Tin Can Alley

One of the amusing things about blogging is the Spam that seems to be an integral part of the territory. Spam … that delectable Hormel product introduced in 1937 and popularized during World War II … isn’t just for the food pantry anymore. It’s an indispensable element of the World Wide Web experience!spam_can_open

Given his experience in World War II, my dear daddy enjoyed Spam. He’d slice it up, arrange it in a skillet and fry one side and then the other to a golden brown. Usually, he’d serve the slices on bread. I don’t recall him using any condiments, just fried Spam and bread. (And he wasn’t much for vegetables, so this would be a complete meal for him.)

Looking through my blog folders today, I got to thinking about Spam. I have a plug-in set up to move what appear to be Spam comments into a trash folder. So far, I’ve set up the folder so that I decide when and if these comments are permanently deleted. This could be done automatically if I changed the setting, but I’m the curious type and these comments can be perplexing … hence my curiosity. There are certain common themes and the language usage leads me to believe these messages are machine generated, or else originate from a non-English-speaking country. I’ve never researched them, but have my suspicions. Continue reading “Tin Can Alley”

Strawberry Yields Forever

All right, y’all! There’s strawberry pie for anyone who can get here before it’s gone! Yes, yes, I’ll dress it with whipped cream when you’re served. But you’d better get here soon because my grandson and his roommate were eyeing the pie before they left to see a movie. They’ll be back, and I suspect, will enjoy this as a midnight snack.

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Now don’t look too closely at the pie … in my preparation, I didn’t make the Martha Stewart effort to have all similar sized berries. And slapping the whole mess into the pie shell, well, that’s pretty much the way I did it. I’m generally a slacker when it comes to presentation, so it may not look as pretty as Martha’s, but I expect it’ll taste as good!

I don’t have a huge strawberry bed. The plants I set in 2009 have mostly died out, but I set in a few new ones every spring and they’re going like gangbusters. I’ve managed to keep the slugs at bay … so far.

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Here’s a picture of today’s harvest. That’s a fourteen-inch square box lid and the berries are three or four deep in the box. That’s the crazy thing about strawberries: it’s either feast or famine.

Because I’m not a natural gardener − I prefer the lounge chair or a golf course for my leisure time − strawberries are the perfect crop for me. I can enjoy a generous harvest without having to break my back tending and coddling the plants!

I also have a raspberry bush that’s beginning to display the promise of a generous crop (soon). After four years of cultivating raspberry plants and having them die every year, I was pleased that I could finally coax one of the bushes to maturity and it’s looking good. Like the strawberries, though, harvest appears to be a feast or famine. Last year, we managed to get about two cups full of dime-sized raspberries. I’m hoping we’ll do better this year, but time will tell.

Now listen, y’all. Two young men are going to see that movie (I think they’re seeing the latest installment of X-Men) and be back here in a flash. If you expect to get a slice of that pie, you’re burning daylight! Hope you make it in time.

Bonehead Study Bites

“There’s a new secret to get your child to behave at the dinner table − cut up their food and they’ll relax.” So says the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. To help them publicize their recent study, they’ve provided art work (below) to drive home the point.


Highlights from this scholarly contribution of academic cogitation include the following prominent bullet points:

• Using teeth to bite food may be connected to aggressive behavior, as with animals.
• Children ages 6–10 were served chicken either on-the-bone (bite) or pre-cut (chew).
• When eating on-the-bone chicken, kids appeared more aggressive and less compliant.
• Behaviors included violation of counselors’ instructions by leaving the eating area.

For parents who’ve been wondering anxiously why Johnny or Jenny is (1) disobedient, (2) rambunctious, (3) fidgety, or (4) all of the above, the brilliant Ph.D. researchers (3 of them) along with an M.S. researcher at Cornell have supplied the ultimate excuse answer to explain Johnny or Jenny’s misbehaviors.

Whew! And you thought your child’s conduct would require counseling!

My first thought (when hearing and reading about this “study”) was to presume a college senior (looking for an easy A) settled on this dubious topic as a senior project. But no.

It appears to be the misbegotten brainchild of an already full-fledged Ph.D. and author, Brian Wansink. As founder of the Food and Brand Lab, Professor Wansink appears to have identified his mission in life  assessing and transforming other people’s eating habits. You may want to learn more about Wansink, but don’t depend on his website; most of the pertinent links (save for the Hi-Res Photos and Vita links) take you to “Page Not Found” locations. Too busy authoring scholarly studies, I guess.

Full disclosure, first. I’m no Ph.D. I don’t have a team of researchers, university funding and cartoonists on my staff. Actually, I don’t even have a staff … unless you include the massive black dog lying in the next room.

But this I know:  plain and simple, this study is boneheaded! Furthermore, it is a huge disservice to parents and their children! Note the weasel-wording of the first bullet point:  Using teeth to bite food may be connected to aggressive behavior, as with animals. When an infant plants his or her teeth into a parent’s flesh, that too may be an aggressive action … but it could also mean that infant is suffering teething pain. How utterly ludicrous to evoke the image “as with animals” and attach it to a normal, natural act of biting!

Eating on-the-bone-chicken makes children appear “more aggressive and less compliant”? Really? Appear = seem … hardly a definitive statement, a subjective observation at best. (Did the researchers decide in advance what they wanted to find?) Observe twelve children (yes, twelve children) eating lunch at a summer camp and extrapolate subjective perceptions from what the researcher notes. (No chance for bias or misinterpretation there, right?)

The suggested solution for better behavior at the dinner table? “Cut up their food and they’ll relax.” But the teeth … children still have to chew. Alas, unless the teeth are all yanked out, children may be tempted from time to time to bare their teeth and bite − as with animals. We can’t have that!

God forbid there should be a chicken leg or ear of corn or a crunchy apple in the house! Purge it all! Nothing but shredded chicken, creamed corn and applesauce allowed! Render the entire eating experience bland and unappealing to the senses. Let’s all be anorexic!

I shudder to think how much money (tax dollars?) Cornell University (and other institutions of higher learning) are devoting to such lofty and informative endeavors. How in the world did people manage in the long-ago days before micromanagement and behavior modification burrowed into every aspect of our everyday lives? How did previous generations of children ever manage to grow up, unassisted by the ultra-supervision of Big Brother watching their every move?

But children do grow up. Alas, many of them never take time (even momentarily) to consider the possibility that the “facial feedback” brought on by baring the teeth to bite (according to Wansink) signals common animalistic aggression. (Surely we are doomed!)

Maybe we should just feed them through a straw until they’re twenty-six years of age?

Confessions Of A Comfort Foodie

2014-02-04 17.27.17Few things warm my heart − and fill my belly − as comfortably as a bowl of homemade soup on a cold evening. The picture at left shows the pot of chicken corn chowder (with potatoes) we enjoyed for our evening meal. (In contrast to my daughter who is her own worst critic, I am genuinely a crap photographer, and I’m sorry to say this photo underscores my lack of ability!)

If you’ll overlook my lack of photography skills, I think this photo illustrates (as best I can) my penchant for comfort food … because I am (to my very core) a comfort foodie. Wikipedia notes a nostalgic and or sentimental quality as a main component in one’s choices of comfort food.

In my case, defining comfort has a great deal to do with (1) how quickly the food may be prepared and (2) how filling it will be. I sometimes factor in a third possibility:  will there be leftovers? Continue reading “Confessions Of A Comfort Foodie”

H(Abby) Birthday Biscuit!

MandyAbbyOne of the most creative people I know, my younger daughter Abby, is having a birthday tomorrow. (She’s quite a bit older now than the picture to the left that was taken on her sixth birthday.)

Along with other nudges back in 2010 (see my initial post of explanation here), Abby urged me to take up blogging. She’d been blogging for a year at that point, and has now returned to the distraction of blogging (at least for now). I say distraction because with three very busy young children, other things beside blogging understandably top her priority list.

Abby’s most recent blog post entitled Manna From Down South is worthy of mention here. The post just prior to Manna is titled I Am A Crap Photographer. In my view, she’s being entirely too modest and self-critical, for when my eyes beheld the photo at the top of the Manna post, my taste buds responded as one would expect when food is set directly in front of you! I yearned for immediate gratification! Look at the picture for yourself and see if you agree. Don’t those biscuits look tempting?!

To borrow and rework a phrase from well-known Peanuts author Charles Schulz, Happiness is a Warm Biscuit!

My daughter is a woman who seeks culinary excellence and has the persistence to stick to a goal until she’s satisfied she’s created a winner. The bonus in her post is you’ll actually be able to enjoy creating this delight yourself, based on the free recipe she’s sharing!

If you read through the Manna post, you’ll notice an oblique reference to me … yep, I’m the one who served her (and her siblings in their growing-up years) “… canned or baking-mix biscuits.” I had no idea the suffering I caused my offspring to endure! (<— sarc) Continue reading “H(Abby) Birthday Biscuit!”