re: making bread

Here are my current bread recipes:

crunchy semolina loaf

.5 t. yeast immersed in .5 c. warm, i.e., tepid NOT hot, water
3 c. white flour (preferably King Arthur commercial grade)
1 c. wheat flour
1 c. semolina
3 t. salt
3 T olive oil
1.5 c. water

breakfast bread
.5 t. yeast immersed in .5 c. warm, i.e., tepid NOT hot, water
2 c. white flour
1 c. wheat flour
1 c. cornmeal
.25 c. sugar (turbinado)
1-2 eggs
.5 c. milk
.5 c. ricotta
.25 c. melted butter

I use the same bowl, knife (for stirring), teaspoon, and water cup measure each time I make bread so it becomes habitual and like second nature.  Put the yeast and tepid water in the bowl, let it stand for 5-10 minutes.  Measure out all of the dry ingredients into the bowl, stir once or twice with a knife.  Add the water, mix with the knife.  Add the oil, stir with the knife, scraping the sides and incorporating all of the ingredients.  You will have a lumpy bunch of stuff.  If you need more water to incorporate everything together, add it in very small quantities.  At this stage of the process, a little water goes a LONG WAY!  Though you can always add more flour if you add too much water, for ease of preparation, you’re trying to just mix and massage your mixture into a dough with the “proper” consistency.  The weather every day is different, so your flour/water/yeast/oil/salt mixture will likewise have slightly different characteristics.  Once you have a mixture that is mostly “coherent,” i.e., sticking together, knead it by hand in the bowl until it is all fully mixed.  Your dough will still be a bit sloggy, i.e., not smooth and tight, but that is just the way the dough is before the first rise.  Once you have a workable dough mixture, put a wet cloth over the bowl and let it rise for 2 hours.  Knead the mixture and let rise for another hour.  At this point, I have started putting the dough in the refrigerator (if it is summer) or simply on the counter (if it is winter) and letting it rise over night.  You don’t have to do that.  And, if you want to bake your bread after the third rising, you can.  

To bake the bread, preheat the oven to 400 degrees (for the crunchy semolina loaf) and spray the oven with water two or three times.  Once the oven is at the right temperature, mold your bread into the shape you want and place it on a baking sheet prepared with a thin coat of cornmeal.  Spray water on your loaf.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.  That’s it!  You should have some lovely bread! Instructions for preparing and baking the breakfast bread are forthcoming.

Towards a Steadying Culture of Food: Part I

Toward a Steadying Culture of Food, or How To Feed Yourself If You Are a Highly Sensitive Person

October 21, 2020

Johannah Rodgers

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about food and cooking, in part by choice and in part because of how I was raised, i.e., initially as a macrobiotic by a parent who was mentally ill, and then as an omnivore by a parent who was mentally ill in a different way.  The odd thing about my conventionally, as opposed to differently, mentally ill parent was that she was always determined that I, unlike she, would learn to cook.  As a result, I spent a lot of time as a child cooking with my other parent, who had grown up on a farm and cooked as a girl and then at the convent where she spent her twenties and thirties.  She was born in 1929 on a farm in eastern Kentucky and her generation and upbringing both have a lot to do with how she cooked, along with many other things about her, i.e., her love of glamour, drama, and absurdity.  Fortunately, she was not an absurd cook!  

So I grew up knowing about food and knowing how to cook, but not really knowing very much about how to feed myself.  I was fortunate in that I was fed throughout my life primarily with whole grains, lots of vegetables, fresh meat, and homemade baked goods.  We cooked with butter instead of shortening and fresh ingredients mattered and processed foods were considered both a waste of money and unhealthy.  As an adult, I’ve come to understand just how expensive processed foods are both in terms of their actual monetary cost per calorie and for your health.  People quite literally cannot “afford” to eat them.  Unfortunately, once you step away from processed foods, you need to dedicate some time to shopping and cooking.  You will ultimately save a ton of money, which I think is wonderful, but you will also have to re-train your palate to crave the foods that you know how to make and that are good for you. 

You need to eat at least three times a day:  Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.  In many cultures, this is just a given, as it should be in every culture.  As a hypersensitive person, I find that consistency in my diet is unbelievably important, as is knowing which foods give me energy, make me feel fed, and make me crazy.  Everyone is different so there is not some cookie-cutter plan that will work for everybody.  That said, people in general can be put into categories based on how they process carbohydrates and their ethnic backgrounds.  Some people process carbohydrates very efficiently and some people don’t.  Since I fall into the latter category, I find that my diet has to be protein rich, consist of a mix of animal, dairy, and plant proteins, low-sugar (which means also not eating too much white flour since it is metabolized in the same way as white sugar in my body), and include lots of vegetables and fruits.  

For breakfast, I eat either oatmeal prepared with some fruit (half an apple or pear) and almond slices or some eggs and toast/tortillas and sauteed greens.  For lunch, I eat a salad and some animal protein, some fat, and some bread or corn tortillas.  For dinner, I eat more animal protein, some kind of grain, and lots of steamed vegetables, usually steamed kale, but sometimes instead, a mixed salad or other stemmed or sauteed green vegetables.  

I moved to Brooklyn in 1995 and I honestly do not think I would have survived as long as I have in NYC without steamed kale.  It is plentiful, easy to prepare, and can be frozen in individual portions for quick re-heating (if you steam a whole bunch of kale at one time, you can just use pieces of aluminum foil to wrap up individual servings that can be put in your freezer.  I also freeze individual portions of black beans and chick peas, which are two other things I eat a lot of and which are much better tasting and less expensive when you cook your own instead of buying the prepared in a can.)  Of course, it is a good idea to have a few cans of beans around in case you ever need them.  You can make a very delicious meal by frying up some garlic and onions in olive oil, adding a can of beans and eating that with brown or white rice and possibly some yogurt or sour cream on the side plus … some steamed kale! 

Over the years, I’ve also found that corn meal is a much better flour for me than wheat flour.  I still eat wheat flour, but I do so in moderation.  I always have a stack of corn tortillas in my refrigerator, which I toast on my stove and use to make tacos, eat with eggs, use in soups, or eat as a snack.  Regarding snacks, I find pretzels with peanut butter is a very good one, as are nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews), which I also often use in salads or when making stir fried vegetables.  Re: fats, I always have olive oil and butter on hand and I’ve also found that coconut milk and avocado are, in addition to nuts, some of the best vegetable based fats for me.  You can use the coconut milk to make vegetable curries or smoothies, both of which can be quite satisfying.  

Eating lots and lots of vegetables is really important, both for your digestion and for stabilizing your blood sugar levels.  I always have the following vegetables in my house:  lettuce, cabbage, carrots, kale, potatoes, garlic, onions.  I also try to always have: lemons and limes and whatever fruits are in season, i.e., apples, pears, plums, mangoes, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries.  Stewing fruit with just a little bit of turbinado sugar to make a “fruit compote” is a great snack.  I also like making pies and cakes with very little sugar, i.e., ¼ c. or less per pie, cake, batch of cookies.  In terms of condiments, I keep salt, red wine vinegar, honey, maple syrup, mayonnaise, and ketchup.  I am a big believer in making your own salad dressings, which can be fun, but can also be as simple olive oil, red vinegar (store brand is fine), and salt.

In addition to having a list of easy to prepare dishes ready at hand, one other important thing is simply not to get too hungry.  There are times when you may not feel hungry or feel like eating, but eating at least every three hours is a good idea.  Once my blood sugar gets out of balance, both my moods and my physical well being suffer and it can take quite a while to get things back to a state of balance.  As a result, I always carry some food with me at all times, i.e., a handful of almonds, a banana, a piece of toast with cheese or peanut butter on it.  This may not sound glamorous, but it has really helped me (or at least it did when I still went places in the outside world on a regular basis ;)).  I also tell myself that this is how “French people” live and therefore pretend that it actually is somewhat “glamorous.” 

OK, so that is it for now.  I guess the last thing I would say is that it is pretty astonishing how few things humans can eat.  The list could be as short as the following: fish, pigs, cows, chickens, other fowl, deer; grains; fruits; vegetables and legumes.  Pay attention to how specific foods make you feel, i.e., excited, sated, energetic, calm, etc., and make sure to consistently eat the foods that make you feel best and most energetic.  I am happiest when I am eating almost zero sugars, and by sugars, I include all sweeteners, not just cane sugar, and white flour.  However, I still eat some.  Turbinado sugar, maple syrup, and honey are all sweeteners that play less havoc with my blood sugar levels; I eat more rice (both brown and white) than pasta and often eat potatoes instead of either; quinoa is actually a legume, not a grain, so that is a food that gives me lots of energy.  Also: eating some roughage with whatever sugars you consume is a good idea.  So, if you’re going to eat ice cream, mix some nuts in it; if you’re going to eat cake, eat some fruit and nuts with it; same goes for eating chocolate and pasta.  

make your own word drawing

make your own word drawing

to make your own word drawing, you will need one sheet of paper and a pencil or a pen

after finding a quiet place to sit with access to a flat writing surface,

 

 

first,  orient the paper in a “landscape” position, i.e., it is wider than it is tall;
 

 

second, set aside anywhere from 10 to 100 minutes to think about some topic, question, phrase, or word, OR, attempt NOT to think of any of the above;
 

 

third,  draw a line across the paper, left to write, as part of which you will transcribe whatever word or set of words are in your head;
 

 

fourth, repeat until it is no longer possible to draw another line across the page;
 

 

fifth, read over and draft a title, which you will transcribe on the back of the sheet of paper, along with the date;
 

 

sixth, store in a file or box marked “word drawings.”
 

Reusable Grocery Bags: Fashion Accessory, Environmental Necessity

Reusable Grocery Bags: Fashion Accessory, Environmental Necessity
Johannah Rodgers

 

It’s not often that trends in the worlds of New York fashion and the PSFC collide, but with the summer of 2004 having been declared the season of the tote bag by both Coop members and the fashion-forward crowd, the two are set to meet, however briefly. Though what fashionistas may not know (and what, of course, Coop members do know), is just how important the adoption of these totes as reusable grocery bags is in efforts to protect the environment.

At the May General Meeting members considered a discussion item related to reducing plastic bag usage. Elizabeth Tobier, the Coop member sponsoring the plastic bag discussion item, said in an interview that she “wanted members to be aware of the devastating effects that plastic bags have on the environment and on marine life and wildlife in general.” There are two types of plastic bags at the Coop: plastic grocery bags (those gray bags at checkout that are commonly referred to as “T-shirt bags”) and the clear plastic bags that are used for produce and bulk items and are generally referred to as “roll bags” or “produce bags.” As a result of the GM discussion, the environmental committee, the sign committee, and Coop staff are in the process of creating new ways of informing members about alternatives to plastic bags and drawing attention to the number of plastic bags Coop members use.

The environmental issues related to plastic bags are manifold and relate not only to their mode of production, but to their patterns of use, and methods of disposal. An estimated 500 billion plastic bags are consumed each year globally, requiring 60 million barrels of oil to manufacture.

These bags are available everywhere, and are sometimes re-used, but very rarely recycled. Because production of new plastic bags is relatively inexpensive, there is a limited market for recycled plastic bags, and only an estimated 1-3 percent of bags are eventually recycled. And the rest? Well, some land in trees, others blow down streets or float in oceans, with the ones making it to the landfill requiring 1000 years to biodegrade. Plastic bags have not only become a blight to urban and rural landscapes, they have proven to be damaging to various types of land and sea animals who at times ingest the bags, having mistaken them as a source of food.

In response to what some call the epidemic use of plastic bags, several countries have passed legislation to curb plastic bag usage, and the results have been dramatic. In March, 2002, Ireland initiated a PlasTax, which adds a 9 pence (about 20 US cents) tax levy to each new plastic bag. In three months, according to the Web site http://www.reusablebags.com, Ireland recorded a 90 percent drop in the use of plastic bags, and accumulated $3.45 million in PlasTax money, which was then used to fund environmental projects. Ireland’s program has been particularly effective in reducing plastic bag usage because it is consumers, rather than retailers, who pay the tax. Though even the latter strategy, which was adopted by Denmark in 1994, has resulted in an estimated 66 percent decline in plastic bag use.

While England and Australia both consider adopting PlasTaxes, Taiwan has already passed a law that it hopes will reduce the use of plastic bags and disposable silverware by requiring merchants to charge customers for both. And, in Bangladesh, the government passed legislation in 2002 banning all high density polyethylene bags in the capital Dhaka after it was discovered that improper disposal of these bags aggravated the massive flooding that occurred in the city in 1988 and 1998.

Although the Coop accounts for a very small percentage of the 100 billion plastic bags consumed annually in the U.S., we can still reduce our reliance on them. General Coordinator Mike Eakin reports that the Coop’s “recent usage of roll bags has been running at an annual rate of 1,750,000 bags annually, costing $8,500, and usage of T-shirt bags has been running at an annual rate of about 780,000 bags costing $9,750. Interestingly, our collection of money to pay for plastic bags is running at an annual rate of just under $13,000, or about 70% of the total cost. This is the highest proportion of our cost that we have ever collected, and it has been rising, perhaps because of better placement of collection boxes and increased publicity.”

To promote member awareness and use of reusable shopping bags, General Coordinator Janet Schumacher has created a new consolidated area for displaying reusable grocery bags at the end-cap of Aisle 2. “We want people to be conscious about their use of plastic bags and to know that they have a range of options available in terms of reusable shopping bags.” To appeal to the breadth of tastes, budgets, and lifestyles of coop members, Schumacher has ordered a variety of new bags, including a small canvas tote bag with black handles ($4.11) that fits over the shoulder and comes in a range of fashionable colors. With pink and orange already sold out (more should be coming soon), snag one or two of the remaining yellow or black ones and you’ll have a great shopping bag and/or spiffy summer purse. For those looking to conserve space, Schumacher points to the line of string bags available, which, she emphasizes, “are highly compressible.” And, of course, those sturdy, graphically appealing Coop printed bags, which are already very popular with members, continue to be available.

One of the notable new additions to the bag selection at the Coop has been a reusable plastic zipper bag priced under one dollar. Who knows whether it is fashion or function that is driving sales, but these bags quite literally went flying out the door. Holtz, who assisted Schumacher in finding the low-cost bags, says that “we sold 120 bags in one week, it was amazing, I think having a price below one dollar and the fact that the bag is sturdy and light and reusable really appealed to a lot of people.” The Coop, which sold through its first shipment of 82 cent bags, received a new order last week and these bags are priced even lower! So make sure you grab one of these 61 cent bags while they are still in stock.

In addition to reusable grocery bags, Coop members may be interested in reusable produce bags. Although many members already reuse standard roll bags (2 for 1 cent), for those who don’t feel these bags are sturdy enough, there are currently two options: muslin produce bags and green plastic bags. Both can be found either in Aisle 4A, near

The Coop Articles: Dispatches From the Park Slope Food Coop 2002-2007

the cleaning products, or in the new end-cap bag display. The muslin produce bags are47 $1.11 and are machine washable. The bags are durable and can be used for produce and dry goods, as can the reusable green bags, which come in three different sizes: small (10 for $2.38), medium (10 for $3.23) and large (10 for $5.20).

The problem for most of us, of course, is how to remember to bring the bags to the Coop or how to have the bags handy when we shop. Although even Schumacher cannot help members with these issues, she and Holtz do have some suggestions. For those who make big weekly or monthly shopping trips, she and Holtz recommend having a system in place, and a bag of empty bags handy that you take with you each time you plan to shop. For those who shop at the Coop daily, or straight from work, keep one of the canvas or string bags in a briefcase, or purse, or even in a coat pocket, so you will always have it ready. As a committed spur of the moment Coop shopper, and someone who is used to using T-shirt bags as trash liners, I can only say that Holtz and Schumacher’s advice really works. Having taken the time to put aside a designated shopping bag, which also contains a spare tote bag, and a few muslin produce bags, I have significantly reduced my use of plastic T-shirt and produce bags.

© johannah rodgers

Academia.”edu”: A Site of Many Questions

Academia.”edu”: A Site of Many Questions

American Book Review, Volume 38, Number 2, January/February 2017

Johannah Rodgers

The first question, “Why Are We Not Boycotting Academia.edu?”, which was also the title of a December 8, 2015 symposium organized by Gary Hall and Janneka Adema at Coventry University, is undoubtedly a crucial one.  Unfortunately, it is also, at this moment in time, an apparently easy one to answer. The main reason “we” are not boycotting Academia.edu is because, as an organization backed by an estimated $17.7MM in venture-capital funding, Academia.edu has been able to successfully fulfill a need for a well-designed, easy to use, freely accessible, global repository of scholarly work across the disciplines.  In fact, there is so much scholarly content posted currently on the site, including, it is worth mentioning, information about the 2015 Coventry University symposium, that Academia.edu has become difficult to avoid.       

Yet, as a privately-owned, venture-capital funded commercial venture, Academia.edu has also been the object of some scrutiny, thanks largely to the attention brought to the it by the 2015 Coventry University symposium, an event recorded and archived at the archive.org website.  The subject of two 2015 articles in the U.S.-based magazines The Atlantic and The Chronicle of Higher Education, Academia.edu was, more recently, profiled and criticized in the Canadian magazine University Affairs for its ongoing use of the .edu domain despite the fact that Academia.edu has no educational affiliation.  And, however educational its wider mission to facilitate access to scholarly work may be, its business model, ever evolving and not publicly disclosed, is a for-profit one that depends on the free donation of intellectual property originally funded by a range of government and non-profit sources.   

The publicly available facts about Academia.edu are astonishingly consistent: It has a, somewhat inexplicably [1],  large and growing user base that totals an estimated 46MM account holders (2016) and 36MM unique visitors per month.  It is free to use for its registered users and it is designed and architected to be at once easy to use and feature-rich, meaning, even if you do not regularly visit the site, it will stay in touch with you via e-mail to keep you abreast of new research posted by those “academics” whom you “follow” and the “impact” of your work based on the number of users accessing it.  Further, unlike other existing scholarly databases, such as JSTOR or ProjectMuse, Academia.edu offers users access to analytics related to the reception and readership of scholarly work and a daily-updated percentile rank, i.e., top 1%, 4%, etc., of work and profile views relative to others posted on the site. Designed at once to appeal to university administrators looking for quantitative statistics related to research employees’ overall “impact factor” and to time-pressed and post-PTSD full-time and adjunct faculty members raised and perhaps fueled by comparative, and particularly, percentile rankings, Academia.edu clearly understands its target audience.  As a privately held company, Academia.edu is not required to disclose any financial records and how the company is generating or plans to generate revenue is a work in progress.  However, possibilities for monetizing its very rich and freely donated content, which, aside from information about its ever growing user base [1], currently totals 16.9MM “academic” papers, range from the highly ambitious plan of data mining content for innovative and profitable product development plans, to the more mundane and currently operational one of hosting and selling advertisements for job vacancies on its site, a fact that is all the more ironic in light of the increasingly irrational economies fueling the growth industry that is now known as “U.S. higher ed.”       

Though not an educational institution, Academia.edu retains the right to use the .edu domain address because it purchased the name prior to October 29, 2001 when new guidelines related to the use of the domain were implemented.  In other words, with respect to its use of the .edu domain, Academia.edu is “grandfathered” in.  While this fact has been widely reported, and as much as Richard Price, the founder of Academia.edu can be congratulated on his foresight and financial acumen in registering the domain name Academia.edu on May 10, 1999,  the company’s right to the continued use of the .edu domain is not guaranteed since this use is subject to U.S. government policies that can be amended.  In April, 2012, a proposed amendment to current .edu policy was introduced to assess the intent and purpose of the sites maintained by existing .edu domain holders and to disqualify those sites with “Use Inconsistent with the Purpose of .edu.”  Though never ratified, the amendment was open to public comment through July 3, 2012, and the eighteen comments posted pointed out both the long-overdue need for such an amendment and its potential drawbacks, particularly with respect to its somewhat intentionally vague language.  A lengthy comment posted by Academia.edu founder Richard Price opposed the amendment in no uncertain terms, arguing that it was the scope of the definition of terms such as “educational” that were at issue and subject to debate,interpretation, and application.  

Words, Their Values, Valuations, and Costs

I very much agree with Price’s assessment of the situation.  It is issues of definition that must be discussed, both what words mean and who is in charge of the dictionary, meaning, increasingly, directory, being used as a reliable reference source to define them [2].  The U.S. Department of Commerce oversees the policies related to the use of .edu domain name, and, though it has outsourced, in exchange for $54K per year, the administration of the .edu domain to the not-for-profit educational information technology association Educause, an organization with 2015 revenues of $32MM and a director who was paid a $450K salary in 2015, it must address what this word education and its virtual place-holder .edu signify to U.S., state, and local governments in 2016 and update its policies accordingly [3].      

Government investment in network and communications technologies related to the internet were intended to serve both commercial and public purposes.  Just what the appropriate balance is between these two aims is open to debate. However, the privatization and commercialization of public resources, which are then monetized and sold back to the public, seems to be both a shady business practice and decidedly not in the public interest.  What is more, Academia.edu’s actual cost to public information and educational initiatives is ever growing and needs to be quantified. As university administrators look increasingly to private companies and their “free” services to supplement and, increasingly, replace internal information technology initiatives related to instructional, research, and curricular support, the question of what words mean, where and how their definitions are verified, and what real and virtual value is attached to them becomes all the more pressing.[4]  For, the last, if not the least, of the many questions that need to be posed regarding Academia.edu is one that applies equally to both public and private Higher Education in the U.S. generally: “Is monetize a for-profit word?” [5]

[1] As a registered user of academia.edu, I have some first-hand experience with the site’s functionality, its ease of use, and, as a result of both, several questions about its user base and the demographics of its 36MM unique monthly visitors.  Although advertising itself as a platform with 46MM registered academics, the lack of any requirements for registering an account means that its user base is highly diverse and almost certainly not comprised of 46MM “academics,” unless that term is understood in the very broadest sense possible.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014 there were just over 1.3 MM job positions in post-secondary education in the U.S. Assuming that the U.S. represents the largest post-secondary job market globally, the fact that this number, in its entirety, represents less than three percent of Academia.edu’s user base is just the most obvious indication that the demographics of academia.edu’s user-base are wide-ranging.  Further, having posted the table of contents to my 2014 first year writing textbook on Academia.edu, I know from comments posted by users downloading this material that over two thirds of those accessing this resource are undergraduates.  While I am not suggesting that undergraduates should be prevented from accessing Academia.edu nor that they should not be encouraged to access research on the site, I do think it is worthwhile pointing this out as one discrepency in Academia.edu’s advertised claims regarding its user base.

[2] In her December 11, 2015 Chronicle of Higher Education article, Ellen Wexler documents some of Price’s further thoughts on issues of definition, quoting him as saying “‘“Monetize” is not a for-profit word.’” 

[3] Regarding answers to the question of whether academics should or should not use Academia.edu, there is, to date no consensus.  Although most universities now maintain repositories of scholarly articles published by their faculty and these can be somewhat easily accessed by scholars unaffiliated with the sponsoring institution, unaffiliated users cannot deposit material to these repositories.  The 2016 MLA Commons/CORE initiative is the most recent publicly available repository of scholarly publications.  However, this project, like the Humanities Commons project is only for scholars in the Humanities.  While I applaud these initiatives, both of which are “related” to the Scholarly Commons project at CUNY, where I am affiliated, I continue to believe that all of these initiatives need to be combined.  The centralization of Academia.edu and its ease of use is unparalleled compared to any other scholarly repository that I have accessed. That said, I advise academics to post LINKS ONLY to Academia.edu and upload their intellectual property to repositories hosted by unversities.       

[4] The Twitter “conversation” related to #deleteacademiaedu revealed that some universities–Arizona State, for instance–is in the process of “getting rid” of faculty websites.  The college where I was employed, The New York City College of Technology at The City University of New York, has also made it harder, not easier, for faculty to create and host publicly available web sites at the college.  

[5] See Footnote [2]

Some Alternate Titles

What’s In a Name?  At Academia.edu, About $17.7MM 

Academia.edu:  What’s In a Name?  Lots of Questions

As Social Media and Academia Collide, It Increasingly Appears That None of Us Are Wearing Any Clothes.  However, University Librarians May Have Some We Can Borrow.                

MLA citation:

Rodgers, Johannah. “Academia.”edu”.” American Book Review, vol. 38 no. 2, 2017, p. 9-13. Project MUSEdoi:10.1353/abr.2017.0007.

APA citation:

Rodgers, J. (2017). Academia.”edu”. American Book Review 38(2), 9-13. doi:10.1353/abr.2017.0007.

 

© johannah rodgers