The Greatest Feat

It’s awesome when folks band together to affect a positive outcome. For you non-Californians, let me relate the events which recently led up to a very positive outcome for our state.

In early September the weather report warned that temperatures throughout the state were to rise to outrageously high numbers (here in Glen Ellen our temperature got to near 110 degrees). That was followed by an emergency cell-phone alert, asking Californians to cut their electrical use between 6 and 9 pm that night.

Yes, I was confused as to why we were to cut the usage in the evening – when the temperatures would start to fall. La duh. It turns out that California has enough solar panels feeding electricity into the grid to keep things going during the day. But come evening all that ends – yet homes in the early evening still have their AC cranked up, and folks just home from work and school are using lots of appliances and lights and TVs and computers.

Solar panels in California’s Mojave Desert. Andy drove by this on his way from Chino, CA, to Colorado and says it’s mind-boggling in its size.

According to an article in September’s The Atlantic about this episode and California’s electrical grid, “within 45 minutes of that alert going out, the state had cut more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity, roughly as much energy as it normally takes to power more than 1.5 million homes. And the grid was fine.”

This is what a large-scale solar battery storage plant looks like (this one is in Oxnard, CA). Those batteries helped keep the grid going (They’re also problematic. An enormous one at Moss Landing in CA has had a multitude of problems with fires.)

The Atlantic article continues with an analysis of what needs to come next in regards to the grid, since “electricity is the lifeblood of technical society.” FYI: Two decades ago, the National Academy of Engineering ranked electrification (“stringing up the world’s power grid”) as the greatest engineering feat of the 20th century, outranking the automobile (No. 2), the airplane (No. 3), radio and TV (No. 6), computers (No. 8), and the telephone (No. 9). Recently a Stanford researcher, Michael Wara, commented that electric cars may be just what’s needed for the future of our “old and rickety” grid because their use will force growth in the electrical industry, which has been stagnant.

8 Tesla and 2 “universal” charging stations for electric cars have been installed at Sonoma’s Community Center on East Napa St.

There’s a caveat to electric cars helping us and the grid out: If electric cars are all being charged in the early evening, the grid will be even more challenged. So charging has to take place during the day or after 11 pm.

In thinking about electricity, and the grid going down (especially if it’s dinner time) – as may happen before all this needed growth occurs, we could go back to our blog about the apocalypse and remind you of the kinds of food to have on hand. Clearly, you’ll want peanut butter and cans of beans. But what about meat or fish, if you’re not vegetarian? How about cans of tuna and…yes…SPAM?!

We’re going to bank on the good people of California tempering their electrical usage when the next grid-preservation warning goes out. But just in case the good people of California have a bad day, we’ve got recipes for Spam hot and Spam cold – and for tuna hot and tuna cold.

Our Cardigan Corgi, Wynn, isn’t sure she wants Spam, especially while it’s still in the can

And speaking of Spam: please note the “convenient” pull tab on the Spam lid in the photo above. Andy has lots and lots to say about such conveniences in today’s Andy’s Corner. Suffice it to say, he’s not pleased.

So here’s to the grid and your electric stove functioning and to enjoying HOT, fried Spam (I should add that California – as of January 2023 – is requiring new homes to be “electric ready.” A cook’s concern – environmental issues aside – is that the use of gas ranges in new construction is being discouraged and in some areas, not even allowed).

A delicious recipe with Spam from our grandson Moss (of Japanese Cheesecake fame), using a gas range and helped out by his friend Nathaniel – a real foodie – who rates the recipe 8 out of 10. It’s a winner!

Moss's Spam Go-To Recipe

Moss, our grandson, created this recipe.

  • 4 half inch thick slices of original spam
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sugar (or a little less, if you’re not “into” sweet)
  • 2 T canola oil (divided)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T oyster sauce (Lee Kum Kee is a good brand)
  • Cooked (preferably day old) rice
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of Diamond kosher salt
  • Fresh tomatoes, quartered
  • Kimchi (Sinto Gourmet Kimchi is a good brand) – for crunch (optional but delicious)

Add soy sauce and sugar into a pan on med-high heat. Let sugar dissolve then add spam. Cook spam flipping once every minute until caramelized or “brown”.

Add 1 T oil to cleaned pan on medium-high heat. Add garlic, let fry until fragrant and add rice. Add oyster sauce and mix.

Add 1 T oil to pan on high heat. Add your eggs and a pinch of salt. Cook eggs until crispy and done.

Assemble rice, spam and egg and top with fresh tomatoes and kimchi.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

And here’s a recipe for Spam straight from the can – for when your electric stove is not functioning.

Spamwich

Spamwich

Ham works just as well as Spam, should you not be a Spam enthusiast.

  • 1 can spam, crumbled or diced (or substitute diced ham)
  • 3 eggs, hard boiled and chopped (optional)
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 T finely minced onion
  • 1 T ketchup
  • 1 tsp prepared mustard
  • 3 T sweet or dill relish (your preference)
  • 3 T mayonnaise – or enough to moisten
  • sliced cucumbers and lettuce for serving (optional)
  • bread of your choice to complete the sandwich (Dave’s thinly sliced whole wheat bread is especially good, as is a toasted buttered hamburger bun or English muffin).

In a medium bowl mix together the first 8 ingredients. Spread on the bread of your choice, adding the cucumber and lettuce, if desired.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

Back in 2004 our daughter Sara published a cute and handy little cookbook entitled Picnics. We took the liberty of using this no-electricity-required recipe which appears in it. Sara’s acknowledgement in the book’s preface included this: “I can never say enough to Dad, the dishwasher, and Mom, my silent partner, who developed, shopped, cooked, and tested ten variations of a peach crisp before we decided on a nectarine tart!” The sandwich in front is this Pan Bagnat.

Pan Bagnat with Tuna, Tomatoes, and Olives

Adapted from Picnics by Sara Deseran

  • 2 1/2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 T capers, drained and chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 4 crusty French rolls, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • Diamond kosher salt
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, cut into thin slices (optional)
  • 8 radishes, thinly sliced (optional)
  • One 6-7 oz can or jar of tuna
  • 16 pitted kalamata olives, pounded flat (4 per sandwich)
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced and divided into rings
  • 16 large basil leaves

For the dressing: combine the vinegar, capers, anchovy paste, sugar, and olive oil and whisk well. Brush both sides of the bread with the dressing. Rub the cut garlic over the cut and dressed bread.

On the bottom half of each piece of the cut bread, place a layer of tomatoes – and lightly salt them, then top them with the sliced, boiled egg, slices radishes, about 1/4 of the tuna, 4 olives, some red onion, and 4 basil leaves.

Top with the remaining pieces of bread. If you have time on your hands, wrap each sandwich with plastic wrap, press the sandwich with something heavy, and let sit for an hour or so – so that the bread absorbs some of the juices.

Serve and enjoy.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

More tuna cold:

Easy White Bean Tuna Salad
Tuna Nicoise Salad Bowl

AND tuna hot:

Wynn-R Tuna Pasta and Spinach
Mom’s Tuna Noodle Casserole

Stock Up on Peanut Butter – or on Matches?

Have you recently made a mad dash to the grocery store to stockpile food for the Apocalypse? It’s surprising how many websites there are that are dedicated to helping you with that. In that stockpile you will surely have peanut butter (as well as rice, ramen noodles, canned beans and meat, honey, alcohol…and maybe even powdered milk!).

I counted over 30 brands of peanut butter at Google Shopping! We like this Woodstock.

Something that doesn’t seem to appear on any of those lists is multiple boxes of matches. And that’s what the main character in the book I just read – The Wall (Die Wand) by Marlen Haushofer – is concerned about following an apocalyptic-sort of event. She’s worrying about having the ability to start a fire. She’s alone, except for her animals, and down to 4000 matches. She calculates that’s enough for about 5 years.

My most-favorite-ever apocalypse novel will always be Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but Haushofer’s novel, which was first published in German in 1963 and translated to English in 1990, may be a close second.

In relating this apocalypse tale to Andy, he reminded me of the 1981 film Quest for Fire. Janet Maslin, reviewing for the NYTimes, wrote, ”Quest for Fire” is more than just a hugely enterprising science lesson, although it certainly is that. It’s also a touching, funny and suspenseful drama about prehumans. Andy mostly remembers the tribal members learning about “the missionary position,” 🙂 – but I’m more impressed that it was a woman who provided the desperate Cro-Magnon tribesmen with the knowledge of how to start a fire…when theirs had gone out.

Andy, in today’s Andy’s Corner has a lot to say about his youthful personal quest for fire. Ha!

If you want to find out more about apocalyptic kinds of food, you’ll get some good insight from an article posted in 2020 on the BBC’s “Future” site: The Food That Could Last 2000 Years. It recommends seeking food that can be preserved by drying, salting, and chilling (is it naive of me to wonder how you’d chill something?). And “things that are high in sugar tend to last a long time…since refined sugar will not support any microbial growth at all.” I should probably be posting a toffee or a hard candy recipe – at least if the recipe doesn’t contain dairy or eggs.

The BBC article points out that Twinkies have a reputation for long life (which is a myth). In the 2009 film Zombieland the protagonists spend the entire movie searching high and low for a Twinkie in their post-apocalyptic world.

A gift from Maui. Should we use it now – or keep it for the Apocalypse? Without hesitation, we voted to use it now! 🙂

If you want to pursue this gloom and doom topic more, you really should read a recent article in The Guardian: “The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse.” I guarantee you’ll feel gloomier after reading it. But the article does have one snippet of advice that seems to have merit: “the best way to cope with the impending disaster [is] to change the way we treat one another, the economy, and the planet right now.”

Do I recommend reading The Wall? Well, it was admittedly a hard read, but I’m so glad I made it to the end. Though I wouldn’t say the ending was exactly upbeat, there was something very positive about the conclusion. Here’s a good quote from Haushofer’s novel – “something new is coming and I can’t escape that…and I shall deal with it and find a way.”

I vote that you retrieve your peanut butter and sugar and honey and whatever else you’ve got stashed away in the bunker and enjoy it all now. And to help you use up those multiple jars of apocalyptic peanut butter and bags of sugar, here are two great recipes to try out. Just don’t expect the cookies and ice cream to last 2000 years!

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Those Were the Days, My Friend

Is a picture – and a song – worth a thousand words? In this case, I think so.


Postscript:

Picture: Our grandson Silas and Andrea, his girlfriend, in Pietrasanta, Italy, enjoying sunny August days on the beach before their return to college

Song: the lovely and lovely-voiced Mary Hopkin, an 18-year-old Welsh woman recorded “Those Were the Days” in 1968 for the Beatles’ Apple label. Robert Goulet, Inglebert Humperdink, The Limelighters, and Bing Crosby all recorded the song – but later.

Recipe: Silas prepared and served Spaghetti Carbonara for the six college friends who were staying in Pietrasanta. He says they loved it! 🙂

Post-postscript:

Picture: Perhaps the picture should have been this photo Silas took of the sunset over the Ligurian Sea.

Song: Perhaps the song should have “Sunrise, Sunset…swiftly fly the years” from Fiddler on the Roof with a reminder of the poignant lyrics: “when did she get to be a beauty; when did he grow to be so tall?”

The sun sets over the Ligurian Sea

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

from “Sunrise Sunset” and Fiddler on the Roof

Seeing that photo of Silas and Andrea made me think of Annette Funicello and the 1965 movie Beach Blanket Bingo. In yet another nostalgia-filled blog, Andy in today’s Andy’s Corner reminisces about an evening long ago on a California beach – and about beach blankets.

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Deep Six your B6?

Wow. There’s been a bunch of bad news lately – and I’m not talking politics or climate change or Ukraine. This bad news has been about taking supplements. Vitamin D3, Vitamin B6, and Fish Oil supplements have all gotten some bad press in the last few months.

Andy and I have been religiously taking Vitamin D3 for several years, partly because it was recommended by Andy’s doctor and partly because we like the idea of strengthening our bones. But in July the New England Journal of Medicine published a government-funded study of Vitamin D supplements and frequency of fractures; it involved over 25,000 participants. The result? “Vitamin D3 supplementation did not result in a significantly lower risk of fractures than placebo among generally healthy midlife and older adults.” This is a big deal, since, according to an article in the NYTimes about the research, millions of Americans take vitamin D supplements and labs do more than 10 million vitamin D tests each year; the Times article states that an editorial published along with the paper offers some blunt advice to these millions of Vitamin D-takers: STOP.

These are like candy. How can we possibly STOP?

Earlier this month, The Atlantic published an article entitled “Fish Oil Is Good! No, Bad! No, Good! No, Wait …”

While The Atlantic article is focused on problematic research involving a fish-oil-based heart drug, called Vascepa, Pieter Cohen, a professor at Harvard Medical School made the comment that…we’ve known for years that fish-oil supplements have virtually no benefits for your average, healthy person. He goes on to say…that hasn’t stopped tens of millions of Americans from popping the pills every day. Clifford Rosen, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, added “People just love to take supplements. It’s religiosity … It’s magical thinking.”

Wynn and Oakley, our dogs, have very shiny, healthy fur. Can we attribute it to this fish oil we give them daily?

The final blow to our supplement intake came in an August 2 NYTimes article which focuses on Vitamin B6. Though we don’t hear as much about B6 as we do about other vitamins, according to WebMd – This hard-working vitamin holds many big jobs. It affects your mood, appetite, sleep, and thinking. You need it to fight off infections, turn food into energy, and help your blood carry oxygen to all corners of your body. While it’s actually rare to run low, you really can’t afford to do so.

A recent British study, though small in size, shows that high amounts of B6 might make us feel less anxious. Andy’s 13-year-old self might have benefitted from that. Who would have thought a camping trip to the High Sierras could cause overwhelming stress? See today’s Andy’s Corner.

Pine Creek to Piute Pass hike in the Sierras

Here’s the bad news – and the good news – about Vitamin B6: As with the other essential vitamins, the body cannot produce B6 on its own, so you can get it only from foods or supplements. But here’s the caveat: most of us don’t need B6 supplements. Most healthy adults get more than enough vitamin B6 from their diets alone, says Dr. Katherine Tucker, a nutritional epidemiologist at UMass Lowell. “It’s widely available in whole foods,” she said, like tuna, salmon, fortified cereals, chickpeas, poultry, dark leafy greens, bananas, oranges, cantaloupe and nuts.

So go ahead and deep six your B6 vitamin pills. And then stock up on…chickpeas! The recommended daily intake of vitamin B6 is 1.3 to 1.7 milligrams. One cup of canned chickpeas provides 1.1 milligrams of vitamin B6, while three ounces of roasted chicken breast only supplies 0.5 milligrams.

True confession: we like Goya chickpeas better – but can’t bring ourselves to buy them for political reasons
Home-cooked chickpeas are super delicious

We’ve got some great summery recipes with chickpeas – and even an easy back-to-school chickpea curry recipe for those of you whose young’uns are headed that way. When you get tired of chickpeas, check out the other vitamin B6-loaded and d-lish BigLittleMeals recipes we’ve listed below.

And before I share today’s nut-filled, B6-rich new recipe, I just have to show you the supplement my mother made me take as a kid. I’ve searched for years to try to find out more about what it was, and I finally found this photo – with its content listed. I always wondered whether the “Co” in “Cofron” meant it secretly had cocaine :). But no, it was made from copper and fresh liver! No wonder I hid every time my mother pulled out that dreaded bottle – filled with its dark, nasty, livery-colored, yucky liquid – to cure me of whatever ailment I might have.

So here’s to the end of summer with its bounty of locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables – to the demise of Cofron – AND to foods loaded with vitamin B6! Enjoy.

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Walk a Mile in his Moccasins – OR Wear her Apron for a Day?

“To understand a man you’ve got to walk a mile in his shoes.”

That common phrase is actually a twist on what Mary T. Lathrap, a Michigan minister and suffragist, wrote in 1895. The last line from Mary’s poem “Just Softly” reads “Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.

We can all agree that’s good advice – whether it’s moccasins or shoes.

But Mary might also have suggested that we “take the time to wear her apron for a day.” She touches on that timely subject in her poem “A Woman’s Answer to a Man’s Question.”

You require your mutton shall always be hot,
Your socks and your shirt be whole;
I require your heart to be true as God’s stars,
And as pure as heaven your soul.

You require a cook for your mutton and beef;
I require a far better thing.
A seamstress you’re wanting for socks and shirts;
I look for a man and a king…..

Is your heart an ocean so strong and deep,
I may launch my all on its tide?
A loving woman finds heaven or hell
On the day she is made a bride.

It’s hard to be a wife/mother/woman, right? And not always easy to be a husband/father/man either, right? Also, as you’ll find in today’s Andy’s Corner, it’s not easy to be a pet/human companion/dog either (and there’s another great video).

You get the point. We need to be sure that men and women get equal amounts of compassion and empathy. And that’s admittedly hard to do – at least until we’ve “been” him or her.

But there’s a twist to that. Sometimes we want badly to BE some other person…someone whose life seems more fun than ours.

Which brings me to a blog title I’d saved a long time ago: I Wanna’ Be.” I had planned to write about how I wish I could be…Ina Garten.

My least favorite cookbook title: Cooking for Jeffrey

I quit following Ina’s Instagram posts after the 62,500 “likes” she routinely gets became too overwhelming – and slightly depressing – compared to BigLittleMeals 2-3 “likes.” 🙂

A recent post from Ina stated she needed to get back out and work in her garden. Looks like it needs work 🙂
I’ve been out working in my garden too – but it will never measure up to Ina’s.

If Ina isn’t threatening enough, now there’s Tik-Tok’s “senior” cooking star, Barbara Costello. “Babs aka Nona” has 1.9 million followers. Celebrate with Babs, Barbara’s recently published cookbook, has 800+ 5-star reviews on Amazon.

@brunchwithbabs

Wow!! It’s never too late. First time author at age 73. My NEW & first cookbook, Celebrate with Babs ✨ Available everywhere books are sold #nevertoolate

♬ Here Comes the Sun – Relaxing Instrumental Music

So what’s my point? Social media allows us to present a persona that isn’t reaI. I don’t think that either Ina or Babs is probably as happy and in control and carefree as they portray, though if they are – more power to them! And yet we casual observers see these ladies and can’t help but be slightly envious. But I remind myself: we should “wear her apron for a day” before our “I wanna be…” grips and consumes us.

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