Posted by: Kelly | May 25, 2016

Fed, White, and Blue by Simon Majumdar

Fed, White, and Blue

 

Fed, White, and Blue – by Simon Majumdar

FROM AMAZON’S BOOK DESCRIPTION:

“Before deciding whether to trade in his green card for a U.S. citizenship, Simon Majumdar knew he needed to find out what it really means to be an American. So he set out on a journey to discover America through the thing he knows best: food. Over the course of a year, Simon crisscrossed the United States, stopping in locales such as Plymouth, Massachusetts, to learn about what the pilgrims ate; Kansas, for a Shabbat dinner; Wisconsin, to make cheese; Alaska, to fish for salmon alongside a grizzly bear; and Los Angeles, to cook at a Filipino restaurant in the hopes of making his in-laws proud. Along the way he makes some friends and digs in to the food cultures that make up America—brewing beer, farming, working at a food bank, and even tailgating. Full of heart, humor, history, and, of course, food, Fed, White, and Blue is a warm, funny, and inspiring portrait of becoming an American in the twenty-first century.”

FIRST SENTENCE:

“What is the purpose of your visit?”

MEMORABLE MOMENT:

(Page 296)  “I have certainly seen how diverse America is both geographically and ethnically.  I stared in awe at breathtaking landscapes as I crisscrossed the country from Miami to Seattle and Maine to New Mexico, and I have been fortunate to cross paths with so many of the more than one hundred and fifty ethnic groups that make up the American population.
I’ve also seen the positive impact immigration has had on every aspect of American life, from the day the first Pilgrims staggered ashore after fleeing religious persecution in Britain to the day I inherited my own menagerie of crazy but beloved Filipino in-laws.  Each wave of arrivals has enriched American culture, and I have tasted how they have all seasoned the melting pot that is American cuisine.”

MY THOUGHTS:

Let me state for the record:  just because I have chosen to eat a “whole food/plant-based” diet at my doctor’s recommendation, it doesn’t mean I expect everyone else to or that I don’t still enjoy learning about all kinds of food.  That’s one of the reasons I like watching food competition shows on TV, such as Chopped and Top Chef.  I’ve been exposed to a wide variety of ingredients (many unique enough that I’d never find them in my local store) and how they can be prepared.  It doesn’t mean I necessarily want to eat them myself, but I’m certainly not going to deprive anyone else of that pleasure.  Another bonus of watching these shows is that many names in the food industry have become familiar to me.  While I’m definitely not a celebrity worshiper, there are a few of these “culinary stars” that I enjoy more than others and Simon Majumdar is one of my favorites.  He comes across as a down-to-earth kind of guy and I felt sure that quality would be reflected in this book.

Broken down into short, easily digestible (pun intended) chapters filled with history, humor, and mouth-watering descriptions, Fed, White, and Blue is highly readable and never dry.  I thought I already knew a lot about the food of my native country, but was impressed with how much more I learned.  Honest to a fault, Majumdar doesn’t tiptoe around topics that some might find uncomfortable, such as hunger/obesity in America and the treatment of animals that are mass produced for consumption.

While the whole book was quite good, my favorite two chapters dealt with topics I can relate to and have some strong opinions about.  His time in Mississippi focused on several things, including farm-raised catfish and hunting.  We spent several years growing catfish on our rice farms in the Arkansas Delta and he noted in the book some of the same challenges we faced.  As for hunting, I’ll admit I was surprised that he mentioned the often overlooked need to “manage” animal populations.  He also pointed out the satisfaction of eating something harvested from the wild as opposed to mass-producing in captivity – which leads to another chapter I especially enjoyed: his visit to Nebraska to learn about the beef industry.     It’s a bit ironic for me to have any negative thoughts on the subject since we have a pasture full of beef cattle.  I know it’s come a long way from the days of The Jungle (Upton Sinclair), but I still find aspects of the industry disturbing, particularly the use of antibiotics. (and not just in cattle – I’ve addressed my concerns about that before)

There was more than one occasion while reading that I questioned my decision to go plant-based.* This man knows how to describe his food and drink!

It’s got me thinking… where would I take Simon Majumdar to eat if he were to visit my neck of the woods?


* Seriously, I’m very happy with my WFPB diet and only wish I’d started it years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Kelly | May 23, 2016

Moving in Stereo

I was a teenager back in the 70s and, as I’ve mentioned before, I was really into music – especially the kind best appreciated under a massive set of headphones.  I still have the ones I used.  Check out the long cord that enabled me to listen without having to be right next to my sound system.  If I remember correctly, I had an extension making them even longer.

stereo #1

As vinyl albums transitioned into cassettes and CDs (we’ll forget about 8-tracks), music got more portable and headphones sized down to ones like this pair. (remember trying to find a good portable CD player that didn’t skip?)

stereo #2

Then entered the digital age.  Earbuds became all the rage and are still in wide use.  The biggest drawback for me is that earbuds are terribly uncomfortable when used for any length of time, even when they’re cushioned.

stereo #3

Most weekday mornings, my husband and I torture ourselves exercise.  We’ve looked for ways to make the experience more tolerable and settled on music as the best option.  Since our workout equipment is in the same room and we usually prefer different music, I’ve taken to using earbuds with my phone while he plays what he wants on the “boom box”.  The only problem was that previously mentioned discomfort.  So… I put my SIL on the lookout for a decent set of headphones for me.  I didn’t want anything too pricy or sound-cancelling like Bose, just something to cover my ears.  He got a great price on this set and they’ve worked well for me so far!

stereo #4

I think one of the most exciting things in using real headphones again is truly being able to appreciate “stereo” music.  I’d forgotten how many songs from the 70s and 80s were recorded to really showcase that effect.    One of my favorites was Moving in Stereo by The Cars.  I found a version at YouTube (of course), so go ahead and plug up your earbuds or headphones and give it a listen.

 

 

Posted by: Kelly | May 20, 2016

Baked Avocado Fries

Here’s another recipe my son came across.  It sounded too interesting not to try myself, especially since it listed ways to “veganize” it.  Quite tasty!

 

Baked Avocado Fries

avocado fries

 

Posted by: Kelly | May 18, 2016

Favorite Five – Male Singers

I think one of the things that made this entry so hard was trying to decide whether to pull singers from groups or just include solo artists.  So many of the bands from my youth had one or more vocalists I loved – The Beatles, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, R.E.O. Speedwagon, Bread, The Stylistics, Journey, Genesis, Tears for Fears, Rush, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Chicago – the list can go on and on.  To make it a little bit easier for myself, I’ve tried to stick with solo artists, even if many of them had backup bands.  I had to laugh that even though I shy away from C&W music these days, the first two that came to mind were Country singers (both born in Arkansas!).  I hope you’ll be sure to look at my runners up choices since many of them could easily have been one of my top five.  As in the post for females, I know I’m leaving out so many good names.

1.    Glen Campbell – I love so many of his songs, but my favorite has always been the lesser known ‘Dreams of the Everyday Housewife’.   So sad that he now has Alzheimer’s disease.

2.    Johnny Cash –  If you’ve never seen Walk the Line starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, it’s a decent film portrayal of “the man in black” and his tumultuous life.

3.    Gino Vannelli –  This one might be a bit of a guilty pleasure.  His smooth voice takes me back to my college days.

4.    Art Garfunkel – I know much of his work was done with Paul Simon, but he was my favorite of the two and I thought he had some great solo hits.

5.    Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) –  Such a great voice, so many good albums!  I don’t think I’ve heard any of his music since he returned to performing.

 

Runners up:  Michael Jackson, Todd Rundgren, Alice Cooper, Seal, Nat King Cole, Barry White, Justin Timberlake, Harry Chapin, Al Green, Ephraim Lewis, Delbert McClinton, Aloe Blacc, Sting, Johnny Rivers, Michael W. Smith, any of the “Crooners” (though I probably preferred Dean Martin from that bunch).

 

Now I know all of you must have some favorites of your own.  Tell me!

 

 

 

Posted by: Kelly | May 16, 2016

(Good) Activity

This is Mabel.  What is she looking for?  I’ll explain.

mabel #2

 

One recent morning, when she and Alice were in the back yard, I heard Mabel start in with her “alert”.  I know my inside girlies well and can distinguish between their various barks. This one meant I needed to come see what they’d found.  Sure enough… we opened the back door and this was at the bottom of the steps.  A Speckled King Snake!

snake #3

 

If you look at the wiki link I provided, you’ll see why we called in the dogs so it could go on about its business.  They are very good snakes in that they often eat other snakes (including the bad ones) – so they’re really quite beneficial to have in your yard.  The link also mentions that they shake their tails like rattlesnakes.  This one did that!

Here’s another view before it curled up in defense.

snake #1

 

Back to the photo of Mabel…  We let her and Alice out a few hours later and they began searching the yard, to no avail.  It was long gone.

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