Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Above Ann Arbor

Up in the air with Len's new drone: a view of our local Burns Park School and the surrounding park.

The J.W.Gibbs, Len’s drone.

A note on the eponymous J. Willard Gibbs (1839-1903), a favorite of Len’s because of his many important discoveries. Gibbs, who obtained the first American PhD in physics, spent his career at Yale. He was “a mathematical physicist who made enormous contributions to science: he founded modern statistical mechanics, he founded chemical thermodynamics, and he invented vector analysis.” (source)
Blog post and photos © 2021 mae and len sander.

UPDATE: a photo taken in the park by the river:

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Your Grandmother May Not Be Like Mine

Thinking about the way that food banks and food pantries work, I've been reading Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries by Katie S. Martin. At one point, she quotes the famous line from Michael Pollan about choosing food that your grandmother would recognize rather than highly processed foods. This idea has a number of implications for enlightened food programs. The author's advice is to go beyond just providing food -- any food -- for hungry people, but also for helping them to improve their food choices and eat a healthier diet. Pollan's point she says is: "The less packaging, preservatives, and processing, the better for our health and that of our planet." She continues:

"Now think about solicitations from food pantries and food banks to help tackle hunger. A typical food drive highlights the need for packaged, nonperishable food items and often the lists of requested food items are of questionable nutritional value, such as mac and cheese, stew, and pancake mix and syrup. No wonder there is a disconnect between nutritional advice and health outcomes among food pantry clients. We can do better." (pp. 98-99). 

Just before that, the author was writing about a much more relevant way to look at the grandmother thing: your grandmother may not be like mine! The ethnic appropriateness of food is a big deal when you are trying to provide nutritious foods that will really help people eat better. She wrote:

"I spoke with a registered dietitian who is working on a food is medicine program to provide medically tailored meals for people with chronic diseases. She said that she has been talking with her nutrition colleagues about the cultural appropriateness of the food they provide. For example, she said that most of her dietitian colleagues are White women, and they often promote items such as hummus, cottage cheese, and quinoa. Sure, these items are healthy, but they may not be familiar to people of color, let alone affordable or available. In fact, they may turn off the very people we are trying to serve. ...

"Susannah Morgan, the CEO of the Oregon Food Bank, describes how focusing on equity has changed their food bank in every way. It has changed the food that they buy. She explains that 'when people think about equity they think about interpersonal relations. But it’s about the way you see the world. Using an equity lens makes you slow down, see who is making decisions, what they might not know and who is not represented.' Their food-purchasing staff used to buy a lot of tomato sauce. But this reflects cooking habits primarily of people from Northern Europe. By thinking about cultures with different dietary habits, they decided to use the same dollars to purchase diced tomatoes, which can be used for pasta sauce but also tacos, curry, and many other dishes."  (pp. 96-97).

Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries is a book of advice for the professionals and volunteers who run food banks and food pantries. It's very preachy -- the author has a set of ideas that she would like food charities to follow, and the main point of the book is to influence the way they view and run their programs.

The central idea of the book is that in an emergency situation, where people are unable to get food (like the beginning of the pandemic) it's necessary to provide food efficiently in any way possible. However, food insufficiency is a chronic problem, so she offers a number of suggestions to improve on just delivering food to the needy. She holds out hope that food banks and food pantries can help people overcome the poverty, poor nutrition, and overall social problems that underlie food insufficiency. I won't try to describe the entire approach and the many examples of food programs that have been more generally helpful than just offering boxes or bags of food.

Our local food bank Food Gatherers: website here.

While I'm very interested in the general problems of food insufficiency in the US,  I'm not at all the target audience for this book.  I read the newsletter and other material from the local organizations, and I believe that they have already implemented many of the suggestions in Martin's book. For example, our local Food Gatherers' website says that 60% of the food they distribute is protein and fresh produce. So even if I would be directly involved (instead of just making a contribution), I don't think this advice would be relevant to anything I would do.  

Of all the book's ideas for improving food charity, I find the suggestion of trying to achieve cultural appropriateness to be most interesting. It also reminds me of a little bit of history, specifically, the field of social work emerged from the settlement house movement in the late 19th century, and one of their goals was to instruct poor immigrants in the "superior" ways of American cooking, as opposed to those of their native countries. "Cultural appropriateness" wasn't invented back then. But the goal of changing people's lives instead of just giving them handouts isn't new.

Book review © 2021 mae sander.

Monday, May 03, 2021

Spring and Summer Drinks from My Childhood

Once upon a time, I was a child in St.Louis, MO. The beautiful new spring sunshine we are enjoying this week makes me think of picnics and parties at my Aunt's house, where we would have a real treat: soft drinks. Since it was St.Louis, we called them all "soda" -- during my adult life in Michigan, of course, I've heard them called "pop" but I still say "soda." Here are a few drinks that I remember enjoying. I remember the ads, too.

The BIG bottle!

If something was a long way off we would say it
would happen when the Mississippi River drank Canada Dry.
(I know, not funny, we were kids).
Soda bottles then normally held 7 to 10 ounces — there was also a large size like the Vess bottle in the picture. I think we had little paper cups, so one little bottle, I think, made 2 servings for children. Probably the adults drank soda too: I can’t recall any beer at these events. Being in St.Louis, we did know the ads for Anheuser Bush products: this local company (which had gone national) had already been around for a century at the time I’m describing. 

Note the link between Budweiser
and the St.Louis Cardinals.
I’ve located these images of vintage bottles and advertisements to illustrate my memories, which I am sharing with the bloggers linking up at Elizabeth’s Altered Booklover blog. Advertisements and commercial packaging are copyright by the products’ owners, but I assume they are ok with my giving them a bit of free publicity here. My own words are © 2021, and if you read this other than at mae food dot blogspot dot com, you are reading a pirated version of my blog.

And right now: Kathy’s Bear has the same idea — drinking a coke:

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Ottolenghi Once More

Yotam Ottolenghi is a very popular chef/restaurateur and author of 8 cookbooks. He writes a column for the Guardian, and he is proprietor of several dine-in places and food shops in London (though I don't know the current status of these establishments, due to covid).

I find it amazing that Ottolenghi's cookbooks go far beyond the usual offerings of well-known chefs, whose recipes are not always suitable for use in one's home. Normally stocked pantries and normally equipped kitchens often just aren't ready for the recipes that some chefs write. Home cooks often have only two hands, which isn't enough for many restaurant-inspired recipes. 

A few months ago, I bought the book Flavor, which is by Ottolenghi and his coauthor Ixta Belfrage. He credits her with supplying many ideas for the book, which I find quite excellent. Maybe the secret of his cookbooks is in fact his many coauthors and collaborators. For example, for the cookbook Sweet, the listed coauthor is Helen Goh. For the cookbook Jerusalem, the listed coauthor is Sami Tamimi, who was also one of the founders of the restaurant Ottolenghi (where I once had a wonderful dinner). Another author who worked with him several times is Tara Wigley. She also contributed to his writing of columns for the Guardian.

I've made several recipes from Flavor, and enjoyed them. Most recently, I made eggplant and ricotta dumplings in tomato sauce, which were very delicious. The garnish of fresh basil leaves and olives is especially nice. If you don't have the cookbook, a very similar recipe appeared in Ottolenghi’s Guardian column a couple of years ago (link). Since the Guardian is British, the word for eggplant is aubergine -- same thing!

Blog post and original photos © 2021 mae sander.

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Food Thoughts for May Day

Worldwide Workers

May Day is celebrated in much of the world as International Workers' Day with parades and street activities. In this context, I'm thinking about workers here in the US and abroad. I appreciate how large numbers of working people have kept going despite the past 15 months of pandemic risks and dangers. Worldwide, their contribution to the welfare of their societies has been amazing.

"Essential Workers" received the thanks of many Americans. We realized that people who process and sell food and other necessities, medical professionals and helpers, people who take care of children, people who clean our cities, and many others were forced to take risks that white-collar workers and we retirees could avoid by staying home. Our thanks were profuse at first, but we may be forgetting what we owe them -- especially those who were poorly paid or who actually became ill with covid. So I want to use this moment to think about them, and remind my readers of their work and often of their sacrifices.

Unfortunately, the May 1 celebration in Paris this year was tense and difficult, with arrests and mass demonstrations (photo credit). "Hooded, black-clad demonstrators clashed with police in Paris on Saturday as thousands of people joined traditional May Day protests across France to demand social and economic justice and voice their opposition to government plans to change unemployment benefits. (Reuters)"

Note: May 1 was originally chosen as International Workers' Day to commemorate the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Riot, but conservatives in the US at some point established the US Labor Day holiday in September in order to avoid the implications of commemorating this radical uprising.

Food history seen by a critic of America

Today in the Guardian I read an article titled "Food injustice has deep roots: let’s start with America’s apple pie." This very long article outlines the injustice of the American food system in several ways. The author, Raj Patel, criticizes the US for its colonial past, for its appropriation of many food ways from other cultures without acknowledgement, for its voracious present, for economic domination of other nations, for its unfairness to workers, and for its continuing unjust future, as he sees it. Although I think his view is very extreme, there are some good points in the article. His conclusion speaks to the International Workers Day tradition:
"It is clear, though, that tensions and imperfections and losses lie ahead. The US continues to spread its economic model internationally. While Joe Biden’s administration seems ready to infuse cash into the management of domestic hunger, internationally it’s agribusiness as usual. But as May Day reminds us, solidarity between workers need not be bounded by the nation state. The United States was made through global connections. It will be remade when those links are not ones of oppression, but ones of solidarity in the fight for food justice." 

Food insecurity in the US Military 

Food insecurity is one of the biggest challenges that our country faces when it comes to fairness to workers. The minimum wage is simply not enough for a worker to support a family, and thus many workers must turn to the SNAP program from the US Department of Agriculture and to food banks for assistance. I've written about this a number of times before. 

My friend the blogger Elizabeth of the blog Altered Book Lover wrote  yesterday about a particular instance of food insecurity: that of military families, and I'd like to continue the discussion she started. To put it simply: the pay of many men and women who currently serve in the military is not adequate to support their families:
"A 2019 Military Family Advisory study found that 15.3% of U.S. military families struggle to feed themselves and their families. 12.7% of those families are 'food insecure,' which is, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), a lack of consistent access to enough food to live an active, healthy life." (Source: USO)

Military families should be qualified for assistance, but they are disadvantaged when they need to apply for government benefits. Because their housing allowance is counted as income, they can't get the same federal benefits as other people with similar incomes, and many of them have had to get help from food banks, the USO (as depicted), and other private sources, or have suffered from hunger. 

An article in the Military Times yesterday reports about an effort to remediate the unfairness: "A group of lawmakers are hoping to change that with the Military Hunger Prevention Act, reintroduced Thursday by Sens. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.... The law would create a 'basic needs allowance' for low-income military families who would otherwise qualify for the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but for the fact that the program considers basic allowance for housing – used to pay for off-base rent or mortgage – as income when calculating service members’ eligibility."

I hope that this bill will become law, and that other efforts to improve government help for those in need will also be augmented by the current government, which has shown willingness to create new solutions to these long-term problems in our society.

For those of you who live in countries that celebrate workers on May 1, I wish you a good holiday!

Blog post © 2021 mae sander; photos as credited.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Three Kitchens

It's the end of April and time to look back at my kitchen adventures this month. I started the month in Evelyn’s kitchen in Fairfax, Virginia. In March when we were vaccinated against covid, we traveled to see our family there after the months of lock-down. Last month I documented what we did in Evelyn’s kitchen. As we were leaving, Evelyn packed up some spices for me to take home, as she had purchased them in large quantities. So the first image here shows an interesting Korean pepper blend going into a jar from her kitchen to my kitchen.

We returned home April 5, and spent a few weeks in our own kitchen. For the first time in well over a year we felt it safe to invite friends for dinner — only one other couple at a time, everybody immunized. I had to recall how to make a company dinner for four, rather than an ordinary dinner for two. This kept me busy, so I didn’t take too many photos. For the first dinner I served an appetizer of salad with smoked fish. For a main course,  roast chicken, rice pilaf, and brussels sprouts. All with Len’s good home-baked bread of course. Our guests brought a fruit tart for dessert. 

For the second dinner party, I cooked a whole fish, which
was covered with herbs and lettuce, and also had some in the cavity.
The cooked fish was also garnished with some sea scallops
in a sauce (no pics of the scallops).

Vegetables: broccoli and carrots.

 Both dinners were a lot of fun, We really liked visiting with our friends INDOORS!

Of course I cooked all our other meals too,
like this split pea soup with yogurt and sriracha.

I have brand-new refrigerator magnets this month.
I like to change them from time to time, just for fun.

The month is ending with a visit to my sister Elaine in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Elaine bakes the best apple pies!
She made us one with some rhubarb and strawberries too.

Elaine’s kitchen window.
For more kitchen news from other bloggers see Sherry’s blog: Sherry’s Pickings. This post belongs to mae sander and  is © 2021. If you are reading this elsewhere, it’s a pirate version!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Wabash Walls

While visiting Lafayette, I went to see the "Wabash Walls," a huge art project along Wabash street in a Lafayette neighborhood between two train tracks, partly residential and partly industrial. Murals have been painted on factories, on warehouses, on private homes, on church admin buildings, and on the street. I visited there in 2018, and for a couple of hours this week, but have seen and photographed only a very small number of the art works in this long-term project. Nevertheless, I have enough pictures for several blog posts! For more information about the Wabash Walls project, see this: "Mural Art Initiative."

An acrobat and a honey bear...

The honey bear again. Signed "Fnnch" -- this is the handle of a
controversial San Francisco graffiti artist, who has painted honey bears
on many walls. His work is not always well-liked there. (See this article).

A beautiful mural obscured by a parked trailer.

I really love the unicycle rider! I don't know who painted this.

"Escape Darkness -- Breaking Chains" a 2018 mural by Camer1.

The mural was under construction when we saw it in 2018.

A mural painted on a house.

A mural painted on a steel fabricating factory.

I'll post more of these murals eventually. All photos © 2021 mae sander.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Celery Bog

Today in West Lafayette: a walk in the Celery Bog, which was full of wild flowers and birds.

A Lesser Yellowlegs.

Coots (from earlier this week.)

A Canada goose on its nest.

Closer look at the goose.

The ground was carpeted with flowers.

Mystery duck: probably a hybrid. Note to commenters: markings are like a wood
duck, but the shape is very different. That's why it seems to be a hybrid.
Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Monday, April 26, 2021

More Indiana Birds


Another day of birding near Lafayette, IN. A private 88-acre wildlife reserve out in the farmlands, 
known as "The Burn." (For more info, see this publication of the local Audubon Society: "Lye Creek Prairie Burn."

A Greater Yellowlegs.

A Song Sparrow

A Pectoral Sandpiper.

What we are drinking at Elaine’s house:
IZZE soda, clementine flavor. First soft drink in ages!

Note about birding: playing birdsongs attracts birds, but it’s disruptive in spring when bird calls signal other birds about territory and attracting mates. In the past it was an unusual human behavior, but the iPhone has made it controversial and all too common. As a result, it’s often forbidden, as indicated on the signpost in the first  image.

Blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Indiana Birds

Vultures near the Wabash River. West Lafayette, Indiana.

Surf scoters at Bicentennial Park, Lafayette.

Barn swallows, tree swallows, and rough-winged swallows were
dive bombing the water.

The surf scoters again.

We are visiting Indiana for a long weekend, and have been looking at various birding sites. 
Photos © mae and len sander, 2021.