Sunday, August 18, 2013

little observation

When I last lived in the USA, about four years ago, the Corn Refiners Association was running a series of TV ads that sought to convince the public that high fructose corn syrup is a legitimate, natural foodstuff and "fine in moderation". The ads showed happy couples and families having a throwaway conversation about health risks before agreeing that it's just like sugar so we might as well eat the ice lollies. While utterly failing to address the politics of the corn subsidy, the ecological and economic impacts of maize-based bio-diesel, the fact that at the time it was difficult to only consume HFCS in moderation because it was in absolutely everything, from bread to cheese to fishsticks, or the fact that it tastes like metal, the corn refiners' marketing team did make an attempt to assuage consumers' concerns about their products and show that they were listening. 

Based on what I saw in American grocery stores a few weeks ago, I was amused to discover just how ineffective the corn refiners' reassurances were. A few years ago you only saw labels like "made with NO HFCS, MSG or artificial colours!" in organic grocery stores and the token frou-frou aisle of the supermarket. Now it's everywhere, and it's all the big companies. All sorts of popular ready-made items proudly declare on their packaging "We Took It Out! We Listened!" Well, more like we reached the point where the reduction in sales was no longer offset by the price of the ingredients! While we might have not been listening, we eventually heard you. Please come back!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Quick Tour of the Confederacy

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What I Did On My Summer Vacation:


As I hadn't driven a car since September of 2011, this was quite nice. As I haven't lost a pound since 2003 this was not particularly helpful.

From 17 July through 6 August 2013 my spouse and I enjoyed a sampling of Southern Food. Sorry, I meant to say Southern Food. Damn you Autocorrect! Southern C-U-L-T-U-R-E. Culture. There. Though I can't blame my in-head autocorrect for the confusion. Mmm biscuits. Mmmm burritos. Mmm deep fried okra, green beans and catfish!

We flew into Charlotte (US Airways 731, A330) and met up with my mother and the couple I grew up next door to. Two quick days of gossip and sushi and the three of us hopped into a rented Dodge Avenger to whisk down to Clearwater, Florida (I-77, I-26, I-95) . After a day of gossip and guacamole with my aunt and her family we changed out the Avenger for a Ford Escape and the six of us trundled down to Punta Gorda to visit more family (including my sister, who graciously flew down from NYC to meet us) for three days of shish kabobs, key lime pie, boating, swimming and throwing the three-year-old around in the pool. After an afternoon shopping for jeans at the outlet mall we spent one more night back at the aunt's house before mom flew back to Charlotte for work and my sister, the spouse and I adopted the Escape rental and headed out for Arkansas via New Orleans (I-75, I-10). After two hours of po'boys and shopping for Cafe du Monde schwag we headed north (I-55, I-20, I-30, US-65) to visit Grandma, two uncles and my tia in Clinton, Arkansas. We dropped off the Escape in Little Rock and just drove the farm vehicles for a few days. After two days dad arrived and the 8 of us enjoyed several days of pootling around the farm, a Saturday evening visit to Mountain View to listen to the music, some lake swimming and plenty of conversation. Shortly after I swapped my grandma's pencil sharpener for my camera charger (whoops) dad drove us to Memphis on the back roads, and flew east from there after an evening of blues on Beale Street. Three hours later than expected, thanks to some impressive incompetence on the part of Thrifty auto rentals, the three of us hired a Ford Fiesta from Avis and struck out on I-40 (my home away from home!). After a quick stop in Nashville for lunch with a couple of my sister's friends recently transplanted from Brooklyn (reasonably-priced flats with TWO bathrooms, central air and off-street parking, within ten minutes of Ethiopian, Greek and Japanese restaurants?! Nashville, I had you all wrong!) we dove back onto the freeway and didn't stop (okay, we stopped for coffee, petrol and pizza-flavoured Combos) until we'd crossed the hard part of the Appalachian range and checked into our B&B in Asheville. Mom met us there and we enjoyed a day of window shopping and Tupelo Honey Café until mother and sister headed south and left Spouse and I to our own devices. Good and early the next morning we hit up about 20 miles of Blue Ridge Parkway on the way to Biltmore House, where we wandered the house and gardens for most of the day, before resigning ourselves to US-74 back to Charlotte. We returned the Fiesta at the airport and mom picked us up in a comically oversized truck for her stature. The next day we arranged and held a small get-together for our neighbours and friends, for which my brother-in-law flew down and we re-arranged the biscuits and catfish to squeeze into our wedding clothes, and after breakfast the following morning with a high school friend at a lovely café in Rock Hill we shopped for a few last-minute vitals (maple syrup and trail mix from Trader Joe's), packed our bags, enjoyed a few more delicious dinners, and flew home (US Airways 730, A330). 

Pant pant pant.  

We opened our bags yesterday afternoon to find love notes from the TSA in both (probably for the Cafe du Monde coffee in Spouse's, and for the pouch of spanners in mine) and have spent the past two days in a jet-lagged daze. 

Egad, we have to go back to work. How on earth does one do that?