Dead Sea Salt Scrub

“Last year I got talked into purchasing a jar of authentic Dead Sea salt scrub,” my friend Liz Arden confessed at a potluck dinner the other night.

Greta Bruhl was entranced. “I read that Dead Sea salt outperforms Alba Botanica [a bath emollient] as a sunscreen,” she said. Greta is the daughter of my good friend, retired newspaper editor Lee Bruhl.

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
–Mark Twain

Ashley Proctor brought a special new salt to the potluck. “It’s organic!” she said, happily.

Paul “Buster” Door, a former North Puffin car dealer and Democratic party official, says he can taste the difference.


Morton Salt GirlOrganic? Health benefits?

While it is true that a nice mineral coating on your skin does reflect sunlight, I couldn’t find any minerals in Alba Botanica Mineral Sunscreen. None. Alba Botanica proudly offers “100% vegetarian personal care products” that contain isopropyl palmitate, glyceryl stearate SE, steareth-2, dimethicone, trimethylsiloxysilicate, glyceryl stearate, stearic acid, methyl glyceth-20, cetyl phosphate, allantoin, phenoxyethanol, benzyl alcohol, and potassium sorbate. Not a mineral in sight. Potassium sorbate is the potassium salt of sorbic acid but it and allantoin are in there in minute quantities, probably to inhibit mold or repel mosquitoes.

A mineral is a “naturally occurring, homogeneous inorganic solid substance having a characteristic crystalline structure, color, and hardness.” Inorganic elements such as calcium, iron, potassium, sodium, and zinc are well known examples.

Organic and inorganic compounds form the basis for chemistry and it’s fairly easy to tell them apart. The primary difference between them is that organic compounds always contain carbon; most inorganic compounds don’t. Table sugar, ethanol, and cholesterol with its linked hydrocarbon rings are all organic. Salts, metals, salts, the battery in your smartphone, salts, and all substances except diamonds made from single elements are inorganic.

Maybe she meant it’s organic food! Organic foods are produced without the usual pesticides and fertilizers used in farming. Typically, organic food processing also doesn’t use radiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives.

Organic Chemistry? Nupe. Common table or sea salt is Sodium Chloride with the chemical symbol NaCl. No carbon.

Organic Food? Nupe. It’s been a while since I was in a salt mine, so maybe things have changed but I’m pretty sure they don’t need pesticides, fertilizers, radiation, solvents, or food additives to pull rocks out of the ground or out of sea water.

People are sooooooooooooo gullible.


Used Food

Pugnaciously parsimonious.

Regular readers will remember that Rufus says I am a “c-h-e-a-p   b-a-h-s-t-i-d” so I also think long about what most things cost before buying.

I’m not the first in the fambly to have that trait. My great grandfather was a Quaker farmer who never threw anything away which largely explains the size of the moving van we needed when we moved to North Puffin. I really believe in reduce, reuse, and eventually, recycle.

My mom coined the term “used food” when the grocery store would mark down the day old meats in the refrigerated meat case. We’ve expanded its meaning.

Dented CanI see an upside down cake in my future.

SWMBO and I keep our own grocery bills as low as we can by shopping the used food store for dented cans. That emporium is a liquidation center that clears out “zoins” — the pallets of rejected non-perishables from grocery stores. My mom always worried that the dent could damage the can coating and at the very least change the taste of the contents. We’ve never had a problem.

There are some rules to follow with used food.

Bulging or bloated can?
What? Are you nuts? Cans bulge and bloat when bacteria outgasses.

Push on the top and bottom of the can
If the lid moves or pops, throw it out.

Rusted cans
Rust weakens the floor of Vermont cars and lets bad stuff in. Does the same for cans, doncha know.

The can sprays when you open it
A can ought not spray or explode when you open the lid with a can opener or screwdriver or Swiss Army knife. Safe dented cans will open the same as non dented cans.

Foods that have abnormal odors should not be eaten.

Lots of new laws went into effect in Vermont this summer.

I hadn’t realized just how just stupid Vermont lawmakers are. All food scraps must be recycled back into consumption by 2020. The best of my food scraps, after sitting on my summer porch, will help feed people, lawmakers say. Oh it’s good to be poor in Vermont.

Oh yeah, bags of trash cost an extra 25 cents to toss now, and bulk trash an extra $10 per ton. Canceling the fees for recycling is just the first step in an effort to keep everything that can be recycled or composted out of Vermont landfills by 2020, the goal of the state’s Universal Recycling law, Act 148. Mandated recyclables. (Sounds really good, except the trash haulers still pay for recyclables by weight.) Otter stuff. And this.

It is the policy of the state that food residuals collected under the requirements of this chapter shall be managed according to the following order of priority uses:
(1) Reduction of the amount generated at the source;
(2) Diversion for food consumption by humans;
(3) Diversion for agricultural use, including consumption by animals;
(4) Composting, land application, and digestion; and
(5) Energy recovery.

Back to the food on my porch. Our trash hauler retired (he didn’t want to buy a new truck to split recyclables) so we make a “dump run” every couple of weeks. In that time we fill two or three barrels with mixed recyclables and one large bag with household garbage. Uncooked chicken trimmins. The bones and skin of that small mouth bass. And the mouse I caught last Monday. Mmmm. Smells soooooo fine. Oh, my.

I good with #1. We do need to cut down on the amount of food we throw away. This is Vermont, for heaven’s sake. Thrifty farmers. Make do folk. And #3, #4, and #5 are great.

I may have to rethink this whole “used food” idea, though.


Rolled Oats

According to the NYTimes this morning, “Speaker John A. Boehner told his fellow Congressional leaders and President Obama that he did not spend 20 years working his way up to the top job on Capitol Hill just for the cachet of the title — he wanted to accomplish something big…

“The speaker’s lofty ambitions quickly crashed into the political reality of a divided, highly partisan Congress.”

Having Congress is like having 535 wives. If you think having one wife who doesn’t listen, just imagine…

That’s why I didn’t want to write about politics this morning; Washington is a fine mess. They’re smmoooooth but they just. don’t. listen.

Oatmeal raisin cookies are a significantly healthier breakfast than a smoothie.

My good friend Liz Arden had a smoothie for breakfast this morning. Despite the date, it didn’t come from the 7-11. She blended her own rolled oats, cranberry juice, yoghurt, fruits, and protein powder. She says it tastes like ice cream. Really? We’re alone here but this is a family column so I can’t tell you what that particular flavor and texture combination evoked. I can say that acrid, gooey, whitish, slime doesn’t seem all that appetizing to me.

Anyway, the rolled oats got my attention. I likes oats. That grain forms the basis for my third most favorite sandwich bread and my third most favorite cookie. We still buy Arnold Oatnut bread because I haven’t put together a recipe to bake it here at home and I’m noshing on an oatmeal raisin cookie right now.

Rolled oats. Did you ever wonder how Quaker teaches oats to roll over? Do they have classes? Do the slow oats get special tutoring while the quick oats command higher prices in the marketplace? Can oats learn to sit up and beg? Do we need to do some genetic engineering so they can shake hands?

Wikipedia reports that professional trainers should most likely instruct the oat’s owner to train his or her own flake; available group classes continue the lessons for the more mature grain. Grains can be so stick-in-the-muddish that the owner must repeat and reinforce the techniques taught in the original class.

Owners and groats who attend class together have a unique opportunity to learn each other’s likes and dislikes and how to work together to become flakes without being, well, flaky. Training is most effective if all oat handlers take part in the training to ensure consistent commands, methods, and enforcement. Classes also help socialize the flakes to the other flakes in the round cardboard shipping tube. Training classes are offered by many brands, including Better Oats, McCann’s, and Quaker.

Probably just as well that Ms. Arden had neither fresh prunes nor fresh raisins for her smoothie.

It’s all better than tipping cows, I suppose. After all, I’m pathologically parsimonious and they take umbrage at my usual 10 percent.

In the real world of agribusiness, grain processors apparently employ no private trainers. They use heavy rollers to press oat groats into flat flakes, then steam and lightly toast them.