Random musings—food and celebrities

Super Bowl noshes

I don’t really do a whole Super Bowl spread, but our Sunday meal was a little bit Bowl-ish, in that I made a couple of appetizers, which I don’t normally do unless the whole family will be here. I made guacamole, which is so fast and easy, you should never buy it pre-made. If you’re unsure how to choose a ripe avocado, because, you know, there’s a fine line between hard as a brick, perfectly ripe, and too far gone, here’s a handy little guideline. First, the skin should be pretty dark green, then look at the stem end, the stem should still be attached, but should come off easily. This isn’t scientific, but it usually works for me. Much better than squeezing.

My recipe is pretty simple: 3 medium avocados, juice of one small lime or half a larger one (use the rest to make a margarita), one clove garlic, and about 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt. Mash the avocados in a shallow, medium-sized bowl (I use my pastry blender, but a fork works, too), mince the garlic on a cutting board, then sprinkle the salt on top. With the flat side of your chef’s knife, mash and grind the garlic and salt together until you have a paste, add this to the avocado, and stir in with the lime juice. Taste, and adjust for salt ( a finer salt, if you’re adding at this point). That’s it. Simple, but delicious. The lime juice will keep it green for several hours, much longer than lemon juice, for some reason, and it tastes better, too.

Our other appetizer was one I got from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Roasted Corn and Crab Dip. Oh my goodness, it is delicious, and easy. Did I say I like easy? The picture shows them using that fake snow crab that I really don’t care for, but the recipe calls for real crab. I think that’s odd, but whatever. I use the real thing. It doesn’t have to be top of the line lump crab meat. This isn’t crab cakes (I have an excellent recipe for those, too). We use bagel chips as dippers, but it’s really good on crostini as well.

I was so full from the appetizers that I barely had room for the main course, which was brats with peppers and onions. I split one with the toddler.

Speaking of the Super Bowl

I can’t really say much about it, because I don’t watch football, but I saw the Nationwide commercial with Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon, which I thought was genius. Mindy is always funny. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she contributed to the writing of the ad. She was one of the writers and producers of The Office, one of my favorite TV series, and of course, she has her own series now on Fox, called The Mindy Project. She graduated from Dartmouth where she studied the Classics, but ended up with a degree in playwriting. She gave a hilariously genius speech last year at Harvard Law School’s class day and brought down the house.

Matt Damon is one of my favorite actors. Even if he’s in a bad movie (there haven’t been that many of them), he always rises above the material. He’s also a champion for teachers, and a philanthropist who co-founded the organization Water.org, and along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle and others, the Not On My Watch Project, which aims to bring global attention to and prevent mass atrocities, such as those in Darfur. He also gave his time, along with other well-known actors, writers, and news people, to an Emmy-winning Showtime series called Years of Living Dangerously to bring awareness and education about climate change. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my list. Matt is one of the Hollywood good guys. There’s never been a hint of scandal attached to his name, and he’s been married to the same woman since 2005.

What did this have to do with the Super Bowl, you ask? I digressed a little there, didn’t I? This is my version of Super Bowl watching. A couple of commercials, and then I’m done. I didn’t even watch the half-time show. I think they’re highly over-rated, and not usually my cup of tea. I hid out in the bedroom with a cup of herbal tea and Downton Abbey and Grantchester, and then went to bed. Apparently there was some fuss at the end of the game, something about a botched pass at the one-yard line. Don’t get your panties in a wad, people. There’s always next year.

Winter, I’m so over you

This Monday was the first one that the kids have attended school since before Christmas. We’ve had big snow or freezing rain every Sunday night, or early Monday morning in January. In fact, last Friday morning it started freezing rain while Gaige (middle school) was waiting on the bus at 6:30. The bus came, but the superintendent ended up delaying, and then canceling, school for the elementary and intermediate students, whose day starts an hour-and-a-half later. They’ve used all of their calamity days, and are into make-up days. So far, it hasn’t encroached on their spring break, but we still have a lot of winter left.

Our driveway, especially the area in front of the garage, is like a very dangerous skating rink. It’s been thawed and refrozen and frozen-rained on and snowed on so many times, I’ve lost count. The ice is about two inches thick. Something definitely has to be done about it before next winter. David said it needs to be graded and filled and brought up to level, or some drainage tile put in, or something. It would probably help if it were asphalted. At least it would be easier to plow. I don’t like to use salt, because the birds come to get grit, and it poisons them. And the sun never hits that area enough to melt it off completely like it does the rest of the driveway.

The maple syrup production was brought to a screeching halt by the extremely cold weather we’ve been having, after that little January thaw we had. It was really too early to start, and David knew that, but the long-range forecast was off by a lot, and it threw him off his game. The temps have to be below freezing at night, but well above freezing during the day with the sun being able to warm the base of the trees to bring up the sap. So, it’s on hold until we get a real thaw.

I just want Spring.

Have you heard?

Harper Lee has an unpublished novel called Go Set a Watchman! It’s a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Actually, it was the first manuscript that Ms. Lee sent to HarperCollins Publishing, written as the adult Scout. They sent it back to her and told her to re-write it in Scout’s little girl voice, which they thought would be more interesting.  She did, and the rest is history. Now they’re going to publish the original manuscript written in Scout’s grown-up voice with no revisions whatsoever! I’m so excited I can’t stand it! I hope Ms. Lee lives to see it in book form. She is 88 and in fragile health. Hang in there, Harper Lee.

See you soon,


Random musings—mostly food

I wish I could like quinoa

I’ve tried quinoa. In fact, I have a Pinterest board that I titled “It’s pronounced KEEN-wah!” The pictures look beautiful, and it’s so healthy for you. I tried it once, and that was enough for me. There is something about the texture that makes me shudder. That little pop/crunch when you bite into it. It’s probably the same reason that I don’t like caviar. I also don’t like the slight sweetness. I’m not sure why I don’t delete the board on Pinterest. Maybe it makes me look more interesting, or healthy, or something.

I wish I didn’t love sugar

You know it’s bad when you start wanting dessert after breakfast. I almost always eat a healthy breakfast. It’s usually one of three things: plain yogurt with dried cranberries (or fresh fruit in season), my homemade muesli, toasted slivered almonds, and a touch of granola for sweetness; steel-cut oatmeal with walnuts, cinnamon, raisins, and maple syrup; or, unsweetened boxed cereal, fortified with muesli, nuts, and a little granola. Occasionally I will have eggs and toast, or pancakes with our homemade maple syrup. But, when you’re done with breakfast and immediately think about having a cookie, that’s bad. I haven’t done it yet, but it’s tough resisting.

As I told my friend Bella, I’m my own worst enemy. The holiday season starts me off with a bang. I try not to bake much during the year, except for birthdays and special occasions. I don’t like having the temptation around. I know I can’t resist the sugary delights. I will nibble and munch my way through hundreds of calories before I realize what I’ve done. Then comes Thanksgiving with the array of pies—pumpkin, pecan, apple. I never used to like pecan pie. Too sweet, I said. Until a few years ago. Now, I really like it. I really, really like it.

Then, of course, Christmas with all the cookies, fudge, gifts of candy from other people. I thought I got rid of all of that by sending it away with other people. So, what do I do? I made brownies the other day “for the kids.” Who can resist a slightly warm brownie? Or two. The next day, yesterday, I decided I had better use the bag of cranberries in the crisper drawer before they went bad, so I made streusel-topped cranberry pecan muffins. They were a big hit. Especially with me. I had two while they were still warm from the oven. The crunch from the sweet streusel combined with the soft cake and tartness of the cranberries. Oh my goodness. The good news is I probably won’t have any this morning, because I really only like them when they’re fresh.

Rachael Ray owes me for dinner

While perusing the January/February 2015 EveryDay with Rachael Ray, I came across the recipe for “Turkey or Veal Meatball Stroganoff.” It looked delicious, and sounded achievable, even for cooks with less experience than I have, which is to say, I feel that I’m a pretty good cook with years and years of experience in the kitchen. I should have trusted my instincts in at least one stage of the recipe. It said to soak the fresh breadcrumbs in milk while preparing the rest of the ingredients, and then to squeeze the excess milk from the breadcrumbs before adding them to the turkey mixture. Have you ever tried to do that? It’s virtually impossible to have anything but a big soggy, slimy mess. I maybe got a tablespoon of milk out of it. Fighting my instinct to start all over with dry breadcrumbs, I added the mess to the other mess, and, voila, ended up with a big sloppy bowl of turkey goo. There was no way to “roll walnut-sized meatballs” with my hands, so I used my little cookie scoop and plopped them into the hot frying pan, whereupon, they immediately became “meat flats” (from my friend Cindy), instead of balls. At this point, I’m thinking, there is no way on earth that these grandkids are going to eat this. I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to try it.

I had doubled the recipe, because it served four and we have seven people here. So, it took forever and a day to fry all of those “meat flats.” I had to keep the finished ones warm in the toaster oven while I finished the rest. To make a long story even longer, the sauce was thin, the sour cream wouldn’t incorporate well, and well, the meatballs had a weird texture. Big surprise. Oddly enough, the kids ate what was on their plates, with Kaitlyn even pronouncing that she loved the meatballs. What??? This is the kid who complains about everything I put on the table, if it isn’t pizza, spaghetti (no sauce), or plain rice. Go figure. I thought it was barely okay, and vowed to never make the recipe again. Or, in any case, I would do it my way, with ground beef, and no soaked breadcrumbs. And it definitely took longer than thirty minutes, especially the cleanup. Rachael, you failed me.

It’s almost maple syrup time

David is getting his “sugar shack” (see header picture) ready for the sap when it starts to flow. Last year, his second, on the Bear Swamp property, he made seventeen gallons of beautiful, delicious liquid gold. He had planned to sell most of it at our local farmer’s market. In fact, he joined and paid his dues, but with the moving of two houses, there was just not enough time to go even once. We had plenty of syrup for our family, plus lots of giveaways to friends and extended family, four gallons of which went to the old farmer on whose property he bowhunts. Mr. Eugene has diabetes, and he swears that since he started using maple syrup for all his sweetening, he’s been able to keep his blood sugar counts under control. That’s a lot of syrup for one man to use in a year’s time. Even with all the giveaways, David managed to sell almost $400 worth.

We’re hoping this year’s weather will cooperate and give a bounty of sap. We don’t have as many maple trees on this property, but our next-door neighbor has eleven acres, and they told him he could tap all he wants. Plus, our former neighbor and friend is letting him tap trees there, as he has done the past two years. And the couple who bought our house is letting him tap there, so it all depends on Mother Nature.

Speaking of Mother Nature

It’s -5°F here in central Ohio this morning, with a wind chill of -22°. They cancelled school again this week. Tuesday, which was supposed to be their first day back from Christmas break, was cancelled due to icy road conditions and snow. So, January is starting out like a bitch. Let’s hope it isn’t as bad as last January. Our furnace is pretty much running non-stop. We don’t have the wood-burning insert now, just a fireplace, which is so inefficient. We won’t even have a fire when it’s this cold, because you send more heat up the chimney than you actually get in benefit. I really miss that woodburner. Hurry up, Spring!

See you soon,



4 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup flaxseed

1/2 cup oat bran

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/2 cup dried Zante currants, raisins, or your choice of dried fruit (I prefer the currants)

1/4 cup brown sugar

Toss all together in a gallon Ziploc bag and store in airtight container.

Pinterest is gonna be the death of me


Photo courtesy of Two Peas and Their Pod blog

I love Pinterest. I really do. It’s as addictive as Facebook. I’ve pinned hundreds of recipes I’ll never try, redecorating ideas I’ll never enact, quotes I’ll never remember (thank goodness Pinterest reminds me when I try to post one I’ve already posted), and crafts that I’ll never have time to make. It’s a great repository of someone else’s achievements and luscious pictures of great-looking food.

I have found some very good recipes there, and yesterday I tried a seemingly simple one:  Fleur de sel caramel sauce. Fleur de sel, meaning flower of salt, flaky, delicate sea salt, combined with caramel, what’s not to like about that? Four ingredients: sugar, butter, heavy cream, and fleur de sel. Couldn’t be simpler, right? Wrong!

My first mistake was deciding to double the batch. Most recipe authors include a warning if this is a bad idea, but there wasn’t one, so I figured I might as well get it over with in one mess. Second mistake was in not tripling the size of the saucepan, instead of doubling it. Third mistake was not letting my butter and heavy cream completely come to room temperature, and by room temperature, I mean close to the boiling point of the cooked sugar.

In the recipe, the author did give very detailed instructions. and what to watch out for. What they didn’t say was this is going to be extremely messy and time-consuming, not to mention that the failure rate is probably extremely high. They make it look so easy in the perfect photos.

The moment I started cooking the four cups of sugar (doubled, remember?), I knew I was in trouble. The whisk that they said to use was useless. I needed to use a wooden spoon, but by this time the sugar was starting to clump up in the whisk, and I didn’t want to lose any of it. Ha! If I had only known!

It took forever and a day for the sugar to liquefy and finally to turn the amber color that I was supposed to look for. Meanwhile, I’m whisking furiously to get out all of the clumps of undissolved sugar. There’s sugar cemented to the sides of the pan that I know is never going to dissolve, but at this point I just had to go for it. I decided to stick my finger in a little to make sure it didn’t taste burned. OMG, not a good idea!!! Ouch, ouch, ouch! Hot, burning, taffy sugar! I knew this, and still did it, because I’m a moron and forgot this would happen.

Then it was time to whisk in the three (yes, three) sticks of butter. This is where getting the right size pan is crucial. It does not incorporate willingly. The butter was sloshing everywhere, including all over the pants I was wearing. Good lord, will this experiment never end??? Of course, this step takes forever, too. Next comes the heavy cream. I knew when I picked up the container and felt a bit of coolness that my trouble was seriously going to intensify, but I was in too far now, and had to continue. Oh, lordy, what a mess! The mixture seized up, as you probably had already guessed, because that’s what hot liquid sugar does when it comes in contact with cool liquid. More furious stirring and whisking, trying to get out all the clumps, which, by the way, never completely happened.

I finally managed to get it fairly smooth, actually pulling out some of the larger clumps of solidified sugar, then I let it settle for a few minutes. I filled five half-pint jars without too much of a fuss with only minor sediment at the bottom. The teachers who are the recipients of this incredibly awful, but incredibly wonderful tasting concoction, will just have to deal with it. Maybe they’ll just think that it’s salt crystals in the bottom.

My kitchen looked like a caramel bomb had exploded in there. The cleanup was so much fun, and I kept finding little bits of caramel all day that I had to lick wash. Even the top of the coffee maker. What?

The caramel sauce does taste amazing. Will I ever make it again? No. Way.

See you soon,


Addendum: Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who had the same trouble with their sauce. I went back to the post and read some of the 200+ comments, and there were several whose experiences sounded exactly like mine. I was a little peeved that these concerns weren’t addressed by the blog authors, but anyway, I guess they’re too busy coming up with other seemingly simple recipes to post. 🙂

I will try it again, using a couple of adjustments that I gleaned from an old recipe of mine, because I don’t like a recipe getting the best of me, and after eating some warmed over vanilla ice cream, I was blown away by its deliciousness (see my reply to Natalie in the comments.)  Mainly, I will add a small amount of water to the sugar prior to cooking. I’m pretty sure that will solve the clumping issue in that stage. Also, I will make sure that my butter and cream are at a warmer temperature. My room temp is probably much cooler than is required, and hopefully this will cure the problem with the seizing up.

What a spectacle

I survived Thanksgiving day (that hasn’t always been the case), avoided Black Friday like the Black Plague (except now, apparently, it isn’t just BF, it’s BF weekend), managed to divert most of my father-in-law’s minutiae-loaded stories to his son and daughter while I pretended to be busy elsewhere, and even baked a fifth pumpkin pie yesterday morning, because we were “running out.”

The said father-in-law and his dear wife, my husband’s mother, who is long-suffering in the extreme, left today. How she has put up with his long-winded tales that are always punctuated with “to make a long story short”, and his OCD about the way things are done, and his inability to EVER let her finish a sentence for the last twenty-one years since he retired, I have no clue. I would have either killed him or divorced him by now. But he is a wonderful man in many, many ways, and I love him dearly. I’m just glad that I don’t have to live with him. I suppose if I do at some point, then I will have to develop calluses on my ears, or wear ear plugs. Or maybe my hearing will be shot by then. For sure, my eyes are.

Or maybe it’s just my glasses. Everyone says “oh, I love your glasses, where did you get them?” JC Penney, if you must know. They always have that two-for-one deal and I needed prescription sunglasses as well as the regular ones, and I was at the mall, so. I love the look of them, too. The pearly white sides with the silver filigree pieces really complement the silvery-white hair that surrounds my face, and they kind of disguise the enormous bags under my eyes that seem to have developed in the last couple of years. They’re progressive lenses, which means I’m old and can’t see pretty much any distance without them. Far distance has been shot since I was 21, but about ten years ago I had to go with the reading and computer distances, and it’s a wonderful thing to not have to stretch your arms like that rubbery-armed super hero (can’t think of his name—another sign of old age), or not have to hold the laptop up to your face and type at the same time. But now they’re no longer doing two-thirds of their job. The middle and close up areas of the lenses aren’t working as well, and I’m having to remove them to read books and the newspaper, and hold them just so to see the computer screen clearly. So, I guess I’ll have to get new glasses.

I would like to be able to wear contacts, but I can’t get the danged things on my eyeballs without major effort and lots of tearing up, which makes me look like I’ve just been on a crying jag and also plays havoc with the makeup. The best option, I think, would be Lasik surgery, but I think I’m too chicken and would end up like Carrie Heffernan on ‘King of Queens’. You know, the episode where Doug decides to give her Lasik surgery for her birthday, and something goes wrong and her vision ends up being all blurry? That would be my luck.

The worst thing about wearing glasses is not being able to keep them clean. I think I clean mine at least a dozen times a day, because five seconds after you’ve done it, they’re smeary again. It drives me nuts. I don’t think I was cut out to be a glasses wearer. If you have good vision without correction, thank your lucky stars.

We finished up the leftovers today, and I sent the leftover leftovers home with my in-laws who will warm them up until they’re gone, because five times in a row is never too much. We had pizza yesterday, creating a little buffer zone between the two meals. I stuffed my face again today, but the plan is to have a big salad for supper. I put on my skinniest jeans this morning for a reality check, and let me tell you reality bites.

See you soon,



T’was a week before Thanksgiving…

I’m making Kroger rich. Seriously. It takes a truckload of food to feed this hungry horde of seven people in any given month, but Thanksgiving, lordy, do I need to say more? Probably not, but I will anyway, because otherwise there would be no point to this post. Kroger had a BIG sale last week on Land of Lakes butter, Carnation evaporated milk, and all things Thanksgiving related. It took me three tries to find those needed items in stock. Apparently everyone in our town and the surrounding area had the same notion that I did. I bought six pounds of butter, thinking that it would get me through the Christmas season as well. Ha! I’ve already used two pounds. We had a birthday yesterday (Kaitlyn turned nine), and I had to use up some peanut butter that had been shoved to the back of the pantry, so I made a double batch of peanut butter cookies, half of which went into the freezer. Then I made peanut butter fudge and chocolate fudge. I normally don’t do that until Christmas, but some of the family who visits on Thanksgiving aren’t here for Christmas, and I decided to gift them with some for their journey home. They’ll thank me later, when they step on the scale.

I bought the turkey yesterday. The fresh ones were put out on Monday, and I wanted to get mine before they were picked over. I usually buy the biggest one I can find. I was hoping for a twenty-pounder, at least. The largest I could get was about nineteen pounds, so I also bought a turkey breast (for which I paid as much as the whole turkey.) My favorite brand is Honeysuckle White. They have a new offering in the fresh market this year—an all natural turkey raised by independent farmers. I don’t know how much stock you can put in that statement, but the packaging is pretty, and I’ve always had very good results with their turkeys. They’re always moist and flavorful without the hassle of brining.

I don’t go in for fancy-schmancy cooking methods for the most part. I’m old school most of the time. But I do love roasted Brussels sprouts. That will be one of my side dishes. I bought those on the stalk at Trader Joe’s last week. I love the ease of roasting them. Cut the big ones in half, leave the smaller ones whole, toss them all with some olive oil, grated orange rind and the juice of the orange, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and some chopped fresh sage (or crumbled dried). The amounts don’t have to be precise. It’s all good.

I gave my daughter a list of things to buy and forgot that I assigned cranberries to her, so I also bought some yesterday. I have five packages of cranberries in the fridge now. Lots of cranberry dishes this year. Well, I’ve been wanting to try some Christmas jam, so if you’re on my Christmas list…

Speaking of duplicating, I also forgot that I told her to buy pecans for the pecan pies and bought two packages myself. Also forgetting about all the hickory nuts waiting to be shelled for the hickory nut pie (very similar to pecan pie.) David shelled them out this morning while I went for a haircut, and there are enough to make one good sized pie. If you accused me of having senior moments,I’m afraid you would be correct. In my own defense, I would blame it on having too many things to remember, and not enough brain to contain it all. I rest my case.

In case you’re interested, here is my Thanksgiving menu, which never varies, except for the vegetable choices from year to year.

Roast turkey (duh)

Savory turkey gravy

Dressing made with a variety of breads, including biscuits

Oyster dressing (because my father-in-law adores it)

Roasted Brussels sprouts

Steamed broccoli (because the kids won’t eat the sprouts)

Mashed potatoes (ten pounds, and they eat every scrap)

Candied sweet potatoes with maple syrup and marshmallows on top

Cranberry salad with apples, nuts, and oranges

Cranberry sauce made with fresh ginger, orange peel, and orange juice

Cranberry jelly from the can (because, again, the FIL likes it that way)

Homemade dinner rolls 

Pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies

Yep, it’s a sleep-inducing carb fest extraordinaire, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

See you soon,


Fall back

This is the weekend to fall back. When I hear that phrase, I immediately picture myself falling back into a huge pile of raked autumn leaves. That would be easy enough here. There are huge amounts of oak and hickory leaves to be had for it. We have a couple of hickory trees that have the very large nuts. We’ve been harvesting them for the last couple of weeks. Even the toddler gets in on the fun. We fill our hoodie and jacket pockets with their rich goodness. I love to remove the husks, which are very easy to peel off. There are four sections, and normally they just pop off with your fingers. There’s an occasional stubborn side, but not often. The shell is pointed at one end and a beautiful shade of light brown, nut brown, if you will. I always savor the smoothness of them as I’m depositing them in my pockets. The taste of hickory nuts is that of rich sweetness. They make as good a pie as any pecan. If I can get enough shelled before the Thanksgiving feast, they will make it onto the dessert table.

The chrysanthemums that I bought from K’s elementary school PTO fundraiser are in glorious bloom. They give the term “cushion mums” new meaning. It’s a challenge restraining the toddler from picking each and every blossom, and to get him to just pat them, but he’s learning.

We have guests coming for dinner Saturday. I’m trying out a couple of new recipes that I found on Pinterest. A baked mac and cheese dish with bacon, butternut squash, and Gruyère cheese. It sounds so rich and comforting, I can’t wait to try it. Also, a Brussels sprouts salad with apple slices that I think will compliment well the rich mac and cheese casserole. I’m getting really brave with a third new recipe, one for an appetizer, creamy crab Rangoon dip with wonton chips. The recipe calls for imitation crab, but I’m using the real thing. My friends know that I often use them as guinea pigs. I’ve had a few flops, but most of the time they’re at least in the edible category, and, thankfully, they have all been kind enough not to mention the floppy ones.

There was talk of a bonfire after dinner, but it looks as if that will have to be postponed to another time. We’re expecting possible rain mixed with snow. I don’t think I’m ready for that. We haven’t had enough autumn yet, and there have been lots of rainy, drizzly days, not our usual brilliantly blue October days. David has been busy cutting down dead ash trees killed by the emerald ash borer to warm us on cold nights. The summer was busy with the moving and getting settled in, so this last-minute push to stock the woodpile feels a little hurried. Even the toddler is getting in on the action, helping to load the wheelbarrow. Yes, he loaded all of that by himself. He is quite the worker bee, and he isn’t quite two years old.

I hope you’re getting your woodpile stacked and your pantry stocked for the winter to come. I hear it’s gonna be a doozy.

See you soon,


Postscript:  The dinner party was a wonderful break from the daily grind. And the new dishes got RAVE reviews, even from me, my own harshest critic. Really, you should try the mac and cheese and the salad, for sure.

You say you want a revolution

I’m hooked on Jamie Oliver’s new TV show, Food Revolution, and I’m appalled by the food being served in our children’s and grandchildren’s schools. Really? Pizza for breakfast? Sugary and fat-laden donuts? Chicken nuggets every week for lunch? Several of the children interviewed said they had also had chicken nuggets for dinner the previous night! Good lord, what has this country come to? I grew up right across the river from Huntington, West (by God!) Virginia, in little Ironton, Ohio, so I know these people and I know how they think. Most of  my family who still lives there, eat the same way and don’t see the least thing wrong with it. Jamie has his work cut out for him.

When I was in school, granted, back in the stone ages, we had real food! Our very skilled and talented cooks took fresh chicken, coated it with flour and salt and pepper and fried it. I realize that frying is not the healthiest version, but at least it was the real thing! They put real potatoes in pans and cooked them and mashed them. They didn’t add water to “potato pearls”!!  When we had Thanksgiving dinner, they baked whole turkeys and made dressing from scratch and you had a choice of white meat or dark meat. And then on the Monday after Thanksgiving, we always had creamed turkey over mashed potatoes or noodles that they made from the leftover turkey meat. It was delicious! That’s still my favorite after-Thanksgiving meal.

I realize that it isn’t the cooks who are to blame. I’m certain if the federal guidelines required them to cook actual food and not chemicals disguised as food, that they would do a fabulous job. The thing that scared me the most about the cooks in the show was the fact that they didn’t see one thing wrong with what they are serving their little customers. They probably cook the same way at home. Two out of four of the women are obese, which seems to follow the obesity rate in the area.  And the attitude they have doesn’t make it seem likely that they are open to changing their ways. Of course, I understand that they feel threatened by this “foreigner” who has come to take over their domain. The one that they have reigned over for years, some of them decades. I would probably feel the same way if someone came into my kitchen and started telling me that everything  that I have been doing is all wrong. I was hoping to see at least one of them have a glimmer of acceptance in her eyes. But it is early days yet. I’ve only seen the sneak preview.

Another scary thing was the fact that many of the children didn’t eat the few healthy items on their trays, most of those items went into the trash. A fruit and vegetable is required at every meal served in the Federal school lunch program, well only fruit for breakfast, and some of the things that fall under these categories are questionable. Ketchup and pickles are vegetables? Well, I guess we can thank President Reagan for that one. Remember the controversy when they gave those two items vegetable status?  Ketchup does have one redeeming quality, it is high in antioxidants, but it is also high in sugar and sodium. Most of the food items are nothing more than highly processed junk, and we have the powerful lobbying skills and money of the food industry to thank for that. 

I’m not sure how Jamie got this project accepted by the hierarchy in Huntington, because obviously it puts their city in a terrible light. Huntington has many wonderful things going for it. It’s a beautiful city, surrounded by the Ohio River on one side and mountains all around. It has a major mid-southern university–Marshall University, made famous in the movie “We Are Marshall”. The people are friendly and open and love to have fun. I love Huntington and wouldn’t mind living there. But it is a city with an extraordinary percentage of people who are obese and quite a few of them are morbidly obese. Everything seems to be centered around the consumption of food…and not healthy food. Obesity-related disease runs rampant through the population.

I can’t wait to see the two-hour premiere this evening. I think the first hour is the sneak preview that was shown this week, but I won’t mind watching it again.  It will be interesting to see how this project develops and if it ever gains acceptance. If you are interested in watching, you can find information here at ABC‘s website.

Also, if you are interested in learning more about First Lady Michelle Obama’s quest to end childhood obesity, visit this site.

UPDATE 3/27/10:  After watching the show last evening, I would have to say that Jamie’s quest seems as if it might have a slight chance. On his final day at the elementary school, the children actually ate some or most of the food given to them. The previous days 99% of it had gone into the garbage. It required extraordinary effort on his part, including visiting classrooms to teach the younger children what raw vegetables were (in one class, the children didn’t know what tomatoes or potatoes were…he had to reference them by their fast food forms–ketchup and french fries!) and dressing up as a giant pea pod, which was a smashing failure!  In the teaching kitchen he has established in the downtown area of Pullman Square, he taught a class to kids who are 8 or 9 years old. They didn’t seem to be familiar with seeing a chicken in its entirety, so Jamie cut up the usual parts which dinged a few bells. But when only the carcass was left with some meat attached, he showed them how the chicken nuggets are made. He ground up the whole thing in the food processor, bones, skin and all, and then put it through a sieve to extract what looked like pink goo. He added some “stabilizer” and seasonings, formed small patties, dredged it in bread crumbs, and fried it in oil to make…voila! chicken nuggets. They all preferred the nugget over any other chicken part. After seeing how gross it was in the process, they still wanted it in nugget form.  That tells me that anything he accomplishes there will be short lived for most people, and they will revert back to their old eating habits as soon as they see his tail lights heading out of town. It will be interesting to see what happens next week when he heads into the high school and involves the kids in cooking for the adults. Stay tuned.