The Joy of Home Winemaking

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
May 2000

Apple in a Bag, May 8

How to Burn Beans, May 9

Stiff and Sore, May 21

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Apple in a Bag
Monday, May 8

I was on the reference desk last week for a couple of hours and it was slow, so I skimmed through some of the journals we get, everything from microbiology to hog farming to food science. I just adore the food service magazines. Here you find out what is behind all those bizarre things that end up in cafeterias and chain restaurants. In one geared towards school cafeterias there was an ad for the Apple In A Bag: coreless, skinned, cut up, available plain (I think they should have said 'original') or with a tiny little cup of syrup or a fake cheese slice.

So you take a package Nature has long perfected, destroy the natural packaging, add man-made packaging and some preservatives, and charge three or four times as much for it. Ahh, capitalism. What a wonderful thing it all is.

Then there was the ad for frozen, precooked Rainbow Treasures in three "Searific" shapes, which were essentially shaped fish sticks, a couple of ads for corn dogs, and four for pizza products. In addition to those, Darlington Farms was trying to convince cafeteria managers that their cookies now counted as a bread serving based on the flour content and ignoring the fat and sugar content.

On the page facing an article about making breakfast and lunch time at school quality time to relieve stress, etc, by serving healthy nutritious food in a calm setting, was an advert for Farm Rich Morning Dippers. These are bagel sticks (don't ask — I, too, thought the nature of bagels was that they were round) with cream cheese icing, all heavily packaged in a little box with yet more icing as a dip in a little cup, in case it wasn't sweet enough. A few pages later was an article on waste reduction.

All this was in School Food Service and Nutrition, the April 2000 issue. A classic.

In a previous issue of the same or a like journal there had been an article by a school cafeteria manager who has successfully upped the number of children who eat lunches bought at the school, increasing profit and making it unfashionable for kids to bring food from (ugh) home by having little rallies and promotions and decorations. Tra la la.

Minicon was very quiet this year, with about 800 people attending. My favorite panel was the one on giants in children's literature, an idea Ruth Berman had come up with. Eleanor held forth on Icelandic sagas, Jane Yolen showed her considerable knowledge of folklore, and Laura Krentz, a children's librarian, brought lots of nifty books to show. The panel ended with a group "FI FI FO FUM!" I love panels where I come away knowing more than when I arrived.

The weather outside was quite warm, and there were interesting dinner expeditions. My dear friend Karen had lost her lovely voice due to a cold and too much choral singing, but it was delightful to see her and Mike again and catch up a bit, although it took her a day or two to get above a whisper.

Mike, by the way, has launched into digital books, and has 'published' a novel by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro called "Magnificat". You can check this out at the website:

Sunday afternoon many of us were pretty well wiped out. I was sitting around in the upstairs lobby with friends from Madison, Diane and Jim and some others, and now and then one of us would get up to traipse over to the hospitality suite to get a coke or coffee. Jim brought back a paper cup with cheese popcorn and we passed it around several times, politely taking one piece at a time, before it collectively dawned on us that we could simply get up and GO INTO the suite and have a WHOLE BUCKET of cheese popcorn there. Very, very tired.

Spent a lot of time with friends, although not enough with some (Hi, Doug!) and missed others (Hi, Hope! Hi, Don!), laughed immoderately about who knows what quite a bit but it felt good. Also generated some good ideas with Paula and Erik, Laurie, and Rebecca for the Lady Poetesses From Hell party at the upcoming Wiscon.

Learned that one should never order coffee after the Easter Sunday brunch, even at the Hilton, because it will be evil leftover mud and they will still charge $2.00 for it.

My fave rave dinner expedition was actually lunch, at the nearby Lotus a Go Go, a family-run enterprise of modest proportions. Our waitron was about 14 years old, cute as the dickens, and will probably grow up to be a general in the military.

She organized hecky darn out of us, and gave us what she considered was enough time to examine the menu, demanded our orders when SHE was ready, firmly asking for identifying initials, which she transcribed to her order pad, not trusting us to remember what we had ordered and after she had served everyone, went though the list again by initials. I felt like answering YO, SIR! and saluting. We left a good tip. I'd like to see this kid run a school cafeteria. No Apple in a Bag nonsense for her!!

Hope you have all had a chance to welcome spring, and are taking good care of yourselves.


How to Burn Beans
Tuesday, May 9

It's very simple, really. All you do is eat your leftover "It's Greek To Me" salad down to the beans and think: you know, these black eyed peas are a bit crunchy. So you put them in a nice Corningware casserole with some water, put the lid on, and set the timer on the microwave for 20 minutes. Never cooked beans in a microwave, but that should do it. Then you go upstairs.

Later, as you are trying to reconstruct the file you lost a few days ago of the novel you are working on, you suddenly smell something like burning toast.

Ah, you think, one of the neighbors is burning toast for breakfast. Then you notice the office window is closed and a dim memory of crunchy beans wafts across your creative little mind.


A galumphing dash to the kitchen reveals that the microwave is not on fire. Good. You open the door. Still no flames, and only a tiny wisp of smoke. Good. The glass top of the little dish looks suspiciously dark. Bad.

With admirable forethought, you reach in with potholders instead of bare hands as is your wont and carefully put the dish in the sink. Very very black, that lid is. You nudge it. Nothing bad happens. Gingerly, you lift the lid. Bitter smoke pours out. Reasoning to yourself that it's Corningware, and that it probably won't shatter, you carefully sprinkle the tiny little black coals in the bottom with water, then rush around opening windows.

In retrospect, you could have just left it in the stainless steel sink to cool down on its own, but hey, don't we all love excitement and action?

And that's how you burn beans in the microwave.


Stiff and Sore
Sunday, May 21

I'm stiff and sore from too much gardening, but not as bad as I thought I would be. Got the long strip by the garage cleaned out, planted the beans and the cukes. Stringing the new bean poles was interesting. Since they are metal fencing stakes, they have holes and hooks which makes it easier. Dover enjoyed helping subdue the twine as I worked.

Stuck in a few perennials I had bought in moments of weakness (meadow rue, another lungwort, and some fern-leaf bleeding hearts), then discovered the lilies I had ordered a few weeks ago, and remembered the glads and the dahlia in the basement. Groan!

Got them in.

Still have tomatoes, peppers and some annuals to plant, and the pots to do, but I think the worst is done. Hoping to get it all done before I take off for Madison and Wiscon Thursday.

Last week I was a 'presenter' at a Young Writers' Conference south of here. Hadn't done it for a while, but it was interesting. The sessions are smaller than they were the last time I did this, and were scattered around within a community college. There were three 45-minute sessions a day, broken by lunch. Doesn't sound like much, but I was pooped at the end of each day. Three shows of vaudeville, the way I do it. Teaching word choice in poetry needs a lot of extra help to keep it interesting.

These children as more sophisticated than I was at their age; much more articulate. Some of them are writing better stuff than I did in my early 20s. The really neat thing was they wanted to be there. Much different that a regular classroom experience.

Rochester got 5 inches of rain, and at the end of the first session on the second day there was a power outage. Most of the rooms had no windows. I always carry a mini mag lite so was able to go out and find out what was going on, find that the emergency lights were on in the commons area, and got my kids and the other kids in our corridor safely there. The room next door was some people in wheelchairs, so they borrowed the flash light for a while.

I was amazed to find no one was making any announcements, and the hundreds of kids didn't know what to do. Some of them were trying to find their next session in the dark!

So I bellowed for everyone to stay in the commons area till someone else told them what to do next. It seemed to help. The children were mostly from small towns and farms, and were used to the lights going out, but not in a big strange building where they weren't even certain where the exits were. I kept thinking, what if there is a fire?

Finally someone came to some kind of decision about what to do next and made an announcement. Some of the presenters were holding their sessions in the lighted halls.

Power was restored in about 15 minutes. I am told all presenters will be provided with flashlights next year. Got new batteries for mine the next day and patted it thankfully. Got it years ago when I noticed Tim Furst of the Karamazovs carrying one. Comes in very handy a few times a year. Sometimes just to read menus in overly dark restaurants, but sometimes for more serious occasions, like dropping the transmission fluid cover into the engine in the middle of nowhere.

So, on to the wonders of Wiscon after a few days with struggling with the End Of the Fiscal Year at work. I won't have to think about fund numbers for five days in a row! On the other hand, there is the wonderful farmers market near the hotel with tons and tons of bedding plants....

Take good care of yourselves, my friends,

Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
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| 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | Current Month |

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Copyright 2000 by Terry A. Garey.