Café à la Créole.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Links | Monday 2 May 2011 3:45 pm

Having followed one link to another, then another (as one so often does while surfing — this time while reading up on the first episode of Treme season 2),  I stumbled upon The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book.  Published in 1901, by the local New Orleans newspaper The Picayune — which would eventually become the Times Picayune — it is a moment in time captured in amber, one that some might even consider quaint, and makes me a little homesick just reading it.  The book was reprinted a multitude of times from 1901 to 1922, then picked up by a different publisher then put into print again in 1971, and again in 2002, as an “unabridged republication”, which basically means it’s a step up from a photocopy of the original 1901 book.  I think I need to have a copy in my library (even though it is available online for free as the copyright has long since expired and it has become part of the public domain).

The book opens with a manifesto on coffee, specifically Café à la Créole (um… Creole Coffee), and won my little obsessive-compulsive, devil in the details, coffee-loving heart in an instant.   Here is the first chapter in all its coffee-worshiping glory, reformatted for ease of reading.

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CHAPTER 1

CREOLE COFFEE

Café à la Créole

A good cup of Creole Coffee!

Is there anything in the whole range of food substances to be compared with it?  And is there any city in the world where coffee is so delightfully concocted as in New Orleans?  Travelers the world over unite in praise of Creole Coffee, or “Café à la Créole,” as they are fond of putting it.  The Creole cuisiniéres succeeded far beyond even the famous chefs of France in discovering the secret of good coffee-making, and they have never yielded the palm of victory.  There is no place in the world in which the use of coffee is more general than in the old Creole city of New Orleans, where, from the famous French Market, with its world-renowned coffee stands, to the olden homes on the Bayou St. John, from Lake Pontchatrain to the verge of Southport.  The cup of “Café Noir,” or “Café au Lait,” at morning, at noon and at night, has become a necessary and delightful part of the life of the people, and the wonder and the joy of visitors.

The morning cup of Café Noir is an integral part of the life of a Creole household.  The Creoles hold as a physiological fact that this custom contributes to longevity, and point, day after day, to examples of old men and women of fourscore, and over, who attest to the powerful aid they have received through life from a good, fragrant cup of coffee in the early morning.  The ancient residents hold, too, that, after a hearty meal, a cup of “Café Noir,” or black coffee, will relieve the sense of oppression so apt to he experienced, and enables the stomach to perform its functions with greater facility.  Café Noir is known, too, as one of the best preventives of infectious diseases, and the ancient Creole physicians never used any other deodorizer than passing a chafing dish with burning grains of coffee through the room.  As an antidote for poison, the uses of coffee are too well known to be dilated upon.

Coffee is also the greatest brain food and stimulant known.  Men of science, poets and scholars and journalists, have testified to its beneficial effects.  Coffee supported the old age of Voltaire, and enabled Fountenelle to reach his one hundredth birthday.  Charles Gayarre, the illustrious Louisiana historian, at the advanced age of eighty, paid tribute to the Créole cup of “Café Noir.”  Among advanced scientists it is rapidly taking the place of digitalis in the treatment of certain cardiac affections, and the basis of black coffee, “caffeine,” enters largely into medicinal compositions.  Coffee is now classed by physicians as an auxiliary food substance, as retarding the waste of nerve tissue and acting with peculiarly strengthening effect upon the nervous and vascular system.

How important, then, is the art of making good coffee, entering, as it does, so largely into the daily life of the American people. There is no reason why the secret should be confined to any section or city; but, with a little care and attention, every household in the land may enjoy its morning or after-dinner cup of coffee with as much real pleasure as the Creoles of New Orleans and the thousands of visitors who yearly migrate to this old Franco-Spanish city.

It is, therefore, with pardonable pride that the Picayune begins this Creole Cook Book by introducing its readers into a typical Creole kitchen, where “Tante Zoé,” in the early morning hour, in her quaint, guinea-blue dress and bandana “tignon,“ is carefully concocting the morning cup of…

CAFÉ NOIR.

And first she will tell you, this old Créole Négresse, as she busies herself parching to a beautiful brown the morning portion of green coffee, that the secret of good coffee lies in harvesting…

The Best Ingredients and in the Proper making.

By the best ingredients, she means those delightful coffees grown on well watered mountain slopes, such as the famous Java and Mocha coffees.  It must be of the best quality, the Mocha and Java mixed producing a concoction of a most delightful aroma and stimulating effect.  She will tell you, too, that one of the first essentials is to “Parch the Coffee Grains Just Before Making the Coffee,” because coffee that has been long parched and left standing loses its flavor and strength.  The coffee grains should “Be Roasted to a Rich Brown,” and never allowed to scorch or burn, otherwise the flavor of the coffee is at once affected or destroyed.  Good coffee should never he boiled.  Bear this in mind, that the GOOD CREOLE COOK NEVER BOILS COFFEE; but insists on dripping it, in a covered strainer, slowly, slowly-DRIP, DRIP, DRIP – till all the flavor is extracted.

To reach this desired end, immediately after the coffee has been roasted and allowed to cool in a covered dish, so that none of the flavor will escape, the coffee is ground – neither too fine, for that will make the coffee dreggy; nor too coarse, for that prevents the escape of the full strength of the coffee juice – but a careful medium proportion, which will not allow the hot water pouring to run rapidly through, but which will admit of the water percolating slowly through and through the grounds, extracting every bit of the strength and aroma, and falling steadily with “a drip! drip!”into the coffee pot.

To make good coffee, the water must be “freshly boiled,” and must never be poured upon the grounds until it has reached the good boiling point, otherwise the flavor is destroyed, and subsequent pourings of boiling water can never quite succeed in extracting the superb strength and aroma which distinguish the good cup of coffee.

It is of the greatest importance that “The Coffee Pot Be Kept Perfectly Clean,” and the good cook will bear in mind that absolute cleanliness is as necessary for the “interior” of the coffee pot as for the shining “exterior.”  This fact is one too commonly overlooked, and yet the coffee pot requires more than ordinary care, for the reason that the chemical action of the coffee upon the tin or agate tends to create a substance which collects and clings to every crevice and seam, and, naturally, in the course of time will affect the flavor of the coffee most peculiarly and unpleasantly.  Very often the fact that the coffee tastes bitter or muddy arises from this fact.  The “inside” of the coffee pot should, therefore, be washed as carefully “every day” as the outside.

Having observed these conditions, proceed to make the coffee according to the following unfailing…

Creole Rule.

Have the water heated to a good boil.  Set the coffee pot in front of the stove; never on top, as the coffee will boil, and then the taste is destroyed.

Allow one cup, or the ordinary mill, of coffee to make four good cups of the liquid, ground and put in the strainer, being careful to keep both the strainer and the spout of the coffee pot covered, to prevent the flavor from escaping.  Pour, first, about two tablespoonfuls of the boiling water on the coffee grounds, or, according to the quantity of coffee used, just sufficient to settle the grounds.  Walt about five minutes; then pour a little more water, and allow it to drip slowly through, but never pour water the second time until the grounds have ceased to puff or bubble, as this is an indication that the grounds have settled.  Keep pouring slowly, at intervals, a little boiling water at a time, until the delightful aroma of the coffee begins to escape from the closed spout of the coffee pot.  If the coffee dyes the cup, it is a little too strong; but do not go far beyond this, or the coffee will be too weak.  When you have produced a rich, fragrant concoction, whose delightful aroma, filling the room, is a constant, tempting invitation to taste it, serve in fine china cups, using in preference loaf sugar for sweetening.  You have then a real cup of the famous Creole Café Noir, so extensively used at morning dawn, at breakfast, and as the “after-dinner cup.”

If the coffee appears muddy, or not clear, some of the old Creoles drop a piece of charcoal an inch thick into the water, which settles it and at once makes it clear. Demonstrations prove that strength remains in the coffee grounds.  A matter of economy in making coffee is to save the grounds from the meal or day before, and boil these in a half gallon of water.  Settle the grounds by dropping two or three drops of cold water in, and pour the water over the fresh grounds.  This is a suggestion that rich and poor might heed with profit.

CAFE AU LAIT.

Proceed in the same manner as in the making of “Café Noir,” allowing the usual quantity of boiling water to the amount of coffee used.  When made, pour the coffee into delicate china cups, allowing a half cup of coffee to each cup.  Serve, at the same time, a small pitcher of very sweet and fresh cream, allowing a half cup of cream to a half cup of coffee.  The milk should always be boiled, and the cream very hot.  If the cream is not fresh and sweet, it will curdle the coffee, by reason of the heat.  Café au Lait is a great breakfast drink in New Orleans, while Café Noir is more generally the early morning and the afternoon drink.

Having thus bid its readers “Good morning,” and drank with them a cup of Café Noir, the Picayune will proceed to discuss Creole Cookery in all its forms, from soup “à la Créole” to “pacandes amandes” and “pralines.”

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The Texas Baker’s Bill… Forward Momentum!

Posted by DmentD | Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Wednesday 27 April 2011 1:31 pm

Texas House of Representatives Bill #HB2084 (cottage foods, raw milk availability at a wider range of venues, Farmer’s Market support, etc) has been voted out of committee and is on its way to the House to (hopefully) be voted on.  Previously there were two bills supporting a Cottage Food industry in Texas — HB1139 and HB2084 — but HB2084 is the one that apparently got the most attention and support, so we’ll take any progress we can get.

This is the result of a lot of support from individuals contacting their Representatives and the Public Health Committee, and showing up at the public hearing for the bill and putting their names down in support.  This is way further than the bill got two years ago.

Now that the bill is out of committee, the broader membership of the Texas House of Representatives needs to be poked by their constituents, to be let known that they should support HB2084 when it comes up for a vote.  Again, the power of individuals holds a lot of weight here, and if enough noise is made the Representatives may just get the hint that the people they represent think something is important.  An individual voice doesn’t make a lot of noise, but thousands of them added together can raise a din and will start to get attention.

I am asking that you guys email, call, write… whatever, just reach out to your Representative and let them know you want them to support HB2084.  You can figure out who your Rep is HERE . While you’re at it, ask them to sign on as a Joint Author or Co-Author to show their support.  Forward this info to anyone you think may be willing to help out.

If the bill passes the House, we get to start over again with the Senate, but it’ll be a slightly easier road as it will already have momentum.  You can look forward to us bugging you again when that time comes.  *grins*

If this bill makes it through the House and Senate, this opens up a greater opportunity for Sweets to get the bakery business off the ground, legally and without the obnoxious start-up expenses it would take to operate out of a commercial kitchen environment – this would be a happy middle step on the way to that goal.  If you’ve enjoyed any of the yummy baked goods I’ve brought around, consider being able to get them all the time, and having that deliciousness unleashed in Austin.  Consider those treats you’ve already consumed as a down-payment on your willing cooperation in this matter. *grins* A lot of you aren’t very civic minded, so don’t do this for the greater good… do it for Sweets’ and mine.  It’ll only take a few minutes of your time.

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A Further Call To Arms! The Texas Baker’s Bill. Again.

Posted by DmentD | Aggravation,Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Monday 11 April 2011 1:05 pm

Well, the Cottage Food Bill is getting the runaround in the Texas Legislature again this year, and time is rapidly running out.  Shenanigans and stalling tactics, and it looks to be Rep. Lois Kolkhorst who has parked it in limbo again.  This blows.

So, the folks behind the bill are urging everyone to step up the game and contact (call and email) all the members of the Public Health Committee — the committee where the bill is stalled out, and that Rep. Kolkhorst is the Chair of.  They also encourage everyone to contact Rep. Joe Straus (Speaker of the House), Gov. Rick PerryLt. Governor David Dewhurst, and anyone else who will listen.

The email I wrote follows, if anyone is interested.  The full list of email addresses for the Public Health Committee is as follows (easy to just copy and paste as needed):

Lois.Kolkhorst@house.state.tx.us; Elliott.Naishtat@house.state.tx.us; Carol.Alvarado@house.state.tx.us; Garnet.Coleman@house.state.tx.us; Sarah.Davis@house.state.tx.us; Veronica.Gonzales@house.state.tx.us; Susan.King@house.state.tx.us; Jodie.Laubenberg@house.state.tx.us; Charles.Schwertner@house.state.tx.us; Vicki.Truitt@house.state.tx.us; John.Zerwas@house.state.tx.us;

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Dear members of the Public Health Committee,

In 2009 a bill was introduced into committee to provide for residential kitchens to legally produce low-risk baked goods — such as cakes and cookies, jams and preserves — and sell them directly to the public.  This bill stalled out in committee, essentially “dying on the vine” before it could even be considered for further action or a vote.

This year the community of Texas home bakers wishing to take their first steps into the light of legal enrichment tried again, and HB1139 was authored and introduced by Representative Eddie Rodriguez.  HB1139, after much outpouring of support from constituents from around the state, has picked up another author — Representative Coleman — and five additional co-authors —  Representatives Gallego, Gonzales, Jackson, Laubenberg & Schwertner (many of which are actually members of the Public Health Committee).  Additionally, and inexplicably, Representative Lois Kolkhorst, the committee Chair, has filed a similar bill in parallel, HB2084.

HB1139 was filed on February 7, then read and referred to the Public Health Committee on February 27.  Calls have been made and letters have been written in enthusiastic support to the various Texas Representatives by their constituents wishing to see HB1139 passed.  There has been copious media and internet coverage in support of this bill.  Social networks have been buzzing for months about this.

Unfortunately, both bills still wither on the vine, and as in 2009 Representative Lois Kolkhorst appears to be the leading source of the roadblock, while her parallel bill appears to be an attempt to dilute the impact of the original.  We, who have been following with great interest, have repeatedly been fed promises of “next week”, and “soon”, and we’re growing a little weary of being put off with friendly words and a smile.  This gives off the whiff of a stalling tactic so that these bills will just disappear once more, buried, while the public that yearn for it are placated like so many noisy children.

There are eighteen other States that have passed Cottage Food Laws, the most recent being Arizona in February 2011.  There a five other States considering Cottage Food Laws right now.  Why are we not being allowed to join their ranks, granting an opportunity for financial independence for individuals and culinary diversity?

The passing of a Cottage Food Law will allow individuals and small groups of home bakers to generate revenue in this otherwise tepid economical landscape.  That revenue is subject to local sales tax (more money for the State!), income tax, and spending cash in the pockets of the bakers themselves to help stimulate the local economies.  It would help build small businesses that may one day flourish into larger enterprises, creating even more jobs and revenue along the way.  It would allow individuals to ply a trade they truly enjoy, flexing their creative culinary skills, making for a happier person.  It would allow people to fulfill their dreams, to be independent, and to do what they love.

I can’t speak for the rest of Texas, but Austin is fiercely proud of its reputation for locally owned and operated businesses and the eclectic atmosphere that comes when the majority of the shops are run by individuals and not mega-corporations and chains.  Think of the vast variety of tastes and styles, ethnic and cultural confections that only ever get served up at the family table… then imagine those miraculously being available in farmer’s markets and little stalls and shops around town, all across the State.

Don’t allow the Committee to let this pass by — again — without giving it a chance to flourish.  I ask that you reach out to them and encourage the members of the Committee to nurture these seeds, water and feed them, bring them into the light of day and let them ripen into a glorious opportunity for individuals and the State of Texas.  They should bring this bill into the light and let the House have a chance to put it to a vote.  Please do your part and give these bills some forward momentum.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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Esme The Pup.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,Family,Pictures | Sunday 6 March 2011 6:00 pm

Well, we sure didn’t waste much time, did we?  *grins* We said we would start visiting the shelters once we got back from England (as in starting after a week or so) to see if we could find a pup to adopt, but first we needed to start gathering a few things to be prepared — general stuff like leashes, toys, bedding, etc., with the stuff that is specific to the size of the pup (both as a pup, and as it grows) to come once we adopted.

Saturday started with a nice long lay-in after traveling all day Friday (between the drive to Heathrow Airport, the flight, and the drive back into Austin from Houston, we were on the move for about 21 hours), and then a good breakfast.  We had planned a lazy day in, but we realized we needed some essentials around the house, so we decided to stop at the grocery store… but first, what harm in heading to the pet shop to start gathering the puppy basics?

Stopped in, lazily wandered up and down the isles and picked out a few generic items.  Gathered a few brochures on the obedience classes, played nice for a few minutes with the Shetland pony… I mean Great Dane that someone brought in with them for obedience class, and checked out.  Walked out of the store, and one of the local shelters had set up shop outside with a host of dogs in gated pens… we see them all the time outside the big pet stores, typically fund raising, and if possible, finding homes for some of their pups.  They were one of the rescue shelters that often takes dogs from the one “kill shelter” in town to keep them from being put down just because they weren’t adopted in a timely fashion. We, being in a particularly doggy mood, decided to stop and say hello to some of the dogs.

It seemed the usual compliment of slightly older dogs, until we got down to the end of the line — there, playing together, were two young pups.  They had to be from the same litter, as they had the same brindle coat (brown with black tiger-like stripes), and similar features — they seemed to be a mix of catahoula, terrier, and a pinch of some breed of hound.  One, the male, had a black nose with a white bib and feet, the other, the female had a white nose with a white bib and feet.  The second we reached in to pet them, they took note and started licking our hands, happily sitting calmly to let us scratch their ears and chins.  They were energetic, but not hyperactive, playful, and had a good spark of intelligence in their eyes.  We asked the keeper how old they were, and she told us they were 2 months.

I turned to look at Sweets, and knew that she fell in love the instant I did.  I straightened up and asked her simply “which one?”, and she smiled and told me “the girl”.  I nodded, because she was the one I had picked out too.  We spoke with the keeper to get more details.  The pups were spayed/neutered already, were as up-to-date on their shots as they can be at this age, had been de-wormed, and were perfectly healthy — we have paperwork on every veterinary procedure performed (shots and all).  They would come with a 30-day “insurance” plan, and the shelter would always be available to take any of their adopted dogs back should adopters ever decide they’d rather not keep them.  We filled out the paperwork, went over a zillion details on what vet procedures were needed (booster shots, and once she’s of age, rabies/distemper/parvo shots, etc), heartworm, training etc.  We paid the nicely inexpensive fee, and we had ourselves a new pup.  *grins*

We put her in a shopping cart, and promptly went back into the store to get the rest of the necessities.  She was well behaved, and was showered with attention from everyone we passed.  We brought her home, and were bonding with her all night.  She’s very mellow with bursts of puppy enthusiasm, and will roll over to have her belly pet if you so much as look at her.  She’s starting to get used to the leash… a bit, anyway.  Someone has taught her to sit, as she does it frequently in response to treat offers or going outside.  She’s got no problems being handled or touched — I’ve played with her feet, ears, mouth, tail and she hasn’t so much as twitched.  She’s a relatively quiet pup too.

She’ll grow to be a little bigger than we had originally decided we wanted our full-grown dog to be, but not much more… we estimate she’ll be in the 30-40 lb range.  Her shelter name was “Rosie”, but we think she’s going to be “Esme” (after Esmeralda “Esme” Weatherwax, one of the witches in the Discworld series of books).  She’s absolutely adorable, and spent a fair bit of time snuggled against me on the floor as we watched a bit of TV.

Today we cleaned up the yard and ensured it was as pup friendly as it can be so we can let her out — supervised of course — with a bit of freedom from the leash.  We’ve started positive reinforcement training already, and we’ll soon be shortly attending some new-pup obedience classes.  We started researching behavioral training months ago, in addition to learning what to expect, and what is expected of us.

I have been told by a source (that I shall leave unnamed) that she is cute, as all puppies and babies are cute, but that she is not beautiful, and that she will grow to be an ugly massive hound.  I ask you, how can that be said of this bundle of fur.


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Texas Cottage Food Bill Update.

Posted by DmentD | Links,Reflection | Wednesday 23 February 2011 12:12 pm

As posted on Curious Confections:

I saw this statement go up on Lauren Kitchens’ FB page, it’s such a thoughtful and generous piece for the community trying to pass the bill that I had to copy it here for all the people who haven’t seen it or aren’t on FB.

It’s never a fun thing to have to set the record straight, to be misquoted or misrepresented.

But this is where I find myself. An article about the Texas Baker’s Bill was recently published in the Houston Press and Dallas Observer, which unjustly claimed that I do not support the bill. That claim was false and careless, and the newspapers have posted corrections. But too little, too late.

However, all dark clouds have a silver lining, and this event has allowed me to be open and honest about a very delicate issue that I have not thought much about in the past.

The Texas Baker’s Bill is a cottage food bill going through the Texas Legislature that would allow home cake decorators in Texas to operate legitimate bakeries in their home. This bill has not passed the House yet, but support for and against is strong. Many Texas cake decorators have asked my position on this bill and it’s time they knew how I felt.

Upon graduating from college, I was faced with the question all young adults must answer. Now what am I supposed to do? I have always loved decorating cakes, and so I began making cakes out of my parent’s home kitchen.

After a few years, with no responsibilities of marriage or children, I took the plunge and got a Small Business Loan in the fall of 2001. I opened my commercial kitchen/wedding cake boutique in Dallas in the Spring of 2002. I was the beneficiary of perfect timing and opportunity.

In today’s climate, it is next to impossible to get a loan for any business. And with the economy still in the grip of recession, it seems foolish to drop $100,000 to set up a commercial kitchen with no guarantee of success. This should not be regarded as laziness on the behalf of those who do not benefit from the luck of my timing.

Home cake decorators find themselves in a trap. How do I make an income and further my skills as a cake decorator legally? It’s frustrating. I’ve been there. But I had the means to legitimize my business without having to pass state legislation. Most home bakers do not. And for this, I am extremely sympathetic.

Honestly, I had not read the bill until five days ago. And I took no public position on the matter. At first hearing, I thought the bill was a demand for home bakers to slip past the rules without going through the difficulties I went through as a start-up bakery, or the difficulties I go through as a bakery owner today. But upon reading the bill and talking to people all over the state, I see now that it fairly gives home bakers a legitimacy that they deserve.

The bill would enforce several restrictive demands on the home baker. It forces the home baker to become licensed and to pay a yearly fee, as well as a get food manager’s license. The bill forces the home baker to provide proper food labeling for any product they sell, which is something that I am not forced to do. They are even required to label their product as “made in a home kitchen that is not routinely inspected by a local health authority.”

The bill restricts home bakers on how they can sell their product and to whom they can sell it to. There is also a large portion of the bill devoted to whistle blowing, stating that they may easily be held accountable to the state health department.

Seems fair, doesn’t it?

For those in the professional world who ask, why should we legitimize home-based food service? My answer to that is simple. Why wouldn’t we support a bill that legitimizes and regulates food products? This bill sets standards that any food professional would hold important. And, I can say for certain that the Baker’s Bill poses no major competition for commercial bakeries. Not only does the bill set drastic limits on who the home baker may sell to, it also sets income limits. A home baker could never take on the load of a large professional kitchen with its employees, payroll, marketing costs, etc. These home-based bakers do not pose a threat to the gross sales of large commercial bakeries.

Where the client choses to purchase baked goods is essentially up to the client. If the client feels that a home kitchen is unsanitary, they can choose a bakery to purchase product. In turn, if a client feels a commercial kitchen is unsanitary, then they can choose a home-baker to purchase goods from. It’s all about the consumer’s needs, and these consumers are protected in this bill. And there is plenty of business to be had by all.

I am, at heart, a home cake decorator. Home is where I found my passion and nurtured it. Home is where my roots as a bakery owner began. Fancy Cakes by Lauren is a successful small business in Dallas and I am in my 10th year as a proud owner. None of this would have happened if I had not started at home.

We live in a country of choices. We can choose who to vote for, what religion to practice, and we can make life choices that affect our families. The home baker has no choice but to work in the dark. They are screaming for legitimacy and need to be commended for seeking out regulation and guidelines under which they can be held accountable. The bill needs to pass not only for these important standards, but also for these people who dedicate their lives for the betterment of our art. And I am forever respectful of their struggle and efforts to get this legislation passed.

Here is my official stance:

My name is Lauren Kitchens. I am a Texas business owner and a professional in the food service industry. And I support the Texas Baker’s Bill.

In an unrelated note(except in terms of the bill), the bill has gained two co-authors (to a total of three authors now), both of whom are on the Public Health Committee. They are both Republican which makes the bill bi-partisan, in terms of political ‘oomph’ that’s quite significant so our thanks to those guys for supporting the bill!

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A Call To Arms! The Texas Baker’s Bill.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Family,Friends,Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Friday 11 February 2011 8:09 pm

Yeah, I know, I’m likely to catch hell from you guys for this… but it’s worth it if it helps at all.

I spammed y’all in 2009 about this, but it’s come full circle again in 2011 – the Texas Cottage Food Law.  Currently it’s illegal in Texas for the operation of a food-based business from a residential kitchen, even if it’s “non-potentially hazardous” foods that are at a low risk for spoilage, specifically bakery products and some other foods — jams, jellies, and salsas — that are considered low-risk for spoilage because they are not able to support the growth of potentially harmful organisms and do not require refrigeration.  This makes it prohibitively expensive and complex to start up a small bakery business. The passing of this bill would allow, with appropriate licensing, home-based bakery style businesses.

Most anyone reading this post knows a married couple in Texas that have been trying to quietly drum up business while flying below the radar for some time now.  They can’t really advertise, as that would call unwanted attention to them, so it’s all word of mouth.  They can’t approach places like coffee houses or other little retail establishments to get them to buy their goods, can’t get a stall at a farmer’s market, etc.  Which means that growth is negligible.  If the Cottage Food Law passes, They could (as early as September) get started making a lot of noise and picking up some business.

What does this mean to everyone?  Well, to get the bill passed, those of you living in Texas have to let legislators know that they want them to support it, and to do that folks need to call and/or write them.  There is a site out there with info on the bill, and what to do/how to help.

Texas Cottage Food Law (they’re on Facebook too).

Those good folks are even providing a letter template, the best way to conduct yourself on the call, along with how to find who your local legislators are.

Even if you don’t intend to actually call or write (and I heartily encourage you to do so!), maybe you could pass the information along – email, Facebook, Twitter (there is a hashtag group on twitter — #texasbakersbill — so follow/use that if you go that route), etc.  The more people who know about it, the greater the percentage of people who will call/write.  C’mon, this is the modern age, and social networking rules the land… there’s no reason this information can’t be spread far and wide in relatively no time at all.

The passing of this bill will allow individuals and small groups of home bakers to generate some revenue in this otherwise tepid economical landscape.  That revenue is subject to local sales tax (more money for the Texas state coffers!), income tax (moolah for the Feds!), and spending cash in the pockets of the bakers themselves to help stimulate the local economy.  It would help build small businesses that may one day flourish into larger enterprises, creating even more jobs and revenue along the way. It would allow individuals to ply a trade they truly enjoy, flexing their creative culinary skills, making for a happier person.

I can’t speak for the rest of Texas, but Austin is fiercely proud of it’s reputation for locally owned and operated businesses and the eclectic atmosphere that comes when the majority of the shops are run by individuals and not mega-corporations and chains.  Think of the vast variety of tastes and styles, ethnic and cultural confections that only ever get served up at the family table… then imagine those miraculously being available in farmer’s markets and little stalls and shops around town, all across the State.

It was once stated (quite sadly by a member of the committee with her hands on the bill in 2009 — her name rhymes with “Lois W. Kolkhorst“) that home baking businesses were “the worst kept secret” in Texas, and it was asked why there was need for a law to make it legal?  Go ahead and read this post from the beginning again, I think I’ve covered that quite nicely already.  Seriously, who would oppose passing a law to let people come out of hiding, become legitimate, start paying taxes and earning income above board?  These legislators have other agendas… they simply must.

The bill has been filed with the Texas House of Representatives — HB1139here’s the text of it.  The next step is for it to get assigned to a committee, then read before that committee (which, by the way, is open to the public… so why not show up in support of it?).  Then it goes up for a vote, and if that works out well it gets passed to the Texas Senate to be voted on.

So, Texans (and family of Texans who can poke their kin with a sharp stick for us), we need to be BIG and LOUD about this.  This needs to be more than just a fart in a hurricane.  Put it on the radar of your legislators.  Make yourself heard, dammit!

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Stranger In A Strange Land.

Posted by DmentD | Reflection | Friday 31 December 2010 10:59 am

“Ben, the foulest sinner of all is the hypocrite who makes a racket of religion.  But we must give the Devil his due.  Mike does believe in his ‘Old Ones,’ I don’t know that they don’t exist; I simply find the idea hard to swallow.  As for his Thou-Art-God creed, it is neither more nor less credible than any other.  Come Judgment Day, if they hold it, we may find that Mumbo Jumbo the God of the Congo was the Big Boss all along.”

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Jubal!”

“All names belong in the hat, Ben.  Man is so built that he cannot imagine his own death.  That leads to endless invention of religions.  While this conviction by no means proves immortality to be a fact, questions generated by it are overwhelmingly important.  The nature of life, how the ego hooks into the body, the problem of the ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe — these are paramount questions Ben; they can never be trivial.  Science hasn’t solved them — and who am I to sneer at religions for trying, no matter how unconvincingly to me?  Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can’t rule him out because he owns no fancy cathedrals.  Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah.  The only religious opinion that I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!”

“Whew! Jubal, you should have been a preacher.”

“Missed it by luck.  If Mike can show us a better way to run this fouled-up planet, his sex life needs no vindication.  Geniuses are justifiably contemptuous of lesser opinion and are always indifferent to sexual customs of the tribe; they make their own rules.  Mike is a genius.  So he ignores Mrs. Grundy and diddles to suit himself.

“But from a theological standpoint Mike’s sexual behavior is as orthodox as Santa Claus.  He preaches that all living creatures are collectively God … which makes Mike and his disciples the only self-aware gods on this planet … which rates him a union card by the rules for godding.  Those rules always permit gods sexual freedom limited only by their own judgment.

“You want proof?  Leda and the Swan?  Europa and the Bull?  Osiris, Isis, and Horus?  The incredible incestuous games of the Norse gods?  I won’t cite eastern religions; their gods do things that a mink breeder wouldn’t tolerate.  But look at the relations of the Trinity-in-One of the most widely respected western religion.  The only way that religion’s precepts can be reconciled with the interrelations of what purports to be a monotheos is by concluding that the breeding rules for deity are not the rules for mortals.  But most people never think about it; they seal it off and mark it: ‘Holy – Do Not Disturb.’

“One must allow Mike any dispensation granted all other gods.  One god alone splits into at least two parts, and breeds, not just Jehovah — they all do.  A group of gods will breed like rabbits, and with as little regard for human proprieties.  Once Mike entered the godding business, those orgies were as predictable as sunrise — so forget the standards of Podunk and judge them by Olympian morals — I think you will then find that they are showing unusual restraint.”

– Jubal Harshaw – Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

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Happy Holiday Name Of Your Choice.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Links | Friday 24 December 2010 11:23 am

Hope your festive season brings you warmth, sanity and cheer.  Here’s a little cheer to get you started.

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Wine Bottle Lamps.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures | Saturday 20 November 2010 5:26 pm

I frequently run across things while surfing on the web, and say to myself “Self, wouldn’t it be cool to make that?” and that’s about where it ends.  Don’t get me wrong… I like making things, often in spite of the time and money involved versus just going out and buying something similar — it’s the ‘figuring’, you see… I like to know how something works, and what better way than to make it yourself, and even see if you can improve on a design someone else has come up with.

Recently, a project did catch my eye — something that struck chord in my brain upon first sight.  I stumbled upon THIS page on how to build an oil lamp from an empty wine bottle.  I thought it was elegant, and would work fantastically well to replace the old (and leaky in one case) tiki-style torches I have on the patio, and wouldn’t cost too terribly much to do.  Here’s the basics of what you’ll need (the image and list are blatantly “borrowed” from the original project site):

  1. 1) Empty Wine Bottle (You can use any bottle you like as long as it’s glass and the neck is 1” in diameter. Be clever!)
  2. 2) Teflon Tape ½”
  3. 3) Copper Top Plate Connector (threaded for ⅜”-16 thread rod)
  4. 4) 1” Split Ring Hanger (threaded for ⅜”-16 thread rod)
  5. 5) ½” x ⅜” Copper Coupling
  6. 6) ½” Copper Cap
  7. 7) Two Hex Nuts (threaded for ⅜”-16 thread rod)
  8. 8 ) Two #10 x 1” Zinc Plated Wood Screws (if your mounting it to wood)
  9. 9) ⅜”-16 Zinc Plated Threaded Rod (I bought a 3’ rod and cut it down to 8, 4½” rods with a hacksaw.)
  10. 10) Tiki Replacement Wick
  11. 11) Torch Fuel (For safety reasons, only use fuel made specifically for outdoor torches. i.e. Tiki brand)

Starting with that page and its core concept, I started gathering my materials.  I liked the look of the blue bottle, especially against the copper.  I gathered up some bottles from the homebrew store that suited my needs, and a stop at Lowes and Home Depot netted me most of the rest of the hardware.  No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find anyone local who had the tiki-torch wicks (this late in the season, with autumn upon us already), or the copper flanges in stock.  I turned to my trusty pal, Amazon.com, and ordered what I needed.  The flanges, while being copper colored, are just powder-coated cast metal, and not even copper plated.  If you look at the pieces on the picture above, you’ll notice they are too… but! my split ring hangers are copper plated, and will age nicely with the rest of the holders (except the flange… oh well).

I made a few improvements to the overall design.  First, rather than leave a plain ol’ threaded (non copper colored!) rod out in plain sight I sleeved it with a length of ½” copper pipe that tied the whole design together.  The hex huts actually make a nice accent color amongst all the copper and cover the open ends of the copper pipe perfectly.  Second, I soldered a length of copper chain to the cap so it won’t get lost, and put a copper clasp on the other end to easily fasten it around the neck of the bottle.  Lastly, I drilled through the ½” x ⅜” copper coupling and put a 2″ copper pin through it and the wick to keep the wick from slipping down into the bottle accidentally — I found that the wicks were just a hair narrower than they needed to be to actually stay put in the coupler by themselves.

That addressed the lamps I wanted to mount to the house around the perimeter of the patio, but I still wanted one out on the corner by the yard.  With nothing to mount it to, I set out to build a stand.  Keeping with the copper theme, I used ⅜” copper tubing to build the holder cage, flattening the tube in a vice to make the flat pieces where needed, and ½” copper pipe and fittings to make the stake from.  I even built in a cross-piece at the bottom so I could use my foot the help sink the stake into the ground.

Filled with a Citronella lamp fuel (which is yellow, and is what is making the blue bottles look a little green) they make a nice attractive addition to the patio, and will help fend off flying critters as well.

Also, as a bonus, the same concept can be applied to making attractive wall hanging flower vases.  Check out the how-to HERE.

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Spam Theater.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Site | Wednesday 17 November 2010 11:03 am

Sometimes the most unintentionally amusing items come through the spam filter on this site… almost universally as a result of the translation from whatever language they were written in.  Thought I’d share this one (for some reason I imagine someone in a smoking jacket, wearing a monocle):

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