OH, Sugar, Sugar!

OH, Sugar, Sugar!

It didn’t start with us, our parents, or even their parents. An audiobook I heard this week said it might have started with the ancient Egyptians, if not before. “It”, in this case, being the love-affair our taste buds have been having under our very noses with sugar.

The book is called The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes, and it sounded like he’d done a lot of research for his writing. There were plenty of facts and figures, and the author made some very good points about one of the most common food addictions of the current times. He wrote: “Sugar does induce the same responses in the region of the brain known as the reward center as do nicotine, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol”.  So we eat sweet stuff to make ourselves feel good, and then we get addicted; I’ll admit to that readily enough. But then I heard:  “The more we use these substances, the less dopamine we produce naturally in the brain.” That didn’t sound so good.

Now just think for a moment about our typical terms of endearment:  Sugar, Sweetie, Honey, Sweetheart . . . never once have I heard someone lovingly refer to their significant other as Brussel Sprout, or Cauliflower, have you? And if you did, wouldn’t you wonder, just a little? We’re raised to view desserts as a reward. . . no pie if you don’t eat your supper, right? So is it any wonder if we dive into the chocolate marshmallow ice cream after a rough day at work? I don’t think so!

Last year my family doctor took a look at the lab results from my previous visit and made a dubious remark about the nearly borderline glucose level in the chart.

“I’m watching it” I assured him.

“Watching it . . . what’s that mean, exactly?  You’re watching the sugar spoon so it doesn’t overflow on its way from the bowl to your coffee cup?” he chuckled.

“I don’t put sugar in my coffee.” I told him. “And I fix my oatmeal with a pinch of salt and a smidgen of butter. And I make my own yogurt with fresh milk, instead of buying the sweetened stuff at the store. And I rarely ever have more than one Pepsi a week.”

All true statements, but I don’t think he bought it, which only served to bring out my righteous indignation all the more. Poor guy, he’d probably heard every version in the book, and then some.

But it’s just as well he retired before I listened to this book. All that talk about sugar and the potential side effects that overindulging can have on us got me all stressed out. And you know what they say about “stressed” being “desserts” spelled backward? Good thing I had that big bag of Halloween candy to fall back on.

Bindi the Very Good Dog doesn’t get to sample the chocolate, but she LOVES Angel Food cake!

A Fowl Story

A Fowl Story

Supper at the kitchen table was tradition at my parents’ home, a meal we all ate together, and one in which we (mostly) ate what we were served. Mother was a good cook, and her constant efforts to provide us three nutritious and tasty meals each day must have been exhausting. The discussions around that table could be interesting, educational, and often amusing. Daddy regularly kept us entertained with jokes and poems and stories of all kinds, but the one I’m thinking of this week actually came from one of my siblings. Here’s hoping one of them will chime in with a comment below and take the credit they deserve! The story goes like this:

Once Upon a Time, there was a state-owned zoo that was famous for its dolphins. The dolphins looked like the dolphins from any other zoo, and they acted the same, and learned the same tricks from their trainers. The special thing about this particular school of finned wonders was that the same set of dolphins had been there as long as anyone could remember, since the zoo had first opened a very long time ago, and none of them died. People began to say they were Immortal!

Well, obviously, this created some interest from the scientific community, and a team of marine biologists were sent in to make a study. The only difference they could pinpoint about the porpoises, was that they ate primarily a certain type of young seagull at specific feeding times each day, and that this habit had never varied in all the years of record. The scientists told the zoo officials at the state house that as far as they could tell, as long as the dolphins received their regular diet on time, every time, they showed every sign of being able to live forever.

Late one Sunday, however, as their devoted keeper approached the arched stone bridge leading across to the porpoise pool with the cages containing their evening meal, he encountered a dilemma. The zoo’s prized male lion had escaped from his cage, and was stretched out, napping in the last rays of sunlight that had warmed the bridge, blocking the path. What to do?! If the keeper woke the lion, it might attack him. If the dolphins failed to receive their regular dinner on time, they might die. He had to think fast. In a flash of brilliance, he recalled that the seagulls loved to eat little fish.  The keeper grabbed a bucket of shad, tossed them gently but quickly into a trail leading up to and over the sleeping lion and on over the bridge to the pool. Then he released the seagulls, who followed the trail of fish over ol’ Leo and into the waiting reach of the dolphins. All was saved!

The next day, however, as word got out about this episode, the police came and arrested the zookeeper.

The charge?

“Enticing Young Gulls Across a State Lion for Immortal Porpoises”.

(yes, I hear you groaning . . .)

And while it might be the longest set-up for a pun I’ve ever heard, keep in mind, I still remember it, more than 40 years later. Surely that’s worth something!

Got a favorite pun? Leave a comment, and Happy New Year!

Unwanted Gifts

Unwanted Gifts

Now that the holiday hiatus is truly over, the pool of memories from which to dip for writing subjects has refilled, although the Midwest weather this weekend has it rather frozen-over at the top.  Having pick-axed my way through the surface (that means downloading photos from my iPhone to my computer), I will start this year with the subject of Unwanted Gifts.

Part of the peril of living in a rural setting–and having a house that is almost 100 years old–is the intrusion of various forms of wildlife when the temperatures outside become frigid.  Spiders hide out in my upstairs bathroom.  Mice leave their calling cards in the potholder drawer of my kitchen.  Snakes slither their way up the drainage pipe end from the ditch by the road into my basement.  None of them are invited, nor welcomed.

IMG_2450One morning about a month ago, I found my Roomba stopped dead in the middle of the living room.  Programmed to run daily in the early morning hours, the little sweeper is usually done with his task and back on the charger base by the time I wake up.  If he stalls and shuts down, it is typically because he got hung up on a floor register, or his dustbin got full, but this was not the case that day.  Picking up Roomba and turning him belly-up, I saw something wrapped around the paddle wheel that sweeps debris into the device.  Sheesh, that looks like a snakeskin, I thought.  Indeed, it was, and what’s worse, the snake was still in it.  My best guess was that one of the cats had found the little rat snake in the basement, played with the thing until the snake went belly-up, then brought the prize upstairs to leave in a highly visible area where I could not fail to find it come morning, like somewhere between the stairwell and the coffee pot.  “See what I brought you?  I am a fierce protector!” Roomba had simply foiled the surprise by trying to do his job.  No cats were praised.  IMG_2453

 

This week, as I was on the phone in my office, a stramash broke out in the living room.  It sounded as though Bindi the Very Good Dog had turned wrong-side-out as she scrambled her way out of a previously peaceful nap on the couch, only to stand in the doorway and stare at me with a look that  spoke volumes.  Thanks to the convenience of cordless phones, I was able to investigate, whereupon the party to whom I was speaking was treated to something unprintable, also spoken at volume.  Another rat snake, this one in a heap on the floor, mostly dead.  But as Miracle Max says in The Princess Bride:  “Mostly dead is also partly alive”, which was apparently as unacceptable to Bindi as it was to me.  Tripod Jack the ornery cat was perched on the kitty tree by the window, pretending with great nonchalance to watch the birds outside at the feeder.  I hadn’t actually seen him bring the repulsive reptile up from the basement and drop it onto the sleeping dog, so I couldn’t officially blame him for the episode, but once again, no cats were praised.

Today, no snakes.  No spiders, no mice, and no major upsets in the household.  There’s a thin layer of snow on the ground, and the wind chill is brutal. But the sun was out, and I managed to bundle up and get to the barn, where the chickens were thankful for some kitchen scraps, and for fresh grain in their feeders. They rewarded me for my efforts with several nice big, brown eggs.  Upon my return to the warmth of the house, I rewarded myself with a bit of that St Louis specialty, Gooey Butter Cake, which I had been hoarding in the deep freeze since Christmas, when it arrived courtesy of my wonderful Daddy & Mother.  THIS was NOT an unwanted gift.  This brought back my attitude of gratitude. This, with a cup of fresh coffee, made all seem well with the world.  And no cats were blamed.

But they weren’t praised, either.  If you know cats, they’re probably plotting something, right this very minute.  IMG_2520Happy New Year!

 

Who Can You Trust?

Who Can You Trust?

. . . or should that read “whom” . . . ?  I always get confused about that.  When I was a teenager, I had a poster on the wall with a photo of a panther lounging idly on the branch of a large tree, gazing directly into the well-focused lens of the camera.  The words printed below him said simply Trust Me”.  The conflict between the text and the image was obvious.  If only real life were so plain!

Lately I’ve been polling people on this subject, trying to gather a consensus of opinions.  The results have been all over the place, ranging from “no eye contact” to “shifty eyes”; from “white shoes on car salesmen” (I think that was from the 70s!) to “people who tell me ‘No Problem!'”; and even “contractors who wear white sunglasses” and “folks that set off my spidey sense”.  One cousin summed it up very nicely with this phrase:  “those whose actions don’t provide evidence to support their words.”

Did you ever see the show called “Lie to Me” on TV from 2009-2011?  It featured a man who was an expert in reading body language who often worked with police in helping to solve crimes.  He would interview a suspect, or sometimes watch a recorded conversation, and provide his opinion about their level of truthfulness.  He had an impressive record for accuracy.  Or as Burt Reynolds’ character said in a movie I saw years ago:  “Boys, I got myself a pretty good bullshit detector, and I can tell when somebody’s peeing on my boots and telling me it’s a rainstorm.”

And me?  Well, I’ve been burned before, more than once, and believe I’ve learned something from each of those experiences.  That’s not to say I can’t or won’t be fooled again, even though I’d rather not.  It’s a delicate balance, this world of social interactions, a dance with steps that can change without warning, mid-tune.  The number of people who are now traveling from their native countries to others keeps growing, and the accompanying cultural differences can offset our original mindsets. That makes for another filter through which we might need to sieve the incoming information before reaching a hypothesis.

So, what’s your take?  Are there other Red Flags that go up when you’re trying to decide if you can believe someone or not?  Feel free to click the button to Leave a Comment and tell us about it!  And in the meantime, as my Uncle David W. used to say:  “Look a little out!”

Mr. Tur-tell

Mr. Tur-tell

At last Sunday’s annual family reunion, there was–as always–enough food brought in to feed far more than the 76 people in attendance.  If there’s one thing we know how to do well, it’s eat. Another area in which some of us excel is in jokes, both the spoken and the practical. For instance, as we worked our way down the buffet line, I discreetly pointed out to my sister the warm crockpot filled with deep-fried, breaded turtle meat.  Call it a hunch, but I just sorta figured that Sis wouldn’t be hankering for any of that delicacy, yet she might not identify the crock’s contents in all the excitement of the day.  She waited until we’d parked ourselves at the table with her husband and our parents before casually mentioning that No, she really didn’t think she was ready to try eating turtle just yet.

With his fork paused in mid-air, my dear brother-in-law’s face was priceless.  “Turtle?” he rasped, in an almost choking voice; “there is turtle over there?” Then his eyes switched downward to his own plate of now partially-consumed food. “Is there some Here?”  Sweet as ever on the surface, but with just an undertone of orneriness, Sis let the question hang for just a moment, before assuring him that no turtle parts had crept their way onto his plate. His relief was obvious.

Some folks, however, actually look forward to a meal that includes snapping turtle, and apparently it’s been a long tradition in the May Clan.  (See last year’s post “Safety in Numbers”). When you’re struggling through the Depression with eleven kids to feed, you often eat whatever you can catch.  I know my cousin Jeffrey liked turtle, but I’ve never gotten up the nerve to try it, myself. I did stop the truck to snap the photo that I’m using with this post when I spotted one in the road on my way home recently, though, and looked up Snapping Turtles on the Missouri Conservation website. They’re legal to harvest (except for the Alligator Snapping Turtle, which is endangered and protected), as long as you have a fishing license. They consume fish, snails, bugs, birds, small mammals and some water plants, and have been known to turn up on the hooks of trot lines or jug lines instead of the catfish for which those devices are usually intended.

Getting back to the jokes, though, it’s difficult for me to look at a terrapin without thinking of a story my dad told us when we were kids, all gathered around the family supper table.  It involved three unlikely friends:  the proverbial tortoise and the hare (or at least cousins thereof), and a buzzard.  They were poor and barely scraping by, but they all got along just fine.  As time went by, the bunny was separated from his buddies, and was therefore not in on the windfall that resulted from their chance finding of some valuable commodity.  While the buzzard and the turtle moved onto a large estate with expansive gardens and uniformed servants, the rabbit struggled to survive by running a lawn care service. One day he was called upon to bring manure for the gardens at the residence of his old friends.

The rabbit’s knock at the handsome door was answered by a snooty butler. “Yes?” he drawled, looking down his nose at the humble bunny.

“Hey, is Ol’ Turtle around?” the rabbit asked.

“Mr. Tur-TELL is down at the well.” the haughty servant replied.

“Huh.  How ’bout Ol’ Buzzard, then?”

“Mr. Buz-ZARD is out in the yard” spoke the butler.

“I see” said the bunny, who by now had suffered just about all the pretention he could tolerate.  “Then would you be so kind as to inform Mr. Tur-TELL down at the well, and Mr. Buz-ZARD out in the yard, that Mr. Rab-BIT is here . . . (and here Daddy made a quick glance toward Mother, who had almost imperceptibly stiffened in anticipation) . . . with the Fertilizer!”

Thanks, Daddy, for always keeping us laughing.  You still know how to tell ’em.  Happy Father’s Day!

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

It must’ve been a sign.  The first song to play when I hit the “shuffle” button in the music app on my cell phone this morning was Lessons Learned by Aaron Lewis.  It’s a great tune, nice music, and showcases the rich, smooth lower range of Aaron’s singing voice very well.  A big thanks is due to my cousin Brian for introducing me to this guy’s music.  If you’d like to hear the song, one of the YouTube links is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BqSYUQI4Ck

While my day hasn’t turned out as rough as some of the things mentioned in the song, it is what came to mind just a few minutes ago, and I had to laugh.  You see, for the past year and a half, I’ve been buying fresh milk from a local Amish farm, and lately started using some of it to make my own yogurt in a crockpot.  This week’s batch didn’t set up as it should have.  Not wanting to waste the protein-rich yogurt-flavored milk (buttermilk?  not sure . . . never bought any), it seemed that using it in a fruit smoothie would be the next logical step.

My hand blender has a canister attachment for chopping small quantities of nuts and fruits and the like, so in went the frozen mixed berries, some flaxseed meal, a few chopped dates from one bag and the last few pitted dates from another.  I fit the lid on top with the connected handle that encloses a powerful mini-motor, and pressed the button a few times.  The contents were looking roughly pulverized.  But hey, wouldn’t they be easier to pour out if there was liquid mixed in?  (Yes, you can close your eyes and shake your head, here; this is indeed where it gets ugly).  I ladled in a bit of the liquid yogurt and quickly discovered why the canister is touted as good for dry ingredients . . . the lid is most definitely not of the tight seal variety.

OK, then, Plan B.  I grabbed a small mixing bowl from the lower cabinet by my knee, poured the remaining contents of the canister into it, and swapped to the wand attachment of the hand blender.  After all, it’s just like a regular blender, just smaller, right?  WRONG! Maybe one of the pitted dates got wedged underneath the edge of the blade guard and left too much space between the blade and the bottom of the bowl, I don’t know, but the resulting mess looked like an eruption of Mount Smoothie had taken place in the southeast corner of my kitchen.  Splotches and bits of smoothie ingredients were everywhere.  Why hadn’t I just gotten out the old reliable Oster blender in the first place?!

Suffice it say that after K.P. duty was complete, the real blender did a fine job.  The smoothie tasted good, was filling, and probably nutritious.  And maybe–just maybe–I learned a little something in the process.