Archive | February, 2013


21 Feb

Flatulence, farts, passing gas,breaking wind, frittering…no matter what your word is for it, we all know what we are talking about! We have all experienced an excessive expulsion of wind from the derriere region. And we all have our delicate and special words for it. At work where there are cubicles, it is known as “crop dusting”. In a crowd, it is a “backblast”. It can be descriptive, such as “burner” or “SBD” (silent but deadly). No need for any term other than “courtesy window please” is needed in a closed car. The list is endless. But what is flatulence anyway? Let’s clear the air!

Flatulence, not fart, is the accepted medical term for excessive wind from the anus. Where did the word “fart” come from then?  By some accounts it is derived from the word feortan, an Old English term meaning “to break wind”.  How often do we really pass gas?  You might be surprised that the average for gas passing in a 24 hour period is 12-14 times. Men expel about a half a cup of gas per day.  (I have brothers, sons, and a father…half a cup?  Really?).   Women come in at a dainty third of a cup per day of gas expulsion.  Remember that this is an average, meaning that some of us do it more, and some of us do it less. I think we all know some feortan overachievers!

Those of us that grew up with big brothers became accustomed at an early age to a great assortment of noises, smells and odors. Being a baby sister to three brothers, I was usually the perfect target for big brother tricks. There are only so many times that I fell prey to a certain tactic, so they really had to make every effort count. As an unsuspecting victim, my brother would back up and ask me to see if there was a “hole in my pants” while gently pointing his buttocks close to my face. “I can’t see it, so can you please look?”   A little sister wants to help out, so I would get up close and personal to his behind. That is when I got blasted right in the face…or should I say nose! This was one of many tactics to make sure I had a front row seat to my brothers gas hang time. All tactics were certain to produce a healthy dose of laughter from them, as well as a story to be retold to their friends countless times!

What causes these sudden expulsions of gas? There are many reasons. Gas can come up our esophagus as a burp. When we have gas lower down in our GI tract, it comes out through the path of least resistance, which is the back end. Bacteria in the intestines can produce a variety of gas. Sulfur mixed in with the other gases is what causes the odor, and hydrogen, being a very light weighted gas, causes the expulsion to waft upward. The noise of the gas comes from the volume of gas squeezing through a tight opening. It is similar to pinching and stretching the opening of a balloon to make a squeaking sound. (Gosh, even I have to admit that this is difficult to write with a straight face.  My son wants to know shy I am at the computer giggling-but I am my own biggest fan…).

Anyway, when you pass gas,  it is a normal bodily function. As a culture, like burps, we do not accept flatulence as decent, but other cultures are more accepting of this natural bodily function. But it is ot good to let that gas build up in the intestines. So I say, let it rip!

Hail to the Ooze

20 Feb

I love a good sandwich.  All kinds.  But I get into certain “sandwich moods”.  In other words, the kind of sandwich that I crave changes.    Sometimes a cold bologna sandwich with mustard is on my mind, sometimes it’s a big honkin turkey sandwich loaded with arugula, and sometimes just a plain old PB & J will do.

When a grilled cheese sandwich is on my mind, so is the ooze.  Listen, between my undergrad and my graduate classes in nutrition, I have had my fair share of chemistry and  food science classes.  I can very easily espouse the science behind the milk proteins and what happens to them when cheese is heated.  How the molecules react.  The maillard reaction occurring when the bread browns.  What kind of writer would I be, however, if my prose simply lulled you to sleep?  No, I don’t want to discuss the chemical reactions of grilled cheese sandwiches.  That’s ho hum…dare I say boring.  (My humble apologies to my chemist friends.  I love you!  I really do!).  It’s the ooze that makes me crave a creamy grilled cheese.

In the interest of science I have conducted some research on the appeal of melting cheese, the allure of crisp browning bread, the draw of a warm rich scent wafting through the kitchen.  Well, not exactly research.  But I talked to a lot of my friends about it at my son’s end of season basketball party.  Then to some folks at work.  And like me, people are very opinionated about grilled cheese sandwiches.

Everyone seems to have preferences about what kind of cheese must go onto a grilled cheese sandwich.  Swiss, cheddar, gouda, mozzarella, and american cheese were all thrown out there.  I heard differing opinions on the virtue of shredded cheese versus sliced too. Most folks seemed to prefer at least 2 different types of cheese on their sandwich.    The type of bread used  is also a critical component here, as it is with any sandwich.  So much to consider!

And, of course, we must discuss how to cut the sandwich after it’s done.  There are 2 methods-corner to corner or straight in half down the middle.  I personally happen to be a right down the middle  person, not corner to corner.  But that’s just me.  There are indisputable qualities that contribute to the true success of every grilled cheese sandwich.  Grill marks.  Perfect browning.  And, of course, the cheese must be fully melted.  Creamy.  Stringy.

Let me know how you like your sandwich. I can’t wait to hear from you!  But first, feast your eyes on my most recent grilled cheese…

Look at that creamy oozing cheese!  Yum! And those grill marks!  Yes!

Look at that creamy oozing cheese! Yum! And those grill marks! Yes!


13 Feb

Okay.  So I had some leftovers from the Superbowl.  I will come out right now by saying that I deviated from my usual healthy fare and made bar food.  And since I am mindful of my food budget, I like to repurpose my leftovers.   It’s a little yucky to say that I “recycle” my leftovers.  That makes it sound like I picked through garbage.   I didn’t.  I promise.

I made a batch of cheese fondue for the super bowl.  Cheese fondue is traditionally made with swiss cheese and white wine, as it has its culinary roots in Switzerland.  And that is how I made mine for the get together.  I had ham chunks and sour dough bread as the dippers for the fondue.  It was delicious.  But I had some leftovers.

So I made some cheese soup a few nights later.  I simply tossed the leftover ham in the soup, as well as some other vegetables I had sitting around.  I used a potato, some diced onion, and a tiny bit of celery.  It was a warm and yummy comfort food dish!

I started by putting some olive oil in a large soup pot, and added some celery, garlic, and onions.  I let that sizzle for about 3-4 minutes.  Then I gently added the leftover fondue and stirred it to break it up.  I had it on a medium heat so the cheese would heat gently.  (Burning any dairy product in a pan is a super nasty clean up.  I learned that lesson once!)  I keep chicken and vegetable stock on hand, and grabbed some chicken stock out of the pantry.  I slowly added about 2 cups of that to smooth out the fondue into a soup like consistency.

After this was good and hot, I tossed the leftover ham chunks in.  And some diced a potato and tossed that in as well.  This made a good hearty soup.  And I used up the leftovers beautifully for another meal.  I love making meals from food I already have on hand.  Repurposing leftovers is a great way to use up food in the fridge as well as stretch those dollars!  Yay!  Try it and let me know what you make!


5 Feb

You are never too old to make a mistake.  Even on Manners Monday.  Well, it was actually on Saturday, but since we discuss and try to improve our manners on Manners Monday in my home, I brought up my recent faux pas.  Or at least I think it was a faux pas.

Here is the situation:  We have dinner reservations on Saturday for 3 diners.  We are running a bit early for our reservations, so we stop by a new wine bar to check it out and have a small glass of wine before dinner.  The wine bar, by the way, also serves tapas, or appetizers.   When we are seated at a table, there are small plates on the table, along with silverware rolled in a cloth napkin.

Out of habit, when seated, we all take our silverware out and place it appropriately on the table.  The 3 of us also placed the cloth napkin on our laps.  We had no intention of ordering food.  We just popped in for a quick glass of wine.  We were all engaged in pleasant conversation and simply performed our little napkin/silverware ritual without much thought.  Until the waiter corrected us.

The waiter took our drink order and brought it to the table.  Then:

Waiter:  Here is your appetizer menu.  Are you ready to order?

Us:  We just stopped by for a glass of wine.  We aren’t ordering appetizers.

Waiter:  Oh.  When you unwrapped your silverware and placed your napkin on your lap I assumed you were eating.

Us:  Oops, sorry.  (Blank awkward stare at one another).

He was very kind and gentle in his demeanor, but we couldn’t help but realize that perhaps we had made a mistake.  So I did what any self respecting person feeling guilty would do.  I tipped big.  Then I hit the internet to dig into etiquette and manners.  I wanted to know the correct table manners for simply stopping by a wine bar that only served appetizers, or “bites”.  But I couldn’t find a thing about that situation and appropriate manners.

So here is what I think.  Waiters spend a lot of time getting their stations set up and kept up.  I should know…I waitressed in college and completely understand the challenges of waiting tables.  In retrospect, it was not appropriate for us to unroll silverware and use a napkin. We added to the work load of our waiter.  Now he had to wash and reroll silverware that we had no intention of using.  We should have asked him to remove the plates and rolled silver from the table so he could use it at a later time.  I so rarely am in a situation of just having a drink and being at a table for less than an hour, so I just didn’t think.  But I sure feel like we treated the waiter unfairly, albeit unintentionally.

Here is my own rule of thumb.  Whatever situation presents itself, if I am at a table and not dining, I will use as few utensils as possible.  I appreciate the professional way our waiter handled this situation, and will certainly be more considerate moving forward.  I could not find any table manners covering this situation so I will simply put my own rules in place.  You are never too old to learn a new lesson, and I appreciate the opportunity this kind waiter presented for me to gain a new understanding.