Get Your Marching Boots On!

October 12, 2013, March Against Monsanto is coming to a city near you. If not, join on line by sending your elected officials with your opinion. 

Today is 9/30/13. The bill protecting it is supposed to expire today. I hope that it has a safe and peaceful journey to wherever bills go when they expire. It just blows my mind that that so many former employees of a chemical company are using the federal government as a way to poison people. I also find it appalling that so many voters allow politicians who place the interests of big business into office. 

Having lower taxes is appealing, but at the cost of a livable environment? I don’t think so.


We Interrupt the Latest Celebrity Meltdown…

HEY! (jumping up and down while waving arms in the air) Over here! In the soybean field! 

Ok, do I have your attention now? Good. Did you know that late last week and this weekend, the House voted to cut SNAP by 40%? The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps? The one that helps keep people who are elderly, disabled, veterans, and members of military families, and small children fed? That one. In an act of pure meanness, it was cut to balance the budget. 

The amount saved was like cutting your toenails to lose weight. 

I talked to Hubby a little while ago. He had turned on one of the morning “news” shows for a little background noise while he completes this round on his mom’s house. The lead story was about Oprah having nearly had a nervous breakdown. Seriously. Having been there and done that, she has my sympathy. However, Hubby had no idea that the cuts had happened, or that Taiwan and Hong Kong were feeling the aftereffects of a typhoon that looks like Sandy redux, or that Al-Quada operatives from a cell in Somalia had taken hostages at a mall in Nairobi and there had been a lot of explosions and gunfire. 

Donations to some international relief organization will help Kong Kong and Taiwan. Beyond prayers and holding the people of Kenya in our thoughts, we can’t do much about that situation. 

There are things we can do to help SNAP recipients here at home, though:

  • Please practice nonjudgement about how they ended up on assistance. The vast majority of recipients are working poor of all colors, military families, seniors on Social Security, or living with disabilities that prevent them from working, and children. I worked in social services, and concede that there are people who abuse the system. However, there are many more who get abused by the system, such as one client who was bounced between her financial aid office, the public assistance office, and her deadbeat ex-husband. Her family had thrown her out when she found out that she was pregnant and would have nothing more to do with her. Every time she had a increase in one form of benefits, another was cut. Eventually, she gave up, dropped out of school, and stopped coming for sessions.  Wherever she is, I hope that she’s ok.
  • Don’t be a single issue voter. Everyone wants the most bang for their tax buck, and no one wants unwarranted increases, but see where candidates stand on other issues, such as promoting the development of green industries or infrastructure to support job creation. 
  • Educate yourself about the issues involved in hunger and its prevention.
  • Donate to your local food bank, either nonperishables or cash. 

Thank you for listening. We now return you to the latest celebrity meltdown.

Karma and I will see you at the voting booth in November. 


Musings, Some Related to Food

The House just voted to cut food stamps again. I worked in social services once upon a half-life ago, and while yes, there are abuses, the vast majority of people who use them really need them: children, senior citizens, people with disabilities. Note to self: donate to food bank this week. Who’s with me?

Thinking about the Great Lakes this morning. Reflecting on memories from childhood about the day Lake Erie caught on fire. A dockworker or sailor or someone threw a smoldering cigarette butt into Lake Erie and it burst into flames. I’m old enough to remember this, wise enough to be grateful for Erie’s cleanup, and young enough to help keep pressure going to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. 

Not to take away from the shooting at the DC shipyard on Monday, but last night in Chicago thirteen people were injured in a drive-by shooting, including a three-year-old boy. Have we really grown that numb from that many incidents? 

I had scrambled eggs this morning. Melt butter over low heat while you mix up one or two eggs per person. That’s all. Pour into pan. When the eggs start to solidify around the edges, gently fold and stir until done. 

Lunch will be hummus, gluten free crackers, and fruit. Don’t know about dinner. I’ll deal with it then.






Let’s Do the Sweet Potato Boogie!

Five, four, three, two, one, BEEP!

Orion knew that was the cue that he was just seconds from dinner, and to celebrate, he would do a little dance in a circle while I made up a song about the sweet potato boogie. The freshly nuked sweet potato would be squashed free of its jacket and mashed with some kind of protein and a vegetable of some sort with a garnish of some kind of cheese. 

Oakley doesn’t really do much of a dance. He sits or lies down next to his crate in the kitchen and pats the floor, making his grunt-grr sound to tell me he wants his dindin.

I don’t blame them. I like sweet potatoes, too. You can make them mashed, into oven fries, dehydrated for dog treats, substituted for pumpkin in baked goods, you get the idea. I’ve even seen recipes for them as a substitute for corn chips in nachos and noodles in lasagne. I’ve also used them as an alternative to rice with curries. They have tons of fiber and vitamin A and are low on the glycemic scale.

Please do not confuse them with yams, however. While the darker red variety is commonly referred to as such in some parts of the US, they are still sweet potatoes. Yams are another root veg grown in Mexico and the Carribean.

Unless I’m making oven fries, I just poke a bunch of holes and use the baked potato setting on the microwave oven. The skin doesn’t have the same charms as that of a well-scrubbed russet, so no damage done if you pitch the skin.

I made a grocery run this morning and likely will make a curry tonight. Oakley and I will be doing the Sweet Potato Boogie, and we hope that you will join us.  

A Trieste on Imported Foods

At this writing, I have a jar of rose petal jam in the fridge. It comes from Poland. The ingredients: rose petals, sugar, water, and pectin. Nothing else. Wondering if Queen Elizabeth II feels as regal as I do when I see it on the shelf, but no qualms about what’s in it. 

While there are some places I won’t buy imports from due to detrimental trade agreements, a work culture based on human rights abuses, or blatant lack of regulations, there are just times when the product just works better than its counterparts from the US. 

As I mentioned above, jam. Most US companies use HFCS in theirs. The imports from Europe use good ol’ sugar as a sweetener. I like EcoFarm from Poland and Bonne Maman from France.

From India comes some premade meals sold under various labels and available at Trader Joe’s and Caputo’s. The ones I get come in a vacuum pack, and have a limited ingredient list, usually just a legume, tomatoes, maybe another veg, and some cream in some cases. And salt.  

Tea? I get Trader Joe’s Irish breakfast blend or Tetley’s British blend. If I can get to an Indian or Middle Eastern store, I get Lipton Yellow Label. The latter is widely available in Europe, but can be tough to find in the US. Oh, but it’s worth it–it bears no resemblance to the Lipton tea that you grew up with.

I’ve never found fish sauce, Thai curry paste, or some of the other typical Southeast Asian condiments that were made in the US. So I double check to make sure they come from places that fit my criteria for food production standards.

Most importantly, make sure it wasn’t made in China. With that in mind, venture forth boldly.






The Price of Virtue

One of the upsides of a bad experience is that you never have to live through it again.

On the way to pick Oakley up at doggy day care and run a nearby errand yesterday, I had a craving for ice cream. I talked myself out of it, or so I had thought.

Then I remembered a new frozen yogurt place across the road from the errand. “What the heck,” I thought.

More like “the heck is this” when I was inside. It was set up as a self-serve yogurt buffet and they charged by the ounce. 47 cents, to be exact. 

Bad idea for consumers, but a great way to make a crap ton of money.

While the fro-yo in and of itself wasn’t awful, and there was a lovely selection of toppings including nuts, fruits, cookie and cheesecake bits as well as syrups, the concept left a lot to be desired. The bright colors and balloons hanging from the ceilings indicated a family-friendly atmosphere. OK. Problem: the cups only came in one size, making a mindful assembly of your sundae an absolute necessity unless you wanted to blow a week’s worth of groceries on a quart of second rate frozen yogurt. I could see massive ugliness between parents and children over that. Another problem: all the yogurt was fat-free, so who knows what was in it.

For what I spent on the not-so-peachy peach and not bad cheesecake with a sprinkle of cookie dough and a teeny brownie, I could have thrown in the towel and had two scoops of really good ice cream in a chocolate-dipped waffle cone at my local ma-and-pa stand. The ice cream there is so good the cups warn you that “we don’t give out the nutritional info–you are eating ice cream made with gobs of Wisconsin cream and butter and real cane sugar.” Or I could have had a consult with Dr. Ben and Dr. Jerry.

At least the peach was a pretty if not so natural color. 

France is Where You Find It

I made my weekly run to the market yesterday. I bought bread made with an antique variety of wheat (with a lower gluten content and kinder to my tummy) from a young woman whose father, I believe, comes from Paris and whose mother hails from Russia. I bought a small tub of marinated olives and peppers from a man who comes from Marseille and is patient with my dusty high school French. The tomatoes just might end up in a tarte, made with a pastry crust (spelt or gluten-free) and some goat cheese. 

Kind of like the one I had when I went to the cooking class in France some years ago. We cooked and lived a la Francaise for an incredible week. 

It’s going to be a while before I get back, but in the meantime, small everyday practices keep me connected:

  • Flowers. I need flowers on my table. Nothing huge, but a $3.99 bunch from Trader Joe’s or the market can last for up to two weeks and go a long way.
  • Whether I’m getting produce from the market or the store, I select very carefully. I engage in conversation with the seller about the food, where it came from, chat about recipes, that sort of thing.
  • Making meals a little ceremonial. Having one without interference from the TV at least once a day, sitting at the table, and serving the salad as a first course, minor things to shift the focus. 
  • Focusing on the food. Ok, I have been known to read while eating if I’m dining solo. I do sometimes eat in front of the tube. But I try not to very often. Well, more often than I want to admit. 
  • Small touches, even with what seems like minor details, enhance the dining experience. Have you tried tuna and egg sandwiches? Most memorable meal for me was sitting on a bench eating one while watching motor scooters zip around the old quarter of Roanne (it’s near Lyon).  Can of drained tuna, chopped celery and onion, two chopped hardboiled eggs, enough mayo to make it hold together. I had it on a sandwich roll, but it would be great on whole wheat with lettuce and tomato. Perfect when you are getting the first draft of a novel started.

The market I frequent may be in an asphalt parking lot surrounded by small stores, railroad tracks, and early to mid-20th century homes instead of being framed by medieval church spires and supported by cobblestones. Its spirit and intent are the same. And that is where I find my small slivers of France.