The view from here

The Best Thing About Food Blogs

Or one of the best things, anyway. They’re not on paper.

Result: not so many dead wild trees; fewer monocrop tree plantations, reduced use of  horrendous paper-processing chemicals. To say nothing of less giant log truck exhaust.

birch tree in lawn

Ok, these are safe. The wood lot on the other side of the road, not so much.

In other words, I’ve been cleaning out a few bookcases, bookcases that haven’t been cleaned out for quite a while. In addition to books, photographs and assorted memorabilia, they contained folders that I’d been thinking were full of old manuscripts but were in fact full of self-published food newsletters.

Tons – well, many pounds – of food newsletters. Newsletters beyond counting, from gifted writers and the prose-challenged, from good cooks and from people who should not be allowed near kitchens except in restaurants.

Old copies of keepers like The Art of Eating, Simple Cooking and Food History News will go to the Cushing library (which may be the very last library on earth willing to accept such things). The rest – into the recycle bin, with gratitude that there is finally something reasonably benign to do with unwanted paper.

Cat Photography Rule # 32

retro table and chairs with black cat

Just because he looks great sitting on the breakfast table when you come around the corner in the morning does not mean a point-and-shoot can cope with a black cat in the bright sunshine.

Terrific Twitter Feed – JQA

Once more, a Founding Father proves unexpectedly durable. Eighteenth and nineteenth century diary entries were typically very short, and this has provided a handy hook for the Massachusetts Historical Society, which is now offering the daily tweets of John Quincy Adams.

Possibly an acquired taste, but I’m lovin’ it. You can sign up here.

Maine Sardines – Goodbye To All That

In Maine, Last Sardine Cannery in the U.S. Is Clattering Out reads the headline in the New York Times, over a story about the end of an era and with it the end of a lot of jobs,  in a place where not enough jobs has been a problem for generations.

Some examples from the comparatively recent past

Very affecting in its way, but as the story itself points out, you’d probably have to look long and hard for anyone who regarded this as a major loss to gastronomy.

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Eek of the Week – the Real Food Challenge

Having just used “threat or menace,” albeit jokingly, I don’t suppose I can say the same about the “Real Food Challenge” (reported here) that’s currently sucking up so much internet ink. In fact, it’s probably unwise to give the thing any more PR by giving it an Eek.

But I can’t resist, because it’s such a classic example of the all-knowing self-righteous preaching that helps the processed food industry keep its stranglehold on the American diet.

Some are ok, some aren't. Can you guess which of these foods you're supposed to make yourself, or never heat - or not eat at all?

Left to right: Back row – Butter, smoked Spanish paprika, olive oil, hard cider, whole wheat flour, center – local cheese: Barat, from Sprout Creek Farm, and Shaker Blue, from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, (home made cherry preserves, here for another reason), cocoa, thick cut rolled oats.

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The Way to Blog Brilliantly

Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) *

The way to blog brilliantly has been being demonstrated for a couple of years now by Margaret Roach, over at A Way to Garden. You wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at my efforts, but she has been an ongoing inspiration ever since she started.

As the upgrades here continue I keep thinking I’ll find the right time to say thank you – after I get the new link list up, say, or post the long planned shopping page. But how bogus is that? The time to say thank you is always right now, so Thank You, Margaret, thank you very much.

If you know her, you know why the gratitude picture is of a frog. If you don’t, that’s one more reason to trot over there and have a look.

* I’m saying it’s Hyla versicolor on account of the markings and because it was tiny, about an inch long, max. But it might be a small Green Tree Frog, H. cinerea, not so much because it’s green (the gray ones can also be green) as because it was right there in the garden on a hollyhock leaf instead of hiding where it couldn’t be seen.

Coyote Talk At Catskill Institute on March 4th

I’m happy to tell readers of Bill’s Coyote Post (and everyone else in the area) about a great opportunity to learn more, right from the muzzles of the top experts:

“Wile E. Coyote In Your Backyard: What You Should Know About Canis latrans”

will be presented free and open to the public on Thursday, March 4 at 4:30 p.m., in the Student Lounge in Vanderlyn Hall, SUNY Ulster, Stone Ridge, NY,  sponsored by the Catskill Institute for the Environment (CIE).

The panel will include Dr. Roland Kays, Curator of Mammals at the NYS Museum, who will speak on “New York’s Coyote/Coydog/Coywolf: What is it and how did it get here?;” Dan Bogan, Ph.D. candidate, Cornell University, discussing “Suburban coyote behavioral ecology: Implications for ecology and management;” and Robin Holevinski, Ph.D. candidate at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, who will address “Foraging Ecology and Population Status of Eastern Coyotes.”

For information and weather confirmation, call 845-687-5231.

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Eek of the Week: Chia Obama

Spotted before last Christmas, offered in plenty of time for the lucky recipient to have Washington, Lincoln or Obama  – sorry, Texas, no Reagan –  to be in full greenery by Presidents Day. Still not on the clearance counter, however.

According to wikipedia “The Chia Pet was first used on September 8, 1977, and aside from its name, the Chia Pet is not a patented invention. The first Chia Pet was the ram, marketed and distributed in 1982.” They must mean trademarked; you can’t patent a name.

Bust embellishment notwithstanding, chia (salvia hispanica) isn’t an ornamental. It’s a food crop,  native to Central America, where its highly nutritious seeds have been part of the diet for at least 3000 years.

As far as I know, the Aztecs – who were eating a lot of chia when the conquistadores got there – didn’t adorn their terra cotta sculptures with wooly green mats. But they may have been missing an opportunity.  Joseph Enterprises, the company that manufactures the pets, reportedly had 98,000 employes in 2008.

Jeff Koons’  Puppy (1992) has already sucked up all the air in the irony department, so I have nothing else to say except don’t despair. The planting time that revives hope and brings change is just around the corner.

Real Deal Organic Milk – We Did It!

Ok, ok,  the huge throng of us who urged the USDA to please adopt stronger standards for organic milk probably shouldn’t be taking credit. But it’s nice to think our voices were heard, and in any event we can cheer the outcome:  those long-awaited new rules were adopted on February 12.

please pretend these are celebratory fireworks

The Cornucopia Institute, which led one of the largest petition drives, has a good report on what happened and why. The New York Times story is shorter but perfectly adequate if you’re not (yet, just stick with me) a farm policy geek.

This is the shortest version of all. At the heart of the new milk standards is a requirement that all dairy cattle be on pasture for the full length of the local grazing season or at least 120 days. Adios to the oxymoron: factory organic dairy.

I’m planning to write and say thank you, on the theory that pats are deserved and will be appreciated. People who run these agencies seldom get any feedback from the public except demands and complaints. Here’s the contact info. if you’d like to join me.


Our Pal Monsanto Poised to Poison Organic Milk –

sorta. What they’re really about to do is get permission from the USDA to market GE alfalfa that will contaminate organic alfalfa and thus create huge problems for organic dairy farmers. The full story and a petition/comment form asking the USDA to please apply its own standards (sigh) are here (among many other places).

My own – completely unsubstantiated – theory is that individual letters carry a tiny bit more weight than those aggregated by activist organizations, so I wrote directly to the relevant USDA comment page. My letter follows, in case you’re curious, though I’m not sure why I bothered to make any arguments. It’s highly unlikely anyone will actually read them. But somebody will note whether I’m for or against, and that’s why writing matters. Deadline for comments is 2/16.

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