Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Math is Not Hard

Mr. Taranto--

I am but a lowly vegetable farmer with a blog and a few years of schoolin'. But even I know your analysis of the McDonald's wage issue was not up to your standard rigor regarding the numbers.

As you know, doubling something doesn't amount to a 17% increase in price.

Forgetting about franchise fees, etc. $0.17 of each item on the dollar menu goes to salary cost (labor). Let's assume $0.70 go to other costs.

Doubling the salary cost, and holding all other costs equal, ($0.34 + 0.70) means that a $1.00 item now costs $1.04.

How much would you have to charge for a "dollar item" to continue to reap a 13% profit? $1.195-- let's call it a buck twenty.

How much would you have to charge for a $3.99 BigMac? $4.79-- not the $4.67 you quote.

If you want to talk nickel & dimin' middle America to Death, you might want to line up your nickels and dimes.

So. Not my best ever letter. But this got my knickers in a knot. The math was so bad-- not just in what Taranto was quoting but in his reply. 

Math isn't hard. 

If you haven't suffered a farm accident or aren't a product of familial close relations,  you have 10 fingers and 10 toes. And so do your five dogs. So among you, you have ... let me work this out ... . 20 digits per critter including you. Seven critters including you. Oh! You should include the wife and youngins. So let's say.. . Five dawgs + a family of five, each with 20 digits-- MY GOD! IT'S A CALCULATOR!!

The Plot Thickens

It's a safe bet if the word, "Encyclopedia" or "American" or "History" appears in a crappy old book title, I'll spend one United States Dollar to preserve it in my little library. It's a sure bet if all three words are in the title. And it's a surer bet-- if there was such a thing with there isn't-- that if all three are present and the crappy old book is less than one United States Dollar... .

And so, I present to you the Encyclopedia of American History (full citation below). It was one of my 19 $5 Bag O' Books books. What a find! Here's what others have said (from the back cover):
"... in the category of permanently useful and reliable reference book." --C. Vann Woodward

"This encyclopedia immediately assumes its place as a basic reference book for any library." -- John Barkham, Saturday Review Syndicate
And my personal favorite
"From now on when a question in American history comes up the first source of reference for students and libraries will be this encyclopedia." -- San Francisco Chronicle
[my emphases]

How this book, discarded by the Parkin High School Library in Parkin Arkansas, assumed its place in a $5 Bag O' Books table in a bookstore in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi is a mystery. But I'm ever-so-glad it did. It has now assumed its rightful place right over there on my go-to reference shelf.

The organization of the book, along with many many tables and lists, do make it a first source reference. It has three sections.

I. Basic Chronology begins with a discussion of the "Original Peoples" of America, c. 50,000-8000 B.C.! While detailed, this section is basic political history.

II. Topical Chronology deals with territorial expansion, populations, economy, science, thought, and culture. Fun stuff.

III. Four Hundred Notable Americans not just politicians. There's an entry on Irving Berlin who wrote and composed White Christmas. (p. 675)

Topical Chronology is crammed with all sorts of utterly useless information-- unless, of course, you need to know that White Christmas is one of the Twenty-Five All-Time Song Hits, 1892-1959. (p. 657) I like music just as much as the next guy but music is Mr. Big Food's thing, not mine.

My thing is books. And this crappy old book does not disappoint. Under the heading, "Trends Since 1860" in the "Literature" section of "Thought and Culture"  we have listed one or two best selling crappy old books for each year beginning 1862 and continuing through 1960. (pp. 604-605) Whoa Boy!

"I have that!" I exclaimed more than once.

"Well. Duh. They were best sellers," I replied.

I wondered how easy it would be to learn what the best selling book in 1906 was if one was not already in possession of a crappy old book with the answer.

(Not to mention the best selling book!)
As it turns out, thanks to that infallible source, Wikipedia, it's remarkably easy to find the answer (as long as you can connect to the World Wide Web). But there's just one small little problem.

And that's not all.
There are multiple discrepancies between the book list and the Wikipedia lists of best sellers for the years 1900 - 1909. The Wikipedia entry states: 
For 1895-1912, the lists were compiled from the New York Bookman, which is the only comprehensive source.
What are we to make of this? 

If Bookman is the only source, how can the two lists differ?

Why would a book like the Encyclopedia of American History exclude The Jungle in its list?

Why does the book include several Zane Grey novels, but the Wiki list none?

There is no citation for the list in the book; no link to the digitized issue of Bookman (relevant or otherwise) at Wikipedia. 

So the plot doesn't thicken. The story stops cold. Sorry 'bout that.

Richard B. Morris, ed. Encyclopedia of American History Updated and Revised. Harper & Row, Publishers, New York. 1965.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mike's Home!

Waiting on Miss M. to come back home.

Home Improvement: $15

I took a lot of photos on our little fishing trip last week. I'm saving them up to post when I ain't got nothin' else to talk about. (Just wait until you see what they've done to Mammy!) This is not such an occasion, though, as I do have something to talk about!

Alberta's Vintage Shop Hwy. 61 south of Natchez-- the entrance to the Mississippi Frontier
Alberta's was next to the General Store which was a bit of a tourist trap. Well, as much of a tourist trap as is possible in the Mississippi Frontier.

The curtain itself is hand made on a sewing machine but the crewel needlework is entirely hand done.
It has its problems, but for $15 I thought it was a pretty good deal. Obviously, it's not a window curtain. It's a curtain to separate two rooms. But still.

Works for me!

"Of Gardens"

God Almighty first planted a garden. And, indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures; it is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man, without which buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks. And man shall ever see that when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately, sooner than to garden finely, as if gardening were the greater perfection.

Francis Bacon

The essays or Counsels, civil and moral of Francis Bacon [first published in 1597, and as he left them newly written and published in 1625] including also his Apophthegms, Elegant sentences and Wisdom of the ancients. Introduction by Henry Morley. Donohue, Henneberry & Co., Chicago. 1883.

That's some title, isn't it? I think it might be the longest in my little library. Those seemingly random capitalizations are Mr. Morley's, by the way.

My garden could use some perfecting.
These are two Old Time Tennessee muskmelons which volunteered in the new asparagus patch. 
A very old variety. It has been dropped from commercial catalogs, is rare and seems to be near extinction. The fruits weigh an average of 12 pounds, are 12 to 16 inches in length, and are elliptical or football-shaped. Our family has grown this melon for well over 50 years. This is my personal favorite muskmelon. They must be picked at the peak of ripeness, when the fruit has turned a golden-yellow and they easily slip from vine. They should be dead ripe for the best taste. They do not keep very long. Sweet aroma that will carry over a long distance. Definitely not a shipping melon." This is a garden-to-table melon.
I didn't have the heart to rip them out and I'm glad I didn't. I have six, all more than 12" long. It is our personal favorite, too.

I haven't posted many photos of the garden because it's a mess. The pests haven't been too bad this year but the weeds are out of control.

I wish God Almighty would see fit to deliver to me a farmhand or two.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rocky is Exhausted

As am I. Moments after I took this photo, Rocky hopped up on the bed with Mr Big Food and Missy. Hum. Not a bad idea.

I thought I might write tonight about the 19 books I got for $5.

But I think instead I'll just post photos of

Blackeyed Pea Soup

and jalapeno cornbread muffins
and the books I've cataloged but still need to find a home.

This Week: July 30 - August 4: The War to End All Wars Begins &c.

Not an especially inspiring week in history. I like my truck so it's good Henry was born. I don't like Lemark. Clark? Just not into him right now. And so on.

July 30

Henry Ford born 1863 [1]

July 31

The Donner Party left Fort Bridger, Wyoming in 1846 en route to California via an "untried route. ... It turned out to be a road to disaster." [2]

August 1

Jean Baptiste de Lemark born 1774 [1]

William Clark born 1770 [1]

Herman Melville born 1819 [3]

First U.S. census reports 100% of households are without an electric dryer a population of 3,929,214 or 4.5 per square mile. [2] (U.S. 2010: 87.4; Alaska: 1.2; Mississippi: 63.2; DC: 9856.5)

August 2

Pierre Charles L'Enfant born 1754 [3] (You can squeeze a lot of folks into a city arranged as a wheel.)

U.S. War Department "purchased its first military war plane from the Wright Brothers in 1909, thus founding the Army Corps." [3]

August 3

Germany declares war on France and Belgium 1914 [1]

August 4

Percy Bysshe Shelley born 1792 [1]

Great Britain declares war on Germany 1914 [1]

[1] Mary Emogene Hazeltine. Anniversaries and Holidays: A Calendar of Days and How to Observe Them. American Library Association, Chicago. 1928.

[2] William J. Bennett and John T.E.. Cribb. The American Patriot's Almanac. Thomas Nelson, Nashville. 2008.

[3] Mary E. Hazeltine, Judith K. Sollenberger (ed.). Anniversaries and Holidays: A Calendar of Days and How to Observe Them Second Edition, Completely Revised. American Library Association, Chicago. 1965.

Recipe: Spicy California Chicken Barbeque



Serves 8

1 C tomato juice (use spicy V-8 for a spicier dish)

¼ C vinegar

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 Tbsp corn starch

1 Tbsp onion, chopped very fine

1 Tbsp oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp dry mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1 chicken or beef bouillon cube

2 chickens, cut into quarters

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 3 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Grill chicken over hot coals for 40 minutes or so, turning every 5 minutes or so and taking care not to burn. Baste with sauce during the last 10-15 minutes of grilling.

Recipe: Zucchini Monterey

From Clifton’s Silver Spoon Restaurant, a long-time downtown L.A. eatery.


Serves 5

1 ½ lbs zucchini, cubed
Boiling salted water (for cooking zucchini)
4 eggs, beaten lightly
½ C milk
½ tsp Accent
1 tsp salt
Dash cayenne pepper
2 tsp baking powder
3 Tbsp flour
¼ C fresh parsley, chopped
4 oz diced green chilies (drained if canned)
2 Tbsp diced pimentos, drained
1 lb Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (for spicier dish, use Jalapeno Pepper Jack)
1 ½ tsp oil
1/3 C fine dry bread crumbs (preferably homemade—see recipes in Basics section)
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350o. Cook zucchini for about 5 minutes in boiling salted water, and drain. Combine eggs, milk, Accent, salt, cayenne pepper, baking powder, flour, and parsley, mixing well to remove lumps. Add chilies, pimentos, and cheese, and stir thoroughly. Stir drained zucchini in gently. Grease a 2 quart casserole, dust with some of the bread crumbs, turn zucchini mixture into casserole, and sprinkle with remaining crumbs. Dot with butter and bake uncovered for 55 minutes.

Recipe: Polish Meatballs with Sour Cream Sauce

with homemade sausage


Serves 8

1 ½ lbs ground pork
1 egg
½ C seasoned bread crumbs
½ C milk
½ C chopped onion
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp marjoram
4 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp oil, maybe more
1 C beef stock (preferably homemade—see recipes in Basics section)
½ C sour cream
2 tsp lemon juice
Mashed potatoes
¼ C grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350o. Combine pork, egg, bread crumbs, milk, onion, salt, marjoram, and pepper, mix until blended, and shape into balls 1 ½ inches in diameter. Roll meatballs in 2 Tbsp flour and brown in 2 Tbsp oil in skillet. Mound browned meatballs in center of a lightly greased 2 quart casserole. Measure dripping sin skillet, and add more oil if needed to make 2 Tbsp. Stir in remaining 2 Tbsp flour, gradually stir in stock, bring to a boil, and remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and lemon juice. Spoon mashed potatoes around d meatballs in casserole, sprinkle potatoes with cheese, pour sour cream sauce over meatballs, and bake 1 hour or until potatoes are golden.

Recipe: Garlic Green Beans


1 lb green beans, (can use frozen, thawed and drained)
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ C white onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ C fully cooked sausage or ham, cubed
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp white pepper

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Add onion, garlic, and ham or sausage and sauté until vegetables are soft. Stir in vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. Heat thoroughly. Stir in beans. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat 15-20 minutes,

Recipe: Chicken Fried Steak with Cream Gravy

Chicken Fried Steak
with Cream Gravy. Served with mashed potatoes and garlic green beans.
Mr. Big Food used minute steaks.

An old Texas favorite. This one is adapted from “Crazy Sam Higgins.” As Sam and others have said—including the family’s father in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part II—“it’s the meat—don’t skimp on the meat!”


Serves 8-10

3 pound sirloin tip roast, cut into ½ inch slices
1-2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
3 C flour
2 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
Chopped parsley (for garnish)

Beat meat with spiked meat mallet to tenderize. Cut each slice crosswise into three pieces. Place slices in a large bowl and cover with water. Add salt and vinegar. Marinade two hours (or more). Combine flour and pepper in freezer bag. Add meat one piece at a time (do not pat dry) and shake to coat. Heat oil in electric frying pan to 350o. Add meat in batches (do not crowd) and fry until light brown. Drain on paper towels. Place meat on warm platter and tent with foil.



2 Tbsp flour
1 C milk
¼ tsp salt

For gravy, use 2 Tbsp oil from deep fryer and heat in skillet over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk in milk and stir in salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened. Spoon over meat. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Recipe: Tamale Pie

A Big Food Favorite. Sorry. No photo. 

Mr. Big Food needed to add an additional 1/2 C Masa Harina.  The Masa & water should be the consistency of mush-- soupy mashed potatoes.


1 C Masa Harina
4 C water
2 tsp salt
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 oz diced green chilies (can use canned)
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 ½ C tomatoes (can include 1 can Ro*tel for a spicier dish)
2 C cooked meat (beef, chicken, pork, whatever), ground
Dash chili powder (or to taste, and preferably Pure—see instructions in Basics section))

Preheat oven to 375o. Cook masa harina, water, and 1 tsp salt over low heat 30-45 minutes, or until thick. Fry onions and green chilies in olive oil until tender. Stir in tomatoes, ground meat, remaining 1 tsp salt, and chili powder and cook until thickened. Line a greased baking dish with half the mush. Top with meat mixture. Top with remaining mush. Bake 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A GOOD Hang Out with Mr. Big Food

As you may recall, Mr. Big Food was invited to participate in a Google+ Hangout with the editors of GOOD Magazine and others. The topic was gun control-- not so much control of guns, per se, but the current divisive climate surrounding talk of the issue. One of the other guests was a very very liberal pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment woman. The other, a "common sense" gun control mom. Mr. Big Food was introduced as the "expert." 

The topic was framed as a Civil Rights issue. The Discourse was Civil. 

Here's a link to the video. It's about 31 minutes long-- way too long for me to embed, given my internet speeds which are better than dial-up but somewhat slower than ethernet.

What was interesting to us-- and what unfortunately Mr. Big Food didn't have the opportunity to mention-- was were he was hanging out during the Hangout.

2.2 miles off the intersection of Hwy 16 & [county road] 747; a big thanks to Miss M who helped us find Mt. Zion Church
Just as an aside, it is pretty cool that some folks in LA, Oakland, NC & bumfu&^ nowhere Mizippi-- forgotten site of a watershed event 49 years ago-- can chat in real time.

While the others "hopped into the hangout" from their homes, Mr. Big Food was at Mr. Zion Methodist Church, in Neshoba, Co., Miss.

These three guys were "Freedom Riders." They were investigating the burning of the church-- allegedly by the KKK-- when they were  kidnapped and killed. I'll leave it to you to search for the historical detail. The film, Mississippi Burning, is a highly fictionalized version of events. 

The 2.2 miles off the highway we traveled to get to this church [here I'm linking top hits for "Mt. Zion" written by folks who've never set foot in Mississippi] took us through rural Black Mississippi. 

I found the whole adventure sad. History here

There should be a museum here.

But that's never going to happen here.
The history of gun control in These United States of America is the history of a handful of people trying to make an objective argument for why they-- subjectively-- are better than I. 

If you don't believe me, watch what the "common sense mom" says in the video. She knows better than you or I. She is a tool, of course. Had she been around in the 60's, she would have advocated for keeping guns from Black folk in Alabama. Because, you know, they're prone to violence. 


As you can see, the zucchini got away from me while I was fishing!
I'm catching up. I'll be back with recipes, photos, videos and more.

Meanwhile... HEY CO-BLOGGERS! Why don't you post something?

Friday, July 26, 2013

If You Are Fortunate

you know that a good life begins in the kitchen.

While Mr. Big Food & I were away fishing, Daughter C took it upon herself to conduct a BIG transformation of the kitchen.

It's orange. I love orange.
She painted the walls Mississippi clay orange and the backsplash slate write-on-it-grey.

She apologized for the French-- there was no need! This is awesome!

Big Food

Five Teasers

1. Mr. Big Food's participation in the GOOD IDEAS forum on liberal gun ownership went well. As it was scheduled for 1:30 central time, and at the time we were making our way back to the Farm from the coast, Mr. Big Food chose an outdoor location from which to participate. 

Civil Rights
2. Daughter C, who had been minding the Farm during our absence, was hard at work during our absence. 

Real Big Food!
3. I have work to do.

Cataloging the 10 pounds of crappy old books I crammed in a 5 pound bag.
4. The garden continued to produce in my absence. Daughter C was otherwise engaged. So I harvested some beans this afternoon. As I type, Mr. Big Food is in the new & improved kitchen turning beans into a little side dish to go with our chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. I think bacon is involved.

5. What a great Anniversary Fishing Trip we had! We're thinking about dragging the whole family down to the Gulf next fall.

Even those danged old dawgs.
Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Wonder What's It Is Like to be Delusional

I never wonder what it's like to be a bat, but I swear, I some times wonder what it must be like to wander around so deluded that you think this book is worth $20.

1934. It's not a real Webster's Dictionary-- and it says so on the title page!
I thought it would be fun to scout the little antique stores of Bay St. Louis. So after the morning fishing, and a wonderful-- and remarkably inexpensive-- lunch at the Blind Tiger, I dropped Mr. Big Food off at the flea bag* (took a nap) and commenced to scouting antique shops.

Outside the Blind Tiger
Inside the Blind Tiger. $4 Abita on draft. On the beach!
(Why Bay St. Louis isn't crawling with beach-goers is a mystery to me. STAY AWAY. There's oil in the water. We don't want you here. We like it that Abita on tap is $4.)

At the antique stores I found again and again something truly antithetical to the market. Or maybe not. Or maybe folks are delusional.

The antique stores had mostly over-priced things in which I had no interest. I like pottery and silver and silver plate and crappy old cooking stuff just as much as the next guy. But it's all over-priced. So although I cast a long look, I was mostly interested in the books. 

I was excited to see that dictionary-- even though it wasn't a real Websters' edition, it would have filled a gap in my dictionary collection. I even went so far as to call Miss M to do a spot of research. As she was answering, I was approaching the counter to ask if the "$20" was correct. Simultaneously, M answered and the lady said "yes" and I laughed and hung up on M.

In what universe it this dilapidated truly crappy falling apart worth not even a dollar old book worth $20? 

Just because a book is old doesn't make it worth money, Hon.

We've enjoyed our anniversary visit to the Coast. And I'm happy to say that although the fishing left something to desired-- we didn't catch many-- my little excursion turned out to be a great success.

I've long prided myself on my ability to pack 10 pounds of crappy old books into a 5 pound bag.
The sign on the table read, "$1/book or $5/bag." Mngt provided the bags. Would it be cruel of me to go back tomorrow? Before we leave? There is that 24 volume set of something. 

Na. Let it go. 

*Fleabag. This is a fishing tradition.  What do you require of a room where you sleep when you go fishing? Not much.

Don't Get Hooked

A regular at the VFW pier-- which is open-- told us hooking turtles is not unusual. He said the folks at the Institute for Marine Studies respond promptly, usually within 30 minutes. (That's a quicker response than Humans in Detroit get!) 

We did not hook a turtle today.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rosemont Isn't So Rosy

We're on the road. I don't have my shiny things about me my crappy old library at hand, so what follows will be light on historical detail, for now.

This morning, we headed down I55 South toward the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Our plan was to make it past Jackson, and then pick our way on back roads to the coast. Plans change. We decided to visit the Mississippi "frontier." Recall the old Maverick theme song, "Natchez to New Orleans."
Riverboat, ring your bell,
Fare thee well, Annabel.
Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
Natchez to New Orleans
Livin on jacks and queens
Maverick is a legend of the west.

Riverboat, ring your bell,
Fare thee well, Annabel.
Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
Natchez to New Orleans
Livin on jacks and queens
Maverick is a legend of the west.
Maverick is a legend of the west.
Neither Mr. Big Food nor I had ever given any consideration to the Mississippi Frontier. 
So North of Jackson we picked up the Trace-- The Natchez Trace-- and headed to Natchez. Not to go to Natchez, but to have a look see what was south west of Natchez. (By the way, it's Louisiana-- and yes, Mississippi & Louisiana have CC reciprocity. We pay attention to such things.)

Blah Blah. Insert some reflections on what widening a highway does to local culture. Blah Blah. 

We found ourselves at Rosemont, boy hood home of Jefferson Davis, first and only President of The Confederate States. 
Yes. 14 years on we are still having fun.
What the heck? It was early in the day. Let's drive up the drive.
Mr. Big Food commented that the place could use some bush hogging, and in fact there was someone bush hogging. I thought the road could use some work.

Okay. Fair Enough. They didn't have bush hogs in the 19th century.
They had horsies in the 19th century.

Well. If that's your attitude, no wonder there was no on in the parking lot but us.
Anyone who knows anything about dirt roads in Mississippi knows that that road leading up to Rosemont is not well traveled. No one is beating down a path to see Jeff Davis' boyhood home. 

The Visitor Center. Buy your Tour Tickets HERE.
There is a gazebo where you can learn all about Jeff.

Mr. Big Food and I opted to not disturb the non-existent Rosemont gatekeepers and just move along.
I don't know anything about horses.
But I don't think this horse looks well. Again, I don't know anything about horses, but I know about rats, and dogs and humans. I can extrapolate.

It's disturbing that I can see clearly so much of this animal's skeletal structure. Look at those back legs. Look at the hollowness between the lower ribs and back legs. There's no back up energy reserve to support running. 

Suek. Am I wrong?