Oh, Hornswoggle!

Oh, hornswoggle! I’ve felt so much cognitive dissonance through the pandemic. I had hoped against hope that this feeling would lessen in 2021, but it has not. I need a way to put a marker by something that strikes me wrong so I can decipher why in my own time. I’m choosing the word hornswoggle as my red flag word.

In the strictest terms, hornswoggle means to trick or deceive. Telling me one thing is true while contradicting it with your next sentence feels like trickery. I experience this day after day after day from the news, from Twitter, from blogs that feature headlines contradicted by the story beneath and other blogs that misstate the results of a study.

I feel frustrated and weary from this. When it affects me directly, I feel angry. When it means horrible government and governing, I sometimes feel helpless. I know that my ability to affect positive change is related to the size of my platform and the amount of time and energy I’m willing to devote to my message.

But I have very real time and energy limits. I have priorities that sometimes supersede my public policy concerns. And increasingly, I am choosing to change the flow of my days to a kinder, gentler flow. I can only combat so much hornswoggle in one day. But I can flag it when I see or hear it. And you can too. Perhaps “Oh, hornswoggle!” can become a battle cry to combat misinformation.

Unfortunately, misinformation sometimes comes from seemingly credible sources. Or it’s delivered without full context. This creates loopholes that make it easy to argue with science. I hate this. We need evidence-based information!

I also hate the role that credentialed professionals sometimes play in dissemination of hornswoggle. This is often done with good intentions, but it’s harmful and ultimately creates distrust.

One of the most prevalent themes in hornswoggle is that there’s an immediate fix for everything. Have a pain? Take a pill. Need to lose 10 lbs? Eat only protein. Have PTSD? Try psychedelics. Want to be stronger? Use steroids. Can’t sit still? Take a pill. Annoyed by your kids? Give them a pill. You know the routine.

And many of these solutions work short term. The question is whether they actually promote healing of the underlying problem or just lead to dependence on repeated short-term solutions.

Beyond that, I’ve begun to wonder whether frustration over widespread failure to address underlying problems is contributing to the increase in violence we see playing out at grocery stores, hospitals, and on airplanes. The stats on airplane violence are sobering. Forbes Magazine reports that “Through May, about 2,500 such incidents have been recorded, and those categorized as “unruly” reached 394, compared with well under 200 for each full year of 2019 and 2020.”

And we’re confronted with mass shootings every week. I’m hearing an increase in gunfire in my neighborhood recently. If you’re interested in tracking this particular type of violence, visit the Gun Violence Archive. They’ve been doing evidence-based research since 2013 and the site offers detailed charts.

In addition to glossing over underlying conditions, hornswoggle’s demand for immediacy can impede due process, in-depth conversation, and carefully considered consequences. I can’t see the positive gain from immediacy if those are things we give up. The cost is simply too great.

I think we’re feeling all of this under the surface. When we try to express it, we may be dismissed or demeaned or canceled or bullied or shamed or, very possibly, never acknowledged at all. And then we’re faced with the choice of how to respond.

In order to avoid feeling dismissed, humiliated, shamed, or unheard, some of us suppress how we’re feeling. But at some point, we may not be able to do it any longer. And if anger is the first emotion to reach the surface, it may explode into violence.

I’m not going to tell you that hornswoggle is the cause of all violence or that removing it tomorrow will solve our problems immediately, but seeing it for what it is and refusing to perpetuate the narrative can help raise awareness. Calling hornswoggle when you see it can put a pin in topics that require thorough examination and thoughtful consideration.

And maybe if we slow down a moment, we’ll come to our senses and realize no one should have to repeatedly swallow hornswoggle.

When It’s Sticky, Does It Taste Icky?

When it’s sticky, does it taste icky? Your first response is probably, NO! Who doesn’t love a sticky bun or maple syrup or a toasted marshmallow? But I don’t really mean the food itself. I mean the weather. Due to high humidity and hot temperatures, we have lots of sticky days here in the summer. And humidity, whether low or high, affects both the making and perception of food.

If you’ve always lived in a humid region, there’s no reason to notice this. The same is true if you’ve always lived in a dry climate. But those of you who have moved around may have seen the results of your baking change.

You can use the very same ingredients and technique but find it impossible to exactly duplicate the results you got in your previous home. When the humidity is high, you may notice that it’s easier to prepare soft breads than crusty breads or that baking takes longer.

Humidity level also affects our perception of taste. The ideal humidity in a house is around 50%. In my house, it ranges from 50 – 60 percent in warm weather. It can even climb higher if I don’t use the dehumidifying feature on my air conditioner. At this level, food tastes good.

When you fly in an airplane, the humidity drops under 30%. At that level, your perception of taste will not be as acute. Airline food vendors may attempt to compensate for blandness, but few of us have every had a satisfying meal on board. Fighting both low humidity and high altitude makes it difficult to create the ideal culinary experience.

Commercial bakeries often employ humidity control devices to improve the consistency of their product. At home, there are a few things you can do to prevent icky food:

  1. When it’s too humid, turn the air conditioner to a lower temperature before you begin to bake. You can also use a fan to dry the air.
  2. Make sure to use your exhaust fans.
  3. Store ingredients in moisture proof containers with a good seal. For more extreme conditions, place the containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
  4. Reduce the moisture in your recipe slightly.
  5. Use the convection feature if your oven has one.
  6. Make sure there’s a vapor barrier over dirt basement floors.
  7. If conditions are often extreme, purchase and use a dehumidifier or humidifier or explore alternate heating and cooling systems.
  8. Don’t use the drying feature on your dishwasher. If you need more humidity, open the dryer door while it’s hot and the dishes are wet.
  9. You can also increase humidity by simmering pots of water on the stove or making soup.
  10. An indoor dryer vent will pump moisture (and heat) into your home.

If conditions are not extreme, go with the flow. Experience will help guide you to add baking time or increase liquid in the batter.

Enjoy the slightly altered density or moisture in a muffin or cake. Savor the differences in your experience of each food. As long as it’s not icky when it’s sticky, it’s all good!

Simple Things I Miss

On this rainy Tuesday following Memorial Day, I’m remembering simple things I miss. Isolated in our houses, many of us have relied on simple pleasures to make the past year palatable. Others have reexamined priorities, feeling free to let our minds wander outside the normal bounds. There’s a certain freedom of connection that comes with the necessity of adjustment. I feel like my mind has been playing free association with memories in a more pronounced way.   

So here are a few things that keep floating through my mind:

Merthiolate & Mercurochrome– I miss the orange color and the glass rod applicator with a bulbous bottom. I’m not saying that applying mercury containing substances to the skin is a great idea, but was it really that bad used in small amounts?

Banana Fudgsicle®- I miss these on a regular basis. They rose above chocolate Fudgsicles and made Popsicles intolerable. The texture was perfect. The flavor was rich and delicious without the grossness of other banana flavored products.

Prell® shampoo in a glass jar with a pearl in the bottle- To me, this is what clean smells like. I didn’t like it as well from a tube and I just couldn’t make the transition to a plastic bottle.

Metal Band-Aid® boxes with hinged lids- Those things were great for holding little toys!

Luden’s® Cherry Throat Drops- We called them cough drops, but I ate them like candy! I really need them to be in wax paper and a cardboard box though. I never buy them anymore.

Noxema® in a blue glass bottle- I like the blue glass a lot, but my favorite thing is the smell. It must take the combination for me to buy it. I can’t remember the last time I made a purchase.

Old Spice® in a milk glass jar- I still like these jars. Both the shape and the glass please me.

I’m not sure what my thing is about glass jars. A big part of the appeal of Hendrick’s Gin® is the thick, squatty brown glass bottle. Oh, maybe I’m inherently “green.” I’ll go with that.

Now that I’m Green, I’m missing Beechnut Chlorophyll Gum. I rarely chewed it, but I remember thinking it was better for my teeth than regular gum. I don’t know if that’s true, but I thought it was.

Original Doritos– These were golden and had an almost buttery richness. I’ve always wondered why the other flavors won out. They may be bolder, but I don’t think they’re better.

Blacklights– I miss having a blacklight in the house. I had one that was a bulb screwed into the top of a 7UP can.

It’s funny what you miss and when. I find myself thinking about great aunts and uncles when I clean house. I miss my grandmother’s beef and noodles and lemon pie on my birthday. Right now, I miss her ginger snap cookies. I’d like one topped with cream cheese. I’d also love to have a cellar full of her homemade tomato juice and bright green sweet pickles.

It can be fun to walk down memory lane. I suppose there will always be things I miss. But memories also remind me who I am, what I’ve learned, and what I value. And that is always worth the trip.

What are you missing these days?


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Safety First & Forever

No matter what activities we undertake, it’s good to focus on safety first, a focus that can last forever. In the kitchen, I’m always mindful of washing my hands, cleaning vegetables and fruit, and disinfecting any surface that comes into contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs. And of course, I’m careful to avoid cross-contact with gluten. I also make sure I cook ingredients to a safe internal temperature.

I grew up on a farm. Most of our meat was home grown. We fattened cows and sometimes pigs, then took them to a butcher. A 12 cu ft deep freeze in the shed held a variety of packages wrapped in white butcher paper and stamped with the name of the cut enclosed. Once the meat came out of the freezer, we were meticulous about food safety.

By that, I mean meticulous to the point that our meat was overcooked pretty much every meal. This was deliberate…for safety. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed sushi and prepared sushi-grade tuna to be eaten raw at home. I’ve occasionally gobbled up steak tartare.

But when I’m cooking, I continually have to fight the urge to cook meat, poultry, and seafood to the stage of leather. I’m not as obsessive about eggs. I love a warm, runny yolk. To resist my early training, I keep multiple meat thermometers on hand. And I use them regularly.

In spite of that, I feel an internal struggle when the thermometer registers a safe temperature, but my eyes see pink. And don’t even think about serving me a rare hamburger in a restaurant. I will send it back in a heartbeat.

My mind understands that the romaine salad on which my steak is sometimes perched could pose an equal danger of E. coli. But my visceral response is to recoil from any and all red steak. Light pink feels like a much safer option and no pink, just right – until I take a bite.d

I can’t say I regret this struggle. Erring on the safe side isn’t bad for my health, it’s just bad for the aesthetics of the food. That’s why I make a conscious effort to balance my instincts with reason and use the tools I have to determine safety first, but not instead of, quality.

If you’re uncertain of the safe minimum internal temperature for meat, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service provides a chart on its website. The temperatures vary by type and cut of meat. The charts were updated a few years ago, so don’t be alarmed if you find some of the numbers lower than you’d expect. And don’t forget to include the recommended rest times. The temperature of the meat will continue to rise as it rests.

Reviewing these charts is a way for me to relearn old habits and retrain my brain. This is a great reminder of my I like cooking. It offers so many opportunities to learn, and I love learning. But no matter how much my knowledge expands, I’ll always default to safety first!