleeping or is he just retaliating?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Things I've Learned This Week

*  Check to see whether they cause drowsiness or not BEFORE taking someone else's allergy medication.

*  Just because a blueberry bush is more than 2 feet away from the fence people, it doesn't mean they won't somehow destroy it. 

*  Not having a backyard fence for a week makes me feel very exposed.  I'm not ready for the neighbors to know how often I go out in the backyard in my pajamas.

*  We either have highly evolved slugs who have caught on to the beer-trap thing, or else ours have chosen to not drink alcohol for religious or health reasons.

*  Taking down a fence makes WAY more noise than one might think.

*  My gardening organizational skills still need some work.  Last fall, I carefully drew a map showing what type of garlic & how much of each variety I was planting.  Which would be really, really useful, of course, except that I can't find the silly map............

*  Normally, I'm not a huge radish fan, but after a month of salads of just chives, spinach, and 3 types of lettuce, I am REALLY excited to see them finally ready.

*  Andy and I agree on most things, but we take very different stances on birds.  He finds them interesting and would like a bird feeder.  I find them to be little monsters who are always after my garden and would like to feed them to the cats.  We're trying to work through our differences.......

Monday, June 7, 2010

Mushrooms and Slugs and Mud, Oh My!

If April showers bring May flowers, know what May showers bring?

Slugs and mushrooms. 

The mushrooms we're assuming will go away once they get smacked with Idaho's NORMAL summer weather--hot & dry.  The slugs we're trying to catch by putting little half-cans of beer in the garden.  Everyone swears this works, but it still seems odd, or like the punchline to a joke about how to stop rednecks from stealing your tomatoes.  But, we are willing to try anything. 

Anyone know if slugs prefer regular or dark beer?

Saturday, June 5, 2010


You might have noticed by my incessant whining about it that we've had an abnormally cold & wet spring.  In May, we had 25 days of lower-than-normal temperatures, and double our usual rainfall.  As this is the third year in a row of really wet early summer, I'm getting used to it.  And I'm convinced that global weather patterns are changing, which is a bit unnerving though I admit I'm not sorry that we seem to be being spared those weeks of 100+ temperatures we were getting a few years ago.  Not that I was amused by the week of being below zero or anything, but I'm a knitter, so anything that justifies more wool sweaters is easier to take. 

Last night, however, Boise received tornado warnings.


I admit, my tornado knowledge is pretty limited (hazardous to evil witches and a possible means of relocation to a land of vertically-challenged citizens), but I rather assumed that one had to live in a flat state (Kansas) to get tornadoes.  Sort of like one has to be near an ocean to get hurricanes.  I don't know if you know much about Idaho, but one of the reasons we're in what is known as the Mountain Time Zone is that we have mountains.  Lots of the things.  Not that I'm complaining--it makes a nice view, brings tourism, and up until now I thought they had kept some of the nastier weather options at bay.  In exchange, we live with winter road closures and drive front-wheel and 4-wheel drive vehicles.  This, to my understanding, has been our system.  Lately, however, one of us--and I'm not naming any names here--has not been living up to one's end of the bargain......

Any thoughts, exactly, how one gives mountains a "time out?" 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Things I've Learned This Week

* If you're going to keep putting horse manure on your lawn in order to improve it, you'd better have it worked out ahead of time exactly who is going to do the mowing if it works.

*  The fact that little plants are coming up were I planted seeds is VERY exciting, even if I'm not sure that they aren't weeds.

*  It will pay off in the long run to have finished planting the garden in the never-ending-rain, but that doesn't make me any less whiny.

*  My arm is starting to feel better, so I'm finally being good and not overusing that.  Obviously, somewhere in the depths of my mind, this makes sense.

*  I'm a lot less stressed about how the food will turn out for our dinner guests tonight after we promised them white chocolate martinis.  One of those babies and I could even serve SPAM.

*  There probably isn't a group in the world that won't eventually need to vote one of the members off the island.  I'm just relieved when I'm not the one who has to be the enforcer.

*  If I'm reading a nonfiction book and come across a generalization about "all" of any group, it's time to stop reading the book.  It's obviously not objective and is probably full of untrue statements, unless it's about math, and what are the odds that I'll sit down and read a math book just for fun?

*  Fred Meyer's garden department is run by an optimist.  They are selling eggplant starter plants in 6-packs.

*  One person can love a book and another person will think it's the worst book ever written, and they'll probably end up in the same book club.

*  Even though I realize it's probably just because there's a door and they're on one side while I'm on the other, I still can't help but take it as a personal commentary when the cats sit outside the shower and howl.

Fall! Finally!

Even without extremely hot summers, I've always loved fall.  A little coolness in the air, leaves starting to turn, sweaters coming out-...