Archive for June, 2007

Staple What?

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

After writing about the cotton dresses Mother sewed for me from the pretty flour sacks in the 1930’s I looked over my shopping list this morning, and the flour needed either as a staple food or source of my dresses is nowhere on my list. Wow have times changed! Flour, lard, sugar, and peanut butter are no longer the staples on my list. Nor do I sew dresses any more.

Now I need olive oil, a loaf of bread, frozen vegetables, fresh fruit, milk, canned juice, paper towels, and toilet paper. And I do not want to run out of any of them. Not so odd after all I suppose. Not only have my habits and needs changed but the entire market has changed as well. I’d be surprised if I could buy a hundred pound sack of flour if I wanted to. Lard? I doubt it. Oh I buy sugar in a ten pound paper sack once every six months. Left sugar out of much of the stuff I eat nowadays. Peanut butter has given way to walnuts.

The greatest change in my life as in everyone’s since the thirties is refrigeration. Milk keeps for a week as do fresh vegetables if I cut the stems out before putting them away in my fridge. Frozen vegetables and meats keep longer when properly wrapped in my freezer. I love it. That means electricity is an even more necessary staple.

I do not want to go back to the “good old days”.

webs world wide

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

Nature has many niches. A nitch is a piece of habitat. A place in which to live. Of all the animals on earth, insects fill the most. Niches that is. Of all the pesky ones, spiders annoy me in an odd way. They do not suck my blood or buzz around my eyes. I never gave them much thought until I heard the story of the spider in Middle Earth that wrapped Frodo Baggins in its lethal silk. Well the silk is not lethal, but when wrapped around a prisoner, the meat tenderizer the spider can inject might as well be lethal because it leaves the victim stunned and stored for consumption at the spider’s pleasure. In Tolkien’s classic tale, a spider plays a major setback in Frodo’s quest to destroy an ominous ring he inherited from his uncle, Bilbo.

In the making of the film, LORD OF THE RINGS in New Zealand, the director/producer/writer, instructed animators to come up with prototypes for the spider-like creature. Submitted were cartoon types, odd characters, as seen in many animations. Peter Hanson rejected them all. “I want the real thing,” he admonished. The artists were surprised. Their director was a brave confident man. But he screamed when a real spider ran across his desk. He climbed the walls when a real spider came upon his pantleg. But he was adamant. The horrible predator in the story must have the features of a real spider. Although measuring twenty by twenty feet on the big screen, and able to roll fly-sized Frodo into the silk, the spider has all the features of the real thing, animated of course in the film’s most unique manner.

I am not sqeamish about spiders. I leave them in their niches. Most of the time. I am annoyed when I walk between the plants in my back yard and swinging webs stick on my face, across my eyelids and in my hair. What a nuisance! But since I am trespassing through their kitchen I wipe off the sticky silk with sisterly indulgence. When I find one inside my house I no longer hold to the adage: Live and Let Live. On my ceiling the aracnid becomes a greasy spot under a well aimed swat. On my wall it makes a dash to escape under the moulding undoubtedly to web another day. If one becomes beligerant I slide a piece of paper under it and carry it outdoors to find a more suitable niche.

Maybe I am unfair because I can intrude into so many niches but, then, that is what comes of being an arrogant Homo sapien in the vertebrate class one phylum above the spiders.

Let ’em eat mold

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

I was lucky to have one last piece of cornbread to soak up my homemade wildrice soup today at lunch. I made the batch over two weeks ago, therefore, examined it carefully for mold. My home baked stuff has no preservatives and often molds after a week or so. I learned long ago to keep bread in the refrigerator to prevent moldy invasions. Bread mold, Rhizopus nigricans, is reported to need a warm dark place to breed. Not my bread mold. It grows in the refrigerator sometimes as well. It does not “breed” because it is asexual, and that is probably why it is the most common mold worldwide.

Bread molds are benign and generally not harmful. Species nigricans is a contaminant/opportunistic pathogen, reported to be allergenic, to cause certain infections in compromised (sick or weak) individuals. Does it have any medicinal properties? It is a species of Penicellium so I wouldn’t think it is all bad. I’ve had Penicellin administered by nurses to my fat body parts when overcome by infections picked up elsewhere.

In a fictitious novel I am reading, orphans live on the streets – survive on the streets – eating scraps of food found in the gutters. More than likely scraps of bread have been discarded long enough to grow mold of the nigricans type. Other species of mold grows on different edible stuff and are ingested as well. Some of these street urchins not only grow up but find their way into life as self reliant adults.

Have they survived because of the penicellin they ingested? Do the present street people who actually prefer to live that free life style get their antibiotics from garbage? Well, my curious experience with mold made the preposterous idea cross my mind. Mold reproduces with spores, microscopic little devils that are lighter than air and move with impunity. Do not fear! They are helpless in healthy bodies. We cannot avoid the spores but we can discourage their reckless reproduction with sanitary wiping cloths at every opportunity.