Category Archives: Food

Would Jesus have cursed my fig tree? And can I save it?


Look at that ridiculous, tiny thing near the center of the photo: Call that a fig?

It’s always been one of the passages in the Bible that I find problematic, but at the same time, it’s also one that has an authentic air that says, “This really happened.”

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. 13 Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. 14 And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it.

I like that “And his disciples heard it” touch. The writer of the Gospel is saying, You may not believe he laid a curse on a tree, but we were there, and we HEARD it, man!

This was just before Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple, which is an interesting juxtaposition: The fig tree thing suggests Jesus could get pretty peevish when hungry, the second is the only account we have of him getting violently angry.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that passage lately as I look at my own fig tree, which I planted maybe a decade ago, and which has yet to produce what I would consider to be a normal crop of figs. I think last year was the best we’ve done, and I got to eat maybe five or six figs, total.

I also think about the parable:

He spoke also of this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down….

Even by that more patient standard, this tree is on thin ice.

We pruned it during the cold weather. Then, I did indeed “dung it” with some Black Kow manure. I worried that maybe we’d pruned it too much, because it was slow to produce new greenery. But eventually it broke out with a decent profusion of leaves — but no figs. Finally, a couple of things that look like they might aspire to become figs some day have emerged — but they’re kind of weird and misshapen.

When I walk around my own neighborhood and across the USC campus, I see loads of green figs popping out all over the place.

Maybe it’s the variety. (My tree isn’t the usual Brown Turkey fig. When it produces fruit, it’s bigger and it stays green even when ripe. I want to say it’s some sort of Greek variety. I bought it at the State Farmers Market.)

Maybe it’s because we had no rain for so long, up to the last couple of days.

I don’t know. Any suggestions?

This is on a tree that I regularly pass on walk across the USC campus.

This is on a tree that I regularly pass on walks across the USC campus. I see at least eight figs in this shot.

Here’s an idea: Why not just leave out the allergens?

Why would SOY sauce contain more WHEAT than soy?

Why would SOY sauce contain more WHEAT than soy?

Normally I would not post to ask the world to adjust to me and my food allergies, but here’s a case where it seems to me it wouldn’t cause anybody any trouble, or not much trouble, so I’m going to ask….

On the whole, this is a great time (if there ever is a great time for such a thing) to have food allergies. The world has become a far more understanding and accommodating place.

When I was a kid, eating out was like walking through a minefield. And if I tried to enlist a server in my cause, all I would get is a blank look. I came to believe that most people on the planet had never heard of food allergies, and when I tried to tell them, it was just the most outlandish thing they’d ever heard of.

And usually, they didn’t get it at all. Sometimes, they’d try to show they understood by saying, “So you don’t like cheese…” To which, if I were in an explanatory mood, I’d say, No, that’s not it. I don’t have the slightest idea whether I would like cheese or not. I’ve never had it. I suspect, based on the smell and my knowledge of how it is made (by letting milk spoil), I would not like it at all. But that is entirely beside the point. If you serve me cheese and I don’t know it, and eat it,I may die. At the very least, I’ll get really sick here in front of you, and it won’t be pretty. So just don’t bring me anything with cheese on it or in it…

… you freaking moron, I didn’t add, athough I wanted to.

But often, I just let it go, not wanting to converse about it any more than necessary. In fact, whenever possible, I’d avoid the conversation altogether. I didn’t eat out any more than I absolutely had to, and when I did I went to places I had been before and ordered things I knew were safe.

Now, at the slightest mention of an allergy problem, most waiters and waitresses become so attentive it’s slightly embarrassing. Some of them go fetch the chef and bring him out to interview me at some length.

As I say, embarrassing. But it’s gratifying to have them on board in the cause of not poisoning me.

Sure, there are some idiots out there who are dismissive of these things — watch, some of them will comment on this post — and regard allergies as a character flaw. But their ilk is rapidly become extinct as our species evolves.

This is also a good era for avoiding hazards with prepared, packaged foods. When I was kid, if I wanted a milk substitute for cooking or just to put on cold cereal, I had to use soy-based baby formula — something I had to make sure the other guys never knew, because they would have given me the business, as the Beav and Wally would say.

Now, there’s soy milk and almond milk and coconut milk and cashew milk and several other kinds, and it’s available everywhere, not just in specialty food shops. You buy it and take it home, and nobody looks at you funny.

Better than that… and here I’m finally getting to my point… makers of prepackaged food have started calling attention to allergens in their ingredients! You don’t have to read all the ingredients any more — just look at the boldfaced listing of allergens at the end! This saves a lot of time.

But it makes me want more…

There are a lot of food products out there that are sometimes made with allergens and sometimes not. And I suppose sometimes the allergens make a difference. Other times, I doubt that they do.

Take soy sauce, for instance. What would you think would be the dominant ingredient in soy sauce, aside from water? Soybeans, right?

Wrong. Unless it’s listed as “gluten-free” soy sauce, as often as not, the next ingredient after water is wheat. Which, aside from being a threat to people with celiac disease, is also an allergen. And while I don’t have celiac (although some in my family do), wheat is one of the things that I’m allergic to. Not as dangerously allergic as I am to milk and eggs, but it can cause my asthma to act up. (One of the things about having a bunch of food allergies is that you become a connoisseur of reactions — I know what allergen I was exposed to by how I react. With wheat, my breathing passages tighten up.)

To my knowledge — and if you know different, say so — there is no appreciable difference between soy sauce made largely with wheat and soy sauce that’s all soy.

So, here’s my question: Why not just leave the wheat out of all the soy sauce? Why go to the trouble and expense of purchasing and adding that extra ingredient, then having to put warnings on your labels about it?

It would never have occurred to me years ago to ask this, because I assumed that to most people, food allergies were such a mystery that it would be asking too much for a food product manufacturer to know something was an allergen and leave it out.

But now I can see, on every prepackaged food, that manufacturers know which ingredients are allergens — they point them out on every label.

So… why not just leave them out? Granted, few of us out here are allergic to this or that ingredient, but why not just make a product that everybody can safely eat?

This won’t work with everything — for instance, soy itself is an allergen. (In fact, I’m slightly allergic to it myself, but so slightly compared to my real allergies, I ignore it and just try to consume soy in moderation.) I’m not asking that anyone leave the soy out of soy sauce.

But it seems eminently reasonable to me to ask, why not just leave out the wheat, always?

Why not just make ALL soy sauce "gluten-free?"

Why not just make ALL soy sauce “gluten-free?”

Cindi Scoppe’s 8th annual cake party


She surveys her handiwork with satisfaction just before allowing her guests to plunge in.

What does Cindi Scoppe do when she’s not producing the best print commentary — nay, the best political journalism — in South Carolina?

She bakes cakes.

Cindi shared this shot taken by a priest who observed, "She laughs uproariously at things that aren't even funny."

Cindi shared this shot, which reflects what Tucker Eskew once said about her: “She laughs uproariously at things that aren’t even funny.”

Not just a cake here or there. She bakes a lot of cakes. And not your yellow cake out of the Duncan Hines box. She bakes, from scratch, such things as “Cookie Dough Brownie Cake” and “Caramel Almond Torte” and “Orange Cheesecake” and “Apple Sharlotka” and “Pistachio Baklava Cake” and on and on.

And she does it all at once.

Several score of her closest friends were reminded of this over the weekend at her 8th annual Advent cake party. She served 25 cakes in all.

She took off all of last week to complete the task, even though that meant doing the whole week’s editorial pages ahead of time. What of that? Those cakes weren’t going to bake themselves.

Cindi… needs this outlet. What’s more, she deserves it. She works long hours at the paper doing the work of eight people. Then she takes home mind-numbing documents such as legislative bills and academic studies and reads every word of them on nights and weekends.

Someone out there who knows this about her may object, “But she’s diabetic.” True, and I think that may have something to do with the… intensity… of her cake fixation. But there was never a diabetic who more assiduously kept track of her condition or addressed it more readily. More than once, I’ve seen her hike up her skirt and give herself a shot of insulin in the thigh because there was a slice of cake before her that needed eating. (Once, she did this in the governor’s office over lunch. I thought Mark Sanford was going to fall out of his chair.) Cindi’s just a very matter-of-fact person who deals with things, eats her cake and moves on.

I asked her for some stats — how much sugar, for instance. She said she had no idea, but she did offer, “I want to say around 25 pounds of butter.”

She sent me all the recipes. I count, let’s see, 99 eggs, plus the yolks of two others. One recipe, chocolate mousse cake plus chocolate buttercream frosting, called for eight eggs.

Needless to say, I wasn’t eating any of this, or even coming into contact with it. Nothing is more deadly to me than dairy products and eggs. But I took a plateful home, since my wife couldn’t make it to the party. She appreciated it.

Bud Ferillo (seen at the far left in the photo at top) took this somewhat blurry shot. See how dangerously close I was to the cakes?

Bud Ferillo (seen at the far left in the photo at top) took this somewhat blurry shot. See how dangerously close I was to the cakes? Not to mention that very sharp pink knife she’s wielding.

Men are from paleo, women are from Engine 2

The Engine 2 guy, doing his version of the "I want to pump YOU up" routine.

The Engine 2 guy, doing his version of the “I want to pump YOU up” routine.

OK, so that’s not strictly true, since the Engine 2 diet was started by a fireman, who going by his pictures may be considered by some to be even more of a macho guy than I am (he’s also named “Rip”), even though he has been photographed wearing this.

But let’s just say he’s definitely a guy, and he invented Engine 2, and is therefore a traitor to his gender, and just leave it at that. Let’s set it aside, because I don’t want any actual facts interfering with my over-broad generalizations.

So, back to my point: Men are from paleo, women are from Engine 2. At least, it works that way in my house.

Several months ago, my wife and my daughter who works at Whole Foods started attending some cult meetings at that fine establishment, because they had decided to take the Engine 2 28-challenge, which describes itself this way:

The guiding principle is simple: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds give your body the fuel it needs to function at its best. When you fill your belly with these whole, minimally processed plant-based foods, you take charge of your health and become plant-strong®.

Although, of course, it’s really about what you do without:

  • Zero animal products
  • No added oils
  • 100% whole grains
  • Minimal added sugar, if at all
  • Less than 25% total calories from fat
  • 1:1 ratio of milligrams of sodium to calories, with the exception of condiments

You lost me at “zero animal products.”

This was all very well and good for 28 days — as long as it’s someone other than me doing it — but subsequently, my wife has continued to live this way. And she likes it.

Meanwhile, I have decided, since my pants are all too tight, to go back to my strict paleolithic diet — which means meat, as much as you can hunt down and kill (or purchase at the grocery, and then cook yourself since you’re the one who eats it). It also means you don’t eat any grains, or any peas or beans — which are where the plant-strong® crowd get most of their protein.

I felt great and went out and bought some skinnier pants last year when I was doing paleo pretty strictly and working out every day, and I want to get back to where I can wear some of those pants. Not to mention the new blue blazer that I had taken in at the time.

So basically, my wife and I a complementary pair, like Jack Spratt and wife, although we do overlap on some cruciferous vegetables and sweet potatoes.

So as I hunt and she gathers, more or less, our brains get retuned so that we notice different things. For instance this morning I noticed, was inspired by, and reached out to share with my spouse this important breaking story in The Washington Post:

Why salad is so overrated

…There’s one food, though, that has almost nothing going for it. It occupies precious crop acreage, requires fossil fuels to be shipped, refrigerated, around the world, and adds nothing but crunch to the plate.

It’s salad, and here are three main reasons why we need to rethink it.

Salad vegetables are pitifully low in nutrition. The biggest thing wrong with salads is lettuce, and the biggest thing wrong with lettuce is that it’s a leafy-green waste of resources….

It’s not just lettuce. Cucumbers, radishes, lettuce and celery are essentially just water, too. They are things that go crunch and fool people into thinking they are eating and not drinking.

My favorite line in the piece:

Lettuce is a vehicle to transport refrigerated water from farm to table….

Good one, huh? Well my wife read that, acknowledged that yes, lettuce is worthless (and it is to be noted that the salads she makes these days are made from more solid stuff), but then told me to take a gander at this:

Beef: The ”King” of the Big Water Footprints

When a Prince talks farming, you listen. This is nothing new for the GRACE food program folks, but as the “water guy,” that’s all I could think about shortly after reading Chris Hunt’s roundup (or “knowledge dump“) of the speakers and themes from May’s Future of Food conference. The “Prince” in question is sadly not his Purple Majesty but rather, Charles, the Prince of Wales, who issued a stern warning –and in the process stirred up a long simmering debate among Americans – that resonated with me because of its virtual water conservation message: Beef production and consumption are water intensive and a drain on our world water supplies.

According to His Royal Highness:

In a country like the United States, a fifth of all your grain production is dependent upon irrigation. For every pound of beef produced in the industrial system, it takes two thousand gallons of water. That is a lot of water and there is plenty of evidence that the Earth cannot keep up with the demand.

Quite resounding, old chap! While it’s a well-established fact that meat production requires more water than fruits, vegetables or grains, an average water footprint of 2,000 gallons per pound of beef is enormous indeed. You might be wondering how the water footprint of meat – using Prince Charles’s statistic – compares to the water footprints of other agricultural products…

I think she chose HRH as an authority because of my well-documented Anglophilia. (Right after 9/11, I put an American flag out by our front door, and I wanted to add a Union Jack, but she forebade it, on account of being Irish.)

But obviously, based on some of the choices he’s made in the past, the prince is not an infallible source.

That’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Burl posts picture that says ‘eat your hearts out!’


Burl Burlingame posted today on Facebook a better shot of a sunset from Schooners, the restaurant right on Pearl Harbor where he took us to dinner after giving us the tour of Ford Island. In this shot, Ford Island (where Burl “works”) is between us and the sun going down behind the Waianae mountains. Off to the left is the causeway out to the island. To the right is McGrew Point Navy officer housing, where my family lived briefly just before I left for college.


He said he was there celebrating National Beer Day. Probably with a Newcastle, I’m guessing.

My second greatest regret from our time on the island (the greatest being that we couldn’t stay longer) is that I didn’t get a Primo. I had never had Primo. During my very brief time as a legal drinker in the islands (that week or so I was there over Christmas vacation, 1971), I never had a Primo. It was considered cooler to drink Olympia, so I did. Nor did I ever eat poi, strangely enough.

I rectified that, at least. The last thing we did before heading to the airport to leave was to have lunch at Ono Hawaiian Foods, a wonderfully downhome, unpretentious, authentic eatery. We had da kine pig and poi, and it was great. Pictures of the food and the place are below.

No, not as beautiful as what Burl posted, but it was good. We ordered and shared the Combination Plate — kalua pig and laulau, pipikaula, lomi salmon, haupia, and poi. (The poi is the purplish-gray stuff in the blue bowl.}



Bryan Caskey’s shotgun tie

Caskey tie

I had lunch today with Bryan Caskey at his club.

We’d had drinks at my club recently, so it was his turn.tie closeup

We talked about the kinds of things gentlemen talk about at real gentlemen’s clubs (as opposed to the trashy kind) — politics, whether one can actually travel ’round the world in 80 days, shooting for sport, etc. Then in the middle of the shooting part, I noticed his shotgun-shell tie.

So I thought it only right to share it here.

Then we went back to harrumphing about those political chaps, most of them vile Whigs and Jacobins, don’t you know…

A full day of wonderful meals in Thailand

My daughter — the one in Thailand, in the Peace Corps — posted today on her blog to let us know how well-fed she is, in keeping with the military junta’s happiness campaign.

She posted quite a cornucopia of enticing dishes. But they also came across, to this benighted Westerner’s eyes, as evidence of just how exotic her surroundings are. That plate of mangosteen and rambutan look like Star Trek props.

I hereby copy and paste her entire post. Shop Tart, eat your heart out:

In accordance with my host country’s happiness campaign (, I would like to share something that makes me SO happy every day in this country: FOOD.  I took pictures of my breakfast, lunch, and dinner the other day with the intention of making everyone back home super jealous of me.  

Mangosteen and Rambutan.  I’m not a huge rice for breakfast person, which is fine because wherever I go in the morning I will inevitably be presented with a large plate of fruit.  On this day, I was accompanying the health clinic to the schools to teach about oral hygiene, when I was  presented with two of my favorite fruits.  Mangosteen, the purple one, is the Queen of Fruits and Thai people say that it makes you cool when you eat it (temperature wise- I don’t want to get all you nerds’ hopes up).  Rambutan is also quite delicious and juicy once you peel those crazy green spikes off. Thai people have really got this whole hospitality thing down.


Pad Gapow- A spicy, garlicy, deliciousy chicken situation


Dtom Yom Gung- A classic, sour shrimp stew made with chili peppers, lemongrass, cilantro, limes mushrooms, etc. Idk I learned to make this the other day but I didn’t take notes. Whoops.


Gang Jut- Pork stuffed inside of large celery-like chutes, boiled with cabbage.


Pad Pak- Fried vegetables.




Rooa- Bamboo, coconut Milk, and mint


Nam Prik Ga Peet with Vegetables- Basically homemade chili sauce
Gang Malagow- A papaya stew with pork


Dtom Gai Baan- Boiled chicken, vegetables, and spices.


Gapow Moo- Spicy Pork


Khay Giaw Pak Da Om- Omelette made with a stringy green


As you can see, I eat pretty well.  I apologize for not cooking, therefore having no idea of the actual ingredients, but you get the “picture”.  Maybe in the future I will try harder.  I did not even include the many snacks I ate that day, including, but not limited to- grilled chicken skewers drenched in a creamy peanut paste, some kind of hot peanut drink, thai doughnuts that we dipped in a condensed milk and some sort of green fluffy stuff, boiled lotus seeds, and a sweetened coconut milk desert with tapioca balls and gelatin noodles.  We joke that I will return to America fat.  That’s fine.  Anyway, hope you enjoyed the pictures, and now you have evidence that I am not starving.  I will post a coup update soon!

I think my favorite would be the Dtom Yom Gung. Being a Southern boy, I’d eat it over rice, like gumbo….

We lose Maurice Bessinger and Harold Ramis on the same day


Which means nothing, of course — I mean, the fact that they died on the same day means nothing; obviously their respective deaths mean a great deal to their families — but it struck me as an odd juxtaposition.

Maurice Bessinger, purveyor of yellow barbecue and “South Will Rise Again” tracts was 83. The man who gave us Egon “Print is Dead” Spengler and Army recruit Russell Ziskey (and as a writer and director, such gems as “Groundhog Day” and “Analyze This”) was only 69. And yes, my very first thought on the latter’s passing was that maybe collecting spores, molds and fungus was not the healthiest hobby. I mean that fondly, and intend no disrespect.

In Maurice’s behalf, I’ll note that his barbecue was my youngest daughter’s favorite. As the baby of the family, she had trouble understanding why the rest of us preferred not to give him our custom while that flag was flying at his restaurants. But now my daughter is off in Thailand with the Peace Corps, so I don’t think her BBQ preference limited her horizons or worldview any.

As for why the juxtaposition is notable, well… Maurice was a man who went out of his way to stand up for outmoded ideas, a man who insisted on pushing a discredited worldview even when it drove customers away. Ramis, on the other hand, was a harbinger of a new ironic meme in our popular culture, the smirking wise guy who poked gentle, mocking fun at our social foibles. One insisted on respect for ideas that had never deserved it; the other urged us not to take ourselves so seriously.

For what that’s worth…

An appeal from Harvest Hope Food Bank

2 (1)

Denise Holland over at Harvest Hope sent this out, and I pass it on:

There are hungry families in your neighborhood, around the corner

From you or on the very street where you live.


With Your Help We Can Lift Them Out of Hunger


Thousands of hungry people live right here among us. You pass by them every day. They are grandmothers and grandfathers, children and families. They are hardworking men and women.


Harvest Hope Food Bank has a 33 year history of lifting struggling families and individuals out of their hunger and helping restore balance to their lives. When they face their empty tables and ask us for help, we make sure to give them 90 to 100 pounds of food. We have found that with that help they only come to us three times, and then they are lifted out of hunger and they do not need to come for help again.


We strive to provide hunger relief across 20 counties through our own Emergency Food Pantries and through partnerships with more than 400 agencies. They carry our mission from our own neighborhoods to the remotest corners of South Carolina where hunger and poverty exist for thousands. Our efforts bring hunger relief to more than 42,000 people every week.


Our food is often enough to take their worries away, to give them enough resources to overcome their circumstances.


To reach them all we have to have resources to send our trucks to get food from community partners, and then take and give food to the areas where food is needed the most.


To many the holidays seem two months away but for Harvest Hope holiday need preparation is right now.  Please help us prepare with a gift today.  Your gift will help us gather loads of food from across the country. That food is often donated and FREE, but the transportation is not.


In addition, we need sponsors of backpacks for children.  A $30 gift will provide 29 meals on the weekends.  We have children waiting and wanting – can you help?


Another great gift is your gift of time.  Volunteers are needed both for groups and for counselors in our own Emergency Food Pantries.  We have many ways to be involved and we need YOU – the gifts you bring, the love you share, the smiles you give.   Click HERE to learn more about volunteering.


Your gifts – right now – give us the resources to keep us going to help lift others out of their time of crisis and hunger. Harvest Hope dedicates 98¢ out of every dollar donated to our mission of feeding struggling families, children, seniors and our very neighbors.  Giving is easy. Visit us at to help us help our neighbors.


Our blessings and deepest thanks for your generosity and kindness,


Denise Holland

More poor SC kids than ever are obese

Remember that good-news story that I included in a recent Virtual Front Page, about how fewer poor kids are obese than previously?

Well, that doesn’t apply to SC, as you probably saw already:

The CDC study released in early August drew a lot of attention because it found childhood obesity rates were decreasing in 19 states and rising in only three. The study didn’t include data from 10 states.

South Carolina was omitted because a CDC request for data in 2011 went to an inactive email account at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, according to agency spokesman Mark Plowden. Because South Carolina didn’t send in timely data that year, it wasn’t included in the study of four-year trends.

The percent of obese children ages 2-4 years in the WIC in South Carolina has grown from 13.3 percent in fiscal year 2009 to 14.1 percent in 2010, 14.7 in 2011 and 15.6 in 2012, Plowden said…

This, to me, is another argument for restricting the kinds of foods that can be obtained with “food stamps” — with caveats for availability, considering “food deserts,” etc. I see the problems with such a move. But I also think we should work to overcome the problems, because kids are killing themselves with food that we’re buying for them.

Whatever we’re doing now to ensure proper nutrition for the poor obviously isn’t accomplishing everything that it should..

I still think food stamps shouldn’t pay for junk food

So I’m glad to see SC moving forward with this initiative, or at least taking a half-step in that direction:

After hearing all the pros and cons during several months of public input, the state health department has recommended that South Carolina apply for a waiver to ban the use of food stamps for sugary drinks, candy, cookies and cakes.

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control stated its position in a letter sent Monday from director Catherine Templeton to Lillian Koller, director of the state Department of Social Services. Koller’s department administers the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, and will determine the content of a waiver request…

I have great respect for Sue Berkowitz and other advocates for the poor who have concerns about this. And the “food deserts” concern is a real problem.

But I just can’t see the taxpayers subsidizing purchases that are killing people instead of nourishing them. As Ms. Templeton says, we’re able to make WIC work with restrictions; why not this?

3D food printer, circa 1956

On my previous post about space travel and 3D printers, mention was made of the Star Trek “food replicator.”

But I seemed to recall that sci-fi had imagined this device much earlier than that.

Indeed, in the 1956 classic “Forbidden Planet,” starring Walter PidgeonAnne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen, there is a robot that has a sort of miniature 3D food printer built into its torso.

I couldn’t find a clip showing that from the actual film, but I did find this promotional short in which the robot explains how it is able to replicate food of any kind, in any amount. All that is needed is a small sample of the food — which I suppose makes it more of a 3D food copier than printer.

But whatever. I thought I’d share it. Also, I refer you to a story Burl brought to our attention, about how a 3D printer saved a baby’s life.

This is just astounding technology…

Robbie the Robot, a pre-comedy Leslie Nielsen, and pre-Honey West Anne Francis (who showed her gams a LOT in this one).

Robbie the Robot, a pre-comedy Leslie Nielsen, and pre-“Honey West” Anne Francis (who showed her gams a LOT in this one).

I heartily disagree with Mia on food stamps and junk food

Here’s the latest from Mia McLeod:

 Dear Governor,

Seriously? Can you just “SNAP” and in an instant, delete certain foods from some South Carolinians’ grocery lists?

Sure, obesity is a genuine, significant health concern for too many people in this state. But that’s not why you’ve made a recent “SNAP” decision. You know it. We know it. And soon, citizens across this state will know it too.
Contrary to South Carolina’s definition, “SNAP” doesn’t mean “Simply Nonchalant About the Poor.” It’s actually a federal program, fully funded by the USDA. Now, isn’t it ironic that our state’s most notorious critics of “BIG” government, are arrogantly hypocritical enough to assume the despicable role of “BIG Brother” when it’s politically expedient?Mia leopard jacket

As asinine as this latest stunt is, it’s even more offensive. Targeting a segment of the population in furtherance of your own political agenda is one thing. Refusing to allow federally-funded healthcare for hard-working South Carolinians while in the same breath, expressing concern about obesity and its impact on their health and well-being, is another.

You don’t want the federal government telling us whether to accept or how to spend our federal tax dollars when a state match or financial investment is required. But yet, you wanna dictate which foods we can buy with SNAP, a fully-funded federal program that doesn’t even require state funds?

The list of qualifying items that can be purchased with SNAP is very straight-forward. As with any program, there’s always room for improvement. But last time we checked, you were able to make nutritional decisions for your family without our intrusion or input. We’re just wondering why you think we need yours.

And since your cronies are traveling the state at our expense, trying to convince us that this is about obesity prevention, perhaps we’ll remember your “heartfelt” concern on our next nonemergency trip to the ER…if we can even find and get to a hospital that’s still open and accessible.

With all due respect, Governor, when it comes to obesity, it’s not the foods that we’re able to buy on SNAP that are making us fat. Perhaps it’s your empty rhetoric that’s making us sick.

If you really cared about this state’s obesity rates or us, you’d do what is well within your purview and power to ensure that we have access to quality, affordable health care, just like you do.

You’d realize that some of us would love to eat the same fresh and organic foods that your family enjoys, but because of “food deserts” across this state, many of us are without the means or access. If you’re genuinely concerned about addressing obesity, you could start by addressing that.

If only we could “SNAP” back from the regressive, debilitating tactics of centuries past, we’d all feel much better. So while South Carolina continues to reek of ignorance, intolerance and insanity, many of our best and brightest continue to leave this state in search of parity, inclusion and meaningful opportunities.

But unlike obesity and other chronic conditions, many never return. Neighboring states too often become the benefactors of our most creative minds and talented contributors. And we’re left with a weaker South Carolina.

So as you continue to cater to your political base by serving folks like us up on a party platter, the only thing that seems to be getting fatter is your reelection campaign account.

At some point, obesity may no longer be an issue for South Carolina. Under your “leadership,” our state is gradually becoming so malnourished on so many levels, it may not be strong enough to “SNAP” out of it.

But you still can, Governor, before it’s too late.

p.s. – South Carolina’s forgotten citizens (a.k.a. – your “other” constituents) may not be members of the Tea Party. But in number, we’re “the real majority.”

She really doesn’t like the idea, does she?

Well, I do. Still. So I guess I’m playing the “despicable role of Big Brother.”

Yes, there are reasons to be concerned about people who live in “food deserts.” I don’t dismiss that, and I can’t say for certain that the stores that now sell junk food in those communities would shift and sell healthier stuff if that’s all their poor patrons could buy. I think that might happen, but I don’t have the full faith in markets that some do.

So that should be thoroughly studied and taken into account before a final decision is made. But I most certainly do not agree with those who have a philosophical, rather than practical, objection to insisting that tax money not be used to buy foods that ruin the health of the poor.

The populists will call this patriarchal, but we are indeed in a position for taking responsibility for people when we undertake to feed them. We are culpable for providing people with the means of poisoning themselves when we could adopt a policy that prevents it.

When we discussed this previously, my old friend and respected colleague Burl Burlingame noted, “when the government wants to experiment, they do so first on the poor.” That may seem a particularly devastating argument against this change. But I submit that we have been running the experiment for half a century now, and the results are in: Paying for junk food kills poor people. It’s time we stop it, and do what we practically can to have a positive, rather than an actively negative, effect on people’s health.

Now, spokesman says Sanford DIDN’T eat those piglets

OK, so now, supposedly, what Sanford said on TV this morning was a joke:

CHARLESTON, SC — Remember those pigs former Gov. Mark Sanford brought into the State House nine years ago to protest “pork barrel spending” in the state budget?

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday morning, fresh off of his victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary in the 1st congressional district, Sanford said the pigs were “barbecued.”

“Unfortunately, they were barbecued,” Sanford said. “They were great little guys.”

A Sanford spokesman later clarified that Sanford was joking, adding that Sanford did not eat the pigs. (An earlier version of this story said that Sanford did eat them.)

And an earlier version of this blog post said the same, because, well, silly me, I figured the ex-governor was telling the truth to the world. This belief prompted me to say the following:

So… The piglets were supposed to symbolize government waste. Do they no longer qualify as “waste” if you make a meal out of them?

Presumably, he changed clothes — since the pigs had daubed him with literal waste — before firing up the grill.

Twice now, Mark Sanford has huffed and puffed and blown the house down, eating the thoughtless little pigs within.

It remains to be seen whether Elizabeth Colbert Busch can build a house out of bricks before he does it a third time.

I was on a roll there for a minute. But now… well, never mind. I especially like Joel’s attempt to be all self-righteous over this:

“The governor made a joke that apparently was lost on members of the media, who seem unable or unwilling to write about issues that voters actually care about,” Joel Sawyer said.

Yeah, right, Joel. It’s the media who have a penchant for silly, distracting stunts. He says this on behalf of a man who, in the name of fiscal responsibility, hauled two squealing, defecating piglets into the lobby to ruin a new carpet (OK, sort of new — see below) that was part of a multi-million-dollar restoration of the State House.

Of COURSE food stamps shouldn’t pay for junk food

I actually meant to address this subject a couple of months ago, when I read this op-ed by Louis Yuhasz, the founder of an anti-obesity nonprofit in Charleston:

Our foundation works with a 17-year-old girl who weighs 495 pounds. At home she’s fed a diet of convenience store food, bought at convenience store prices, largely at taxpayer expense. Rare is a salad or lean meat. Processed, packaged food is all she knows. And it’s slowly killing her.

But she won’t leave this earth without costing us all a small fortune. She’ll need knee replacement surgery before she leaves her 20s, and in her 30s her hips will fail her too. Taxpayers can probably expect to pay for a long stay in a nursing home for her, because of the toll diabetes will take on her vision and limbs.

If ever there was an example of solving one problem while creating another, it’s the food stamp program in America. Through it, as one critic recently suggested, our government is “subsidizing the obesity epidemic.”…

Don’t get him wrong, he explained. The food stamp program has done a lot of good, and saved lives. But it needs to be changed:

So here’s something Washington should think very seriously about: strictly limiting what foods can be purchased with the money we provide SNAP recipients. We already impose limitations: Beneficiaries can’t use their payments to buy alcohol or cigarettes. Why not take it one step further and bar the purchase of foods that are making us fat and sick, at least with the money coming out of taxpayers’ pockets?

Where would we draw the line? If it comes from the meat, seafood, produce or dairy sections, it’s probably good to go. Or maybe we could use an even more general standard: If my 100-year-old grandmother would recognize it as food, it is.

On the other hand, if the ingredient list includes added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, synthetic trans-fats, industrial seed oils, any ingredient name longer than four syllables, or if it would survive a nuclear holocaust, then put it back on the shelf, or at least buy it with your own money…

I’ve never gone along with the people who want to ban junk food, the way they’ve done with limiting soda intake in New York. But I have no problem at all with limiting what our tax dollars pay for. Besides, obesity costs us too much. We’re paying for it on the front end and the back end, as Yuhasz noted:

SNAP is expensive at $65 billon, but get a load of what obesity costs us in direct medical costs: $190 billion per year. Almost three quarters of Americans are either overweight or obese. Almost one in five children are clinically obese, and what used to be called adult-onset diabetes is one of the biggest health problems among kids…

So now I see in the paper today:

COLUMBIA, SC — Seeking to slow the childhood obesity epidemic, South Carolina health leaders would like to limit the purchase of sugar-filled drinks with food stamps.

Catherine Templeton, director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control, and Lillian Koller, director of the Department of Social Services, have exchanged thoughts on the subject. They agree that cutting the intake of sugary drinks could improve the health of the state’s children, but they are struggling with how to use the food stamp program as a tool in that effort, and especially with whether the federal government will allow it.

Several similar efforts, most notably by New York City, have failed to gain approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. The feds told New York in 2011 that they agree with the goal of limiting intake of sugary drinks, but the city’s proposal had operational challenges and impacted too many people. They suggested a test program on a smaller scale…

I’d like to see SC be used as that test case, as Joey Holleman’s story goes on to suggest. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for our state to be in the vanguard of improving health for once?

This seems to me like something that left and right ought to be able to get behind. I can imagine arguments against it, but I can’t imagine any good ones.

An appeal from Harvest Hope

If you’re looking for a place for end-of-the-year charitable contributions, here’s a good place to consider:

Dear Brad Warthen,

Harvest Hope wishes you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving at this time when we acknowledge all our blessings, and our most generous of thanks for all your support in our mission to provide for hungry families across 20 SC counties.
Families and friends gather at this time to celebrate and offer thanks for all the blessings the year has provided. Yet, 1 in 6 families in SC does not know where their next meal will come from. Thanksgiving only serves as a painful reminder of their struggles to put food on their tables.

Over the last four years Harvest Hope has seen a steady decline in not only the number of donors who are the cornerstone of our mission, but the monetary level of their donations as well. Our donations for 2012 to date are down more than 21% over the same period of time in 2010.

Yet in the face of decreasing donations we struggle to make sure no one is turned away hungry. Your generosity helps Harvest Hope make sure families in our community do not have to experience the pain of hunger while so many others celebrate the simplest of joys. Your kindness is how we continue our mission of HOPE. Giving to Harvest Hope is easy at click here.
The lines were long yesterday at our own Emergency Food Pantries on Shop Road and in Cayce, and they even longer this morning. Many requests are coming into our Florence and Greenville Branches for help with families in those communities struggling to put the most basic of food items on their tables.  Help is needed and your support can provide great nourishment and great Thanksgiving by going online today or dropping off nonperishable food at any of our four locations.


2220 Shop Road, Columbia – 29201

1175 12th Street Ext, Cayce – 29202

Pee Dee

2513 West Lucas Street, Florence – 29501


28218 White Horse Road, Greenville – 29611

During this season of thanks ~ thank YOU for sharing your

kindness with your neighbors struggling with hunger.

Shawarma: The lunch of superheroes

The above sign, spotted today at Al Amir on Main St., got me to thinking of “The Avengers.”

Tony Stark: You ever try shawarma?

SPOILER ALERT! OK, not really, because it reveals nothing about the plot, although it will ruin a tiny little fun surprise. It’s just one of those little lagniappe things at the end of the credits. Although, come to think of it, this does tell you that all the heroes survive the movie, so SPOILER ALERT!

At the end of the climactic battle, as he’s lying dazed among the rubble, Robert Downey Jr., who as Iron Man has 90 percent of the movie’s good lines, reassures his comrades that he is alive by saying offhandedly, “You ever try shawarma? There’s a shawarma joint about two blocks from here. I don’t know what it is, but I wanna try it.”

Then, the fun part: After all the credits — apparently, Joss Whedon needed the help of about 3.7 million people to make this flick — you see the exhausted heroes lounging, disheveled, around a table in the shawarma joint, slowly munching away in complete silence. This continues for more than 30 seconds, as a restaurant employee sweeps up in the background.

This sort of backhanded, non-branded little product placement has apparently launched a bit of a shawarma craze:

Those of you still reading will likely recall Tony Stark’s fascination with shawarma toward the end of the film. During the climactic battle, Stark suggests the team adjourn to a nearby restaurant to try the dish, which Wikipedia describes as “a pita bread sandwich or wrap” filled with spit-roasted meat (commonly lamb, goat, chicken or a mixture of various meats). At the very, very end of the film, after the credits have rolled, we witness the superhero team sitting at a table, silently eating their shawarma for a surprisingly long amount of time.

Now, based on that short in-joke, TMZ claims that the Los Angeles shawarma industry has seen a massive spike in popularity since the release of the film. “At Ro Ro’s Chicken — a famed Lebanese joint in Hollywood — the manager says shawarma sales jumped 80% in the days after the movie opened,” the gossip site claims, while saying that a number of other Lebanese restaurants offered similar results…

That’s fine. Just as long as they don’t start rebranding it the Super-Gyro…

A tick whose bite can make you allergic to meat? That’s it! I may never venture outdoors again…

I already had plenty of reasons to avoid going outdoors, including:

  1. The heat, exacerbated by the humidity.
  2. Sunburn.
  3. Mosquitoes.
  4. The fact that statistics show that more than 99 percent of yard work occurs there.

Now there’s this:

Meat lovers, beware. One bite from the tiny lone star tick may be enough to cause meat allergies and turn you into a vegetarian. Dr. Scott Commins of the University of Virginia has been seeing meat allergies popping up along the East Coast and thinks the tiny tick may be to blame. Of the nearly 400 cases he’s seen, nearly 90 percent report a history of tick bites. Commins says saliva from the tick that makes its way into the wound can cause some people to break out into hives or even anaphylactic shock three to six hours after chowing down on some animal carcass. So make sure either your sleeves are rolled up or you’re adequately covered in bug repellent before hitting that summer barbecue.

The lone star tick.

My diet is already limited enough with the allergies I have. An allergy to meat would be catastrophic, if you’ll excuse the understatement. As the colleague who brought this to my attention wrote, “Good grief!  You need to avoid this fella at all costs or you’ll be down to nothing but rice!”

Add to that the fact that I’m one of these people who thinks that the only real food is meat; other foods are meant to complement meat. I heard an overweight standup comic say it well a number of years ago. It went something like: Salad isn’t food. Salad is something you eat with food.

So it’s settled. From now on, I just need to figure a way to protect myself between the house and the car …

Help Harvest Hope feed those who need help

And if you can’t give blood, maybe you can give to help the needy be fed.

Right after posting the thing about the need for blood, I read this appeal from Denise Holland at Harvest Hope Food Bank:

Two weeks ago, one night about 9:30 pm, returning from Walmart, I walked back into my house sobbing because my heart was completely filled with many emotions.  My husband looked at me confused, asking what is wrong as a trip to Walmart normally does not do this.

I sat down and told him the following very true, very moving story…I hope you will feel moved and called to action.

Upon finishing my shopping,  I got in a long checkout line in the non-food section.  I was there after 9pm to pick up a few last minute items for a children’s activity at church.  I was behind a young couple, with a small baby sitting in the infant portion of the buggy.  They caught my attention. I was struck at how much the young man with his wife reminded me of my own grown children.  A nice appearance, the young man had on athletic type shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops, the young lady had on jeans and a hoodie, the baby was clean and dressed in a little onesie.  As I stood there, I noticed a little more.  They were wearing very simple wedding bands, and the dad kept putting his hand on the back of his wife and child’s mother, saying “are you feeling ok?”  “Do you want to go sit in the car?” She did look in my opinion pale like she did not feel really great.  I heard her reply very nicely to him, “no I am fine” and smiled back at her husband.

Well naturally I started playing with the baby, making silly old lady sounds and faces to get the baby to smile and laugh.  The baby’s dad (obviously a little girl by the pink onesie) occasionally touched the little baby and bent down to kiss her neck of which she just giggled and smiled.  At one point he looked back at me and I said to him, “that little girl certainly loves her daddy’s kisses”. He smiled and said yes.  The couple then gave their attention to counting the items in their buggy and began a sorting process counting out 10 jars of baby food, separating them in rows in the buggy.  Then it struck me that all they had in their buggy was jars of baby food and several canisters of baby formula.  The mom and dad appeared to be in low conversation like they were worried and checking twice everything they had.  I continued to play (at a respectful distance) with the baby.

While I stood there, I prayed “Lord this could be my children” and I felt in my heart that they were concerned about the amount in their buggy…

To read the rest of Denise’s story, click here.

It’s a bit long, but here’s the upshot of it: The young husband is about to go away to serve in the military, and he and his wife were trying to stockpile plenty of food for the baby, as the Mom’s transportation options are limited. When they got to the register, they couldn’t afford what they had selected (nothing but baby food), so Denise paid for them.

But there are many stories like this in our community, and while she’s got a really big heart, Denise can’t help them all out of her own pocket. So help out Harvest Hope.