Thursday, September 30, 2010

How's the weather?

One more quick thing. While recently wondering how a friend is doing, who is currently in Ranger school down in hot Georgia, I thought the heat there could be nothing compared to Afghanistan or other Middle Eastern countries. So what is the weather typically like?

Weather Underground tells me that at the moment, Islam-Qala is looking at a high of 82 F and a low of about 59 F. Baghdad has a temperature range of highs in the 100s F and a lows around 75 F. UV levels are at an eight and 9 respectively, which is alright if you're used to it I guess. The UV level where I live is currently one (out of sixteen). Both of those cities are way too hot for me.

Lazy Susan

I have no idea why I all of the sudden was thinking about Lazy Susans, but here I am. And slightly irritated. This is my original thought about the use of a Lazy Susan: a negative term society and the media gave to a kitchen invention which was meant to save women time... but any woman who couldn't do her duty and drudge to the kitchen to fetch whatever was needed was surely a lazy, and virtue lacking, woman by society standards. A bit of a feminist bent, I know.

So a search to learn more about this device must be undertaken, with only minutes to give this search as we're headed out to kickoff Octoberfest. Thank goodness for people who love learning! I found a website by a British man named Michael Quinion, who appears to like researching words. After reading his entry on Lazy Susan, I have decided this term still holds some historical contempt for socio-economic circles. The earliest American use of the word was in an ad in the Christian Science Monitor, dating from 1912. But Quinion suggests, since this is not a new invention, that its European term was dumb-waiter, and I'm inclined to agree with his findings. Check out what he has to say here. I will probably peruse his website just to learn the history and transformed meaning of several words and phrases when I next get a moment.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lacto-fermentation and fun with Yeasties

Yay for nerdy things that have to do with food. I love all things food, generally. There was one time when I agreed to try a Thousand Year egg and gagged healthily. It is an acquired taste, I assure you.

This morning I was reading the Washington Post's "Lean and Fit" column as I often like to do, and came upon something I'd never heard of per se- lactofermentation. The whole concept is pretty appealing to me and I think I'll add it to my "try canning food some day" to do list. In very basic terms you put some veggies or fruit in a Mason jar and seal it air tight, then some lactobacilli turn the sugars into energy to multiply. Think yummy kimchi or sauerkraut. Wikipedia does a great job explaining the technical, chemical process that happens.

It's funny because this isn't an unfamiliar thing for me, but naturally I'd never thought to learn more about it. My sister in-law is Native Alaskan and she used to get jars of pickled octopus legs from her aunts back up in Alaska. I'm not positive, but as that is a traditional recipe, I'm fairly certain they use fermentation to help preserve the octopus legs before they put in the veggeis and spices. I also have an aunt in-law who is Korean and she makes the world's best homemade kimchi. We always eat it at Thanksgiving with all the other trimmings.

I really like the idea of breaking out of the mold and fermenting other things besides cheeses and beers. Speaking of beers, our first porter is doing well. For whatever reason- the gravity was too high? the temperature wasn't low enough when we put the yeast in?- we had to pitch new yeast into the mash on Sunday. The porter "baby," as we often call our brews, is doing well with a strong fermentation going on. We're expecting to taste its goodness come December. Such a blessing since we moved to a part of the country that isn't as microbrew focused as the Pacific Northwest.

And here, is some Scandinavian herring treats for your contemplative pleasure...

Nabisco and Nascar, is it a "nah" thing?

Trying to be fairly healthy people, we don't have much junk food in the house. The extent of our junk food is a bag of dried cherries and a bag of lightly salted Kettle Chips. Some days a girl just needs a cookie fix. I've been needing a carbohydrate filled cookie fix for at least a week. Spur of the moment last night, appealing to his weaknesses, I asked if I should go buy some Nutter Butters... duh, yes.

While chowing through a good portion of them we both reflected that Nutter Butters always showcase something about Nascar. Why? Do Nascar drivers only eat Nutter Butters? And it's been happening for some time, I can recollect at least three years worth of Nascar plastered Nutter Butter bags.

It turns out the relationship is much older, dating back to 2003, when Nabisco and innovative, Michigan born supermarket chain Meijer teamed up to sponsor the June 2003 Nascar Busch Series race. What's not to love about sponsorships? I guess Dale Earnhardt Jr. won four races in a row at Daytona, and that is great advertising people.

What is a Koopa?

When we moved across country, my fiance and I rejoined the twenty-first century. At our old apartment we decided not to have internetz as we worked opposite schedules and were trying to save money anyway. Well, last weekend I told him to try hooking up the Wii to the wireless we have. Lo and behold, I was right that it would be fairly easy to do this. What resulted was my fiance spending $20 on buying some old Ninetendo games, Donkey Kong 2 and Super Mario World.

Now, I didn't grow up playing video games- honestly! So when I try playing Super Mario or any of the others it is not a trip down memory lane and I don't know any of the secrets. While failing miserably to beat a particular level I thought to myself, "What the heck is Bowser anyway?" The Super Mario Wiki tells me that Bowser is a Koopa, which is a turtle-like creature. Great, that's all good and fine since my generation has grown up with Super Mario and don't question why Bowser, or any of his eight children, are turtle-like Koopa Troopas that stand on two legs.

I went digging a bit further and found that at one short point in time someone gave Bowser a wife. Sweet! I wondered if it wasn't asexual reproduction or something since he has 8 kids and very few visible female characters. I mean, clearly, Princess Peach is chaste and waiting for Mario, so she couldn't be the mother.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Amazingly Patriotic Guy

Currently, doing some "homework" on an organization I will soon be sending a cover letter and resume, when I learned something that really made me chuckle- in an appreciative way.

Arguably, the most famous of our Founding Fathers besides good ol' George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, is Thomas Jefferson. (Honestly, I think the degree of fame is dependent on which coast you grew up on. Regionally, we all just have our personal favorites.) He was our third president, and I'll be opinionated in saying I think he was a pretty good one at that. The man's thinking still influences us today.

So how much more patriotic can you get than dying on July 4th?! Yea, that is correct, TJ tied at his dear Monticello on the Fourth of July on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration. Personally, I'm just impressed. Apparently, and no hard feeling for President Adams, he also died that day. What a strong sense of will it must have taken TJ to hold on until July 4th.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What on Earth is Blackstrap Molasses?

I can't get much fresher than the question my fiance posed to me seconds ago, "What is blackstrap molasses?" We're currently making our shopping list for his first batch of home brew porter. The best part of the whole situation is why he asked me in the first place.  My guess is that I'm the baking savvy one in this relationship so, naturally, I should know all things molasses.

Understanding blackstrap molasses requires some background info on molasses in general. (Thanks be to Wikipedia, which will probably be the first lily pad for most of the things learned about.) Molasses is basically sugar cane liquid that is boiled and reduced until the mixture is a thick form of sugar. Molasses can also be made from sugar beets, but only the end result is called molasses. Now, there are three grades of molasses: light, or barbados, from the first boil; dark, which is commonly used for cooking things like gingersnaps, and is from a second boiling; blackstrap is molasses that has been boiled three times, is thickest and darkest, and highest in nutritive value. So, blackstrap molasses is the darkest molasses you can get, and is probably pretty tasty.

There are two bottles of what I now know is dark molasses in my spices cupboard. Once they are all used up I think I might switch to using blackstrap for baking. As I learned from an article on wiseGeek, two tablespoons of blackstrap contain 10% of the copper, iron, calcium, potassium, and manganese I need in a day. Blackstrap also has a smaller percentage of magnesium, B6, and selenium. Huzzah! A good counter argument to the naysayers of eating sweets. Everything in moderation, and if it contains at least some needed minerals and vitamins, all the better.

Brer Rabbit, ahh it recalls fond memories of holiday spiced sweets.