Saturday, April 26, 2008

Value of a Recipe Contest

The value of a recipe contest is threefold: Aspiring chefs practice their newly acquired recipe or cooking technique, taste test their new idea & skill on a wider audience, and learn that the blue ribbon dishes aren’t necessarily the best tasting.

My three chefs –in-training are happily learning self sufficiency, whether they want to or not. It’s a requirement that individuals learn to prepare enough food for a variety in their diet, and so that future in-laws are not blaming me for the lack of domestic skills training.

For this Dairy Recipe Contest, two recipes came from the Star Wars cook book. "Dark Side Sundae" which is very dark and very yummy. The other, "Ewok Eats" suggests eating the (again, yummy) dip with broccoli, is much as perhaps an Ewok might do. The final and best recipe of the day came from the back of the Velveeta Cheese Wrapper, Potato Cheese Soup. This soup was fabulous. We set aside the first half of the large pot for the contest and ate the other half for dinner.

My three chefs were pleased that in a room of more than 20 young chefs, all of their dishes were completely eaten before the judges returned with their verdict. So it seemed that we had winners, at least by the audience’s standards.

The judges filed into the room. The young chefs and family members were hushed as the anticipation of the awards became palpable in the room. Clearly, the judges were loving the attention because they gave lofty and long winded yet general opinions about the overall quality of the food.

“All the food was great.”
“You all try real hard.”
“Keep on Cookin’.”
“By the way, when I was young…”

Then, the moment everyone was waiting for… it was all I could do not to laugh out loud, as the worst tasting but prettiest displayed dishes won for the third year straight. As testimony that it’s not just my humble taste buds, all these dishes had plenty of left-overs after the feast was complete, and I wasn’t the only one to say, “Wonder what she put in that dish, bless her heart?” This is a nice Southern way of saying, “Ugh”. Apparently, the plate or serving dish far outweighs the taste-test in this contest.

Luckily, the audience opinion given by clearing our serving dishes was most important to my three chefs because they haven’t been tempted to buy dishes but have continued to cook some very delicious recipes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Book Review:Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Barbara Kingsolver with Steven Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
NY: Harper Collins, 2007
Hardcover: $26.95 370 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-085255-9

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the story of the author, Barbara Kingsolver’s family’s adventure moving from urban Tucson Arizona to a rural Tennessee farm. The move may be what many Americans might call, extreme but not just because of the geographical location, but because the family’s lifestyle and diet changed from store bought to home grown…radically.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle promotes a return to locally grown seasonal diet to the extreme. The Kingsolver family grew much of their own food and what they didn’t grow they purchased from local farmers.

A few items such as coffee and spices such as cinnamon were obviously not local commodities, so the these scant items the author justified her diversion from the thesis with purchasing necessary items through Earth friendly, employee friendly World focused cooperative programs.

The entire family participated in the experiment adding to their list of family projects, cheese making, and raising chickens for eggs as well as slaughter. I laughed out loud when the author declared she’d slaughter “only the mean ones” for dinner. Clearly, Mrs. Cluck’s personality could extend or shorten her life span, which is more a city folk determination rather than a traditional rural attitude toward subsistence farm/food animals.

Barbara Kingsolver’s husband, a scientist influences the source of the basic premise from which the family makes life changing decisions. The statistics are not overwhelming for the non-scientific reader because Kingsolver puts them within the narrative.

Within the story is another story told by Camille, Kingsolver’s oldest child. Camille offers a young person’s perspective and recipes to adapt to the new life style. Her contributions are set off as side bars.

Kingsolver’s passion for her family and local farm movement as well as the planet as a whole is evident throughout. Her argument is persuasive and many sensible suggestions for a less radical conversion helps the reader relate because the author realizes that an overnight change is quite demanding.

Still the corporatization of farming spearheaded by Monsanto and Dow companies have produced chemically resistant bugs which in turn has doubled the percentage of crop damage from 6% loss in the 1950s to 13% 50 years later. Clearly, the corporate bean counters have fewer beans to count because of their shortsighted decisions of just 40 to 50 years ago.

Return to local food, local water, grow your own, be with your family, create a home around your hearth; these are the directions of which Kingsolver encourages ever reader to strive.

Interested in this subject?? Visit

Friday, April 18, 2008

Watch a Movie...Again

Admittedly, I enjoy a good movie. I enjoy better, a great movie. Because I enjoy the good and the great, I find myself revisiting movies that I’ve watched once, twice, or a dozen times before. This is simply because I won’t watch a bad movie. Sure, I’ve started some bad movies, but I just can’t finish them.

As a result, I’ve collected what some might call, a large collection of movies. Happily, most are movies I can enjoy over again.

Last night, I watched an oldie and a goodie: Sense & Sensibility. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed Alan Rickman’s performance as the Colonel. Emma Thompson was fabulous as always. Hugh Grant was Hugh Grant, but I like him, so that’s okay.

I especially like period movies with all the costumes and the charm of by-gone-times. Once upon a time, I thought myself a romantic but reality makes it difficult to live there. So I’ve come to accept that movies provide an escape from the mundane 21st century, just as they had in the 20th.

If you find life getting to be a bit much… escape into a favorite movie…

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Are they serious?

A deeply disturbing article appeared in newspaper this morning. Disturbing, in that I can’t believe there are people still arguing this question.

The case: A 32 year-old man strangled his girlfriend and her children, aged 2 and 4 in December 2006.

March 2008, the prosecutor asked the man to describe how he strangled them. The man gave great detail and the trial reporter told us the murderer described how 4 year old boy squirmed he recreated the sounds of the boy’s struggle, gurgle and dying breath. He went on to explain how he started to cook the body for a while in the oven before putting it in the bathtub because it was burning. This made the people in the gallery gasp, turn away and even cry.

The murderer admitted he knew it was wrong. He said he deserved to die for this crime.

Apparently, there are people that don’t agree.

Some experts for the defense argue that the man who has a Special Education High School diploma doesn’t understand because his IQ is 63, several points below the line that labels a person retarded. And yet, he’s been gainfully employed for 14 years. Some experts say he held that job because a family member was in management and that he wouldn’t have kept the job, if it hadn’t been for that family connection.

So what is the regular tax paying citizen suppose to get from all this, besides the bill for feeding, housing and defending this murderous piece of flesh? Once an expert reaches a certain level of education, does all reason and morality oozes completely out of their brains? Does anyone question the family member in the management of a company that had this guy employed? The company owners should question the company management hiring and keeping retarded people unable of being responsible for their actions on the payroll, shouldn’t they?

The jury who listened to the case, found this man guilty of murder. The murderer admitted that he killed 3 people, his girlfriend and her two children. He states that he understands it was wrong and he believes he should die for the crime. The society at large represented by the prosecutor wants this man punished to the full extent of the law.

Why is there a problem?

What does all this say about our society? In a time when 2 working parents average 3 jobs while juggling the kids, smart people with degrees are unemployed, healthy people can’t maintain employment, hard working law abiding people end up homeless…we have a murdering retarded man being coddled with employment and treated so well he passes for a regular guy… then murders his girlfriend and two preschoolers and cooks one… this guy gets valuable resources thrown at him from his Special Education that costs more than a regular child in school, to a job that is saved by a family member leaving someone who needs a job unemployed, to the grand expense of a defense attorney and experts in a murder trial. After being found guilty by the jury from his community, experts want to give him more resources keep him alive and in an education program because he just couldn’t understand the consequence of his actions.

Are they serious?

If a dog were to kill someone, the department of animal control would put it down.

Clearly, this murderer deserves and agrees with the death penalty.

Experts need to stop hanging the taxpayers out to dry by throwing good money at bad. Put resources where it can do some good and clear out the dead weight that dragging everyone down.

If the experts find redeeming qualities in this murderer let them pay the bills for his food, the bills for clothes, the bills for housing, the bills for guards, the bills for attorneys and oh yeah… the bills for the expert witnesses too.