More About Cheese

English chef John Quilter hosts the YouTube series Food Busker. He has posted episodes showing how to make healthy fried chicken, beef bourguignon burgers and various recipes using ramen. A recent chapter sounds like something that could be from Monty Python. He embarks on a project to make cheese using bacteria from celebrities.

John Quilter – Food Busker

Quilter concedes he has a couple challenges: he doesn’t know any famous people and he doesn’t know how to make cheese. He does find five British celebrities, including a rapper and Great British Bake Off finalist. He also knows people who know how to make cheese.

Swabs from the ear, armpit, nose, or navel of the celebrity volunteers become the makings of starter cultures to begin the transformation of milk into comté, mozzarella, stilton and cheddar. The cheeses are aging in the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the exhibition. Food: Bigger than the Plate. No sample will be offered.

This demonstration recreates a project from 2013. The stated purpose, then and now, is “to educate the public about the ubiquitousness of microbes and to challenge cultural queasiness around bacteria.”

About Beer and Cow Shit

If you are really old, you may remember Olympia Beer and the tagline “It’s the Water.” Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and Clint Eastwood are a few of the stars who were pictured onscreen drinking Olympia. It also was my Uncle Roger’s favorite beverage. The brewery advertised its product as being brewed using water from artesian wells.

Olympia and Rainer breweries both shut down long ago.

Continue reading “About Beer and Cow Shit”

Nothing to Do with Changing Climate?

A wet spring has forecasters predicting a less-than-normal fire season in New England. Same in Colorado; they’re hoping the heavy winter snowpack will slow wildfires this summer. The outlook for the West Coast, which also had a wet spring and record snowpack, is not so optimistic. The National Interagency Fire Center issued its report which said precipitation in the Pacific Northwest and California resulted a heavy crop of grasses and other vegetation that will likely be dried out by summer, providing fuel for wildfires.

On cue, a week after the report was released, a wildfire in Central Oregon destroyed a home in La Pine and damaged another. Oh, and 145,000 acres are burning right now in eastern Russia.

Although the stable genius is on record that climate change is a hoax, state government authorities, including Colorado, are planning and budgeting for longer and more severe fire seasons as the new normal.
Meanwhile, in Santa Rosa California, where more than 5,000 homes burned in 2017, rebuilding is underway. The certainty of another fire is not stopping property owners from rebuilding their McMansions on the hills of Fountaingrove overlooking the city. (A fire of almost the exact same dimensions burned the area in 1964, before any homes were there.)

Our esteemed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo won’t use the words “climate change,” but he recently did state that melting Arctic ice was a good thing: “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new naval passageways and new opportunities for trade, potentially slashing the time it takes for ships to travel between Asia and the West by 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century’s Suez and Panama Canals.” He also didn’t mention how the changing climate has made subsistence farming near-to-impossible in Guatemala, resulting in the caravans of people headed our way.

Perhaps less devastating, unless you’re a third-generation family farmer or not a fan of high-fructose corn syrup, is the declining maple syrup production, a result of shorter winters.

Maybe you’re not convinced that there is little or no hope for our progeny. Click here for what long-time environmental writers Elizabeth Kolbert and Bill McKibben have to say.

Some Good News about Bees

Marauding bees delayed for eighteen minutes the first pitch of a game between the Cincinnati Reds and the San Francisco Giants. It was a rare show of strength for the beleaguered insect whose population has been on a precipitous decline over the past several decades. We once feared ferocious killer bees invading from Mexico; now we fear that fewer bees threatens our food supply.

You may worry about the rising price of your Honey Nut Cheerios. You should be even more concerned about pollination. Remember your ninth-grade science? It’s how plants have sex: plant pollen is transferred from the male reproductive organs to the female reproductive organs to form seeds. Wind, animals and insects are the transfer agents. Bees may be the most important of the players in nature’s mènage á trois.

Bee pollination may be responsible for as much as 70% of food grown for humans, possibly 90% of the world’s nutrition.

Much study and speculation has gone into why fewer bees are at work. It could be the changing climate, or chemical fertilizers and pesticides. More recently, there is evidence that corporate monoculture – giant fields of a single crop appear to lessen bees’ interest in flitting from flower to flower. It seems that sexual boredom of bees is a danger to agricultural abundance.

Meanwhile in France, there was concern about the 180,000 bees living on the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral’s staff shared the honey the hives produced. Shortly after the fire was extinguished, bees were observed flitting around the still-in-tact hives. It is not yet known if most of the bee population came through the conflagration unscathed, but early signs are encouraging.

Decompose or Recompose?

Perhaps you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s death – imminent or far in the future – and what its impact will be, whether environmental or financial. The state of Washington has addressed your concern. Senate Bill 5001, pithily titled “Concerning Human Remains,” is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature. (Governor Inslee is quite busy these days running for President, you know.) If signed, the new law allowing the “natural organic reduction” of dead human bodies will take effect May 1, 2020.

A simpler term is “composting.” Rather than putting a body filled with formaldehyde and other embalming chemicals into a non-biodegradable casket and burying it in a crowded cemetery, or releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by incinerating it, the new law will allow after-life remains to decompose on their own and become part of the earth.

The new word is “recomposition.” A new organization is ready. Katrina Spade is founder and CEO of the firm Recompose, whose main purpose is the natural returning of human bodies to the earth after death. She is an advocate of human composting and has worked with scientists studying natural decomposition, including real-death testing in North Carolina.

Of course, some find this appalling. Conservative Catholics ask What about the human soul? and condemn recomposition as another example of disrespect for human life, equating it with abortion and euthanasia.

Serving on Recompose’s board is Caitlin Doughty, owner of Undertaking LA, a non-traditional mortuary in southern California whose declared mission is “to allow families to reclaim their rightful control over the death and dying process, as well as care of the dead body.” She has also gained YouTube fame with her series “Ask a Mortician,” using humor and plain talk to address myriad death issues, from the cost of funeral services to death denial.

Throughout the history of humankind, one wonders what are the relative numbers of deceased who were naturally composted, whether left lying on a battlefield or bulldozed into a mass grave or swept away by a natural disaster.

Ask a Mortician

How Mar-a-Lago Staves Off Bankruptcy

The Trump Organization multiple times has made use of a time-honored business strategy: bleed the business for personal enrichment and then stiff the investors, contractors, suppliers and any other entity owed money by employing bankruptcy proceedings. Although the Organization has had multiple business failures – Airlines, University, Steaks, to name only a few – bankruptcy seems to be the preferred tactic for dying entertainment businesses. The Plaza Hotel and multiple casino operations have ended in bankruptcy courts.

Your tax dollars at work.

Other hospitality properties manage to appear solvent: the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC (that caused many of us to learn what the “emoluments clause” in the Constitution is) and the Westchester Golf Club (where they are shocked, shocked! at accusations that undocumented employees were forced to work off the clock).

ProPublica recently reported on a paid-by-taxpayers $1,000 charge at the the soon-to-be literally underwater Mar-a-Lago resort, a tiny example of the business strategy keeping the operation metaphorically afloat. $1,000? No big deal; it’s a nearly insignificant amount. But it illustrates the overall symbiosis between government expenditures and the personal enrichment of the current occupant of the White House.

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mar-a-Lago in April 2017 for a two-day summit. Later in the evening after the lavish state dinner, a group, including Steve Bannon who says he doesn’t drink and doesn’t remember anything about it, found its way to the resort’s Library Bar – presided over by a portrait on the wall titled “The Visionary.” (You-know-who dressed in tennis whites.) The group dismissed the bartender; the Secret Service guarded the door.

Six days later, Mar-a-Lago presented a bill for $1,006 – $838 for liquor plus 20% gratuity – with no documentation of who was there and what was the nature of the meeting. The State Department declined to pay and forwarded it to the White House, which of course did pay.

Click here for more about how to bill the government.