The Color Purple

Not my favorite color anymore?

Carrie and Robb’s purple inauguration tickets didn’t get them into the inauguration after all.  Nor did they work for thousands of others who experienced a major state of disorganization and lack of communication.  They spent many hours in a huge line in a tunnel UNDERNEATH the capitol grounds.

There is now a facebook group called Survivors of the Purple Tunnel of Doom. I see that almost 4,000 people have joined so far.

Alas. Still, Carrie reports it was an exciting day and they did find a spot with a very distant view of the Capitol in time to hear Obama’s inaugural address.

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Inauguration fever

Here’s a break from food related posts, as I just can’t resist commenting on tomorrow’s inauguration of Barack Obama.

I was fortunate to secure two tickets to the inauguration swearing-in ceremony.  I tell myself that this is one time where living in a very strong Republican district far away from Washington DC perhaps helped, but whatever the reason, I’m very excited that Carrie will be able to be first hand witness to history.  It’s also a good time to be living in the DC area.  Carrie went to Doc Hasting’s office today in downtown DC to pick up the tickets.  Doc is our local representative and while I often disagree with his policy views, in this case, I fully agree with his choosing to let Carrie have tickets to the swearing-in ceremony for the inauguration.  Thank you Doc!

Having tickets is great, but still, I fully expected that Carrie would be so far away from the events going on that she wouldn’t see anything but crowds.  She called me this morning to let me know she had just picked up her tickets and they are purple.  Well, how very touching!  Purple is my favorite color.  How did Doc know?   Seriously, this means that while the tickets are for standing areas, they are much closer to the podium than I expected.  I really thought the tickets would be silver, another very pretty color, but much further away from the action.   The purple tickets are for standing room between the reflecting pool and the capitol.  OK, so maybe they will be over a football field away, but still, much closer than I ever thought they’d be.

I reminded Carrie that she might be on national tv (yeah, right) and to behave because we’ll all be watching.   Erin suggested that Carrie wear a Sarah Palin t-shirt, but Carrie appropriately decided that now is not the time to make that kind of statement.

So, give us a wave, Carrie, and we’ll wave back!

a world of fog and ice

While much of the country seems to be in a deep freeze, the Yakima Valley isn’t nearly as cold.  But somehow the conditions have still been perfect for creating a rather surreal world of ice.  We drove by this tree earlier today and I was amazed the way the ice clung to the branches.  Don’t miss the deer beneath the tree.  It’s not a real deer but does look pretty lovely standing there, doesn’t it?
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So, what does this have to do with food?  Well, really not much, except to say how very beautiful frozen apples look in a frosted tree.  Ignore why the apples were never picked and instead enjoy seeing on the tree in the middle of winter.  They added a nice splash of color to an otherwise white on black world.

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Silly Tilly likes….. Walla Walla?

Silly Tilly likes … Carrie and Robb, but she doesn’t like Sue and Dave.  Silly Tilly likes …..coffee, but she doesn’t like tea.  Does anyone else remember this game from their childhood?  Or did you have to take long, marathon drives with my family to learn it? That’s where I remember it from.   I thought about it as I was thinking about a trip we recently made.

Would Silly Tilly like Walla Walla?  Oh, definitely!  She would LOVE it. But not Yakima.  (you’ll have to leave a comment if you don’t know how the game works by now).  We visited Walla Walla last week when Carrie and Robb were visiting.  A friend of theirs lives there, and we decided to take an overnight visit to give them time to see each other.  It’s in southeast Washington, and strangely, we’ve never explored the area.  I associate the name with Walla Walla sweet onions.

The city, in fact, prides itself on the association with sweet onions and there are many delightful artistic interpretations of sweet onions lining the downtown streets.

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Carrie gave us a gift certificate she had for a Bed and Breakfast stay, and we used it for a nice retreat at the Inn at Blackberry Creek.  I loved the private hot tub on our veranda, and having the old, beautifully renovated Victorian home to ourselves.  We also kicked around exploring the city.  Besides sweet onions, the area has recently exploded with local wineries. In fact, Carrie chose the wines served at her wedding reception a few years ago during visits to Walla Walla wineries.

Interesting combination, don’t you think?  Sweet onions and wine?

There’s always room for….

Hmmm.   Let me think about this.  There’s always room for …..  More money in my checking account?  More guests at the dinner table?   No, no, I’ve got it.  There’s always room for jello.  J..E… L… L.. O.   Yes!  Jello.  Or so the ads I grew up with told everyone.  

I grew up in the Midwest where where jello was considered a salad at church potlucks and other gatherings.   My advanced studies in nutrition haven’t convinced me that’s the proper classification, but I’m not one to stand in the way of tradition.

I was interested to find an article from the American Chemical Association that discussed jello. This is normally a pretty boring scientific journal.

I think the best line in the whole article is this one:  When hooked up to an electroencephalograph machine–an instrument that records the electrical activity of the brain–Jell-O demonstrates movement virtually identical to the brain waves of a healthy adult man or woman.  

So, I guess there’s also always room for one more interesting thing to know about Jello.   


 

Tamales from Los Hernandez

They’re hot, smooth, delicious and handmade.  I never ate them growing up and wasn’t introduced to them until we moved to the Yakima Valley, an area with a large Hispanic population.  The first time I had them, I didn’t even know that you don’t eat the corn husk that encases the tamale filling.  Lots of learning, but well worth it.   Pork or chicken tamales were the only type available when we visited a few days ago in early January, although Carrie remembers really liking the asparagus and cheese tamales we enjoyed one year in the Spring time. (yes, sounds kind of strange but they were wonderful!)   But the asparagus tamales are only a seasonal offering so we couldn’t get them this visit.

If you visit Los Hernandez, located on the south end of Yakima, Washington, you should know it’s not much of a restaurant. It fits under the general description of “hole in the wall”.  But it’s very clean and very focused.  They have tamales, salsa and beverages – and that’s it. But they’re well worth the stop. 

The history of tamales may date back to the ancient cultures of the Aztecs, Incas or Mayans, whose warriors needed portable food. Thousands of years later, the demand for food-to-go has not diminished, although the customers for Los Hernandez’s tamales are more typically workaday road warriors.  Each is handmade, down to the all-important masa, the cornmeal that encases the spicy chicken or pork inside.  It’s a very labor intensive process and I’ve heard from many local Hispanic people that they prefer to buy their tamales from Los Hernandes rather than making them.  They get good tasting tamales without all the work.   
Los Hernandez remains a simple storefront, with a big U.S. flag out front and four tables inside.  I love this place.  It’s locally owned and has great tasting food.  We stopped by while Carrie and Robb were visiting.  
Inside the store

Inside the store

 

Leaving with a bag of fresh tamales

Leaving with a bag of fresh tamales

 

When you come visit, I’ll take you there also!!

Urban legends for food

My mother recently forwarded an e-mail to me. It was labeled “Fw: Canola [industrial] oil” and had a lengthy article extolling the horrors of using canola oil. My mother asked me “Is this so? I question whether this is the whole story”. I say “good question and very good skepticism about the article”. I read through the article and many things just didn’t pass the truth test.

An internet site that looks at urban myths posted the original article blasting the use of canola oil included a well written analysis and rebuttal of the points in the article.

It got me to thinking. The author managed to distort information into an hysterical rant. It’s true that rapeseed oil, which comes from a member of the mustard family, can naturally have very high levels of a certain fatty acid called erucic acid that has toxic properties. However, natural breeding (not genetic modification) has resulted in rapeseed plants with oil very low in both erucic and glucosinolates (another substance with health concerns in animal feed). I found it interesting to read where the name canola comes from: Canadian oilseed – low acid.

So, if you find yourself the recipient of an e-mail making claims like this, what would tip you off that something isn’t right?

Here are some of the kind of statements that led me to doubt the accuracy of the article:

“Rapeseed oil is poisonous to living things and is an excellent insect repellent. I have been using it (in very diluted form, as per instructions) to kill the aphids on my roses for the last two years. It works very well; it suffocates them.”   Yes.  It is true to rapeseed oil can be used to kill aphids by suffocation.  Olive oil, or any other oil will do the same thing.

“My sister spilled Canola oil on a piece of fabric, after 5 pre-treatings and harsh washings, the oil spot still showed. She stopped using Canola oil, wondering what it did to our insides if it could not be removed from cloth easily.”   Same thing would have happened with any oil.  Nothing unique about Canola oil in the way it leaves stains.

“A friend, who worked for only 9 mo. as a quality control taster at an apple-chip factory where Canola oil was used exclusively for frying, developed numerous health problems. These included loose teeth & gum disease; numb hands and feet; swollen arms and legs upon rising in the morning; extreme joint pain especially in hands, cloudy vision, constipation with stools like black marbles, hearing loss; skin tears from being bumped; lack of energy; hair loss and heart pains. It has been five years since she has worked there and still has some joint pain, gum disease, and numbness.”  Always cite anecdotal stories as evidence when there aren’t scientifically conducted studies that can prove your point!   

Personally, I find these kinds of e-mails that get passed around very interesting.  Sometimes they are humorous to me but too often I worry that they really do end up unnecessarily scaring people with bad information.

Resolutions for good eating

Happy New Year’s.  I see it’s been weeks since I’ve written.  Hmm.  I wonder why?  It’s been the Holidays which generally involve lots of good food in excess.  This year that didn’t seem to be the case and I am not sure why.  We enjoyed good food, but nothing that really stands out, or at least nothing that I made stands out.  And it didn’t seem to be in excess.  Kind of like I’ve just been experiencing some winter blahs.   But still, there have been some highlights of the recent weeks.

Christmas Eve was spent in Seattle with Erin and her boyfriend (and his Akita dog and roommate’s black lab).  Winter storms made the drive over from Selah slower than usual, but at least Snoqualmie Pass was open and only required chains for trucks.  Seattle itself was the bigger mess, with uncleared streets with deep slush.  Still, we made it around OK.  Dinner was a combination of the traditional with Norwegian meatballs and lefse combined with our Northwest favorite of dungeness crabs.  The crab was bought at Pike Place Market. No matter how much the place is a tourist attraction, it also remains a wonderful market for locals. Great food, flowers and entertainment as the fish market staff throw giant salmons around. So, dinner was good. But didn’t include many Christmas cookies, as I just didn’t do much baking this year. Two kinds of cookies, plus some Muddie Buddies, not a traditional holiday treat but an all time favorite of Erin’s. I find out that it also gets high approval ratings from Oliver, my youngest nephew.

The next morning’s breakfast at the bed and breakfast we were staying at was also good, although not as delightful as discovering a fellow guest was originally from my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin. Small world. For our Christmas Day outing, we headed to the Seattle International District for dim sum at Harbor City BBQ. We were the only Caucasians in the place and enjoyed both the food and the lovely, cute, colorful outfits on some of the little Asian kids. I felt bad, for about the 1,000th time, that Carrie and Erin were raised by a mother with so little fashion sense. We stuffed ourselves on all kinds of unknown food items, in steamed buns and noodle wrapper and dumplings, with lots of shrimp and pork and greens. We then walked around outside for awhile, amusing ourselves in hole-in-the-wall Chinese shops that sold very very odd things. I thought about how many of the items, making absurd health claims, would not fit FDA regulations for food labeling.

Last night at a New Year’s Eve party we also ate well. I especially liked the Cougar Goldcheese. It’s made at Washington State University’s creamery and is a superb sharp cheddar cheese. Yes, my ties remain with the University of Wisconsin and Babcock Hall, but I don’t remember them selling a cheese like this. One of the guests also brought some very good “Razzle Dazzle” bars, except she used homemade huckleberry jam rather than raspberry. They also had white chocolate in them. I think I liked them even better than Cranberry Bliss bars as sold by Starbucks, another bar that uses white chocolate and a fruit.

Well, this started as a “resolutions for good eating” and is finishing as a collection of links of recipes for some food I’ve enjoyed for the past few weeks. Oh well. Better luck next time!