Tag Archives: food

An Interesting Dive into the Dumpster Life


Dr. Joseph Hendryx speaks Oct. 3 at Mount Mercy on the politics of dumpster diving.

Lars wrote an interesting article. Dr. Joseph Hendryx, assistant professor of English at Mount Mercy University, covered some highlights of a piece that put the practice of dumpster diving into some new perspective.

People who scour dumpsters often have a system and a reason for what they’re doing. Many dive because they have to, but some are also driven to it by a countercultural rebellion against our consumerist society.

And there is a hierarchy among divers, too—from those who are doing it to survive to those who check through trash looking for  useful items rather than mere sustenance.

But beware the can scroungers, who Lars says will lay waste to a dumpster and make a terrible mess.


Dr. Joseph Hendryx speaks.

The one article was the jumping off point to a broader exploration of this topic. Dr. Hendryx was the latest speaker in the fall 2019 faculty series at Mount Mercy University. His presentation was called “Eating in the Margins: The Politics and Experience of Dumpster Diving.” He contrasted the experience of Lars with others, including a man who has a “cooking with trash” YouTube channel.

And there is the whole “freeganism” movement that touches on diving with some political and ecological motives.

logoDr. Hendryx’s Oct. 3 presentation was interesting and thought provoking, and it was off the beaten path enough that it took me on routes unexplored and that I did not always understand. Which I like.

One nice note was that the crowd size was a up a bit for this presentation. Dr. Joy Ochs, the series coordinator, estimated that about 55 people attended, which seems about right, to me. It was a bit more than we’ve seen as some other series presentations.

This particular fall series has featured diverse presentations. Food is a provocative and big topic—and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. The next presentation will be “Food and the Making of a People: A Biblical Perspective” by Fr. Tony Adawu on Nov. 5.

Faces from the audience in the Oct. 3 presentation:


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Filed under Environment, Food, Mount Mercy, Writing

Celebrating My 61st Birthday


Aug. 31–Just in time for family birthday party, the Monarch caterpillars have a party, too.

Another year on the globe. Besides mowing the lawn, I’ve also dedicated part of this Labor Day weekend to celebrating my 61st birthday. The actual day was Friday, while a family party was Saturday.

It’s been good. My wife got me a cool GPS bicycle computer and an interesting-looking grammar game. My children got me a copy of the class board game Risk, a hibiscus bush which should have huge, pretty pink flowers next year and a birdhouse for my backyard nature oasis.

Friday featured some breakfast scones that my wife got up and made for me. Lunch was in the school cafeteria at the university where I teach—which does not sound all that special, but I take my lunch most days and consider eating in the cafeteria a special treat. Supper was Thai food at a nearby restaurant we like.

And Saturday’s birthday feast featured the last summer day meal—brats, hot dogs, potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans—and brownies and ice cream for dessert.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day. It was great to have my youngest son, who is headed overseas for a couple of years for a post-doctorate position at a university in China, home for it, and it was great for my other nearby kids to make it.

Thank you, universe, for another year. I’m not much into resolutions, I don’t typically make them at New Years, but I think birthday resolutions make as much sense as any others, so here are some resolutions or goals for my 61st year on this planet:

  • Vote for a Democrat who wins. That way Tangerine Hitler can fade into the trash heap of history. Really, I know, suddenly this happy birthday post got all political—but the Dunce-in-Chief said today that he’s not heard of a Category 5 hurricane before. Someone please check his meds? And vote him out.
  • Re-watch a substantial part of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I started with season three the day after my birthday. I won’t be able to re-watch much more during the semester, but these are annual goals, right? And that show just so often make me smile, even if it is very ’90s.
  • Learn something new. I just downloaded a new language ap, and plan to work a bit on my rudimentary Spanish. I also may try to learn to count in Hungarian—my father’s family were all Hungarian, and I would like to visit that country. Can’t make that visit a goal yet for this year—it probably will be a retirement trip and I’m not there yet—but I can start learning a bit of the language. And I’ve already visited some Spanish-speaking places—it seems like I would not be hurt at all to improve on language skills.
  • Get some kids to like Tessa Violet. To be fair, not all college students go crazy when I start playing my Tessa tunes in the newspaper office—one editor a few years ago learned to love Tessa when she went through a tough breakup and saw herself in “Sorry I’m Not Sorry.” But I’m always a bit surprised so few of the new generation listen to her I like the idea of her.
  • Learn to appreciate some new cuisine. I like many international foods—Thai, Chinese, Ethiopian. But there’s a lot of the globe that, culinarily speaking, I have not explored. I like to try new foods and want to find the next taste. Any suggestions, readers?

Well, that’s it, for now. I may be getting older, but I enjoyed myself this weekend. But I still want to have more fun. Maybe it’s time for the next episode of Buffy.

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First Fall Series Presentation is a Feast for the Mind


Dr. Anna Waterman, associate professor of biology, Mount Mercy University, talking about food.

Food changes everything. The way we live, where we live, how we live and the fact that we have “the man” to please and to defy—it all starts with food.

For the first several million years that our species walked on this planet, we foraged and hunted. We gathered the leaves and seeds and roots that we wanted to consume, and killed our fellow creatures and ate them.

It wasn’t an ideal life, but it was a life we were suited to. We already had fire—cooking predates our species and, along with the ability to make and use tools and weapons, is part of the legacy we get from our related hominid ancestors.

Then, about 12,000 years ago, starting in the fertile crescent of the Middle East but also independently developing in South America and China, humans began to fundamentally change the way we had lived.

logoThat fascinating history—how we are creatures of food and how our relationship to food changed everything about our lives—was the topic of Dr. Anna Waterman’s presentation “How the Agricultural Revolution Transformed Human Diet, Culture, and Society” that she gave Aug. 22 at Mount Mercy University. It was the first event in the 2019 Fall Faculty Series.

It is a bit weird to think that for most of the time we homo sapiens have been around, we shared this globe with other kinds of humans—literally other homo species besides ourselves. No more. Our spread worldwide happened before agriculture and “civilization,” and we either out-competed or eliminated our nearest relatives. (Dr. Waterman didn’t go into this point, but we also incorporated some of their DNA into ours—Neanderthal and Devonians, for example, didn’t all die out, some joined our clan).

People some 12,000 years ago began slowly to tend the plants that they like, and in what was wetter grasslands of the Middle East at that time, some of those grasses became selectively bred into cultivated grains. Those grains fueled dramatic changes in our diet—the invention of bread and beer as staples of what we eat and drink.

And with cultivated grains came larger populations, villages, hierarchies—eventually, nation states. Bosses. Work. Specialization. Organized religion. And, as formerly nomadic, now fixed peoples, we started to find that tending animals was more convenient than hunting them—chickens, pigs, cows, goats were bred from wild animals into the domestic creatures we care for and consume today.

Suddenly land wasn’t something you moved over and foraged on, it was property that was owned by some rich people. The concept of “stuff” was invented as we had fixed residences to store valued objects in.

In the blink of an eye, in the grand scheme of things, the globe was transformed. Today, there are still nomadic hunter gatherers in our human family, but they are rare, located in isolated pockets of land that typically are not that good for raising crops.

Where we can farm, we farm. Thus Iowa is carpeted with corn and soybeans from river to river, a dramatic change in the landscape from what it was 200 years ago. Our immigrant ancestors conquered the New World because residents already here did not have immunity to European diseases—caused, partly, by Europeans living in such proximity to their domesticated animal sources of protein.

Family size was dramatically changed. Nomads carry what they can, and usually can’t have more than one “carry” child at a time, so their norm was to breastfeed for three or four years, which was a form of birth control. With grain, you can make soft food that an 18-month-old can slurp down, so you can wean her and make another baby sooner. And if you’re farming, you tend to want more babies because those kids are farm labor.

The vast, varied ways that agriculture has shifted our environment, our social structures and our ways of life were interesting to hear Dr. Waterman speak about. The changes have had plusses and minuses. I’m not against having a computer to type this blog post on, nor being able to microwave my lunch.

But Dr. Waterman played an interesting game. “How many of you,” she noted, “could go out into your back yard and find stuff to eat?”

There are edible plants there, probably. If we were hunter-gatherers, we would know which roots to dig and which leaves to pluck. Today, our lives are divorced from our sources of food.

Not that I want to trade places with my great, great, great nomadic ancestor. They had cookies with this presentation Thursday night—something those ancestors never saw.

And afterwards, pizza with some brews. Beer and bread, man. They changed everything.

There are eight presentations in the fall series this year, come on down. The next presentation on Sept. 4, by Dr. Normal Linda Mattingly, will cover the history of school lunch programs.

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A Better Version of the Ketchup Pizza


Dinner Tuesday night–quick, easy and tasted good.

It’s amazing to look back at things that I called “food” when I was growing up.

White bread sans crust crushed into a tiny cube (and, of course, I’m sure I was consuming plenty of the bacteria from my fingers). Instant mashed potatoes with cottages cheese mixed in. Dill pickles wrapped in thinly sliced sandwich pieces of corned beef, with horseradish. And the infamous ketchup pizza.

It was an English muffin, topped with ketchup and Velveeta “cheese,” warmed in the oven or toaster oven. It was amazing where that yellow glop would end up in our diets—in an omelet, a grilled cheese sandwich or even as the only cheese in lasagna.

Clearly, my younger years were filled with food sins. Some, I would never repeat. I vow never to again touch a Velveeta lasagna, so help me spoons. On the other hand, some of the treats, don’t seem quite so bad—that combination of horseradish, dill and salty meat still is not a terrible idea.

But, never again for the English muffin pizza.

I’m not too much of a snob to eat Velveeta. It would not be my first choice for a sandwich, but if someone made one for me, I’d eat it. And processed cheese-like substances are still OK on pasta, just not OK in lasagna.

These days, when I want a quick pizza, I’ve discovered a more awesome trick. I use a flour tortilla wrap, put actual pizza sauce on it, and cover it with a little cheddar and a lot of mozzarella. In the one pictured, peperoni, too. I don’t know what that does for the family weight loss challenge, but it’s a good, quick meal when we’re hungry and want to eat in 15 minutes (5 minutes prep, 10 to bake—one reason this is a good pizza option it that it’s also quick).

I like the results. I don’t know if young Joe would have liked them, but young Joe ate bread cubes and instant mashed potatoes. Voluntarily. And I’m pretty sure young Joe would be OK with it—one area of food agreement that both old Joe and young Joe agree on is that pizza in any form is usually a good idea. I just draw the line on this side of Velveeta, now.

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The Variety Of Foods a Single Man Eats

Mount Mercy Healthcare in the UK class ready to board plane in Cedar Rapids. My wife is in the front on the left.

Mount Mercy Healthcare in the UK class ready to board plane in Cedar Rapids. My wife is in the front on the left.

I gave myself an exemption for Tuesdays—the day that I go to work in the morning and do not get home until 10 p.m.—and I ended up breaking the rule Monday because the newspaper production cycle caused me to keep crazy hours, but I’ve been trying, mostly successfully, to avoid eating out while my wife is in England.

She gets home tonight, so my bachelor days are over. I do miss her.

But I think I fed myself fairly well. A package of potato chips, some missing popcorn and the remains of an ice cream container may show I didn’t always feed myself the best foods, but my personal project was to mostly eat up what was leftover in the house and avoid major food purchases.

I bought a pie, but that is for when my wife gets home. I also bought eggs, bread, milk, bananas, beer and apples—but those are all what I consider short-term “consumables,” so not inconsistent with the overall plan.

My daughter Katy made apple turnovers. They were good, and she gave me some to take home, which frosted and then wolfed down that night. Yum.

My daughter Katy made apple turnovers. They were good, and she gave me some to take home, which frosted and then wolfed down that night. Yum.

Anyway, I did have some packaged mac and cheese, as my Facebook family friends thought I would, and I had bought a stack of $5 movies at Wal-Mart, and there were two nights when popcorn served as supper. (I only watched two movies so far—“Midway,” a glorious old war movie I had seen before, and “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.” Oddly enough, I do recommend ALVH, it was a blast.)

What did I fix?

I had a package of eggroll wraps to use up. On one night, I combined those with some leftover little smokies into home-made pizza (the wraps served as the crust). That worked pretty well.

I also had a bag of veggies—carrots, celery, some mushrooms and some squash—to use up. I chopped up some and made faux eggrolls (faux because no cabbage, but still OK). There were too many veggies to fit in the rolls, so I made a stir fry. It turned out very brown, due to soy sauce, but was spicy and tasty.

I also baked a bag of chicken, ate some with the rolls and stir fry and also had chicken with a sweet potato I cut up and boiled on another night.

My best bachelor meal--baked chicken, boiled sweet potato that I have added some spices and butter to but no sugar, garlic bread and peas. It was yummy.

My best bachelor meal–baked chicken, boiled sweet potato that I have added some spices and butter to but no sugar, garlic bread and peas. It was yummy.

One night I went to my daughter’s house and had supper there. And yes, on Monday I did eat out. But otherwise, I did my duty and fed myself OK.

But I’m glad to end by single days. And also glad because—well—pie!

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So What is the Work Fridge Yogurt Etiquette?

The yogurt. Look how it's foil wrapper is beckoning.  "Eat me," it says. I hear you, yogurt, I really do.

The yogurt. Look how it’s foil wrapper is beckoning. “Eat me,” it says. I hear you, yogurt, I really do.

I am facing temptation in a plastic cup with a foil top–there’s a raspberry flavored Yoplait-brand yogurt on the second shelf of the mini-fridge that’s located next to the printer in the hall on the first floor of Warde Hall.

Is it mine? I’m asking about the yogurt, not the refrigerator—in fact the mini-fridge is mine, but that’s beside the point. I think.

The problem is I’m not sure I brought that yogurt last week in my lunch, but I think I did. More days than not, I do bring such a serving of yogurt as part of my lunch. Besides an apple, a Yoplait is the most common ingredient in my lunches. It would have been easy for me to bring that raspberry flavored yogurt, but fail to consume it. Maybe I had a peanut butter sandwich and some chips that day, and simply forgot about the yogurt.

After all, I sometimes find a cup of my coffee the next day abandoned in the common microwave that is also in the hall and also (the microwave and coffee both, in this case) belongs to me. It’s not unusual for me to nuke it and forget it.

Leave a part of my lunch just sitting in the fridge through errant forgetfulness? That sure sounds like something I would do. I am seriously entertaining the notion that it is something I actually did do. But, I’m just not sure.

I’m almost convinced that the yogurt in the fridge is mine. It could be. I’ve been watching it all week, and it hasn’t been moved or touched by anybody else.

So, should I eat it?

Then again, I have a history of embarrassing lunch shenanigans. In my previous job, there was a brand of microwave noodle dish that I frequently brought for lunch, so one day I found one in the work fridge, assumed it was mine, ate it, and thereby deprived a sweet old lady of the lunch that she had brought.

I was mortified.

I don’t want to be stealing Adam’s yogurt. Or Edy’s, or Dave’s, or Dennis’ or Jen’s.

Yet, if I brought it in the first place, eating it would not be stealing at all. It sure looks like my yogurt. And it has been sitting in my fridge for at least a week. I put the fridge in the hall so that my cohorts can also use it—it would be wasteful to have this power-sucking appliance in one office where only one person would have access to it. As mini-fridges go, it’s a bit bigger than most, with a crew and a captain well seasoned. No, no, I mean it’s too big for one man’s office, so I arranged, with the help of the Warde Hall custodians, to have it plugged in next to the printer, and I know much of the food in the fridge is not mine, which is fine—the fridge is in the hall intentionally so that anybody who wants to can use it. But, do they have to tempt me with my favorite flavor of Yoplait?

So this is my problem: Do I eat the yogurt, figuring it was either mine to begin with or it has been officially orphaned by now? Or do I act like an ubernerd and question everyone who works on my floor about the ownership of this microbial bit of spoiling milk? Then again, do I put a Post-It note on the yogurt itself, saying “please eat me if you own me or someone who thinks they might own me but isn’t sure might eat me first?” And what size Post-It note would all those words fit on? Surely one that is way too big for a Yoplait container.

Gosh darn it. I had made up my mind Wednesday. It was late in the day, I was getting hungry, and there were few people around. Time for a little yogurt snack, I’d say.

But I got busy and didn’t eat it. And now I’m all in doubt again. To eat or not to eat, that is the quandary. Whether it is nobler to allow the Yoplait to spoil in order to avoid the possibility that I might be encroaching on another’s dairy product, or whether it’s better to ensure that this food doesn’t go to waste by giving it opportunity to go to my waist.

What will I do? What should I do? And whatever I do, are there raspberries involved?

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Eating Good Food As We Say Farewell, and Hello

Dr. Joe Givvin listens to a speech in his honor.

Dr. Joe Givvin listens to a speech in his honor.


Kirkwood TV studio.


Kirkwood TV studio.


Multicultural Fair food. Yum.


Dr. Nancy Brauhn. She had 10 reasons to retire–her husband, kids and grandkids.


MMU retirement reception, with crowd and food table.

Well, it has been a food fiesta for three of the past five days. And today’s event was the emotional highlight, as MMU not only said farewell to two long-serving faculty members, but it was also sweet to see so many familiar faces from past years in Flaherty Community Room.

It’s that end-of-semester season of receptions. It’s sort of a mini-Christmas season, where it seems practically every other day brings some food-filled fete marking some important event or another—except, since it’s not December, the weather is better and the food is, too. Not that I mind Christmas treats, mind you, nor the Christmas season—it’s just that Christmas seems inexorably tied to heavy, sweet foods, while spring receptions favor more savory options.

Food, it seems, is a key part of any celebration. We eat our feelings. I must feel a lot.

Anyway, it began last Thursday at the Multicultural Fair, one of my favorite annual MMU events because it features our international students and others who bring lessons from other cultures—and, more on theme—cultural foods to MMU’s University Center.

In past years, family has shown up and we’ve lingered at the fair. I didn’t have that luxury this busy year, and kind of had to eat and run, but I sure did not mind eating.

Friday was an open house at Kirkwood Community College for its renovated media spaces. Of course, there was good food—sandwiches and wraps and cheesecake. I had to skip Club Friday at MMU to attend the Kirkwood event, so it’s a good thing there was food!

It was nice to see their facilities. Their new newsroom is arranged very much like the MMU Times, with computers on outside walls and a meeting table in the middle. They have more computers—but not a lot more—and a bigger table, but I suppose they need that. We have a bit more cozy things like a couch and a window and a fern with a gnome in it, so I think we win. But, they win too, with not only a nice newsroom, but a very large Mac computer lab and very, very nice broadcast studio plus multiple editing rooms.

I felt like a celebrity at a Hollywood event—Kirkwood even offered a gift bag. I came away with a handy Kirkwood tote, pen, flash drive and legal pad holder. I had to work five years at MMU before I got a now out-of-date “Mount Mercy College” legal pad cover—at Kirkwood, I just had to show up, eat food and take a tour. Winning.

I also ran into Corey and Ryan, two ex-Times editors who had graduated from Kirkwood. Enjoyed the visit with two of my former students.

Anyway, the party season continued at MMU today, with what is, so far, the “big” event. Dr. Nancy Brauhn, a professor in my wife’s department (nursing), and Dr. Joe Givvin, a philosophy professor, are both retiring this year. A reception was held in their honor.

They both have more than 30 years of experienced—in fact, both began teaching at MMU, then MMC, while I was an undergraduate at Marycrest College in Davenport. My, how time flies. It was nice to see them both and to hear them honored—it was a very well done event, I think, including excellent party food and an open bar—yes, your garden correspondent had a few glasses of wine. I don’t think I was weaving too badly on the ride home, however. (Joking—I only had two glasses and I ate a lot, I think I was legally OK to bike.)

Anyway, in addition to the well-earned accolades for Nancy and Joe, the event brought lots of guests to MMU. Their families were very cool to see, for example.

But for me, the thrill was seeing familiar faces that I don’t run into that often. Bob McMaster was there, as was Bob Naujoks. I saw John Rogers and Bulane Daughtery and Will Kirkland and Dale Harrison and Jay Shuldiner. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, and I hope I got all the names correct—but it was grand to see so many familiar faces of those who’ve retired, but who came back for this party.

The food was fine, too, but the fellowship was heartwarming.

As it happens, Audrey had RSVP’d for us, but I forgot that the retirement reception was scheduled this afternoon. A chance encounter with Dr. Christopher Blake in Warde Hall woke me up in time to attend.

And I’m glad I did.

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A Twinkie, a Twinkie, is it Really Food At All?

A photo from WikiCommons by Larry D. Moore in happier days. 2005.

So, does the image from WikiCommons by Larry Moore make me hungry? It’s been years since I ate a Twinkie, and really, I am not sure I have missed them much.

The Twinkie may be pulled from the brink. In the first place, if Hostess did go belly up, someone else might buy the recipe. In the second place, today it was announced that management and the union have, at the urging of a bankruptcy judge, agreed to mediation.

Well, I hope some of the 18,000 jobs can be saved. But I’m not going to write about the labor dispute. Instead, Twinkies at the brink made me think of food I enjoyed in my youth, some of which I miss, some of which now any makes me think “what was I thinking.”

What are some examples of kid chow I enjoyed that seems to have faded from my life?

  • A slab of beef baked with Lipton Onion soup on top. I don’t know what cut of beef my mother used and I haven’t ever bought a packet of that soup, but this would be one food that I would willingly sample again.
  • An English Muffin pizza. Made with ketchup and Velveeta. A truly terrible idea, then and now. No thank you.
  • Instant mash potatoes, sometimes made with cottage cheese. OK, the potatoes alone are inferior to real mashed potatoes, but the mix with cottage cheese might be tempting.
  • Thin corned beef and a dill pickle. Wrapped up with horseradish sauce. OK, I think it would be good, even today.
  • Fried bologna with a fried egg. Sounds disgusting. Looks disgusting. Filled with fat calories. And yes, as I type this, I hate to admit it, but I’m feeling hungry.
  • Hoot and holler whiskey cake. A kind of fruitcake without the dried fruit, marinated daily with whisky. Since the whiskey is added after baking and soaks into the cake, I’m not sure the results were legal to be fed to me when it was fed to me. I’m willing to try it again.

Anyway, I won’t be too worried whether Twinkies are around or not. And by the way, I checked, they are not some strange chemical concoction that isn’t baked—they are fairly bland, chemical laden baked cakes. Which, honestly, I don’t really miss at all. The Velveeta pizza of dessert.

What foods of your youth do you wonder about now?

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Final Report From Norwich, Rhymes with Porridge

Our hgosts.

The Moscous. Guess who's coming to dinner?

Which we had with nuts and raisins and bananas, courtesy of Matt one morning.

We’ve had a wonderful visit to the UK, although we are looking forward to being home.

Thanks Amanda, Matt, Lizzie and Juliet for a wonderful Norwich holiday. We’ve been to Europe and have decided it’s a friendly place we would like to come back to. Having a daughter and her family here is a major reason why, of course.

It was my get-acquainted time with Juliet, and she is a charming little baby. As Amanda notes, her personality doesn’t really come through on Skype, which she seems to recognize as a camera and gives her deer-in-the-headlights DMV look. In person, she laughs and grabs and kisses and babbles and squeals and in general is a fun kid. Although comparisons are not always fair and she is both younger and heftier, in happy personality, this little bundle of joy reminds me of her happy and mellow cousin Amelia.

What to say about Lizzie? Well, we loved our time with her. She is a cute, bubbly bundle of energy, a firecracker wrapped in TNT. As Audrey says, she can go from 0 to 60 faster than the fastest Jaguar. Over 95 percent or more of the time, she’s great to be around, to read to and play with. Less than 5 percent of the time, her eyes glaze over and the 2-year-old demon takes over – milk gets spilled, biting or kicking happens. The ratio is right, and any 2 year old will be a 2 year old. Miss Lizzie, despite any bumps or bruises or sometimes challenged eardrums, we will miss you.

And Amanda, it was lovely to spend a week with you. Lets do it again.

Matt, you were gone for a time to Wales, but fun to have around. I’m looking forward to sharing some Italian wine, courtesy of your kind neighbor, in a few minutes.

We’re glad we came. Y’all come see us again, and we’ll try to come see you again, too.

Anyway, on to other topic. A very important one, which Italian wine brought to mind:

What we ate in Norwich.

A lot of good stuff. Although most days began with cereal or toast, there were several fancier breakfasts, too. The previously mentioned, porridge was good, as was the “British” breakfast Amanda made today: beans, an egg, toast, British bacon, and mushrooms cooked with potatoes. Yum.

British breafkast.

British breakfast: The canned beans are not American pork and beans. They have a mild tomato flavor, and worked well for breakfast.

Overall, the food was mostly homemade and mostly grand. Although I suffered for it a bit due to a sudden veggie overload, I really liked the Indian feast Amanda made one night. I liked just about everything she made, including a bake of cabbage, potatoes and leftover lunch ham and some excellent mac and cheese made with yogurt and sharp cheddar.  We even had borscht for the first time and liked it.

And, of course, discovered the absolute, artery-clogging delight known as sticky toffee pudding.

And we had an excellent roast chicken feast one night.

We also had a very nice lunch at a pub, and a great Friday night fish and chips feast that Matt picked up as take away.

UEA lunch

Lunch at University of East Anglia art gallery cafe. I had the pasta. I think I won.

The cafe at UEA serves a nice lunch that we enjoyed. Several lunches were picnics with PBJs, and to be honest, Americans know a lot more about peanut butter than the Brits. Still, they were meals that worked for quick picnics.

Amanda taught me the banana peanut butter and Nutella hot dog. Yum.

Amanda and Matt belong to a local farm’s veggie program, and get weekly packets. It forces Amanda to be creative to use them up, hence a cauliflower curry that was part of the Indian feast. It also meant we ate many healthy, fresh veggie dishes. Between the diet and the walking, Audrey and I feel we are arriving back in Iowa lighter and healthier than when we left, if maybe a bit more tired.

Really, there were no lows about eating in Norwich. Both Amanda and Matt are excellent cooks, and we enjoyed their talents.

So, if you have the chance to say at Moscou Place in Norwich, I highly recommend it. Bon apetit!

Pub lunch.

My pub lunch Thursday. It was good but Audrey ordered fish and chips and won.

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Feeding Grandkids and Birds and Squirrels


The end of winter. The edge of the snow glacier receding on the rock wall by my front yard. Snow lasts longer here on the north side of the house, but is clearly on the retreat. What has this to do with food? We'll get there.

The order–grandkids then birds then squirrels–has something to do with importance and responsibility.

I babysat three grandchildren Saturday night for 2 ½ hours. Amelia is 6 months, Tristan 2 ½ and Nikayla 3, but soon to be 4.

I had to feed them supper. Then, today, I loaded up birdfeeders in my backyard, intended for birds, but often visited by the common tree rat of Iowa, the brown squirrel.


Lunchtime for birds this afternoon after the feeders were filled.

The grandkids were pretty easy to feed. I popped a frozen pizza in the oven just before they arrived and convinced them to hang out in the living room for just a minute as I popped it out.

They wanted a “picnic,” which to them means eating at a plastic picnic table rather than the dining room table, and who and I to argue? So I gave the two older ones towels and the three of use trooped out to the deck to wipe off the picnic table before I dragged it inside.

So we wiped and then I dragged and then they sat and enjoyed some applesauce as the pizza cooled. I cut up a piece for Tristan, but Nikayla refused to have her pizza subdivided. So I just warned her to be careful, gave it to her whole, and told her to take a quick swig of her milk should a bite prove too hot.

Lest you worry, blog fans, no, I was not taking much of a risk—I had allowed the pizza to cool for a good 10 minutes. It was by then warm and pleasant but no longer burning hot—but I issued the warning because tomato sauce insulated by cheese and crust can sometimes retain a hot spot.

Anyway, Mr. T, it turned out, was both very possessive of applesauce, and not hungry for it. Nikayla ended up eating probably 2 ½ servings to his symbolic lick. And when I gave him his neatly divided piece of pizza, he ate all the cheese and pepperoni off until he had bare crust and then asked, “more pizza?”

Well, I’m not a member of the “clean plate” club, especially where a 2 year old is concerned. I figure my job is to offer a variety of nourishing foods. His job is to eat what he wants. A tot’s taste preferences and appetite bounce around so much that insisting he eat a certain amount would be to set up pointless mealtime battles.

So I gave him more. Didn’t bother to cut it up, it had cooled more by this time and he was only going to pick off the toppings anyway.

Meanwhile, as I stood in the kitchen and wolfed down frozen pizza, I also opened a container of sweet potato baby food, mixed a bit of rice cereal in, and fed the peanut.

She is a petite little eating machine. I wonder if she inherited the same crazy metabolism that her older brother has. His picky pizza eating was a bit atypical—usually, Tristan eats it all. Little Miss Amelia scrunched her face up and had an unpleasant look, the kind of face we make when we smell a skunk. That odd-looking bad-smell face, however, is her “I like this food” look, and she downed the whole container, then snacked on toddler food Puffs like a little monster.

Did I mention that both she and her brother are thin little things? Amelia is all head with a tiny, tiny little body. She’s not unusually short for a 6-month-old, but she is petite of build. Her brother has massive upper body strength but not a body-builders physique—he’s lean and lithe, probably because he burns off all the food he eats. He’s either sitting still or in full-flight running mode, and he runs more than he sits.

Anyway, Audrey watched them overnight Thursday and reports that there was only one “incident.” She went to fill the birdfeeders on the decks, and noticed Tristan by the door, watching her, bawling his little eyes out.

All she could get out of him was a tearful “feed … birds.” But when she brought him out and let him help her fill the feeders, he calmed right down.

He just wanted to help feed the birds. Whenever he’s around, if someone is doing something outside, he wants to be a part of it.

Well, I fed the birds today. They probably don’t need it. The snow cover is pretty much gone and flowers are already sprouting. No doubt last year’s natural seeds are plentiful for our little flying dinosaurs to snack upon, but we feed them so we can watch them.

And we get squirrels, too.

I don’t hate squirrels, they are cute to watch. But I don’t love them, either. Birds are cuter and don’t try to dig up my gardens. Squirrels cause less harm than bunnies, but they aren’t benign, to a gardener. They are diggers and eaters of bulbs.

Squirrel damage.

Squirrel damage--the rodents often knock the perches off of one feeder trying to get at the seeds. Very annoying.

Well, I feed the grandkids to try to keep them happy and help them grow. I feed the birds to make me happy—just so I can watch them. And I don’t fight with either about what they eat.

Weird weather

Flowers in back gardens seem freaky early on Feb. 5. By the way, sorry, no grandkid photos--I snapped a few, but did not realize I had left the SD card in the computer rather than the camera ...

Flower buds

Final image--shady ground cover in back already seems to have this year's flower buds ready for a warm day to bloom. Hold back little plants--it may look like March in the gardens, but it's not.


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