Search Results for "fortuna"

WHAT IF Fortuna is More Than Just a Clever Name for a Cat?

As I’ve written before, the naming of our dogs and cats is a very important family ritual (and will be the focus of an upcoming blog).  One of my personal favorite names that we have not yet used for a cat is “Fortuna” – do I need to point out that most cats are “for tuna”?  Even though my topic today has nothing to do with naming pets, it has a lot to do with Fortuna.

Fortuna wheel1

The Roman goddess Fortuna and her wheel

It turns out that Fortuna, supposedly the daughter of Jupiter, was a Roman goddess who controlled fortune and capriciousness in human affairs.  If she were posting pictures of herself on Instagram she would be near a Rota Fortunae (wheel of fortune), signifying that our fate in life is determined as much by the spin of the wheel as by our own doings.  I must admit that Fortuna’s mythical wheel of fortune often seems to make a lot of sense to me.

Fortuna1

A Fortuna selfie for Instagram?

I was sharing my thoughts on this with our son Travis and he pointed out that Ignatius Reilly, that wonderfully quirky character from A Confederacy of Dunces, referred to Fortuna throughout the novel, something I had forgotten.  Curious, I did a search of the novel on my Kindle –  her name appears 31 times.  Even if you are not a Fortuna fan, I would highly recommend Confederacy – it is a one-of-a-kind classic.

Ignatius2

Ignatius mentioned Fortuna 31 times

I am prattling on about some obscure goddess named Fortuna because that’s what immediately popped into my head when Ann suggested a What If theme for today’s blog. The interventions of this mischievous goddess into our day-to-day lives leaves no option but to contemplate “what if.”   To illustrate, I want to to share one particularly significant what if moment for Ann and me.  It has to do with an army captain, whom I never met, the the military draft, and maybe a flu bug. 

1A notification

The sword of Damocles?

Here’s some context.  It was near the end of 1966 and I was a fledgling school teacher at Chino High.   Ann and I had just got engaged.  Shortly after our engagement I learned that I had been reclassified by the Selective Service System as 1A and was no longer guaranteed a deferment for teaching.  A 1A classification at that time was a sure ticket to being drafted with the near certainty of ending up in Vietnam.  I could see only one alternative to the mandatory draft –  join a reserve unit. 

So, I looked into the air national guard, the naval reserve, and even the coast guard reserve.  Nothing panned out until I learned of some openings in an army intelligence reserve unit based in Los Angeles.  I drove to LA to speak with the unit’s head sergeant. 

army intelligence

Some consider this to be an oxymoron; I considered it to be a way around the draft.

During the interview he asked if I knew any foreign languages.  Suppressing the urge to tell him that I was pretty good at Pig Latin,  I told him I had couple of semesters of junior college Spanish under my belt.  He said that’s great and asked me to put on some headphones and translate into English as much of a recording as I could.  I didn’t understand a thing I heard, jotting down some random notes about what I guessed was being said.  He glanced at my results and said that was close enough for government work (it wasn’t very comforting to learn that’s all it took to get into army intelligence).

fort Ord on the beach

Fort Ord was considered one of the most attractive locations of any U.S. Army post because of its proximity to the beach and California weather. I was already packing my suntan lotion and trunks.

The most exciting part was that as soon as I was sworn in I would be sent for training at the army’s Military Language Center located at Fort Ord on the Monterey peninsula.   All I needed to do was fill out some forms, pass a physical, and appear at the reserve unit’s monthly meeting in three days to be sworn in.  I completed the forms and passed the physical that day.  Then I rushed back to tell Ann the good news, not realizing that Fortuna’s fateful wheel would soon intercede.

The day prior to the reserve unit meeting the sergeant called to inform me that the commanding officer had come down with the flu and wouldn’t be able to swear me at the upcoming monthly meeting.  I would have to wait until the next meeting.

One week later I became one of the more than 300,000 American men that year to open an envelope with this statement inside: “Greeting: You are hereby ordered for induction in the Armed Forces of the United States.”  This meant that I was immediately ineligible for any other kind of military service.  My completed forms and passed physical were for naught.  I was had. 

I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered “what if” about this.  What if that captain had not caught the flu that weekend and swore me into the reserves prior to getting my draft notice?  Would I have been able to continue teaching at Chino High?  Would I have still gone to grad school?  Would I have avoided Vietnam?  Would Ann and I have had children earlier?  Would we ever have met folks like the Davis family (see Ann’s blog)?  Would I have learned a language more useful than Pig Latin?

Anns Fortuna

It was no coincidence that a few years ago Ann chose this Fortuna image for her email profile picture.

Of course that is just one of many what if moments that have influenced the direction and substance of our lives. Even though we had dreaded the thought of my being drafted, the army’s disruption of the first couple of years of our married life strengthened our relationship and opened opportunities we hadn’t imagined. Perhaps the best way to think about Fortuna is to realize that when the Rota Fortunae deals us a not-so-desirable outcome it provides a potential opportunity to confront the hardship and become stronger for the effort.  

Here’s to good fortuna for all in 2019!

Best Laid Plans: A Beach Date Gone Awry

Beach Blanket Bingo starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello was playing in theaters in 1965. Although I’ve never seen the film, this trailer
seemed appropriate for introducing today’s Andy’s Corner.

It seems that photos have become a flashpoint of inspiration for my Andy’s Corner pieces. In my previous post I wrote about how a photo from the 1950’s brought back memories of my Boy Scout past. Ann’s photo of our grandson and his girlfriend at the beach that she posted in today’s blog stirred up memories of a beach date from my U C Santa Barbara days when I was about our grandson’s age (and Beach Blanket Bingo was a big hit). It also brought to mind a well known Robert Burns poem and kindled an urge to sociologize a bit (yes, sociologize is a real word).

I’ll begin with the poem. If any poetry speaks to the experience that I am about to disclose none does better than Robert Burns’ “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785.” I’m sure you’ll recognize the well-known part of the poem that I find so apropos.

The original is on the left and the translation on the right. Burns’ entire poem is linked here.

As you may already suspect (and as I will reveal a little later), my “best-laid scheme” for an ideal beach date managed to go “awry.” But awry or not, it provides me with an excuse to introduce you to some key principles from one of my favorite sociological perspectives, Dramaturgical Sociology. In fact, I’ve shared my beach-date story from the lectern many times with my captive student audiences over the years. Even now as I contemplate telling you this story I have to resist the urge to tell you to turn off your smart phones and to at least act like you’re interested.

Dramaturgical Sociology was introduced in 1959 by Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.” He used a theatrical performance metaphor to explain much of the behavior we find in everyday life. He argued that when interacting with others we try to project an “idealized” image of ourselves that we want to be taken seriously- much like an actor on stage tries to portray a character that the audience can find believable. And, also like theater actors, before the curtain is raised we prepare for our performances back stage (or in the “back region”) out of sight of our targeted audience.

Editor’s note: Obviously the above overview only scratches the surface. For greater detail, I recommend Goffman’s book which I included on my required reading list throughout my 39 years of teaching. The only complaint I ever got was from a female student at Sonoma State who marched into my office and announced that she “would rather face a firing squad than read another word of Goffman.” She was offended by his “sexist” prose. I tried to explain that like many scholarly writers of that era (1950s) Goffman was not sensitive to the issue of using gender-neutral language but nevertheless had given us many useful insights. She dropped my course.

So now let’s turn to my beach-date. It took place during my second semester at UC Santa Barbara. I had transferred there as a junior from a JC and was living in San Miguel Hall, an all-male dorm. Mixed-gender dorms weren’t an option until a few years later. Not only were males not allowed to visit residents in the women’s dorms, the women were bound by a strict curfew, which was 10:30 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

I don’t recall in which of my courses I got to know Lana (I think that was her name) but I do remember that I found her to be attractive and friendly and that she lived in Santa Rosa Hall, a female dorm not far from San Miguel Hall. It took me some time to work up enough nerve, but I finally asked her if she would like to go out to dinner with me. To my surprise she said yes.

UCSB campus (the arrow points to my dorm, San Miguel Hall).

I was stoked that she agreed to go out with me, but it put me in a bit of a bind. I had no car at the time and the fine-dining options within walking distance of campus were slim. Keep in mind that this was way before Uber and the likes. Plus, I had assumed that no young woman worth her salt would want to go out with a loser who had no car. So I had to come up with something creative to compensate for that tactical disadvantage.

Then it hit me – why not have a “spontaneous” and romantic picnic on the beach? One of the bennies of being at UCSB was its location on a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean with what was then the equivalent of a private beach for the students. What could be more perfect?

Back Region Preparations.

The first thing I did to prepare for a “spontaneous” picnic was catch a bus to downtown Santa Barbara (which was about 12 miles away) to do some shopping. At a deli I bought an assortment of cheeses and cold cuts, two different bottles of wine (a chianti in a very cool straw basket and another kind that I don’t recall), and a French baguette. Next, in a kitchen shop I found a red-checkered table cloth (a proxy for a beach blanket!), a couple of inexpensive wine glasses, and a cheap cork screw.

Chianti in a bottle with a straw basket (aka “fiasco“) was very trendy in the 1960’s (and the empty bottles made hip candle holders).

I lugged my “picnic” ingredients back to the dorm, being sure that our RA didn’t see the wine – no alcohol in dorms in those days. Then, on the morning before the date I went on a reconnoitering hike down the beach in search of a good picnic site. When I found what looked like a promising location I foraged for driftwood that could be used to build a cozy fire and stashed it behind a sand dune. I was ready for curtain time.

Front Stage: The Performance

I arrived at Lana’s dorm at 6:00 pm and asked the RA at the reception desk to let Lana know her date was in the lobby. I had a Berkeley book bag stuffed with the picnic goods slung over my shoulder with the baguette peeking out suggestively.

This was the best image I could find on the web of the then popular “Berkeley book bag.” Try to imagine it slung over my shoulder with a French baguette peeking out.

When Lana came into the lobby I told her that it was such a nice evening that rather than going to some stuffy restaurant I thought it would be fun to have a picnic on the beach. She seemed ok with that (thank goodness!), so I suggested that we walk down the beach to find a good spot for a picnic.

It turned out to be a lovely evening with nobody in sight and a hint of an upcoming beautiful sunset. As we arrived at the site that I had previously scouted out I said that this looks like the ideal place and I whipped out the checkered table cloth, spread it on the sand, and laid out the food, pulling out the bottles of wine last. Then I uncorked both bottles asking her to taste each, suggesting that we would share the one she preferred (knowing that I could later claim that once a bottle was opened it had to be consumed).

Watching from the beach as the sun slowly sinks into the Pacific Ocean.

By now the sunset was in full bloom and it was cooling off. I told her that it would be nice to have a fire with our picnic and that I would see if I could find any wood. I walked behind the sand dune where I had my stash, waited a minute or two, and came back with an armful of wood exclaiming “we’re in luck!”

So far everything was dramaturgically on script. What was left of the sunset was slowly fading, we had a crackling fire, and were sitting side by side sipping wine and watching the waves roll in. It was about then that she started telling me about the problems she was having with her boyfriend who had transferred to another university. Before long, she was in tears explaining how much she missed him and how guilty she felt for not being more supportive of him. I don’t recall much about the specifics of her boyfriend-relationship issues, but I do recall watching the fire going down along with the prospects for a romantic evening.

This looks like the “woody” that got us back to the dorm.

Lana was still going on about her boyfriend and we had just finishing the second bottle of wine when I realized that it was perilously close to curfew time and it was a long hike back to the dorm. We threw the remainder of the picnic stuff in my bag and started running up the beach. Fortunately, we came across a surfer who offered to give us a lift back to campus in his “woody” (my first and last time in one of those). With his help we managed to get to the front door of her dorm with about 3 minutes to spare.

I didn’t see Lana after that night but I heard through a friend that at the end of the semester she had transferred to the university her boyfriend attended. I always wondered if, over a glass of wine with her boyfriend, she ever told him the story about our beach picnic date. And if she did tell that story, whether she portrayed me as a sympathetic listener or as a loser who had no car (or maybe both). I guess I’ll never know, which is just as well.

Can Invasivores Save Our Planet?

In today’s blog Ann argues that we can make our planet more environmentally sound by eliminating specified ingredients from our diets. This certainly has merit, especially when it comes to things like corn, wheat, or beef. But there may be a flip side of that argument. Rather than cleansing our pantries and fridges of planet-unfriendly items, it may be just as responsible to stock our pantries and fridges with planet-unfriendly foods and ingredients. Let me explain.

From a 2020 YouTube video entitled “Fried Rat in simple recipe with mango sauce in my village.” (It has 3,975,408 views – a somewhat higher number than what I get for Andy’s Corner posts)

A YouTube video shared by my cycling friend, Larry, got me thinking about this. He follows our blog and assumed the video would be of culinary interest. It shows in excruciating detail how to prep and deep fry rats (with mango sauce of course). While gawking at the food preferences of other cultures may be entertaining, which I’m sure explains its nearly 4 million views, I was more interested in the question of whether cultural acceptance of rats as human food may help control their population (I’m referring to the population of rats, not humans).

The practice of eating planet-unfriendly organisms (such as rats) as a population control strategy is not restricted to other cultures. Take what’s happening in Louisiana as a case in point. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was introduced to the marshes and backwaters of Louisiana by Al, a senior colleague at LSU and a native Louisianan and avid fisherman. On my first foray into the waterways with Al I spotted what looked like a huge rat on the bank of one of the canals. When I asked what it was he said that it was a nutria and that they are bad news.

A Nutria: Louisiana’s 20 pound bad news rodent (and, yes, that’s really the color of their teeth).

They are “bad news” indeed. According to a 2020 USDA Wildlife Services factsheet, nutria are considered an “invasive species” and are quite nasty.

The nutria (Myocastor coypus), a large, semi-aquatic rodent native to
South America, was originally brought to the United States in 1889 for
its fur. When the nutria fur market collapsed in the 1940s, thousands of
nutria escaped or were released into the wild by ranchers who could no
longer afford to feed and house them. While nutria devour weeds and
overabundant vegetation, they also destroy native aquatic vegetation,
crops, and wetland areas.

…[their] burrows can also damage flood-control levees that protect low-lying areas; weaken the foundations of reservoir dams, buildings, and roadbeds; and erode the banks of streams, lakes, and ditches.

And, on top of that, nutria are a public health and safety menace.

The rodents can serve as hosts for several pathogens, including tuberculosis and septicemia, which can infect people, pets, and livestock. In addition, nutria can carry parasites, such as blood flukes, tapeworms, and liver flukes and a nematode known to cause a rash called “nutria itch.”

Al’s comment that these huge rodents are “bad news” was definitely an understatement, especially when we consider that there are an estimated 6,000 nutria per square mile in Southeast Louisiana and that adult females not only produce two litters of up to 13 babies per year, they can breed within a day of having a litter. Where are they finding all of that the time to cause so much havoc? And, who wants to get nutria itch?

It is no longer cool (or PC) to sport fur apparel, even if from an invasive species such as nutria.

So what has been done to control these huge rats? True to our country’s capitalistic impulses, government sponsored programs have tried to turn nutria (dead ones, that is) into something of economic value. Initially, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) introduced programs to promote nutria for the the global fur market, but for a variety of reasons that market has tanked, weakening the incentive for trappers to harvest nutria.

Louisiana nutria hunter

In another effort to control nutria LDWF is offering a bounty of $6 per nutria tail. In 2020 around 240 people participated in the nutria harvest, collecting about 223,000 tails worth more than $1.1 million in incentive payouts. One hunter bagged just under 11,000 nutria tails — worth $55,000. Even with that program in place the nutria population has kept growing.

[Editor’s note: I have to include this tidbit from a NY Times article regarding a possible problem with offering bounties for tails: “In 1902, the French colonial government in Hanoi, Vietnam, hellbent on slaughtering the city’s rats, offered a bounty for each rodent tail delivered as proof of execution; cunning entrepreneurs simply chopped off the tails and released the rats, leaving them free to breed and produce more rats, hence more tails and more bounties.”]

Whole roast nutria – photo from the documentary Rodents of Unusual Size

Perhaps the most interesting potential for controlling the nutria population is summarized by the slogan If you can’t beat them, eat them. Efforts have been made to elevate nutria meat to be comparable to pork or turkey on our dinner tables. Famous chef’s have been recruited to develop nutria recipes and extensive advertising campaigns have been funded by the LDWF.

Even man’s best friend became part of the nutria abatement effort. Unfortunately, Marsh Dog went out of business in 2021.

Louisiana is not alone in its efforts to control destructive species. According to Ligaya Mishan in a NY Times article entitled When Invasive Species Become the Meal, local campaigns such as found in Louisiana are part of a broader movement which is

aiming to reduce, if not eradicate, invasive species — Burmese pythons up to 20 feet long swallowing bobcats whole in the Florida Everglades; sea lampreys sucking the blood out of fish in the Great Lakes; wild boars uprooting crops and wreaking havoc in city streets from Berlin to Hong Kong — by cooking them for dinner.

Program logo from the Institute for Applied Ecology located in Corvallis, Oregon and Santa Fe, New Mexico

The goal of this broader movement is to encourage people to become invasivores (those who eat invasive species). Rather than excluding certain foods from their tables, invasivores aggressively tackle the issue head on by facing the enemy eye to eye on their dinner plates. This means, as Ligaya Mishan aptly states, that what otherwise might be merely an epicurean decision, choosing what to have for dinner becomes “a civic duty, a heroic act, even a declaration of war“.

Just a few recommendations to complete your invasivore cookbook library

But before being too quick to declare all out war on invasive species, we need to look over our shoulders. Despite the impressive list of despicable and destructive species taken on by the invasivore movement, there is one species that never seems to be on the menu. This brings to mind Walt Kelly’s cartoon character Pogo who in 1970 uttered this famous line: ‘We have met the enemy and he is us‘ [editors note: this does not necessarily mean that “she” couldn’t be “us” too].

Walt Kelly – “We Have Met the Enemy…” 1980 reprint of 1970 poster – Toni Mendez Collection.

Fittingly, Ligaya Mishan concludes her NY Times piece quoting British ecologist Ken Thompson who considers the most dangerous invasive species to be humans:

We, too, have brought devastation to new lands, plundering natural resources, stealing from and killing those who lived there first, even spreading our own lethal diseases. We are the meddlers, the apex predators, the survivors at all costs who have taken over every corner of the planet, its seas and skies, its icy and desert wastes, and dared reshape it in our image. We are the invaders. Who will come for us?

Invasive species are not always what you may think they are.

With that I will close and wish you happy eating, invasive species or not. But do be looking over your shoulder.

Let’s Eat Grandma

Fortunately, my two grandsons, Silas and Moss, have not rallied behind “Let’s Eat Grandma.” In fact, when I texted them about their reaction, their responses were quick – and negative. Thank goodness!

HA! Bet you didn’t know that Let’s Eat Grandma is a (very) young recording duo from Britain, who just recently released their third – and acclaimed – album, Two Ribbons.

FYI – They’ll be in NYC at Webster Hall Nov, 4, Denver at The Bluebird on Nov. 14, and SF at The Independent Nov. 22.

Obviously, other than relief at Silas’s and Moss’s reaction to Let’s Eat Grandma, I was curious why on earth those British kids chose that name for their recording group. Turns out everyone – except me, perhaps – knows it’s a little bit of punctuation humor:

Ahhhhhh, yes, the importance of commas. I’ll bet you remember hearing this story…

An English professor wrote the words, “Woman without her man is nothing” on the blackboard and directed his (or her!) students to punctuate it correctly.

The male students wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”

The women wrote: “Woman: Without her, man is nothing.”

And then there’s this…

Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, aka Let’s Eat Grandma, are in their early 20’s. Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Tom Paxton, and Willie Nelson, who are 72, 76, 84, and 89 respectively, also have albums which have been or will be released this year. Tony Bennett, who is 95, released an album with Lady Gaga last year.

If you want to see Bob Dylan, who just turned 81, he’ll be performing in Oakland at the Fox Theater June 9th and 10th.

Andy – in today’s Andy’s Corner – isn’t interested in Tom Paxton, but he is interested in something else “born” in 1937. And it’s even food related – but do we really want to revisit a food dish popular 85 years ago?

It seems that “out with the old and in with the new” has been replaced with “in with both the new AND the pretty-damn old” (could this relate to politics too? I won’t go there).

I may not be a fan of either the very young or the pretty-damn old when it comes to entertainment – or politics – but I do try to be open-minded. I listened to some of Let’s Eat Grandma’s songs and, since I couldn’t understand their words, I looked up the lyrics. If you read some of the poetry from my new favorite poet, Ada Limón, in our last blog, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the comparison. Admittedly, song lyrics don’t claim to be poetry – but you must recall that Bob Dylan received the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature for his lyrics.

Lyrics from “Chocolate Sludge Cake,” released in 2016 by Let’s Eat Grandma:

It’s time to bake a cake
I’m gonna make a carrot cake
No, I’m gonna make an apple cake
No, I’m gonna make a coffee cake (eugh!)
No, I’m gonna make a chocolate cake, a chocolate ca-a-a-a-a-ake
Ca-chocolate ca-a-a-a-a-ake
Ca-chocolate ca-a-a-a-a-ake

Lyrics from “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms,” released 2016 by Let’s Eat Grandma

Shiitake mushroom, how do you grow?
Enchant me with your glow
You were covered in stone, but you made it now

With those lines in mind, recipes for today’s blog are a gimme. We already have a super-favorite recipe which features shiitake mushrooms (Grace Young’s Longevity Noodles) and we’ve already done a number of chocolate cake recipes (Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake is extra-special for everyday snacking and as a simple dessert for a casual dinner party). But you can’t have too many recipes for either shiitakes or chocolate cake, so we’ve got another one of both to tempt your taste buds. Yum.

Shiitake Pancetta Pasta

Shiitake Pancetta Pasta

  • 2 T butter – divided
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3-5 oz pancetta, chopped  (I used Columbus Diced Pancetta in a 5 oz pkg, which is easy to find)
  • 3/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 T sage chopped leaves (about 6 leaves will do it)
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large carrot, minced
  • 1/2 c cream
  • salt (about 1/4 tsp)
  • pepper (about 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 c parsley, finely chopped
  • 8 oz (or more) fettuccine, cooked according to package directions, drained, and mixed with 1 T butter

Heat 1 T butter and the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.  Add pancetta and saute for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the mushrooms, sage leaves, garlic, and carrot.  Saute 4-6 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Add the cream and salt and pepper and saute another 2 minutes of so, stirring.

Gently combine the warm fettuccine with the mushroom sauce; sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

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

Pepitas and Chocolate Cake/Torte

Pepitas and Chocolate Cake/Torte

Rick Bayless calls this a cake, but we call it a torte.  Whatever…it’s addictively delicious. Adapted from Rick Bayless

  • 8 T butter (4 oz – 1 stick), softened – plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 3/4 c pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), toasted and salted – divided into 1 1/4 c and 1/2 c
  • 1 c plus 2 T sugar – divided like that
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking power
  • 1 T tequila
  • 1/2 c (3 oz) Mexican chocolate (Taza is the brand we use)
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom and slather it with more butter (about a tablespoon). Sprinkle 1/2 c of the pumpkin seeds in an even layer on the bottom of the pan, then sprinkle with 2 T of the sugar. Set aside.

Measure the remaining 1 1/4 c of the pumpkin seeds and 1 c sugar into a food processor. Pulse the machine until the seeds are ground. Add the eggs and the butter and pulse until everything is incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder and tequila and pulse again, just until everything is combined.

Chop the chocolate into pea-sized pieces and add it to the batter. Pulse until the chocolate is mixed in. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let the cake cool for ten minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack and remove the parchment paper.  To be fancy – sprinkle the cake with a little powdered sugar before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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

 

 

Learning To Live With SPAM

The inspiration for today’s Andy’s Corner is from a Perspectives narrative I heard on National Public Radio while driving Oakley and Wynn to the dog park the other day. It was simply entitled SPAM.

Of course I immediately thought of the annoying unsolicited emails, texts, and phone calls Ann and I receive daily. According to the 2022 U.S. SPAM & SCAM REPORT, people in our age group are disproportionately more likely to receive spam calls and messages than are our younger counterparts, which seems quite unfair in my opinion. Not only are we seniors saddled with being severely challenged when it comes to communication technology, we have to deal with a stream of seemingly unending spam messages which in the last year resulted in an estimated 39.5 billion dollars lost to scams.

Fortunately, Ann and I have not fallen prey to any of these scams (although we still are waiting for the bank transfer from Prince Alyusi Islassis who asked for our help getting his money out of Nigeria).

The actual number of spam messages flying through cyberspace and our phone lines is mind-numbing. The web site DataProt reports that

for every 12,500,000 emails sent, spammers receive one reply. And that’s one too many. The logic behind every email spammer’s operation is to flood the web with countless emails. Why not? The cost of spam is basically zero. One response makes the whole campaign worthwhile.

This is a screenshot of two texts that popped up this evening as I was writing this piece. The phone numbers, which are only a couple of digits from mine, are examples of “neighbor spoofing.”

Having said all of this, it turns out that the NPR Perspectives I heard was not about that kind of Spam. It was about the kind that comes in a can. The narrator, Hiwa Greig, a Hawaiian who recently moved to Oakland, was lamenting about the bad rap that Spam, one of her home state’s favorite dishes, gets on the mainland. Here’s some of what she had to say:

Growing up on the island of Maui in Hawaii I was surrounded by different cultures and — more importantly — different foods. But one stands above the rest as my favorite comfort food. I’m talking about Spam.

It wasn’t until I first left the island for college in California, that I realized not everyone associates Spam with comfort and festivities like we do back home.

…When I’m feeling homesick, I’ll spend a couple hours making Spam musubi, or Spam sushi made by hand. In Maui you can find it everywhere, holiday parties, restaurants, picnics, country fairs and bake sales. It always reminds me of home.

Spam Musubi (Photo and recipe from the Washington Post, 12/9/2021)

I must admit that Spam is not at the top of my list of foods that remind me of home (although my sister, Helen, told me that Spam was an important part of her cuisine early in her marriage – her husband, Dave, had just got out of the Navy). When I mentioned to Ann that I planned to write something about Spam she uttered a low but discernible “yuck.”

1941 ad that would not see the light of day in today’s world!

Despite its less-than-stellar reputation for many of us, Spam’s history and its influence on various cultures and cuisines is quite interesting. Hiwa Greig nicely summarizes some of this in her narrative:

Hormel Foods created Spam in 1937 as a cheaper and quicker protein alternative for housewives.

In World War Two it became regular in military meals. It’s common knowledge in Hawai’i that GIs sold and traded cans of Spam for fresh produce wherever they were stationed.

Because of the influence of American militarization, Spam is not only a comfort food for Hawaiians in Hawaii, it’s also popular among Filipinos, Japanese and Koreans.

[My note: I might add that in Hawaii you can enjoy Spam at Burger King and McDonald’s restaurants, attend the annual Spam-themed festival on the island of Oahu known as the Waikiki Spam Jam, or try Spam-themed dishes created by local chefs at a massive street fair on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki. What more could you ask for?]

Perhaps the best known parody of Spam is a 1970 Monty Python sketch entitled Spam where two customers in a greasy spoon café try to order a breakfast without Spam from a menu that includes Spam in almost every dish. In true Monty Python whacky style, the skit includes a group of Viking patrons that drown out all conversations with a song, repeating “Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!”. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to a YouTube video of that skit.

The Monty Python “greasy spoon” menu.

The Python parody brings me back to the beginning of this Andy’s Corner and my rant about junk messages. That’s because, according to Wikipedia, that sketch was the inspiration to refer to those “annoying unsolicited emails, texts, and phone calls” as Spam.

Let me close with a suggestion about how to live with both kinds of Spam. When you’ve been pushed over the edge by all of those unsolicited, infuriating emails, texts, and calls, instead of taking a sledge hammer to your devices, play a few rounds of the Monty Python Spam Song (conveniently placed below). Then turn those devices off, relax, and make yourself some Spam Musubi. It will do wonders.

Conveniently placed Spam Song
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