A Big Girl Question

I honestly don’t know if I’m classified as a “big girl” or not.  I hadn’t given it much thought until this very second, when I decided to post this awesome question from one of my favorite websites: Manolo for the Big Girl.

Perhaps I toe the line between “average girl” and “big girl.”  Perhaps it’s all a matter of perception: I shop in the “regular sized” stores and clothing departments, but I’m sure that society probably views me as a “big girl.”  Perhaps clothing designers think that if you’re five-foot-nothing, then you must also be 100 pounds with no discernable breasts, making shopping for clothes more difficult than it really ought to be.  All I know is that I’m not a stick insect, I like to eat, and I’m happy with both of these things.

So, back to my original intent here.  Plumcake and Francesca have such a wonderfully witty way with words (ack!  that’s a lot of alliteration!) and reading Manolo for the Big Girl every morning jump-starts and invigorates me.  Take Plumcake’s excellent description of her lunch a few days ago:

  • Two sliced-up Braeburn apples.
  • One red plum with only most of the sticker removed. Rest of sticker to be discovered between teeth at later date.
  • Odiously hateful organic peanut butter. Technically peanut butter the same way my best friend from college is technically a virgin.
  • One cup peach-flavored probiotic kefir (yogurt’s smug, Nader-voting cousin) mixed with some crunchy sprouted-grain cereal that tastes like angry sweater.
  • And her later description of her coworker’s lunch:

    Is it because she was hauling some sad, Dickensian-looking microwaved meal and wanted to show solidarity?

    Love, people.  Anyway, Plumcake asks an interesting question at the end of her post, which I think merits a read and an answer.  Check it out for yourselves…

    The Big Question: You’re Eating THAT?!

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    Thursday Answers…Slightly Delayed

    I apologize for the delay…  I’ve been hard at work on both real, Day Job things and on Houstonist things.  One of those things is scheduled to post today at 4pm on Houstonist, so keep an eye out for it!  I worked my little tail off writing it, editing it, taking pictures for it and formatting it, and am just super excited to finally get it out there!

    Anyway, onto our Thursday answers!  This week’s winner will be announced after the jump:

    1. The cocoa press was the development that led to the possibility and mass production of chocolate in the candy bar form that we all know and love today.  The Dutch chocolatier Conrad van Houten developed the modern cocoa press in an effor to find a way to make his chocolate less oily, so that the beverages would be lighter and easier to drink.  He ended up creating a screw press in 1828 that separated the cocoa butter from the bean itself and creating cocoa powder, both of which we use today!
    2. True, and it created quite a falling out between the two researchers who shared the lab.  Constantin Falberg, a student, was working in the lab of chemist Ira Remsen at Johns Hopkins; the two of them were studying organic chemicals.  One day, Falberg was eating a piece of bread and noticed that it was overpoweringly sweet.  Tracing the sweetness back to the chemicals from the lab, he realized that they’d inadvertently created an artificial sweetner.  Falbert patented the sweetner (which he called saccharin) without the knowledge of his professor, Remsen, which created a lifelong rivalry and rift between them.
    3. Samp and hominy, at various points, been used to refer to grits.  Samp is actually dried corn kernels, which have been broken down but not to a fine meal.  Hominy is actually dried corn which has been soaked in lye to remove the hulls and soften the corn until it’s palatable.  And grits are the greatest food mankind has ever known.
    4. Believe it or not, there was a citywide epidemic of rickets among the children of Dublin when the city was restricted to eating whole-grain bread.  Why?  The whole-grain bread contained such low amounts of calcium and such high amounts of bran (which further blocks calcium absorption by the body), that the children developed rickets as a result of exaggerated calcium deficiency.  Just goes to show that too much of anything — even a good thing — can be a bad thing.
    5. Both wheat and barley were domesticated before any other cereal grain, including rice and corn (4500 B.C.), millet and sorghum (4000 B.C.) and oats (circa 100 A.D.).  Although wheat and barley were both of great importance to ancient civilizations, only wheat has retained that popularity.  In the west, barley is used primarily as animal feed and for producing beer.  It’s a shame, because there’s nothing like a big bowl of hot barley with stewed tomatoes, onions and garlic.  Ask my mother sometime; she’ll make you a bowl.
    6. BONUS:  Wheat and barley were both originally cultivated around 7000 B.C.  Around the same time, humans were also finally figuring out that they could domesticate animals, including goats, pigs and camels.

    So, who won?  Find out after the jump…

    Continue reading Thursday Answers…Slightly Delayed

    Food for the Soul

    Another Wednesday morning, caught in some dreadful cubicle somewhere, the day itself most likely fraught with rain and dreary skies if you’re here in Houston.  What better excuse for a food poem to cheer the soul?  And a food poem that celebrates rainy skies, at that?

    Today’s poem comes from another modern poet who is still with us, Marie Ponsot.  Born and raised in New York City as the daughter of a wine merchant, she began writing poetry as a very young child and never stopped.  Like last week’s poet, she also studied and lived in France after World War Two.  She is also the author of two wonderful books on writing, Beat Not the Poor Desk and The Common Sense (not to be confused with Payne’s seminal work, of course).

    Although she is 87 years old, she still teaches poetry and creative writing at the 92nd Street YMCA, should any you New Yorkers be interested in learning from a legend.

    All Wet

    Underwater, keeled in seas,
    zinc the sacrificial anode gives
    electrons up to save the sunk hull from salt.
    The carving of salt water skirls out beaches
    where each wave fall can push softly, a long curve in.
    Rain widens the waterfall till the stream
    slows, swells, winds up, and topples down
    onto lilypads it presses forward on their stems.
    Carp drowse among stems sunk in the park lake,
    their flesh rich in heavy metals. Eat one and die.
    A drip from the tap hits the metal sink
    & splats into sunlight, cosmic,
    a scatter of smaller drops.
    One raindrop on a binocular lens,
    and a spectrum haloes the far field.
    Haloes dim the form they gild but
    by its own edge each object celebrates
    the remarkable world.
    Personal computers make dry remarks, demanding:
    Tea, wine, cups must leave the room.
    We’re all the wine of something. His Dickens act,
    her Wordsworth murmurs, expressed
    juices still in ferment when their old children read.
    Bones left after dinner simmer down into juices
    to make a soup rich as respect or thrift.
    As if making allowances
    for the non-native limbs of swimmers,
    water gives way as I spring into it.

    The Weekend In Food

    Friday

    6:30pm:  At Fu Fu Cafe for dinner with Richard and dad.  No luck, as it has unceremoniously closed for the summer.

    6:40pm:  Eating at QQ Cuisine instead.  You can read all about it here.

    8:30pm:  Stuffed!  So stuffed!

    9:15pm:  Laying prostrate on couch like beached whale while watching Top Gear.  Too much Chinese food for one night…but Richard Hammond’s sunny little face will always make a girl feel better.

    Saturday

    8:00am:  Contemplating making breakfast.

    8:05am:  We have no eggs.

    8:10am:  Or bread.

    8:15am:  Or juice.

    8:20am:  Oh, sod it.  I’ll eat these Oreos I found in the back of the pantry and make Richard an extra big cup of tea instead.

    8:25am:  Mmm…Oreos.

    9:00am:  Richard at the gym.  I can play Bioshock!

    9:05am to 10:30am:  Lots of running around, shooting zombies and scaring the dog with the loud noise of grenade launchers and plasma cannons.

    11:00am:  Getting dressed.

    11:30am:  Leftover Chinese food from QQ for lunch.  Chinese is even better the second time around.

    1:00pm:  Heading out to Richmond for a birthday party.  Doo-dee-doo.  Just a leisurely drive…

    2:00pm:  HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, ARE WE THERE YET???

    2:30pm:  Seriously.  I had no idea people could live this far away from the city and commute to work every day without killing someone out of sheer longevity-induced road rage.

    2:45pm:  Finally arrive, after quick pit stop for birthday present and card.

    3:00pm to 7:30pm:  Gorge ourselves on party food and cupcakes.  OM-NOM-NOM-NOM.

    9:00pm:  Arrive home to starving dog who desperately needs a pee.  We are bad canine parents tonight.  😦

    Sunday

    8:00am:  Breakfast items have not magically appeared in refrigerator overnight.  Very disappointing.

    8:30am:  Head to McDonald’s for — go on, judge me, I’ve brought it on myself too many times — one dollar sausage biscuits and hashbrowns with a vanilla iced coffee for me and a milk for Richard.  *sigh*

    9:30am:  Getting dressed.

    10:00am:  Work on articles for Houstonist.  Someone please read the godforsaken site!  Please?!?

    11:45am:  Head over to newly-opened Raia’s for lunch with Ruthie from Great Food Houston.

    12:00pm:  Raia’s is quite difficult to find.  Perhaps they should invest in a sign as part of this whole “restaurant” thing?

    12:30pm:  Luckily, food is quite good and it’s pretty cute inside.  Full writeup soon.

    1:45pm:  Heading home again to have “date afternoon” with Richard.

    2:30pm:  Head out to movie theatre to see The Dark Knight.

    3:00pm:  Parking lot at Memorial City Mall is COMPLETELY full.  WTF, people?  It’s not like it’s tax-free weekend, for God’s sake.

    3:30pm:  At Marq*E (or whatever ridiculous spelling) instead; parking lot slightly less full.

    3:45pm:  All shows sold out for The Dark Knight except for one.  Snag those tickets!

    4:00pm:  Killing time in Cafe Adobe with two Tecates and some queso before the movie.  This is way better than popcorn.

    4:20pm:  Until I spill the cheese dip down the front of my shirt, that is.  Aaargh.

    4:45pm:  In the theatre.  Previews starting!!!

    5:00pm to 7:30pm:  Woman to my right talks the entire time.  Taking all my willpower NOT to slap her.  She is sounding out words on the screen as if it’s a Hooked On Phonics movie.  “Cat-AS-trop-hic?”  NOOOOOOO.  SHUT UP!!!!!!!

    8:00pm:  Despite mongrel idiot woman beside me, The Dark Knight was awesome.  Richard is stunned into silence the entire ride home by just how good it was.

    9:00pm:  Back home, watching trashy BBC documentary called “My Small Breasts and I.”  Despite lurid subject matter and grammatical farce of a title, it’s incredibly boring.  Women with small breasts, you are lucky!  Quit your complaining before I dispatch someone to slap some sense into you!

    10:00pm:  Oh, God.  Do I really have to go back to work tomorrow?  Already???

    Food Poetry

    Every once in a while, I’ll try to feature a poem about food (thereby incorporating two things which keep me alive each day) for your reading pleasure.  Today’s poem is by Ron Padgett, an Oklahoma native who studied in New York and Paris during the artistic glory days of the 1960s.  Enjoy!

    The Love Cook

    Let me cook you some dinner.
    Sit down and take off your shoes
    and socks and in fact the rest
    of your clothes, have a daquiri,
    turn on some music and dance
    around the house, inside and out,
    it’s night and the neighbors
    are sleeping, those dolts, and
    the stars are shining bright,
    and I’ve got the burners lit
    for you, you hungry thing.

    How Much Is Too Much?

    Today’s fear-mongering foodie article courtesy of the beloved Groovehouse:

    Caffeine involved in 4,600 calls to poison control

    Interesting, and yet you make it through this entire Ric Romero-esque article only to realize that nowhere in there has the author told the audience what the recommended daily limit on caffeine is or even what amount of caffeine could be considered poisonous.

    Useless.

    So just for the record, an acute caffeine overdose occurs at about the 300 milligram intake level.  That means the popular energy drink “Free Cocaine” is just 20 milligrams shy of putting you or your child into overdose territory.  Also, it bears mentioning that if you’re allowing your child to have energy drinks, you should be put into public stockades so that you can be repeatedly punched in the head for all to witness.

    A caffeine overdose is marked by nervousness, increased urination, muscle spasms, a rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, and psychomotor agitation.  And you thought “Rock Star” was sexy…

    Caffeine toxicity and death can occur at an intake level of 150 to 200 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight.  So if you weighed 150 pounds, consuming 13,600 milligrams (or 13.6 grams) of caffeine could easily lead to death.  That’s 136 cups of espresso, 906 cans of Jolt cola, or just 56 cups of Starbucks coffee (240 mg of caffeine in a tall, folks!).  Seems like you’d have to seriously overdose on coffee or sodas to die, right?  Wrong — deaths have been reported after consuming only two grams of caffeine.

    Anyway, this post wasn’t intended as a PSA or a “ZOMG!!!1! Teh caffeine is evil” rant.  I’m just saying two things here: (1) easy on the Red Bull, stud and (2) when you go to the trouble of writing an article on the deathly (!!!!!!) effects of a substance, at least include some figures to back it up.

    Thursday Answers

    We’ve had a rather interesting turn of events in this week’s trivia contest.  Although only three of you submitted your guesses, it still made for an entertaining grading process.  The winner…after the answers:

    1. Meat and other foodstuffs were preserved in honey in classical Rome and Greece.  Sounds much tastier to me than vinegar, frankly.  And this marks the second time that “honey” has been an answer on Tuesday Trivia!  Perhaps I need a fresh source of trivia material…
    2. Wine bottles are tinted green to keep out light, specifically the ultraviolet light which is one main culprit in wine spoilage.  The green tint absorbs the UV wavelengths; not just any color will do, you know!
    3. Cheese, yogurt and sour cream are the three most common cultured dairy products here in the West.  The fourth deserves just as much credit, in my opinion: buttermilk.  Can’t make decent cornbread or pancakes without it!
    4. False.  An egg’s grade has nothing to do with its freshness and everything to do with the thickness of its albumen (the white part) and the strength of its yolk.  A grade AA egg has a thick white and a firm yolk.  A grade B egg, however, has a runny white and a weak yolk, which is easily broken.  To quote McGee, if you’re simply “scrambling or boiling them or making them into a custard,” then the extra grades (AA or A) aren’t necessary.  However, if you’re planning on making a meringue or a souffle, then the higher grade is worth it.
    5. The chestnut is composed of a whopping 52% water!  Acorns stand at about 14% and cashews at only 5%.   The trade-off, of course, is that cashews are extremely high in fat — 46%! — while the chestnut only has 2% to its name.  The chestnut and the acorn are both extremely low in fat, actually, with most nuts having an average fat content of 57%.  The good news?  At least it’s unsaturated fat.
    6. BONUS: the cashew’s little friend is the cashew apple, a false fruit.  Also called an “accessory fruit,” this is the part of a plant which wasn’t produced by the ovaries.  A false fruit is perfectly edible, and some false fruits are highly prized, such as the familiar strawberry (the seeds of the strawberry are the real fruit; the flesh of the strawberry is false).

    So here’s the fun part: the winner.

    Congratulations go to long-time reader and commenter coffeefrappe!  He or she doesn’t have a website to which I can direct you, nor do I know their real name or gender.  All I know is that I adore them for being a constant supporter, reader and commenter.  You rock, coffeefrappe!

    Tied for second place are the lovely croquecamille and the always-funny Cory, which I found amusing as Cory never takes these seriously and usually provides dirty, hilarious answers instead.  I’m sure he’ll be at least somewhat shocked to learn that he tied for second-place this go round.  For more Cory, check out his Houston foodie blog at I’ve Got The Munchies.

    Congrats to all and happy eating until next time!