Author Archives for theRaggedys

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!

Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies

Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies

  • Servings: makes about 30 cookies
  • Print

Recipe can be easily doubled. Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1965.

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond kosher salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter, white and brown sugars, egg, and vanilla (a food processor works well). Blend in the peanut butter. Mix the flour, soda, and salt together in a separate bowl and then mix that into the creamed mixture.

Drop by big rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased sheet pan, spacing several inches apart. Press each cookie with a floured fork to make a crisscross patern.

Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the pan and then finish cooling on a wire rack.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
Peanut Butter Ice Cream (with a PB Crisscross Cookie)

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

  • Servings: makes a scant quart
  • Print

If you’re in a hurry and want to avoid the tricky egg cooking, you can omit the egg yolks entirely and simply whisk all of the ingredients together and then freeze in the ice cream freezer. You’ll give up the custardy taste, but it will still be yummy. In a taste test Andy and I actually preferred the ice cream made without the yolks. As for ice cream freezers, we really love our old-fashioned White Mountain freezer, but tend to use our Cuisinart when we’re pressed for time – and aren’t doing a large amount. Recipe adapted from Melissa Clark and the NYTimes.

  • 1 c whole milk
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 2/3 c sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c creamy or chunky peanut butter AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
  • 4 large egg yolks – ONLY if you are doing the custard-based ice cream (Melissa suggests using 6 yolks)

For ice cream without the custard base (i.e., no eggs): carefully whisk the milk, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla, and peanut butter until smooth (note: the mixture will want to splatter, so adding the cream and milk a little at time will help). Freeze immediately in the ice cream machine – or refrigerate and freeze it later in the day or even the next day.

For ice cream with a custard base: In a small pot, simmer cream, milk, sugar, and salt until the sugar dissolves. Remove pot from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks. Then, whisking constantly, slowly whisk about a third of the hot cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pot with the cream. Return the pot to medium-low heat and cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Remove from the heat and stir in the peanut butter. Whisk the mixture until all is blended and smooth. Cool to room temperature, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours before freezing in the ice cream machine.

Melissa Clark has a wealth of other flavoring suggestions, using this ice cream base – with the peanut butter omitted. We suggest replacing the P.B. with 1 c of Nutella for a fun variation. Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

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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Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum: Let’s Eat Grandpa


[Editor’s Note: Ann and Andy are swapping roles today.  Andy is taking the lead on today’s blog while Ann is doing Andy’s Corner.]

As you may recall, Ann recently posted a blog entitled “Let’s Eat Grandma.” I must admit that I was disappointed that it wasn’t really about eating grandma, or anyone else for that matter.  Don’t get me wrong, learning about a young British singing duo called Let’s Eat Grandma while discovering the importance of commas was both entertaining and informative. It’s just that I thought the title had promise that it didn’t live up to, especially when considering that BigLittleMeals is a food blog (I should add that in today’s Andy’s Corner – written by Ann – she uses a title which definitely lives up to its promise – plus some!).

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So, as the head honcho for today’s edition of BigLittleMeals, I’m taking the liberty to revisit the “Let’s Eat Grandma” title by ignoring the recommended addition of a comma and, to be gender sensitive, by changing “grandma” to “grandpa.” 

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To start, “Let’s Eat Grandpa” would have been an appropriate title for one of the Brother’s Grimm Fairy tales.  In a previous Andy’s Corner I wrote that these fairy tales included a pretty sordid list of topics:

  • Premarital sex
  • Graphic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Anti-semitism
  • Incest
  • Wicked mothers

However, I recently figured out that I had failed to include one of the more obvious subjects appearing in fairy tales – cannibalism.  I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me to think of this while I was reading these stories to my kids (and then later in life to my grandkids).  For example, how could I not think of the cannibalistic theme underlying “Jack and the Bean Stalk” while bellowing in my best giant-ogre-imitation voice:

Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum. 
I smell the blood of an Englishman, 
Be he living, or be he dead, 
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.

And what about “Hansel and Gretel?”  If you recall, that awful witch with the candy house in the middle of the dark forest planned to fatten Hansel up before roasting and eating him.  In the original version of Snow White we find an attempted cannibalistic episode when the evil stepmother orders a huntsman to take Snow into the woods, slay her, and bring back her liver and lungs (which the stepmother cooks and eats, not realizing that the huntsman, who could not bring himself to do in Snow White, instead brought back the organs of a boar).

Such fictionalized accounts of cannibalism were designed to be cautionary tales to shape the minds and moral character of kids by scaring the bejesus out of them.  Although the telling of such stories is an age-old custom found in many cultures, these tales tell us little about cannibalism itself. We must look elsewhere for enlightenment.

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Not unexpectedly, a wealth of information about this topic is out there on the web. While poking around amongst the 28,700,000 or so results from my Google search on human cannibalism, I noticed that there were many references to Bill Schutt’s 2017 book Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. I bought a copy and quickly discovered why it had so many positive reviews and was mentioned so often.

Schutt, who is a zoologist, devotes the first part of his book to explaining in entertaining detail how the role of cannibalism in the world of animals is, as his title suggests, “perfectly natural.” As the renowned naturalist Sy Montgomery writes in her New York Times review of the book:

“In the natural world strangers eat strangers, parents eat their children, children eat their parents and siblings eat each other — and they do it a lot. Baby black lace-weaver spiderlings cannibalize their mothers. The larvae of the elephant mosquito eat their fellow larvae and pupae. Among invertebrates — and 95 percent of animal life on earth, from insects to octopuses, belong to this group of spineless creatures — cannibalism is often the rule, not the exception.”

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Illustration by Patricia J. Wynne. From Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History

While the antics of cannibalistically-inclined creatures make for fascinating reading, for me the meat of the story (so to speak) has to do with anthropophagy (the eating of human flesh). Although most written accounts about human cannibalism tend to sensationalize the practice and to rely on its shock value to get readers’ interest, Schutt walks us through the theories and practices of cannibalism with a calm scientific objectivity (and dry wit). As Sy Montgomery puts it

“You might think a book on cannibalism would be upsetting, but this one’s not. It’s refreshing. “Cannibalism,” in fact, restores my faith in humanity: It’s good to know that, as regards this particular behavior, at least, people are no more horrifying than, or as splendidly surprising as, any other species out there.”

Schutt explores human cannibalism from the earliest times of human evolution to the current day, trying to sort out possible causes and consequences of the practice. Cannibalism can be driven by extreme hunger, cultural ceremonial requirements, or individual psychotic malfunctions among other things. One of those “other things” that Schutt reveals had to do with the assumed medicinal benefits of consuming various bodily parts and fluids as a cure for everything from fever and headaches to epilepsy and dysentery.

“As it turns out, many Renaissance-enlightened Christians from Spain, England, France, Germany, and elsewhere turned to medicinal cannibalism to treat a long list of problems. From kings to commoners, Europeans routinely consumed human blood, bones, skin, guts, and body parts. They did it without guilt, though it often entailed a healthy dose of gore. They did it for hundreds of years. Then they made believe that it never happened.”

In addition to Schutt’s book, the increasing number of recent archeological discoveries has increased scientific interest in cannibalism. Evidence of cannibalism among humans (and pre-humans) dating back as far as 800,000 years has been unearthed at archaeological sites around the globe. These findings are raising the thorny question as to whether these early humans turned to cannibalism out of necessity due to a scarcity of food or if human flesh was just another entrée on their dining room table (or dining room rock as the case may have been). As reported in National Geographic, evidence from bone fragments found in an Upper Palaeolithic cave site in England

“…suggests that people there practiced cannibalism and perhaps used human skulls for ritual purposes. …The remains were also mixed with those of other animals and had been prepared the same way, leading some anthropologists to suggest that cannibalism at the site might not have been done in a food-stress emergency or as ritual behavior” (that is, just another entrée!)

If I had to select one of the scientific studies I came across regarding cannibalism that would be most relevant for a food blog (such as ours) it would have to be James Cole’s Assessing the calorific significance of episodes of human cannibalism in the Palaeolithic. Essentially he calculated the nutritional value of the human body as compared to the nutritional value other Paleolithic prey animals and concluded that humans weren’t especially packed with calories for their size. As one reviewer stated:

“One dead mammoth can feed 25 hungry Neanderthals for a month, but cannibalizing a human would provide the crowd with only a third of a day’s calories… Essentially, you’re a walking lunch.”

[Editor’s note: These finding make me wonder about the nutritional value of the currently trendy paleo diet which, according to the Mayo Clinic web site, aims to “return to a way of eating that’s more like what early humans ate.” ]

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Paleo Dieters in action? Source: The U. of Minnesota Duluth web page

But what really blew me away was the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Anthropology of Food web page devoted to cannibalism (entitled “Anthropophagy). Not only can you find a massive bibliography of research studies about cannibalism you are invited to take a stab at such trivia questions as “If you had to eat a human to survive, which body part should you pick first?” or “Which body parts would taste the best?” Although not to my taste, the site even offers recipes for human parts (that I assume are tongue in cheek – so to speak).

Let me make one last observation from Schutt’s book. He tells us about the Caribs, a tribal group that migrated to the Caribbean Islands around 800 BC. Historical accounts of these folk suggest that they

“consumed their enemies—those killed in battle, taken prisoner, or captured during raids. The belief was that this form of ritual cannibalism was a way to transfer desired traits, like strength or courage, from the deceased enemy to themselves”.

I guess you might say that rather than the dictum “You are what you eat,” the Caribs preferred “You are who you eat.”

Typical Carib family? Source: Florida Museum Web Site web site. Detail from a painting by John Gabriel Stedman. Public Domain Image.

So that’s about it for today’s blog. For obvious reasons I am not offering any recipes here but Ann has a couple of great recipes over in Ann/Andy’s Corner.

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