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I've been reading _Is it All In Your Head?_ by Suzanne O'Sullivan, MD. On the whole, it is a very good, very important book. Unfortunately, there are a few things in it that I had a problem with. All of my complaints involve when O'Sullivan steps outside her neurology arena and starts applying what she is talking about in patients she sees in her neurology practice who have symptoms (seizures, paralysis, weakness, loss of feeling, etc.) in her area of expertise which do not behave the way those symptoms should behave when objective tests are applied (EEG, electrical stimulation of nerves, reflex testing, etc.) in areas in which she has no expertise. Especially allergies and food intolerance.

Some people have meat allergy which appears for the first time in adulthood, and which in some people disappears after a few years. The onset of the allergic reaction tends to be quite delayed vs. most food allergies.


This is a _classic_ instance of "Oh that must be medically unexplained but surely can't be a REAL allergy because real allergies don't behave that way." Adult onset. Delayed. Etc. ON TOP OF THAT, it's a reaction to a _carbohydrate_, and allergies are reactions to proteins. Right. RIGHT?!? (ETA: I am describing a rhetorical position here; it is not mine.)

To be clear, O'Sullivan makes no mention of meat allergy or alpha-gal. (ETA: Technically, it is not hers, either.) I am using it as an example. We got really incontrovertible evidence of the _mechanism_ that alpha-gal delivered via tick bite causes adult meat allergy when scientists wanted to figure out why there was regional variation in negative reactions to cetuximab. (ETA: My position is the science-y one. Science has shown conclusively that at least some adult onset meat allergy which behaves very unlike some allergies is caused by a tick bite.)

O'Sullivan is ALSO very clear that every year, something with no medically known cause is found to have a medical cause. She just figures that it happens so rarely that people are really bending way too far over backward looking for medical causes and not looking for psychological causes and that needs to change. I don't actually disagree with her general thesis.

On page 190, she talks about candida and candidiasis, and that period of time now past when a lot of people thought they had it but actually didn't test positive for it even when medical professionals looked really hard. On the next page, she says:

"In the twenty-first century the exact same symptoms are more likely to be attributed to gluten sensitivity or allergies."

I'm not necessarily going to argue about the basic idea: there is a fraction of the population -- not trivial in size but not by any stretch of the imagination most people -- which will tend to latch on to the latest Oh This Is Causing All Your Problems, adopt an associated set of health prescriptions (usually diet oriented Don't Eat This / Do Eat That) and try to pester everyone they know into doing the same, while claiming that it cured all their ills. I'm not even _opposed_ to the general phenomenon. I figure each one of these things helps some subset find the thing that really was wrong with them, they stick with what worked for them, and the herd moves on to the next thing. My theory is that some day, everyone will have finally found the thing that worked for them and we'll all feel about as well as we can. (Is my progressivism / optimism showing? Oops! I'll try to cover that up again. I know it is unseemly.)

Here is what she says:

"I recently went to a dinner party where every person bar two, at a table of ten, reported that they had an intolerance of or allergy to at least one foodstuff. Most had developed the allergy in middle age, which is not how an allergy typically behaves."

She's a neurologist. How did she become so expert at allergies? Adult onset allergies are not particularly uncommon. Adult discovery of allergies is also not uncommon and sometimes deeply tragic. And every time someone decides to actually do a general population study for food allergy, we learn all kinds of new things, which means the field is by no means all caught up with reality. (See alpha gal above, but did you know that 2-3% of the general population is allergic to shellfish? I didn't. I am, and I didn't know how common it was. Legal Sea Foods has employees who have been quoted in the press saying that every little bit somebody shows up from the Midwest, eats something they've never had before and drops from anaphylaxis at the table and often is never revived. Don't you think this is something that maybe shouldn't fucking be dismissed so readily?)

I live in an area where food allergy is taken very seriously by restaurants, in part because of restauranteurs like Ming Tsai (mmmm Blue Ginger):


I've got food allergies and intolerances (yes, Dear Reader, both the proteins AND the sugars in milk cause me problems -- and not just cow's milk either, alas), some of which were detected in infancy and some of which I learned about the hard way as an adult. My husband has food intolerances. Many of my friends have food allergies and intolerances. The group that the author encountered may well have self-selected -- this was a party, I'm assuming some of these people hang out together on purpose. I know it's much easier to socialize with people who have or know someone who has food issues. Dealing with doctors like that one at T-weekend a while back -- or Dr. O'Sullivan -- is the worst. Here we've finally figured out a way to stay out of the doctor's office, and the doctor is now joining us for dinner and trying to tell us that it's just a phase.

No, dear doctors. No, it's not just a phase. It's not all in our heads. And just because food allergy now doesn't look like we used to understand it before is actually reflective of progressively better understanding of food allergy. Which it would be nice if you put some effort into catching up on.

She also disses IBS as probably psychosomatic; she seems blissfully unaware of FODMAP.

Oh, and as near as I can tell, this book is further evidence that in the UK, when people say "learning disabled", they mean something super-different than people mean in the US.

I have no reason to disregard O'Sullivan's neurology based expertise. I agree with her that there is a population over-using (to their own detriment and our shared expense) the medical system in pursuit of something which would be better found through the mental health professions. We part ways whenever she steps out of her area of expertise, which leads me to suspect she hasn't really understood the mental health side of this problem at all.
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It's 4H around here! Okay, not really. I had a haircut this morning, and I got going early enough to walk. I dropped a check off at the post office after, and then went for a walk with M. It was T.'s half day, so I picked him up, and then took him to gymnastics. He was unhappy with the choice of t-shirt and shorts (not quite matching green color apparently was not acceptable). Sitter texted in sick for the third day in a row; poor T. really misses her.

I headed out at 4 after R. came home early from work to watch T. I had a program to attend at Harvard, a UCS national food policy panel that was probably intended to be a bit of a victory lap and then buckle down to continue working on food but instead, as a result of the election not turning out as expected, turned into something else entirely. One nutter on the microphone during the q&a. Bittman's presentation got me thinking about the line 501(3)c organizations have to walk in terms of not taking a position on specific candidates. Emily Broad Lieb's presentation was fantastic -- she talked about some specific issues that might well arise in the next few years: there may well be a push to convert school lunch funding and/or SNAP to state block grant programs. She outlined other programs (AFDC and TANF) that went through this conversion back in the 1990s and the ramifications from that conversion that continue to this day in terms of state-to-state differences in coverage. Very, very, very good things to talk about and stay focused on, with bipartisan, broad interest. Salvador had a good presentation as well, talking about how the new administration's promises are out of step with the direction the population as a whole has been moving and also about how some of those promises, if implemented, would be directly and immediately harmful to people who helped elect this administration. 2 big tables (about a dozen per) at Henrietta's after. I got to chat with several really nice, pleasant people from various backgrounds about a variety of topics, some related to the presentation but a lot just getting to know each other. One of the nicest things about giving money consistently to organizations which align well with one's values is getting the opportunity to meet other people doing the same thing, and finding out that, what do you know, they are really wonderful. Big crowd at the main discussion -- over 300.
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Today, T. and I went grocery shopping at Roche Bros. After bringing the groceries home, T. and I went to Solomon Pond. We shopped at Target for PJs and button down shirts for him, and accessories for several of us (scarves, gloves, hats). Then we went to Best Buy, where we unloaded three boom boxes, the oldest from the late 1970s, according to R. (recycling). After that, we stopped at Bertucci's for lunch, then went to see the Trolls movie.

After returning home, T. and R. went ice skating while A. and I hung out and I did some laundry. We all had dinner at home, altho we did not all eat the same thing. R. and T. had the beef taco that I'd made a couple days ago. Apparently I overdid the chipotle, and T. was, "This is hot!" and stuck his head under the kitchen faucet. I said he could have something else and he said, no, that's okay, he'd just drink a lot of water. R. put some shredded mozzarella on it; that seemed to help. On the one hand, even R. thought I'd overdone it with the chipotle (I couldn't find the new mexico red). On the other hand, I'm so proud of my boy! He likes spicy! Woot!
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My current obsession with rye is catching up with the other major food obsession, cole slaw specifically but honestly, brassica anything. R. is wondering why I haven't just bought a huge bag of rye to make my own rye bread. I dunno. Sounds like a lot of work to me.

In the meantime, I've bought a couple small loaves of Storye at Whole Foods, because it looked about like something I remembered from when I was my son's age, and a decent deli finally arrived near where I grew up and my dad was excited to introduce us to things like Edam and Gouda and Cervelat (boy, the cervelat thing stuck -- whenever I got to the Netherlands, I eat a lot of that).

The Storye bread makes some claims about having no yeast/no added yeast/being yeast free. This is present on the product and on the website. I'm a little skeptical of claims like this, because I believed (it turns out erroneously) that if you make some kind of grain and water or potato and whatever starter, ferment it and then use it to make a bread rise, you've just corralled a bunch of wild yeast.

It is, actually, not that simple.

Here is an NPR piece about Appalachia "salt rising" bread (no salt involved in the rise, duh); the rising agent is stuff like Clostridium perfringens.

I don't know what Storye is corralling. The bread is tasty, close to but not identical to what I remember. I'm a little worried about the claim of 9 g of fiber per slice, given that I foolishly just had a two slice sandwich (maybe I should have just had one and cut it in half).
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Tigana Press -- looks like it might be the author's own; other than this book, Amazon has a book by the same author about herbal treatments from a hundred years ago for treating the flu.

This is a small pub/self pub diet thing that I stumbled across purely by accident. Apparently, it has taken Vashon Island by storm, for whatever that might be worth.

The book is written in the Quite Awful Way that most diet books are written. So I'm not even going to get into that. I'm instead going to analyze the eating pattern being promoted.

(1) It's a dietary effort to minimize metabolic issues associated with pre diabetes.

(2) Distinct meals, lots of them (3 meals and 2 snacks)

(3) anti grains and high glycemic stuff like potatoes, insists on breakfast (but breakfast is protein and fruit/veg), anti sweeteners (caloric and otherwise), volumetric, proportion rather than portion. The golden ratio for this is: 1/3 protein and/or grain, 2/3 fruit/veg (with the exception of breakfast).

(4) Timing matters: breakfast to be very soon after awakening and there's supposed to be a big gap between the last food consumed and bedtime.

There is a _significant_ inconvenience/expense factor for this eating plan: most oils, peanuts, wheat and anything like wheat, dairy, anything GMO, etc. is off for the elimination phase and only some of it comes back later. It's almost impossible to imagine eating out during the elimination phase.

Speaking of the elimination phase, in addition to trying to reduce insulin overload during the first few weeks, this diet seeks to remove some common food allergens, with a goal to determining whether that is part of why someone is having troubles. I would argue that if you completely cut milk products for a month plus, and you are middle-aged, odds are that if you weren't lactose intolerant going into this, you will be lactose intolerant coming out of it. *shrug* I don't care; I'm allergic to milk products anyway. Treating wheat and wheat like grains with comparable suspicion (down to insisting on wheat free soy or tamari sauce during the opening phase) fits well with the current anti-gluten trend. Also, dried corn, peanuts are eliminated entirely, altho part of the justification there is to get people out of food ruts and to avoid some common molds. This seems like an incredibly weak argument, imo.

So basically, this diet starts out as an allergy elimination diet, with a proportion rule, 3 meals, 2 snacks, eat breakfast upon awakening, last meal some hours before bedtime, no grazing, no sweeteners, no alcohol, don't drink your food (no juices, smoothies, etc., but soup is okay -- this aligns well with a bunch of scientific studies on how we compensate for calories consumed in a beverage vs. in soup) and no dried fruit.

Interestingly, eggs are NOT eliminated, even tho red meat is (I'm assuming this is an inflammatory thing). Poultry, lamb, fish, etc. are left in, with some exceptions.

While I think you could easily argue that the opening phase is overly restrictive, the heart of this diet is clearly in the right place, with its focus on moving in the less-processed direction, more fruit and veg, paying attention to food quality and a lot more attention to our body's responses to food (eating rather than drinking calories).

There's a chapter on intestinal flora that is okay -- not great but okay.

There's a chapter on omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio. This chapter exposes a lot of typical problems with this kind of nutritional advice. In theory, if you thought the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was a really big deal, canola oil would be looking pretty good. However, the anti-processing/suspicion of chemical anything turns out to win and she opts for olive oil instead. She argues for leafy greens and wild berries, because they have more omega-3s, but it isn't like these things have that much fat in them anyway. And then basically eat flax, chia and hemp seed (this is the same woman who said _don't_ eat cottonseed oil because it's not a food. Ha!), and "wild, coldwater fish". I've become less and less convinced this ratio is something to worry about every year that goes by (sat fat has some pretty clear problems, by contrast).

There's a chapter on antioxidants: don't try to take pills, this is why to eat fruit and veg, smoking is bad, alcohol is bad, not enough sleep is bad, charred/burned food is bad, organic is good, plastic is bad, antioxidants from whole, (relatively) unprocessed foods are good, supplements are bad. Pretty straightforward.

There's a chapter on toxins and the liver, which is more or less what you would expect, right down to the There's Still DDT in Everything. The theory here is that by eating more fruits and veg, you've moved down the food chain so there's less bioaccumulated awfulness in what you are eating. Probably true ... but then why the Eat Fish recommendation? Sure, farmed fish is worse than wild caught, for the most part, but coldwater fish are particularly awful for bioaccumulating mercury. She does have the sense to acknowledge that conventional fruit and veg are still healthy for us and notes that, for example, human breast milk, despite toxins, is still really really good for babies. So there's that. Also, she isn't advocating some purge/detox thing, but rather more of the advice throughout the book: berries, fruits, veg, also things that make you sweat to clear water soluble so the liver can move on to other stuff, onions, garlic, mushrooms, fermented foods (no she does not mean beer), seaweed on the theory that these things feed supportive microbes, citrus peel, forage for wild greens and exercise in general.

Honestly, given how many odd things are sold as ways to Fix the problems she is describing, her approach looks fairly innocuous.

Next chapter is insulin resistance; I'm off to have some dinner that will likely be very non Abascal Way. Will update later.
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Go read it -- I'll wait.


There are a lot of articles/books along these lines: do some weird thing for a week or a year, log everything, describe what you learned. I tend to prefer the one or two week experiments over the month or year long experiments. Probably because there isn't THAT much to learn over the longer length of time and yet the word count goes up so much.

Predictably, the woman who undertook this experiment discovered that keeping sodium to a reasonable level was basically impossible with this plan. She _did_ discover some other things as well.

(1) Customizing helps. I'm not sure I've ever been to a Taco Bell, so I didn't know about the Fresco option (swap the cheese, sour cream and rice for pico de gallo, is how she describes it -- it may be more complicated than that).

(2) Choosing healthy options such as salads, kale style, etc. results in undershooting on calories. I have a theory about this: the only people who historically have been eating this kind of fast food were mothers of children who wanted fast food, and the mother had given in and eaten there also. And she was perpetually dieting. The 1200 calories plus or minus that the author keeps winding up at (she wasn't aiming that low) is roughly in line with what a dieting boomer woman would have been shooting for over the course of a day in the past.

(3) KFC's problems are worse than KFC realizes. In her case, she discovered she couldn't swap the sides for healthier choices, which imo would explain right there why KFC has been having so much trouble with younger customers. No customization, no healthier choices is lethal. But then on top of it, she ordered grilled and was served fried. W.T.F., KFC? I don't think I've ever eaten at a KFC, either.

And yes, fast food IS cheap and convenient.

I'm super happy that Kate Taylor did this and wrote it up in an engaging and thoughtful way. Fast food should be able to produce real options (enough calories, not such insane amounts of sodium, some degree of customization to cope with dietary constraints whether religious, allergy, lifestyle, etc. in motivation). And several chains are really working hard to accomplish this. If we as a society are going to be eating out with $.50 out of every food dollar spent, then fast food needs to meet some kind of minimum health bar. But as long as we keep pretending that fast food is some kind of guilty side thing that isn't part of our Real Food Supply, the pressure to make this happen is going to be erratic and ineffective.
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Is this a review? Sort of.

I asked R., do we have any brandy? Because I was sawing through some very stale baguette and putting it in a bowl to make bread pudding. Well, something I call bread pudding, whatever it actually might be. He says, yes! After a while, he wraps up whatever he was doing on the laptop and gets the bottle. I look at it with great suspicion.


I open it up. Smells pretty good. I ask, "How much did this cost?" Because while I'll put Cointreau in a bread pudding, no way in hell will I pour Remy XO into a baked good. Maybe Hennessy, but not Remy. I wanted to know where this thing fell. Apparently at the about $50 a bottle end. Okey dokey. Some of it went into the bowl.

A little later, some of it went into the taster glass R. brought up from the Cape Cod Brewery tour we went on last summer. I have not yet had the bread pudding.

As for what I drank out of the glass: not quite as subtle as Remy (at least not how I remember Remy, the brandy I originally ordered at a restaurant, to find out if the price difference between the two brandies on offer was justified. I decided it was, but I'd rather drink it at home, at that price), but better than Hennessy. I'm not much more sophisticated than that, altho I have my suspicions that the proof on this stuff is at the high end of the brandy range. (Bottle says 40%.)

I'm sure a lot of bad decisions start with drinking Kirkland Signature branded liquor, but I'm prepared to take that risk. And not because I'm price sensitive, because I'm not.

ETA: While I'm at it, I liked the Germain-Robin R. ordered at 80 Thoreau this past week quite a lot more.
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After watching my sister prep her dinner around 10 a.m. in the morning (to eat no earlier than noon, and often not until evening -- and usually this was a meal for more than just her), it occurred to me that I could get around A.'s whining about "what's that smell" whenever anyone tries to cook anything in the evening by doing the cooking earlier in the day while she is at school.

So while a subject line mentioning lunch would normally indicate going out for a really tasty meal somewhere, this time, it is me actually cooking. I thought about cooking for later, but I just didn't have it in me today, so I cooked a steak, garlic bread, tomatoes and mushrooms and ate most of it for lunch (half the steak will go in the fridge for later.

I recognize that most people cooking flat iron steak aren't (a) cooking strip or (b) using an actual (old-fashioned) flat iron. However, I thought that rather than firing up the grill (it's snowing) or turning on the broiler (rarely ends well for me), I could just break out the cast iron. While I was getting a cast iron griddle out of the drawer, I spotted the iron (usually used for bacon in our house, and that not for a long time) and thought, hmmmm.

Turned out well -- beautiful color on the steak. I'm sure my husband would find something to complain about (he really loves using the grill, and when he's here, I'm never interested in discouraging him), but I'm happy and would do this again.
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T.'s last day of school was yesterday, so we spent the whole day together. It started out a little harrowing, but we got the hang of it after a bit. I did not want to give up my several-walks-a-day habit, and he neither wanted to come with me nor did he want to stay home while I went out for 20 minutes at a time. After some emotional discussion and a time-out for both of us to be quiet and calm down, he decided that scootering while I walked might be pretty fun. It is, after all, how we spent several summers together, before he instead spent all his time with babysitters.

So. We went once by ourselves. Then once with my walking partner. Then we went grocery shopping. Then we had lunch (no dessert, because he had gymnastics after and he has trouble if he eats too much). Then we stopped at a playground where he played while I walked the half mile loop around the lake. Then gymnastics. Then back home. Another walk. Then dinner with R. Then I went for a walk because the Manhattan at dinner was insanely huge and even leaving a third or more of it, I was drunk and needed to sober up a bit.

The previous night, we had gone to CVS in search of chewable gummy vitamins and canned fruit salad. We'd had another discussion about healthy eating, and how he really doesn't eat any fruits or vegetables and that is a problem. After a wide ranging set of options were explored and dismissed, and there were some tears, he decided fruit salad (the canned kind) was the least horrible option. He had some with breakfast this morning, and more throughout the day. Honestly, if I can get him to be that extra amount of active that he was today (never mind gymnastics -- I'm thinking more scootering and playing at the playground) and eat fruit salad, I would be willing to retire from the field of Let's Improve Some Habits and go back to being the yeah, whatever I do not care parent that I normally am. But he apparently decided to branch out and try Greek Yogurt, too. Which is also fine.
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I've been thinking about baking bread on and off for months now and seeing a long-ish article about baking in an anti-gluten era (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/03/grain, h/t D.N. who posted it to FB for her brother) caused me to go, hmmm. Today is Sunday. Sunday is a Good Day for baking bread. At the time, I thought my son's therapeutic riding would be canceled, but the weather improved so we left after I pulled it out of the oven. R. extracted it from its dish.

Here are the photos, followed by a discussion of What I Did and What Happened.

Fresh ground whole wheat breadFresh ground whole wheat breadFresh ground whole wheat bread

What I did: I took 4 Cups of hard red wheat berries (Eden, but I bought them before they started that lawsuit, I swear, and when my soft white ran out I replaced it with Palouse brand) and ran them through the Nutrimill. I did not _quite_ use all of the wheat, altho I couldn't tell you just how much was left over and if you have any sense at all, you don't care.

I pulled the yeast out of the freezer and proofed 1 Tbsp in 2 Cup blood-warm (did not get the thermometer out at this point) water (that is, water that you sort of can't tell what the temperature is because it isn't cold or hot against your skin).

I added 2 Cups of the whole wheat flour to the water and yeast, and put the bowl under the stand mixer using the dough hook. I ran it at a fairly low speed for a few minutes, stopped it, added another 2 Cups of the whole wheat flour, some sea salt and a couple Tablespoons of honey. Ran the mixer some more. Used a silicone spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl, added a little more flour and watched some shape start to form. Added some olive oil, a bit more flour, ran it just a bit longer (I swear, I will take some video next time). I wasn't going for a kneadable ball, but I wanted something with more shape than batter. Once it held shape, I scraped it off the hook, patted it into a good form with the silicone spatula, covered it with a plate and let it sit for 45 minutes.

I then put it into a glass loaf pan which I had poured olive oil into. THIS WAS AN ERROR. As the loaf baked, it pushed the oil up the sides (yay! That's why it didn't stick much, even without the lecithin) and over the edge (boo! oven fire and tons of smoke. And fire alarms. *sigh*). Next time, make sure there is oil to coat and remove the rest. This is the first time I got the loaf size right and the oven spring right to actually thoroughly clear the top of the pan. Ah well.

Where was I?

Ah. I DID NOT PUSH DOWN THE DOUGH/BATTER/WTF. I just moved it with the spatula from the bowl into the dish, and then I put the dish into the cold/room temperature oven and let it sit there for another 20 minutes or thereabouts. Then I started the oven at 350. We have natural gas to the house, so the oven heats relatively quickly vs. an electric oven. I baked the loaf for an hour, from when I turned it on, and it go to 203 degrees internal temperature so if I had it to do over again I'd probably pull it out a few minutes earlier but it's a tough call. Also, efforts to manage the smoking oil problem resulted in the door being opened repeatedly. Sad face.

There are some small holes in the loaf (bigger than the ones evenly distributed throughout the loaf) that are clearly an artifact of the way I moved the dough from the bowl to the loaf pan. I will do this a little more carefully next time. R. thinks the bread could use a little more salt. That is almost certainly true. It appears to have enough strength to make a sandwich out of.

ETA: If I were reading this, I'd be going, so, yeast type/brand? Red Star active dry, production date June 2006 best if used by June of 2008, stored in the freezer. I think R. bought it at Costco.

ETAYA: Freshly ground whole wheat flour behaves _really differently_ than whole wheat flour that was ground a while ago. Really, really, differently.

Don't be thinking it's hippie heaven over here, just because we had tofu chocolate pie and there's whole wheat bread sitting on the cutting board. That pie had an Oreo TM crust and the bread involved two rounds of machinery to produce it.
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When I was young, and naive and foolish, I believed that the sweet potato dish my mother cooked and served was unique to our family. She usually made it with canned sweet potatoes, IIRC, but they were baked and then for the last few minutes, topped with marshmallows and then popped back in so the marshmallows would be toasted/melted inside. I suspect that there was brown sugar and margarine mixed in with the sweet potatoes but I don't really know. Unsurprisingly, when I expressed the belief in an online forum that this was a family recipe, I was laughed at, and everyone offered up their candied yams recipe. While marshmallows on top were slightly unusual, they were a helluva lot more common than I had any idea.

The experience led to a collection of paperback facsimile cookbooks, many of which I still have, in an effort to track other recipes to their origins; regular readers know I haven't let this habit go -- for example, when I decided to track to origin of the term "hand pie", or going back a bit further, when I decided to track down the "Basque Bread" recipe that I got from my sister D.

When I was making another stab at how-old-are-apple-pies, I stumbled across this:


It's a 13th century Arab cookbook. The previous available edition suffered from being a translation from a flawed transcription. Perry includes some very nice front matter to explain what he did with the original material and why, and how that differed from his predecessors. Like a lot of culinary historians, Perry is an independent scholar (professional historians and academic language types do very badly with this kind of material; I have some theories about why that I won't get into right now). And this "book" was originally an edition of a periodical publication that publishes similarlyd st obscure food writing.

Inevitably, I dug into the question of murri, but it was even more interesting to read blogs that thought a few of the recipes in this seemed very Roman to them. Like Perry, I was fascinated by the phrasing "grow quiet"; I'm wondering if maybe the phrase has a literal interpretation unimagined by Perry (what does soapstone sound like when you cook with it?). Other than that, several things stood out. (1) Wow, hadn't thought through the implications of a cuisine built around sheep. Yikes. (2) There were a lot more quantity specifications than I had anticipated -- but absolutely no time specifications. Like at all. That was weird. (I mean, unless you count overnight, which I do not.) Old cookbooks with comparable quantity specifications (few compared to what a modern cookbook would ordinarily contain) tend to have more time specifications than this one. (3) In much the same way that a lot of our recipes start by melting butter and then browning stuff in it, a lot of these recipes start by melting tail fat and then browning stuff in it. Gets a little boring after a while.

The candy making recipes are very recognizable, even to me, and I don't make candy. "Oh, hey, this is taffy."

I was looking for something like pastry or pie; haven't really found either (which is very different from saying it isn't here. I haven't read every recipe, and I may well have misunderstood something I read). But I did find a few cook-the-beans-and-rice-together recipes, which I had been interested in. Predictably, lentils and rice, but also mung beans and rice (did I know that Arab cookery had mung beans in it? No, no I did not). The pickled mint leaves also sounded delish.

With the exception of translating murri as soy sauce (and no, they are not the same thing, but wow, they are a lot more alike than you might initially think), there are few concessions to a modern kitchen. I'm not sure where to find tail fat to cook with, and I cannot imagine that being a good idea from a health perspective (the melting point of sheep and lamb and so forth fat is really high; it's even worse for you than beef). Soapstone cookware _can_ be bought, altho it's a bit tricky to acquire. I believe you can get all the spices through Penzey's. But anyone who can make sense of this at all can figure out how to swap fats and meats and understands that will have an impact on the resulting dish. The treatment of the meat (multiple rounds of spicing) is very similar to what is done in many middle Eastern cuisines to this day.

It had not, before this, occurred to me to really go looking for the Very Oldest Cookbooks by part of the world. Apicius, of course. I'm trying to find something like a usable translation of those cooking descriptions in cuneiform. I keep running across assertions that there aren't any ancient Egyptian cookbooks -- I'm a little skeptical, honestly. But what I'd _love_ to get hold of are translations of the oldest cooking literature for India and China. Any ideas where to find something like that? I do recognize that the nature of old Chinese technical literature is such that whatever we have is going to be quite late compared to the original composition -- and I don't really care. When I read people describing very old Chinese cookery stuff, it sounds like there's detailed quantity information, which suggests that the earliest stuff we have is pretty late in the evolution of it. I ordered a copy of _The Land of the Five Flavors_ in hopes it might point me at something useful. But I'm unable to make any progress on anything from India that isn't entirely adapted to modern expectations of cookbooks, and that's not really what I'm looking for.
walkitout: (Default)
Alas, my son started throwing up at quarter to 4 this morning. Not sure what happened; presumably he ate something (or otherwise something got into his mouth) that was Not Good. He is disturbingly quiet, other than reluctantly getting up to throw up more. I'm giving it another hour or so before I start to panic.

I'm reading Tom Farley and Deborah Cohen's _Prescription for a Healthy Nation_, since Farley had a recent op-ed in the NYT (that was about sodium levels in food, specifically, a topic of interest to me because it drives me nuts how freaking hard it is to find food that isn't insanely high in sodium, and I know from travel in other countries that it doesn't have to be that way. Arguing that adopting policy limits by category/type of food would reduce freedom makes me want to exercise freedom all over the person making the argument. Probably by screaming Right Up In Their Face. You know, freedom of speech.). It is, unfortunately, a really problematic book in a variety of ways, so my love for it is limited, however it is a relatively good piece of advocacy.

Anyway. We know -- and Farley and Cohen lay out some of the numbers -- that if you raise the price of tobacco and alcohol products, they are consumed less. They argue in favor of reducing the price of fruits and vegetables (including prepared ones like salads) and increasing the price of high fat/high sugar ("junk") foods. There is a slight problem here. While it is straight forward to tax stuff, collect the money for the general fund (or even targeted programs of a related nature, say, tax "junk" food to subsidize purchase of fruits and vegetables through SNAP), it is not so obvious how we could reduce the price of fruits and vegetables. I suppose we could provide subsidies to growers? But if you did it by regulating price, you could perversely increase production of high sugar/high fat (if you mandated higher prices, rather than tax, which doesn't seem too likely, it would have the effect of raising still further the profit margin on these items) and decrease production of fruit and veg (by reducing the already slim margin -- even when the margin on fruit and veg looks fat, it rarely is because the volatility associated with harvest is higher than the inputs for high sugar/high fat, altho that, in turn, is partly a result of historic farm policies here in the US).

Pricing is tricky, as the authors learned during an effort to recoup some of the costs of a condom campaign -- usage even at .25 a piece plummeted, which was entirely at odds with what they were attempting to accomplish.

I hope they start talking about advertising at some point. I really do. Because advertising is a huge obstacle for any public health campaign. Altho it is very difficult to deal with, given the aforementioned freedom.

ETA: "In the early 1980s, after years of state "buckle up campaigns that people ignored, seat belt use nationally was an abysmal 14 percent. The idea of requiring people to wear belts seemed ridiculous at first, because people had always had the option to use their seat belts, and the laws would be virtually unenforceable."

Seriously? _Always_ _had_ _the_ _option_? For 20 years, _maybe_, at that point.

Okay, whatev. NY usage went from 20% to 47%. "It wasn't the fear of punishment that made people buckle up, because cops didn't (and in most states legally couldn't) pull people over for not wearing belts it was the statement that the law represented. Buckling up was something people were supposed to do. It was expected, normal, what any regular person did."

Bull shit. I remember the early 1980s. My parents were vocally in favor of mandating new cars having car seat belts, always required that we use them and never let us forget how hard they'd worked to get them into cars. But everyone _else_ I knew started using seat belts after they got an add-on to their ticket for failing to wear a seat belt, or knew someone who did. There was _intense_ "lawyering" around who was required to buckle up and who wasn't and loud arguments in cars on group outings about who was going to pay the ticket if someone did not buckle up who was being told to and who wasn't accustomed to obeying that law. And the extra on the ticket was always mentioned. I also heard a bunch of stories about people getting pulled over with that as the explanation for the pull-over.

I have no mortal clue how the law was written in NY at the time, but given the behavior of law enforcement in NY with respect to other written law, I just don't even see how that would be relevant.

"the seat belt laws didn't always get a smooth ride through state legislatures...Of course it is stupid to drive without seat belts, some protested, but we have no right to force people to be smarter if the only ones they put at risk are themselves"

One of the arguments that I heard a lot in the early 80s did not accept that wearing a seat belt was smart: I heard dozens of people argument, sincerely, at length and volume, that they'd rather be ejected from a vehicle than be hurt by a seat belt. One of the counter arguments, of course, became hey, I don't want you flying around in the car hurting my neck and head, when people were arguing about whether passengers in the back seat needed to wear a seat belt (the rationale being that people riding in the back without a seat belt tend to have lower risk than people in the front with a seat belt, at least according to some statistics being tossed around at the time).

ETAYA: The authors do go on to talk about primary enforcement laws vs. secondary, but even if you have secondary only, you can usually increase a fine for failure to wear seat belts. A deterrent factor unmentioned, but that I remember people using in arguments.
walkitout: (Default)
I've been attempting to re-start some old habits that worked well for me in the past; they were deprecated in the name of I Don't Have the Time or Energy for This Right Now (which was true, but isn't true any more). So I've been doing things like increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables I eat (cooking more/eating at home, making sure I keep fresh fruit salad and green salad in the fridge and include one or the other at each meal, and then try to also get some other veg in somewhere), reducing sodium (same batch of ideas), portion control (hey, don't free pour the salad dressing! type of thing, along with a certain amount of, no, you really don't need another waffle, even if it is home made and whole grain. Put it in the freezer), increasing exercise (slowly! Because if there is one thing I can be predicted to do nearly every spring, it's to cause some kind of RSI by doing a whole bunch of stuff I haven't done in 6 months).

Anyway. A while back I debugged Why My Husband's Drinks Are So Strong, so when I opened a bottle of wine, I said to my self, Self, let your Inner Geek Shine. Get that scale out, zero it with the wineglass on it and pour 5 oz. Let's see what that looks like.

Looks like what I thought it should look like, which is about 2/3rds what it looks like when any of my husband's extended family pours a glass of wine (and their glasses are usually larger in volume than ours).

Now Self is saying, hey, let's bring that scale with us next T-weekend/Xmas at the fam's, and show everyone else what 5 oz of wine looks like. I'm trying to cram Self back into a box.

This is what happens when the Inner Geek comes out to play. She doesn't want to stop.

In complete violation of the reducing sodium rule, and partial violation of cooking at home rule, but absolutely aligned with hey, there are leftovers! I took yet another batch of leftover chicken tenders (these two were from Johnny Rockets) and rather than eating them on salad (my usual strategy), I heated them, chopped them up, and cooked them in a pan with some sauteed mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and summer squash, penne pasta (already cooked from a few days ago) and Trader Joe's No Salt Added Tomato Sauce. The breading came off somewhat and thickened up the sauce in a super delicious way that doesn't ever happen when I cook chicken myself (duh, I don't batter and fry my chicken, because if I'm going to do that, I go out to a restaurant and let the people with the fryer do it for me. And I don't own a fryer because I have marginally more sense than self control). R. said it tasted like chicken parm without the parm. Which I wouldn't know about, because milk allergy.

Johnny Rockets nutrition calculator suggests that each piece of chicken (there were two, and I split this with R.) added 420 mg. of sodium. Ouch. OTOH, there wasn't any other sodium added, so right up until I added the garlic bread, I was doing basically okay.
walkitout: (Default)
These observations have, as far as I know, almost nothing to do with each other.

The Chromebook (Samsung, 11.6 inch) arrived from Amazon. It was disturbingly easy to set up. T. immediately started demanding either it, or one just like it for himself. I steadfastly insisted that this was going to be a family computer "for travel". It's heavier than I think it should be for its size, because we have a lot of Apple products. The hinge feels like crap (ditto) and I'm seriously underwhelmed by screen refresh and by the trackpad's "feel". R. says this is completely understandable. All that said, it was $258.42 (including tax, but not shipping and handling, because I have Prime). For that price, this thing is Awesome and a Screaming Deal. I am going to try to get Skype set up (I've never used Skype, only Facetime) and see how that works on it.

I've been continuing to make buckwheat pancakes, but haven't made anything more complicated. I remember eating this really incredible buckwheat and sunflower seed toast at the Gravity Bar on Broadway in Seattle, starting some time in the very early 1990s, IIRC. I'd love to recreate it. I remember ordering it because it was the most normal seeming thing to eat on the menu (loved the juices, but I cannot live by juice alone) back when I was even pickier than I am now. Buckwheat seemed normal because I remember having buckwheat toast at my grandmother's when I was quite small, and really liking it then.

So today, I got to thinking about why my grandmother might have been eating buckwheat toast, and there's at least a small chance that it was a habit picked up during her married years, some of which were spent in Steinbach, Manitoba, in a community which had a couple generations earlier come over from what is not the Ukraine. They grow a lot of buckwheat in the Ukraine, and have for a long while.

One of my cousins (who shares the same grandmother) has long been convinced that we are actually of German heritage (this turns out to be fractionally true, but he means that the Mennonites were German, not that grandmother's other mutt ancestry included some Palatine Germans). As I was thinking about grandma, and buckwheat and buckwheat toast (in the opposite order), it dawned on me that I had corrected another cousin (one of my great-uncle/step-grandfather's kids, so a first cousin once removed, unless I've screwed up again) in email a month or so ago, who had a misunderstanding of where our Mennonite ancestors came from.

And I realized, I now know _why_ all those people are so confused. My branch of the Mennonites followed Holdeman in that early schism, and _Holdeman_ himself was Swiss-German in ancestry (just like all the Mennonites and Amish who came to the United States a hundred or more years before my ancestors came over). And apparently the heritage of the church leader became understood as the heritage of all the membership, once a few generations had gone by.

That's just nine kinds of freaky.
walkitout: (Default)
T. has decided that he wants to go back to gymnastics, so we're going to send him off to open gym today (probably with his papa) and then maybe sign him up for more lessons if that is possible.

This morning, I decided that I didn't have flour ground for pancakes, so I might as well grind some buckwheat and see how that worked. They were wonderful!

Buckwheat pancake
walkitout: (A Purple Straw Hat)
Long, long ago (under 20 years, but not by much), I put together my first website. It was really simple, but it included a catalog of my books and a piece of code I had written to access it. That piece of code was the one piece of code I had that didn't belong to some previous employer, to prove that I could do what I said I could do. It got me a job at a bookstore.

Anyway. The computer the website lived on belonged to a boyfriend, so I didn't have any meaningful access to it after, er, a certain point; also, it was not well maintained for a period of time prior to that. Along with the catalog (which I never really recovered, but eventually switched to LibraryThing which worked better anyway), I lost my online cookbook. Part of the rationale for having a cookbook and my catalog online was so I could look up recipes when Elsewhere (using a desktop computer, because remember, Long, Long Ago), and look up what I owned when Elsewhere (usually because I was trying to remember if I'd already bought something or not). Both of these needs persist in my life.

In any event, sometime Later (but still a long time ago), I recovered a lot of the website files using the Internet Archive/the Wayback Machine, and then proceeded to more-or-less maintain the cookbook. It's never been as complete as I'd like and it has never had pictures.

Well, it dawned on me that all my photos are now on Flickr, and I can use HTML embed stuff to make those pictures show up on a website, without having to deal with further storage issues. I don't actually take a lot of food pictures, and I haven't tagged all my photos so finding the food photos is not completely straightforward, but I did find some for the Pizza, Spinach Cornbread and Chocolate Cake pages.




Now on the projects list: when I cook stuff, take pictures of it (especially if I've already gone to the bother to put up a recipe for it), upload to Flickr and embed the HTML on the recipe page.
walkitout: (A Purple Straw Hat)
I don't normally do this. However, when I decided to cheat on my regular grocery store and try Donelan's because I Was Right Next to It Anyway, I stumbled across a milk-product free pizza line: Bold Organics Turn On the Flavor. I picked out the Meat Lovers (there was a "Cheese", a "Deluxe" and a "Veggie Lovers", IIRC), which really has meat in it. The "Cheese" option is vegan, and I think the Veggie Lovers is as well, but there's actual animal product in the Deluxe and the Meat Lovers.

If you're allergic to soy, you are S.O.L. However, this has an endorsement from the Celiac Sprue Association. It's for real gluten free.

The ingredients list is long, which you would expect in any pizza, as it contains a bread product, a sauce, and various toppings. In this case, there are meat toppings that are processed -- but the pepperoni is "Uncured" and nitrate/nitrites not added so only what is naturally present in the ingredients.

It's a thin crust pizza; I put a baking pan one rack down from the pizza to catch drips. Your best bet is to cook this thing without allowing it to thaw At All, because it'll droop on your oven rack. It does not, fortunately, glue itself to the rack. I didn't broil the top to make the cheese bubbly. The cheese is convincing, but definitely Not Cheese. There's a real soy-y flavor going on. The rosemary in the sauce and sausage is the dominant spice, but all the usual suspects are present.

If you are committed to a thick, doughy crust, this is not going to make you happy. If you cannot ignore the soy-y note to the "cheese", likewise. If you eat the whole thing, it'll run you 750 calories (box pretends this is 3 servings. I laugh.) and 1500 sodium, so not low sodium by any stretch of the imagination.

All that said, it's really good. I often don't like gf/cf stuff; I'd rather eat vegan with actual wheat product than gf/cf with animal products. Ideally, obvs, I'd like to just take out the milk products, but my people are few compared to gf/cf and vegans. The fake cheese is apparently "Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative" brand mozzarella. Whatever that means.

I'll try the rest of the line, but maybe spread this out as a once a week treat, because I suspect the sodium would get to me if I did this too often.

Looks like the crust is a potato starch, Brown Rice Flour, Yellow Corn Meal mix. "Organic Certifiers" provides the organic cert.

I'm tagging this autism not because of any kid connection, but because gf/cf is a classic dietary strategy for autism (we don't follow it).
walkitout: (Default)
I saw crocuses. That must mean it is time to go into the Pantry of the Apocalypse (the months stock of food that I can't seem to stop us from accumulating and which serves to keep my fascination with Doom at bay and prevent us from starving when we forget to go to the store for a while) and throw away things which are two years past their best-by date.

Unfortunately, I did not find the marmalade I was looking for. I did find some other things, including the bag of dried apples that I bought (a pack of two very large bags -- this one was still unopened) a while back after reading a wacky study comparing that and dried prunes and the apples had a way bigger effect than the prunes on a variety of measures -- and the apples were the controls (they were looking for a bone health effect from the prunes, IIRC).

I also went down into the basement and retrieved a cruet (it might be on the large size to be considered a cruet) that I used to use to store home made salad dressing. I'd been thinking it would be nice to have some home made dressing around again that _wasn't_ honey mustard. Dressings tend to run very high in sodium and it isn't that hard to correct the problem if you make it from scratch. The problems lie in (a) having containers for the dressing and (b) having the ingredients for making the dressings. I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be such a huge market for salad dressing if I were the only person having these issues.

What pushed me over the edge is my recent obsession with sesame noodles. Po's BBQ serves a fantastic version, but the Roche Bros supermarket has a decent one in the deli, too. And I'm pretty damn sure they are ridiculously high in sodium. It also seemed like the perfect dish to do my usual number on: reduce the sodium, use organic ingredients, increase the vegetables and decrease the starch. Unfortunately, the noodle selection at Roche Bros is either split in more than one place and I missed part, or they didn't have any of the Asian noodles I would have preferred so I wound up with some whole wheat angel hair. Which, to be fair, turned out okay. I forgot the sugar entirely in the first attempt, but that was easily corrected. I'll keep tinkering.

The cruet I had upstairs from the last attempt at home made non-honey mustard dressing had balsamic vinaigrette dressing in it which, predictably, had stuck to the interior of the glass. At the bottom. *sigh* Poking at it with a chop stick didn't help, even having repeated soak and shake (and overnight soaking, even). So today, I went down to the Ace hardware store (on a bike. It's not _really_ spring out there. It was 34 degrees. That is brisk) to buy a bottle brush, which turned out to be a tube brush. That did the trick.

I also found the shortening a couple days ago and it wasn't past its pull by date. We had biscuits (yum) and chocolate chip cookies, which reminded me that I really haven't yet figured out how to make chocolate chip cookies using freshly ground whole wheat flour . They're okay, but they are Not Right.

Today's project is to use the grass fed ground beef (new at the Roche Bros. I was excited) and the rediscovered cans of black beans (a month or two to go on their dates) to make some chili.

In the back of my head, there's a little movie playing out that I can't seem to control for the life of me. It involves filling the chest freezer downstairs with a bunch of pre-cooked meals. Sunshine really pushes me onto some screwy paths.
walkitout: (Default)
Several years ago, my husband R. was complaining about the small (2 lbs, often, never more than 5 lbs) of organic whole wheat pastry flour I bought. Since I paid for them and I did the grocery shopping, his argument was a little difficult to understand. But he's a frugal man (one of the reasons I love him) and he has a sort of instinctive revulsion to consistently paying more for something than you have to.

In the course of a long and involved discussion, I explained that even if you could buy the stuff in bulk (which, at least where we lived, you couldn't), I wouldn't want to, because it has to be stored in the freezer. The wheat germ oil starts deteriorating as soon as the flour is ground and it just gets worse and worse over time. I said I was not going to buy a chest freezer just to save some nickels on hypothetical bulk organic whole wheat flour (pastry or otherwise). Because I am an unremitting nerd, however, I did note that one could buy organic whole wheat berries (assuming one could find them) and a grinder (assuming it wasn't outrageously expensive) and grind the flour as needed. One would not need to freeze the berries.

Inevitably, I wound up searching online for a source of wheat berries (Eden Organics is my current favorite, although I have bought from Bob's Red Mill as well) and a mill (I have a Nutrimill and like it enough to have bought it as a present for a couple of friends in the ensuing years). It was a completely ridiculous project in every way, and I would regret it, except for one important fact: freshly ground whole wheat flour tastes way, way better than any stored whole wheat flour. There's no bitterness at all.

Makes it easy to switch over to whole wheat flour in all kinds of recipes.

When I was reading about my Mennonite ancestors and their arduous journey in the 1870s from Russia to North America (my batch went to Canada, but many went to the United States and there was significant back-and-forth, marrying and traveling, as I've noted in posts about my Holdeman Mennonite relatives), I knew that wheat was really central to their world. They'd had to find or develop (I'm still not sure which) new strains when they moved from what is now Poland to what is now the Ukraine, in order to have wheat in that (then) new home. Immigration from the Vistula River region to the Ukraine had barely come to an end when the trip to North America occurred.

The wheat my Mennonite ancestors found (or developed) in Russia and brought to North America was better than many strains already being grown in the United States (land of corn in the maize sense, rather than the grain sense). As I'm reading _American Chestnut_ by Susan Freinkel, I am running across the usual genealogical temptations and resisting them carefully. But I also ran across a story about "Mark Alfred Carleton, the USDA expert on foreign-plant introductions". He grew up in Kansas and, like the kid who vows to become a doctor after losing a family member to trauma or cancer, "became determined to find wheat varieties that could survive in that unforgiving land". Seeing the Mennonites doing better than others, he found out why, then went back to Russia to find Kubanka (a durum) and then later to Siberia, where he came back with Kharkov (a hard red winter). Carleton enters the story of the American Chestnut when Pennsylvania is making a heroic but ultimately failed final attempt to stop the blight through quarantine.

Despite _buying_ wheat berries (I buy 50 lb bags of soft white and hard red winter, using the former for baked goodies and the latter for bread and an arbitrary combination of the two for things which seem intermediary between the two to me), I'd never given a lot of thought to the specific strains I was buying. Superficial (google) research hasn't answered that question, either (other than that Eden is hard core about avoiding even drift pollinated GM grains). Research _did_ however suggest that the strains Carleton brought back from his trips were not the same as what the Mennonites were growing in Kansas.

Lucky for us, some Slow Food people are attempting to rebuild the strains the Mennonites of Kansas were using. It is aptly named Turkey Hard Red Winter Wheat (which is on the other side of the Black Sea).




Maybe that'll be my next order, and another bridge from genealogy into "real life" (altho at the moment, I've having trouble finding berries; they seem to only have flour).

GAMEO on the subject of wheat (unusually chatty for them but as always a carefully considered article): http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wheat

Before you comment, _yes_ I do understand that Turkey Red Winter Wheat doesn't thrive in Manitoba.
walkitout: (Default)

While this fits in with what I was posting about earlier today, it has some interesting components.

"a two-acre site that 20 years ago was the home of Lerner Newspapers. Royal Bank of Canada is foreclosing on the land. The city invited developer proposals for the property a few years ago, but nobody responded."

It _used_ to have something commercial on the site: a newspaper! It is going through foreclosure. City efforts to get a developer to build on the plot have failed.

This is almost exactly like something out of the early 20th century: empty lot, down times, looking for development -- ideally something that could be readily converted to a "higher" use should good times return -- and looking for partners to actually implement, those partners likely to be charitable organizations.

The next boom almost always eliminated these kinds of urban parks, as infill development replaced them with mid- or high- rises. It was a discouraging experience for people who were committed to farming, because any soil improvement they might accomplish would not be there for them to appreciate. However, for those groups prepared to container garden and move on and who were not committed to a particular site, it was always nice to have something close in with lots of local customers.

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