Posts Tagged ‘Lydia’

vanilla extractMy daughter had taken some course in middle school that involved cooking. Yes, the class had BOTH boys and girls. One of the things the students could NOT bring to school was vanilla extract. But they COULD bring imitation vanilla.

Vacationing with my wife’s family this past summer, one of my in-laws wondered whether imitation vanilla contained alcohol. I surmised that it did not. If it did, why allow it and not permit vanilla extract in school?

But I had not looked it up util the next day, when I found an intriguing 2015 article called Why Don’t You Buy Vanilla Extract in a Liquor Store? The subtitle notes it is “the same proof as vodka or rum, yet we buy it at the supermarket. Here’s why.”

“You have to go back to the years just before Prohibition, when trade groups and manufacturers… realized that the only way to save their industries was to lobby politicians to write in legal loopholes that would allow them to continue operating.

“Vanilla extract doesn’t just rely on alcohol to extract the essential flavors and fragrances from the vanilla bean and suspend them in a stable solution—it’s also required by law to have an alcohol content of at least 35 percent. (Vanilla extract is also the only flavoring deemed important enough for the federal government to officially define standards for.)

“In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was made the law of the land, and the U.S. was, at least on paper, now an alcohol-free country. But the actual legal mechanisms for enforcing the amendment weren’t in place yet.

“Seeing their last chance to avert disaster, [the Flavor and Extracts Manufacturers Association] flooded congressmen with telegrams… By the time the Volstead Act went into effect the following year, it included a clause that made an exemption for flavor extracts—as long as they were deemed non-potable and a reasonable person wouldn’t want to drink them straight.”

The story has more fun facts, especially about money, but also concerning what a “reasonable person” means.

Imitation vanilla is made from synthetic vanillin, which is the compound that naturally occurs in vanilla beans and gives it that distinctive flavor.” It is cheaper and contains no alcohol.

Those are the rules in the United States. How does the rest of the world treat vanilla extract?

For ABC Wednesday

Just before Christmas 2017, our library director took his library staff out to lunch. It’s been a tradition that it’d be some non-standard fate, and this time we settled on Van’s Vietnamese restaurant, on Central Avenue in Albany.

It was fine, and the servings were generous. I got two more lunches out of the leftovers. But the decor was non-distinct.

But I recall the PREVIOUS time I was at Van’s, more than a decade ago. It was located on Madison Avenue. It was going to be the first time my wife and I were going to actually go out to dinner at a nice, sit-down restaurant. It had a nifty tile floor, as I recall.

Of course, we had to take the Daughter in that carry seat that fits into the back seat of the car. All the way to the restaurant, she was fine. Happy, even.

However, within five minutes of being seated, she began to cry. No, that’s not precisely correct. She began to WAIL. The screaming bouncing off the floor made the sound even worse.

None of the usual tricks – the binky to suck on, singing to her, holding her -worked. After about five minutes, not wanting to torture the other diners, the waitstaff, or ourselves any further, we departed, leaving a small tip for the two partially-drunk glasses of water.

We put her in the car, went to some drive-through place for some burgers and went home. The Daughter was fine, happy even. So what happened?

Theory #1: she did not want her parents to have a good time! Theory #2: there was something about the smell of the food that disagreed with her. Or maybe it was just the sound of people walking on that floor that bothered her ears.

Emotionally, I’d been leaning towards Theory #1, but years of hindsight suggests the second theory is more plausible.

When The Daughter was born, we received some lovely and generous gifts from friends and family. Being raised correctly, we tried to send out thank you notes right away. But we were tired, trying to get a handle on this parenting thing.

Finally, in October 2004, only seven months later, we wrote up a bunch of cards of appreciation. Not so bad, really.

My wife reminds me that we were even better with our wedding presents from 1999. The notes went out within three weeks, not bad since we spent nearly a week in Barbados. There were a couple items we were unable to identify – who gave us the $100 J.C. Penney gift card? – but for the most part, we were properly appreciative in a timely manner. And necessarily so, since the presents had taken over the living room.

This past winter, I was wading through a bunch of miscellaneous boxes that had made their way to the attic. I FOUND a handful of thank you cards from 2004! They were in envelopes, the cards filled with personalized messages about the special gifts people had gotten for us. The names were on the envelopes but not addresses; presumably we were going to look them up. They had 37 cent stamps already attached.

I was mortified and immediately threw them back into the box, much like how one might take bills one cannot afford to pay and stuff them into a drawer, irrationally hoping they will go away, which, for the record, seldom works.

So apologies to Jack in my current choir and his wife Sue, and to Lori from my previous choir. Those are the only names I saw before I stopped looking. Apologies to whomever else we failed to fulfill our social obligation.

Maybe next time I find them, I will put on the additional postage and actually mail them out. Hey, Lori, where ARE you in Florida? I’ve lost track.

The Daughter was practicing her signature, using cursive writing, earlier this year. A couple generations ago, this wouldn’t have even warranted a mention.

Now there’s a great debate regarding the necessity and efficacy of cursive writing. In some circles, it is now considered a form of creativity, art, if you will, and I think the Daughter was attracted to it at that level.

It is also true that, for some time, she was having difficulty READING cursive, notes from her grandparents, for instance. To the degree that she can, it’s like learning a foreign language. I imagine the folks who design logos are cognizant of that trend.

One of the “cons” of cursive listed: “It’s gone the way of the typewriter.” Of course, the typewriter is making a comeback.

Is the loss of cursive a “dumbing-down of our education system” or is teaching it time wasted? As one who thinks that quicker is not necessarily better, I believe that since it appears to be good for the brain, it should be taught.

“Since it engages both the right and left hemispheres of the brain, it can actually aid in reading comprehension, idea generation, spelling, brain development and memory.”

Even thirty years ago, I realized some ten-year-old children could not read an analog clock. The Daughter was learning in second or third grade, but I know I understood it before I left kindergarten, and I might have known it earlier.

The announcement that analog clocks are disappearing from UK schools caused similar conflict, with some bemoaning it, others suggesting that we can’t read a sundial either, times change, etc.

I suppose I like the analog clock – a retronym, BTW – precisely because it’s imprecise. A quarter to three might be 2:44 or 2:46, and unless you’re trying to catch a train or something, it matters little.

If I had to keep one or the other, it would be cursive writing. Yes, toddlers might have computers to type on, but there’s value to the hands-on craft.

EpiPenMy daughter has been had in her possession (or her mother’s, or mine) an Epipen for nearly a decade.

For those who aren’t familiar, an “EpiPen is an injection that contains epinephrine, a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs. The allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) treated with the use of EpiPen include those from insect stings or bites, food, drugs, and other allergens.”

We discovered my daughter’s allergy to peanuts when she was two and a half, and ate a cookie. She also responds poorly to several tree nuts, which we found out a couple years after that. We, of course, are very vigilant about checking food labels. To date, we’ve never actually USED the device, though we have practiced with the dummy version of the Epipen: Blue to the sky. Orange to the thigh.

But, like most health aids, the Epipen has an expiration date, so this requires getting a new device a couple times a year. The schools loathe having outdated medicines on hand.

As it turns out, for a varirty of reasons, there has been a shortage of Epipens in 2018. To address this, “FDA is alerting health care professionals and patients of updated dates through which some EpiPens and the authorized generic version, manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company, may be used beyond the manufacturer’s labeled expiration date.”

If you click on this link, you can look for the alphanumeric batch designation, the manufacturer’s original expiration date, and the new expiration date (beyond manufacturer’s original expiry date).

The thing is, I’ve always sensed that the expiration date was too short, which has made the process of keeping “current” devices at school/camp/et al to be costly and inconvenient.

In a related announcement, the FDA approved the first generic version of the EpiPen this month.

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