Saturday, January 23, 2016

Photos Of A Historic Snowstorm

There will be no Saturday Serendipity this week in favor of memorializing in a few shots of what we have experienced here in northern Virginia.  The first photo above is, believe it or not, our four vehicles.

It is still coming down here steadily and has been all day.

Sadly, our new Toro snowblower, refused to start yesterday so we could get on top of this winter gift. We are 50 miles west of DC and tucked up against the Blue Ridge Mountains, so we almost always get more snow than DC.

I have caught something that may or may not be norovirus.  I am too weak to lend anything but nominal assistance.  Molly did a path through the driveway yesterday as our Toro snowblower would not start using the handpull or the electric start, so we took the blower into the kitchen for over night to warm her up.  That did the trick this morning and Molly used her on the entire driveway.

And then there is this photo of the roof on our attached garage.  Good thing we had new roof put on just a couple of years ago!

And finally, here is El Toro resting in our kitchen to prepare for another clean up tomorrow. A bit of advice . . .  having a model with an electric start is well worth the relatively low additional cost. We would have been lost if all we had was the mower-like handpull.

Amazingly, we have lost no power . . . yet.

Molly is a genuine hero!  ;-)

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All photos by the author.

Copyright 2016, John D. Tew
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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Is This New England Cuisine Specialty Actually A Health Food? (January 12, 2016)

Growing up in New England there were many items of the regional cuisine that were known and appreciated mostly, if not exclusively, by residents of the various New England states: Johnnycakes and clam cakes in Rhode Island; grinders in Connecticut (otherwise known as a sub or hoagy); Boston baked beans, of course; frappes in much of New England were cabinets in Rhode Island (otherwise known as milkshakes); Moxie, the official gentian-flavored soft drink of Maine (although created in Lowell, MA); and many other food items such as lobster rolls, maple syrup and candy, Indian pudding, and New England clam "chowdah" to name just a few. 

And then there is the much loved, but much maligned "fluffernutter" sandwich! 

When I was in elementary school in New Hampshire in the early 1960s it would have been a very unusual lunch period indeed if several student lunch boxes did not contain a fluffernutter. The fluffernutter is so ingrained in New England food culture that the town of Somerville, Massachusetts (where Marshmallow Creme was invented in 1917), holds an annual "What the Fluff?" festival every September. In fact, the Fluffernutter is so embedded in New England culture that it had to eventually become the subject of political maneuvering and proposed legislation. 

In 2006 a Massachusetts State Senator decided that the guilty pleasure of the schoolhouse fluffernutter had to be curbed for the health and welfare of The Bay State children and he proposed legislation to limit the serving of the traditional sandwich by school cafeterias to once a week. Not to be outdone, the State Representative whose district was just south of Lynn, where the key ingredient to fluffernutters is created, introduced a bill to make the fluffernutter the official state sandwich. Both bills failed. And so it goes . . . the traditional and controversial fluffernutter lives on even if not clothed in the glory of being an official state sandwich in a New England state.

Now, for the uninitiated, the regionally famous and traditional fluffernutter was always made with white bread, peanut butter, and a marshmallow creme that was invented in Massachusetts in the early 20th Century. According to Wikipedia, marshmallow fluff was invented by one Archibald Query in Somerville, MA in 1917 and he called it Marshmallow Creme. The earliest published recipe for a peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwich was during World War I when a woman named Emma Curtis from Melrose, MA (who with her husband Amory invented what they called Snowflake Marshmallow Creme), explained how to make what she called a "Liberty Sandwich."  The Liberty Sandwich used oat or barley bread.

It was not until 1960, however, that an advertising agency came up with the actual term "Fluffernutter." Durkee-Mower Inc. hired a marketing agency to come up with a campaign to market the peanut butter and marshmallow creme sandwich and thus sell more of their Marshmallow Fluff (originally called Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff). H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower bought the recipe of Archibald Query in 1920. In 1960, the agency came up with the name Fluffernutter and today the name is a registered trademark of Durkee-Mower.

As much loved as the New England-born Fluffernutter is, even with its rich history it is also the subject of ridicule and mockery to the point that the term is sometimes used to simply describe an insubstanital thing having little or no value. And as the aborted attempt to legislatively limit its consumption in Massachusetts schools demonstrates, the venerable Fluffernutter has even been attacked as a contributor to childhood obesity!

Recently, it was with some degree of shock that I realized my wife and her sister (who grew up in New Jersey), were not really familiar with the traditional comfort food that is the Fluffernutter. AND I realized that I had not indulged in one in so long that I could not remember the last time I had one. Since these realizations hit while I was assisting my sister-in-law with her move to the Adirondacks, I added "Fluff" to our shopping list. It was no surprise to find that the grocery stores in the North Country of upstate New York (being contiguous to New England states) stocked Fluff in regular and huge sizes -- and so some Fluff was purchased and the Fluffernutter was introduced to a lifelong denizen of the Mid-Atlantic States. And it was good!

Now when I was growing up in New Hampshire and consuming Fluffernutters with some regularity, I never paused to consider what the Fluff in Fluffernutter was made of -- or the nutritional/caloric value of the sweet ingredient in the sandwich. But as an adult in snack food, nutrition-conscious, America I happened to glance at the Nutrition Facts label on the jar of Fluff while in the grocery store and I was delighted to discover that Fluff is actually a health food!  Who knew??

You are doubtful? Unbelieving? Derisive?  Well, look at the fact sheet on this marvelous combination of corn syrup, sugar, dried egg whites, and vanillin and judge for yourself.

The standard 2 tablespoon serving of Fluff has a mere 40 calories and none of them come from fat or trans fat. There is a minimal amount of sodium (5mg) compared to many foods we eat in great quantities today, and there are only 6 grams of sugar per serving in the total 10 grams of carbohydrates Moreover, Fluff is not a significant source of cholesterol. 

Compare Fluff to the other required ingredient in a Fluffernutter -- let's say the "natural" peanut butter of a national brand that, "Has to be good with a name like . . . "  The standard 2 tablespoon serving of this delicious peanut butter weighs in at 200 calories with 16 grams of total fat of which 2.5 grams is saturated fat. And, the peanut butter brings you 105 mg of sodium with 6 grams of total carbohydrates of which 1 gram is sugar.

If you match your 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with the popular strawberry jam from the same famous national brand to make yourself a PB&J instead of a Fluffernutter, what do you get? Well, even though you will get the same zero fat as Fluff, you will consume 100 calories and 26 grams of total carbohydrates -- of which 24 grams will be sugar.  The jam will not give you any significant sodium.

There you have it, a classic New England food specialty is actually a modern health food.  So make room for Fluff in the pantry, abandon your blind reliance on the good ol' PB&J, and branch out with introduction of the New England health alternative -- the one and only Fluffernutter!

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All photos of a jar of Marshmallow Fluff by the author.

See, for a link to the nutritional facts for Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter.

See, for a link to the nutritional information for Smucker's Strawberry Jam.

Fluffernutter is a registered trademark of Durkee-Mower Inc.
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Copyright 2016, John D. Tew
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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saturday Serendipity (January 9, 2016)

Saturday Serendipity returns this week with my first post of 2016. Having been traveling for the holidays and now concentrating on the long, painful process of reorganizing over 29,000 genealogy photos and document images (see December 19, 2015 post), I have had to put aside my blogging to get on top of things. Now that I am back to some genealogy and history reading, here are just a few recommended reads for this weekend.

1. The Weekly Genealogist of NEHGS highlighted a piece at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History blog that summarized the top ten most read of its blog posts in 2015. 

2.  Do you have any ancestors or relatives who lived in Barnstable, Massachusetts? Check out this article about the steps being taken to preserve record books and documents going back almost 400 years.  Once the material is restored and digitized, they will be available via computer; until then the documents are still available to the public as long as a town employee is present during handling.

3.  As genealogists, we are always open to locating new sources for potentially useful and informative data to better inform our genealogies. The rapidly moving era of digitization brings us new research sources almost daily. Rebecca Onion at The Vault posted two pieces about digital history projects that "dazzled" her this past year.  You can see the second of her two posts and you can get a link to her initial post here. As a teaser of what you can find, how about an online Reno, Nevada divorce history or a mapping of the occupation by the Army after Appomatox and during Reconstruction?

4.  The last issue of NGS Magazine for 2015 (Vol. 41, Number 4, Oct. -- Dec. 2015) was largely devoted to writing. As Editor Darcie Hind Posz put it, the goal of the issue was to "offer inspiration, practical tools, and new approaches to genealogical writing." The issue is worth the time it takes to read it.

5.  And speaking of NGS, UpFront With NGS blog had a recent post about the status and future of microfilm records.  You can read the brief post and get links to more extensive pieces here.

6.  And finally, here is an interesting video that only lasts 1 minute. It shows via a morphing map of the U.S. how our population grew and moved from the first census in 1790 through the most recent census in 2010.

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Copyright 2016, John D. Tew
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