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Suit Yourself™ International Magazine #31: Fines Herbs Do-It-Yourself Food

  

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Suit Yourself™ International Magazine  #31: Fines Herbs Do-It-Yourself Food

 

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FINES HERBES DO-IT-YOURSELF FOOD

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This is the 31st in our articles series and I hope this information is helpful.

All previous articles in the series can be found in our Library:
https://suityourself.international/libraryindex.html
and in the Magazine Archives:
https://suityourself.international/appanage/index.php?_a=newsletter
If you are experiencing problems viewing this newsletter in email, please use one of these links.

Upon request, reprint permission and an addendum of substantiating resources are available for all magazine articles. When requesting reprint permission or addenda, please include the issue date and full issue title. All magazine articles are copyright © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself ™ International. All rights reserved. ISSN 2474-820X.
 

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Those of you reading this magazine know that I find it amusing and educational to examine the deep smoking pits of fraud that I've not fallen into, as I pass by them. 

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        Emerging from a swimming pool, the Pink Panther de-inflates the pool, so it has totally disappeared by the time a high diver, who is on his way down to it, can reach it. Blake Edwards, The Pink Panther, 1963, created by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, designed by Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng. 

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It's interesting to find the catch in every Something for Nothing offer that's too good to be true. This type of offer is a pervasive practice, and it's quite successful. True to the nature of fraud, it ranges from overt to subtle; consequences that seem harmless at first can slowly accrue and become more dangerous, eventually becoming far more dangerous than the usual wolves in sheep's clothing.  One of this type just stepped up to the plate, as the Baseball saying goes and pun intended: Do-It-Yourself Food Kits.

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Bugs Bunny, "Super-Rabbit",  April 3, 1943, Merrie Melodies, directed by Chuck Jones. Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons).

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For clarification, I don't mean produce delivery services, or so-called TV dinners. I'm specifically referring to products of so called "freshly prepared" meal bits in a box. These are containers of pre-selected pre-cooked pre-sorted pre-prepared food that is nearly but not quite pre-cooked, bought at stores or via subscription, allowing you to sidestep food preparation, and which obliterate any traces of the food's sources.

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ACME Farms delivers exceptional fine fresh produce to the West Coast.

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Most of us are gullible, if only because most of us are not experts in confidence schemes and the subtleties of coercion. It's probably by sheer luck that most of us have avoided being seriously fleeced by the entrepreneurs surrounding us, because being smart, observant, and careful is no guarantee of protection.  Fraud is as American as apple pie; it's always been with us, since the beginnings of our country. Most Americans grow up greedy for gain without effort, but ignorant of the nature of humankind. However, many fraud entrepreneurs are not ignorant, and when they're experts, by definition, they play against us using our own game, because they're better players at it than we are.

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For matters of life and death, please queue to the right.

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Have you ever wondered why there are so many cookbooks, cooking sites, and recipe blogs, in spite of the fact that nobody actually makes all these recipes? Food advertising knows you don't. Few of us make all the food we eat. We barely have time to prepare any of our own meals. We watch our weight. Food, and everything related to cooking, is marketed with overwhelming amounts of how-to-prepare info. No food company is interested in your nutrition. 

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Why are there so many cookbooks when nobody makes these recipes? Cooking the baby stew.

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The true American Dream is getting Something for Nothing, and Do-It-Yourself Kits are one example. "Something for Nothing"  means someone is gaining at your expense, while it first appears to you as if you're gaining more, at their expense. It's about cheating, not about a square fair deal. No one is giving away money or anything else of value.  There's always a trade off, and it's not in your favor. 

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"Holy Ball And Chain!" vending machine. Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, 1960's campy TV Series, Batman, executive producer William Dozier. 

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There are Do-It-Yourself Kits for just about everything imaginable for projects people need to do just once, or not too often. Crafts like needlepoint and Easter egg dyes, cake and muffin mixes, home electronics, kid's chemistry sets, indoor track lights, outdoor garden gazebos, self-assembly furniture, stackable shelving, self-installing home appliances, pop-in pet doors, easy-install windows, modular pre-fabricated houses, and self-modifiable cars.

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The ACME HOME Portable House for the Just Married. From Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely in One Week, 1920.

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Marketed as money savers, kits purport to be cheap fungible substitutes for the higher cost of hiring professional expertise, replacing professional parts and skill with kit-specific parts, instructions, and amateur labor. This may sound great in theory, but as anyone knows who has ever used a kit for a serious project, in practice, it's another story. Expertise is costly, whether paid for upfront by hiring a professional, or as the cost of your education when recovering from the serious trouble you got yourself into without it. 

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 Defensive food frying; note the money t-shirt.

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Likewise, quick meal kits won't train you to be a professional chef. However, Do-It-Yourself Food kits aren't entering the market as one-offs, "convenience food" projects from which you can learn. They're designed as life-style support, addictive subscription services, and this fact makes them scary.  They are NOT just another quick-prepare convenience food; they're training you to be a horse of a different color.

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Quick meal kits won't train you to be a professional chef. Cartoon by Bloch; don't toss your best veggies!

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As anyone knows who has ever tried to balance a tight budget, once a financial habit is set, the flow it creates is very difficult to shift. According to the Wall Street Journal's surveys, subscriptions to support services of some kind are where most of us spend most of our money. During the hardest of times, we rationalize and justify their cost because our dependency on them makes them so hard to give up. 

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Ration-alization of non-essentials, pun intended, during the Depression, 1930. Vieux Paris; la vendeuse de muguet.

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It's well documented, by Dan Ariely and others, that fiercely independent seniors, used to preparing their own meals, become markedly more tractable after moving into "assisted living" where all their meals are communally prepared. The same is true of inductees into the armed forces.

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Luther Burbank, American horticulturist, in his garden, 1923. Horticulteur Americain dans son jardin en 1923.

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Coercive experts know that asking a person to write down their name, and getting them to simply do that, is the only compliance step required to eventually gain that person's total cooperation. It may take some time, but eventually the person will willingly comply to anything, while believing they're doing so of their own free will.  By eating the majority of your staples as prepared food provided by others, such as by service or subscription, by relying on others as your food source, you're fostering and supporting just such an internal addictive dependency process, rather than relying on your own inner strength by responsibly providing for yourself.  The repercussions are life threatening.

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Whammy. Blake Edwards, The Pink Panther, 1963, created by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, designed by Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng. 

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I'll now elaborate on why this is so. As usual, the facts speak for themselves and belief is not required.

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Those who have and those who have not: TIME.

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SHORTCUTS MAKE LONG DELAYS

"Shortcuts make long delays",  says the character Sam Gamgee to Frodo Baggins, as Sam leaves the Shire borders for the very first time, in the first book of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. You cannot take shortcuts first, and learn second. You can only use shortcuts wisely once you already know the long way round. 

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Short cuts make long delays. "Beep Prepared", 1961. Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Merrie Melodies, directed by Chuck Jones, designer Maurice Noble, from a story by John Dunn and Chuck Jones. Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons). 

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Most people I know aren't interested in learning how to sew a button, scramble an egg, make bread, grow a tree from a seed, wire a light bulb, repair a zipper, jump start a car, double park it, use a compass, make glue, and navigate at night using the stars. Most people live in cities that are so lit up at night they can't even see the night sky stars. They don't read more than absolutely necessary; it's too much exertion. There's no fear; they don't feel helpless, and there's a complete indifference to knowing how to survive at a basic level. They just don't see the point; life is good, it takes too much time and effort to learn things even when the information is there, because it's unnecessary.

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Labor Union pups: "We want more meat and more bones." Harry Whittier Frees, reproduced as hand-colored from the original black and white photograph, 1929.

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Life, however, frequently surprises us by requiring to know things we don't know, and we're most vulnerable when our own knowledge cannot serve as guide.  We're sitting ducks, vulnerable to anyone claiming to know more, because we can't tell whether they do, or don't. We have no basis with which to judge. In these situations, we decide irrationally; we're forced to decide by relying on unrelated irrelevant clues, using whatever seems familiar.  This leaves us vulnerable to deception. References, referrals, group references, ads; in fact, even the slightest familiarity with any choice makes us prefer it, and trust it more than a complete stranger. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn't, and divorce rates reveal it. For more information on this, read the books by Dan Ariely and R. B. Cialdini.

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Bugs Bunny, 1950, Merrie Melodies, directed by Chuck Jones. Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons).

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At every level, we're rapidly discarding foundational knowledge, judging it non-essential because we feel it's too burdensome to acquire, too troublesome to pass on, too arduous to learn, too costly and  time consuming to teach. Many fields are losing their foundations. We're a relatively young country, and have already lost our edge to other countries willing to work harder, who know better than we do what it means to struggle to endure. Foundational knowledge requires sustained time, effort, work, interest, and focused attention to acquire, curiosity alone isn't sufficient, and nobody pays for "unproductive" study. Fewer people now understand the foundations well enough to be inspired by their necessity to teach them, essential knowledge has become difficult to acquire, and we will eventually lose it altogether because there is no way to start over.  

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   Acme Disintegrating Pistol, "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century", 1953, Warner Bros. Cartoons, directed by Chuck Jones. 

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FAST FOOD ~ FASTER ROMANCE

Americans romanticise food. In modern times, any pleasure or art in cooking is an indulgent luxury affordable and practiced only by the very few: those who are either very rich or very poor. The vast majority simply cannot afford to give cooking whatever little regular time they have; they cook on serious occasions, and even when a bit of money has been saved that would buy fine ingredients, they will instead eat at a cheap restaurant. 

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Americans romanticise food.  The automat at Grand Central Station, New York City, New York.

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According to the Wall Street Journal, the US Census Bureau, and other statistical resources, marriage is no longer the institution it once was; it's no longer the norm to cook daily for a large family of six, or eight, or more. Today's smaller family doesn't have the same incentives for daily cooking; most family members are too busy for daily family dinner tables as communication central.

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Family size kitten assembly. Harry Whittier Frees photograph, 1911.

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With the demise of the middle class, there's a coincident decline in demand for restaurants catering to a middle class. According to the US Census bureau, many working people are single, remaining at home, living with their parents until well into middle age. More people than ever before are remaining single longer than ever before; males and females both are waiting until their 30's or later, to get married, leave home, and start families. They don't have families of their own to 'come home to'.  They're too busy working at what is commonly referred to as 'a career' and aren't getting around to having anything resembling a once traditional life. All this is blithely, and somewhat alarmingly, referred to with the phrase 'lifestyles have changed'. 

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A self-absorbed Snoopy plays table tennis ping-pong with himself, while Woodstock looks on. "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving", November 20, 1973. Peanuts Classic, written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. 

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As a result, fake-cooking food kits are springing up everywhere, in local markets, convenience stores, and online where many are available by subscription. Most of them declare themselves time and budget savers by pre-selecting a small assortment of  "fresh" ingredients for you, that you then cook up at home yourself, to make a meal, with "minimal preparation time".

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Some people find making a simple tossed salad to be utterly overwhelming. Sigh.

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NONSENSE STUFFING

All this is purportedly to save you money: you're buying only enough for one meal, don't need to keep staples on hand, and don't need to learn to handle leftovers. 

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"Daffy Dilly", Daffy Duck, 1948, Merrie Melodies, directed by Chuck Jones.  Leon Schlesinger Productions (later Warner Bros. Cartoons).

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It's also purportedly to save you time: with a subscription, you never wait in market checkout lines, and you don't have to know how to pick out the best produce from the mediocre. 

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Perfect cherries for sale. Harry Whittier Frees photograph, circa 1915.

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Cities offer a very different reality from suburban living or living in the country. In cities, there's little worry of sensory inundation from browsing the bouquet of smells, textures, and colors of a local fresh air open farmer's market.

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This Christmas tree is just the right size. Vieux Paris, France, petite fille, Noel, hiver, 1956.

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These new "convenience foods" mail you everything you need, they keep your participation in your food to a minimum, and they declare that this "freshly mailed food" that "you prepare yourself" to be healthier, more beneficial, tastier, and more cost effective than anything you could do on your own.  

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The Fabled Spice Islands,  food132, cartoon by Sidney Harris, www.sciencecartoonsplus.com.

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Apparently, the former middle class is not yet as efficient a little robot group as it could be made to be. These kits should be called "Food Kits For Fools". Remember Pinocchio and the island of the donkeys?

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Pilgrim's Progress scene from "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving", November 20, 1973. Peanuts Classic, written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. 

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Anything encouraging "lifestyle" dependency is harming you far more in the long run than any ingredients in it. Believe it or not; there is an enormous hidden health hazard in not preparing your own food, from sources you know, and most people ignore this trade off. Millions of years of human evolution has not equipped us to adapt as fast as we might like to the relatively recent introduction of city living, synthetics, mass production, and all that this implies. Substitutes are not adaptation.  It's bad enough that most of us no longer hunt and only exercise socially.

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Walt Disney, "The Skeleton Dance", Silly Symphony series, August 22, 1929.

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These shortcut food kits train you to detach from your own being. They promote detachment from food sources, encourage dependency and laziness, and pretend to be adequate substitutes for the human evolutionary need to feed the soul while feeding the body. These shortcuts propose to handle your food, and thus your soul for you, by doing your hunting, preparing, sorting, and most of your cooking for you. Now don't get me wrong; I'm all for the occasional short cut when cooking, and so is any cook worth their salt, but we understand the trade-offs inherent in taking occasional short cuts, and short cuts that cheat produce bad food. Food kits are an entirely different story. 

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Picnic scene from Marie Antoinette, 2006, written and directed by Sofia Coppola.

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With today's grocery markets, even in small rural towns, there is no financial constraint or time excuse for sacrificing inner serenity and contact with your source. When you don't prepare your own meals, that's what you're doing. 

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Groucho Marx: "I'm not crazy about reality, but it's still the only place to get a decent meal."

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You may or may not realize it, but you're part of a vast pattern far greater than yourself from which you cannot detach by any act of your will; even in death, you're molecularly recycled. Your atoms have been, are, and will be, in some form or other. You lose all sense of this continuity when you take shortcuts preparing what you eat. It is the reminder. It is the basis for the reason many say a 'Grace' before eating.  

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"We thank you for this food." Grace, food271, cartoon by Sidney Harris, www.sciencecartoonsplus.com.

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No matter what your circumstances, it should be possible to prepare at least one meal a week for yourself from ingredients you've selected and combined yourself, as fresh or as fresh frozen as possible. A meal does not have to be elaborate, so long as it is personally prepared. 

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Scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas", December 9, 1965. Peanuts Classic, written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. 

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Food is best shared with someone, especially when they've helped in the preparation. 

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Trois chefs. Harry Whittier Frees photograph, circa 1910.

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All mammals bond through sharing food, and always have. In fact, hunting, selecting, preparing, cooking, and eating food is far more than just a ritual; it's not symbolic of life, it IS life. You are what you eat. You are also what you hunt, grow, nurture, tame, gather, select, prepare, cook, and eat. When something or someone else is doing nearly all of this for you, most of the time, your life, and your awareness of life, is impoverished in direct proportion.

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Sharing is best.  Puppy sharing with kitten. Harry Whittier Frees photograph, hand-colored and reproduced from the original black and white, circa 1910.

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Think of this in this way: when all you eat is food prepared for you by others, then you're symbolically handing over your life to them. When you don't personally know who is preparing your food, you're handing over your life to strangers. You don't know where that food has been. Powerful people have always had food tasters. 

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The powerful have always had "Food Tasters"; animated drawing of a green-faced witch stirring a cauldron.

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Sure, families can bond when eating daily dinners prepared by the family cook, but they bond more when involved in some way with the meal's preparation. 

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Everyone should participate in some way. Harry Whittier Frees photograph, 1911.

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It's not a chore; it's an honor. Friends can bond temporarily over a shared meal at a restaurant.  Many of us today have never known nightly family dinners; most of us never will. Always struggling with health and weight, we're clueless as to why we feel vaguely restless, uprooted, uncommitted, and fearful without a tribe, especially in the midst of millions in the more crowded cities. We have no sense at all of the power and subtle workings of this deep and primitive emotional bond over food that our ancestors and all mammals know so well.  

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Cooking for others: bunny serving fish pie to the kittens. Harry Whittier Frees photograph, 1911.

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Laugh at this all you want, but wait until after you're tried selecting, preparing, and cooking at least one meal a week for yourself for at least three months At the very least, you'll appreciate your next auto-meal all the more.  

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Salad vending machines in the Los Angeles, California public school system.  

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At best, you'll notice you feel more patient, calm, and 'centered' regardless of what is happening around and to you, and that perhaps the time spent selecting, preparing, and cooking has not been a waste after all. For those of you reading this that have always felt compelled to cook, and those of you who cook for others, congratulations. You are in possession of a great treasure, a true secret of the ages.

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Short order cook. Harry Whittier Frees photograph, 1910.

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For those of you who've never cooked at all, or are afraid to try, call up a friend RIGHT NOW, even a potential friend you don't know well yet, and invite them over. Try cooking the Roast Chicken recipe and the recipe for cocoa I've put below.

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Call them up, and make a new friend, as well as make supper.  RIGHT NOW.  Harry Whittier Frees photograph, 1936.

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I adapted them when I made them; they are originally from Dr. J. B Calvert's web site, at
http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/personal/chicken.htm  
http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/personal/conpot.htm
http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/personal/cocoa.htm

The recipes below are easy, inexpensive, and very good, and well within the reach of even the least experienced, most frightened-of-cooking cook. You'll be better friends afterwards, you'll both learn something, and it's a ton more fun to laugh at yourselves than spending a night alone with a cellphone.  And remember, enjoy advertising, but don't believe it; remember its' purpose. Don't be paranoid, but remember they are all out to get you. It's far more fun being gullible if you are careful.

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"Don't take life too seriously; you never get out of it alive" Bugs Bunny, 1950, directed by Chuck Jones, Warner Bros. Cartoons.

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RECIPES:

 ROAST CHICKEN WITH COCOA FOR DESSERT

The "roasting chicken size" is the type and size of chicken big enough to leave you some leftovers after cooking it. 

Roast chicken is very easy and very good, and well within the reach of even the least experienced cook.  If you're single, and don't have a meal you know how to prepare for guests, this is a good one to practice. This is my adaptation of Dr. Calvert's recipe:
http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/personal/chicken.htm

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Use a good roasting chicken, not a fryer, of at least 4 pounds weight.  Avoid small, scrawny frying chickens!

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WHAT YOU'LL NEED

A chicken as specified below, 
A roasting pan (this is a baking pan that usually comes with a removable slotted metal tray insert that can sit inside it); this needs to fit inside your oven.
An oven big enough to hold the roasting pan, and one that you can set for 350-375°F, a hot oven.
A cooking thermometer (borrow one until you can buy it), 
Brown potatoes for mashing, 
Butter to add to the potatoes (and milk if you like it), 
A vegetable, 
And either gravy or cranberry sauce (see below).
Later, should you choose to make the gravy and/or the cocoa, you will need a stove burner, and a bit of flour and a sieve will be helpful for making the gravy.

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INSTRUCTIONS

Turn on the oven, and preheat it by setting the temperature to 350-375°F.

It's best to use a good roasting chicken, not a fryer, of at least 4 pounds weight. Intermediate-sized chickens will work very well, and are cheaper than roasters. Allow a pound or a pound and a half per individual meal. You will always have leftovers if you are only one or two people, but good use can be made of them. Avoid small, scrawny frying chickens! 

First, wash your hands carefully.  Then, pull everything out of the chicken and wash it thoroughly, inside and out. Pull or cut off anything that hangs out, like lumps of fat. 

If you want to make gravy later, set aside the liver, heart, and gizzard, wrap them up in aluminum foil, and set this beside the chicken in the oven to cook about an hour. Remove with the chicken, and then follow the gravy directions below.

When you are done washing the chicken, put the chicken on its' back in the roasting pan, on the slotted metal insert tray that sits inside the pan if you have one, and put the pan in the pre-heated hot oven set for 350-375°F.  This does not really need seasoning, however this is the point where you can add it if you would like. Dried or fresh, any added seasoning will just fall right off the chicken skin unless it has something to make it stick there while the chicken cooks.  So take a bit of butter or olive oil, and brush it over the upward-facing back skin. Then sprinkle on whatever fresh or fresh ground herbs you have on hand. Don't stint on the herbs. You can use some fresh ground pepper if you have it, or a bit of paprika, or dice up a clove of raw fresh garlic.


A roasting chicken will require from 1.5 to 2.5 hours to roast, depending on the weight. Do not go by time, or by how the roast looks, but use a thermometer stuck in beside the leg, so that it is deep in the chicken. Don't stick the thermometer in the breast meat. Some thermometers are left in, others are stuck in when you want to check the temperature. Roast until the temperature is definitely 180°F. There must not be any watery, bloody juices when you carve it, and the meat will fall off the leg bones.

This may be a little more than optimum, but do not settle for anything less, since it ensures safety. You don't know where the bird has been.
 

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It's now ready to eat!  Scene from "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving", November 20, 1973. Peanuts Classic, written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. 

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The chicken is now ready to eat. Make some mashed potatoes, a vegetable, and some gravy from an envelope or bought from the store, or make fresh gravy from the drippings using the recipe below. If you don't want gravy, don't sweat it. Cranberry sauce is very nice with chicken, and looks good on the plate. 

This is a really tasty meal, and is easy to make. It's easiest to slice the breast for this meal, or to take a drumstick if you like it. The legs actually are easier to dismantle later than to slice them when the chicken is hot, but anything you do will be all right.

Serve the chicken and mashed potatoes with a vegetable or salad, or both, and accompany it with the gravy and cranberry sauce if you like. 

The chicken and potatoes supply about 630 Calories on their own (including a tablespoon of butter in the potatoes), which is quite reasonable. About 2.5 ounces of chicken is a good amount of protein for one meal. The whole meal should be about 800 Calories, which is not excessive for a main meal, especially one as satisfying as this that combines carbohydrate, protein, and fat in good proportions for nutrition.

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The Pink Panther on the weight scale. Blake Edwards, The Pink Panther, 1963, created by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, designed by Hawley Pratt and Friz Freleng. 

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To make gravy, wrap the liver, heart, and gizzard in aluminum foil and put this beside the chicken in the oven to cook about an hour. Remove with the chicken. Pour the juices from the roasting pan into a measuring cup. Note that there is a layer of clear fat floating on juices. Pour some of the fat back into the roasting pan, then stir in a tablespoon or so of flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Put the roasting pan on the stove and cook this mixture over a low fire until you have a foamy roux, or as close to it as you are going to get. Pour off most of the fat you did not use, but none of the drippings. Add the drippings to the roux, with one or two cups of water, and heat until it boils, stirring constantly. Add a half teaspoon of turmeric, which gives a nice color and a pleasant flavor. Add more if you like it. Add salt to taste, and simmer for about five minutes, stirring and scrubbing the bottom of the roaster with the wooden spoon. Chop the giblets up finely.  Now strain the gravy through a strainer into a saucepan, and add the finely chopped giblets. Heat, and the gravy is ready. This gravy can be very good, and it is not hard to make once you get the idea.

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The party's over!  Dancing turkey and sandwiches scene from "Steamboat Willie", Mickey Mouse, 1928, Walt Disney Studios

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The leftovers can be used for a stir-fry or to make Chicken in Gravy on Mashed Potato, another satisfying meal with moderate calorie content and excellent nutritional variety. The mashed potatoes can be made from fresh potatoes, and I'll assume that you can do this. They can also come from potato flakes kept on the shelf for emergencies. The flakes are not as good, but if prepared with care, they are satisfactory.  The gravy can be from a packet, or be store bought, or leftover fresh from above. Whichever you choose, about a cup will be needed. The chicken should be cut up into small pieces. When the gravy is ready, according to the directions on the packet, or reheated on the stove from what you just made above, then add the chicken and stir the mixture. Serve the mashed potatoes, make a depression in the top, and pour the chicken in gravy over this. Serve this as you did the chicken, with a vegetable or salad, or both, and accompany it with the left over cranberry sauce if you like.

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Woodstock wins the wishbone from Snoopy. Scene from "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving", 1973. Peanuts Classic, written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. 

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 COCOA FOR DESSERT:

WINTER AND SUMMER VARIATIONS

I was just thinking that someone might like to know how to make fresh hot cocoa, a very simple task, so I will tell how here. This drink has recently been touted as richer in antioxidants than red wine, and that may be true. At any rate, it is a fine and comforting drink after a nice meal, before bed, or early in the morning. The Summer variation is easy to keep on hand to serve should someone drop by.  

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Animation, Emile Reynaud. Bande de Praxinoscope. 1833. 

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If you have only hot water, then an instant powder is the only choice, and most of them are quite nice, though costly. Cocoa made from scratch is, however, very much nicer, quite cheap, and practically as easy as instant.

The cocoa I prefer is good Dutch-process cocoa, such as that from Penzey's (www.penzeys.com). Cocoa can be stored in the fridge or freezer for years.

For one cup, I use two tablespoons of sugar to one tablespoon of cocoa, mixed in a small saucepan with a quarter-cup of water and a shake of salt. The salt is necessary, or the cocoa will taste flat. Put this on a medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring so that everything is included. When it has boiled a minute, add two-thirds of a cup of milk or a bit more. Now add some vanilla extract; I like it, so I add about a half teaspoon, though more or less is OK according to taste. Stir, and bring to near boiling, but do not boil; test with a little taste of it, to check if it is hot. When hot, pour into a cup and enjoy. Some people like to have marshmallows with it.  You can use evaporated milk in cocoa; it cannot be distinguished from fresh. Mix at the ratio of one 12-ounce can to one quart of liquid. You can also use milk reconstituted from powder.

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    Chocolat chaud: some people like to have marshmallows with it.  

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Here are Summer variations. 

In the Summertime, I often have left-over hot coffee, so I'll  make up a cup or two of cocoa, add in the left-over coffee, and set this to cool in the fridge. This makes an exceptionally nice flavored cold summer drink to have on hand should guests suddenly pop in, as they're inclined to do here on Islesboro Island in the summer. Just shake up the liquid first, then pour it to serve.  

If you have some garden mint, you can make up some iced mint chocolate milk with just a bit more effort, preparing it ahead of time, and keep it in the fridge for guests.

Here's that recipe:
Pour a quart of whole milk into a saucepan along with a generous amount of fresh mint leaves, about 2 heaping tablespoons. Heat this to just steaming hot, not boiling, and then remove it from the heat, and let this sit for 30 minutes so the mint can infuse the milk. Then remove the mint, put the milk back on the stove, and bring it to a simmer. Whisk in a half-teaspoon of cinnamon and about three ounces of semi-sweet chocolate broken into small pieces; add them to the milk a few at a time. so they can melt thoroughly.  When done, put the milk in the refrigerator and chill about three hours.

Just before serving, shake up the mixture until you see it get frothy, or use a blender on high about 30 seconds. Then pour into glasses and serve immediately. Arrange more mint leaves to perch over the edge of the glass, or just drop a fresh mint sprig directly into the milk in the glass. If you want dazzle, you can coat the rims of the glasses. Using a blender or food processor, pulse together equal amounts of mint and sugar, wet the glass rims with a bit of water and then dip them in the mixture.

Mexican chocolate is wonderful to use for this but it's not always possible to get it; it's slightly granular, and has a crystal structure that's ideally suited to heating and then chilling without losing flavor. Mexican chocolate is usually sold as a compressed brick or in wrapped chunks. 
 

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Additional recipes and variations on the theme.  

HAVE FUN!   EXPERIMENT!  Yes, you can play with your food!

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I sign our magazine articles "See Into The Invisible". Thanks for reading.

Best Wishes, 
Debra Spencer

All Content is © Debra Spencer, Suit Yourself™ International. Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.

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All Content is ©2019 Debra Spencer, Appanage™at www.suityourself.international Suit Yourself ™ International, 120 Pendleton Point, Islesboro Island, Maine, 04848, USA 44n31 68w91 Technical Library FAQ Index ISSN 2474-820X. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce in part or in whole without express written consent. Thank you.
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