In the school cafeteria

I saw some people eating over at the grocery dining area the other day. Some were just-barely adults, and others were of that great, vague realm of middle age. They were louder than necessary, sloppy, and left a mess. Not that my budget was going to let me buy a hot lunch to eat there anyway, but it would have been unpleasant to sit near them. I sighed inside; it “was like old times” and I wondered what had become of some of my former students.
When I worked with the secondary school students (ages 12-18), I often wished that in our smaller school cafeteria we had full table service — like Hogwarts — so we had a more home-style or nicer environment to teach and practice basic manners. No, seriously. Some of the students were fine, some were simply hungry kids who (being young) weren’t concerned about niceties, and some couldn’t help that they were uncoordinated or dyspraxic.
But all the students were all there because they had severe behavioral and emotional problems. And a good many either did not know, or did not care, how to eat neatly and politely. Instead, they went through a cafeteria line loudly, bumping into people, leaving behind a trail of dribbles around the serving bins, then dropped their possessions about the table and floor, eating noisily whilst conversing inconsiderately, and generally making themselves and the table a mess.
(Perhaps saddest was when someone despoiled a perfectly good piece of fruit by pencil-stabbing or bruising it. There were people there – students and staff – who would have gladly eaten a spare apple or orange. So we tried to intervene and rescue the produce for classroom fruit bowls that existed for the hungry.)
On the other hand, this was one of their few times for all the students to just relax, talk with friends, and recharge for the afternoon. Everyone needs opportunity to take a break, so we eased up from constantly supervising and redirecting, albeit still watching out for unsafe, disrespectful or irresponsible behavior.
But if there were something more like a real dining situation — instead of what amounted to a scramble at a fast-food joint — the following would have been the basic skills of politeness I would have them learn. And they are, very basic.
Note that these are mostly phrased as what TO do; this produces much better learning results than just telling what not to do.

  • When serving yourself in the cafeteria line, hold your bowl over the container of food; this way anything that falls out will go back into the container, not all over the other containers and the tray rail.
  • Set your possessions down quietly and neatly, do not slam them on the tabletop, nor use up more than your share of the table.
  • Drape your coat over the back of your chair, do not drop it on the floor.
  • Keep your legs by the chair, do not stick them way out under the table, nor out in the aisle.
  • Lean your forearms on the table if you want, but do not stick your elbows out sideways upon the table, nor sprawl your body on the table when people are eating.
  • Keep the book you’re reading close to you, not held way out in the middle of the table.
  • Ask for something to be passed; don’t grab by reaching across others.
  • Chew with your mouth closed. If you can’t, take smaller bites.
  • Use a knife and fork, or the fork edge to cut food into smaller bites.
  • Whole fruit or dipping-size pieces of vegetables may be eaten with the fingers; diced fruits and salad should be eaten with a fork.
  • Do not stick your fingers in sauces and lick them.
  • If you are dipping something in ketchup or other sauce, place that dish closest to you to prevent dribbling or leaning.
  • Use napkins to wipe your hands, not your clothing.
  • Avoid belching; burp quietly with a napkin over your mouth.
  • Swallow before talking.
  • Let others finish talking; do not interrupt.
  • Rather than insulting people, explain why you believe something different.
  • Everyone has different tastes; do not insult other’s taste in food.
  • If you do not want something (piece of fruit, unopened milk or juice carton), ask if anyone else would like to have it; do not abuse it or throw it away.
  • Before you leave the table, hold your tray underneath the edge of the table and use a napkin to wipe crumbs off the table and onto the tray. Do not leave the table messy, nor swipe the mess onto the floor.
  • If you ate greasy or sticky food, wash your hands with soap and water. No, sanitizer gel does not remove the mess, especially not the grunge under your nails.

A quartet of easy recipes! (Or, From one jar of olives, two very different kinds of sandwiches)

Are you getting tired of the same-old same-old for lunch? Had too much holiday leftovers? Here’s a lovely change of pace, especially for all you bread and cheese lovers out there: three very easy and quick recipes for two sandwiches and a soup!

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A plate with half a grilled pimento-cheese sandwich, cream-cheese & olive spread on a Dutch rusk (toast), and a bowl of tomato soup garnished with croutons and shredded Parmesan cheese. In the background are containers of cream-cheese & olive spread , pimento-cheese spread, and a container of Dutch rusks.

 

“Salad olives” is the common labeling (in the US) of jars of sliced green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos.These olives are great for adding to potato salad, and of course, making cream cheese & olive sandwiches.

CREAM CHEESE & OLIVE SANDWICH FILLING

Scoop some cream cheese or Neufchatel into the mixer bowl, and add half that quantity of well-drained salad olives. Blend well, and spread on bread or crackers.

It’s kind of a given that as a result from the slicing during processing, one ends up with a whole bunch of pimentos that have escaped their green olive rings. And you know what that means? You don’t have to buy a jar of pimentos to make pimento-cheese spread!

PIMENTO-CHEESE SPREAD

Dump about a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (that’s two or three handfuls) into the mixer bowl, and add about a fourth that quantity of well-drained pimentos, about as much mayonnaise as pimentos, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Blend well, and spread on bread or crackers. Great as a filling for grilled-cheese sandwiches.

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A cutting board with diced bread sprinkled with herbs. In the background is the jar of herbs, can of vegetable oil spray, and a loaf of home-made bread with a couple more slices cut.

CROUTONS

I made a loaf of bread the other day, but when I stuck it back in the breadbox, forgot to set it sliced-side down. So my first slice was rather dry. “Croutons!” said I, and diced the bread, then gave the pieces a quick hit of vegetable oil no-stick spray, and sprinkling of mixed Italian herbs. I dropped the croutons into a baking pan into the oven to bake while I made some tomato soup.

TOMATO SOUP

Dump one can petite-diced tomatoes and one can tomato sauce into a pot. Add a dash each of Sriracha and Worchestershire sauces, and half a teaspoon of dried basil (a whole teaspoon of minced if you’re so fortunate as to have fresh basil on hand), plus a dash of black (or white) pepper. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, and before eating, stir in a bit of milk. Serve garnished with croutons and shredded Parmesan, as desired.

Tastes Like Spring — A recipe for Scallion Pancakes

“What are they?” asked my son en passant.  “Scallion pancakes; they’re a kind of fry bread.” “Can’t go wrong with fry bread!” he replied, and snatched one to eat before mowing.

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Yes, Spring is here (again), and we’ve gone through our usual winter-spring-winter-summer-winter-spring nonsense. The daffodils are blooming, the grass needs mowing, and the scallions are up. Scallions are the same thing as green onions, meaning ordinary yellow or white onions harvested when young. I have some volunteer onions in the former vegetable patch (soon to be lawn again), and because they grew from rogue seeds last year, and as onions are biennials, this year they will in turn go to seed if not harvested before that point. I woke up the other morning thinking, “Boy, some Scallion Pancakes sound really good!” A dim sum from Shanghai, these fry breads are some of the simplest of the tea-house treats to make. If you don’t have any scallions on hand (or found them withered away in the back of the crisper drawer), you can use Chinese chives (AKA garlic chives or Chinese leeks).

PREPARING THE DOUGH AND SCALLIONS

In a large mixing bowl, blend together:

  • 1 1/2 cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) hot water —  plus a tablespoon more, if needed

Once the dough is rough and clumpy, liberally sprinkle flour on a clean counter, and knead the dough for a few minutes until it’s smooth and workable. Wrap the dough in a damp cloth or plastic bag and set it aside to rest for 30 minutes (set a timer). TIP: Set the mixing bowl in the sink, and fill with hot sudsy water to soak off the sticky bits. Then I go out to harvest my scallions. When pulling up scallions, knock off the extra soil from the roots, and also strip off the outermost leaf. When onions grow, each onion layer is formed from a leaf; stripping off the outermost leaf removes the thin, dried, dirty layer. In the kitchen, rinse off the scallions (including any soil hiding in-between the leaves), and trim off the roots and brown leaf tips. This recipe only calls for the green parts, so you can set aside the white stalks for a stir-fry or omelette. In a 2-cup (1/2 L) measure, blend together:

  • 1 1/2 cups (325 mL) scallions, chopped small
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt

TIP: I wear safety / laboratory goggles when chopping onions, as they keep the fumes from my eyes. Yes, it looks doofy, but it’s the best method I have yet to find to prevent the watering-eyes problem.

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A pair of safety goggles set atop a pile of scallions

The scallions need to macerate in the sugar and salt to get soft and tasty, so meanwhile we’re going to do some cleaning up. Remove any clumps of dough from the counter; I use the edge of my square-bladed metal spatula / turner, as I’m too cheap to spend money on an official dough scraper when something else works just fine. TIP: To remove gummy dough bits from the mixing bowl, pour out the suds and use a rubber spatula to scrape off the lumps. Wash the mixing bowl and rubber spatula, plus wash and dry your knife and cutting board, as you’ll need the latter again.

ASSEMBLING THE PANCAKES

Flour the counter, and cut the dough into two even lumps. Take one lump, and roll / squeeze it into a log 12 1/2″ (35 cm) long. Cut the log into five, 2 1/2″ (6.5 cm) long sections. Move four sections aside, and roll out the remaining piece very thin, into a rectangle 10″ x 4″ (25 x 10 cm).

(Yes, these conversions aren’t exact, and that’s okay as we’re going to be further mashing up the dough anyway.)

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Cut log of dough into five evenly-sized sections.

TIP: It’s hard to use a rolling pin to stretch the dough by just rolling it. So after the initial bout of rolling the dough flat, I use the rolling pin to anchor one end and gently pull, then without lifting the rolling pin, lay down the stretched dough and roll the pin over the dough to secure the stretching and flatten it more. Then I roll the other direction to broaden the piece.

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Hold down one end of the dough with a rolling pin and gently pull on the other end to stretch it out.

Now it’s time to fill that piece of dough! Take a tablespoon of scallions and distribute them along the center of the strip, but stop half an inch (1 cm) before each end. (Resist the urge to “supersize” your load; you’ll find out why.)

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A very thin rectangle of dough with a line of chopped scallions going down the middle.

Fold over each of the short ends, and then fold over the top to cover the scallions, and the bottom to cover the top. I’ve never seen any recipe source mention folding in the short ends, but I have found from making burritos and such that tucking in the short end first helps prevent the filling from falling out. Take one end and fold the whole thing over lengthwise (doubled).

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Filled dough showing one short end folded in first, and the bottom and top lengths folded over each other.

Lift from the counter and gently smuush it along its length to make it thinner and longer. Take the end with the original ends, and fold it over a bit.

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An inch of the open end of the doubled, filled dough has been folded over to begin the coiling process.

Then coil up the roll, tucking the outside end between adjoining parts of the ring.

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The filled roll coiled up, with the end tucked into the next loop.

TIP: Don’t even think of trying to use a rolling pin to flatten the coil into a pancake; even using your palm to flatten it onto the countertop doesn’t work well. Instead, dust it well with flour, and use your fingers to palpate the dough, pressing it as thin as possible, all over.

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Pressing the coil thin between fingers to flatten it. In real life, I generally use two hands; here I was taking the picture with the other hand.

Note that some scallions wil pop out of the dough and create a juicy mess here and there. That always happens. Tuck them in, or just use them in the next pancake. Don’t worry your early pancakes aren’t terribly round; they will still taste good.

Repeat the rolling, filling, coiling and flattening process with the other pancakes.

You might ask, “Wouldn’t it just be easier to flatten and fill one of those two big lumps of dough, and then cut it into five pieces, instead of doing each piece separately?” Being an efficient sort, I wondered that myself, and tested my dough with both methods. The fill-then-cut pancakes ended up much messier, with scallions popping out everywhere. You can see the results here, with the fill-then-cut on the left, and the make-five-individually on the right:

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Comparing two methods: five of the the messy fill-then-cut pancakes on the left, and five of the tidy make-five-individually on the right.

TIP: To easily remove the dough and scallion gunk off your hands, use warm running water and a rubber spatula to scrape off the dough; be sure any dough bits aren’t left stuck on the sink where they might harden.

Likewise, scrape off your counter, and put your utensils to soak in warm, soapy water. The washing up will be easy to do by the time you’ve cooked and eaten your scallion pancakes.

LAST STEPS: COOK AND ENJOY!

Get a large iron or non-stick skillet and heat up a thin layer of oil for frying your pancakes. (On my electric stove, the ideal setting is somewhere between Medium and Medium-hot, but stoves vary.) Do not crowd the pan with too many. The pancakes are ready to turn over for frying on the second side when lightly browned, and the dough looks mostly white instead of translucent. Once fried on both sides, remove to blotting paper.

TIP: I drape a couple of paper napkins over the pages of an old phone book; the napkins keep the ink off, and the phone book pages provide plenty of blotting ability. Once the cooking is over, I rip those pages from the book and toss them.

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No sauce is needed for this dim sum; just let the Scallion Pancakes cool enough to eat!

TASTY TUESDAY: Proofreader's Sandwich

Way back when I was an evening proofreader at a newspaper, I grew an avocado tree from a pit. Alas, somebody kept dumping their old coffee on it, and the young tree died. It would also have been nice if this sandwich had occurred to me at the time; it would have been mighty sustaining for long nights when I was making corrections, like “boquey” to bouquet and “expresso” to espresso. (Unfortunately I wasn’t there the right evening to correct “mid-evil” to medieval or “castlations” to crenelations.)
But back to food! The contrasts in flavors and textures in the filling is fabulous! It’s an easy sandwich to make — the only trick is having all the ingredients on hand. (Recipe after photo.)

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Two sandwich halves, one with toasted Italian bread spread with mayonnaise and topped with bacon, artichoke hearts and tomato slices, and the other topped with blue cheese and avocado.

  • section of a French or Italian loaf, about as long as your hand
  • blue cheese crumbs
  • mayonnaise
  • 2-3 slices of bacon, cut in half and cooked
  • one ripe avocado, sliced around, pitted, scooped from the peel, and sliced
  • a couple of canned artichoke hearts (plain, not marinated), sliced
  • Roma or other ripe tomato, seeded and sliced
  1. Slice bread lengthwise; spread mayonnaise on one half, and press blue cheese crumbs firmly into the other half.
  2. Lay slices in a toaster oven or under the broiler, and toast until the edges of the bread become crusty and the cheese is softened.
  3. Lay the bacon, tomato, avocado, and artichoke hearts on the blue cheese slice, and top with the mayonnaise slice.
  4. Mash down as needed to make the sandwich cohesive, and sized for eating.

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The prepared sandwich, with a couple bites eaten from it, showing off the colorful, tasty layers.

Enjoy!

It's not all strawberry versus chocolate ice cream!

Now, I am a mint-chip ice cream (-loving) person myself, and dismiss vanilla* for being merely useful as an ingredient base for other treats. And of course, I’m entitled to my opinion. In turn, you all are free to express your own opinions about flavours of ice cream, including your total disinterest in eating ice cream.
(* It may be that I lack some kind of flavour receptor[s] to fully perceive vanilla/vanillin, because no matter what sort of sweet or quality of material, vanilla has never seemed to be particularly interesting or tasty to me.)
But there are opinions and there are other opinions, and Patrick Stokes, Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University, teaches his students that they are not entitled to have their opinions.
In a recent article, “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion” he immediately acknowledges this sounds a bit harsh, but explains that the point of a philosophy class  is learning how to create sound arguments, instead of leaning on beliefs, emotions, and misconceptions of what we think we know. Although opinions may be owned or expressed, not all opinions are equally valid.
Stokes skillfully distinguishes between the different things that fall under the vast umbrella of opinion:

But “opinion” ranges from tastes or preferences, through views about questions that concern most people such as prudence or politics, to views grounded in technical expertise, such as legal or scientific opinions.

It’s the conflating of being able to express one’s tastes, preferences, and beliefs — and then expecting those statements to be taken as seriously as fact-based, logically-sound argument — that is the major problem.
It is a major problem in everyday discourse, and in heated debates within and between countries, and it is an especially prevalent problem in various media. There’s the tired trope* of “getting balance” by interviewing “both sides” even though there are often more than just two sides (life is messy that way), and the problem that the opinions of both “sides” do not necessarily carry the same factual value (life is reality-based that way).
(* More on the problems with the news media and “balance” in my earlier post, “Both Sides Now”.)
Not all the information one finds or hears is equally valid. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.”
Stokes further explains:

The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

Wait a minute — can’t anyone have an opinion about anything? Of course!
Can’t anyone express their opinion about anything? Of course!*
(* Although it really helps if people take the time to ensure their protest signs are properly spelled and punctuated. Otherwise much hilarity ensues and one ends up with derisive and/or dismissive infamy rather than being taken seriously.)
But what unfounded opinion cannot do is carry equal weight when discussions require expertise.
Back to our ice cream opinions:  I know that vanilla bean pods come from a variety of orchid, because that’s a tidbit of horticultural knowledge and I am a horticulturalist. Being a foodie, I have long known that vanillin was synthesized as a less-expensive alternative for use in commercial products, and that it is the primary ingredient in the artificially-flavoured vanilla extract sold at the market.
BUT, I cannot be an expert witness or speaker on vanilla.
Likely, neither can the majority of you.
Not on the cultivars, growing, agri-ecology, processing from raw material to diverse flavouring forms, business economics, grower’s social justice issues, distribution and packaging, artificial synthesis of vanillin, culinary chemistry, historical usage, future trends of natural versus artificial flavouring … none of that stuff. Nor anything else that didn’t come to mind, albeit I was able to come up with a longish list just because I have that horticultural background and was able to extrapolate what accessory topics could be included.
You are entitled to have and to express your opinion, but that does not mean it must to be taken as serious fact; pointing that out is not being disrespectful to you as a person — it means that your opinion is insufficient to the case.
‘Personal Opinion’ is not some cloak of factual immunity that one can wear to suddenly become a creditable expert.
(Oh, and speaking of public persons with opinions but who are not experts, guess who came along to comment upon Stokes’ article …)

I'm picking up good fermentations

… but the Woo is giving off bad vibrations!
OhMyGosh the world is full of idiots! Tonight I was stocking over in the health foods section, which is either a great place (for our large selection of gluten-free products for coeliacs) or a magnet for all people woo-stricken.
A woman came to the grocery wanting “bread made without yeast” — I gestured to the big display of matzo (unleavened for Passover), but no, she wants loaf bread, but without yeast so her son “doesn’t get yeast infections”. I tried to explain they’re not even the same kinds of yeast, and it’d be dead after the bread’s baked anyway, but NO-O-O-O…
[facepalm]
Yeasts are a kind of fungus: yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae is necessary for yeast-breads, beer and wine fermentation.  For sourdough breads, a variety of wild yeast Candida milleri plus acid-producing bacteria Lactobacillus sanfrancisco that gives the dough the distinctive “tang”.
For our confused customer, the yeast infection [mouth, digestive tract, vagina] is from an entirely different fungus, Candida albicans.
If you’re curious, the fuzzy black stuff that grows on bread is a mold, Rhizopus nigricans. Molds are another kind of fungus. Yummy blue cheeses [Maytag blue, Dana-blu, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton] are made possible from the mold Penicillium roqueforti or Penicillium glaucum that were naturally present in the [naturally cool] caves where the cheeses were made & aged. (Nowadays the cheese wheels are injected with the appropriate mold). A few people with Penicillin antibiotic allergy may have a reaction to blue cheeses, but the quantity of the material is so much smaller in the cheese, it is rarely a problem.
I almost mentioned yogurt as a source of probiotics  — I was “this close” — but refrained. Trying to add bacteria to her mental mix of Bad Things We Can’t Pronounce & Must Avoid would have been too much for the both of us.
Related to fungi (well, related just in the sense of small organisms helpful to food), are bacteria. Most of the bacteria that exist in the world are neutral to humans, and many are beneficial.  Only a relatively small number are responsible for bacterial infections.  Truth be told, we NEED bacteria, because they are responsible for the fermentation processes that turn raw food items into different, processed food items that have better/different flavor, are more digestible, and store for long periods of time.  Some examples of these great bacteria include: Continue reading I'm picking up good fermentations

Speak More Kale

This was a major WTF moment when listening to the news today [transcript this link]: the Chick-fil-A chain is suing a Vermont tee shirt maker for copyright infringement. Their slogan is, “Eat Mor Chikin” and his is “Eat More Kale”.
Now, Bo Muller-Moore’s design uses:

  • a different font,
  • correct spelling,
  • a vegetable instead of an animal,
  • and no cows in his design.

Obviously, the design on his tees is nearly identical to the fast food chain’s! </snark>
The Vermont state Governor, Peter Shumlin, formed “Team Kale” as a fundraiser for legal fees to fight this absurd suit. After all, the Vermonter has been making these (and other) tee shirts for ten years, and this is how he makes a chunk of his living.  (Progress on the individually hand silk-screened tees is apparently getting a bit behind due to sudden demand, but there are also big green stickers for a 50-cent donation.)
The phrase “Eat More ____” sounded vaguely familiar, and some googling around quickly showed that it has been used throughout history!

vintage "EAT MORE MILK" advert for Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate

WWI Canada Food Board poster, "Eat more Vegetables! SAVE Meat and Wheat for our SOLDIERS and ALLIES"

"Eat MORE FRUIT" poster, Victorian Railways, Australia

WWI poster, U.S. Dept. Agriculture: "Eat More Cottage Cheese...You'll Need Less Meat...A Postal Card Will Bring Recipes...Cottage Cheese or Meat? Ask Your Pocketbook!"

There are other current usages of the phrasing, such as”Stay Healthy. Eat More Bacteria” for a dietary supplement. (After all, one shouldn’t discriminate between biological Kingdoms!)
If you do a visual google search, you can find an antique billboard on Route 66 that says, “Watch Your Curves. Eat More Beef.” from the Beef Industry Council. Apparently, in an earlier incarnation it was the Texas Beef Council, which also offered up quite an absurd pin-up girl (she’s ostensibly changing a tire, but without any cattle in the picture whatsoever). I mention these simply because they are the humorous antithesis of the “Eat Mor Chikin” cows.
BTW, kale is really tasty lightly braised (PLEASE, don’t cook the hell out of it — that just makes it bitter and stringy). Take your gently-wilted kale and sprinkle with some balsamic vinaigrette, or chop and mix into mashed potatoes (with bacon and onions, if you like), or add bite-size pieces in soups (miso soup with udon and kale sounds REALLY good this time of year).
What makes kale so great is that not only will it over-winter (meaning, you can get it from local farmer’s markets or CSA just about year-round, or else grow your own), but also that it has lots of iron, Vitamins A & C, calcium, and fiber.
Tasty Kale 'Curly Leaf'

Many kales are also quite ornamental as well — not just the frilly pink sort (grown for pretty more than nutrition), but also the tall green or purple-tinged sorts, which are often used for cold-weather plants in outdoor container arrangements.
The ornamental Kale 'Redbor Hybrid'

Kitchen HazMat: Allyl propyl disulphide

My daughter stopped and looked at me, puzzled.
Safety goggles,” I explained.  The elastic strap was losing its spring, so the limp tail ends hung down past my ears as I worked.  “Because I couldn’t find my chem-lab goggles.”
I continued to trim the tops and tails off the onions and slice them up with the mandoline.  “These are really loud onions,” I added.
She walked past me to the refrigerator and suddenly exclaimed, “Omigod, they just attacked my eyeballs!”
A few minutes later my son-in-law walked by the sofa, making a small snork noise at my incredibly nerdy appearance.
“I heard that!”
“I  didn’t ‘say’ anything!”
“Hey, four pounds of onions is a lot of onions!”  Apparently the pungent Allyl propyl disulphides had not yet diffused as far as the living room.
Later he came by to ladle up his French onion soup from the big stock pot, and found the pong to still be strong.  I opened the kitchen window a crack, mumbling, “Just imagine what it was like when I was slicing them up fresh!”
I don’t care how the goggles look – they are excellent for making onion-slicing painless.  (Well, at least for the cook.)  They’re now sitting on a kitchen cabinet shelf, since I cut more onions than I do lumber.

Take with a grain of salt

(I’m abed with a virus, but meanwhile–)
The pancakes smelled -at first whiff- yummy.  But then, scorched.  Kind of.  Not the pan’s-too-hot-scorched, but overly browned.  I nibbled on a corner of one left unfinished in a puddle of syrup.
“Did they seem kind of … salty?”  I asked my daughter.
Yes.
Ah-ha.  “You know, baking soda tastes salty, and aids in browning — that’s why pretzels are dipped in baking soda water before baking.”
“The recipe did say to add baking soda,” explained my son.
I read his scribbled index card, and snorted.  “Next time, use one of our general cookbooks.”
“I’ve used that site before …” he protested, annoyed with his normally reliable resource.
“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internets — take it with a grain of salt.  Not 3 1/2 TABLESPOONS of baking soda!”

4011 IF EAT THEN SIT

My hungry 9-month old grandson is being a wiggle-worm.  He wants his banana now, and like Prot, is trying to eat it whole, peel and all.
“Come on lad, let Grandma mash this up for you – no, we don’t eat the peel – here’s your high chair -”
Much squirming and complaining, “NANA NANA!”  (I’m not sure if by “nana” he means banana or some pet name for grandma; I’m usually the one who brings home the bananas from the market, and the one who feeds him an evening snack of “happy smile fruits” — our code name for the nosh of choice, especially if we’ve run out.)
“Ow no let go of my glasses, Grandma can’t feed you until you’re in your chair-”  This operation of Insert Boy B Into Chair C almost takes two women.
I revert back to child-training using simple commands. Given enough repetitions, it will sink in, just like “OPEN” [mouth], “NO BITING”, “TOUCH GENTLY” [flowers, cats], “STILL” [stay in place for diapering], “REACH UP” [un/dressing], and all those other thrilling conversations.
“IF eat, THEN sit!”
The lad was sufficiently startled by this novel command to pause a split-second, thus allowing us to plop his tuchis on the chair and snap on the tray.  We’ll be using the IF-THEN logic construct for the next few years, along with FIRST-THEN.  (There’s nothing like reinforcing order of operations, whether mathematical or procedural.)
Now I can finally start spooning mashed banana into the lad’s mouth, and he’s thumping his feet and smacking his hands on the tray with delight, exclaiming a pleased, “Nom-nom nom!”  (Seriously.)
“That’s a good boy,” cooed his mum, “Listen to Grandma’s Boolean logic!”
Ah, the great moments of geeky family life – gotta love ’em!

P.S.  4011 refers to an imaginary line of programming code, and also to the grocer’s PLU number for bananas.