Central Florida Highs

One of the joys of the vagabond life via motor home; you never know what is next on the horizon.  This is the year of the COLD  — featuring record setting winter weather up and down the eastern seaboard reaching to the depths of Florida. 

Luck was with us  when we called our dear friends, the Topfs and were able to camp for two nights in their lovely campground at Deer Creek in central Florida. 

The first night there we attended a concert in their clubhouse featuring the HARMONICATS, retro back to the 40’s when they became famous for playing every size and vocal range of harmonica with alacrity and skill.  They played for well over an hour, and did not seem to tire, even though they are in their late 60’s to late 70’s. 

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That not being enough of a treat and surprise, the next day, we visited a National Historic landmark called Bok Tower Gardens.  Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. designed the gardens. This singing tower features a grand carillon and we arrived just in time for the daily concert.  The sound is bright, crisp and beautiful.  The tower is on a knoll about 342’ above sea level, the highest point in central Florida.  see their website; http://www.boktowergardens.org/ Edward Bok was quite a Humanitarian and edited the LADIES HOME JOURNAL for 30 years. It is worth a visit to the web site to learn more about him and this memorable landmark on the web site.

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There is more; it was hard to leave this wonderful place but they closed at 5PM.  We drove to dinner through an area that is “old Florida,”   featuring old tree and shrub growth, old buildings with character, lakes, ponds, Spanish Moss and lacking the big boxes, chain restaurants and gated communities.  The GPS led us to CHERRY POCKET FISHING CAMP.  It is just that; a rustic area where fishing boats line the dock, old trailers and motor homes, trucks ,vans and rustic buildings form a haven for “fisherfolk” and a wonderful restaurant in a large, shack-like building that is as welcoming as a pair of old, favorite slippers. 

Vegetarians rejoice, I called ahead and was assured that each dish was made to order and I could indeed find something on the menu that was free of anything none vegetarian and indeed I did.  The menu is large and our friends were all very happy with their large portions of gumbo, fish tacos, fish sandwiches, grouper dishes, and more.,  I had a salad and cheese. mushroom quesadilla. We left very full, happy and in good spirits.  What a great day, spontaneous and full of good friendship, shared memories and great cheer.

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Remember the Days?

Remember the days when life in America seemed simple and and easily defined? People were optimistic and held expectations for the future that were often met. The world felt a bit safer, the sun seemed brighter, the sky a deeper blue, the rain crystal-clear. Children were allowed out to play without parental fear of the streets. The pace of life was low key, electronic toys weren’t vying for our leisure time. Paper publications, TV programs, films and popular songs idealized this world into a Norman “Rockwellian” scene. Was life indeed less complex and innocent?

In my memory, I cherish the simple act of baking together often with my sons. We had a good time, a chance to bond together, to learn to follow directions and gain skills and self confidence. The boys created enjoyed yummy treats and received praise from their dad. Of course mom had to practice ultimate patience, waiting for the child to measure, sift, beat or pour each ingredient into the Kitchen Aide; blending it in more or less properly so the finished cake would turnout somewhat edible. Then, the reward for those little faces—time to lick the beater blades.

 

 

 

LICKING CHOCOLATE FROSTING—so good…so safe?

Now those licking-the blade days are long gone by, killed by the threat of contaminated eggs or other bacteria wending their way into the batter. How many children got sick from this treat? I don’t know of any! But nowadays we wouldn’t allow anyone to lick raw egg batter. Licking egg-free frosting is still in but raw eggs are out–verboten.

Or so I thought. I have been following the recent recall of the Nestle’s cookie dough and the presence of E. coli, discovered in Nestle’s Danville, Va. plant. How surprised I was to read that consumers actually do eat raw commercial cookie dough. I must be naive and out of touch. How many actually eat raw dough? Apparently, thousands have been stricken over several years. What am I missing by not even considering eating raw dough (commercial or homemade)…getting sick on E. coli bacteria, that is what.

The last decade seems to have been swamped by incidents of contaminated foods in or agricultural system, raising flags, causing recalls, heightening research, media coverage, films addressing our food culture aimed at raising awareness among consumers. Think of Mad Cow disease, tainted ground beef and bird flu episodes, , tainted dog food recalls, making me glad to be a vegetarian…

…and then, lo and behold, there came the tomato scares, spinach scares, pistachio nut and peanut butter scares, infant formula hoaxes, incidents of tainted milk, and this summer, (2009) late blight fungus spoiling commercial and home vegetable gardens attacking tomato, eggplant and potato plants.

An astounding number of informational sites were revealed searching through Google using the key words below. The results prove epidemic;

consumer, food, recalls;   Results 1,340,000

tainted, meat, recalls;   Results 45,800

food, recall, eggs;   Results 499,000

prescription, drug, recalls;  Results 1,040,000

late blight, fungus;  Results 59,900

Food safety information is readily available to the consumer. The media and CDC (Center for Disease Control) keep us informed, issuing warnings to the general population, questioning how agricultural controls or checks and balances can be accelerated. A wealth of informative books are being published and films are being produced highlighting the “state of the health” of our food system and the production, delivery, safety and pitfalls of feeding our nation.

Long-trusted food sources must now be scrutinized and questioned, old habits, abandoned. We are now better-informed consumers aware that the system we have so long trusted can suffer breakdowns in quality control. Parents still enjoy engaging their children in the kitchen, but the beaters are placed directly into the dishwasher, no licking allowed. Everyone must wait for the wafting odors of the chocolate cake to fill the kitchen, endure the cooling and frosting and eat the food on their plates before running their “clean” finger through the frosting to savor a good, wet lick.

Ann Carol Goldberg