’17 A To Z Challenge – P

Challenge2017

letter-p

Only because I let him, my dog eats

Peanut Butter

PEANUT BUTTER

Born a slave, George Washington Carver spent his life improving the peanut plant, and championing its uses and the planting of it as a crop in the Southern U.S. Like the oats which made Scottish warriors the men they were, one of his best reasons was that peanuts were a cheap, plentiful food for Negroes, rich in protein and other nutrients.

The peanut plant is a nitrogen-fixing legume which fertilized and re-enriched soil made poor from constant growing of cotton. While he sometimes took public credit for the discoveries of others, aside from the food value of peanuts, Carver found many uses for the nuts and plant.

Peanuts have a variety of industrial end uses. Paint, varnish, lubricating oil, leather dressings, furniture polish, insecticides, and nitroglycerin are made from peanut oil. Soap is made from saponified oil, and many cosmetics contain peanut oil and its derivatives. The protein portion is used in the manufacture of some textile fibers. Peanut shells are used in the manufacture of plastic, wallboard, abrasives, fuel, cellulose (used in rayon and paper), and mucilage (glue).

The food value was where Carver concentrated. He published a small brochure, listing 105 recipes/uses for peanuts.  One of the greatest things to come from peanuts, is peanut butter.  I dig a small dollop onto the tip of a kitchen knife, and dip the dog’s daily antihistamine pill in it.

Peanut butter is just basically finely ground peanuts, although commercial producers add sugars, salt and stabilizers. In my little neck of the universe, in the late 1940s and ‘50s, we still had to stir jars of peanut butter, because the oils would separate out.

In 1922, a chemist developed a process for homogenizing it. In 1928, he sold the rights to a company which marketed it as ‘Peter Pan.’  Apparently before conflict of interest/competition contracts, in 1932, he began producing his own peanut butter under the name ‘Skippy.’  Later, he churned in recovered peanut bits, creating the first chunky peanut butter.

For reasons unknown to me, the son recently stirred the top half of a new jar. Apparently that negates the homogenizing effect, and now the oils must be stirred back in each time we open it.  It also changed the peanut butter from a semi-solid paste, to a drippy sauce.  You have to move quickly to get it where it’s going, or have it run off the knife, onto the kitchen counter.

Peanut butter….it goes anywhere, any time –white bread, rye, bagels, plain or toasted, crackers. It finds its way into Thai food with peanut sauce.  It goes with anything….spread it along with honey, or jam, (Good Old P. B. & J!)  Elvis Presley used to like it in peanut butter and banana sandwiches – although he wanted the bananas mushed, and the assembly fried, like a grilled cheese.

Me? I slice a banana into 3 slabs, lengthwise, and lay it over the PB, on toast – usually rye.  On white toast, I slather Miracle Whip on top of the PB.  It has a spicier taste than plain mayo, and sets off the peanut butter’s taste.  You Americans don’t know what you’re missing.  Then again, I’ve been known to put catsup ketchup, even my Spicy Ketchup, as a spread on toast, and you’ve been lucky enough to miss that, too.

I gotta go check with my bathroom scale, to see if I’m allowed some peanut butter and rye crackers as a snack today. The dog is already looking at me suspiciously.  How about you guys??  Eat it?  Leave it?  Like it?  Hate it?  Partner it with what??  😕

Advertisements

Flash Fiction #138

Confession

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

TAKING CONFESSIONS

Mom told him that college would be different and difficult.

It started innocently enough. He and his three friends, sharing an apartment – his stuff, their stuff – his food, their food.  Then one night, he had crackers….but only Marco had peanut butter.  Take a little now, and replace it after shopping tomorrow.  Only, he spent all evening at the library, and stores were closed.

Well, use a bit more, and shop for sure tomorrow. He came home empty-handed to Marco threatening to discover and beat whoever was stealing his food.

Confession is good for the soul. It’s time to come clean.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Oh, Rats!

Rat

I smell a rat…. if only I could get my cats to do the same.

In our utility room, which is stuffed to the gills with various types of food – bags of dog, and cat kibble, potato chips, egg noodles, dried peas and beans, and individual packets of hot chocolate powder began developing holes.

Oh-oh, we have a mouse.  There were two things wrong with that assumption.  It wasn’t a, and it wasn’t mouse.  A suddenly-turned-on light eventually revealed a scuttling little fur ball that definitely was a rat.

How do rats get into your house?? I don’t know about yours, but mine has a flexible, 3-inch tube, from the bottom of a window well, down to the furnace, to provide air for combustion.  It’s supposed to have a steel-wire grate in it, but rats have teeth and jaws that can chew a hole in the side of a Buick.

Rat Trap 1

Food was moved, and placed in Tupperware, Rubbermaid, and Zip-Loc containers, and an unused steel canister set. Boxes of cereal went back into plastic store bags and got hung from water pipes on the ceiling, so that they couldn’t be reached.  A large plastic tote box was purchased, to safeguard my nachos.  I went to a hardware store to purchase a rat trap, thinking I’d get one like the  super-sized mouse trap, above.

Rat Trap 2

They’re not sold around here anymore. What I got, for $12, was a plastic, Hungry, Hungry Hippos kind of thing.  I baited it with peanut butter and oatmeal flakes.  Neither rats nor mice particularly like cheese.  After a week of no results, I went to a different chain store, and got one for $6 that was more like I had in mind, and safer/easier to set.

Rat Trap 3

After a week of two traps, the newer one yielded a body. I think it was a female, but I didn’t spread her little legs to find out.  A week later the Tonka Toy trap snagged an adolescent.  (Oh goody!  If they’re breeding, I’ll never get rid of them all.)

Two more weeks passed. We knew there was still at least one more, because we could hear scratching as we sat quietly reading.  At last the new trap caught another supposed female, but the next day, as I entered the storage room, I saw a larger male shinny up a water pipe, and disappear behind the fibreglass insulation.

A whole month passed, with nothing on the trap line, only scratching from the basement. I moved the traps from time to time, especially near the boxes of cornmeal muffin mix that were chewed into.  I changed the bait to moist cat food – and back to peanut butter and oats.  Finally, another dead rat, but this one seemed to be another female.  Still, the rustling and scratching continued.  That male is a canny old rat.

We considered rat poison, but with 4 cats in the house, our vet discouraged us. The son told me about a DIY glue trap.  Apparently Gorilla Glue makes a super-sticky duct tape.  You can stick together a broken car bumper, and drive 75 MPH – in the rain.  Put some, sticky side up, on a piece of cardboard, place near food and hope the rat steps on it.

I don’t have Gorilla duct tape, but I do have a roll of no-sided tape that followed me home from the auto plant.  It’s pure adhesive on a roll of waxed paper.  Stick it to something like cardboard, peel the wax paper, and there’s nothing left but sticky.  I put two layers on a shoe box lid.

Mica

When I went downstairs to place it, Mica, my Fred Astaire cat, followed me down and jumped up on the freezer to demand his usual petting and skritching. While I was doing that, the dog walked in, and suddenly began barking and lunging under the shelving unit.  He crawled in and continued barking.

As I looked, I saw the rat sneak through a hole into a plastic crate, with the dog in loud pursuit. What to do?  What to do?….Throw something, and try to kill the rat….Can’t be a jar, or I’ll be cleaning up glass shards and pickled beet juice for weeks….A can! What can??  A can of soup?  Too small!  Chunky soup – the cans are twice as big and heavy.

I grabbed a large can, and watched as the rat leaked through a hole on the other side of the plastic crate. The fat little f**ker eased under a storage cabinet on casters, popped out the other side, and headed for the shelves on the other side of the room.

I flung the soup can at him, and caught him below the shoulder blades. Apparently the can wasn’t heavy enough, or I didn’t fling it hard enough.  Hurt, but possibly not damaged, he changed direction and scuttled into the corner behind the water softener and refrigerator….

….and all the while, my cat sat serenely on the freezer, calmly watching the rat disappear. We may have to have a discussion about the fine points of his contract.  It’s been two weeks since I added the glue trap to the two others and found that the son had lost a bag of Oreos.  Who knew??  Next he’ll be down there makin’ S’mores.

Google says that a rat can live for 2 to 5 years. This Chubby Cheese-me-off could outlive me.  Have any of you had mice or rats that you couldn’t get rid of?  Any suggestions – or sympathy?   😛

P.S.

The cats occasionally climb the shelves, and get onto the air ducts above the rec-room suspended ceiling, and play chase.  Two weeks after the above, I was quietly reading, and a chase began in the basement.

Who’s chasing who today?  Contessa’s upstairs.  Zorra’s in my lap.  Tonka’s sleeping on the couch.  Mica’s redeeming himself by chasing the rat!  Go Mica, go!  Two days later I heard faint scratching on one side of the ceiling, but nothing since, and I find no further evidence of any more food broken into.  I cross my fingers (and toes, and even my eyes) and hope.

We’re Not QUITE Hoarders

I previously published a post titled Something For Nothing, where I listed several of the things I do to conserve or make a little bit of money, to help us, and others, in our retirement.  This one shows another facet, with some ideas some of you might want to think about, and maybe try, for a couple of reasons.

Less garbage = more money!

Reduce, reuse, recycle — and reap rewards. Really!

Hoarding gets a bad rap from many.  Some are joking, but many are serious.  Some of my behaviour could raise eyebrows among the non-frugal.  I even prefer to use the word frugal, instead of cheap or miserly.

I save or scavenge things like egg cartons, coffee cans, plastic containers, cardboard boxes and large envelopes. The difference between me and a true hoarder is that I use them, instead of letting them pile up — and they save me “a significant amount of money.”  In fact, such tactics save money in several different, interrelated ways.

For example:

  • The less waste  you generate, the fewer garbage bags you have to buy, and the lower your  disposal bills might be.
  • Buying in bulk  to reduce packaging waste means you get a lower cost-per-unit price.
  • Putting  leftovers into a pickle jar or bread bag reduces the need for foil,  plastic wrap or food-storage containers.

Repurposing used to be common. Outgrown clothes were cut down for younger siblings or reborn as quilt patches. Old buildings were torn down to provide lumber for new projects. My mother poured homemade jam into peanut-butter jars (which used to be made of glass) and sealed them with wax.

These tactics work

In a post on the Silent Springs blog, Vincent Smith suggests that “more thoughtful living” could greatly reduce waste. Why do we throw away an old shirt but buy cleaning rags?  Whether your motive is saving money or saving the planet, slashing waste is a giant step in the right direction.  We do things like buying in bulk to eliminate individual packaging, packing a lunch to cut down on fast-food waste, and bringing our own water and coffee containers.  You don’t need to contribute to that trash can outside Starbucks, overflowing with single-use paper cups.

I do many of these things myself and can attest to their cost-effectiveness. A roll of aluminum foil can last us a couple of years.  A used piece is often not “dirty.”  Wipe it with a damp cloth, to clean and flatten it, and fold it, ready to hold the next sandwich, or piece of pizza. Produce and bread bags get re-used until they shred.

We repurpose empty jars for storage, buying things like spaghetti sauce in Mason-mouthed glass jars, which later hold things like bulk cornmeal.  Wide-mouth plastic jars which held cheap crackers when we bought them, now hold bread crumbs and potato flakes, for cooking.  Not that we attend them anymore, but I have found Tupperware in the free-box at yard sales. A pile of reusable shopping bags lives in a plastic shopping basket in the car trunk.

We buy in bulk when we can, and choose large sizes the rest of the time. We make our own jam (sometimes using foraged fruit).  I’ve mentioned about buying condiments like ketchup and mustard in gallon cans or jugs, and repeatedly refilling the small squeeze bottles, for a fraction of the cost.

Adding less to the problem 

Not that I’m a green saint, mind you. For example, we drink a lot of Pepsi, and buy individual yogurts, both for the wife, who has a small eating limit, and for the son to pack in his work lunch. However, we do recycle the cartons and the plastic containers.

The municipal recycling committee recently complained about the cost of sending around a truck to pick up “air.”  I stomp flat, any plastic bottles or other containers.  As three adults, we often put out less than a Blue Box full of recycling.  The two adults, and two small children next door put out three, or even four boxes every week!

Recycling is not mandatory here in Kitchener, but I can feel it coming.  All allowable organic matter goes into our composters, but the Committee is also bitching that residents are not putting out enough in the City-issued Green Bins, to cover the cost of the disposal contract, so I guess I’m not the only cheapo in the city.  Compost includes tea-bags, coffee grounds and filters, citrus rinds and banana peels.

Bananas contain magnesium.  It’s good for you, and good for plants too.  The tea and coffee contain tannic acid, which also feeds plants, and breaks down the paper to produce good, rich loam to be used in the gardens.  We buy unpeeled shrimp (when we can afford a bit), for considerably less than pre-peeled.  The wife peels them and the casings also go into compost.  As the Indians taught the Pilgrims, seafood makes rich plant food.

We use cloth bags where we can, because local cities allow stores to charge five cents each, for plastic bags. We used to use those in the cupboard-door-mounted garbage container, but recently purchased a new model, and the wife prefers to use the ones specifically intended for it.  I save bags from trips to stores and vendors who do not charge, and use them for kitty litter waste, or carrying newspapers to the crazy cat lady for flooring in her kennels.

Clean ones are flattened and folded and given to our bookstore lady, to cut down on the number of new ones she must purchase.  Soiled or torn ones are accumulated and put out with the blue box, so that someone else can melt them down and re-use the plastic to produce new products.  One of our shopping bags has a little sign on it that says, “I used to be a milk jug.”

While I don’t kid myself about saving the planet single-handedly, there is a fair amount of satisfaction in not adding to the problem any more than we must. Also, it’s nice not to have to shell out cash for things like more aluminum foil, or sandwich bags, and reduced retirement income goes a little further.