A Marigold’s Tale

The subject of this week’s Spin Cycle is “Best and Worst.”

I can do that.

Okay, so you know Beloved’s we’ve gone off the deep end with our back yard gardening.  Not surprisingly, this has turned out to be a mixed blessing.

Best:  Sprouting our own seeds, replanting them in the back yard and knowing they’ll likely survive.

Worst:  The back yard garden has begun to take over our living room.

This has engendered some interesting conversations, though.

The G Man, as he hangs over the back of the love seat:  “What’s wrong with the lids on the plants?”

The Young One:  “It’s called ‘condensation.'”

Best:  Nurturing all of our plants, knowing they will eventually be blog fodder dinner.

Worst:  What – I need to water and weed AGAIN??

It should be noted that I am not the most trustworthy person to weed; I often cannot distinguish between the seedling of something I’m really going to want to eat later, and the weed I won’t.

Best:  Loving the Spring weather in Ohio even more.

It amazed me when I first moved here that you could practically just throw stuff in the ground and it would grow like gangbusters.  We had a beautiful ornamental garden in our back yard in Texas, but due to the searing heat 7 months of the year, we had to be very careful about what we planted, and tend it vigilantly.  Up here, we plant stuff, water it occasionally and that’s it – we have a gorgeous bed of impatiens in our front garden all summer long every year.

Worst:  Learning to HATE The Weather Channel.

The same Weather Channel that promised our over night low would be 38 F.  He Of The Green Thumb was out of town, leaving Hopelessly Inept Gardener on her own for the week.  Hopelessly Inept Gardener thought it would be safe to simply water the garden, rather than covering it, before retiring for the night.

You don’t know terror until you’ve left your husband’s precious garden uncovered all night, only to wake up at 5 a.m. and realize it’s 31 F degrees outside.

Best:  Having He Of The Green Thumb declare that the damage isn’t as bad as you thought; all of the cold/cool weather plants (lettuces, peas, collards, carrots, parsnips, beets) are fine and he shouldn’t have transplanted the peppers, squash, okra and tomatoes outside so soon.

Worst: The realization that the marigold your precious grandson started from a seed at preschool, and which was on the verge of blooming, was one of the items that had been transplanted outside too soon.

You have never seen two people search for a marigold at the local gardening centers quite as frantically as Meema and Papa.

the Marigold

Fortunately, three-year-olds have a limited grasp on the fact that marigolds don’t grow so large quite so quickly.

 

Polls, Trolls and Dietary Fat

Theif Cartoon SilohuetteThe tragedy in Boston yesterday has left me angry and sad.  I’m so sad for the deaths and injuries suffered by all of those innocent people, and angry at the non-stop media coverage – the sensationalism and constant, pointless speculation, giving this sicko exactly what they wanted out of the whole thing:  attention and validation.  It’s just disgusting.

It’s made me think about my intention to blog about GMOs in response to some comments I got on Facebook last week.  After I posted my Fish Tacos recipe to my Facebook wall, the same person who was “debating” me about GMOs left some very nasty comments about me personally – hilariously, he seems to think I’m some sort of bored, spoiled Mommy Blogger – so I banned him and blocked him from commenting here.

Am I going to give this person any more of my time and respond to his often incomprehensible, hostile arguments?  NOT ON YOUR LIFE.

I appreciate the rational and respectful feedback I got on my little poll, and I do have a great deal to say about the subject.  So I will probably go ahead and do the post about GMOs – and what appears to be a common misconception about those who oppose them – but it won’t be in response to this asshole, who personifies John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.  Just sayin’.

On that note, I recently switched my RSS and email subscription functions here from Feedburner, which seems to have been deprecated by Google, to Feedblitz.  I get a great deal more information, more consistently, than I did with Feedburner, including updates when I have a new subscriber or when someone unsubscribes.  I really like the unsubscribe notices, because Feedblitz asks for a reason.  For the most part, the few unsubsribes haven’t given one, but that doesn’t bother me – I’ve subscribed to blogs in the past only to unsubscribe from them shortly after because it simply wasn’t what I expected or was looking for.

However, yesterday, right on the heels of banning/blocking this one person and reading about what happened in Boston, I got an unsubscribe with a reason that just made my jaw drop.  I’ve had this one very intermittent commenter for about a year; he seemed nice enough.  At least until recently when he began to take me to task just out of the blue, telling me my recipes are horrible, asking me what kind a readership do I attract and insisting that I do them a great disservice – my recipes are just an instant heart attack!  It didn’t take me long to get fed up and I just quietly blocked him from commenting and promptly forgot all about him.

Until yesterday when he unsubscribed from my feed, citing that my blog is “offensive” and that he “strongly disapproves” of me.  I guess he doesn’t like fish tacos any more than he likes fried plantains or breakfast crepes.

What the hell is  WRONG with people?

Moo Juice

MilkBecause I don’t think you can call it “milk” any more, especially if the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have their way.  You see, these two organizations are petitioning the FDA to allow aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to be added to milk and other dairy products without a label.

Without going into the debacle that is food labeling (that’s a whole ‘nother post), why on earth would anyone want to add artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame, to milk?  Well, according to IDFA and NMPF, “aspartame and other artificial sweeteners would promote healthy eating and is good for school children.”

Just let that sink in for a minute.

Aspartame.

Healthy.

Good for school children.

Despite the claims of both the manufacturer of aspartame (would it surprise you to learn that between 1985 and 2000, that honor went to Monsanto?) and the Food and Drug Administration that the “non-nutritive sweetener” is harmless, there is a huge body of anecdotal evidence that says otherwise (something the FDA doesn’t deny).

There are over 92 different side effects associated with aspartame consumption, which can lead to a number of health problems.  Among these are:

– Blindness

– Loss of hearing

– Seizures

– Migraines

– Numbness of the extremeties

– Anxiety

– Insomnia

– Heart palpitations

– Nausea

– Diarrhea

– Hives

– Hair Loss

Those are just the mild effects; there have been claims of brain damage, birth defects, and even death.  And now these organizations are petitioning the government “to amend the standard of identification for milk, cream, and 17 other dairy products like yogurt, sweetened condensed milk, sour cream, and others to provide for the use of any ‘safe and suitable sweetener’ on the market” because it “would promote healthy eating and is good for school children.”

Did you know the European Common Market has banned aspartame in children’s product due to concerns about it’s safety?  But here industrial dairy producers and distributors are lobbying to have it added to all milk and milk-based products, without any sort of label indicating it’s there, because by golly, if you make something sweet enough, Americans will swill it down without question.

Normally, I wouldn’t be upset about this; I don’t necessarily agree with labeling, but even if I did I rarely consume anything that has a label.  What really peeves me about this is that if this is passed, all the milk kids are served outside of their home, including day care facilities and schools (even private schools often have to adhere to government regulations regarding the food that is served), will contain an ingredient that is A) toxic and B) potentially addictive.  School children that are already suffering from attention disorders and autism in rapidly increasing numbers every year.

I’ve got an idea for you, International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation:  if you want to encourage the consumption of your products, especially by children, stop taking the fat out of it.  You’d be amazed at what it does for the palatability:

Me to The Young One’s Friend:  Want some milk?

Friend:  Nah, I don’t really like milk.

Me:  What kind of milk does your mother buy?  Skim?

Friend:  Yeah.

Me (pouring a glass of non-homogenized, vat-pasteurized, full fat milk):  Well, here – try this.  If you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it.

Friend (tasting, then gulping down the entire glass):  That was wonderful!  What have I been missing?

Me:  Real food.

Fight Back Friday

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Edited to add:  This appears to only apply to sweetened milk products, such as flavored milks and yogurts (for now).  Nor does it mean that aspartame would not be included on the ingredient label, just not prominently.  However, it’s still a push to include something that is A) toxic and B) potentially addictive to products marketed to, and consumed in large quantities by, children.  And it’s still a bad idea.

A Wheaty Matter

I mentioned yesterday that I spent Friday at Kent State University with The Young One attending something called “Golden Flash Day.”  It was basically a recruiting event; an attempt to woo potential students that have been accepted by the school but haven’t yet decided where they want to attend.  If I’d known that, I think we’d probably have skipped it, although we did accomplish a couple of things, including a seminar on Financial Aid (I shudder every time I think about the $76,000 price tag – not including books – the next four years carries) and a tour of the particular college he’ll be attending (the university is divided into particular colleges, each dedicated to a general area of study – The Young One will be attending the college of Information and Communication).

The day started off with breakfast:  some vile swill they called “coffee” and about a half mile worth of tables covered with donuts and granola bars.

Guess who skipped the whole mess (The Young One assured me his cinnamon roll was awful).

Lunch – four hours later – was a sit-down affair.  I didn’t register for the event, so I had no idea that there would be different options for the meal; apparently there was a choice of chicken, fish or a vegetarian option.  If you didn’t choose the fish or vegetarian option, you were stuck with chicken.  Not that it made much difference.

When we sat down, there was a salad in front of each diner – low and behold, no cheese or croutons, just greens, a slice of cucumber and a cherry tomato.  The only options for dressing were ranch and Italian, but after no breakfast I certainly wasn’t going to quibble over a little soybean oil so I dressed the salad, inhaled it, gave my roll to the boy, and waited for the main course.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

If you’d chosen the fish or vegetarian option when you registered, they mailed you a card which you were then instructed you put on your plate.  The waitstaff – of which there was far too few – brought those out first.  The vegetarian option was some sort of alfredo lasagna – buried under breadcrumbs.  I couldn’t tell you what the fish was, because it was buried – yup – under breadcrumbs.

If you’re thinking this didn’t bode well for the chicken, you’d be correct.

As I looked down at my breaded piece of chicken breast smothered in some sort of cream sauce – that I’d waited more than half an hour to receive – I noticed The Young One was eying the roasted red potatoes on his plate with equal displeasure (the boy is weird about potatoes).

“Want my chicken?” I asked.

“Okay – you can have my potatoes.  Want some of my green beans too?”

So that was how we divided lunch, and I don’t think anyone would be surprised that I went back for a second helping of the venison I made for dinner that evening.

This has me a worried all over again about the food options that will be available to The Young One when he is living on campus, but more than that, I have to ask one question:

WHY?  Why was it necessary to entomb everything in bread?  You couldn’t serve baked fish or roasted chicken?  What would have been wrong (or difficult) about that?  I’ve worked in food service before and understand the logistics of feeding that many people – there were close to 1,000 attendees – but I still don’t understand the need for all the breadcrumbs.  If it was an attempt to prevent the entrees from drying out, The Young One assures me it was a failure, and if the remnants on the plates around me were any indication, he wasn’t alone in that assessment.  If this was part of the master plan to persuade those who are undecided about the university they will attend, I can only wonder about the success of the endeavor.

After all, if you ask someone to find a way to shell out $76,000 over the next 4 years, they’re going to need their strength.

For more “Why?” Spins, head on over and visit Gretchen at Second Blooming.  She might even have some answers.

The Harvest

It’s mid-October, and I am (more or less) done canning, freezing and otherwise preserving for the year.

Hallelujah.

I meant to take photos, I really did, but between the hectic work week and the demands of not only a high school senior but a 3-year-old grandson, I just didn’t have the time/inclination/wherewithal to drag my photography equipment into our rather poorly lit basement and set it all up into something resembling orderly.  Well, that’s not true; thanks to Beloved it’s all pretty well organized, but it’s spread out over several shelves and I just didn’t want to have to rearrange it all to make it easier to photograph.

The reason it’s all spread over several shelves (not to mention two boxes full of winter squashes) is because there’s tons of it down there:

  • 24 pints of barbecue sauce
  • 85 pints of tomato sauce
  • 20 half-pints of sweet corn
  • 65 pints of green beans
  • 6 half-pints rhubarb chutney
  • 28 pints of applesauce
  • 8 half-pints of apple butter
  • 10 half-pints of watermelon pickles
  • 20 pints garlic dill pickles
  • 10 pints of bread and butter pickles
  • 9 pints tomato salsa
  • 12 pints peach salsa
  • 7 pints pickled beets
  • 38 pints of chicken stock
  • 18 pints of beef stock
  • 12 pints turkey (yes, turkey)
  • 11 pints of lard

Again, that doesn’t even include the two large boxes of winter squash or the huge bag of frozen cubes of homemade tomato paste, the frozen sweet corn, the tallow we still have to render or the beef stock we will add to what’s already down there.  Nor does it take into account the two hogs, side of grass-fed beef and 36 chickens we’ve socked away in our freezer over the course of the year.

(My sister-in-law, Tough Yankee Broad – who is also slightly off her rocker and cans like a fool all late summer and early autumn – says she keeps her winter squashes in the basement until January, then cooks and cans whatever is left before they have a chance to go bad.  That sounds like a plan to me, and I’ll probably do the same this year – I may have the fortitude to drag out the pressure canner once again by then.)

If all this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is – we have done nothing but can every weekend for at least six weeks, and there were plenty of weeknight canning sessions, too.  All in all, we canned 4 bushels of tomatoes, 1 1/2 bushels of green beans, 1/2 bushel of apples and canned/froze 5 dozen ears of sweet corn.

There is an upside to this madness, of course; trust me – if there weren’t, we wouldn’t be doing it.

With the exception of the stocks and fats, which we process and can all year, all of this food will last us until next summer when we start the process all over again.  Since we’re fortunate enough to live where there are year-round farmer’s markets (our favorite will move indoors at the end of the month) and near at least two excellent natural food markets, we’ll continue to buy some seasonal produce, but our weekly food bill is going to drop dramatically until next spring.  We also have the advantage of knowing exactly where this food came from, what’s in it, and how it was processed and handled.

When we watch the news and see yet another report about food that’s been recalled – this time it’s shredded wheat cereal contaminated with metal shavings – all I can think of is how glad I am we don’t have to worry about that shit any more.

For more Autumnal Spins, visit Gretchen at Second Blooming.  She has a killer recipe for pumpkin bread, for the gluten-inclined.