Macro Photo – A Study in Scarlet Wine Dregs

Don’t be alarmed! This isn’t a photo of blood, but I did think it was interesting that the quotation below discusses scarlet, and in this photo the scarlet ran over a colourless object. No more clues – what is this a photo of?

There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.
– Holmes, in “A Study in Scarlet”, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The photo is a close up look at dried wine in the bottom of a wine glass!

Quotes about Wine: From the Vintners Cellar

One of These Veggies is Not Like the Others

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong …
– Words and Music by Joe Raposo and Jon Stone –

You will recognize this ‘One of These Things‘ song if you spent any time watching Sesame Street. My photo today is going to demonstrate this song, so go ahead and start humming. First, I’ll explain why I chose these four items – they are roughly cylindrical in shape, and they are all in my kitchen right now.

One of them, however, is clearly different. Have you chosen which one? My pick is the mystery vegetable – the white one that looks a bit like a fat parsnip. But it isn’t a parsnip, and I really don’t know what to do with this newcomer to my kitchen.

There is a disconnect in our house between the food that is purchased and the food that is cooked and served. This is to be expected, I suppose, when the buyer is one person, and the cook is the other.  Most of the time I figure out what to do with the groceries The Car Guy comes home with, but this week he brought home this white root that isn’t a parsnip. Fortunately he remembered  that it is called a Lobok. I’m not sure how well Lobok will fit in with the rest of the food in the kitchen. It is said to be radishy, and that isn’t my favourite flavour.

The banana, however,  could be the thing that isn’t like the others because it is the only one with a sticker on it.  I normally don’t pay any attention to the sticky labels on some fruits, but while I was working with this photo I realized what the label actually says. If I didn’t already like bananas, the sticker would make me feel much more inclined to have a few in a bowl on the counter. Very cheerful.

But what about the spaghetti squash? It is odd man out too, because it is the only one with seeds inside it. I like spaghetti squashes because they are the sort of thing that can sit on the counter for several months and still be as good tasting as the day they were picked. They don’t threaten to expire if they aren’t used within a few days of arriving at my door. The downside to the squash, in my opinion, is that it takes great muscles and a knife the size of a machete to get one open. I have to be feeling particularly brave to tackle a spaghetti squash.

This leaves the carrot. By virtue of the bright orange colour, it could be ‘not like the others’. I’m very fond of a good carrot, particularly because it is very simple to eat. It doesn’t even need to be cooked. Not much waste to it either. Very easy to grow – willing to cosy up to all sorts of other foods without being overbearing, yet willing to stand alone when required.

Now that I’ve spent a bit of time pondering the vegetables and fruits in my kitchen, I’ve come to the conclusion that this Sesame Street song isn’t really very nice. While it is quite appropriate to point out all the wonderful ways that one thing differs from another, it seems very wrong to suggest that these differences mean that something doesn’t belong. I have therefore made a promise to The Car Guy and the Lobok that I will find a way to make this radish wanna-be feel at home until such time as it gets eaten (or dies a natural death in the fridge crisper.)

Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale and Dubai – Indulge in Extravagant Architecture

Definition of Indulge – to practice a forbidden or questionable act without restraint. In that case, my love of dark chocolate clearly is not an indulgence – it isn’t forbidden or questionable – not by me, anyhow. Let me take you further afield to show you indulgence.

high rises on The Strip NevadaHave you been to Las Vegas lately? Is there any part of The Strip that doesn’t scream, “Step inside and indulge your every whim!” (The Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is in Harrahs, I hear.)

Florida yachtHow about the Grand Canal area of Ft. Lauderdale? Does anyone there own a little paddle boat that they park behind their  humble bungalow? (Kilwin’s Chocolates is on East Las Olas Blvd)

Middle East United Arab EmiratesThen there is Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. One of their lesser indulgences is the Wafi City Mall. It has a facade that convincingly recreates ancient Egypt. (Godiva Chocolates are on the Ground Floor. Patchi’s Chocolates are on the First Floor. That is me in the red shirt, carrying a box of….)

The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.
– Elizabeth Taylor –

Line Up the Usual Suspects – Gingerbread Men and Pyrogy

We decorated the Gingerbread Men on Boxing Day. In Canada, Boxing Day is December 26th, and at The Red House, it is the day that we normally cook The Wokadoo. And just what is a Wokadoo, you might ask? Many years ago, one of our young nephews was having trouble saying, or perhaps even remembering, the word ‘turkey’. But he was sure, when the bird was still alive, that it made some sort of noise and he was equally sure the sound was ‘cock a doodle doo’. But again, he couldn’t put his finger on that word exactly. The very best he could come up with, was that the bird I had in the oven was a ‘wokadoo’, and that is what I have called a turkey ever since.

It was an Open and Shut Case. The Confectioner had no trouble identifying the culprit who was making off with the Candy Canes…

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This year, however, we didn’t cook a Wokadoo, opting out for a ham instead. A ham is quick and simple, and compliments the rest of the meal which was prepared by all the guests – pyrogy and holopchi (Ukrainian staples that have many names that can be spelled many ways.)

Our kitchen was a bee hive of activity with no less than 14 people mixing, rolling, stuffing, cooking. 20 pounds of potatoes, a big bag of flour, 2 big cabbages, pounds of bacon, onions, cheddar cheese…

And sinks full of dirty dishes. Bowls, platters, cookie sheets, pots, pans… all were washed over and over again, just to keep up with the pyrogy assembly line.

Once the pyrogy were stuffed, boiled and lined up on cookie sheets, they made their way out to the giant deep freeze, which is the snow bank on the back deck. When they were well chilled, some became dinner that night, while the rest were bagged and sent home with the guests.

Later that night, when the last dish was done, I surveyed the kitchen.  A plate full of Gingerbread Men were on the counter, their candy eyes imploring me to turn out the light and let them get some sleep.

Question: What did the gingerbread man put on his bed?
Answer: A cookie sheet.
– Author Unknown –

How To Make Breakfast More Fun

I went to a restaurant that serves “breakfast at any time”.  So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
– Steven Wright –

While there are many interpretations of Breakfast, I’ve chosen to photograph the food I eat most mornings!

I start with the exact right bowl. It has to be the correct size – not too big and not to small. More importantly though, it has to have a happy group of animals dancing around the rim. This one has horses, camels and elephants – quite appropriate because I bought these dishes when we lived in the Middle East!

I put some fruit in the bottom of the bowl. I used bananas, but some times I use an apple, or an orange or some berries. This is the dangerous part of making breakfast  because I had to use a sharp knife to cut the bananas into the exact right thickness.  Like the bowl, the bananas can’t be too big or too small.

Next, I added some cereal. I used granola  with whole grains, fruit and nuts. You can use any type of cereal you want, but it has to compliment the fruit, not fight with it.

Last, I added yogurt – plain, low fat, high calcium yogurt. See how carefully  I spooned it on so that it formed a happy face? Two eyes, a nose, and a big grinning mouth.

The last detail is the spoon. Like the bowl, the spoon has to have some character, and it has to be not too big, and not too small. Today I chose a shiny new spoon, but some days I use a spoon from the set of cutlery that were a wedding present almost 42 years ago!

Remember the days when you let your child have some chocolate if he finished his cereal? Now, chocolate is one of the cereals.
– Robert Orben –

When I am done eating, I will have one small square of very dark chocolate…

How about you – how do you make your breakfast fun to eat?

How to throw a Beer Tasting Party!

I always do my best thinking over a glass of beer. Two heads are better than one.
– From the Best of Bridge –

Now and then I like an icy cold beer. Not a whole icy cold beer, because it is never icy cold when I get to the bottom of the bottle or glass. I just like the first few icy cold ounces.

One of my son-in-laws, perhaps (but highly unlikely) thinking of his mother-in-law’s fondness for those first few cold ounces, devised an ingenious way to taste the beers of the world without having to drink an entire bottle of each. He hosts a Beer Tasting Party.

He invites lots of people, and assigns each couple a country. The guests buy a half dozen or so bottles of beer that  represent that country. They pre-chill the beer, and when they arrive at the party the bottles are nestled into coolers of ice that are set out on a long table on the patio.

Each person is given a glass with his or her name on it and the tasting commences! A few ounces of this beer, then a few ounces of that beer. Icy cold, just the way I like it! Some munchies, then some more munchies!

There is an established protocol for a sophisticated Beer Tasting Party. This involves score sheets and detailed discussions. This isn’t that kind of party.

But it also isn’t the kind of party where the guests would have to be reminded to remove the bottles from the six pack carton before trying to read the bottom panel of the box!

24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not.
– Stephen Wright –

Why I Choose to Be a Carnivore

When it comes to whether to eat meat or not, humans fall into two very firm camps – the Herbivores or plant eaters (vegetarians), and the Omnivores who eat meat and plants. There is a third camp, the diehard Carnivores, who would prefer not to ever see a veggie on their plate. But even they probably have the odd beer or potato chip, which puts them back into the omnivore category.

There shouldn’t be any debate about food preferences. Each to their own, I say. But herbivores seem intent on defending and promoting their choice. They really shouldn’t be surprised by the sometimes irritated responses they get in their blogs and forums. As my daughter used to say, “Don’t poke a tiger”, or in this case, don’t tell a carnivore not to eat a steak.

Many people choose a vegetarian type diet because they think it is Healthier. There is no doubt it will be healthier than a ‘cheeseburger and fries every day’ diet. But there is no evidence to say that a vegetarian diet is any better for a person than a diet of meat and vegetables, as long as both diets take into consideration the guidelines for good nutrition.

Many vegetarians point to Food Safety as a reason to not eat meat. Improper handling, storing or cooking of meat can certainly cause sickness or death. But improper handling of fruits and vegetables can cause similar problems, as demonstrated by the recent deaths in Germany caused by E.coli – a bacterial germ carried in the intestinal tract of humans and other warm blooded animals.

Some vegetarians point to Environmental Degradation as the reason they don’t eat meat. Water quality, waste disposal, and overuse of antibiotics are just a few of the issues they are justly concerned about. However, grain and vegetable farming also has an environmental cost caused by the fertilizing, watering, harvesting, processing and transporting of crops.

hand made

Animal Rights issues are often at the heart of a persons decision not to eat meat. Some people object to any animal being killed for food, which is a good reason why they shouldn’t eat them! Of course, even cereal and vegetable production kills animals – insects, birds, and small rodents are sacrificed so that a farmer can maximize crop production. (Rabbits would have to be sacrificed too, I guess. A single rabbit ate my entire garden last summer.)

The other objection to the use of animals for food is the aversion people have to high density modern factory farms. Knowing what mankind is capable of, I expect there are some deplorable instances of how food animals are raised and slaughtered.

People concerned with this issue should source meat that is raised the way they would like, and become an advocate for better farm practices in their area. In this case, not eating meat at all is really just a cop-out.

Now, a bit of Carnivorian history for the Omnivores:  Early man was scavenging and eating meat about 2.5 million years ago, and over time meat was the fuel that allowed the growth of larger and larger brains. It is believed Homo erectus learned to control fire about a million years ago, and it is possible he used it to cook his diet of meat, tubers and roots in order to make them more edible.  The oldest largely accepted evidence of fire (used by an ancestor of modern man to cook meat) is burned bones from about 500,000 years ago. 400,000 years ago, man started hunting, rather that just scavenging.

Modern Homo sapiens appeared about 150,000 years ago. Sometime shortly after that, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble started cooking up Woolly Mammoth on the BBQ…

Eggs are Eggs-actly Complex and Interesting

macroA Hen’s Egg is a pretty interesting thing. Fragile enough to allow a baby bird to peck through it, it is also strong enough to protect the contents because it employs the arch. (Egg layers knew about arches before humans did…)

The shape of an egg is very complex. It isn’t a circle, it isn’t an oval. It is quite simply egg-shaped. Which makes it very hard to draw. A circle shape is pretty easy to construct with a simple compass. An oval is harder to draw, but at least it has two lines of symmetry. But an egg – well there isn’t even a simple bit of mathematics to describe the profile of an egg, much less draw one.

on dictionary page

I did find the equation for a Cartesian Oval, and it looks like this:
4a²m²((c-x)²+y²)-(a²+m²c²-2cm²x+(m²-1)(x²+y²))²=0

Math was never my strong suit, but I think maybe the “=0” part means this equals an egg… No, probably not.
All this math made me think of a Calvin and Hobbes Cartoon by Bill Watterson. Calvin asks Hobbes for help with his homework:

Calvin: Help me with this homework, OK? What’s 6+3?
Hobbes: 6+3, eh? First we call the answer “Y” as in “Y do we care?” Now Y may be a square number, so we’ll draw a square and make this side 6 and that side 3. Then we’ll measure the diagonal.
Calvin: I don’t remember the teacher explaining it like this.
Hobbes: she probably doesn’t know higher math. When you deal with high numbers, you need higher math.
Calvin: But this diagonal is just a little under two.
Hobbes: OK, here, I’ll draw a bigger square.

close upOf course, I can just open the picture of my egg in Photoshop, and instantly have a perfect egg shape to work with. But that kind of takes all the fun out of using a ruler and a compass and drawing a page full of intersecting and overlapping circles and then erasing all the lines that don’t contribute to the shape of an egg.

I think I would have enjoyed giving birth to my children much more if they had popped out as eggs….