Greg Marley’s “Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares” in the kitchen

December 29, 2011

Happy to see Mr. Marley has a video to accompany his book of last year, Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares.  Marley hasn’t aged much in three decades; think it’s the ‘shrooms?

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Greg Marley’s “Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nigh…, posted with vodpod

From Chelsea Green TV. Chelsea Green publishes Marley’s work.

Greg Marley, Maine mycologist and author of "Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares"

Greg Marley

Marley’s book was a finalist in the culinary history category for the 2011 book awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) , and won the 2011 Jane Grigson Award from IACP for distinguished scholarship and depth of research in cookbooks.  The award was named in honor of publisher and food author Jane Grigson, who herself published a volume on mushroom cookery.

From the Chelsea Green authors’ bios:

Greg Marley has a passion for mushrooms that dates to 1971, the year he left his native New Mexico and spent the summer in the verdant woods of central New York. Since then, he has become an avid student and teacher of mycology, as well as a mushroom identification consultant to the Northern New England Poison Control Center and owner of Mushrooms for Health, a company that provides education and products made with Maine medicinal mushrooms. Marley is the author of Mushrooms for Health: Medical Secrets of Northeastern Fungi. He lives and mushrooms in Rockland, Maine.

Greg and I met a couple of summers later, in “the verdant woods of central New York.”  We struck it off as two westerners in the usually wet East (though it was very dry that summer).  We worked together four summers, tramping the woods, canoeing the Adirondacks around Saranac Lake, singing (we were half of the barbershop quartet in a production of Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man” and joined around campfires on a hundred sparkling occasions), and sampling wild foods, in our work with the Louis August Jonas Foundation.

Nice to see a kid from the neighborhood doing good, and maybe well.

Starvation crisis in North Korea (Reuters report via Al Jazeera)

October 9, 2011

Some images may be shocking to young children.  This is information you need to have.

Al Jazeera carried this report, an edited version of a report from Reuters, who somehow got video and interviews from inside North Korea, if we are to grant credence to the report.

In a hospital in Pyongyang, doctors monitor a group of weak infants, some of whom are already showing signs of malnutrition and sickness. They are the most vulnerable members of a population suffering from extreme food shortages.

According to the United Nations, one third of all children under the age of five in North Korea are malnourished, and other countries have become less interested in donating food as the “hermit kingdom” battles efforts to constrain its nuclear program.

The UN World Food Programme says public distributions are running extremely low, and they are only able to help half the people who need aid. Meanwhile, the countries rulers stage outsized military parades, and some wonder whether food donations are being siphoned off to them.

North Korea recently granted a Reuters news crew access to the country, and Al Jazeera’a Khadija Magardie reports on the plight they found.

The longer Reuters report can be viewed here (but I can’t figure out how to embed it at the Bathtub).

Climate-change aggravated severe weather adds to the serious nutrition shortages in North Korea, according to Reuters written reports.

Famine in North Korea is one more vital topic ignored by the presidential and Congressional campaigns, and conservatives in their rush to get Obama out of office.


Lunch in Waco, Elvis Presley style

July 8, 2011

So I found myself in Waco, Texas, after noon and hungry.  Where to eat?

Fortunately, I’d read about the burger emporium favored by none other than Elvis Presley, Health Camp.

Health Camp Drive In, Waco Texas, Photo by Ed Darrell

Even after the lunch rush cars and pickups crowd the door at Health Camp.

Who names a burger joint “Health Camp?”

Established in 1949, it’s still dispensing “100% Angus ground chuck” burgers.  While it’s not a competitor for the title of World’s Best, to me, it’s a good burger, and the fries were pretty good, too.  The place specializes in milkshakes in a wide variety of flavors, including banana, butterscotch and peanut butter.  I did not ask if the peach flavor comes from fresh, or real peaches.

Here’s a photo from a few years back:

Health Camp burger stand in Waco, Texas

Health Camp burger stand in Waco, Texas - TexasBurgerGuy

It looks much the same.  If you’re passing through on Interstate 35, it’s not really that hard to find it at 2601 Circle Road.  Circle Road terminates literally in a circle — a “circus” in British terminology — less than 100 yards off of I-35.  Take Exit 333A going either north or south, aim for South Valley Mills Road on the east side of the freeway.  The next intersection is the Circle off of Circle Road.  Other roads going into the Circle include LaSalle Avenue, Robinson Road.  Elite Circle Grill has a larger, easier to find sign — and the two essentially share a parking lot.   If you’re at the Elite Circle Grill, you’re close enough to Health Camp to walk.

Health Camp in Waco, Evlis's local favorite, photo by Ed Darrell

More parking than needed, Health Camp shares parking lot with the Elite Circle Grill; daytime shots suffer from not showing the neon on the flying-V sign. Photo by Ed Darrell, use encouraged, with attribution.

The business here is drive-in food, especially burgers and milkshakes.  Someone did a photo essay on drive-ins in Texas, and a dozen or so framed pictures of famous greasers lines the small dine-in room.  It’s formica and vinyl, and signs with plastic red letters on white — some of which have not been changed in months, perhaps in years.

It’s a classic place.  Not classy, but classic.

Interior of Health Camp Drive-in in Waco, Texas,   photo by Ed Darrell

Atmosphere? You came here for the burgers and the milkshakes. The seats work, the tables are clean, the ketchup isn't watered down. You want decor? Go to McDonalds.

They know what they’ve got.  A combo meal — burger, fries or tots or rings, and drink, will be north of $6.00; add a shake, you’re up to $8.00  Change back from your $10 or $20.

I got a cheeseburger, mayo, “all the way.”  Very good beef, satisfying, fresh and sweet onions.  Fries could have been cut in the place, but I’ll wager they were frozen — not highly processed beyond that.  Fried to a good crisp, they screamed for ketchup.

A stop here beats a stop at any of the big chains, but will cost you a bit more.  True burger aficionados may complain.  Let ’em.

I’ll stop there again with pleasure, unless I think I have time to try the Elite Circle Grill for a comparison.  I thought fondly of the Owl Burger at the Owl Cafe in Albuquerque, and the Big H from Hires Drive-In in Salt Lake City, both superior to the Health Camp product.  But they are related closely enough for horseshoes.

Health Camp cheeseburger and fries - photo by Ed Darrell

The Health Camp cheeseburger comes wrapped unassumingly in paper, served on a plastic tray. Clearly the management puts its effort into ingredients and preparation.

Alaska’s salmon go missing. Why?

August 21, 2009

It’s one of those environmental mysteries that would be fun and intrigueing, were it not so worrisome.

Alaska’s King Salmon disappeared from traditional river runs this year.  Again.

From Reuters:  A sockeye salmon scurries through shallow water in the Adams River while preparing to spawn near Chase, British Columbia northeast of Vancouver October 11, 2006.  REUTERS/Andy Clark

From Reuters: "A sockeye salmon scurries through shallow water in the Adams River while preparing to spawn near Chase, British Columbia northeast of Vancouver October 11, 2006. REUTERS/Andy Clark"

Reasons could be one of many, or several:  Changing ocean currents, pollock fishing accidental catches of salmon, plankton blooms, conditions on the rivers, competition from “ranched” salmon.

Consumers may see only the rise in price and a change in labeling in the supermarket.

Effects on employment and food supply in Alaska are huge, and crippling.

Canada fisheries are affected, too.

Climate change probably plays a role, in any scenario anyone poses:

“It’s quite the shocking drop,” said Stan Proboszcz, fisheries biologist at the Watershed Watch Salmon Society. “No one’s exactly sure what happened to these fish.”

Salmon are born in fresh water before migrating to oceans to feed. They return as adults to the same rivers to spawn.

Several theories have been put forward to try to explain the sockeye’s disappearance:

* Climate change may have reduced food supply for salmon in the ocean.

* The commercial fish farms that the young Fraser River salmon pass en route to the ocean may have infected them with sea lice, a marine parasite.

* The rising temperature of the river may have weakened the fish.

The Canadian government doesn’t know what’s killing the fish, but believes the sockeye are dying off in the ocean, not in fresh water, based on healthy out-migrations, said Jeff Grout, regional resource manager of salmon for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

In this case, even a small change in climate can have huge effects on ecosystems and specific populations of animals.  It’s one of those climate change issues that climate change skeptics and denialists prefer not to talk about at all.  If, as they allege, concern over climate change is entirely political, driven by bad information and false claims from over-active environmentalists, these problems should not exist at all.

But the problems do exist.  A fishery that had been stable for 50 years previously, the entire time it was tracked so carefully, suddenly becomes fishless.  Watch those rivers and fisheries.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pamela Bumsted.

Help save the salmon; tell others:

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Forgotten anniversaries: Microwave oven patent

January 26, 2009

Some history really does need to be rewarmed.

January 24 marks the anniversary of the granting of the patent for the microwave oven, “Method of treating foodstuffs.” Do your texts even refer to this by-product of World War II?  What benefits of microwave ovens can your students come up with?  Will they offer the apocryphal question about how Native Americans could possibly have invented popcorn with their wood-fired microwave ovens?

Dr. Percy L. Spencer noted that a chocolate bar in his shirt pocket had melted when he was working around an operating radar tube, at Raytheon Corp., during World War II (the patent application for microwave cooking was filed on October 8, 1945).  With a little experimentation, he determined the microwaves from the radar tube were rapidly cooking things — think exploding egg, think popping corn.

Drawing from the patent of the microwave oven, granted to Percy L. Spencer on January 24, 1950; courtesy the Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation

Drawing from the patent of the microwave oven, granted to Percy L. Spencer on January 24, 1950; courtesy the Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation

One of the problems Spencer had to overcome was that radar tubes cooked foods way too fast.  He had to tune the magnetron tubes to produce wavelengths with less energy, to heat food more slowly so the cooking could be controlled.  Spencer explained this process of invention in the first page of text on the patent itself.

Perhaps one could create an interesting DBQ with only patents, tracing radio and radar through the microwave oven.

This is one device you probably can demonstrate  safely  in any history classroom.


Tip of the old scrub brush to Rhapsody in Book’s Weblog.

Blue Bell Ice Cream, a tastier part of Texas history

March 18, 2007

My first visit to Texas in the early 1980s, to visit friends in Houston and in-laws in Dallas, I met Blue Bell Ice Cream. It was love at first bite, of course.

Bluebell Creamery's ad, barn and blue sky

Blue Bell Creamery ad, barn and blue sky, and their memorable slogan

Ice cream plays an important role in my family. Family reunions, or just any celebration in summer, were excuses to pull out several hand-cranked ice cream makers, and freeze away. Homemade vanilla delights the palate, and family gourmands grind vanilla beans to add a little extra oomph. When grandfather Leo Stewart had peaches from his orchard, or later just peaches from our backyard tree in Pleasant Grove, Utah, fresh peaches went into the mix. Only someone who experienced my father’s peaches in my mother’s custard, frozen in a hand-cranked freezer, could fully appreciate Willie Stark‘s lines about peach ice cream in Robert Penn Warren’s book, All the King’s Men.

White Mountain 6-quart hand crank ice cream freezer

White Mountain 6-quart hand crank ice cream freezer, one of the better freezers

Homemade ice cream is a bother. Better freezers are not cheap, and they don’t travel well. My mother’s mini-freezer disappeared sometime in one of her later-life moves. My father’s much larger, two-gallon colossus simply wore out, with most of the ferrous metal parts rusting away, and even the wood of the barrel crumbling to dust. Proper salt to get the solution colder than freezing is sporadically available in city supermarkets. My mother’s recipe for the custard, unwritten as all her better recipes, died with her.

Bluebell Peaches and Homemade Vanilla

Bluebell Peaches and Homemade Vanilla

Utah is a haven for ice cream makers. Snelgrove’s on 33rd South in Salt Lake City is tradition in many families (Snelgrove is now owned by Dreyer’s, but still operates as Snelgrove in Utah) (Update, July 2008: Snelgrove’s is dead). My wife’s family is partial to Farr’s in Ogden, “Farr better ice cream” — and it is very, very good. Trips to visit family include stops at Farr’s.

Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla tastes like my mother’s custard frozen in a hand-cranked freezer. It is consistently the best-tasting ice cream, for a very reasonable price.

Blue Bell celebrates its 100th anniversary as a company in 2007, the “little creamery” in Brenham, Texas, where Blue Bell is made.

Even better, the company wants you to suggest new flavors, and is holding a contest to get good, local flavors. Winners of the Taste of the Country Flavor Contest get a trip to Brenham for the 100th anniversary celebration.

Plus, winners get a year’s supply of Blue Bell ice cream.

Blue Bell is a nice local company making good. Though the production is limited (and I believe it is still true that all the ice cream is made in Brenham), so it is available only in 17 states concentrated in the southeast, the brand is the third best-selling brand in the U.S.

If you’re near Houston, you would be well advised to make a side trip to Brenham to tour the Blue Bell ice cream factory (plus, the bluebonnets will be in bloom shortly).

North America is a big continent, with international brands that work for international consistency of products, so that the company’s customers get the same experience regardless where the customers are — think McDonalds, Burger King, and Coca-Cola. Large conglomerates often own even nominally regional brands. As I noted earlier, Snelgrove’s in Salt Lake City is now run by a national ice cream giant — even Ben & Jerry’s brand is now owned, produced and marketed by a national marketing giant. Blue Bell is a standout, an almost-local brand, with limited distribution. Part of the joy of a well-working free enterprise system is finding a well-run local company, with a unique product.

Blue Bell could make a fortune bottling their success formula, too, in addition to their ice cream.

Bluebell logo

Glen Dromgoole at the Abilene Reporter-News reviewed the book about Blue Bell’s history in his column February 18, 2007, “Blue Bell Ice Cream, a Texas Staple, Turns 100.”

%d bloggers like this: