Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Iowa - December 28, 1846

Iowa is a state I have not yet been to, but my cousin Lori biked across it, twice. James has been there, but not much more than I have. He will have a supplementary post.

Dewey: the Library Cat
Dewey was found in the bookdrop of the Spencer, Iowa library on a freezing cold January morning in 1988. He was adopted by the whole town and spent the rest of his life living in the library, to the delight of the patrons and staff. Dewey always seemed to know who needed him, and had therapeutic qualities. The book tells his story, and that of Vicki Myron, the library director, as well as providing some historical, and social insights into the town of Spencer, and the rest of the world, which was fascinated with Dewey's story. Dewey was featured on national television and in a Japanese documentary about working cats. This book was written for middle-school readers and is based on Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World which was written for an older audience. This is a sweet story, and a bit of a tear-jerker. There are also several picture books for children about Dewey's life available as well. I am looking forward to seeing the movie which is due out early next year.


King Corn
Well, you know the old saying "you are what you eat" - it turns out college friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis are both giant ears of corn.This is not because the like to eat corn on the cob, or corn chowder, or creamed corn, or even corn chips, but rather because so much of their food is corn in disguise. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the sweetner of choice for most soft drinks, and junk food. By an interesting coincidence, both young men have a great-grandfather from Greene County Iowa so it is there they choose to rent an acre of land to grow corn and find out where it goes. They team up with a local farmer who rents them the land and helps them to sow, cultivate and reap the crop. They learn a lot about farming, not the least of which is that Iowa corn farmers make their money from government subsidies, not from selling the grain. Also that what the government is subsidizing can hardly be called food. They taste test their corn and spit it right back out. Other locals agree that the corn is not edible. The corn they grow either used to feed beef or is highly processed to become HFCS. The two young men are unsuccessful in trying to get a tour of a processing plant, but do manage to find a scientist who will give them the formula to make it themselves - a nasty business that. They also manage to score an interview with Earl Butz, who was Secretary of Agriculture during the Nixon administration. Butz explains to them why the government subsidies evolved they way they did. I suppose some will watch this movie and say that they will never look at food again the same way, for me though, that boat had sailed. That is not to say I didn't learn some new things, and it did solidify my desire to eat more locally produced, unprocessed food.

Because HFCS has been given such a bad rap there is some movement to changing the name, as if that would make everything better. See this New York Times article to vote on the name you like best. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/23/help-rename-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

Although food containing HCFS would have been an authentic choice for today's consumable, we decided to eat real corn instead. James made corn chowder with my recipe of vegetable stock, onions, potatoes, corn, 1/2 & 1/2 and greens. The recipe has evolved from one I got out of the Boston Globe a few years ago, and only resembles it in passing now. He also made our favorite skillet corn bread - I hope everyone has learned by now the importance of the cast iron skillet. It is never too late to begin cooking with one. We like the recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.


  1. The most important lesson of this year-long blog project is the indispensable cast-iron skillet.

  2. YES it is a lesson all of us... thanx for shearing it with us....

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