Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Apple #173: Barbara Lauterbach

Recently, an intrepid reader asked for information about a woman named Barbara Lauterbach. I happen to have a cookbook that she wrote, which is all about potato salads.

Barbara Lauterbach's cookbook Potato Salad: Fifty Great Recipes

So let's find out more about Barbara and perhaps her potatoes.

  • Barbara did not start out to be a cook. She got her bachelor's degree in Art History. It wasn't until she had gotten married to a man whose job took her and their family to Europe that she went to cooking school.
  • She studied at various schools in Paris, England, West Germany, Florence, and Bologna in Italy.
  • When she and her family returned to the United States she accepted a pretty high-level job as director of the cooking school at Lazarus, a now-defunct department store chain based in Cincinnati. What a department store was doing with a cooking school, I have no idea. Nonetheless, she designed a curriculum, brought in guest chefs, and taught some of the classes herself.
  • While she held that position, she won some awards for being the best cook in Cincinnati.
  • In 1987, she and her family moved to New England. She became a spokesperson for King Arthur Flour Company and appeared on television and gave classes under that aegis.
  • Two years later, she moved to New Hampshire, but she is still affiliated with the King Arthur Flour Company, since she teaches at their Baking Center in Vermont.

This is Barbara
(Photo from the King Arthur Flour Company)

  • She also opened a bed and breakfast in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, called Watch Hill. In addition to receiving guests there, she also teaches cooking classes.
  • I don't know whether that B&B is still in operation because I tried to find a listing for it in the online yellow pages, and it didn't come up. I also found a listing for it with Century 21.
  • I wonder if she got divorced or something because she says she now lives with two old cats and a parrot. No mention of her husband or her two children.
  • Her recipes and columns often appear in Cooking Light, and she has also contributed to the Boston Globe and Yankee Magazine.

This Barbara's Moulton Farm Potato Salad, with fingerling potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, peas and peppers in a Dijon and tarragon sauce.
(Photo from her website)

  • As I noted above, I have her potato salad book. I like potato salad quite a lot, and she's got some really good recipes in there. I really like her Frog Potato Salad, which has artichokes and tomatoes and broccoli with Dijon mustard dressing. There's one that I would like to try but haven't yet called Hot Potato and Bratwurst Salad, and another one called Alpine Potato and Cheese Salad, which uses Gruyere or other Swiss cheese and walnuts.
  • See? If someone likes potato salad this much, how could you go wrong?
  • She also has some helpful tips on the best way to cook potatoes. For example, she says that when boiling potatoes, start with cold water and bring the water to boil with the potatoes in the pot. This keeps them from getting all mushy and flaking apart in the water.
  • She also says to boil them with the skins on because this keeps the potatoes from losing a lot of moisture. And she says that when you want to see if they're done, use a sharp knife to poke them rather than a fork because the potato will lose less moisture that way.
  • If you want to take a class with her, you can sign up for her online class called "Baking at the Bed & Breakfast," offered through the King Arthur Flour Baking Center. In this class, Barbara will teach people how to make her lemon poppy seed muffins, whole wheat granola bread, onion dill batter bread, maple walnut scones, and fruit streusel coffee cake. For information about the class, go here. For recipes and instructions, go here (sometimes this pdf had trouble loading).
Sources (many of which include some of Barbara's recipes)
Barbara Lauterbach
King Arthur Flour, Our instructors
Chef2Chef Recipe Club, Volume 3 Issue 041, August 26,2002
"Chicken Salad with an Attitude," Cincinnati Post, July 30, 2003

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Side Note

Not much time, about to leave for out of town for a few days. Won't have access to the Apple, alas. In the meantime, I'd like to note that my site statistics tell me that someone from the USDA stopped by the other day. And not just to browse about something for fun, but to find an answer to an actual question. How do I know this? Again, my site stats told me that this person used a search engine and the words typed into that search engine were thus and so. And the thus and so words actually had to do with USDA-type work.

So, it's possible that the Daily Apple helped answer some agricultural question, helped advance the cause of feeding our nation, of caring for our plants or our animals or ourselves. Think of that.

What you are witnessing here is a little Apple Lady pride.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Apple #172: Second Cousins and More

The other day, an intrepid young Alice Fox asked the Apple Lady the following question:

I'm visiting relatives this summer, and I'm confused by the whole first, second, third cousin thing. Also what's with once, twice, thrice removed? Can you tell us what these distinctions mean? Thanks.

The Apple Lady has wondered about these relationships herself. She has heard definitions explained before, but she can never remember what they are. So here are the answers:

  • First cousin: your aunt or uncle's child, or the child of the brother or sister of your parent's.
  • Second cousin: you have the same great-grandparent.
  • Third cousin: you and your third cousin share at least one great-great-grandparent.
  • Fourth cousin: you share at least one great-great-great-grandparent. And so on.
  • Removed: This term is used to indicate that people are from different generations.
Already this isn't helping, so I've made a family tree.

In reference to the family tree above, we'll talk about Betty, and how various people are related to her.

  • John & Mary are Betty's grandparents. Adam is Betty's uncle, or her mother's brother.
  • The children of her uncle are Bob & Bill. They are her first cousins. They share with Betty the same grandparents, John & Mary.
  • Betty's kids, Carol & Candy, are second cousins to Bob's kids, Chuck & Clark. They share the same great-grandparents, John & Mary.
  • So people are cousins of some sort when they're at the same "level," so to speak, in the family tree.
  • The "removed" term comes into play when you talk about how people are related to each other when they're at different levels of the family tree.
  • Betty is Chuck's first cousin once removed. Her grandparent is Chuck's great-grandparent. They are cousins one level away from each other in the family tree.
  • Betty is Drew's first cousin twice removed. Her grandparent is Drew's great-great-grandparent. They are cousins two levels away from each other.
  • If Carol or Candy had had children, they would be third cousins to Don & Drew, but sadly, neither Carol nor Candy gave birth.
Does that help? I feel like I've got it, finally. If you want to see another depiction of the same thing, check out Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.

Here are a couple of other family-relationship terms:

  • Double first cousins: you are first cousins through two relationships, that is, you are cousins on your father's and mother's side both, since your father's sibling married your mother's sibling.
  • Half: you share only one parent. In the above tree, if John & Mary had had Alice, then gotten divorced, and John had married Matilda and then had Adam, then Alice & Adam would be half-brother and half-sister to each other.
  • Step: you are not related by blood but legally, usually by a re-marriage. Matilda would be Alice's step-mother. Alice would be Matilda's step-daughter. Mary would be Adam's step-mother. Adam would be Mary's step-son. And so on.
  • In-law: no real relationship, but you've married into somebody's family, so you've all become related to each other in law, but not in blood. As far as I can tell, the difference between "in-law" and "step" is that you get "in-laws" through a first marriage, while you get "step" relatives when there's been any marriage after the first.
Some of these distinctions are different in different countries or languages. For example, the French don't distinguish between "step" and "in-law," and Polynesians do not distinguish between cousins and siblings.

Also, the above definitions have evolved over time. If you're digging back into your family history and you come across someone described as a "cousin," that might mean something different than it does to us today.

Everyone has approximately 4 trillion 20th cousins. Which means essentially that everyone is somehow related to nearly everyone else.

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, "What is 'Second Cousin Once Removed?'" January 17, 2005.
Retracing Our Family Legacy, Definition of Family Relationships
Stan Brown, Oak Road Systems, Relationship Terms, March 29, 2006
The Free Dictionary, second cousin
Answers.com, Second cousin

Friday, May 19, 2006

Apple #171: Watermelons

We've had a request. Actually, several requests from one reader:

Hows ‘bout one on Nintendo, or bottled water, or Emma Goldman, or computer fonts, or bed bugs, or watermelons.

These ideas all have the potential to generate interesting entries, but depending on the number of requests I get (and the response has been overwhelming -- that's sarcasm), I might not get to all of them. For some brief information about bed bugs, please see an early entry of mine on mattresses.

Since I just bought a watermelon at the store yesterday and ate some of it with dinner (it was delicious), I thought that watermelons might be an appropriate entry for today.

This is Professor Maynard, of the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center at the University of Florida, sitting atop a pile of watermelons. Notice the different varieties of melons in the pile.
(Photo from the GCREC, U FL)

  • Watermelons are 92% water. Because of their high water content, travelers and explorers way back when used to use the melons as a source of portable water.
  • Watermelons were probably first grown in Egypt nearly 5,000 years ago. Heiroglyphics depicting watermelons have been found in ancient Egyptian buildings. Watermelons have also been found among the things laid in pharaohs' burial chambers.

Watermelons for sale in Cairo, Egypt
(Photo from a blog about Cairo)

  • Over 1,200 varieties are now grown in 96 countries around the world.
  • China is the world's number one producer of watermelons.
  • In 2004, 205 billion pounds of watermelons were grown worldwide.
  • In the US, Florida, California, Texas, and Georgia grow the most watermelons, in that order.
  • Watermelons are a member of the gourd family, with cucumbers, pumpkins and squash.
  • They are grown on vines, in rows, about 8 to 12 feet apart. Within 60 days of sun & water, the vine will produce its first melon, which will then be ready to harvest 30 days later.
  • While the rind seems to be hardy because of its thickness, it can be damaged quite easily. Therefore, watermelons are picked by hand.

The Brights with their 2005 world's record biggest watermelon
(Photo from Giant Watermelons)
  • In 2001, growers in Japan were able to raise square watermelons. They did this by putting the young fruit in square glass cases so that as they grew, they would fill in that shape. The goal was to make watermelons fit more easily into refrigerators. These watermelons were sold at 10,000 yen per melon, or about $82.
  • In the US, growers are beginning to pick watermelons when they're smaller, also so they'll fit into refrigerators more easily.
  • Watermelons are a good source of vitamins A, C, and B6.
  • You can puree watermelon, pour it into ice cube trays, and freeze it to make melon ice cubes.
  • If you want to pickle watermelon rind -- yes, lots of people do this -- you need the usual sort of brine that combines water, salt, sugar, and vinegar, plus flavorings like cloves and cinnamon. Then you pretty much boil this mixture and let it stand, then boil it again and let it stand, then again for a total of three days. For more details, see Mary Fear's recipe.

This is what pickled watermelon rind looks like once you've got it in a jar
(Photo from Cane & Reed, of Jake & Amos' pint of watermelon rind)

  • To make watermelon soup, blend the melon with lemon juice, spearmint leaves, sugar, and white wine. Then add slices of ginger and chill. This sounds to me more like a wine spritzer than soup.
  • If you love watermelons and want to share that watermelon love with others, you could attend any of the several watermelon festivals that happen around the country in the summertime. There are four coming up, from now through mid-June, in cities throughout Florida.
  • By the way, that story about vampire watermelons (people believed that watermelons, if left outside, could become vampires) is a joke, originally made by science fiction writer Terry Pratchett, but perpetuated in a bogus entry in Wikipedia.

National Watermelon Promotion Board, Fun Facts / FAQs
The Virtual Vine, Watermelons
The Quality of Information, "Racism, Wikipedia, and Vampire Watermelons," November 17, 2004
Wikipedia, Vampire Watermelons
Health Recipes.com, Watermelon Nutrition Facts
Thom Patterson, "Japan corners the market on square fruit," CNN.com, June 15, 2001

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Apple #170: Lag B'Omer

My calendar says that today is Lag B'Omer. But I have no idea what that is. I've never even heard anyone talk about it before. For some reason, I think it's Irish?

  • Turns out, it's a Jewish holiday.
  • It comes from a passage in Leviticus which told the Jews to count the days from Passover, which is when the Exodus out of Egypt started, until Shavu'ot, which is a festival that commemorates the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, and also the first harvest.
  • This period of counting, in between those two big holidays, is known as the Counting of the Omer. The reason the Jewish people commemorate this period is in order to remind themselves that freedom from slavery was not complete with the Exodus, but was made complete when the Torah was handed down.
  • Because this is kind of a sad period, a time of remembering the enslavement of one's ancestors, weddings and parties and festive dinners are usually not held during these weeks. You're also not supposed to get your hair cut, as long hair is traditionally a sign of mourning.
  • Now, on to what the name itself means. An Omer is a unit of measure, usually for grains. Traditionally, the Jews would measure out an omer of barley and take it to the Temple as an offering once a week. So the period known as the Omer represents the passage of several weeks.
  • The 33rd day of the Omer commemorates a break in the plagues that afflicted Egypt. So also is it a break in the period of mourning during these weeks. This day is called Lag B'Omer. The word "Lag" is not really a word but the number 33 in Hebrew. It would be like calling the Fourth of July "IV July."
  • It has become the custom for teachers and parents to take their children on outings or picnics on this day, and one of the activities is to play with bats and balls or bows and arrows. This part is in remembrance of the Revolt of the Jewish People against the Romans about 1,865 years ago.
  • The day has also become linked the the anniversary of the death of a mystic Rabbi, Simon bar Yochai. He was the first to teach the mystic elements of the Torah, known as the Kabbalah. He also wrote the seminal text on Kabbalah, called the Zohar. Just before his death, he asked his followers to remember the day of his death as a day of joy. So this day of celebration within a period of mourning is an appropriate day on which to celebrate the death of someone revered, yet in a joyful way.

P.S. Don't forget to post any requests for the Apple Lady to the entry below.

Judaism 101, The Counting of the Omer
OU.org, Lag BaOmer, The Mystery of Lag BaOmer, Celebration of Lag BaOmer, and Bows and Arrows
Chabad.org, Holidays, Lag BaOmer

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Apple #169: It's That Time Again



Yes, I've decided, once again, to ask you, my reader, for suggestions. What daily mystery intrigues you? Is there a word or phrase that, when you think about it, strikes you as particulary odd and you'd like to know where the heck it came from? Did you come across some reference to some historical event that you know you're supposed to know all about, but truthfully, you couldn't say for sure what happened, and you'd like to know more? Have you always wanted to know who invented your favorite food, game, or tool? Curious about the meaning of some pop song?

In short, if you've got a question, ask me. I'll look it up for you. I'll post the answers here.

Just one thing: I know for a fact that kids from elementary schools read postings on this blog now and then, and so do people from countries all around the world. So please keep your requests suitable for all readers.

Post your requests in the comment field below this entry.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Apple #168: Allergies

Before I get into allergies, I have a small Betta fish update.

I was feeding my Betta the pellets that came with the bowl kit that I bought. But he was spitting out the pellet once or twice before he'd swallow it. I looked this up online and though many sites say different things, the upshot I think is that he was spitting out his food because he didn't really like it. Lots of websites say that pellets may be the cheapest and easiest thing to feed your Betta, but it's probably one of the foods they like the least.

Lots of Betta sites recommend feeding your fish live bloodworms or freeze-dried bloodworms. Despite the name, they are not actually worms, but the larvae of midge flies. I read that feeding live bloodworms can make it more likely that your fish gets parasites and diseases and crap like that, so I decided to give the freeze-dried variety a try.

Freeze-dried bloodworms

The kind I got come in a little plastic box with a flip top, sort of like a Tic Tac box. I opened the box, gave it a little tap and about five or six of the dead, winged bugs dropped out into the water. And lo and behold, FishFish snuck up underneath one of them, then snapped it up like it was prey! He did this with each of the bugs and found them all in no time.

So I've kept feeding him the bloodworms, and it's pretty obvious he likes them better. He gets much more excited when they're in the water, and the rest of the day, he is way more active. When I was feeding him just pellets, he'd spend a lot of time at the bottom of his bowl, hanging out in his favorite hiding place. Now, every time I walk past his bowl, he's swimming around with his little fins going, and though he's always made bubbles every day, he makes even more bubbles each day. I plan to give him a few pellets now and then, just to keep some variety, but I'm sold on the bloodworms.


Now, on to the real posting. The reason I started out with the Betta fish thing is that lately, my skin has been itching like crazy. I read that some people are allergic to bloodworms, so I thought maybe that's what's been going on with me. But most people say their allergic reaction is respiratory in nature, rather than itchiness. Plus, I make sure to wash my hands right after handling the food, and I just don't think that's the cause.

So I was looking up allergy information in general and here are some of the things I learned:

  • Allergic reactions are what happens when your body encounters a type of protein that it doesn't like. I had thought that you could be allergic, potentially, to just about any substance. But it's really types of proteins that trigger the reaction.
  • When your body encounters the Enemy Protein, it makes an antibody to help fight off the Enemy Protein. The antibody is called Immunoglobulin E, or IgE, for short. Your body makes millions of these, and fast. The IgE runs around in your blood stream and attaches itself to certain types of blood cells and also certain types of tissue cells. When the IgE shows up on these cells, the cells are essentially told to start producing histamine. And histamine is what makes your eyes water and your nose get runny and your skin turn itchy, and it can give you rashes and hives and make you start to sneeze and all hell breaks loose to try to get the Enemy Protein far, far away.

This French guy is beseiged by an allergic reaction
(Image from L'Ambroisie)

  • In very serious reactions, your lips or tongue may swell, the lining of your throat can swell to make it difficult to swallow, or even breathe. You may get dizzy and pass out. If you're not revived, usually with a shot of epinephrine, that could be all she wrote. This type of reaction is called anaphylaxis. You've heard about this probably most often in reference to bee stings or peanut allergies. If you've seen My Girl, you've seen an example of anaphylaxis.

My Girl still from HBO Sinapore

  • When it comes to reactions to certain types of foods, there is an important distinction to make between an allergic reaction and intolerance. In most cases, intolerances do not involve your immune system, the reactions are short-lived and while unpleasant, will not be life-threatening. Lactose intolerance, for example, might make you bloated and give you gas, but it's not going to close up your throat and kill you.
  • Some people can't tolerate sulfites in their foods. Sulfites are a kind of preservative that occur naturally in wine and it's also used in lots of canned or bottled foods. In this case, the reaction can be severe because sulfites produce sulfur dioxide gas, which can cause all sorts of problems in a person's lungs, including triggering an asthma attack or anaphylaxis.
  • The most common food allergies are
    • Peanuts
    • Tree nuts, including almonds, pecans, and walnuts
    • Dairy
    • Soy
    • Wheat
    • Eggs
    • Fish and shellfish

For some people, this sight instills great fear and the desire to flee
(Photo from Virginia Market News Service)

  • You may have noticed that lots of food labels these days have printed the above-listed ingredients in bold type, or they are listed again at the end of the ingredients in bold print. For example, I've seen this on bread labels and on peanut M&Ms. This is because these food allergies are so common, and people can really have severe reactions to these ingredients.
  • Here are some other common sources of allergic reactions (notice that all will include some type of protein):
    • Insect bites
    • Airborne particles including mold spores, animal dander, or pollen
      • Dust fits under this category, but it's actually not dust that people are allergic to. It's actually the fecal matter produced by dust mites. Yup.
    • Antibiotics or other types of medications
    • Manufactured chemicals, including cosmetics, dyes, laundry detergents, pesticides, or household cleaners
You'll be happy to hear that the advice that doctors give most often about allergies is that the best thing to do is avoid the thing that triggers the reaction. Well, duh.

Betta talk.com, Food
Aquariumpros.com, Frequent Aquarium Questions
Brine Shrimp Direct, Specialty Diet for Aquarium Fish
Greater Cincinnati Killfish Association, Bloodworms . . . a cautionary note
International Food Information Council, Food Insight, Food Allergy Myths and Realities, November/December 1997
About.com, Allergies, Sulfite Sensitivity
Nemours Foundation, Teens Health, Allergies
Net Wellness Consumer Health Information, House Dust Allergy

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Apple #167: Shriners

A radio station I've been listening to lately plays commercials from the Shriners. You know, the guys who show up at parades wearing fezes and zipping around in little cars. I realized, I don't really know what they do. Something to do with raising money for children. It's kind of creepy that a bunch of old guys in funny hats drive little cars and ask for money for kids. But I'm sure, once I know more about their organization, I won't think they're as creepy.

Shriners in their mini-cars
(Photo from the Frymaster)

  • The full name of the philanthropic organization is the Shriners of North America. This is a fraternity (group of men) with about 500,000 members in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Panama.
  • The money they raise goes to 22 hospitals that are all Shriners Hospitals for Children. They provide orthopedic surgery for children with various birth defects, and burn care, free of charge for children under the age of 18.
  • Shriners have raised money from within their own membership and from donors outside their organization to pay for childrens' hospital care since 1922. To understand how that came about, a little history of the organization is in order.
  • Shriners are actually Masons first. That is, they are members of the Freemasonry fraternity, one of those organizations of men that date back to who knows when. Specifically, a Mason must be a Master Mason before he can become a Shriner.
  • In 1870, a couple of the Masons from New York decided they wanted to make a new organization. One of the Masons was an actor and the other was a surgeon. These two came up with the rites of initiation, costumes, decided that members would wear a fez, came up with a symbol of membership, and all sorts of other stuff you must have if you are going to make a club.
  • The Shriner fez, by the way, has on it the symbol of the Shriners, which is a scimitar (curved sword) from which hangs a crescent moon, with a star dangling in the center of that. As far as I can tell, the only reason the founders picked the fez was because it fit the theme for their symbol and the other parts of the costumes, and they just liked it.

The Shriner crescent symbol
(Posted by JadenKale at shirt.woot!)

  • The Shriners started out as a social organization, with the fellows getting together and telling jokes and pooling their money to hire bands to play for them and so on. But then in 1919, one Shriner guy was visiting a hospital for crippled children in Atlanta (the name of the hospital included that phrase "crippled children"). He heard a musician playing a popular song outside his window and realized his group spent a lot of money hiring musicians, so why couldn't they put some of their money toward helping children who needed it.
  • Some committee meetings ensued, there were speeches and applause, and finally in 1922, construction began on the first Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Shreveport, Louisiana.
  • In 1962, the Shriners decided to add burn care to the list of treatments they would fund, after they realized there was only one burn treatment center in the United States, and that was part of a military complex. More recently, they have added spinal cord injury care as well.
  • To date, the Shriners have built a total of 22 hospitals, and over 700,000 children have been treated.
Here are some facts about Shriners:
  • The largest Shriner temple is in Indianapolis, with 10,627 members
  • There is at least one Shriner temple in each of the United States. Pennsylvania is the state with the highest number of Shriner residents.
  • Famous Shriners include:
      • Astronaut Buzz Aldrin
      • Dave Thomas, Wendy's founder
      • Five-star general Omar Bradley
      • Five-star general Douglas MacArthur
      • Former President Gerald R. Ford
      • Former President Warren G. Harding
      • Former President Franklin D. Roosevelt
      • Former President Harry S. Truman
      • J. Edgar Hoover
      • Voice of Bugs Bunny, Mel Blanc
      • Clark Gable
      • John Wayne
      • Composer Irving Berlin
      • John Phillip Sousa
      • Jazz Musician Count Basie
      • Singer Nat King Cole
      • Singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson
      • Director Cecil B. DeMille
      • Baseball player Ty Cobb
      • Baseball player Cy Young
      • Football star Bart Starr
      • Golfer Arnold Palmer
      • Boxer Sugar Ray Robinson

Mel Blanc in his Shriners fez
(Photo from Kosair Shriners)

Shrine of North America, A Short History of the Shrine and Index
Gizeh Shriners of British Columbia, Famous Shriners
Ben Ali Shriners 2006, Want to be a Shriner?
Wikipedia, Shriners