Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Here's to all the dads, who are hopefully getting to do whatever they want on their special day--they deserve it!  

I was lucky to have a dad who always took time for me, teaching me the important things in life: how to drive a stick shift, how to make pancakes, and to appreciate nature, books, and Woody Allen movies. He's still going strong at 89, probably due to his (semi-serious) motto, everything in moderation. Love you, Dad.

Below is a picture of him, Eisenhower era, when even the cars wore rakish grins. This is, of course, before he had any kids around to give him ugly ties.

Hello, ladies ...

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Love Popcorn!

… and I have the book to prove it!

Doubleday and Co., 1976

Yes, I have been a life-long popcorn-aholic, so it was a natural that my mom would get me this book. 

(click on this and each of the pics to enlarge)

She wasn't fooling anybody though--she was also a die-hard popcorn lover. It is, after all, a healthy, low-cal, whole-grain snack, and something she could give to us kids that was fun and that we wouldn't complain about. She even liked it with a little melted butter (yay!) though she would have never approved of the abominations one sees today--caramel popcorn, cheddar cheese popcorn, chocolate-covered popcorn! 

tellin' it like it is in the '70's

My dad was also a popcorn fan, but I'm pretty sure the thing he liked the most about it was making it--especially if it could be over a camp fire, preferably accompanied by the-opposite-of-healthy hot dogs prepared similarly. I would always beg to be allowed to shake the Jiffy Pop aluminum pan; oh how I loved to watch that foil bubble rise … good times.

... heh heh, they'll never catch me ...

This looks so much like me as a kid it's weird (including the bad behavior of sneaking food into bed)! Probably another reason Mom just had to get it for me. Yes, it's a fun book -- chock-full of recipes and activities and the multiple joys of popcorn.

pseudo-me enjoys popcorn on a stick!
To make the most of your popcorn addiction, be sure to steer clear of non-organic popcorn to avoid GMO's, and overly buttery or flavored kinds, because they'll turn a wholesome snack into a diet killer. And, while we're on the "k" word, be careful when selecting microwavable popcorn. Most brands, it turns out, coat the inside of the bag with something called PFOA, a dangerous chemical that leeches into the popcorn as it heats. All hope is not lost, however. Newman's Own Organics doesn't use bags with PFOA's; neither does Quinn PopcornSnappy Popcorn, or Jollytime.

I assume good old Jiffy Pop is still safe. I hope so!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sugar, Sugar, Everywhere

While I was doing a previous post, I happened across this:

(click on the picture to enlarge)

And I thought to myself, 2 lbs. of sugar a month? Just how much sugar did those people eat back then, that limiting themselves to 2 lbs. a month was a hardship? That's 2 lbs. per person, not per household! 

This other poster, below, also from the same agency, The U.S. Food Administration, and from the same time period, World War l, shows how they were using it, or, rather, how they were to STOP using it:

(click on the picture to enlarge)

What's interesting to see is that they were, in large part, adding sugar to things they made themselves. It's also worth remembering that the suggestion to "use other sweeteners" doesn't refer to anything artificial--no aspartame, no high fructose corn syrup--as no sugar substitutes had been invented yet. Back then, honey, molasses, sorghum, or maple syrup were your only alternate choices. 

Today, the average American might consume 2 lbs. of sugar every four days. How could it be that much, you ask? Most of it comes from the fact that we cook and bake so little for ourselves. And when the majority of food you eat is pre-packaged, as this article explains (emphasis mine), it's hard to eat things that don't have a lot of sugar:
Today added sugar is everywhere, used in approximately 75 percent of packaged foods purchased in the United States. The average American consumes anywhere from a quarter to a half pound of sugar a day. If you consider that the added sugar in a single can of soda might be more than most people would have consumed in an entire year, just a few hundred years ago, you get a sense of how dramatically our (food) environment has changed.
All I can say is, it was a lot easier to do our patriotic duty when sugar wasn't in almost everything we ate!

(you know, the clicking)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fast Track Detoured

Previously, we talked about the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015) -- the “fast track” legislation to push through the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

We talked about how there's little in this sweeping TPP legislation for regular people to benefit from, and actually a lot for them to be worried about, if it were to pass. We even gave out ways to contact our representatives in Congress and urge them to vote against the fast track authority.

The good news is, it seems to have worked! 

Today, the deal's advocates were not able to pull in enough votes to make the thing happen, and for that, you can give yourselves a pat on the back, if you are one of the many people who did contact their congressperson. As CNN puts it:
(The defeat) showcased the strength of populist elements of both parties, who beat back an intense lobbying push from traditional Washington forces like the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
However, no one should expect that this will now go away. We, the people, have shown that we can do it, and we need to keep showing it. Click here to contact your congressperson today, letting them know you are still very much a part of this fight! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The House of Black and White

Memorial Day has passed, and thus summer has officially begun. If you're like me, that means you go through your bottles of sunscreen from last year to see if there's anything still in there. What is disappointing about this exercise is that I often have nearly full bottles of sunscreen (meaning that once again, I didn't get outside much!) and, also, that none of them have expiration dates. Yes, it turns out that  sunscreen DOES expire, usually within 3 years of date of purchase. Sunscreen manufacturers, however, are not required to date their products the way we've gotten used to other things being labeled. Some do anyway, and if you were lucky enough to buy one of those brands, good for you. Another smart move would be to just write the date you bought the stuff on it in marker. Guess which of those things I did? That's right--neither.

Now I could, as this helpful website describes, call up the manufacturer and read them a code printed on the bottle, so they could tell me if it was still viable. So there's that option. Or I could just admit defeat and go buy another bottle, and either make sure it has a date or write the date I bought it on it. Because if I ever DO get outside, I'm going to need it.

Hopefully, anybody knows that you have to protect your skin from the strong, harmful, UV rays of the sun. Sunburns are not just painful;  the damage they do to your skin increases your chances of skin cancer, AKA melanoma. Not the fun kind of cancer (okay, there is  no fun kind), melanoma is the bad, potentially-killing kind of cancer. 

Melanoma doesn't just strike ghosties like me, either. Although Caucasians get skin cancer (and die from it) at higher rates than other races, it's a myth that non-Caucasian people are immune to this disease. People of color are often diagnosed with skin cancer at later stages, when it is advanced and more potentially fatal, whereas most skin cancers are curable if caught and treated in a timely manner.

To illustrate, which of these Game of Thrones characters needs to apply sunscreen? 

Answer: all of them! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Meatless Monday: Destroy the Hun! Edition

See this poster? When I first saw it, I assumed it had been created by foodie hipsters, probably for some Oregonian farm co-op. However, reading the fine print, I discovered it was, in fact, a product of a much sterner and squarer entity: the U.S. Food Administration, circa World War 1.

When the U.S. entered that war in 1917, Europe had already been fighting it for 3 long, dreary, and sickeningly brutal years. Despite America's seemingly steadfast neutrality, Germany's provocative actions made our entry into the conflict nothing short of inevitable.

But to get back to the poster, what is fascinating about it is that it could have been created by foodie hipsters of today. All the tenets are there: Be mindful of what you buy to eat. Cook it yourself. Eat less wheat and meat! Buy local! Don't gorge yourself, and don't chuck your left-overs! When did these common sense attitudes about food go out of style?

For that matter, why were they so important to the government at that time? Hard as it is to imagine today, during the First World War, the United States was short of nearly everything it would need to fight. Citizens were asked to donate any weapons, horses, and ammunition they possessed to help supply the army. Rationing was also very much in vogue, to feed the troops and everyone on the home front, as well as to help relieve famine in Europe. Concepts such as "Meatless Mondays" and "Wheatless Wednesdays" were implemented to help the food rationing effort.

It's interesting that things we now think of as matters of health, were then matters of national defense. 

And when you think about it, they still are. A nation that uses its resources wisely and supports healthy lifestyles in its citizens, ensuring safe and nutritious food, is far better equipped to handle the threats of the future than a nation that does not.