From today’s Wall Street Journal:

ADDIS ABABA—In the birthplace of coffee, a conflict is brewing over who gets Ethiopia’s best beans.

The government of this East African country wants hard dollars to build infrastructure, and so it has ambitious targets to increase coffee exports, capitalizing on world-wide demand for its high-end arabica beans.

But Ethiopians, Africa’s top coffee consumers, want to keep the beans at home. With urban incomes rising, Ethiopian drinkers increasingly want better stuff.

When coffee is drunk in excess

the caffeine can lead to distress.

No matter the bean,

it acts like benzene;

but mornings without it are less . . .


cartoon of mainlining coffee

Plant Some Backyard Fruit Trees Now for Emergencies Later!

apple tree

Fruit trees are extremely valuable to home gardeners who not only want to save money by producing more of their own food, but who also want to enjoy many more fruit varieties than are generally found at the grocery store.  By picking your fruit when it is ripe, you can enjoy the full flavor that only fruit from your own trees can offer. Commercially grown fruit is most often picked long before it is ready so that it looks ripe by the time it reaches your local grocer.  Unfortunately, that means that the fruit is lacking in both flavor and nutrients.

It’s also a prudent idea to have some fruit trees on your property in case you can’t get to the store because of a disaster or emergency. reminds you that during a crisis in your area your local grocers may not be able to supply you with fresh, reliable produce, including fruit. So why not invest in a few apple, pear, peach, or plum trees right now?

Once you have decided what kind of fruit you would like to grow and determined that there is enough sun and space, the next step is to select varieties and rootstocks that are appropriate for your situation.  Be sure to read the rootstock descriptions to choose the one that is best for your climate and soil.  The next factor is the chill hours.  Do you get enough chill (hours under 45 degrees) for the trees to set fruit?  The chill hours indicated on our website are the minimum number of hours that the trees need in order to produce fruit.  If you live in a very warm place like southern Florida, do not try to grow a 700 hour cherry because you will never get 700 chilling hours.  Conversely, if you live in Maine, do not attempt a 200 hour peach because the peach will almost certainly bloom way too early, the blossoms will be destroyed and you will never get any fruit.  The idea is to choose varieties that are suitable for your climate to maximize your success.

Once your trees are planted, there will be some maintenance required.  The amount will depend on what kind of trees you have planted.  Watering, of course, will be the most important task.  Mulching will help to retain soil moisture and reduce water needs.  Fertilizing with a good organic fruit tree food is also recommended.  Follow the directions on the package for application amount and frequency.  Most fruit trees will require some pruning, if only to remove any dead or damaged wood.

Seasonal activities will include insect, pest and disease control, if required.  The most common disease problem with fruit trees is probably peach leaf curl, a fungal disease that affects peaches and nectarines.  You can spray to control it during the dormant season.  Apples and pears can be prone to fireblight, a bacterial disease, and codling moth, a pesky insect that is responsible for the worms inside the fruit.  Another seasonal activity is fruit thinning, which involves the removal of some of the fruit so that what remains will reach a reasonable size.  Some peaches and apples do require thinning for good fruit size.

If you’re just not sure what kinds of fruits will grow best in your area, contact your County Extension Agent. His or her agency will have a website, and contact information so you can get the best advice for your part of the country.

You can get virtually any kind of fruit tree today in a small variety that will not require ladders or interfere with utility lines overhead. Most fruit trees nowadays will begin producing fruit within three years of planting.

So what are you waiting for!

Is Your Emergency Food Storage Safe?

Whether you’re on a quest to prevent food waste or you simply want to store emergency food, plastic, glass, and metal containers can do the job. But some food containers are safer and longer lasting than others when it comes to personal and environmental health. tells you what you need to know.

  • Know the code. On the bottom of plastic food storage containers, you’ll find a tiny triangle with a number (resin identification code) in it, ranging from 1 to 7, indicating the type of plastic. In general, the safest choices for food use are numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5. That’s because number 3 is vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), 6 is polystyrene and 7 can be various plastics. Some plastic containers with the resin codes of 3 and 7 may contain Bisphenol-A (BPA).
  • Go BPA free. BPA is a chemical used in manufacturing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, including some food packaging. Since BPA can leach from plastic containers into foods and beverages, especially when the containers are heated, it may pose a potential risk to the environment and your health, notably your children’s health.
  • Keep it cool. Though polycarbonate plastic is strong and long-lasting, it can break down over time from high temperatures and overuse. Never microwave foods in plastic food containers, including margarine tubs and restaurant carryout containers. Plastic containers from packaged microwavable meals shouldn’t be reused after their initial use; they’re safely designed for one-time-use only.
  • Recycle as appropriate. Not enough people are doing so. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. only recycled about 14 percent of plastic containers and packaging in 2012. Nearly 12 million tons was disposed! This can contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, impacting the health of the environment.

Go with Glass

  • Glass is overall a safer bet for food storage than plastic. Glass can be safely used for hot foods or liquids. (Ceramic, stoneware or stainless steel containers can be safe bets, too.)
  • Use and reuse. You can reuse glass containers since they don’t pose harmful risks to environmental or personal health. They don’t leach potentially harmful chemicals when in contact with food.

And canned food, in particular, can stay safe for a really long time. In 1974, scientists at the National Food Processors Association in Washington, D.C., got their hands on several old cans of food.

Janet Dudek, now semi-retired and living in Vienna, Va., was among the scientists who analyzed this old food. Her assignment was a can of corn, vintage 1934, that was found in someone’s basement in California.

When they opened the can, Dudek says, the contents looked and smelled pretty much like ordinary canned corn. Analysis showed that it had most of the usual complement of nutrients — although there were lower levels of a few, such as vitamin C.

Results were similar for century-old canned oysters, tomatoes and red peppers in cans recovered from a sunken steamboat, buried in river silt near Omaha, Neb.

Dudek says, as far as she knows, nobody actually tasted this food. That just wasn’t done, she says. But they probably could have. “It would have been safe to eat if the can itself maintained its integrity,” she says.




Kim Jong-un was named at birth Gae Kwok Mug Wump Ring Ling Moop, which, loosely translated into your decadent English language, means “Hope of all Vivisectionists”.

His parents were the illustrious Kim Jong-il and Toy Bote Wong. He was born in the Year of the Rutabaga, otherwise known to Western barbarians as 1983, in the small village of Hungadunga, in the Province of Hungadunga (and not McCormick, as some misguided scholars claim).

He was a precocious child; uttering his first words at the tender age of six days, when he reminded his mother as she was sweeping out the ashes from their humble fireplace — “Look for rice grains, mother — it’s going to be a long winter.”

When only three months old he single-handedly met in combat a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach as it tried to purloin the family chamber pot. The babe, still swaddled in his native bamboo nappies, grabbed the enemy insect and strangled the creature with his bare hands. Then threw the carcass into the stew pot as a welcome addition of protein to the family’s spartan diet.

At six months the infant could walk, recite Shakespeare, and whip up a mouth-watering chicken paprikash. His father, the illustrious Kim Jong-il, was mostly gone, running the country and preparing it for war with the drunken sots of Western Democracy, such as America and Walmart — and so could spend very little time with his newborn. But such is the power of the pure mountain air of our North Korea, that little Kim Jong-un was able to absorb by osmosis most of the sound doctrine and Marxist purity of his hallowed father.

At the time of his birth, North Korea had been infiltrated by numerous spies, lechers, eavesdroppers, and snarling assassins, mostly sent from the running dogs of capitalism in South Korea. They spread havoc throughout the land, sowing seeds of discord among the working class and murdering elderly turtles in their shells.

Not only that, but even the weather had turned against the doughty peasant farmers who kept the entire country well-fed on broken rice husks and thistle roots. Several typhoons, sent over from Hawaii by the perfidious Americans, laid waste to much of the countryside, so that the only thing farmers could harvest was mud.

This mud was sun-dried into nutritious bricks and distributed to the grateful populace by Kim Jong-il, even though he himself was suffering from a terrific hangnail. Everyone ate mud soup and drank mud beer with a quiet determination to defeat the heterodox weather patterns. And in the end they succeeded!

There were only 2 or 3 million deaths attributable to the venomous weather.

Filthy rumors were spread by the spies, lechers, and assassins that Kim Jong-il lived the life of Riley in his gigantic palace in Pingpongyang, guzzling fine wines and dallying with retired soap opera stars in the midst of unimaginable luxury.

Of course, no one in their right mind believed such incredible falsehoods. The wine was domestic, and there were no soap opera stars to be found in the Pingpongyang palace — just a few stray models from former L.L. Bean catalogs.

Before being sent to Switzerland at the tender age of 2, loyal son Kim Jong-un suggested to his father the best method for recognizing spies and lechers. The spies would never giggle — and the lechers were always giggling.

Acting on his son’s brilliant advice, the father quickly executed everyone who was caught not giggling. And then those who were caught in the act of giggling were also killed. And so the country had peace one more!

In Switzerland, our hero studied mechanical engineering, the sonnets of Rudolph Friml, and finally took a degree in Advanced Pothering.

Among his teachers, he was noted as an aggressive bibliophile and among his fellow students he was nicknamed “Snuggie” for his wide smile and bad haircut. He excelled at winter sports and was briefly considered for the Olympics as a sockdolager. But at the last moment he sprained an ear lobe and could only look on from the sidelines.

Although completely contemptuous of the decadent Western culture he was surrounded with, Kim Jong-un found time to fall in love. She was a beautiful Swiss maiden named Hilda Flunkenhead, who was two years older than her bashful swain. She worked as frostbite manager in the local schmaltz factory. When her parent forbade her to have anything further to do with Kim Jong-un, the impetuous feature ruler of North Korea eloped with her to Struedelburg in Southern Germany, where they were secretly wed by an atheist with pretensions.

This episode caused the only known rift between illustrious father and illustrious son. Kim Jong-il sent a platoon of Confucian scholars to remonstrate with the boy about his rash marriage. But the son was adamant; he would not give up his yodeling bride for anything in the world.

And that is why Switzerland no longer exists. You cannot find it on any map or mentioned anywhere on the internet anymore. The unhappy father simply had all traces of the country erased, and had pixie dust sprinkled over his son so he would forget his Swiss bride.

It worked like a charm, and to this day no one knows exactly what happened to Switzerland. And, when you have a wonderful person like Kim Jong-un to think about all day, who really cares what happened to such a dinky little country or the bride that mysteriously disappeared without so much as saying “Gesundheit”?

While in Switzerland Kim Jong-un learned how to play the ocarina, and founded the Berlin Orchestra so he could play ocarina solos during intermission.

But this happy idyll soon came to a tragic end, when news reached him that his beloved mother, Toy Bote Wong was deathly ill with hiccups and was not expected to last more than twenty years.

He took the first boat for home, bringing back with him some fond memories and the secret formula for Swiss cheese.

(Editor’s note: The manuscript copy of this incisive piece of biography was smuggled out of North Korea inside a bamboo flute.  The author is one of the higher ups in the North Korean Politiburo, by the name of Won Hung Loh. We obtained the copy through massive bribery, intimidation, and good old-fashioned hornswoggling. It has been translated by Otto Bubbling, of Nomen Global Institute for Advanced Nitrates. We hope you enjoy it, and don’t really care if you believe it or not.)  


The Lobster Roll

I’m glad to hear the lobsters are abundant up in Maine.

That means abundant lobster rolls, served up with butter plain.

I’m tired of the so-called ‘roll’ disguised with fripperies;

lettuce, onion, mustard sauce and varied celeries. 

Down east in Maine the lobster roll is simple as can be;

with nothing but drawn butter drizzled on as filigree.

I could go on about this treat, this monument to Maine —

but I must leave to buy some now (it’s impossible to abstain!) 

When Cuisinart Rules the Earth

Machines have taken over, just not as we always thought.

They do not try to kill us; they’re just serving soup too hot.

It happened back when eateries began to automate;

we thought that having no wait staff or sassy cook was great.

And so we lost our will to cook and let technology

overtake the kitchen in a mad conspiracy.

Twas cheaper, more convenient, we did tell ourselves so oft,

to automate our eating, and at dirty dishes scoffed.

The widgets soon became the master; we became the drudge —

dutifully eating all their crepes Suzette and fudge.

And now if we attempt a sandwich or a simple broth,

they shoot us with their laser beams while they are waxing wroth!

If I am served ball bearings in a dill sauce one more meal

I’ll get me a can opener and make those gadgets squeal!

from an article in the New York Times  


Acoustic Restraint: Or, I Hate Noisy Restaurants.

After a recent dinner at P.F. Chang’s in Provo, Utah, I came home with a ringing in my ears the equal to the noise from a giant bronze gong one might find outside the gate of the Forbidden City in Imperial China.  Or that huge tocsin at the beginning of J. Arthur Rank movies.

What’s with all the noise in restaurants nowadays, boychick?

I can’t digest a meal while a bass line throbs in my head and somebody yodeling agitates my paunch. How can a civilized person be expected to stuff his pie hole with all that brouhaha going on?

Luckily, the good ol’ New York Times reports that restaurants are having second thoughts about damaging their patron’s ear drums:

Hearing loss often hinges on an inability to pick out conversation amid a deluge of background noise, but new specialized technologies (some even involving rooms full of sensitive microphones) are giving restaurants a chance to turn your table into a bubble of audible dialogue.

The architect David Rockwell, who has designed hundreds of restaurants, said that questions about noise rise to the top of the priority list when new projects come along.

“There’s just a lot more knowledge about acoustics,” Mr. Rockwell said. “What I’m finding is we’re talking about it a lot upfront. And we’re talking about what the soundscape wants to be.”

The soundscape, pal, wants to be mum if they want MY patronage.

And the staid British journal, the Evening Standard, has just run an article on eateries that could be mistake for libraries, with the headline:

Hear hear: London’s buzzy restaurants that aren’t too loud for conversation

In case you greasy spoon impresarios don’t get the picture, lemme hand it to you in verse:


I like a quiet bistro when I’m slurping up my soup.

A place where waiters glide about and my ears never droop.

Where I can place my order without use of megaphone,

and nothing jars the silent progress of my rare t-bone.

Away with all the tumult that Millennials do crave!

Give me crudites amidst the silence of the grave.

And if the joint is sound proof I might even leave a tip.

(Although the paltry size of it may cause the staff to yip.) 


Rethink your Drink: The New Prohibition

Solutions are more satisfying than the problem, nu?

Yet when it comes to sugared drinks I don’t care what I do.

I love a Coke or Pepsi, Mountain Dew or Orange Crush — 

a slushy from convenience store can give me quite a rush.

And choc’late milk is always welcome, morning, noon and night;

I’d drink straight maple syrup if finances weren’t so tight.

So when nutrition nazis want to stage a soda putsch

I say we knock ’em on the head and act a little butch. 

The Constitution guarantees obesity for all;

pursuit of calories it is our duty to recall!  

from a story in the Wall Street Journal

caf pow

A woman in her tidy house

A woman in her tidy house, while sipping herbal tea,

boasted to her friend that she was eating gluten free.

Across the road a shaggy man was dumpster diving, so
he could fill his belly with a scrap of pizza dough.
I do not know which way to laugh at such absurdity.
And I’m not sure which one deserves the larger charity

Activated Charcoal in my Soup . . .

When I lived in Thailand a stash of activated charcoal pills were mandatory for the expat. That’s because a case of Bangkok Belly could erupt at any time, putting a crimp in plans for the beach, a spicy meal with friends, or even a steamy Siamese rendezvous. Two of the bitter black pills usually dried you up like the Sahara.

Now I find that activated charcoal is touted for a raft of other uses.

Fox News out of Los Angeles ran a story recently on its benefits for teeth whitening. Grind up the pills with some water, their reporters say, apply the paste to your teeth, wait ten minutes, and then brush it off — for 100-watt pearly whites.

Chicago Tribune writer Seka Palikuca reports that all the best tequilas are filtered with activated charcoal. So don’t expect a worm in your bottle of premium tequila — it’ll be a lump of Kingsford, instead.

Activated charcoal paste is the ideal medium for face masks and body washes, reports CBS News (with a straight face). CBS is also careful to note (making amends for the previous nonsense, no doubt) that activated charcoal is a recognized pharmaceutical to counteract ingested poison.

Up to this point, I am fine with activated charcoal and its benefits, real or imagined.

But when the Wall Street Journal reports that activated charcoal is now being used in lemonade, I draw the line. Who wants carbon-flavored Wyler’s?

And to add insult to indigestion, the British have revived one of their ancient culinary horrors — the charcoal biscuit.

What’s next — charcoal flavored potato chips? Campbell’s Charcoal Soup (“Just like mother used to burn!”)? Charcoal Twinkies?

Heaven forfend!


Now they’re putting activated charcoal in my soup;

to what abyss of infamy will next they deign to stoop?

They’ve taken out the sugar, msg, and most palm oil;

all salt has been extracted (Oh, to quit this mortal coil!)

These Nazis of my noshing leave me nothing but a husk;

and I am left to wander in the culinary dusk.