Saturday, December 26, 2009

Book Review - Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals is kind of a 'tough love' sort of a book. It's not a lecture and it's not a rant. It's different than most books about vegetarianism. Foer wants to put the facts out there and let you make the decision. He writes this book under the assumption that once people have all of the information, they'll make the choice that's right for them. And I agree. There are people out there who will never care about animal cruelty, or will care, but still tell themselves there is nothing they can do. Those people are a lost cause and the book wasn't written for them. It was written for people who do have enough will power to make changes in their lives. This book is for people who know that the choices they make affect everyone around them.

Foer started to think about vegetarianism (and this book) when he started to think about being a father. Like so many people he had wanted to be a vegetarian for years and had struggled with it his whole life. He knew it was the right thing to do, but still couldn't manage to do it. He cared about animals, but he also cared about eating whatever tasted good to him. When he realized he was to become a father, his food choices suddenly started to matter. He was to set an example for his son. He was going to be a role model and he wanted to be a good one.

Foer tries very hard to get all angles of the argument. He gets letters from activists of all kinds, factory farmers, family farmers, a vegan who designs slaughter houses, a vegetarian who raises beef cattle. Of course these contradictions annoy me, but they also make me really think about what the goal is. Is the goal to stop animal cruelty, or stop animal slavery? Is the goal to cause less suffering, or no suffering? At the end of the day do these people feel good about the choices they have made? Do they think they are making a difference? Do they really feel happy about the lives they are leading? If they do, maybe they are doing more good than harm. Maybe they are on the best path they can be on. Of course to me, and to Foer, any harm at all is enough reason not to eat meat (most of these family farmers still brand their cattle, and all of them send their animals to slaughter houses. None of these animals ever grow to full adulthood).

My favorite part of this book was the chapter of definitions. Several pages with common animal farming terms put into plain (and sometimes hilarious) English. Even though I read heavily on the subject of food, there are so many things in this book I had never heard before, so many good points that had yet to be made. Are you aware that cattle are often fed ground up cats and dogs that are euthanized at shelters? That pigs become so distressed in their living conditions that even a tractor driving by outside (they are kept inside for their whole lives) can cause them to fall over and die of fright?

He ends the book with Thanksgiving. To have a turkey, or not to have a turkey? He talks about tradition, culture, family history, values. He talks about the origins of thanksgiving and the history of the turkey as a center piece. He points out that the turkey doesn't make Thanksgiving. It's the coming together, the family, the thankfulness. The truth is, having a dead, mutated, genetically altered, abused carcass as the center to a holiday about charity is a gross contradiction and he sees that. The turkey doesn't make his holiday table.

My only criticism of this book is this: like Micheal Pollan (who he chastises for doing just this), Foer doesn't address his own contradictions. Not once does he mention the dairy industry. Not once. He talks a bit about laying hens, but not enough to actually point out that eating chicken eggs is just as bad as eating chicken meat (if not worse because at least boiler hens are not kept in battery cages). He lets himself completely off the hook. The entire book is dedicated to the problems with factory farming, but that's where more of our dairy comes from, and almost all of our eggs. If he finds issues even with the family farms in his book (which he does), than how does he explain his consumption of dairy and eggs? I kept waiting for him to address this, but it never comes up.

So yes, I loved this book. I think it's a wonderful starting point. A well written starting point. But it is just a start. I wanted it to go further.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

Waking up is hard. It takes all night to make the bed into a warm, cozy cocoon and the idea of leaving it in the morning seems impossible. Even the thought of a shower isn't appealing. Going out in the morning with wet hair could lead to icicles, and having ice growing from my head isn't my idea of a good time.

Every morning I roll over and click on the mini heater, then immediately roll back to the heat of The Logger. I wait for the air in the room to get a little warmer before I even consider leaving the safety of the covers and the warm person I'm curled up around.

I stumble into the bathroom and turn on the shower. I brush my teeth as the hot water comes up and I slip out of my many layers of pajamas. The tub floor is freezing cold where the water doesn't hit it, so I jump forward to the spray of heat issuing from the shower head. I curl my hands under my chin and pray to the steamy jet of water. make me warm. If I'm patient, it works. The steam has to fill the bathroom before I'll let an inch of my body creep out from under the water so I can reach for the soap.

Getting out of the shower isn't as hard as getting out of bed. The bathroom is warm and if I've planned it right the clothes sitting in front of my bedroom heater are warm too. I scamper back into my bedroom and huddle in front of the heater to dress. The Logger is slowly waking and I huddle down next to him to soak in the last bits of sleepy heat coming from him and our warm bed, before heading downstairs to dry my hair in front of the woodstove.

As I brush my hair drops of water hit the woodstove and sputter, immediately turning to tiny steam vapors. I suppress the urge to hug the giant beast of warm iron. I'm so cold, all I want to do is wrap my body around it before I have to brave the chilly world outside. I throw my head forward and let the woodstove dry the underside of my hair. The heater in my car will take care of the rest. At least I won't need to worry about icicles this morning.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

I try not to swear too much in this blog and everything but:

Holy shit it's fucking cold in this house.

I'm sitting about 6 feet from the wood stove, which is cranking. It's so hot the kettle that sits atop it is at a near boil. The heat is just not reaching me, or my freezing toes. I was going to upload some pictures (finally), but damn it I am not leaving this couch or taking my coat off of my legs. If I get up for more than a minute I might have to warm up the spot om sitting in all over again.

Anyway I turned on my camera to see what was on there and I realized I had a TON of old photos that I never bothered to delete, even after upload. I was going through enjoying the old pictures of the plants growing in the greenhouse and the Levis kids looking so much younger than they do now, even though the pictures are not even a year old, when I stumbled upon it. My favorite picture ever! I had it as my desktop for months. I thought I had lost it when I had my hard drive replaced because I hadn't backed up most of my pictures last time I did a back up. I love this picture so much, it's just so freaking cute!

The point is, it made me change my mind. So here are some freaking pictures.

Brussels sprouts are so weird. I think they were a gift from outer space. Crash landing.

Kale forest

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

Yesterday was our first snow storm of the season. I woke up to snow plows driving past our house a few times in the night. When morning finally came it was snowing pretty heavily and the roads looked messy as hell. Of course I insisted on going to work, because I'm crazy. It's not that far away and my boss gets her driveway plowed, so whatever.

I asked The Logger to take me in though, because I don't like driving in bad weather and sliding around in a car that I don't own and don't shift super-well in doesn't sound like fun to me. The Logger is a cautious driver in bad weather, so I knew he would get me to work in one piece. He had a dentist appointment in the afternoon and didn't want to have to drive all the way back out to Sunderland, so I told him I would get a co-worker to drop me off in town where he could get me. It all sounded fine and dandy.

When we finally got to my job we realized the driveway had not been plowed and no one had come in. I went in anyway. My boss was a little shocked to see me.

"Didn't Gordon call you and tell you not to come?"
"Did he call my cell phone?"
"I don't get cell reception in Dorset"
"Oh... oops."

So I worked for about three hours until the power went out. I called The Logger and asked him to come and get me. At this point he was still at the Wilbuton, which is only 5 minutes away. I told him that if he couldn't make it up the driveway I'd just walk down to the road. We saw him pull up to the driveway and stop so I figured he just couldn't make it up. As I was walking down there I noticed why he had stopped. A tree had fallen across the driveway, but since everything was covered in deep snow we couldn't really see it from the office. The Logger had pulled out a chainsaw and started cutting it up. Because that's what loggers do and if he knows whats good for him he'll earn his damn nickname. I called back up to the office and my boss thought it was quite hilarious. She also said we could have the wood. And because he's a pro, he had the whole tree cut up and either stored in the car or piled to the side in less than 20 minutes. Ultra-sexy!

So now I'm sitting in front of the wood stove, keeping warm, all thanks to a ridiculous series of events. And The Logger.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

My computer finally crashed for real. Dead. Do not resuscitate. I took a day off of work to drive myself and my poor little laptop to Albany, an hour and a half (two if you get lost, which you know I did) to the nearest Mac store. Turns out the hard drive had gone completely useless. I failed to ask if this could be because of all those times I dropped it, accidentally tripped over my backpack while it was inside, or jostled it on the subway. But that does seem rather likely. Turns out that even though my warranty was up, there is still a warranty on the hard drive, so I didn't have to pay for it to be replaced. The bad news is, I lost all the stuff on my hard drive. I did back most of it up over the summer, so I didn't lose much. Yay.

You may have noticed that I've taken down the daily-ish photo. I really haven't had time to deal with my camera (read: I'm too lazy to take it out and take pictures), and I've always been terrible at recognizing photo ops. I replaced it with books! Wonderful, wonderful books! Books you should be reading! Now that I work at the bookstore I am constantly reading (except when my computer is working and I'm giving in to internet addiction). Any spare time I thought I might have is devoted to reading (and the internet). But I like it. Anyway you can click on the link to get to a mini (very very mini) review of what I'm reading.

Other goings on include the mice in my kitchen. We caught three over the last few days and I dropped them off int he woods on my way to work, far from my house, and I hope far enough from other people's houses. I gave them a little talk about staying out of the road and other people's food. Just so they can't say they didn't know when they run into trouble. I hate hearing people say that humane traps don't work. Of course they don't work if all your doing is catching them inside and then tossing them into your back yard. They already know how to get back in. You have to take them far away. Or you need to make sure you seal up all of the holes where they are getting in. The Logger and I are going to make a trip to the basement and see if we can find where the little buggers got in. For the meantime we appear to have rid ourselves and our kitchen of daily mouse droppings.

I never really thought snap traps were ok. Even when I ate meat I would never have used a kill trap. For one thing, I'm terrified of them. But that's probably because my parents always told me to be terrified of them. My family used humane traps for a long time and to keep me away from the snap traps they instilled a deep fear in me. Even now when dealing with snap traps I tend t just drop things on them and then leap backwards at the moment of snapping. Yes, I've intentionally set off many of these traps when I find them in my own home. They're not only cruel to mice, they are down right dangerous, and don't try to get me to believe otherwise. Rat traps can break your fingers!!! So basically, live catch traps are the best. Besides getting a cat. And you just try talking the Logger into that.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

I just got home from my bookstore job and the Logger won't be home for a little while longer. I found myself faced with a predicament: How best to spend this time? Do I watch that Netflix movie that's been sitting around for weeks (I just downgraded my account to 2 movies a month, because I never have time to watch them anyway), do I read that Barbara Kingsolver I've been dying to get through (so amazing. words can not describe the love I have for her writing), or do I write in my neglected blog?

I guess the blog won for now. It won't take forever to say what I want to say here. I'll tell you what didn't win, cleaning the kitchen and doing the dishes. Sick of that. Because the reality is, the kitchen is clean (except for the dishes), but a damn mouse keeps pooping on the counter every night. I have no idea what the thing is eating, because we leave no food out, and it's not getting into the sink, because it wouldn't be able to get out. I set a little trap that would catch it in a bucket if it dared to grab the popcorn at the end of the strip of cardboard, but the mouse seems to clever for that at the moment. Anyway I'm tired of cleaning up mouse poop. We're out of clean dish towels. Laundry didn't win either.

Here is my excellent news for the day. Today I scored a signed first edition of Jonathan Safran Foer's latest book caleld "Eating Animals," which is of course a book about why he doesn't. It's the #1 bestseller in independent book stores right now. I can't wait to read it!!! But I've got to finish The Lacuna first, which I'm trying to savor, but it's so hard!

Books are like food to me sometimes. When a book is really good, I want to slow down and really delve in and enjoy, but it's hard to hold myself back from just devouring it all at once. Well Kingsolver's new book is luscious. That's right, luscious. Like The Poisonwood Bible, it is written as a journal, but this one is only the journal of one man. It begins with his childhood and continues as he ages, graduating to different notebooks. He takes a job with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, but the story is about him, not them. He's a clever little bugger and his writing is not too obvious or on the nose, yet you always know what he's talking about. I often find myself rereading sentences because they are so beautifully written. Kingsolver's writing is so perfect, it almost makes me never want to write another thing again because how could I ever aspire to be that good? Keep reading I guess. Anyway I'm going to be recommending that one at work for the next few weeks. I saw a few people picking the book up today and I almost started harassing them to buy it, but I decided a full on assault is not what people come into bookstores for. A quite suggestion at the register is often enough for them to give it another thought.

Well, it's now time to pick that book up again. I guess writing in my blog made my next activity a little too obvious. Back to The Lacuna.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

Did I mention we got internet at the house? If I didn't, then I'd like to share how awesome that is. If I did, then I'd like to remind you of how awesome it is.

It's staff discount week at the bookstore, so I guess I got hired at just the right time. Yesterday I bought three books: The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver; Stiches, by David Small; and Vegan Soul Kitchen, by Bryant Terry, which I've been dying to read. Woo!

I have to do a lot of book review type stuff at the bookstore job, so I'll probably start posting them here. I almost feel like reading is my homework, and I feel guilty when I don't have time. I might bring back that little sidebar extra that says what I'm currently reading. But that sounds like work, and I sure do an awful lot of that when I'm not at home. At least today was my last day of going to two jobs in one day.

I've been feeling insanely stressed lately (see last sentence of paragraph above), and I think it's been taking a toll on my body. I've been getting some unexplained aches and pains and they are really annoying. So two days ago I told The Logger he needed to help me out. I couldn't take care of myself, him, and the house all while working two jobs. He told me to make him a list of things to do that would save me some stress, which I did. This means that he did my laundry last night and helped me mulch the garlic. Today he put those clothes away for me and cleaned that bathroom sink. So if you see The Logger on the street, please let him know that he's awesome.

Except for this conversation that took place when my cell phone rang and I was driving from the bookstore to my second job.

Me: Hello?
Logger: Hi, I just saw you
Me: Are you driving into town?
Logger: yeah, I passed you.
Me: OK, well I better go
Logger: OK, I love you be safe.
Me: If you wanted me to be safe, why would you call my cell phone when you know I drive stick?
Logger: Oh yeah. Oops. Sorry.

Snow on the mountain today. I need to charge my camera battery.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

Well, I can check 'Find A Job' off of my list of things to do. I just confirmed my second job today. I'm currently working for a non-profit web-based company just outside of Manchester, and on Wednesday I start training at the bookstore. Pretty crazy. I'll be working 7 days a week, but only until January, so I think I can manage. I need the extra income to get more aggressive with my student loan payments. The internet job is so easy, I just sit at a desk for a few hours and handle paperwork and phone calls. I actually really like it, because I like the people I work with and I think the company does some really good things.

Part of my job is to call public schools and speak to receptionists to verify that the people who order from us are eligible for the discounts we offer. Navigating the phone systems of American public schools is a scary and frustrating thing. It takes forever just to get to a person at times. My time pressing buttons through the automation system is usually longer than the calls themselves, and for once I'm not exaggerating. There are some schools that take weeks of calling before anyone actually answers the phone. It's kind of scary when I think about parents trying to reach the people that are responsible for taking care of their children for most of the day. It would be like leaving your kids with a sitter and the sitter never answering the phone. I find it a little reckless actually. When I worked for a phone-based ticketing company it was my job to make sure someone was ALWAYS there to answer the phone, and that was just ticket sales. These are public schools I'm calling, and half of the time no one is there. Today I had a lot of phones answered by students, which I thought odd. Are schools saving money by having students answer phones instead of receptionists? Awkward.

Things at the Ice House are good. Still no internet. Luckily I've started using my personal laptop as my computer at work because I got tired of using slow machines, or using extra laptops that get taken away without warning. Long story. Anyway I can update my blog from work. Plus the bookstore has internet, so both of my jobs will keep me connected and I don't have to pay for it.

Speaking of awesome things I didn't pay for, my parents got me The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Jo Stepaniak. Amazing. I made this awesome cheeze sauce with pasta tonight because I was feeling lazy, and it was so good The Logger said that he did not need to add real dairy to it. I win! I'm looking forward to trying some block cheeses so we can have cheeze slices and mozzarella for pizzas. Yum. I was kind of thinking that I wouldn't ever feel like cooking after work anymore if I was going o be working so much, but I think I'd rather cook than do dishes, and since I always make The Logger do the dishes after I cook, maybe I will still be cooking. Anyway Jessie won't want to cook every night either and The Logger is pretty limited to pasta and burritos, so I don't think I'll be giving up cooking any time soon.

I guess that means my blog can look forward to more yummy recipes in the future.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ice House - Dorset, VT

I moved! The Logger and I have moved in with The Frechman in Dorset. The house, like most of the houses in Dorset, is rather old. It sits right next to a stream and in the winter it was used to store ice for the town, thus my calling it the Ice House. I'm hoping it catches on, as houses seem to do better with names. It's an amazing house, three bedrooms upstairs, and two downstairs, but it's not huge. Still livable.

The Frenchman, also known as Jeremy, is French. Obviously, otherwise why the hell would I be calling him that? His son, Kava stays here on weekends. He is a painter, woodworker, and all around interesting guy. He's been living here for a few years, renting it from some friends. His accent is rather thick, even though his english is great, and the housemates often find ourselves thinking, "wait, what was he talking about?" I'm certain that the solution to this problem is to start thinking in a French accent when he's talking to me.

Our other housemates are Jessie and Pete Moss (I must include his last name here because it's such a weird one and I often call him by it), a pair of WWOOFers gone local. Sound familiar? They we working over at Teleion and a little with Theo for the summer and then decided to get jobs and find a place. We all get along, so it made sense to find a place together.

The house has no internet or cell service. This is kind of an issue. I need one or the other, preferably internet. My attempts to steal internet from the neighbors have been futile. Th person behind us has wireless, but it's password protected, which I don't understand. People around here don't even lock their doors, why put a password on the internet? OK, I realize that my trying to steal the internet proves that they do need a password, but the thing is, I know this town. I'm the only person around trying to steal internet and no one even knows I'm here. Plus, I wouldn't put a password on my internet because I think wireless should be everywhere for people to use. So unless people are downloading inane amounts of crap and slowing my internet down, I don't care if they use it. I always make a point not to do my downloading when stealing internet anyway, so no one would even notice if I was stealing it. So there.

Other than that, I'm really enjoying the current situation of my life. Today The Logger and I spotted some fallen tree branches near his mother's place, so I decided we better grab them before someone else did and we loaded them on to op his car and piled them in her driveway. The Ice House has a big wood stove in the kitchen and wood can be costly, plus the Logger has a chainsaw in his trunk, so why the hell not? And speaking of wood stoves, I made hot chocolate on said stove today. MMM!

So here's my super simple, super yummy hot chocolate recipe for winter warmth:
2 heaping T coco powder
2 T raw sugar
1 cup rice milk

stir up sugar and coco with a little of the milk to make a paste. Heat the rest of the milk up until it's steaming then mix it all into your mug.

Yeah, it's a really simple and obvious recipe, but holy crap, people buy hot chocolate mix and there's so much garbage in that stuff. Plus mixes are a lot more expensive than plain old coco powder.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Northshire Bookstore Cafe - Manchester, VT

And now for something a little different:

The other day The NYTimes released thisarticle. It's pretty long and you may need to sign up for a free account to read it, so I'll go ahead and post it right here. It's a rather long article and reading can be quite tedious, so I've bolded some of the key points in here.

October 4, 2009
E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection

Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes.

Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.

Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.

“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ ”Ms. Smith said. In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.

Meat companies and grocers have been barred from selling ground beef tainted by the virulent strain of E. coli known as O157:H7 since 1994, after an outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants left four children dead. Yet tens of thousands of people are still sickened annually by this pathogen, federal health officials estimate, with hamburger being the biggest culprit. Ground beef has been blamed for 16 outbreaks in the last three years alone, including the one that left Ms. Smith paralyzed from the waist down. This summer, contamination led to the recall of beef from nearly 3,000 grocers in 41 states.

Ms. Smith’s reaction to the virulent strain of E. coli was extreme, but tracing the story of her burger, through interviews and government and corporate records obtained by The New York Times, shows why eating ground beef is still a gamble. Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.

Ground beef is usually not simply a chunk of meat run through a grinder. Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, food experts and officials say. Despite this, there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen.

The frozen hamburgers that the Smiths ate, which were made by the food giant Cargill, were labeled “American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties.” Yet confidential grinding logs and other Cargill records show that the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.

Using a combination of sources — a practice followed by most large producers of fresh and packaged hamburger — allowed Cargill to spend about 25 percent less than it would have for cuts of whole meat.

Those low-grade ingredients are cut from areas of the cow that are more likely to have had contact with feces, which carries E. coli, industry research shows. Yet Cargill, like most meat companies, relies on its suppliers to check for the bacteria and does its own testing only after the ingredients are ground together. The United States Department of Agriculture, which allows grinders to devise their own safety plans, has encouraged them to test ingredients first as a way of increasing the chance of finding contamination.

Unwritten agreements between some companies appear to stand in the way of ingredient testing. Many big slaughterhouses will sell only to grinders who agree not to test their shipments for E. coli, according to officials at two large grinding companies. Slaughterhouses fear that one grinder’s discovery of E. coli will set off a recall of ingredients they sold to others.

“Ground beef is not a completely safe product,” said Dr. Jeffrey Bender, a food safety expert at the University of Minnesota who helped develop systems for tracing E. coli contamination. He said that while outbreaks had been on the decline, “unfortunately it looks like we are going a bit in the opposite direction.”

Food scientists have registered increasing concern about the virulence of this pathogen since only a few stray cells can make someone sick, and they warn that federal guidance to cook meat thoroughly and to wash up afterward is not sufficient. A test by The Times found that the safe handling instructions are not enough to prevent the bacteria from spreading in the kitchen.

Cargill, whose $116.6 billion in revenues last year made it the country’s largest private company, declined requests to interview company officials or visit its facilities. “Cargill is not in a position to answer your specific questions, other than to state that we are committed to continuous improvement in the area of food safety,” the company said, citing continuing litigation.

The meat industry treats much of its practices and the ingredients in ground beef as trade secrets. While the Department of Agriculture has inspectors posted in plants and has access to production records, it also guards those secrets. Federal records released by the department through the Freedom of Information Act blacked out details of Cargill’s grinding operation that could be learned only through copies of the documents obtained from other sources. Those documents illustrate the restrained approach to enforcement by a department whose missions include ensuring meat safety and promoting agriculture markets.

Within weeks of the Cargill outbreak in 2007, U.S.D.A. officials swept across the country, conducting spot checks at 224 meat plants to assess their efforts to combat E. coli. Although inspectors had been monitoring these plants all along, officials found serious problems at 55 that were failing to follow their own safety plans.

“Every time we look, we find out that things are not what we hoped they would be,” said Loren D. Lange, an executive associate in the Agriculture Department’s food safety division.

In the weeks before Ms. Smith’s patty was made, federal inspectors had repeatedly found that Cargill was violating its own safety procedures in handling ground beef, but they imposed no fines or sanctions, records show. After the outbreak, the department threatened to withhold the seal of approval that declares “U.S. Inspected and Passed by the Department of Agriculture.”

In the end, though, the agency accepted Cargill’s proposal to increase its scrutiny of suppliers. That agreement came early last year after contentious negotiations, records show. When Cargill defended its safety system and initially resisted making some changes, an agency official wrote back: “How is food safety not the ultimate issue?”

The Risk

On Aug. 16, 2007, the day Ms. Smith’s hamburger was made, the No.3 grinder at the Cargill plant in Butler, Wis., started up at 6:50 a.m. The largest ingredient was beef trimmings known as “50/50” — half fat, half meat — that cost about 60 cents a pound, making them the cheapest component.

Cargill bought these trimmings — fatty edges sliced from better cuts of meat — from Greater Omaha Packing, where some 2,600 cattle are slaughtered daily and processed in a plant the size of four football fields.

As with other slaughterhouses, the potential for contamination is present every step of the way, according to workers and federal inspectors. The cattle often arrive with smears of feedlot feces that harbor the E. coli pathogen, and the hide must be removed carefully to keep it off the meat. This is especially critical for trimmings sliced from the outer surface of the carcass.

Federal inspectors based at the plant are supposed to monitor the hide removal, but much can go wrong. Workers slicing away the hide can inadvertently spread feces to the meat, and large clamps that hold the hide during processing sometimes slip and smear the meat with feces, the workers and inspectors say.

Greater Omaha vacuums and washes carcasses with hot water and lactic acid before sending them to the cutting floor. But these safeguards are not foolproof.

“As the trimmings are going down the processing line into combos or boxes, no one is inspecting every single piece,” said one federal inspector who monitored Greater Omaha and requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The E. coli risk is also present at the gutting station, where intestines are removed, the inspector said

Every five seconds or so, half of a carcass moves into the meat-cutting side of the slaughterhouse, where trimmers said they could keep up with the flow unless they spot any remaining feces.

“We would step in and stop the line, and do whatever you do to take it off,” said Esley Adams, a former supervisor who said he was fired this summer after 16 years following a dispute over sick leave. “But that doesn’t mean everything was caught.”

Two current employees said the flow of carcasses keeps up its torrid pace even when trimmers get reassigned, which increases pressure on workers. To protest one such episode, the employees said, dozens of workers walked off the job for a few hours earlier this year. Last year, workers sued Greater Omaha, alleging that they were not paid for the time they need to clean contaminants off their knives and other gear before and after their shifts. The company is contesting the lawsuit.

Greater Omaha did not respond to repeated requests to interview company officials. In a statement, a company official said Greater Omaha had a “reputation for embracing new food safety technology and utilizing science to make the safest product possible.”

The Trimmings

In making hamburger meat, grinders aim for a specific fat content — 26.6 percent in the lot that Ms. Smith’s patty came from, company records show. To offset Greater Omaha’s 50/50 trimmings, Cargill added leaner material from three other suppliers.

Records show that some came from a Texas slaughterhouse, Lone Star Beef Processors, which specializes in dairy cows and bulls too old to be fattened in feedlots. In a form letter dated two days before Ms. Smith’s patty was made, Lone Star recounted for Cargill its various safety measures but warned “to this date there is no guarantee for pathogen-free raw material and we would like to stress the importance of proper handling of all raw products.”

Ms. Smith’s burger also contained trimmings from a slaughterhouse in Uruguay, where government officials insist that they have never found E. coli O157:H7 in meat. Yet audits of Uruguay’s meat operations conducted by the U.S.D.A. have found sanitation problems, including improper testing for the pathogen.
Dr. Hector J. Lazaneo, a meat safety official in Uruguay, said the problems were corrected immediately. “Everything is fine, finally,” he said. “That is the reason we are exporting.”

Cargill’s final source was a supplier that turns fatty trimmings into what it calls “fine lean textured beef.” The company, Beef Products Inc., said it bought meat that averages between 50 percent and 70 percent fat, including “any small pieces of fat derived from the normal breakdown of the beef carcass.” It warms the trimmings, removes the fat in a centrifuge and treats the remaining product with ammonia to kill E. coli.

With seven million pounds produced each week, the company’s product is widely used in hamburger meat sold by grocers and fast-food restaurants and served in the federal school lunch program. Ten percent of Ms. Smith’s burger came from Beef Products, which charged Cargill about $1.20 per pound, or 20 cents less than the lean trimmings in the burger, billing records show.

An Iowa State University study financed by Beef Products found that ammonia reduces E. coli to levels that cannot be detected. The Department of Agriculture accepted the research as proof that the treatment was effective and safe. And Cargill told the agency after the outbreak that it had ruled out Beef Products as the possible source of contamination.

But federal school lunch officials found E. coli in Beef Products material in 2006 and 2008 and again in August, and stopped it from going to schools, according to Agriculture Department records and interviews. A Beef Products official, Richard Jochum, said that last year’s contamination stemmed from a “minor change in our process,” which the company adjusted. The company did not respond to questions about the latest finding.

In combining the ingredients, Cargill was following a common industry practice of mixing trim from various suppliers to hit the desired fat content for the least money, industry officials said.

In all, the ingredients for Ms. Smith’s burger cost Cargill about $1 a pound, company records show, or about 30 cents less than industry experts say it would cost for ground beef made from whole cuts of meat.

Ground beef sold by most grocers is made from a blend of ingredients, industry officials said. Agriculture Department regulations also allow hamburger meat labeled ground chuck or sirloin to contain trimmings from those parts of the cow. At a chain like Publix Super Markets, customers who want hamburger made from whole cuts of meat have to buy a steak and have it specially ground, said a Publix spokeswoman, Maria Brous, or buy a product like Bubba Burgers, which boasts on its labeling, “100% whole muscle means no trimmings.”

To finish off the Smiths’ ground beef, Cargill added bread crumbs and spices, fashioned it into patties, froze them and packed them 18 to a carton.

The listed ingredients revealed little of how the meat was made. There was just one meat product listed: “Beef.”

Tension Over Testing

As it fed ingredients into its grinders, Cargill watched for some unwanted elements. Using metal detectors, workers snagged stray nails and metal hooks that could damage the grinders, then warned suppliers to make sure it did not happen again.

But when it came to E. coli O157:H7, Cargill did not screen the ingredients and only tested once the grinding was done. The potential pitfall of this practice surfaced just weeks before Ms. Smith’s patty was made. A company spot check in May 2007 found E. coli in finished hamburger, which Cargill disclosed to investigators in the wake of the October outbreak. But Cargill told them it could not determine which supplier had shipped the tainted meat since the ingredients had already been mixed together.

“Our finished ground products typically contain raw materials from numerous suppliers,” Dr. Angela Siemens, the technical services vice president for Cargill’s meat division, wrote to the U.S.D.A. “Consequently, it is not possible to implicate a specific supplier without first observing a pattern of potential contamination.”

Testing has been a point of contention since the 1994 ban on selling ground beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 was imposed. The department moved to require some bacterial testing of ground beef, but the industry argued that the cost would unfairly burden small producers, industry officials said. The Agriculture Department opted to carry out its own tests for E. coli, but it acknowledges that its 15,000 spot checks a year at thousands of meat plants and groceries nationwide is not meant to be comprehensive. Many slaughterhouses and processors have voluntarily adopted testing regimes, yet they vary greatly in scope from plant to plant.

The retail giant Costco is one of the few big producers that tests trimmings for E. coli before grinding, a practice it adopted after a New York woman was sickened in 1998 by its hamburger meat, prompting a recall.

Craig Wilson, Costco’s food safety director, said the company decided it could not rely on its suppliers alone. “It’s incumbent upon us,” he said. “If you say, ‘Craig, this is what we’ve done,’ I should be able to go, ‘Cool, I believe you.’ But I’m going to check.”

Costco said it had found E. coli in foreign and domestic beef trimmings and pressured suppliers to fix the problem. But even Costco, with its huge buying power, said it had met resistance from some big slaughterhouses. “Tyson will not supply us,” Mr. Wilson said. “They don’t want us to test.”

A Tyson spokesman, Gary Mickelson, would not respond to Costco’s accusation, but said, “We do not and cannot” prohibit grinders from testing ingredients. He added that since Tyson tests samples of its trimmings, “we don’t believe secondary testing by grinders is a necessity.”

The food safety officer at American Foodservice, which grinds 365 million pounds of hamburger a year, said it stopped testing trimmings a decade ago because of resistance from slaughterhouses. “They would not sell to us,” said Timothy P. Biela, the officer. “If I test and it’s positive, I put them in a regulatory situation. One, I have to tell the government, and two, the government will trace it back to them. So we don’t do that.”

The surge in outbreaks since 2007 has led to finger-pointing within the industry.

Dennis R. Johnson, a lobbyist for the largest meat processors, has said that not all slaughterhouses are looking hard enough for contamination. He told U.S.D.A. officials last fall that those with aggressive testing programs typically find E. coli in as much as 1 percent to 2 percent of their trimmings, yet some slaughterhouses implicated in outbreaks had failed to find any.

At the same time, the meat processing industry has resisted taking the onus on itself. An Agriculture Department survey of more than 2,000 plants taken after the Cargill outbreak showed that half of the grinders did not test their finished ground beef for E. coli; only 6 percent said they tested incoming ingredients at least four times a year.

In October 2007, the agency issued a notice recommending that processors conduct at least a few tests a year to verify the testing done by slaughterhouses. But after resistance from the industry, the department allowed suppliers to run the verification checks on their own operations.

In August 2008, the U.S.D.A. issued a draft guideline again urging, but not ordering, processors to test ingredients before grinding. “Optimally, every production lot should be sampled and tested before leaving the supplier and again before use at the receiver,” the draft guideline said.

But the department received critical comments on the guideline, which has not been made official. Industry officials said that the cost of testing could unfairly burden small processors and that slaughterhouses already test. In an October 2008 letter to the department, the American Association of Meat Processors said the proposed guideline departed from U.S.D.A.’s strategy of allowing companies to devise their own safety programs, “thus returning to more of the agency’s ‘command and control’ mind-set.”

Dr. Kenneth Petersen, an assistant administrator with the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said that the department could mandate testing, but that it needed to consider the impact on companies as well as consumers. “I have to look at the entire industry, not just what is best for public health,” Dr. Petersen said.

Tracing the Illness

The Smiths were slow to suspect the hamburger. Ms. Smith ate a mostly vegetarian diet, and when she grew increasingly ill, her mother, Sharon, thought the cause might be spinach, which had been tied to a recent E. coli outbreak.

Five days after the family’s Sunday dinner, Ms. Smith was admitted to St. Cloud Hospital in excruciating pain. “I’ve had women tell me that E. coli is more painful than childbirth,” said Dr. Phillip I. Tarr, a pathogen expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

The vast majority of E. coli illnesses resolve themselves without complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Five percent to 10 percent develop into a condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can affect kidney function. While most patients recover, in the worst cases, like Ms. Smith’s, the toxin in E. coli O157:H7 penetrates the colon wall, damaging blood vessels and causing clots that can lead to seizures.

To control Ms. Smith’s seizures, doctors put her in a coma and flew her to the Mayo Clinic, where doctors worked to save her.

“They didn’t even think her brain would work because of the seizuring,” her mother said. “Thanksgiving Day, I was sitting there holding her hand when a group of doctors came in, and one looked at me and just walked away, with nothing good to say. And I said, ‘Oh my God, maybe this is my last Thanksgiving with her,’ and I stayed and prayed.”

Ms. Smith’s illness was linked to the hamburger only by chance. Her aunt still had some of the frozen patties, and state health officials found that they were contaminated with a powerful strain of E. coli that was genetically identical to the pathogen that had sickened other Minnesotans.

Dr. Kirk Smith, who runs the state’s food-borne illness outbreak group and is not related to Ms. Smith, was quick to finger the source. A 4-year-old had fallen ill three weeks earlier, followed by her year-old brother and two more children, state records show. Like Ms. Smith, the others had eaten Cargill patties bought at Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart.

Moreover, the state officials discovered that the hamburgers were made on the same day, Aug. 16, 2007, shortly before noon. The time stamp on the Smiths’ box of patties was 11:58.

On Friday, Oct. 5, 2007, a Minnesota Health Department warning led local news broadcasts. “We didn’t want people grilling these things over the weekend,” Dr. Smith said. “I’m positive we prevented illnesses. People sent us dozens of cartons with patties left. It was pretty contaminated stuff.”

Eventually, health officials tied 11 cases of illness in Minnesota to the Cargill outbreak, and altogether, federal health officials estimate that the outbreak sickened 940 people. Four of the 11 Minnesota victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome — an unusually high rate of serious complications.

In the wake of the outbreak, the U.S.D.A. reminded consumers on its Web site that hamburgers had to be cooked to 160 degrees to be sure any E. coli is killed and urged them to use a thermometer to check the temperature. This reinforced Sharon Smith’s concern that she had sickened her daughter by not cooking the hamburger thoroughly.

But the pathogen is so powerful that her illness could have started with just a few cells left on a counter. “In a warm kitchen, E. coli cells will double every 45 minutes,” said Dr. Mansour Samadpour, a microbiologist who runs IEH Laboratories in Seattle, one of the meat industry’s largest testing firms.

With help from his laboratories, The Times prepared three pounds of ground beef dosed with a strain of E. coli that is nonharmful but acts in many ways like O157:H7. Although the safety instructions on the package were followed, E. coli remained on the cutting board even after it was washed with soap. A towel picked up large amounts of bacteria from the meat.

Dr. James Marsden, a meat safety expert at Kansas State University and senior science adviser for the North American Meat Processors Association, said the Department of Agriculture needed to issue better guidance on avoiding cross-contamination, like urging people to use bleach to sterilize cutting boards.
“Even if you are a scientist, much less a housewife with a child, it’s very difficult,” Dr. Marsden said.

Told of The Times’s test, Jerold R. Mande, the deputy under secretary for food safety at the U.S.D.A., said he planned to “look very carefully at the labels that we oversee.”

“They need to provide the right information to people,” Mr. Mande said, “in a way that is readable and actionable.”

Dead Ends

With Ms. Smith lying comatose in the hospital and others ill around the country, Cargill announced on Oct. 6, 2007, that it was recalling 844,812 pounds of patties. The mix of ingredients in the burgers made it almost impossible for either federal officials or Cargill to trace the contamination to a specific slaughterhouse. Yet after the outbreak, Cargill had new incentives to find out which supplier had sent the tainted meat.

Cargill got hit by multimillion-dollar claims from people who got sick.

Shawn K. Stevens, a lawyer in Milwaukee working for Cargill, began investigating. Sifting through state health department records from around the nation, Mr. Stevens found the case of a young girl in Hawaii stricken with the same E. coli found in the Cargill patties. But instead of a Cargill burger, she had eaten raw minced beef at a Japanese restaurant that Mr. Stevens said he traced through a distributor to Greater Omaha.

“Potentially, it could let Cargill shift all the responsibility,” Mr. Stevens said. In March, he sent his findings to William Marler, a lawyer in Seattle who specializes in food-borne disease cases and is handling the claims against Cargill.

“Most of the time, in these outbreaks, it’s not unusual when I point the finger at somebody, they try to point the finger at somebody else,” Mr. Marler said. But he said Mr. Stevens’s finding “doesn’t rise to the level of proof that I need” to sue Greater Omaha.

It is unclear whether Cargill presented the Hawaii findings to Greater Omaha, since neither company would comment on the matter. In December 2007, in a move that Greater Omaha said was unrelated to the outbreak, the slaughterhouse informed Cargill that it had taken 16 “corrective actions” to better protect consumers from E. coli “as we strive to live up to the performance standards required in the continuation of supplier relationship with Cargill.”

Those changes included better monitoring of the production line, more robust testing for E. coli, intensified plant sanitation and added employee training.

The U.S.D.A. efforts to find the ultimate source of the contamination went nowhere. Officials examined production records of Cargill’s three domestic suppliers, but they yielded no clues. The Agriculture Department contacted Uruguayan officials, who said they found nothing amiss in the slaughterhouse there.

In examining Cargill, investigators discovered that their own inspectors had lodged complaints about unsanitary conditions at the plant in the weeks before the outbreak, but that they had failed to set off any alarms within the department. Inspectors had found “large amounts of patties on the floor,” grinders that were gnarly with old bits of meat, and a worker who routinely dumped inedible meat on the floor close to a production line, records show.

Although none were likely to have caused the contamination, federal officials said the conditions could have exacerbated the spread of bacteria. Cargill vowed to correct the problems. Dr. Petersen, the federal food safety official, said the department was working to make sure violations are tracked so they can be used “in real time to take action.”

The U.S.D.A. found that Cargill had not followed its own safety program for controlling E. coli. For example, Cargill was supposed to obtain a certificate from each supplier showing that their tests had found no E. coli. But Cargill did not have a certificate for the Uruguayan trimmings used on the day it made the burgers that sickened Ms. Smith and others.

After four months of negotiations, Cargill agreed to increase its scrutiny of suppliers and their testing, including audits and periodic checks to determine the accuracy of their laboratories.

A recent industry test in which spiked samples of meat were sent to independent laboratories used by food companies found that some missed the E. coli in as many as 80 percent of the samples.

Cargill also said it would notify suppliers whenever it found E. coli in finished ground beef, so they could check their facilities. It also agreed to increase testing of finished ground beef, according to a U.S.D.A. official familiar with the company’s operations, but would not test incoming ingredients.

Looking to the Future

The spate of outbreaks in the last three years has increased pressure on the Agriculture Department and the industry.

James H. Hodges, executive vice president of the American Meat Institute, a trade association, said that while the outbreaks were disconcerting, they followed several years during which there were fewer incidents. “Are we perfect?” he said. “No. But what we have done is to show some continual improvement.”

Dr. Petersen, the U.S.D.A. official, said the department had adopted additional procedures, including enhanced testing at slaughterhouses implicated in outbreaks and better training for investigators.

“We are not standing still when it comes to E. coli,” Dr. Petersen said.

The department has held a series of meetings since the recent outbreaks, soliciting ideas from all quarters. Dr. Samadpour, the laboratory owner, has said that “we can make hamburger safe,” but that in addition to enhanced testing, it will take an aggressive use of measures like meat rinses and safety audits by qualified experts.

At these sessions, Felicia Nestor, a senior policy analyst with the consumer group Food and Water Watch, has urged the government to redouble its effort to track outbreaks back to slaughterhouses. “They are the source of the problem,” Ms. Nestor said.

For Ms. Smith, the road ahead is challenging. She is living at her mother’s home in Cold Spring, Minn. She spends a lot of her time in physical therapy, which is being paid for by Cargill in anticipation of a legal claim, according to Mr. Marler. Her kidneys are at high risk of failure. She is struggling to regain some basic life skills and deal with the anger that sometimes envelops her. Despite her determination, doctors say, she will most likely never walk again.

Gabe Johnson contributed reporting.


So, why have I posted this? Obviously because I find so many things wrong with the meat industry, this is just one more reason I'm glad to be vegan. How is it safe to trust companies to test their own food? Americans seem to believe that government regulations of food keep them safe, when they do the exact opposite. Instead of the government actually regulating and watching the food, they allow the meat industry to do it themselves. Of course the meat is contaminated. They wouldn't go out of their way to make sure it wasn't, because it would cost them so much. Outbreaks from tainted meat are on the rise, not the decline. The government and the meat industry are both relying on the public to protect themselves by cooking their meat properly and cleaning up properly, neither of which, by government set safety standards would even protect anyone. If the food was safe, we would be able to eat it raw, end of story.

To top this off, here's a little response article I rather liked:

The American Meat Institute’s Facts of Nature
Date October 7, 2009

J. Patrick Boyle, the President of the American Meat Institute (every college applicant’s favorite safety school), wrote in to the New York Times about last Sunday’s E. coli article.

Boyle’s closing paragraph had me shaking my head and wondering how he could possibly believe that his argument was in the meat industry’s best interest:

"The meat industry has a single-mindedness when it comes to E. coli O157:H7 — we want to eliminate it. But like other facts of nature — from floods to the flu — even when there is a will, there may not always be a way to do it 100 percent of the time."

By asserting that E. coli 0157 is one of the “facts of nature,” as inevitable as floods and influenza, Boyle has opened a can of worms for anyone who wants to give the matter some thought.

* Is packing cattle into feedlots, where the excrement can be smelled from miles away, a fact of nature?
* Cattle at the feedlot often wallow in their own manure, so it gets caked to their hides prior to transport to the slaughterhouse. Is that also a fact of nature?
* Is giving ruminant animals a diet of corn, so they’ll bloat up with abnormal levels of intramuscular fat, yet another a fact of nature?
* Finally, is keeping slaughterhouse line speeds at hundreds of cattle per hour just one more fact of nature? The faster workers must cut, the greater the possibility for contamination.

As I understand it, these four issues have been key to E. coli’s emergence and persistence within the beef industry. Yet if you read Boyle’s letter, he’s pushing to deal with E. coli by getting the government to approve treating beef with radiation. I suppose in Boyle’s world, nuking beef is yet another…fact of nature.


As a secondary note, I am aware that E. coli has been found occasionally not meat products such as spinach, however E. coli originates in the feces of mammals. When it turns up in vegetables it is the outcome of bad food handling. Translation: poop has gotten into our food. These sorts of contaminants are generally caused by the same problems as in the meat industry. If we didn't allow factory farming and good food handling practices were used, we wouldn't find poop in our food. If we didn't raise animals for food, maybe their shit wouldn't be all over it.

Or, there's another option: we buy or food directly from the farmer.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bushwick House - Brooklyn, NY

This morning I opened my eyes and WHOA, there's Fatty Jack the Tub Cat right in my face like, "Sup. Pet me." So I did. We had a moment and it was good. When he realized I would not be getting up to feed him he finally ditched me. Men.

So, it's my birthday. I went out with a few friends to Zen Palate the other night to celebrate a little early. Slokes had a mild panic attack when we discovered that they don't serve alcohol, even though he had gone out for cocktails beforehand. Love me some Slokes. It was basically the perfect birthday dinner. Much fun was had and no meat was eaten, because I don't want people eating dead animals in order to celebrate my birthday. Gross.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Logger's House- Pawlet, VT

I -finally- pulled some pictures off my camera to put here. I want to take some more and I have some ideas, but I'm so shy about using my camera. It's a little lame.

The maple sugar shack, or the Baby maple shack, or something like that. No maple syrup was made here, but it did contain the magic of Lauren, who has since moved back to Brooklyn.

So we had this boat. No, it was just the front of a baot. And not a real boat. It was built for a show and Oliver said he really wanted it, so Slokes and I drove it over to his place as a late birthday present. The kids were really excited, but I doubt they have played with it since that night. Ha.

It's ok to eat unhealthy food like doughnuts, if you plan to eat lots of healthy food like kale. Or, you could just eat both at once. Oliver's birthday cake. I had nothing to do with this, but I did enjoy the texture.

OK, short post. Gotta get my brain ready for NY.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Winpenny House - Pawlet, VT

Did I ever mention the time when The Logger accidentally called me by his name, instead of mine? Who does that? Anyway we laughed for a good long time.

I don't have much to say right now. Everything is up in the air and a lot of it will come crashing down (in a good way I hope) when I get back from New York.

I need to update some pictures.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Logger's House- Pawlet, VT

With all of this spare time I'm finally starting to catch up on a bunch of things I had been wanting to do. I made toothpaste. It still needs a little tweaking, but it's close to being good. The Logger likes it. I made it almond flavored, instead of mint, which is a fun change. I'm going to get some aloe vera gel to soften it up a bit and make it more pasty. Right now it's ore of a tooth liquid, rather than a tooth paste. It's pretty simple though, water, baking soda, almond extract, hydrogen peroxide. The trick is making sure you don't overdue the peroxide and also making sure that you have enough water for the soda to dissolve in, but still be effective. But basically it's a cheaper and healthier alternative to store bought toothpaste, which has some pretty nasty ingredients in it. Even some of the all natural and organic brands have Sodium Laurel Sulphate, which is a carcinogen. Bad Bad. It's a pretty good indication not to put something in your mouth that has a warning label stating that it is harmful if swallowed. Check your toothpaste, unless it's an all natural brand, it'll have the warning.

I had an interview the other day for job I think I'd really like. The interview went really well, and I'm supposedly going to be contacted for a second one, but that hasn't happened yet. I'm trying to be patient. For now I'm taking odd jobs in the kitchen at the inn. Last night I washed dishes for 9 hours straight. There was a 200 person wedding. It was a bit crazy in the kitchen, but the guests were very happy, and I think they had no idea of the insane things happening back there, so job well done. I might go in and help Jason a little more with organizing the kitchen as well. We both love to organize.

Working at the inn has its downsides though. Generally if someone is working the dinner shift, it means they'll get fed. It was a really long shift, so Jason was making plates for people. However, pretty much everything was meat. And the veggies all had butter in them. The appetizers were a lot of vegan food, but the leftovers got taken to the big white before I got a chance to eat any. I was snaking on bread most of the night, which I don't like to do, when I finally asked Drew (who came up from New York to help Jason out), if there was anything without dairy. He whipped me up a really yummy salad, which was awesome. However, a side salad isn't really a dinner, so I still pretty hungry. I'm not all frustrated at being vegan. I accept that these things will happen. If I am frustrated, it's because people think they have to load everything with animal products in order for it to be tasty. I know quite well that is not true, and to prove it I'm going to make myself vegan pancakes for breakfast, which I've always preferred over non-vegan, because they taste better. So there. Not to mention the best cupcake I've ever had IN MY LIFE (and I've eaten a lot of cupcakes) was a vegan green tea cupcake. Which Ceora made. Yay.

I'm out of rice flour at the moment and there is no room in this kitchen for me to get more. Thus, wheat flour pancakes for breakfast. At some point I may need to address the fact that The Logger's mother has more dishes than food to put on them. The entire kitchen is full of dishes and bakeware and food storage containers, but no food. Just one little cabinet for food in the whole house. I'm hoping that if I take over the role of cook in the house, I can start to consolidate dishes and make a new food cabinet. I hope I hope.

Anyway I'm getting a haircut tomorrow. It'll be grand.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Colony House - Dorset, VT

Oh the days have been flying by. It's already the end of the summer and our last show closed on Saturday. We've been cleaning up the playhouse and finishing up little projects, so the place will be ready for the Dorset Players to move back in for the winter. I finally finished the aisle lights, which have been a nuisance since the summer began. They look quite wonderful.

Alice came and went. I thought it was spectacular. The amount of talent and sheer force of will that went into that complicated show was amazing. I have some photos, which are a little dark, and a little color corrected, and not of the full stage, but it's what was managed. There was no time to take photos, except during a performance, so I never got to take any of my own, and I haven't seen any photos of the full set. It's a bummer, but the ones I have are ok.

Friday is the big day. The big scary day. It dawned on me quite suddenly that at 25 years old I'll be moving in with my 30 year old boyfriend and his mother. And I have no job. This is not where I planned to be at this point in my life, but I really hope that the situation will get better soon. I need to find a job first.

I'm sort of in this odd position between trying to decide whether I want to save up as much money as I can, as fast as I can in order to buy land. Or if I want to focus on paying off my student loans so that I can eventually buy land without my student loans in the way. It would be awesome if I could find someone who will lease me some land, with the idea that I would pay it off over time, so I could just pay both off at once. Because, really, smaller bills are better at this point. But like I said, the first step is finding a job. And a haircut. I need to get a haircut.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Colony House - Dorset, VT

OK, I've talked about my computer, now let's talk about my life.

Several things to go over:
1. I love Friday nights
2. Lobsters can cause nightmares, dirty looks, and unexpected reporters
3. A broken computer means hours of podcats which may lead to dietary changes that make your mother roll her eyes and wonder what she did to raise you so wrong.

Friday nights! Dinner! At Teleion! No, Earth, Sky, Time! The Levis clan has moved houses to be closer to their fields and never have to deal with cyber-creeps again! They have moved themselves and their WWOOFers into The Big White House. So Friday dinners are there, which means Slocum and I are there. The Logger can come too. I've had a renewed interest in cooking, even though I hate this kitchen and Slokes and I have been making some freaking yummy thing. Recipes later, I've got far too much to say right now.

There's a WWOOFer there right now who loves to sing, and has a talent for rewriting pop songs. So for the past few weeks I've had TLC's "No Scrubs" stuck in my head (only her version is No Slugs), and other equally irritating things. And I would find this endlessly annoying, except for the two things that make it tolerable: It's fucking genius and I can always go find Slocum and have a sing-along (which is actually more annoying for anyone around us, but somehow makes it better for me).

The lobster. Oh man, the lobster. So... I got this email. Actually, wait. Let me start here: I know that the number one rule of blogging is that you don't write about work. However, I blog about my life and my life tends to be wrapped up in my work and since my boss has the address to my blog (I gave it to him, he was curious, he got bored and never looked at it more than once, I'm sure), and I never say bad things about anyone, I often blog about work. I blogged about Teleion endlessly. Last year I blogged about the theatre. This year I saw no reason to stop. I still don't. Except for the lobster.

OK, I took the post down, so maybe you don't know what I'm talking about. There was an incident at work. It made me unhappy, it made others unhappy, I voiced my opinion, problem was solved. I blogged about my reaction to it, what the main issue was, no names, no finger pointing. It was a problem and we solved it. We were all at fault and we all realized it and changed what we were doing. Well, a reporter saw that post and emailed me. He wanted to write a story about it. He doesn't want to say anything bad about the theatre, he just agrees with what I was saying, and in Vermont, somehow this kind of little thing can become news. I guiltily told my employers, they were not upset and I remain silent on the issue until this all blows over. Meaning, I'm not saying anything more until I can put a link in my blog to the news article. That I started with my blog. Hell yeah. At least I'm not getting fired. It's not like it was a big deal, it's just that businesses don't generally want newspaper articles written about mistakes they may have made.

Fine, on to point three. Dairy and I broke up. When my computer died I still needed something to entertain me at work, so I decided to catch up on all the podcasts I had sitting on my ipod. Replacing aisle lights is not so bad when listening to Vegan Radio, followed by RadioLab (by the way I HIGHLY recommend RadioLab to everyone, as it is an awesome odcast that will make you smarter), followed by Vegan Freak. That's a lot of Vegan, and a little bit of science.

The thing is I haven't really been eating much dairy. Maybe a cookie or two that was lying around, but I never buy it, never cook with it, and wouldn't ever order it in a restaurant. I was eating pizza at changeover because the theatre bought it for us and I had no time to go home and eat anything else. My logic was that I wasn't contributing to the dairy industry because I wasn't buying anything, or causing others to buy things for me. And while I'm fine with the Freegan logic and lifestyle, I have finally become grossed out enough that I just plain don't want to put that crap into my body. Dairy is full of puss. And it causes lots of mucous. Mucous and Puss are gross words and I don't want to eat things associated with it. So there you have it, no more dairy for me. And don't start talking to me about cheese. Who the hell even cares about cheese? Sure it tastes good, but not THAT good. The only food that might actually be a true strugle for me to never eat again, and no way could I go through with it, so if I suddenly develope an allergy could you please just kill me? is chocolate. There I said it. You thought I would say eggplant, but I didn't. It's chocolate. And since Fairtrade dark chocolate doesn't have puss or suffering in it, I'm not going to stop eating it. Eggplant is still a close second though.

So Mom, I know you aren't a big fan of the veganism and maybe Dad and Justin just disowned me, but at least I know what's important in life: chocolate and eggplant.

High cholesterol and Alzheimer's

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Colony House - Dorset, VT

I haven't posted in forever. Again. But this time I have a good reason: Complete Computer Meltdown. Listen, I'm not a computer wiz, what I know about computers, I've learned from using them. So when my computer wouldn't start up properly and flashed a "No" sign and then a blinking question mark folder, I panicked. PANIC! Well, as much a I can panic, having never actually panicked for real in my entire life. I'm not kidding.

I googled the problem and read a bunch of stuff about my hard drive becoming "unblessed." yeah. I don't know either. I called my parents and informed them that they would need to search their entire house for the install disks that came with my computer, because of course I didn't bring them with me, why the hell would I do that? Macs don't crash! Duh. Anyway my mother was able to find them pretty painlessly in one of the first places she looked and FedExed them to me. That was a long 4-day wait. Damn weekend.

In the meantime, I used a boot disk from a MacBookPro to start up my comp and try and deal with it. The words excruciatingly slow and also futile come to mind. I was able to boot up with this disk, but not much else. I called my friend Marc, who IS a computer genius and he of course made my near-panic worse by saying it could be a physical issue with the hard drive. Like maybe something in there broke. Something I can't fix for free, even with help from the internet. The nearest Apple store is an hour and a half from here and also my warranty is up. If you think I bought AppleCare, you are out of your mind. May as well save my $300 for my next computer. Anyway I never made it there.

When my FedEx package from Mom came, several things fell out: 2 install disks, user manual, warranty info and... a Leopard install disk. What?!!?!? All this time I was running Tiger and I *could* have been running Leopard?!?! It came with my computer?!? Damn my ignorance at the moment of unpacking my computer. I probably wrote it off as some junk program I didn't need and then never thought about it again. Months later when I was fully immersed in Mac life, I considered buying Leopard. I almost paid for software. I never do that! Suddenly I realized that I considered purchasing something I already had? And now my computer was dead and I could have been enjoying it that much more this whole time?!!? GHA!

I had no choice, I had to get the thing up and running again just so I could install Leopard. It was my Apple-given right! Anyway I booted with my own install disk, backed up all my important stuff and then I started a new install. The internet told me that if I installed over what I had already, it would re-bless the hard drive and keep all of my other stuff. Meaning, I didn't have to back up, but it was a good idea. Especially if that wasn't the problem and my computer ended up exploding. At least then I would have my work files. And the second season of Pushing Daisies.

I started the install, went to bed, woke up when the first disk popped out, put the second in and went to bed again. This morning... the computer started all by itself! No boot disk needed! YAY! But when I started up Firefox it was still being an asshole. Firefox was ruining my good time! I had been having problems with it before the meltdown, that was the reason I turned my computer off in the first place and the start of all this trouble. I tried updating it and that did nothing. Finally I just reinstalled the damn browser, lost all my settings and bookmarks, but whatever. My computer works now.

I'm kind of on the fence about this though. I think that whatever started the major problem in my computer, where it couldn't find its own damn hard drive without help, maybe started with Firefox? I really don't know. All I know is, it was giving me trouble, I tried to reboot my comp and suddenly it won't work. Then when I get it working, everything is fine except for Firefox freaking out. So maybe I shouldn't use it until the next update? It's just that I love Firefox so much. It makes the internet worth browsing, that's how much I love it. Safari just won't cut it.

Well, probably all of my problems in life (laziness, homelessness, unemployment) will be solved when I update to Leopard. I hear the newer Mac operating systems will even find you a job these days. A good job. Where you get paid.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Dorset Playhouse - Dorset, VT

The longer I am here the more I realize that it isn't my attachment to the people of the Dorset Theatre Festival that keep me coming back, but the place itself. I care so much about this theatre that it would break my heart if it were to fail. I love the history and I feel honored to be a part of it. I think we do good things here and with time maybe we can win back the audience that was lost over the years.

Some events occurred last night that made me question why I decided to come back here and work these ridiculous hours for so little pay. I put so much of my life and energy into this theatre, to be insulted for it is a major blow. It just made it so much more obvious that I'm not here for anyone but me and this place. I build relationships with the people here and make lasting friendships, but that feels so separate from my actual work.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Dorset Playhouse - Dorset, VT

I've been experiencing this overwhelming feeling of being out of place no matter where I am. At the theatre I only feel right when I'm working non-stop during tech week. I feel weird at the farm because of all the new WWOOFers and the fact that they've moved the whole operation to The Big White House and out of Teleion Holon. I can't even relax in Colony House. The kitchen situation is not good and I'm the only person in the house who cooks for every meal. This is baffling to many people there and they often stare at my food as though I've made some kind of gourmet meal, when all I've done is put squash in quinoa. For some reason it makes me feel incredibly awkward.

I'm starting to realize just how much my living situation revolves around the kitchen. After being at the farm cooking has become even more important to me. I decided to do more cooking this summer and buy no pre-made frozen meals. They are pricey and not even very good. Not to mention how much healthier whole foods are. My meals have been revolving around what I can get at the farmers market, plus whatever grain sounds good to me at the moment. I feel really great about my food, but I've become less excited about cooking it in the Colony House kitchen. The fact that I'm the only vegetarian doesn't really help. Yeah, I'm sure that meat you made is -really- tasty, but amazingly I'm not even a little bit interested. I realize my aversion to meat is self-alienating, but I'm not about to fake interest in something I find repulsive.

I just feel like I can't be very independent right now and I have little control over my living situation. I can't wait to have my own meat-free, clean kitchen. I think a lot about when The Logger and I came back from New York and walked in the kitchen at Teleion and The Logger took a deep breath and commented on the good smell of a meat-free kitchen. At the time I just thought it was silly and cute, but lately it's become so obvious. I miss my little vegetarian community.

I think I'm just frustrated by the fact that I ditched New York over a year ago to seek out my independence and I've been enjoying my freedom. Now I'm back to Dorset and it's a lot like being back in college, which I never really enjoyed much anyway. Wha Wha, maybe someone should just call me a big whaaaaambulance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colony House - Dorset, VT

On Friday The Logger's father came into town for a day so we all went out to lunch. I was somewhat nervous about meeting him, not because I was worried he wouldn't like me, I didn't really care about that, but because I was worried I wouldn't like him. He only sees The Logger once a year and he thinks his own son is crazy. I don't like it. But, he turned out to be a nice guy, and he was almost nothing like The Logger, which means he was actually a social person and easy to go to lunch with. The strangest thing about him was that he seemed genuinely interested in The Logger, how he is doing, what he is doing, how happy he is. But the man never calls him, he doesn't remember his birthday and he only sees him one day a year. If The Logger never called his father, they probably wouldn't ever talk. I don't really understand it.

While we were at lunch there was an old man sitting across the room eating a sandwich. When he was done he got up, threw away his trash, took some bottles and cans out of the trash can and put them into the recycling, then he came over to our table and picked up the tray that we had leaned against the wall. The Logger's father thanked him and he replied "We're all in this together man." And even though the guy seemed a little batty (he soon began chattering on and on), I was struck by it. I mean, I know that's true and I think most of us do, but I think we forget it. I think sometimes we need reminding. So maybe that's why The Logger's father doesn't really call, but he still really cares. Maybe he forgets and The Logger is his reminder.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Colony House - Dorset, VT

I can't believe I'm still in bed at 8:30. Lately I've been going in to the theatre at 8:00 and today I think I will go in at 10. The interns have arrived, as well as the cast of the next two shows, so things have been picking up rapidly. St. Nicholas opens tonight, so the past few days of my life have been spent in the dark, with 10 minutes breaks of sunshine every hour and a half. I was terribly worried about getting my job done on time for this show. I really felt like I just didn't have enough time, but it actually worked out great. Bradford usually ends up needing me to change most of the lights over the course of tech, but that didn't really happen this time. I only spent one night in the theatre until 1am, other than that I've been leaving at a reasonable time. Still after my 9:30 bedtime, but... this is theatre, not farming. We all have to be night people here.

This is the stage last week

Let me try and explain the layout of this show a little. St. Nick is a one man show, in which the one man (The actor's name is Jack Gilpin) is telling the audience a story. It's an intimate kind of story-telling and it needs an intimate setting. So we moved the audience to the stage. They are seated along the back wall of the stage and down the side walls. His playing area is pretty small and he has a chance to really look every person in the audience in the eye. It's so amazing and I think the people of Dorset are a bit shocked and giddy about it when they walk into the theatre. Anyway the backdrop of the whole play is the empty theatre. Bradford designed a bunch of cool effects that light up the theatre in interesting ways. I also got the wonderful project of cutting up Christmas lights and hiding them in the seats. I now know more about christmas lights than I ever really wanted to know and 5 hours of my life are gone forever to this subject. However, when we tuned the lights on the effect was so beautiful. It was exactly what Carl (director of this show) wanted to see.

The stage and its weirdo seating

I'm going to pause for a second here to explain that the average audience member of this theatre is... older. A few years past retirement. They are well educated and maybe a bit old-fashioned, and when they pay good money to see a show, they don't want to be offended. This means we can't have smoking on stage, we have to be careful about loud unexpected noises and, holy crap, we do not want to swear too much. Well, this show is about an Irish alcoholic. He swears a lot. Carl cut about 90% of the swearing out of the show, and though it might throw the rhythm a little, I know the audience appreciates it.

So, after we tried the Christmas lights for the first time, Jack turned to Carl and said "I think this is worth putting at least five 'cunts' back in the show." I would say the five hours of frustrating work I put into this look was all worth it just for that hilarious moment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Colony House - Dorset, VT

Back in Dorset once again. I miss Teleion so much, but the people here are great too. Slocum is back and Marshall got recruited as the Tech Director. There are only a few other people here right now to start the season up. Everyone else is coming on the 13th. This makes no difference to me, of course, because I am the only person in my department. I only hope more vegetarian/vegan types come up with the interns, as I am the only one so far. Whatever, I'm not eating a single Boca burger this summer, I'm just going to eat before all of the functions.

I've been pretty busy organizing the equipment and fixing lights, which I love doing. I'm back to the basement again, working happily with my headphones on. I found my camera so here are some pictures of my work situation:

My office. It's cozy, but it's pretty far from farming.



And here's my room in Colony House.

I feel a little backwards right now. I left New York and I left the theatre in order to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I know I want to farm, but the only way I know how to make money is by doing theatre. It's this annoying back and forth thing. People will pay me to waste electricity, but not to grow healthy food? I say waste because good theatre doesn't need lighting it just wants lighting. It's true, I love doing this job, but I can't do it forever. It's not really where I want to be. If I knew I could have land somewhere and farm it, and then do theatre in the winter once in a while, that would be perfectly fine with me. But, Dorset is a summer job and as much as it disrupts the rest of my life, I would miss it. Theatre gets under your skin. You can only do it for so long, and if you try to spend those years getting away from it, something always pulls you back.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Wilburton Inn- Manchester, VT

Before I start this post, I just want to mention that I have no idea where my camera is and that is why there are no pictures and have been no pictures for some time. I'm sure it's mixed in with my stuff somewhere, but I haven't had the time or patience to look for it.

There have been a mass of birthdays recently, which gave me many reasons to bake yummy cakes (Recipes at the end of the post. No, don't scroll down, just read the damn post first. Lazy). Elyssa's birthday was first so Dresden and I made her some of those amazing six-minutes cakes that everyone is so fond of. It's a bonus that they're vegan and there happen to be so many vegans in the house right now. We surprised her with them by sneaking them into the dining room, but she had somehow snuck out and there was a moment of confusion where, instead of the cake coming in unannounced and everyone singing, the cake came in and she followed after. She was surprised and pleased anyway, despite the mix-up.

Bonnie's birthday was two days after. I asked her what kind of cake she wanted and she said that she had been so fond of the six-minute cake she kind of wanted that, and she kind of wanted apple pie, but the conversation never came to a conclusion. As a compromise I made her an apple cake and a six-minute cake. The apple cake was not vegan, but I substituted the butter for applesauce and oil, so the only non-vegan thing in it were the eggs, which come from the farm anyway, so the vegans among us were willing to have a little. Everyone seemed to like it, but I thought there was not enough apple and a little too much lemon. If it were my cookbook I would have noted this in the recipe. Instead I'll just post here how I would make it now, were I to make it again.

To celebrate Bonnie's birthday we went for a picnic at Emerald Lake. She requested that she not be involved in putting the event together, so Mike and I made some food, but severely underestimated the amount of food we would need, so the portions were small. Not to worry, I never make too little cake so those portions were just fine. Bonnie's friend Terry also showed up with amazing peanut butter banana vegan cupcakes. Oliver and Max also stopped off and picked u some snacks and food from the Inn, so no one went hungry. There was kayaking, paddle-boating and plenty of relaxation (except that the plates kept blowing away, because we never really learned our lesson. Maybe people just enjoy chasing paper plates). In all, the day was a success, especially when Bonnie saw that we had made her a kitchen herb garden (pictures coming soon). We even put a bench out there in the hopes that she would b able to sit by her garden while watching her kids play in the sandbox with a trashy magazine in her hand. JUST KIDDING! Bonnie doesn't read trashy magazines. In public.

The last birthday to be celebrated was Nathaniel's. He didn't want a cake, so I took the opportunity to make something I had been really curious about. I had found a gluten-free, vegan cake online a while ago and because of it's odd ingredients I was intrigued and made a little nervous by it. It's a chocolate cake with black-eyed peas as it's base. One of our vegan WWOOFers is also gluten-free so she hadn't been partaking in birthday cakes, which gave me one more reason to attempt this crazy cake. As I was putting it together I was feeling skeptical, especially because of the one-hour baking time. It turned out AMAZING in the end and the only thing I tweaked about it was that I added a bit more sugar and possibly more chocolate (didn't really bother to measure that). The nice thing about a cake like this is that you can really play with the stuff in it, because there is no delicate balance of liquids and powders, it's pretty much just a solid mush base. Anyway, the ingredients are a little pricey, but well worth it. It's easy to make, and so delicious. The texture is wonderful as well; kind of somewhere between pudding a cake. Just trust me and make the damn thing.

A note about the recipes. These are all vegan, or easily made vegan. When using chocolate, be sure to check ingredients as many seemingly dark chocolate chips contain milk fat. If you intend to keep the cakes vegan, you'll want to be careful about this.

Gluten-free chocolate cake
Original recipe here
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
14 oz extra-firm tofu
1 cup sugar (my adjusted amount, up from 3/4)
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more, whatever)
1/4 cup coco powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan.

Toss both the black-eyed peas and the tofu into your food processor or blender, and let it run until the mixture is completely smooth. Give it a good long time to work, since it would be rather unpleasant to find any whole beans in your cake. Add in the sugar and pulse to combine.

Separately, melt the chocolate and stir well until smooth before adding into the food processor, and then let it run for a minute until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides to make sure you aren’t missing anything, and give it another minute to process. Finally, add the cocoa,baking powder, soda, and salt, and pulse to combine.

Spread the mixture into your prepared pan, leveling off the top with your spatula as best you can. Bake for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. I know that’s a bit vague, but it will still be ever so slightly wet since it’s such a moist cake- Just make sure it doesn’t look like it’s covered in raw batter. Let it cool completely in the pan before serving.

The following recipes are from the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts:

Six minute cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup coco powder (or more, whatever)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup veggie oil (or 1/4 oil, 1/4 applesauce, or all applesauce, it's really up to you. I like it with more applesauce and less oil. Creamier)
1 cup cold water or coffee (I have never tried it with coffee, because I don't like coffee, but I bet it would be good to those who love it)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

The awesome thing about this recipe is that you don't need to create a ton of dirty dishes with it. You can mix everything right up in the pan. I have not tried this because I a, always making massive quantities and also layering the cakes. If you want to stack the cakes and put a layer of jam between them (I highly recommend this), you'll need to put a layer of parchment paper down in the pan, as these cakes stick no matter what you do. If you do this, mixing in the pan is pretty impossible.

Mix together flour, coco, baking soda, salt and sugar directly into cake pan. In your measuring cup combine oil, applesauce, water, and vanilla. Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix with a fork until smooth. Add in the vinegar and mix quickly, it will start to bubble and react, but mix until just incorporated.

Bake for 25- 30 minutes and let cool. If you go the jam route, dump the cooled cake out of the pan and spread jam on the flatter side of one. Put the other cake on top, flat side down (get it? flat sides go together better). Rock out with your cake.

If you want an east yummy frosting:
melt a half pound of chocolate, stir in 3/4 cup hot water and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Pour over cooled cake and then refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then rock out with your cake.

Apple cake
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup oil
1 cup packed brown sugar (I used turbinado, but brown might be better)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs (or 1 well mashed banana, haven't tried this, but I bet it would be tasty)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups peeled and chopped apples
1 tbl lemon juice

preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 inch square pan

Combine applesauce, oil and sugar, beating until well combined by hand or with a mixer. Whatever. Add vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time, or banana a little at a time. combine four, baking powder, soda and salt. fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture- the batter will be stiff. fold in chopped apples and lemon juice.

Pour batter into pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until cake is golden and knife comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temp.