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October 21, 2014

About That Tricksy THC-laced Halloween Candy...


Advertisement distributed by the United States Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1935

It seems like every year the run-up to Halloween is the same: Outrage about slutty costumes for women followed by fear about what is going to be slipped into your kid's Halloween bag. The only thing different this year is that the slutty costume is something related to ebola and the fear-mongering is about marijuana.

I live in Washington, where medical cannabis has been legal seemingly forever and recreational is more recently legal, so I possess a specialized knowledge set that includes such technical things as what that tricksy pot-infused candy everyone is suddenly scared of looks like. It looks like candy.

This is about the only thing most of the articles get right.

While I support your right to be concerned about the candy that strangers are giving your children, this particular fear is completely misplaced. It points to a basic misunderstanding about legal cannabis and the people who use it while portraying those people as vaguely threatening.

Continue reading "About That Tricksy THC-laced Halloween Candy..." »

October 18, 2011

Feeding Hungry People and Other Charitable Acts

Give the gift of food

This is epic-length, well for this medium at least, but forgive me. I felt it was an important topic and I trust that if you hang out around here you have a long enough attention span to handle it. Besides, I got to make up terms and use bullet lists and my deeply geeky writer side is just dancing with joy. Thank you for your indulgence. ~beth

The holiday season is creeping up and for a lot of us that means we are going to be feeding people. Not just our family and friends at various gatherings – the "orphan" Thanksgiving is one of my favorites – but also by choosing some food-related charities when it comes to charitable donations and gift-giving.

One way to find deserving charities is asking friends who they support, so I did just that. I got some great recommendations, starting with, of course, food banks.

Food banks are the most fundamental and most direct way to feed hungry people. I am a huge fan of local food banks, having been involved as staff, volunteer and client. To find a food bank close to you, go to Feeding America's food bank locator. You can also make a donation while you're there. Alternatively, Share our Strength is dedicated to ending childhood hunger.

I live in the northwest so it's not surprising that a couple of local food banks got a shout-out:

  • The Auburn Food Bank, which has a big annual breakfast fundraiser coming up November 4 from 7-8:30 AM, call 253-804-5696 or drop them e-mail for more info. If you are in the area, I hear it's a great event for a good cause. 
  • The University District food bank in Seattle got a couple of votes, too. Check out this video that explains a bit more about them.

Continue reading "Feeding Hungry People and Other Charitable Acts" »

October 05, 2011


Oy, kitchenmage!
image courtesy Miss Mags at I want to go to Faerie College, one of my favorite blog names ever.

The Interwebs has a huge iSad today for Steve Jobs has uploaded himself to elsewhere.

While I am not a member of the club, I know that there are many of you who have been deeply touched and inspired by Steve over the years.

As a foodPerson, I also know what we do to console ourselves, or celebrate the lives of those who touched us. We eat.

Often special, ceremonial foods. Favorite foods to honor people. Something appropriate for the occasion.

The obvious thing to eat for Steve is an Apple.

It was not only the name of his company, it was his favorite food. (Unless you count the sushi that was the sole exception to his veganism.)

So if you're going to miss Steve, eat an apple. Locally grown, organic, from a farmer's market, as Steve would, or picked up at the local Wallyworld, I don't care. Just eat one.

It's affordable, near effortless, good for your health - and the Apple industry in my home state of Washington - and Steve would approve.

The tradition of my childhood plants trees in memory of people we love. If you have a garden, you might want to plant him a tree. An apple tree, of course.

September 15, 2011

The Hunger Challenge: On Being on Food Stamps For Real

Some folks are participating in the Hunger Challenge and feeding their families on a 'food stamp budget' of about 4 dollars a person a day. This event, being put on by the San Francisco Food Bank is designed to raise awareness of hunger and the overwhelming need to help Americans obtain enough food.

I have mixed feeling about the whole affair.

Awareness is good, but the type of awareness can leave a bit to be desired. People want to try the budget to identify more with the people who have no choice, but the context is so dissimilar as to make it an almost laughable comparison.

It's complicated.

I wrote some thoughts on making the Hunger Challenge a bit more challenging when it was being done in the Seattle area a while back. Those thoughts stand but I have a few more. (Amazing, huh?)

Once upon a time I was a poor single mother and I got food stamps. Not those SNAPpy little credit card things you get now, but colorful play money scrip they used back in the dark ages. It was like shopping with Monopoly money.

Continue reading "The Hunger Challenge: On Being on Food Stamps For Real" »

March 31, 2011

Thoughts on Making the Hunger Challenge a Bit More Challenging

The Hunger Challenge is an annual event put on by United Way of King County (WA) in which people volunteer to live on a limited food budget of about $7 a person/day for several days in order to gain empathy with people who are living on SNAP (food stamps). Some people wrote, made videos, etc. about their experiences.

As you might imagine, this was executed with varying degrees of success. Some people wrote excellent posts with recipes, resources, strategies and tips for eating on the cheap. Others shared just how difficult the entire thing was for them, some of them before the challenge even started. Yes, really. The response also swung widely with accolades being heaped upon a few bloggers for making it through a single day to, perhaps my favorite, "Poverty isn't a f*cking writing prompt." (Thank you, Miss Britt.)

I did my share of snarky tweeting about stunts and playing at poverty while the challenge was going on and while I do regret that a few friends thought I might be talking about them (I wasn't), I stand by it. I find it offensive to have people pretend to a life that you know is extremely difficult and come away after 72 hours (or less) saying "it's easy." Whatever the intent, it seems dismissive and diminishes the experiences of people who lived it to the benefit of those who write about one small, and highly mitigated, aspect of it on the Interwebs.

However, amd importantly, I also understand that this was not the intent of the individuals who participated in, and wrote about, the Hunger Challenge. Yes, many of the issues people had with the Hunger Challenge came down to what individual bloggers wrote, but I am not calling them out. (Look ma, no links!)

 Instead, in the spirit of fighting the real enemy, and recognizing that while United Way is considering changes they are plannng on doing this again next year, I offer suggestions for structural changes in the Hunger Challenge in order to make it just a wee bit more realistic.

Continue reading "Thoughts on Making the Hunger Challenge a Bit More Challenging" »

November 26, 2010

Buy Nothing Day: Give the Gift of Knowledge

knitting hands

Black Friday.

Buy Nothing Day.

One day. Two entirely different views of how to spend it.

Black Friday, at its sanest, can involve a hot drink and a warm computer. If we are being honest, I am a big fan of this kind of Black Friday shopping. Give me a search engine and a burning lust for a new toy lens, sweet knives (last year's indulgence) or a tablet PC for the kitchen (this year's desire) and I am a happy mage indeed.

But the stores? That's another thing entirely. I think you have to be a wee bit crazy to want to go to an actual store today. People have died. That's not hyperbole. People have died. For cheap TVs.

Buy Nothing Day sits at the other end of the spectrum.

Continue reading "Buy Nothing Day: Give the Gift of Knowledge" »

November 04, 2010

Cooks Source: Now For Something Completely Different

Update: Cooks Source issued a statement. It needed a little cleaning up, so I did: Cooks Source Statement: Slightly Corrected (10.9.10)

If you care about food, writing, law, scandal, chicanery, hypocrisy and/or Internet drama — which may define my readers, by the way — you have no doubt heard about Cooks Source, but just in case you are none of the above, welcome and a summation:

The tl;dr version of this post: My 2005 Ice Dragon entry, called "A Tale of Two Tarts" was apparently printed without my knowledge or permission in a magazine and I am apparently the victim of copyright infringement.
             from Illadore's House o Crack - Copyright Infringement and Me

There is, of course, more.

It is the kind of 'more' from which grand Internet dramas are made: Clueless editor, arrogant responses, google reveals the magazine seems to be built on lifted content, class action suits are suggested (after someone finds Martha Stewart, NPR, and Disney amongst the victims; it's corporate money they want to use for lawyers)...and the pile-on begins.

We are now at less than 20 hours and there are dozens of posts, a Facebook pileon, thousands of tweets, fake twitter and Facebook accounts, the Cooks Source site has been up and down and there's just a whole lot of poo being flung around by the flying monkeys. It's only going to get messier - there's apparently a Travel Source magazine which seems to also be full of infringing material (check for your stuff here).

Illadore's article has the full story, which has now been rehashed all over the Internet, it is well worth the read it if you are interested in what is going on.

I want to talk about what is not...

Continue reading "Cooks Source: Now For Something Completely Different" »

August 28, 2010

Recipes Are Like Children

Your recipes are not your recipes.
They are the sons and daughters of Food's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

                                           With apologies to Kahlil Gibran

Watching the International Food Blogger Conference online is bittersweet this year. I sold my ticket 24 hours before the conference started when it became obvious it just wasn't going to work out for me this year. Fortunately for those of us who wanted to go but couldn't, there are livestreams of conferences and blog posts are already starting to pop up. Better, there is the twitterstream (The hashtag is #ifbc if you want to follow along.)

One of the sentiments that was being tossed around on twitter today can be summed up as: "Adjusting a recipe doesn't make it yours"

Without going deeply into the legalities of recipe copyright, which are rather straightforward compared to the conversation around them, here's how it works. Ingredients lists are not protected but "substantial literary expression" in the descriptive text and steps is, as are collections of recipes such as cookbooks. This means that if you rewrite the steps, you can republish the recipe without giving credit to anyone. Technically.

Ethically, this gets really muddy. Someone once said "if you change three ingredients it is a new recipe." Somebody was making this up as she went along, and a whole lot of people heard and believed her. There is at least one prominent food blog claiming all recipes are originals that operates under this credo and last I looked, never credits inspiration or source. sigh

In my view, recipes are like children. I 'own' mine while they live at home in my cookbook or website, but once they mature and move out on their own...not so much.

If they get a chive mohawk or pierce their noses, well, that's their thing. I'd appreciate it if there was a shoutout to me - sort of like keeping the family name after marriage - but own them? Nah.

Take my recipes. Please. Use them. Tweak them to make them yours. Just give me a backlink, okay?

How about you: Do you write or adapt recipes? Where do your draw your lines?

June 07, 2010

Cook's Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knife Roll

As I said on twitter: Dudes, if a post says "I" at the start of almost any sentence, it's about ME owning my privilege. We are all Spartacook.

Meaning: this post is not about Shauna, who wrote the original tweet. That's why I didn't name her. There were others discussing the topic at the time, some of them saying similar things and others disagreeing. That particular tweet, however, is the one I saw and commented on, so it's linked(added 6.11.10)  

This post was going to be something else entirely – trust me, there is a great half-written rant – but I got hungry along the way. Hungry enough to want to cook, which I haven't really since I got out of the hospital last week, so I took a break to make a quick late night meal. One of my two chest freezers yielded some lovely Italian sausage made by a friend, which we paired with fresh eggs from a local farm and some fried potatoes with thyme from the herb garden. I scrambled the eggs with just a bit of Parmesan and some fresh chives. Then I came back to write a bit about the intersection of food and privilege and it somehow demanded to be a bit more personal.

This all started with a couple of people on twitter – twits, right? – who were essentially saying, "If I can cook, anyone can." Actually, to be exact, it started with a full-time stay-at-home professional writer and cookbook author who is married to a professional chef saying, "I cook three meals a day, plus bake every afternoon, with a toddler. if I can cook, other people can too."

I literally called bullshit on the very idea that one of us (professional food people who work from home) could say such a thing. Called it privilege. Because it is, uh, privilege. But that just led to me being seen as the bad guy and being unfollowed by some people who then dissed me for being hostile. Um, yeah, whatever…but the issue was left by the wayside in the dust from that kerfluffle. Not my plan at all.

Continue reading "Cook's Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knife Roll" »

April 23, 2010

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Questions

Grays River Covered Bridge

That is the historic Grays River Covered Bridge, the only covered bridge in Washington that is still used by the public. Not sure the public was using it the day the photo was snapped, but mostly. This photo of the bridge is what it looks on drier days. Go look, it's really quite the difference.

The Grays River winds down a nearby valley, at least when it's not escaping its banks to wreak havoc in the area, even on places that are many feet higher than the river itself. The road to Astoria, where we shop, shadows the Grays River valley for a few miles and each trip finds me coveting one piece of waterfront or another. Then I remember. It floods. A lot.

Which flood is pictured here is a darned good question. We are under water quite a lot around here; getting 120 inches - yes, ten feet - of rain annually will do that to you. My memory is that there have been several such floods in the half dozen years since we moved here. Some locals claim that the 100 year floods are happening every 10 years now, others think it might be more often than that.

Even with the floods, I have a soft spot for the Grays River valley. We have friends who happen to live within sight of the bridge, on a bit of a rise so they stay a bit dryer than some others. Perhaps more relevant to me, this is where I broke my arm so horribly a while back. Maybe that soft spot is in my head...

So why do I have (somewhat fewer than 1000) questions about the place?

Two words: Septage dump.

Continue reading "A Picture is Worth A Thousand Questions" »

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