Key Lime Pie is on almost every menu in Florida. The original version with meringue is more difficult to find. The more available version uses whipped cream, which is easier to serve. My husband and I found the meringue key lime pie at the Key Lime Pie Factory on Tavernier Island just west of Key Largo. It was delicious! You can buy slices and whole pies, as well as a wide range of key lime flavored treats, including frozen key lime pie dipped in chocolate on a stick
Key Lime Pie is thought to have been invented in Key West by “Aunt Sally,” the talented cook of William Curry, a prominent Key West resident and Bahamian-born immigrant who became Florida’s first millionaire. In the late 1800s, Aunt Sally used ingredients available on the island, which is at the end of the Florida Keys archipelago — easy to store sweetened condensed milk in a can (no cows anywhere near the island), local eggs (there are chickens everywhere on Key West) and the locally grown key limes. Key limes are yellowish when ripe and are smaller and have more seeds than the bright green limes you commonly find in the grocery store throughout the United States. In the original recipe, egg yolks go into the filling, and the egg whites are whipped into a meringue topping. More commonly now, restaurants and bakeries skip the meringue and use whipped cream, but the Key Lime Pie Factory in Tavernier Island in the Florida Keys still creates its pies with meringue.
The harvested crop of Carolina Reaper hot peppers are a brilliant scarlet. We’ve probably picked a peck of peppers, and there are more on the plants!
Last year, a friend gave my husband one Carolina Reaper hot pepper, considered to be among the hottest peppers in the world. After my husband used the pepper very sparingly in chili and other dishes, he saved and planted the seeds. The seeds sprouted and prospered. He repotted the plants as they grew. He kept four plants and gave away several more pots of pepper plants to friends and family, who said they liked hot peppers. As the plants grew even larger, he gave away two more. The remaining two plants produced enough hot peppers to destroy the taste buds of the population of our county. The peppers didn’t seem to be as hot as the original pepper (the Scoville Scale link below explains why that might be the case), but they were still very hot — too hot for me!
Half of the ripe Carolina Reaper peppers have already been picked from these plants. Very prolific!
Many people do enjoy really hot peppers. Last year, I attended (as an observer) the Hot Pepper Eating Contest in Palestine, Texas. This year (2017), the Palestine Hot Pepper Festival is Oct. 21. Links to the festival and my blog post about 2016’s festival are below.
The early growing stages of my husband’s Carolina Reaper hot pepper crop.
My husband kept four Carolina reaper plants, but eventually gave two more away. Like many pepper varieties, the Carolina Reapers start green, then turn yellow. In their ripe stage, they are a beautiful brilliant red color.
Blueberries are worth getting soaked to the skin. My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her at The Berry Patch in Cleveland, Missouri., early on the morning of the Fourth of July. It was fun, despite the rain.
My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her on July 4th at The Berry Patch, in Cleveland, Missouri, which is about 20 minutes from where we live. I’d heard about the farm years ago, but had never visited so I was glad for the invitation.
The forecast called for rain, but we decided to go anyway. Rain started as we drove, but optimistically we continued, thinking that at least we’d have the place to ourselves. Wrong. There were about fifty cars parked there when we arrived at 7:25 a.m. The farm opens at 7 a.m. For some, picking blueberries on Independence Day is a tradition. Since blueberries are only available for a few months — several types of blueberries are planted to stretch out the season — July 4th is a good reminder to get to the farm. You can rush home with your blueberries to add them to a red white and blue dessert. Pat said that because of the rain, the crowd was actually quite thin. When it’s sunny, you have a lot more competition for blueberries. There are many bushes, however. The Berry Patch is the largest berry farm in Missouri. There are 30 acres of blueberry bushes and four acres of blackberry bushes. A store sells jams, syrups and baked goods, and there is a playground area for kids, and picnic tables for picnic lunches.
Thunder crashed when we got out of the car, but fortunately we didn’t hear much thunder or see lightning afterward. It did rain a lot, though. After a while, you forget the rain as you pick pick pick those blueberries.
The Berry Patch provides white buckets with a plastic bag liner. They provide twine so that you can attach the bucket to your waist so you have two free hands to pick. After about two hours of picking, I picked almost six pounds and Pat almost nine pounds. She had two buckets. I bought some blueberry jam and blueberry syrup, too.
As we climbed into the car, we were soaked to the skin, but I was so glad we ignored the weather report. I hope to make blueberry picking a July 4th tradition. I may even go again this summer to replenish my supply. I’ve already eaten two cups of blueberries today.
I first saw a Valentine Diner at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum, in the Rio Grande River Valley, is a collection of antique gas pumps, neon signs, soda machines, oil cans, vintage trucks and cars, plus plenty of other items.
I grew up in the Wichita, Kansas, area but it wasn’t until I visited a museum in New Mexico a couple of years ago that I found out about a hometown industry — the Valentine Diner. My family moved to the Wichita area because of its biggest manufacturing business — airplanes — but somehow I missed this smaller manufacturing cousin.
The diners were manufactured in Wichita by Valentine Manufacturing, Inc., from the late 1930s into the mid-1970s. Sales of the buildings expanded nationwide, and soon Valentine diners were installed all over the United States. About 2,200 of the portable diners, in a wide range of sizes. Some served only a handful of customers, while the double deluxe versions were as large as many restaurants with added areas that featured several booths, tables and a long counter with stools.
Numerous Valentine diner buildings are still in use today, but many are no longer diners, but serve as headquarters for other types of businesses, such as used car lot offices and dog grooming salons. One 8-stool Valentine building was converted to an Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Substation
Menu of Terry’s Diner, which has maintained the sign and location of Brint’s Diner in an historic Valentine diner building in Wichita, Kansas.
One Valentine diner still serving delicious meals is Brint’s Diner in Wichita, where my mother and I enjoyed a meal. The red and white checkered linoleum tile floor, the red vinyl booths and bar stools and the aluminum trimmed interior provide a delightful vintage atmosphere. The diner attracts a loyal following. The Brint’s building is a double deluxe model. The diner concept was based on railroad dining cars, but with a parking lot and the addition of porches and other extras they settled in as permanent residents of their neighborhoods.
The Grinder Man sandwich shop in Wichita, Kansas, is an A-frame model of a Valentine Diner.
This Valentine Diner building in Wichita, Kansas, formerly a Lil Joe’s Dyne-Quik, is now closed. Sign says that the building was closed due to unsafe conditions.
Brint’s Diner (actually Terry’s Diner) in Wichita, Kansas, is a Double Deluxe model of a Valentine Diner building.
These taro fries from Tropical Taco in Hanalei, Kauai, were delicious!
Taro, known in the Hawaiian language as kalo, is the Hawaiian people’s most important crop. They brought it with them in their voyaging canoes when they migrated to the Hawaiian islands at least by 1,000 A.D. and possibly as early as 200 A.D. Kaua’i was the first inhabited Hawaiian island and is where most of Hawaiian taro is grown today. Seventy percent of the taro is grown in Hanalei River Valley, which includes the 917-acre Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. The 917-acre refuge was established in 1972 to provide nesting and feeding habitat for endangered Hawaiian water birds, including the Hawaiian duck (koloa maoli), coot (‘alae ke’oke’o), moorhen (‘alae ‘ula), and stilt (ae’o).
The Hanalei River was designated an American Heritage River on July 30, 1998. The major bridge across the river (still one lane) is on Hawaii Route 560, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Hawaii. When you’re waiting to cross the bridge to the town of Hanalei, you can see the taro fields beyond.
A taro field in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge in northern Kauai.
A tractor prepares a taro field in the Hanalei River Valley.
Water flows from a taro field in Limahuli Garden in northern Kauai. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.
The rock walls surrounding the taro fields are estimated to be about 700 years old in the Limahuli Tropical Botanical Garden in north Kauai west of Hanalei. The rock walls were part of an irrigation system that diverted some water from the Limahuli River to grow taro.
I’ve never eaten a McDonald’s pie before, but we couldn’t resist trying this taro version at a McDonald’s in Lihue, Kauai. It tasted like pineapple, which was likely an added flavor, because our taro fries didn’t taste like pineapple. Anyway, it wasn’t bad for a fried fast food pie.
You can see the taro fields on either side of the Hanalei River. This is also a wildlife refuge.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve in northern Kauai.
Terraced taro fields are in the Limahuli Garden and Preserve. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.
Here are some traditional Hawaiian foods, including taro, dried coconut and dried fish. We tried these foods at a Hawaiian ceremony in a park on the Kona Coast of the Big Island on February 2011.
Here’s an excerpt about taro in Hawaii from the Wikipedia Entry for Taro: In Hawaii, taro, or kalo in the Hawaiian language, is a traditional form of food sustenance and nutrition, known from ancient Hawaiian culture. The contemporary Hawaiian diet consists of many tuberous plants, particularly sweet potato and taro. Some of the uses for taro include poi, table taro, taro chips, and luau leaf. In Hawaii, taro is farmed under either dryland or wetland conditions. Taro farming in the Hawaiian islands is especially challenging because of difficulties in accessing fresh water. Taro is usually grown in pondfields known as loʻi in Hawaiian. Cool, flowing water yields the best crop. Typical dryland or upland varieties (varieties grown in watered but not flooded fields) in Hawaii are lehua maoli and bun long, the latter widely known as Chinese taro. Bun long is used for making taro chips. Dasheen (also called “eddo”) is another “dryland” variety of C. esculenta grown for its edible corms or sometimes just as an ornamental plant.
The Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service puts the 10-year median production of taro in the Hawaiian Islands at about 6.1 million pounds (2,800 t; Viotti, 2004). However, 2003 taro production in Hawaii was only 5 million pounds (2,300 t), an all-time low (record keeping started in 1946). The previous low, reached in 1997, was 5.5 million pounds (2,500 t). Despite generally growing demand, production was even lower in 2005: only 4 million pounds, with kalo for processing into poi accounting for 97.5%. Urbanization has driven down harvests from a high of 14.1 million pounds (6,400 t) in 1948, but more recently the decline has resulted from pests and diseases. A non-native apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) is a major culprit in the current crop decline. Also, a plant rot disease traced to a newly identified species of the fungal genus Phytophthora now plagues crops throughout the state. Although pesticides could control both pests to some extent, pesticide use in the pondfields is barred because of the clear opportunity for chemicals to quickly migrate into streams and then into the ocean.
Important aspects of Hawaiian culture revolves around taro cultivation and consumption. For example, the newer name for a traditional Hawaiian feast, luau, comes from the taro. Young taro tops baked with coconut milk and chicken or octopus arms are frequently served at luaus. Also, one cannot fight when a bowl of poi is open. By ancient Hawaiian custom, it is considered disrespectful to fight in front of an elder. One should not raise the voice, speak angrily, or make rude comments or gestures. An open poi bowl is connected to this concept because Haloa (Taro) is the name of the first-born son of the parents who begat the human race. The ancient Hawaiians identified so strongly with taro that the Hawaiian term for family, `ohana, is derived from the word `oha, the shoot or sucker which grows from the taro corm. As young shoots grow from the corm, so people grow from their family.
Now that all of the holiday events are behind us, including that long stretch of food-eating extravaganzas from Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas parties through New Year’s Day buffets, we can now reflect on 2013 and resolve for 2014. Here’s a funny video about guests and their many eating quirks. Lucky me, I can eat almost anything!
I’m tacking on this 2013 annual report from WordPress. The kindly people at WordPress noted that many of my top posts were not written this past year. Rather than saying that I was lazy in 2013, they said this: “Some of your most popular posts were written before 2013. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.” Hope to see you all in 2014.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 36,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Children are enthralled as they watch workers make fudge in one of Murdick’s Fudge Shops on Mackinac Island, Michigan.
“The perfect candle scent for Mackinac Island would be a layer of fudge-scented wax, then a layer of lilac, then at the bottom a layer of horse manure,” joked Joe, one of our carriage drivers on our recent (and first) trip to Mackinac Island, a beautiful island in Lake Huron just between Michigan’s Upper and Lower penisulas.
Unfortunately, we just missed lilac season, but we did see plenty of fudge shops and horses, when my husband and I visited in late June. There are more than a hundred varieties of the Common Lilac on Mackinac Island, which celebrates lilacs with a 10-day festival every mid-June, which concludes with a horse-drawn lilac parade. I’d love to return for that event.
Even though no cars, trucks or other motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, there’s a lot of traffic with horse-drawn carriages, people on horseback as well as hundreds of bicyclists and thousands of walkers. (The island does allow one police car, one ambulance and some electric golf carts on the golf course.)
Here are some of the fudge flavors available at Murdick’s Fudge on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Butter Pecan, Plain Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Walnut.
Six fudge companies operate fudge shops on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Since each company seems to have at least two shops and some operate even more, that’s a lot of fudge on this small island. There are competing fudge shops next door to each other and some companies have opened fudge shops on opposite sides of the street — sort of like Starbucks Coffee. But, honestly, can you ever have enough fudge? There are as many as 15,000 tourists a day in peak season, so there is an enormous market for fudge. I bought fudge at Murdick’s Fudge. The Murdick Family opened its fudge shop in 1887, when sailmakers Henry and Rome Murdick came to Mackinac Island to make giant awnings for The Grand Hotel (the hotel was constructed in only 93 days!)
I bought the fudge for a gift, but I’m hoping the recipients will offer me a taste. (Yes, I managed to come home with uneaten fudge.) I’ve been known to preach (or even screech) about the dangers of sugar, but calorie counts don’t apply to any food eaten or bought on vacation, so I’ve been told. Even sugar is exempted. (Ok, even I don’t believe that.) But an occasional very small indulgence is good for the food soul. I’ll take a couple of extra laps around the neighborhood.
Mackinac Island, which is 3.8 square miles, has 80 miles of trails, if you want to walk off your fudge there. The entire island is a National Historic Landmark and 80 percent of it is Mackinac Island State Park. Initially, it was the second U.S. National Park, but the Feds later turned it over to the state of Michigan.
You can count at least three fudge shops in this photograph of a street on Mackinac Island, Michigan. You’d need four hands to count all of the fudge shops on the small island. The fudge shops are clustered conveniently close to where the tourists get off of the ferry. There are as many as 15,000 tourists a day in peak season. The fudge demand is enormous!
Here, the lovely cashier prepares my fudge purchase. I bought plain chocolate, chocolate espresso and chocolate cherry.
This is one of my favorite salads. I tossed together walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and some strawberries from my garden on several varieties of lettuce.
The size of the strawberries in my strawberry patch were smaller than usual this spring — probably because I didn’t water enough, and we didn’t have much rain. Remind me next April to water my strawberry patch! I did get enough strawberries to enjoy each morning with a bowl of cereal. I also like to toss strawberries in a salad, such as the one pictured above with blue cheese and walnuts. The dressing is a dash of extra virgin olive oil and a dash of vinegar, sprinkled with garlic salt. I usually use balsamic vinegar, but I was out so I used rice wine vinegar. Here’s a link to last’s year’s strawberry photo: Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt
Desert Rose shrubs adorn the ruins of a sugar factory at Caneel Bay on the island of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was eating left-over wedding cupcakes every morning. We ordered too many mini cupcakes for my daughter’s wedding, and there were at least ten dozen left. I forced a lot of them on people as they left the reception. (I’m sorry!) But I took home at least three dozen. The cupcakes were so rich — and so good. I couldn’t let them go to waste. (So I let them go to my waist.) I knew they weren’t a healthy choice, but hey, a calorie is a calorie, I thought. I could exchange a bowl of cereal for a cupcake. No harm, no foul.
Laura and Ryan's Wedding Cupcakes.
But then I had an epiphany when I saw the video at the bottom of this post. Sugar is bad for you. Really bad for you. I’ve been hearing this for decades, but shrugged it off even though diabetes runs in my family. Now Valentine’s Day approaches, another sugar-soaked holiday. I’ve cut back on sugar so much in the past year that I don’t even like it. (And almost no alcohol, either.) I’m not even tempted — well, okay, occasionally I succumb. And I do eat a lot of fruit. I wish I could say I feel so much better, but I don’t. I do feel smug, though! At least I haven’t gained any weight, always a problem as you grow older.
Does spurning sugar make me a sourpuss? I hope I’m still as sweet as always. (Some who know me will say, What?) I’m bucking against the trend toward eating sugar. Sugar cane is the world’s largest crop. High fructose corn sugar from corn is ubiquitous. You can’t escape sugar in almost any processed food. Recent statistics showed that U.S. adults consume 22.2 teaspoons of sugar daily — or 355 calories. That greatly exceeds the daily recommended amount. Dietitians have said that the average-sized women should be consuming no more than 6.25 teaspoons; men 9.4. Read the link below on Sucrose to see just what this chemical does to you!
Only two plants produce the sucrose that humans crave so much: sugar cane and sugar beets. I started thinking about sugar again when my family and I recently went to the small beautiful island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands for my son’s wedding. (There seems to be a wedding theme here.) The island is now mostly a U.S. national park, but you can see the ruins of some of the sugar cane plantations that covered the island after Europeans first settled the island in 1718 and started farming. The Europeans used African and Indian slaves to work the plantations. Raising sugar cane and processing the cane into refined sugar was and still is hard work.
Here are the ruins of part of the Cinnamon Bay Estate sugar factory. Established in the early 1700s, Cinnamon Bay Estate became one of the most prosperous sugar cane operations on the island of St. John. The ruins are now in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park.
Sugar, as molasses, was traded from the Caribbean to Europe or New England, where it was distilled into rum. The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. The slaves were then brought back to the Caribbean to be sold to sugar planters. The profits from the sale of the slaves were then used to buy more sugar, which was shipped to Europe. The cycle would continue over and over. To read more, click on the link Triangular Trade at the bottom of the post.
The Europeans chopped down the native plants to plant their sugar cane plantations and introduced a lot of foreign animals. The descendants of some of these animals run wild on the island today, such as mongoose, goats, donkeys and deer. Many of the trees and vegetation did return when sugar cane plantations were abandoned. St. John was the site of one of the first significant slave rebellions in the New World in 1733, but the rebellion was put down. Slavery wasn’t abolished in St. John until 1848, and after that the sugar plantations shut down. Now St. John’s main industry is tourism.
No sign remains of the sugar cane crop fields that once flourished here on the Cinnamon Bay Estate in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The sugar factory and estate house, built of blocks of coral, lie in ruins.
In case you’re wondering where the Virgin Islands group got its name, you can thank Christopher Columbus and his crew. They were the first Europeans to see these islands and named the island group “Once Mil Virgenes”, or Eleven Thousand Virgins, in honor of the feast day of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins who were martyred with her.
I wrote about the mongoose, which were also introduced to St. John and other tropical islands to control rats (which they didn’t), such as the Big Island of Hawaii. Why Did the Mongoose Cross the Road?
Here’s a long video that explains why sugar is bad for you. In it, Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that too much fructose too much and not enough fiber appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.
Tables are beautifully set under the historic 12th Street Bridge for the Food Now Fund-raiser in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 27, 2011.
My multi-talented friend Chris B. invited me and several others to the second annual foodNow local food experience under the 12th Street Bridge in the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri, on August 27, 2011. I had no idea what foodNow was, but who wouldn’t want to eat an elegant dinner under an old bridge in one of Kansas City’s most historic areas? Chefs from many Kansas City restaurants prepared a three-course dinner from produce from the area. The event was a fund-raiser for Beans and Greens – Nourishing Neighborhoods with Local Produce , Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition and Get Growing KC.
"Haunted Houses" attract thrill-seekers in the fall near the 12th Street Bridge.
The tables were set on the original cobblestone street where farmers brought their produce for sale. I’m glad I was wearing flat shoes. Some women wearing more fashionable footwear were a little wobbly on the cobblestones. Nearby the bridge are old warehouses, which now have a new life hosting “haunted houses” that attract thrill-seekers every fall. Also in the area is Kemper Arena and the site of the American Royal. Each table had a different menu. Chef Michael Turner of the Classic Cup prepared the delicious dinner for my table. There was a silent and a live auction. Unfortunately, my table was far from the auctioneer. An old bridge may be charming, but the acoustics were not that great. I could hear my table-mates, though, and that made for a very fascinating evening.
The 12th Street Bridge was built in 1915 and is now undergoing a major rehabilitation. The West Bottoms (official name Central Industrial District) is an industrial area immediately to the west of downtown Kansas City, Missouri at the confluence of the Missouri River and the Kansas River. The area is one of the oldest areas of the city and is home to Kansas City’s early agricultural markets.
Originally called the “French Bottoms,” French trappers and Kansas Indians traded here centuries ago. French Bottoms sounds a lot more appealing, doesn’t it? Steamships traveling upstream on the Missouri river offloaded their goods at the Bottoms to provision those immigrating west and for trade with Mexico over the Santa Fe Trail. The advent of the railroad increased the importance of the area. Major floods have engulfed the area (1903, 1951 and 1993), which have diminished the area’s commercial and residential importance. You could say river affluence has lessened the area’s influence.
Les Dames d'Escoffier International (Heart of America Chapter) sponsored the silent and live auction of cooking and food-related items.
Tiny lights illuminate the tables under the 12th Street Bridge in the West Bottoms of Kansas City for the foodNow dinner.