Food for thought

During the fall, food banks all across America remind people that hunger never goes away. Around the holidays they will see an increase in donations because people feel more charitable then but hunger is a twelve month a year problem.

I was fortunate enough to have a food bank in Lockport at my disposal when I couldn’t work due to a medical condition. It wasn’t like shopping at Wegmans as they had limited products including some day old baked goods available.

Even though there were some things we didn’t like, I took everything they offered me. My wife would then find creative ways of cooking these and we ate all of them. It is amazing just what you will eat when you are hungry.

I relied on food banks for sustenance 50 years ago when I was in the service. Our neighbors showed us how to apply for a monthly allocation of surplus food that the state would give to low income people. Then, every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the housing complex where we lived to swap whatever food we didn’t want for food that we did.

I also remember during the Blizzard of ’77 that I took a part temporary job at a local supermarket due to the fact I could not get to my job in Buffalo. I used to dig thru the “Garbage Room” finding perfectly fine food that was not saleable. A tomato with a spot, a dented can or a broken carrot.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that between 30-40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted. Large amounts of produce that is grown in the United States is left in the field due to economic reasons. It is also fed to livestock or transported from the fields to a landfill.

I have done “Gleaning” where you go thru a farmer’s field after the harvest. A man I worked with grew a field of “Butter Sugar” corn one year. At the end of the season, after the price dropped, he gave me the field. Told me to take what I wanted for free. My father in law and I went and picked the corn and brought it to my house where my wife and mother in law blanched it, cut it off the cob and packaged the kernels in zip lock plastic bags for freezing. We had 100 bags of corn and it lasted us a full year and a half.

In my humble opinion, the appeal of perfect produce probably started in the 1940s as people adapted to refrigeration. Suddenly, you could get a pineapple in Wisconsin in February. Clarence Birdseye helped hasten the preservation of foods with his quick freezing methods and the days of going to the grocery store every day were dying out. Suddenly stores were ending up with unsaleable products that had to be thrown away.

Americans waste a large quantity of food. According to a report by The Guardian.com approximately half of all produce in the United States is tossed out, around 60 million tons worth $160 billion every rear. The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered that thrown away food is also the largest component in American landfills.

Wasting food represents many problems for our country. With all of the households in the United States that struggle to put food on the table. That much waste could be used to feed hungry Americans.  Reducing our food waste by 15 percent would help feed 25 million Americans every year. Food waste is also a primary source of waste going into landfills and is also the one of the largest causes of methane in the United States.

When I worked for Nabisco, forty years ago, they used to donate damaged packages of cookies and crackers until some of the donations ended up being “returned” to stores for a refund. Allegedly they also had to defend themselves against a few lawsuits related to the donated food. They stopped donating food to charity for these reasons and just destroyed the product with imperfect packaging.  Some people ruin it for everybody.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act was passed in 1996.  This act protects businesses from lawsuits when they make a contribution of food to a charity. This protects them from litigation except for cases involving extreme negligence.

I worked with a person who knew a salesman/driver for a dairy. He would bring in “expired” yogurt for me. It was perfectly fine, it was just past the “Best if used by” date and unsaleable. It was delicious.

There are many reasons why so much food is thrown out in the U.S. Part of the reason is that food is less expensive and more abundant in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world. But the big reason Americans waste food appears to be the national obsession with the aesthetic condition of their food. Food that goes past their “Best if used by” date gets thrown out or grocery stores throw out unattractive produce or dented cans that shoppers will not buy. Other reasons include damage in transit and stores ordering more than they can sell.

We have to stop throwing out perfectly good food.

Bugs, the other white meat.

October 14, 2019 is National Chocolate-Covered Insects Day. Who knew there would be a day dedicated to eating bugs?

I have eaten a few bugs in my lifetime and once you get past the creepiness factor that you are eating insects they aren’t all that bad. People living in Oaxaca, Mexico have been eating fried grasshoppers as a snack for centuries. These are partially cooked in water, then seasoned with garlic and lime and toasted in oil. They’re then wrapped up in a tortilla and eaten. I have eaten fried grasshoppers and found them to have a crunchy, nutty flavor.

There used to be a program on TV called Fear Factor where the participants would have to eat bugs as a challenge. Bugs are deemed highly nutritional and most of them contain a lot of protein. They also contain healthy fats, calcium and iron, are low in carbohydrates and cholesterol. I’ve never heard about an anteater with a cholesterol problem.

The eggs, larvae and adults of selected bugs, including tarantulas and centipedes have been eaten by human beings from prehistoric times to the present day. Eating bugs is common to cultures in most parts of the world. The meal worms I ate were rather bland but because of their size and shape would mix well with wild or brown rice to add protein to your diet. A meal worm is the larva of a Meal worm Beetle not an actual worm at all.

As challenges in food production loom, some adults think that an increase in eating bugs is highly likely. The estimated proportion of bugs to humans is around 200 million to one, say Iowa State University entomologists Larry Pedigo and Marlin Rice in their textbook, Entomology and Pest Management.

***If you are squeamish, you may want to stop here and go right to the last paragraph.***

You may think this is disgusting but you have probably eaten bugs already. The FDA, yes that FDA, the people assigned to protect your food source, allow a certain number of bug parts in many foods. Ground cinnamon, for example, can contain up to an average of 227 bug fragments per ounce.

Bug body parts are also permitted in both ground and crushed oregano. If you choose ground oregano, you might find up to 3,750 bug fragments per ounce. Crushed oregano is allowed to contain 900 bug fragments per ounce.

Chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate. Chocolate is permitted to contain 60 or more bug fragments per 100 grams

Maggots are permitted in a bunch of tomato products, including canned tomatoes, up to one maggot per 18 ounces of tomato juice and tomato sauce. This gives a whole new meaning to “Meat Sauce”

Canned citrus fruit juices are permitted to contain one maggot per 17 fluid ounces, but the good news is that juice that does contain a maggot cannot also have more than four fly eggs.

Canned mushrooms are a very good place to find maggots. If there are “over 20 or more maggots of any size per 100 grams of drained mushrooms” or “five or more maggots two millimeters or longer per 100 grams” the FDA will take a look. If not, gobble them up.

Meat provides a good amount of protein, but most meats contain many more unhealthy fats when compared to bugs besides that bugs contain fiber. Edible bugs have more nutrients and they can taste way better than meat. Many years ago I had chocolate covered ants. For this out of the ordinary snack, ants are first roasted and then they are coated in chocolate. I thought they tasted like chocolate covered raisins.

If two billion people eat bugs for dinner, it shouldn’t be too outlandish for you to include some edible bugs in your diet. In many parts of the world, eating bugs is commonplace and in fact some bugs are considered delicacies.

Men are more likely than women to eat bugs and younger people are more likely to see the potential of eating bugs. The chocolate covered crickets I ate tasted just like crunchy chocolate covered popcorn.

In some countries, like China and Thailand, chocolate-covered bugs are considered a delicacy. In Southern Africa, caterpillars are a significant supply of protein for some native groups and who among us hasn’t eaten the agave worm from the bottom of a bottle of Mezcal tequila on a drunken Saturday night?

Bugs are perfectly safe to eat just as long as you are buying them from a trustworthy source or even raising them yourself. You don’t want to collect bugs from the wild to eat because you don’t know what pesticides or other substances they may have had contact with. Another excellent rule of thumb to follow is not to eat any brightly colored, hairy or spiny bugs, as they are apt to be poisonous. As in all circumstances, maintaining a safe, reliable food source means a safe and healthy diet.

Bugs might not be for everyone, but they just might become a very important addition to the global food supply. They’re sustainable, green, and nutritious.

To purchase edible bugs go to Western New York Herpetological Society: http://www.wnyherp.org/buy-crickets.php Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport, New York.

Lovin Spoonful: Somewhere

By Norbert Rug

The three amigos, my wife Donna, my buddy Ed, and I ventured out looking for somewhere to go for dinner. We ended up at “Somewhere” a quaint looking place at 681 Blairville road in Youngstown.

When we first pulled up, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go inside. I thought someone was pranking me when the said I should try it out but don’t let the outside appearance scare you off. The facade reminded me of an old west saloon. When we pulled up in their small, gravel parking lot, I could see four full size, sand volleyball courts.

We walked under a surf board and through a homemade screen door to enter the place, still not knowing what to expect. Wow! This tiny bar was way better than I had expected, nothing very fancy just a warm friendly, Irish, country bar.

When you first walk in, it’s kind of just a regular neighborhood bar. We sat down at a table with a Kraft paper tablecloth and started taking in the sights. The floor was painted concrete, none of that fancy hardwood or laminate here, and the walls, oh the walls. There wasn’t much room to put anything else on the walls. I can’t begin to explain the amount of Irish paraphernalia on the walls. I understand the owner is Pat Stack, a retired Niagara Falls detective.

Kenney, our server/bartender came over to take our order.  He emphasized that all the food is fresh. He said even the rolls are homemade and the meats & vegetables are locally sourced.

Donna had water with lemon, Ed ordered a glass of wine and I had a Pepsi. When he came back, he brought a salt and pepper shaker which I thought was a bit odd. Maybe they don’t have enough to go around.

They have a small menu (7 items) plus specials. Ed had the Cha-Cha-Chicken, which is fresh chicken breast marinated and grilled in their herb infused marinade served over a classic salad ($10).  Gluten free

In a surprise to both her and me, Donna ordered the “Meatball Puff”. Donna would be a vegetarian if I let her. She said it just intrigued her. This is a meatball wrapped in pastry with homemade sauce on it. She said it was cheesy inside and out. She was wondering why she didn’t get the choice of a side but when it arrived she understood. This was a one pound meat ball, you didn’t need a side. In fact she brought half of it home.

I tried to order the Ruben that was on the specials board and Kenney told me they were out of that. He suggested the “Lola” to me. A Buffalo chicken sandwich with a side of homemade blue cheese dressing ($10). I selected potato wedges as my side. The potato wedges are seasoned with black pepper, paprika, garlic and salt. The chicken was fall apart tender. The roll was perfect, not too crusty and the potato wedges were excellent.

This small place had a neat log-cabin atmosphere, 60’s music, 4 tables, an 11-seat bar and featured a number of items from another era. Outside, there are four well-maintained volleyball courts on the west side of the building. The east side and behind the building include a patio and a stage for bands. They put on inflatable pool parties, tortoise races and a St Patrick’s party that had 532 guests according to their Facebook page.

I was completely blown away that I found this food of this caliper in a place I’ve never even heard of before. It was friendly, very low key and drama free. I will make it a point to return here again in the future. It was Delish. Thanks Michele for suggesting it. I give it 9 spoons out of 10.
Hours are:
Saturday              11:30AM–11PM
Sunday                 Closed
Monday               Closed
Tuesday               11:30AM–5PM
Wednesday         11:30AM–11PM
Thursday              11:30AM–11PM
Friday                   11:30AM–11PM

Phone: (716) 262-2337

Surprise

Let me start off by saying my family is a loving and caring one, but even the holiest of angels has a bit of the devil in them. We can be quite devious when we want to be. My wife’s birthday is in June along with two granddaughters, daughter and my son. I won’t tell you how old she is because a gentleman never asks or tells but I am 71 and she is just a little younger than me.

My son asked us to join him at a favorite, local restaurant of ours with his wife and 8 year twin old sons to celebrate his birthday. Donna watches the boys after school so she was to bring them there rather than their home. He sent me an IM and several texts that this was all a ruse and the real reason for dinner was the give my wife a surprise party.

I take great pride in the fact that my wife, “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” if you will, never figured out what was going on. We seldom can put one over on her but now that she is seventy (oops!) years old and with the turmoil (good) we have had at our house recently I don’t think she had the time to figure it out.

Even the twins were in on this one and you probably know how hard it is for an eight year old to keep a secret. It all started with the twins. At the time we had to leave for dinner, even though they had just gone to the bathroom 15 minutes earlier, they BOTH decided they had to go poop. They were told by their parents to stall leaving our house until 5:45. Of course I had to use the bathroom too and seeing as we only have 2, I was outside the bathroom door waiting my turn.

Donna was pulling her hair out. She didn’t want to be late. There was no way we were going to be on our way at 5:30 like she wanted and she didn’t want to make our son and daughter in law wait. She had lost control.

The one twin kept yelling thru the door, asking Donna what time it was because he was told to stall until 5:45. Donna wondered why he asked her to let him know when it was 5:45 and thought she was dealing with Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.  Why did he have to remain in the bathroom till 5:45?  The other grandson developed this sudden problem with tying his shoes. Even though I was instructed to stall her I didn’t know at this point what they were doing.

When we finally hit the road the boys were in the back seat. Donna likes to be able to see out of her rear view mirror and when the boys are waving their arms in the air she will actually pull over until they stop. As soon as a song they knew came on the radio, they started dancing in their seats, waving their arms, and Donna pulled to the curb. That’s when I realized just what was going on because up until then I didn’t know they were in on the plot.

Once we got going again I flipped down my visor and watched them in the mirror. They were whispering and then suddenly we would hear “Donna, Ian pushed me.” It was at that point I joined into the subterfuge. I would start yelling at the boys full well knowing that this was pushing Donna’s buttons. At that point she would pull over again and start yelling at them. They never act like this.

They calmed down and Donna started driving again. Once more time the boys started acting up and I began yelling. Donna pulled to the curb again and yelled at them one more time. All the time, Ian had a silly smirk on his face and I yelled for him to wipe that smile off his face. He took his arm and wiped it across his mouth but that didn’t last long.

The whole time they were giggling and that only added fuel to the fire. They are having a sleep over Saturday and she yelled their behavior caused them to lose their television privileges. This made them laugh even more. Donna said that’s it and she was going to drive to the front of the restaurant, throw them out and drive home.

When we got there, I put on my best “It’s hard to get out of her van.” act. You see I had broken my leg the month before and was still in a boot. This was quite believable if I say so myself. When we entered the restaurant and Donna told the hostess “Reservations for Rug.” The Hostess smirked a bit and took us to a screened off area and when Donna rounded the corner my family members yelled “Surprise!”  Donna stopped dead in her tracks and was speechless.

We’ve only been able to trick her once before, at a Bison’s game, but that story will have to wait for another time because I am out of space.

I am an independent journalist who lives in Lockport as do my children and grandchildren. I also blog at norb-has-opinions.blogspot.com

For home-style breakfast, try Toast and Roast Cafe

 

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In my quest to try and hit as many eateries in Niagara County as I can, Donna (my wife), Ed (my buddy) and I popped into the Toast and Roast Cafe for breakfast one Saturday. They have an ample parking lot and we had no trouble getting a place by the door. When we entered I noticed how fresh and clean the place looked. They also had memes posted on all the walls.

This quaint little place is near the intersection of Military Road and Saunders Settlement Road. The atmosphere is homey and comfortable. The diner is very small, maybe 15 tables and a counter and they serve breakfast all day and lunch.

We grabbed a table by the door and Michele came over to take our drink order. Donna had water with lemon, Ed had his usual coffee ($2) and I opted for a Pepsi ($2.25).

They have a rather limited menu so it wasn’t hard to select our meal. When Michele came back, we told her we needed separate checks and she didn’t flinch. Sometimes it is a problem to get severs to separate the meals for you.

Donna ordered a #4, 2 eggs and toast and homefries ($5.95). When Michele asked how she wanted her eggs cooked, Donna told her poached and put them on the toast. Michele informed her they don’t do poached. Who doesn’t do poached? Michele said they could have them basted. We had never heard of “basted eggs” so Michele explained they cook it under a metal cover. She said it was like poached so Donna selected this way. Ed picked the #8. A bacon and cheese omelet with homefries (8.75). I picked a #4, 2 eggs, over easy, homefries and toast ($5.95).

Our meals arrived rather quickly and Michele even brought ketchup and hot sauce. The one thing I was missing was a “set up”, a placemat, napkin and silverware. She corrected this quickly and we all dug in to breakfast.

Ed pronounced his omelet delicious and that it had a good amount of bacon in it. He also said his coffee was good. My eggs were fine but the homefries were definitely not homemade. They were like uniformly sized, short, fat French fries. I thought they even seemed deep fat fried and were a bit crisp for my liking. My toast was thicker than most but it was so lightly buttered that I could not tell which side the butter was on. There was plenty of grape jelly packets table side though. Grape jelly is my favorite. Donna’s basted eggs weren’t at all like poached eggs and her yolks weren’t soft, more like medium.  Donna loves having runny yolks that she can soak up with her toast.

Like most small local diners, the staff and the customers seemed to know each other and engaged in small talk and chit chat. It looked like they had a number of regulars.

The bills arrived just as we were finishing our meal and when we looked at them we noticed neither the prices nor the totals were on them. They just listed what we had for breakfast.  Off they went to get this error corrected. I joked with Michele saying that I thought maybe breakfast was free.

Open daily, Monday thru Saturday 6:30am till 2:00pm and Sunday 8:00am till 1:00pm.
Takeout available.
Phone 716-297-4172

I give them 7 out of 10 spoons.

Previously published in the Niagara Gazette.