Saturday, March 29, 2008

"All of them were squirrel-brain eaters."

It is true. I had heard about this disease a number of years ago, but only as a rumor among my foodie friends. If only I'd thought to look it up sooner. No longer a myth, Mad Squirrel Disease is a fact. So put that squirrel down!

Kentucky Doctors Warn Against a Regional Dish: Squirrels' Brains-NYTimes, August 29, 1997

"Doctors in Kentucky have issued a warning that people should not eat squirrel brains, a regional delicacy, because squirrels may carry a variant of mad cow disease that can be transmitted to humans and is fatal.

Although no squirrels have been tested for mad squirrel disease, there is reason to believe that they could be infected, said Dr. Joseph Berger, chairman of the neurology department at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Elk, deer, mink, rodents and other wild animals are known to develop variants of mad cow disease that collectively are called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies.

In the last four years, 11 cases of a human form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, have been diagnosed in rural western Kentucky, said Dr. Erick Weisman, clinical director of the Neurobehavioral Institute in Hartford, Ky., where the patients were treated."

'All of them were squirrel-brain eaters,' Dr. Weisman said. Of the 11 patients, at least 6 have died."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Go Dark

Celebrate Earth Hour on Saturday from 8-9 by going dark. It’s one hour folks…turn everything off, sit outside and enjoy the dark and the silence…or conversation with your friends…just a thought…

Here’s a tasty recipe from Robin. Sis, this is the one I was telling you about. These are not too sweet, but you feel like you’re having a treat nonetheless.

Oatmeal Chunkies
1 ¼ c quick oats
½ c wheat flour
½ c white flour
½ c wheat germ
½ tsp. cinn. & nutmeg
1 tsp salt
½ tsp b. powder
½ tsp soda
½ c oil
½ c honey
1/3 c brown sugar
1 egg
1tsp. vanilla
1 ½ c carrots
½ c raisins
1 c nuts
Mix it all together. Drop spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 min. in 350 degree preheated oven.

Friday, March 21, 2008

With Gravy

Because who eats their Pork Brains without gravy? Take a close look at the label. If you can’t tell, the brains are pictured with scrambled eggs and a bit of parsley on the side, because we all know that presentation is everything. I found this little gem at Wood Bros. on South Eleventh Street (just in case anyone wants to pick some up for themselves-at $1.19, it’s a bargain!). I was drawn into the store by the poster board and magic marker sign out front advertising Amish butter and sundry other products, all of which were nice, but not as earth-shattering-tasty as I had hoped. Still, it was fun to see such “exotic” products in this long-standing neighborhood store.

Should you find yourself in need of neck bones in the near future, Wood Bros. is the place for you! But steer clear of anything labeled “Reduced for Quick Sale.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where Were You Five Years Ago Today?

This was the question posed on CNN this morning. It was exactly five years ago today that the war in Iraq was officially declared. Where was I?

Hmmm…I was sitting on top of the radiator at the window of my third floor apartment in Denver’s Capital Hill, listening to the news and watching a blizzard blow incredible amounts of snow onto the city. Just below the window, several students from the Art Institute were busily making what I initially thought was a huge snow man, but turned out to be a huge snow penis instead (they got points for creativity from me). I sat for hours listening to the news and the watching students, listening to the news and watching the students. The entire three-day blizzard was surreal, but that particular day was even more so. I was torn between the outbreak of war, the building of the snow penis, the snow boarding and skiing in the streets, and my own descent into the mayhem of a snow-bound Capital Hill. Finally several of us tore ourselves away from the war coverage (and the pacing in front of the window) to pick the lock on the building’s roof access stairwell/ladder, at which time we set up a snowball sniper headquarters and proceeded to pelt unsuspecting building-mates with snowballs for the next hour or so. You see, we were influenced by the war coverage...

That’s where I was when the war broke out. What about you?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Ides of March have passed, but death is still in the air…

What someone aptly referred to years ago as crepe murder is being committed all over the South at this very moment. Even as I write, one of the most elegant and beloved of small Southern trees is being trimmed back to its branch unions (politically correct term for crotch, because the horticulture industry is rife with lascivious pruners, and the word crotch may push them to molest the plants in even more unspeakable ways than they already do), dare I say trimmed within in an inch of its life, and is being done so all in the name of sappy Southern Living. If left alone, the crepe myrtle will provide one of the most ethereal and stunningly beautiful trees for your landscape. The limbs are quite graceful in their length and slenderness. And with its interesting, metamorphic bark that peels away scaly paper-like layers to reveal smooth caramel-colored skin, the textures alone are breathtaking. In the spring, my crepe myrtles have always produced their brassy pea-sized buds a little late, as if they’re hitting the snooze button on the budding alarm clock. And in the winter, I prefer to leave the spent heads as is, for to do so lends a lovely frozen interest; a place for ice to form and snow to cap (if we should see snow). Again, it’s all about texture.

I grew up with watermelon-colored crepe myrtles on my parent’s property, specifically, two trees that grew at the end of their driveway. Sis and I used to sit near enough to the road that we could reach out and bust tar bubble on the asphalt, and create volcanoes out of the driveway gravel, to top them off with the blooms of the crepe myrtles. The tiny ruffled flowers were not quite red, not quite pink…but they certainly provided enough fire for the Barbie that we sacrificed to the gods on any given summer day.

The bright watermelon shade became such a dominant color at Lister Ferry house, I was prompted many years later to plant twenty-one watermelon-colored azaleas as a border across the front of one side of the yard. I remember digging postholes while being slowly melted in a light rain (it’s best to dig in a drizzle, the soil is much softer when you do). I’d dig a hole, mom would sprinkle fertilizer in, I’d plant the azalea. We did that for twenty-one holes. It took all afternoon. The neighbors thought I was crazy, and that I didn’t have enough sense to get in out of the rain. They may have been right, as I later found that I enjoyed excavating in the rain while working as an archaeologist. It certainly turned out pretty though, the border, I mean. And when all twenty-one of the azaleas bloomed, they matched the crepe myrtles perfectly.

That was my first big landscaping job, and my first big monochromatic moment. I prefer to mix it up a bit more now as far as color is concerned, and not a moment too soon. I can see the young forsythia transplanted from Denver outside my window, and it is blooming yellow…red berries blaring on the nandinas, white spirea, purple iris, salmon japonica, lavender hyacinth, white pear…and that’s just with the first round of blooms. I already see new growth on the roses (all different colors), the Rose of Sharon (purple and white), the passion vines (lavender with anemone-like white frills), and lots of bulbs poking their way out of the soil: day lilies (orange), surprise lilies (shocking pink), tiger lilies (orange with spots) and daffodils (white and yellow). I can’t wait for the red bud to bloom (which should be soon), and the mimosa to flower (much later, in the oppressive heat of mid summer-reminds me of Seuss’ truffela tree and of course, the brunch-favorite-beverage of orange juice and champagne). I have promised to donate volunteers from these plants to my friend Brandy’s yard; she has no idea what she’s in for. I can’t wait till this weekend…

So, one more thing that I’m having some difficulty with. The City workers have "pruned" the pear trees that line the median of our Queen City. Essentially, they have given these fruit trees a haircut, which is a complete sin in my book, because trees do not get haircuts, especially pear trees. Pear trees have a natural shape that is like a…well, pear…round on the bottom, tapered on the top. The City has trimmed the pear-shape right out of these beautiful flowering pears that they planted about fifteen years ago, and now, when they should be in full bloom, they are struggling to produce anything at all. It is a travesty, and something that should not be overlooked. Tree and shrub pruning is like bonsai, you study the plant and its shape before ever making the first cut. You pick cross branches to take out, injured branches, unnecessary branches, and you always make the cut at the bud or the crotch so that the collar can heal itself like a protective donut. And, you never, ever take more than 1/3 of your tree/shrub. Do the City horticulturalists ever go to a green show for education? Do we have a horticulturalist on the City payroll? Do they know what the definition of the word education is?

(sigh heavily now)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I’m retiring the phrase...

…“I’d rather drink a bucket of snot…” because I feel like I actually have over the last week. Bronchitis is no fun because it makes you a touch phlegmy. And you have to avoid things like dairy, alcohol and the public. But, I’m so hoarse now, I can now sing all of my favorite Tricky songs on key…

Back to my normal routine of drinking Thai coffee in the AM. This makes me extraordinarily happy; I am unbearable without it.

Craving Indian yesterday. I could have gotten take out, but it would’ve involved me going to another city, so I opted to cook at home. Made bhaji, chicken curry with a peanut sauce, and naan bread (snickering). I can only describe bhaji to the uninitiated as an onion hushpuppy; an onion-puppy, if you will. It involved making a light flour and egg batter (some salt, pepper, cayenne, and cilantro thrown in as well), and lots of thinly sliced onion. Just drop spoonfuls of this battered onion goo into a shallow bath of hot oil and presto, crispy onion puppies! Mmmm…

Reading: The words as I type them...
Listening to: I really can't hear anything because my ears are still stopped up.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Vantage Point

This is the view that I’ve had all day, when I’ve been awake enough to open my eyes. I have contracted something very nasty, something that has forced me to do what I am not accustomed to doing: missing work. The infection has inspired some very strange dreams, the favorite of which is the one of me living in a church that Anthony Bourdain and I have renovated together. I am drinking raspberry green tea while writing a library grant, he is eating a bloody cobra heart.

I keep hearing the neighbor's geese, and a hawk that is in the maple outside my window. The rest is the Gulf Coast...

Feliz Cumpleanos, Olgita!

Congratulations on your appointment, Ms. Wade!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Day One of the Hair Experiment...

Just yesterday, I received a box from Vitacost. Among other things, it contained the organic shampoo and conditioner that I’ve been impatiently waiting for. I had to order organic shampoo and conditioner on the Internet because I could not find any variety of organic hair products in this town, and I wanted to give them a go. I’ve been noticing that the hair products I’m using are leaving a terrible residue in the tub, and my face more resembles the skin of a sixteen-year-old-going-through-puberty lately. I think it’s time to move away from commercial products…

About eleven years ago when I first moved away from Alabama, I discovered what it was like to be a real tree-hugger. Before moving away, I had thought of myself as the granola type because I worked outdoors, camped out a lot, hiked quite a bit and tried to recycle as much as I could (I would reuse my Grolsch bottles for bath oil). I had never bought natural or organic products, had never tried to go vegetarian and had never tried to go without shaving for more than three days. Those were just not things that we did where I grew up. But, upon moving to Ithaca, New York, I found myself happily immersed in a true green environment. I met devoted vegetarians and vegans, ate organic-grain-fed lamb on a sheep farm (and promptly cried the whole way home for having gobbled up the sibling of the lambs I frolicked with that day), assisted in smoking hormone-free pork on a fire made from organic apple wood cut from Cornell University’s arboretum and discovered that locally made wine in the Finger Lakes region did not taste like scuppernong grapes and clay soil (which is what locally made wine in Alabama tastes like). The township enforced recycling by providing the properly labeled receptacles for cans, glass, paper and plastic. Even our neighborhood transvestite would ride her bike up and down the difficult hills to gather up aluminum cans. It seemed that everyone supported a more green environment.

So, why is it that I sometimes feel like a bit of a freak? Probably because unlike most folks here, I spend so much time reading labels when I’m food shopping, or because I keep a stack of used paper beside my printer at work so that I can print on the other side, or because I get so damn excited when someone gives me a bunch of organic carrots, a bag of organic wheat germ or homemade organic oat muffins.

This is not the end of my green rantings; I’ve only just begun…