Friday, October 23, 2009

5:00 Fridays

I like words. I've been having fun with words ever since I had my first little ditty published in the Mini Pages back in grade school. This tidbit just boosted my cool factor significantly in my 6-year old's eyes. I have even been known to keep an Excel spreadsheet of homonyms. My friend Will gives me endless grief for this, which is clearly a sign that he doesn't have The Gift (never mind that "gift" means "poison" in German. We're sticking with English here. And never mind that if you add an "s" to "poison" you get "poisson," which is "fish" in French...see I told you I like words.). Anyway, I haven't a clue how to use a spreadsheet for numbers, but it turns out to be a fine tool for alphabetizing my homonym list. I've been teaching Bird and Deal about homonyms ever since they could talk. I crack up when they discover one on their own.

"But/butt" was a recent example.

As was "booty."

This is why I don't home school.

Since entertaining season is almost upon us, I wanted to share a recipe for a refreshing, wait for it...punch.

Homonym Punch

In a large punch bowl (I totally looted one from my friend Christy's yard sale pile. I bet your mom or your friends have an equally kitschy one in their attic that you can snag. By the way, that's her up there drinking with me. One look and you can totally tell that she is awesome beyond words, right?), mix one liter (or litre for my British readers) bottle of ginger ale, 1 large can of pineapple juice, about 5 cups of mango juice, a small can of cream of coconut (not to be confused with coconut milk) and gently stir. Add a handful of fresh raspberries, chopped fresh pineapple, and sliced lemons and limes. Add Malibu coconut rum for the grown ups. Keep it virgin for the kiddies or your knocked up friends. But add a paper umbrella to give your drink that hanging-out-barefoot-in-a-hammock-tied-between-two-coconut-trees-on-the-beach feel. Even if it is Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is one way to give yourself a winter vacation on the cheap.


And if you have a favorite homonym, let me know in the comments. I could always use some new material in my spreadsheet.


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Monday, October 19, 2009

Food Safety: Caveat Emptor

"Caveat Emptor: is one of the many phrases I remember from my early days of Latin in the esteemed Dr. Larrick's class. (Sidebar: Every student should have been lucky enough to have had Dr. Larrick. He continues to inspire students in ways few can. Teaching is a gift. One that he keeps on giving. And for that we are thankful.) Anyhoo, "Caveat Emptor" is of course the commerce principle that means the buyer assumes the risk. It translates to "Let the buyer beware." We generally think of this in terms of purchasing cars, property, and pretty much anything from eBay, Craigslist, or the classified section (that is, if anyone still lists and buys stuff that way these days).

I never thought Caveat Emptor would apply to the food I buy.

We take leaps of faith everyday. We trust that the drivers among us will stop when the light is red. We trust our children's schools are secure. We trust that the bank protects our money. We trust that our municipality's water reading is accurate. We trust our cribs are tested and our toys lead-free. We trust the food stocked upon market shelves is safe.

Thanks to the likes of Stewart Parnell, the infamous Salmonella Peanut King, consumers can no longer afford to take a leap of faith when it comes to food purchases. The FDA has long been riddled with powerlessness and plagued with inefficiencies. Food safety, and in effect consumer wellness, has been on the back burner. It seems to me that we as a nation have focused more on making a buck and pulling a fast one on consumers than protecting public health. I'm thinking of the policies and attitudes of a certain eight years in the all-too-recent-past. Ahem. The FDA, through years of neglect and failure to modernize itself, has floundered in protecting us.

Well finally, in a bipartisan leap, the food safety bill looks like it's making headway to overhaul the FDA. Despite the fact that the Senate looks like it will wait until next year to address it, the bill is still getting some much deserved attention. It's at least a starting point. Slow but steady, right? The FDA, the government organization upon which we rely to ensure the food we consume is safe, has had puny resources to actually to its job, making us take leaps of faith in the grocery aisle, off restaurant menus, and in school cafeterias without even knowing it.

Spinach. Peanuts. Cookie dough. Ground beef. Chicken. Pet food.

Pretty basic items on any grocery list, right?

E. coli. Salmonella. Listeria.

I bet those aren't on your shopping list.

So where do we go from here?

Until our government gets rolling on passing and implementing this new food safety bill, it behooves us all to exercise Caveat Emptor in every food purchase we make. Even buying local, organically produced food does not guarantee it's safe for consumption.

Note that I write this a mother, a cook, a consumer. I'm not a pundit, a biologist, a lawyer, a lobbyist, or a politician. And my bet is that if you're not either, you too don't care about the in-fighting. We simply want to trust that the food we serve our children is not tainted. Food is sustenance, and should not be suspect.

Check out these resources for more information.
Safe Tables
@SafeTables on Twitter
Sign up for eAlerts about food recalls.
FDA food safety

Thanks to Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Mike Taylor, advisor to the FDA Commissioner, Safe Tables and the fine bloggers (@GloPan, @punditmom, @morningsidemom, @soapboxmom, @jippert) who joined in on an informative call last week about food safety. Cheers to good health instead of just wealth!

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