Monday, April 13, 2009

Bird of Paradise

We have a large pot with a huge Strelitzia nicolai and smaller Birds of Paradise growing around it. I think they must be 12 years old or more. Being out of their native habitat, they never have flowered of course. The planter goes out in the summer and in in the fall. There have been many autumns that I considered leaving it outdoors to die, but I never have the heart.

Never flowered...until today I noticed a flash of orange.

I wish I believed in signs. This would be a sign.

To have a living Bird of Paradise flower blooming in our house in New England. That is a real thrill. This is just too cool.
A few days later and the bird got its second set of wings.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Horse Goes By

We live in a semi-rural, semi-suburban area not known for horse and buggy traffic. It is not Amish country by any means, unless there has been a recent influx that I am unaware of. But when I heard the "click-clack, click clack" in the distance I knew right away that unmistakable sound of horse shoes on pavement.

I remember that sound from when I was young and used to spend time at my grandma's house in the city. There was a produce vendor who drove a horse drawn wagon down her street every day. The "click-clack, click clack" of the horse's shoes striking the pavement was accompanied by the call of the merchant singing " 'tatoes. tomatoes," and some unintelligible names of vegetables as he announced his arrival. I don't remember grandma, or anyone else for that matter, ever buying any vegetables from him, but his presence was somehow comforting, despite or because of its being an anachronism.

The other memory I have of a horse going by had to do with a grotesque rhyme that I had misunderstood as a child. I had no idea what a hearse was, so heard "horse" instead. I remember the rhyme like this:

"Did You Ever See A Horse (sic) Go By?
And Think That Someday You Would Die?
They Cover You In A Long White Sheet
And Then They Bury You Six Feet Deep
The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out
The Ants Play Pinochle On Your Snout
Your Chest Caves In, Your Teeth Decay
Your Eyeballs Pop And Roll Away..."

This wouldn't be of much significance except for the fact that there was SO MUCH I GOT WRONG...and my misinterpretations were partly responsible for my too serious temperament and my unnerving efforts to fit my square peg-ness into the world's round holes. It seems that, should I ever collect my writings about these experiences into a unified work, a good tentative title would be: "Did You Ever See A Horse Go By?...or How Did I Ever Get It So Wrong?"

Tony's Dinner Party

Tony decided to give an elegant dinner party

Steven helped to set the table, but Tony insisted on doing all the rest...

Everyone worked up an appetite

My honey

Virginia Hamm with Honey Mustard Sauce and Miss Grace are color coordinated

Miss Grace Beformeel giving the blessing.

Mr. Beformeel getting serious with the buzz saw

First course


Mom's Gift

Spring spruce up inspired naming our hiking trail after our faithful 15 year old Bruno. Leon's mom had given us a gift that also found a niche at the same time.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Italian Shreds

OK. Where do I begin?

I like a bargain as much as, or more than, the next guy. That is why I often shop at Bristol Discount Foods, where they offer many brand name foods, fresh meats and vegetables at bargain prices. I am an avid label-reader and I am very picky about ingredients in food products.

So it happens that I regret the day I purchased "Italian Shreds" for $1 each. I was in too much a hurry to read the label. Unfortunately, the shreds were on the pizza before I noticed the label.

Now this was not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill pizza. I made the dough from scratch, from high gluten white flour and whole wheat flour, topped it with tomato puree with no added ingredients, added sweet basil grown organically in my garden, fresh (not canned) sliced mushrooms, fresh onion, fresh green pepper and a locally made pork sausage. My only concession to processed food, (I thought) was the pepperoni which is required in our household by the hubby.

While the pizza was baking, I picked up the package of what I thought was a combination of Italian cheeses; mozzarella, of course, and perhaps some parmigiano and romano, probably domestic, but that's ok, at the bargain price. I was somewhat taken aback when I saw that the product was named "Italian Shreds". I became ill as I read the label further: "Pasteurized Process Topping". "My god", I exclaimed, "What is this stuff?" I asked out loud. "Topping? I don't even eat Cool Whip".

I turned the package over to find the list of ingredients, and to my utter amazement and dismay I read: Water (This was listed first. That means water is the ingredient in the highest proportion. Water, the main ingredient in cheese? No way.) I searched through the list to find the cheese: Food Starch, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Whey, Salt, Casein and/or Caseinate, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid (as a preservative) (does this plastic really need a preservative?), Carrageenan, Natural Flavor (imagine that, but natural flavor of what?) Lactic Acid, Artificial Color, Powdered Cellulose added to prevent caking (how thoughtful). Contains Milk Ingredients. (WTF are milk ingredients?)

The net weight listed was "8 oz. (2 cups)". The Nutrition Facts offered further enlightenment: in 8 ounces there are 7.5 servings with a serving size of 1/3 cup (someone didn't do the math; that would be 2.4999 cups in the package; there are 6, 1/3-cup servings in 2 cups; the listed gram equivalents, however, are closer to accurate.) In that 1.0667 ounce serving there are 80 calories of which 50 are from fat. The 6 grams of fat contain 1 gram of Saturated Fat and 1.5 grams of Trans Fat. (Does anyone still think Trans Fat is a good thing?) In addition to the 7 grams of carbs, there is 1 gram of Protein. No vitamins, Calcium or Iron.

I certainly have only my own stupidity to blame for not checking the label in the store, and regrettably, I bought 2 packages. But more regrettable is the fact that poor families who are struggling to pay for groceries are duped into buying a product that looks like cheese, in the dairy isle, with little or none of the nutritional value of real dairy cheese.

Luckily, to save the day, I had some sliced Muenster Cheese on hand to melt on my pizza - not traditional, but real cheese. I hesitated before mixing the remaining "Shreds" into the dog's food. My justification for feeding him this horrible product was that he, being over 15 years old, is close to death anyway. Hopefully, it won't kill him this evening.

And one last thing. I am an Italian-American. The labeling of this product as "Italian" is an insult to Italians, to Italy, to the Italian cuisine, to the Italian craftsmen who produce the highest quality of cheeses and other foods, to all Italian-Americans and to me personally. I have cousins who still make mozzarella and ricotta cheese from real milk, the old fashioned way, no additives, no preservatives and deliver and sell to our local markets. This artificial shred is in no way "Italian".

About the only honest description of this despicable product in its name is the word "Shreds". It should be illegal to sell this garbage as a food. And that, as they say, is the truth.


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