Looming French-Fry Shortage

Late-winter storms blessed the Pacific Northwest with record snowpack this past winter after years of mostly below-normal snow. Everyone from skiers to gardeners is pleased; everyone, that is, except potato farmers in Idaho and eastern Washington and Oregon. The lingering winter weather has delayed the planting of this year’s crop. In normal years planting starts by the end of February; in 2019 the ground was not ready until April. Farmers are trying to get planting done in a month, a process normally taking two-and-a-half months.

Seventy percent of the nation’s French fries and hash browns and tater tots come from Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Northwest potato farmers did well last year, shipping much of a record crop to the rest of the U.S. as well as Canada and Europe where the harvests were poor.

Farmers have contracts with potato processors that give leverage to the processors. To keep up with French-fry demand, they can require the tubers be harvested before fully mature, thus reducing the yield – and the growers’ income – by thirty to forty percent.

Nothing like the Irish potato blight of the mid-nineteenth century when diseased crops – abetted by the United Kingdom’s refusal to interfere with God’s free-enterprise plan by providing aid – resulted in the deaths of more than a million Irish and the emigration of two-and-a-half-million more. So, if later this year, you’re paying more for your favorite pommes frite, remind yourself that it could be worse.

Jesus and the Easter Bunny

How did we go from the Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection to a bunny hiding eggs – chocolate or decorated – for the delight of children? You may not not recall any mention of it in the Gospels.

The two major Christian holidays coincidentally are observed on the change of seasons, times of celebration for much of humankind: Christmas at the winter solstice when the sun starts its return and Easter at the spring equinox, recognized from antiquity as a time of fertility. What follows may or may not be true.

Whence came the name “Easter?” It is thought to derive from a pagan figure known as Eostre who was celebrated as the goddess of fertility by the Saxons of Northern Europe. She was represented by that symbol of prolific breeding: a rabbit. There is, however no historical evidence for this.

Or maybe it’s because rabbits were thought to be hermaphrodites, able to reproduce without sex. Hence a connection with the Virgin Mary.

Eggs are an ancient symbol of new life and have been part of spring festivals for millennia.

Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’s emergence from the tomb.

Eggs were considered forbidden during Lent. Christians decorated them to celebrate the end of fasting and ate them on Easter.

What is probably true is German immigrants to Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century brought with them stories of egg-laying(!) hares. Children made nests for the “Osterhase” to lay colored eggs. The Easter Bunny story expanded from there.

So honor the holiday that is the basis for Christianity but whose symbols have few documented origins and only the most tangential relation to Jesus Christ’s resurrection.

Shopping Under the Influence

The Hustle is an on-line news disseminator whose stated mission is “to keep you informed… highlighting a handful of topical stories and adding perspective and color to make it easy to understand.” Wanting to know more about its readers they did a survey on a vital issue: Shopping While Drunk. Of the 2,174 responses, 79% said they had made purchases while inebriated. The Internet of course has made it much easier, saving an imbiber all the effort and risk of driving to the local mall. The Hustle extrapolated that Drunk Shopping is a $45 billion business in the U.S.

“My curiosity is piqued when inebriated,” she said. “I think, ‘Let’s do it!’”

Some fun facts:

  • Average annual expenditure is $444. Oregon and Washington are in the average range; California about $100 more. Kentucky leads all with $742. (The inescapable conclusion is that having Mitch McConnell as senator increases alcohol consumption.)
  • Clothes and shoes are the most popular purchases, followed by movies, games and food.
  • Exploiting this market can make a person the richest – or maybe second richest; we can only guess Vladimir Putin’s fortune – in the world: 85% of purchases are made from Amazon.
  • Maybe not surprising is that least likely to shop while drunk are persons working in retail businesses.

The corporate world has caught on and is busy devising ways to entice drunk shoppers – aided no doubt by Amazon, Google, Facebook and others whose business is monetizing people’s personal information.

If you think this causes any embarrassment, you are wrong. The Seattle Times found citizens in that technology capitol eager to share with the world stories of stupid things they bought while under the influence.

Opening Day

Anything is possible… for one day anyway. Will the San Francisco Giants continue their year-to-year progress? They finished last season next to last in their division, a marked improvement over 2017 when they had the worst record, not just in their division, not just the National League, but in all of Major League Baseball.

Anything is possible… for one day anyway.

If only the Giants had a Roy Hobbs.


Solidarity – Oregon Style

A person who is in the position to do something about the human-caused rapidly-changing climate has assured us that it’s all a hoax. Just in case he’s wrong, though, vintners and grape growers in over-heating California have been buying up vineyard properties in Oregon, where the climate is getting more like what Napa and Sonoma used to be. Kendall-Jackson is one high-profile name investing in Oregon.

Others do it differently. Copper Cane Wine & Provisions – “provisions” include women’s swimwear and cigars – is a marketing behemoth selling a “collection of brands that are personally crafted to uphold a lifestyle of luxury and enjoyment.” Last year they faced legal action from Willamette Valley Vineyards for the labeling of their “Willametter” Pinot Noir. Another Copper Cane brand, “Elouan” Pinot Noir, is from “three diverse valleys along Oregon’s coast,” the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue. They apparently expect their customers to be unfamiliar with Oregon geography. In the end, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission stopped them from selling the wines in the state because of mis-labeling.

Perhaps out of spite, Copper Cane refused to accept 2,000 tons of grapes from the 2018 harvest that they had contracted to buy from Rogue Valley growers.They claim the grapes were unacceptable, that they had been tainted with smoke from wild fires.
Oregon growers and winemakers disagreed. Led by Willamette Valley Vineyards and King Estate Winery a group of Oregon vintners purchased the grapes and are now marketing Oregon Solidarity Rosé of Pinot Noir. A Chardonnay will be released in May and Pinot Noir in August.

Take that Napa!

You Are What You Eat

The Los Angeles Times recently published their quality ranking of French fries from fast-food chains. The grades assigned resulted in nearly two-hundred reader responses – not the deluge climate change or gun regulation topics generate, but a lot for fried potatoes – ranging from agreement to ho-hum to outrage that one’s favorite was rated poorly.

Number one: Five Guys, with McDonald’s ranked a distant second.

But what really generated controversy was the dead-last rating of In-N-Out. The California burger icon, lately creeping across borders into other states, is noted for its freshly-cooked menu items. It is also famous for its secret menu, so secret that it could take as long as twenty seconds to find on the Google machine.

  • “In-N-Out’s fries the worst? Del Taco’s fries among the best? What hot garbage is this???”
  • “In n Out Fries are awesome. What sucks is this list…who eats at McDonalds?!?!?!!!!!!!!!”
  • “Anyone who puts McD’s number 2 and In N Out last needs to be deported.”
  • “I’m horrified to read these blasphemous words about In-N-Out’s fries.”
  • (Tater-tot advocates also put in a few comments.)
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