At Home in Ohio

Just Eat It

Connie Moore

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In December of last year, the Clark County Library got in a new DVD called Just Eat It. Always on the lookout for new culinary information, we ordered it and waited until our turn came up on March 8th to pick it up. Turns out it is a popular documentary on food waste, food growing and processing, and a 6-month experiment by a couple who decided to see just exactly what is out there being wasted.

Every part of this DVD, including the plastic case, is of interest. The film is a winner of over nine major Film Festival Awards; online sources make that number 20 if you count it being a finalist and runner-up. Reviews say it is “Powerful” and “Shocking ... thought-provoking ... inspired.”

The top comment by Variety tells you “Hugely entertaining ... will leave audiences gobsmacked.” So what is that last word? Online definitions for modern slang say it is of British origin, taking the words "gob" — mouth — and a verb — "smack" — and blending them to mean “being utterly astonished or stunned.”

That pretty much sums up how we felt after watching the 73-minute version. The movie case asked the question, “We all love food, so how could we possibly be throwing nearly half of it in the trash?” Well, to be honest, we thought that figure was awfully high.

Tristram Stewart began the journey with a look at the corporate image of a perfect banana. There are guidelines for harvesting and selling bananas that have nothing to do with pesticides, variety, or locations. The literal hill of unwanted bananas is astounding each time they are harvested. Onto peaches, which are graded not only for size but for perfection, hence 20 to 70 percent of all harvested graded peaches (tons and tons) go to garbage dumps. (Only so much can be given to local food banks, which don’t have the capacity or infrastructure to dispense it.) Celery, our beloved crunchy vegetable, is next to see vast waste.

Interspersed in all the photography, facts, and graphs was the story of Jen and Grant, who undertook a six-month journey into a food waste exposé that found them searching out their sustenance from culled produce and foods in farmer markets, stores, and behind stores (dumpsters).

They did not eat garbage, half-eaten foods from restaurant plates, or anything that was expired or opened. The exception to that was when they gleaned from a refrigerator and cupboards of a relative who was in the process of moving. They checked all packages for sell by/best by dates. They also went online to check for recalls on foods that they found entire dumpsters devoted to, such as tofu, chocolate bars, and packaged meals.

An eye-opening find was a dumpster outside a studio where a pizza chain had finished food photography just a day before. The photographer called them; the foods had been in the fridge and freezer until that very morning. Filling the metal box were bags of dough, meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauces. It appeared to us that a thousand pizzas lay in waiting for someone to assemble them.

One thing we had never thought about was that wasting food in this country is not taboo. We have laws to fine people for littering or not recycling, but wasting food is normal.

food to be eaten or wasted?

With two months left in their experiment, Jen and Grant found themselves with kitchen counters, cupboards, a fridge, and a freezer overflowing with perfectly good food. They invited friends in to glean. Those friends were amazed that the amount of food Jen and Grant described to them could actually be found.

Another amazing find was an entire dumpster devoted to eggs. Not outdated, not cracked, just dozens upon dozens of eggs with due dates two weeks away.

In the end, Jen and Grant said they were happy they found food, but sad and upset that so much was being wasted. They also spent time weighing, logging, and estimating costs of all food they brought into the house during this six months.

The film is geared for all ages; there is a farmer, chefs, a scientist, and others, who when interviewed add much weight to this serious subject. The DVD includes a classroom version (50 minutes) and resource materials. We highly recommend this film as a learning tool for schools and families. It takes one to a whole different world within our world. One that grows food that people will waste and not blink an eye at. A world where 40 percent of all food grown is not eaten.

If I can be quite frank with you and dare to use slang — you will be gobsmacked.


For more online info, go to www.foodwastemovie.com/about.

Comments? Contact Connie at mooredcr@Juno.com.

Signature Writing

Connie Moore

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If I could, I would write you this by hand. But the world has changed greatly since I went to school and learned how to write in cursive.

I’ll write up my thoughts on a computer instead, letting my eyes glare at the white screen instead of my hands touching paper and pen. I’ll let the inner workings of the machine spell-check it all and send it by email or the worldwide web. It will be digitally transferred to the screen you’re looking at now.

Is it okay for things to be this way? Conservationists say yes, it saves trees, which I can’t argue with and will even applaud. But along the way, the particular skill of writing in cursive has been lost.

A recent conversation with a friend confirmed my suspicion that — as the keyboard is the modern, eco-friendly way to communicate — children are not being taught the cursive writing that used to establish communications Earth-wide.

It’s been tested and written about for years that cursive writing enables and promotes the brain to greater and deeper abilities. It promotes hand-eye coordination and dexterity. It links words to words and ideas to context with soft, easy, graceful loops of the pen.

Writing means what you write is yours down to your cursive signature. It is not on a machine, not out in some cloud somewhere waiting to be extracted by iPads, smartphones, and the like. It is yours, and you can build with it, sooth frayed nerves with it, explore and compose thoughts with it, build language skills with it, and so much more.

It seems to me that another thing that went out at the same time as cursive was strict spelling. Too many teachers don’t seem to care how a student spells as long as the message can be deciphered. Texting has one-letter shortcuts that halt communication with those not familiar with this new language. Does this means the story writer, the editor, the college professor grading essays, the librarian, and anyone and any profession that rests on words and written communications is doomed? Even if they are able to read the shortcuts or decipher the message, do they get the whole message, the whole story, the feelings and emotions behind the words?

Another argument for cursive writing has to do with speed, or the desire for less of it. Today’s world — because of ever-faster technology and the corporate hype that everyone needs and wants to go at breakneck speeds — seems to send students along at miles per hour that give little opportunity for contemplation. Slower thoughts can lead to better decisions, which can prevent mistakes. That may be my most important reason that I wish cursive writing was brought back.

In looking at an 1898 copy of our Bethel Township Manual of Public Schools, I found some very pointed instructions. It was quite refreshing to see basic reading, writing, and spelling guidelines spelled out for teachers. It did not include any computer programs, digital graphics, or games to enhance the learning experience. First Year Language included just four things: McGuffey’s New Reading Chart, blackboard, teacher, and slate. After specific directions, the piece states: “From the first, the teacher should exercise care that the reading from the blackboards, slates and printed page should take on the character of easy and graceful conversation.”

That is what cursive writing can do for a message — bring about an easy and graceful page of thought.

So if you want to find a creative way of communicating, an elegant way of speaking your mind, a brain-boosting way to better spelling and reading, find a pen and paper. Put your brain and heart into it, and let the letters flow.


Have an opinion on this topic? Write Connie at Box 61, Medway, OH 45341 Comments may be compiled into a follow-up story.

Horse Sense

Connie Moore

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A tiny news piece came across my desk the same day a photograph of a horse was given to me. They made me think of the television show, Mr. Ed

The show about a talking horse aired from 1961 to 1966. It was financed by comedian George Burns at a cost of 70,000 dollars — a lot of money back then. Wilbur Post, Mr. Ed’s owner, was played by Alan Young; Mrs. Post was played by Connie Hines. Mr. Ed was played by Bamboo Harvester, a crossbred gelding of American Saddlebred, Arabian, and grade stock. Apparently — going by comments made from those who worked with him — Bamboo was one smart horse. Of course his voice was a man’s, Allan Lane — a western film actor.

Mr. Ed often made use of sayings involving his own species. "Hold your horses," "Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth," "Straight from the horse’s mouth," and "Putting the cart before the horse" are just a few.

It was his knack for listening to Wilbur’s troubles that often gave Mr. Ed the edge on how to solve situations that otherwise might have been Wilbur’s downfall. And that is where a little news piece was of special interest.

In a Mahoning County, Ohio newspaper of 1917, horses were shown to be good listeners. It reported: “The horse is really one of the best listeners in the world. He is always on alert for sounds which concern or interest him. When he looks at anything he turns his ears towards it to observe the better whether any sound comes from it. If a horse is particularly interested in your driving of him he always turns his ears backward toward you, but if he has no concern on that subject or if he sees anything ahead that interests him he keeps his ears pricked forward. A horse hears the whinny of another horse at a greater distance than the average man can hear it.”

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Besides being good at listening, it is said horses have a memory on par with an elephant’s. And they stay awake for a whopping average of 21 hours a day. Truly an amazing creature.

Do you know what horsepower is really about? It is the amount of power it would take to pull a 150-pound weight out of a hole 22 feet deep. Oh, and to do it in one minute. That translates to a 1,700-pound horse equaling 1-1/3 horsepower.

To keep up their strength, horses eat grass, hay, and oats. For treats, they are as individual in tastes as humans. Some go for the healthy stuff like carrots, apples, bananas, and hay cubes. But if given an opportunity to try different items, well, horses have been known to love peppermints, cookies, oranges, sugar cubes, different sugary cereals, cat food, hot dogs, and an occasional beer or Coke.

While none of Ohio’s horses talk, they do make inroads into our hearts. Here are a few of our favorite snapshots. The next time you encounter a horse, watch his ears; he’s listening to you, he’s watching you, he’s wondering if you might have a bite of something sweet for him. If you do, he’ll remember you forever.

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Celery Sense

Connie Moore

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There’s a love-hate relationship with this vegetable that goes crunch. Just look online under “Why do people hate celery?” A 2011 Japanese survey showed it is the most hated vegetable among adults. A 2012 New York Times article began, “Americans don’t use celery much.”

For we who love the green stalks, March is National Celery Month. All sorts of possibilities come to mind. Stewed, fried, soup, stew, appetizers, side dishes, dessert. (Oops, did that say dessert? Yep, celery goes into a ribbon-winning cake.)

Before we get to recipes, though, let’s take a walk through a bunch of celery. It’s low in calories and high in fiber; a good source of potassium and containing small amounts of Vitamin C. The leaves contain more than the stalks as far as nutrients, so use them for garnishes, soups, in place of parsley, and in salads.

Traditional herbalists use celery and celery seed tea for treating gout and other inflammatory arthritis. Celery is 95 percent water, so it can easily be incorporated in smoothies and other nutritious drinks. It can grow to over 3 feet tall in rich, black peat or, as some call it, muck.

Among Ohio towns is Celeryville, located in Huron County. Known as the celery belt, the land in this area was once a swamp (Willard Marsh). Draining a 5000-acre swamp was a challenge taken on by three Dutch families from Kalamazoo, Michigan. That was back in 1896. Today, the Wiers family is raising hundreds of acres of celery. Their business started out with 8 trucks and 10 trailers. Today they have farms in Ohio and Florida. They use 125 trucks and 200 refrigerated trailers. This year will mark 111 years for their farms.

In 1856, in our already mentioned Kalamazoo, MI, celery was introduced as a crop by George Taylor from Scotland. Today Portage, Michigan is home to the Celery Flats Interpretive Center. Located on Garden Lane, the interpretive center is on the north side, and an historical area is on the south side.

While most recipes calling for celery use a very small amount, our recipes highlight this vegetable as a main ingredient. Well, all except the cake, but it’s still important and I promise, it won’t go crunch!


Mom’s Celery Casserole

Ingredients

• 1-1/2 cups bread cubes
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 4 cups diced celery (including leaves)
• 1 can (10-3/4 oz.) cream of chicken, celery, or mushroom soup
• 1 can (4 oz.) mushroom pieces

Instructions:

1. In skillet, sauté bread cubes in butter until crunchy like croutons.

2. In saucepan, cook celery in enough water to cover it for 8 minutes, then drain.

3. Measure out 1/2 cup bread cubes for topping. In 2-quart baking dish, combine the rest of the bread cubes with celery, soup, and mushrooms. Mix well. Top with reserved bread cubes, which may be crushed if desired.

4. Bake in oven at 325 degrees F for 35 minutes.

Recipe source: Together We Share by Connie Moore and Evah Lewis, 2000.


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Ants on a Log

Ingredients

• Celery
• Peanut butter or cream cheese
• Raisins, Craisins or chopped nuts

Instructions:

This can be an appetizer or snack.

1. Wash celery and drain. Cut into 3-inch long logs.

2. Stuff with your choice of peanut butter, cream cheese, or even Nutella.

3. Place raisins, Craisins, or nutmeats along the top of the creamy stuffing. Enjoy!


Celery Chowder

Ingredients

• 4 cups cooked, diced celery
• 1 small onion, minced
• 1 cup cooked, diced carrots
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 1-2 tablespoons flour
• 2 teaspoons salt
• Pepper to taste
• 3 cups milk, warmed

Instructions:

1. Celery should be cooked well in enough water to cover. When soft, drain. Rub through sieve, discarding stringy residue.

2. Sauté onion and carrots in butter until soft and just starting to turn golden. Add celery. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper.

3. Warm milk in saucepan or microwave. Add gradually to vegetables, stirring to blend well.

4. Cook on low until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Recipe adapted from 1948 Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook.


Waldorf Salad Cake

Ingredients

• 3 cups flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons cinnamon
• 2 large eggs
• 1-1/2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup milk
• 2-1/2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
• 1 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
• Garnish of apple slices, cherries, celery leaves, nuts — optional

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three, 8-inch cake pans.

2. Sift together dry ingredients.

3. In bowl, using electric mixer, cream eggs, sugar, vanilla. Beat in mayonnaise. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix in apples, nuts and celery. Pour into pans.

4. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for a few minutes. Remove and cool completely.

5. Frost (below). Decorate with optional garnishes. Be sure to dip apple slices in lemon juice or fruit fresh product to prevent browning!

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup butter or margarine
• 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese at room temp.
• 4 cups powdered sugar (4x or confectioners’)
• 2 teaspoons maraschino cherry juice

Instructions:

1. Beat all ingredients until creamy and spreadable.

Cake recipe won fourth place in 2004 at Clark County Fair and is property of Clark County Agricultural Society. Printed in County Fair Cookbook-Dishes of the Day, 2010.

February Fishing

Connie Moore

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Dry, brown oak leaves swirl downward to land in rippling waters like gondolas. Kingfishers call out over the lake. Warm sunshine dissolves into the still icy-cold water.

Suddenly, nine Canadian geese fly in low, bank, turn, and bank again. Slowly, they put down their landing gears, dropping onto the lake. All the while muffled voices float across the water as fishermen, bent on wetting lines, come to grips with rod and reel. There is no danger of an exciting catch. Not today. It is only February. More weather must pass under the bridge before fish bite here.

There is a calmness in the warmth of the day, though. Not so much a seasonal change, but rather a mild midlife twinge of events to come. Bare trees still hold last year’s dried leaves, not quite ready to let go and embrace the new leaf buds tightly curled beneath. Spring’s colors aren’t ready to appear; that’s weeks off.

Colors are in sight though. Sitting under the bobber tree, we wonder how long and how many fishermen it took to decorate these oak boughs so generously with red and yellow bobbers. Silvery spooners and opaque masses of fishing line hang like holiday tinsel. Not wanting to add to the decorations, we carefully cast sideways into the open air, aiming for a particularly warm looking bit of water.

Not that it matters. The fish are still a dozen or more feet below anything we offer. Slow and sluggish to thaw from winter’s cold, they are in no hurry to rise to the bait. We knew that when we came out. But, like the men on the lake, we were drawn out, enticed by the calmness, the warm sunshine, the possibilities of seeing and hearing nature come to terms with the oddness of the weather. So, whether the line is in the water or not, we spend time in our fishing spot.

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No, this is not a day about fishing. It is about a moment, pure, warm, and inviting, a nature moment that only comes once before spring heralds the real fishing season.

It's a One Potato Day

Connie Moore

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February days can be brutal. Weather is not conducive to outdoor hours. Time is not any more forgiving than any other winter month. Cooking is taking on a boring element.

In desperation, we resort to experimentation of culinary magnitudes. Can what is left in cupboards be combined to make a surprisingly edible something that is not completely off-putting and is somewhat like the imagined outcome?

At the same time — probably due to the common factor of boredom — the Powers That Be have declared the month of February be inundated with special food days. You know, those "holidays" that beckon us to eat a particular food? In the first 14 days of February there are 14 different food days. February’s last 14 days have a "holiday" for 17 more foods. It means you might have to eat banana bread, toast, and chili on the same day (the 23rd). That’s not so bad, but, how about chocolate-covered nuts and clam chowder together (the 25th)?

Referring to the second paragraph — the desperate experimentation — we opt for February 22 as our guide to gastronomical surprise. It is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. We have one sweet potato left in the basket. Iit only takes about 20 minutes to cook in the microwave and yields a straight-forward half-cup of mashed potato. Now what?

Well, we could eat it just like it is, but remember, we are looking for exciting surprises. So we might mix it into some fudge. Or blend it into a can of tomato soup. Or spread it on a piece of toast and top with cheese, melting the whole thing under the broiler. Or we could mix it with pecans, brown sugar, butter, and a touch of cinnamon for a microwaved cup of soufflé.

We could wash the potato, dry it, slice it, and dip the slices in some water that is mixed with lemon juice or vinegar. That will keep the slices from turning brown (like preserving apples or avocados). Then pat the slices dry and fry them in deep oil for a small, one-serving batch of potato chips.

We could make one of my mother’s favorite winter suppers. She boiled a sweet potato or two, and when it was almost done she cooled, peeled and sliced it. In a skillet, she melted butter, added a cored, peeled, sliced apple (or two) and a bit of brown sugar. Over low heat she fried the potato and apple until soft and browned a bit. Sometimes she fixed a whole casserole of this mixture and baked it in a 325-degree oven for half an hour.

Yet another skillet dish is cubed sweet potatoes, sautéed in butter with a bit of orange juice, raisins, or dried cranberries.

But we wanted to use the sweet potato to the best of our abilities in regards to surprise twists, so this is what we did:

Fudge Brownies.

Here is how we made them. And when we passed them out, we put the secret ingredient in an envelope and let the recipient choose to know before or after as to what they were eating.

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After all, what’s a day in February without a challenge?

Sweet Potato Brownies

Ingredients

• 1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 3 tablespoons water
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil
• 2 eggs
• 1 box (18.3oz.) fudge brownie mix (We used Betty Crocker)

Instructions

1. In mixing bowl place potato, vanilla, water, oil, and eggs. Using electric mixer, beat until well combined.

2. Add the brownie mix and stir together using mixing spoon. Mix thoroughly, but do not beat hard.

3. Pour into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated, 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until done.

4. Cool and cut. Can be glazed with dark, bitter, or milk chocolate.

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Just Before a January Winter Morning

Connie Mooresunrise

Off to the east, there is a wedge of sky that holds soft blue, creamy white, and that mellow, cottony, winter pink of sunrise. Outlined by roof edges and bare-limbed trees, the space is the first area in which to see the new day.

To hear the new day, you must be willing to brave the still-cold air and sit outside wrapped in blankets and dark clothing so as to blend in with the tangled fence row. There, ever-so-slight peeps of cardinals and sparrows can be heard if we holds our breathe. Life seems suspended in time.

As the light increases in the wedge of sky, more sounds join as feathered creatures wake to empty stomachs and the need for quick energy. Moving inside, we give way to their need to come out of hiding. While we enjoy hot coffee, they enjoy seeds and suet.

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They have a hierarchy or pecking order for the first meal. Juncos and cardinals are first and eat off the ground under the feeder. With charcoal-grey coats, the juncos blend in well and, surprisingly, so do the red cardinals. Mourning doves come in under cover of pre-dawn, wary of a certain cooper’s hawk which makes a regular fly-through on frigid mornings. He needs quick energy, too. A dozen gray doves keep to flower bed edges, ready to leap for cover if the hawk’s large, dark shadow appears.

White-throated sparrows, chestnut-capped chipping sparrows, brown stickpin song sparrows, and the ever-present house sparrows are next to show up. They too prefer the ground, although the crowds of house sparrows will inundate the feeder and shuffle seeds off the edge.

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As sunlight streams across the fence into the expanse between trees and feeder, a large woodpecker swoops in. Although his cap is red, he is a red-bellied woodpecker. He is keen for the peanuts mixed in with the seeds. He takes his turn, and as he flies off to eat in the safety of a tree, his mate takes her turn.

Back on the suet feeder, downy woodpeckers take turns. They don’t mind the Carolina wren eating on the other side of the wire cage that holds the suet block. When it is this cold out, they are tolerant of each other’s presence. Perhaps they have a community sense of survival. Inside, we have a family sense of survival, beginning with our own breakfast.

One week later, the same wedge of sky is a brilliant, spring-like pink with thin, yellow shafts of sunlight. To see and hear this day, one could hardly imagine that it is still January. Birds, too, feel the warmer air moving in for the first time since November. Songs replace squeaks of hunger. The day will prove to be another yo-yo turn of weather events. Sixty degrees is not hot oatmeal weather.

Rain is in the mix. Keeping birds and humans alike holed up under cover, high winds sweep in over the land. Turbulent air moves over our valley and the rest of Ohio, bringing an aching for the real warmth of spring.

Another few days and the cold returns. Icy conditions bring much activity to a standstill. But the birds still need to feed. Slip-sliding over the feeder roof, bigger ones flutter into piled up seeds. On the ground, dozens mill about, scratching up seeds caught in the icy mix. Their small faces look as forlorn as we feel. It’s back to hot oatmeal and survival.

Each morning we look to the wedge of sky, wondering what it will hold as the day begins. Soft, muted tones or bold, bright light? Will there be sounds of hunger or songs of delight? Only January knows.