Chef Buddha’s Recipe: Skyroom Hoosier Chicken & Noodles, Indiana Beach, Monticello, Indiana

A batch of Hoosier Chicken & Noodles in the Skyroom Kitchen at Indiana Beach Amusement Resort, Monticello, Indiana, made by Chef Buddha on June 14, 2015.

The summer of 2015 was … odd for me. Back in 1979 I’d spent the summer cooking at a YMCA camp in Irons, Michigan, and had a hackuva time up there. I was fresh out of high school and on my own for the first time, cooking three meals a day for kids out of central Chicago. To say there were problems was an understatement, but those ten weeks were still a lot of fun. I never thought I’d do such a thing again.

So it was strange this past May 6th for me, a 53-year-old man, to head out at 7 in the morning to drive five hours to an amusement park in central Indiana, driving away from my wife, kids and grandkids, to what was supposed to be only a 100-day position running a 50-year-old restaurant at the park. Getting there at noon, there was a Sysco truck waiting, along with the people I’d spend the whole summer with. We spent the next eight hours putting things away and starting prep for the Mother’s Day Brunch on the 10th.

Things rarely slowed down in Monticello after that.

The Skyroom dining room on the morning of August 16, 2015.

The Skyroom Restaurant at Indiana Beach Amusement Resort had an elegance over its five decades, serving Shrimp Cocktail, Prime Rib, Steaks, Salmon, Cobb Salads, even a Chateaubriand for Two. The various Chefs over the years would do Luau buffets with whole roast pig, Pasta Nights with fresh pasta dishes being made at an impromptu station in the glass-walled dining room overlooking the park, and many other special events. By the time I got there this past May tastes had, of course, changed. Diners don’t select dishes like Chateaubriand at amusement parks anymore, and we served fewer Shrimp Cocktails than ever. We still did some Pasta Nights and Luaus, but more burgers, steaks and salmon. The porkchops were alright, but when we ended up with some seriously nicer ones for a special they did better. The Skyroom has more of a “pub” feel now, which is fine. It’s still a great place to eat.

As the location is an amusement park people would come from all over to work there. Of course the locals and college kids came and went as staff, but there was an international program as well, pulling in staff from Jordan, Romania, and many other countries. Our own Jenelle Solomon, a vegetarian from St. Elizabeth, “the bread basket of Jamaica”, was there for her fifth season, grilling the best salmon and steaks anyone had ever tasted while honestly never trying them herself. Jesus “Chewy” Dominguez had come up from outside Mexico City for his 21st season this summer, and could cook up just about anything you asked him to. When he made Cream of Mushroom Soup this summer for the first time ever, just guessing the recipe while using fresh mushrooms and heavy cream with 36% milkfat, the result was astonishing.

But the real backbone of the Skyroom, the man who was there for most of the restaurant’s existence so far, was Chef Buddha. Robert M. “Buddha” White had started working at Indiana Beach out on the piers at the tender age of 13. This was his 47th year at the park, most of them spent moving up through the ranks in the Skyroom until he was appropriately named as Chef. But that’s not all he did … He was also a county Sheriff’s Deputy for 34 of those years, along with being SWAT Team Commander, while spending every summer at the Skyroom. To say he was a proud and hard worker is an extreme understatement.

When I first met Chef Buddha in May I watched as the entire staff, those who had been there many years themselves, treated him like gold. I instantly understood the serious respect he had earned over the years from everyone around him. And when my wife showed up for her first of many visits to the park on May 22nd, Chef Buddha took the time to sit down with her in the dining room for a long and friendly chat.

One of the things I’d heard many times from Chef Buddha was that he had wished he and I had met earlier. We shared lot of similar interests and, as he was only six years my senior, a lot of common experiences outside of our work areas. And as I’ve developed a keen interest as an amateur food historian, he told me it was nice to have someone to discuss the Skyroom’s history with.

Early in the 2015 season I’d heard about an older special, the Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles, that was apparently last served during the 2008 season. On June 5th I asked Chef Buddha about this dish. He replied it was in his head, and had simply never been written down. The Spackman’s had founded the park in 1926, and the Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles special was a Spackman family recipe that was then tweaked by Chef Buddha and an earlier Chef Dave via discussions, nothing more. So I promptly asked for it. As you can see in the above photo, he wrote it down, taking over an hour to cover an entire page with the details.

After writing the recipe down for me, Chef Buddha told us Tom Spackman had the following policy: “You only serve peas on Sunday, and you’d better have peas on Sunday, and you only serve peas with this dish.” It turns out Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles had defined Sunday in the older iterations of the Skyroom. It’s the kind of tradition the Skyroom’s caretakers and diners had drifted away from over the years. Without realizing it, I was just as guilty as any of them. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful those days will return.

As he was becoming quite ill, we saw less and less of Chef Buddha as the season went on, and by mid-August he had stopped coming to the Skyroom. In late September I received a text from his phone, a photo sent by his longtime girlfriend Kathy, showing them getting married on September 20th. We lost Chef Buddha to cancer on October 3rd. I was in Grand Forks, North Dakota, when Kathy sent me the news that morning. I cried like a baby.

When I think about it, I realize I had only known Chef Buddha for a couple of months. It’s amazing the kind of impact some people can have on your life over a very short period of time. There are people I proudly say are more like family to me. Chef Buddha is near the top of that list.

My wife and I have discussed my getting a Buddha figurine for the fireplace, with it wearing a Chef’s toque. It seems only fitting.

Merry Christmas, Chef Buddha. I’ll see ya’ later.

Sunday Hoosier Chicken & Noodles Special
Chef Robert M. “Buddha” White, June 5, 2015

5 lb ½” diced white chicken
1-1/2 gal 2% milk
4-1/2 qt 36% heavy cream
Extra wide egg noodles (aka “butter noodles”)
Fresh basil
½ lb cornstarch
Chicken base to taste
Cold water
Peas, frozen
Mashed potatoes, hot
Chicken gravy, hot

Method: Thaw and heat the diced chicken in a 4″ full-size hotel pan. Sprinkle chopped fresh basil over the chicken and set aside. Also, make a slurry with the cornstarch and cold water and set aside as well.

Combine the milk and cream in a heavy-bottom pot. Add enough chicken base to get a golden color and good chicken flavor. While stirring often, cook over medium-high heat to just before boiling. Slowly add the slurry while constantly whisking until thickened. Remove from heat immediately.

Pour the thickened cream sauce over the chicken, cover with plastic film and foil, and keep hot in the steam table. Also cook the green peas al dente and keep them hot separately. Cook egg noodles (aka “butter noodles”) to 80%, drain, rinse with cold water, and keep cold.

To Serve: Rejuvenate noodles in pasta pot. Place scoop of hot mashed potatoes at one end of an oval plate, off-center. Ladle heated chicken gravy over potatoes. Put egg noodles on plate diagonally, and ladle the chicken mixture over the noodles. Serve with green peas on end of the plate next to the mashed potatoes.

Buffet Style: Prepare cream sauce and egg noodles as described. Cook green peas till al dente. Combine cream sauce, noodles and green peas. Present on buffet in 4″ full-size hotel pan.

In-Progress: Allergen and Info Icons for Online Restaurant Menus

It’s not completely ready yet, but this is what it looks like.

In working on various web sites for restaurants, I’ve found there really aren’t any good methods for displaying menus. Using JPG images of menu pages or even PDFs of those pages flies in the face of a lot of what people believe should be done, so they’re termed “unacceptable”. Many restaurant web sites are built using the WordPress platform. Plugins for restaurant menus for said platform makes sense. But many of the restaurant menu plugins that work aren’t up-to-date with the current platform, and the ones that are updated correctly are missing some vital features, including being responsive enough to work well on smart phones.

It also stands to reason that WordPress crosses international boundaries. For example, as of Dec. 13, 2014, 14 allergen icos are required on restaurant menus in the UK. But none of the available WordPress plugins address the use of those icons.

What we’ve ended up doing is to begin the development of a new plugin for WordPress that creates restaurant menus the way we want to see them. Above are some of the icons we’ve assembled for use in the plugin, including the official UK icons, along with some other icons developers might want to use. They’re not quite ready yet, but at least we have some progress.

We hope to have the plugin ready in a month or so, if only to be able to test it on our own web sites prior to releasing it into the wild.

We’ll see how it goes …

Recipe: Peach Mango Habanero Barbecue Sauce

Longtime readers, friends, and fellow cooks will know of my longtime fascination with a certain couple of hot sauces. In a ten-year timespan our household subsequently had become partially involved with the sauces, as many of the recipes on their web site came from our kitchen. Later on, the recipes had even migrated onto one of our own web sites, and we became the official archive for the collection.

Sometime late this summer a disconnect of sorts occured, and suddenly and without warning the sauces became completely unavailable. They simply weren’t there anymore. I only found out when Mary asked for the barbecue sauce I used to make, to be used in pulled pork sandwiches for her birthday celebration this past Saturday. I went to order a half-dozen bottles of the peach-mango-habanero sauce, only to find the web site itself no longer existed.

Talk about a mad scramble.

I had convinced Mary that using Sweet Baby Ray’s was alright as a substitute. Ray’s has always been our fall-back sauce. We use Old Montgomery on occasion when our son-in-law Andrew is here for dinner as that’s his favorite. And we sometimes use a Kansas City sauce, if only because it has a unique flavor profile we all enjoy.

But even though she said Sweet Baby Ray’s was alright, I knew better. I needed to find some kind of a substitute for the peach-mango-habanero sauce I used to make for her with the older hot sauce.

andersons_terminal_federal_oshima_05312014I decided to head to The Anderson’s, a local chain of three retail stores in the Toledo area. The Anderson’s is more than just the stores … Since the 1940s they’ve also been the leading grainery in the area, with huge silos (seen in my image to the left of the Federal Oshima) along the River Raisin, accessible by grain shipping vessels traveling the Great Lakes. They’re also known for dealing in fertilizers for farmers, ethanol, and managing fleets of rail cars transporting their products. They opened their first retail store in the 1950s, which have become places to find all kinds of more unique food products than the national chains they’re competing against.

I had decided to find some kind of barbecue sauce with a spicy-hot base and some kind of fruit involved. The Anderson’s store in north Toledo has a twenty-foot aisle of barbecue and hot sauces, along with other spicy preserved sauces, so that’s where I headed. Some barbecue sauces had raspberries and pineapple, along with some spicier sauces containing honey, but really nothing even close to what Mary really wanted.

Heading into the hot sauces I looked around for a bit … and then stopped dead in my tracks.

There they were. A couple rows of 14 ounce bottles of Robert Rothschild Farm® Peach Mango Habanero Sauce. Which of course solved absolutely everything.

Looking at the back of the bottle I found a few differences from what I was used to. The ingredient list was in a different order than the one I knew, so I’d have to make a few adjustments to the recipe I already had. This bottle was also 14 ounces vs. the 12 ounces of the other bottle. Robert Rothschild Farms also uses lemon juice in theirs instead of the lime juice of my previous supplier. There’s nothing I could modify there … I could have added lime juice, and still might as I experiment later. But it’s really not necessary.

After grabbing this bottle I headed home, printed the older recipe, and started scribbling the modifications. Some items increased to accomodate the larger bottle size. But I also decreased the amount of water, wanting to kick up the flavor (for a reason I’d rather not disclose here). I could decrease the water further, replacing some of it with lime juice, which again might happen later …

I made the one batch on Friday for the Saturday event. Once I had the sauce rendered down I took a tasting spoon to Mary, who pretty-much swooned at the flavor. The resulting pulled pork went over extremely well with our family, which was very satisfying. And Mary was eating sandwiches with the leftovers for a few days.

What you want to do is this simple: Take a 9 – 11 lb bone-in skin-on pork shoulder and generously rub it with a combination of Kosher or sea salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder. Place it skin side up on a rack in a roasting pan, cover it with a lid or aluminum foil, and roast it at 225F for eight-to-ten hours. Test it after about the seven hour point … You’re not looking for a given internal temperature, but rather the meat flaking apart, without being mush. At that point, remove the meat from the oven. Remove the skin, fat, and the bone, and pull the pork apart into a large pot. Add the sauce as described below and stir, completing the pulling for a good texture. Heat the sauced pork through. Serve on good buns, such as a Kaiser roll, possibly topped with sliced jalapeños for additional heat.

Peach Mango Barbecue Sauce
Yield: 1-1/4 quart

1 medium onion
3 Tbsp unsalted butter (for sautéeing the onion)
14 oz bottle Robert Rothschild Farm® Peach Mango Habanero Sauce
32 oz. bottle ketchup
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1-1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp beef stock
3 teaspoons white vinegar

Chop the onion. Melt the butter in a 4-quart non-reactive pot and sauté the onion until translucent. After shaking it well, add the full bottle of Robert Rothschild Farm® Peach Mango Habanero Sauce, ketchup and Worchestershire sauce and stir until combined well. Add the water, beef stock and vinegar. Heat till boiling, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes to thicken, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.

Note: Make sure to use good ingredients for this recipe. Less-expensive ketchup, Worchestershire sauce and beef stock will likely not allow you to achieve the best final flavors.

The Realities of the Current Minimum Wage Issues

A look at our version of the circa-1800s Macedonian Goulash the Flint Coney sauce was developed from. Click the image for our recipe.

Just to be clear, if you want to republish this or any part of it, let me know via comments. We can discuss it.

In their current arguments against current reports of people protesting for a $15/hour minimum wage, opponents make such claims as “Fast food was never meant to provide a ‘living wage'”, “Increasing wages will increase the costs of what I pay for”, and “Those people don’t work as hard as I do/aren’t educated like I am, and don’t deserve it.”

The realities are vastly different than these claims.

As to the first claim, “Fast food was never meant to provide a ‘living wage'”, in 1929 the Flint Chamber of Commerce published a small pamphlet, “Progressive Flint”, which set out specific indicators of what had happened economically in the city since 1910. According to the pamphlet, the population of Flint in 1910 was 38,550 and had grown to 148,800 by 1928, with an estimate of 163,000 by 1930. General Motors had been founded in 1908 and its growth through those years had been rather extreme. The average annual factory wage for Michigan’s eleven largest cities was $1,450, but in Flint that average wage was $1,780.

The small volume didn’t mention restaurants, but there was a detailed paragraph that broke down the more than 1,700 retailers in Flint at the time. The list included 504 grocers and 32 meat markets. Two of those meat markets would have been Koegel’s and Abbott’s Meat. At the time of the pamphlet’s publication there was one coney shop, Flint Coney Island.

From the beginning Flint Coney Island was constantly open, twenty-four hours each day, seven days every week. Grill cooks and waiters worked the same hours as sailors on a ship, twelve hours every day, with no days off. At the time the railroad ran just south of the Flint River, within walking distance of the restaurant, so passengers and railroad workers alike discovered the Flint Coney Island as a quick place for a good meal.

According to “To To Go”, a Flint oney history pamplet published by the Genesee County Historical Society in 2007, the restaurant workers’ meals were paid, their room was taken care of, and they received $21 each week. If one follows the math on the rate of pay, that’s an annual pay of $1,092, or 60% of what the factory workers were making in Flint, and as much as 75% of what other factory workers were making across the state. If you include the room and board, those wages are even better than they first appear. Theirs were rather good wages, far better percentage-wise than the wages of the “fast food” workers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The issue here is that other workers have lobbied for better wages, sometimes violently, and have succeeded … while those workers currently lobbying for a $15/hour minimum wage are instead being oppressed. How ridiculous, how repulsive, is this situation? Why are the protests from other workers alright but not this one? There is no logical, sensible explanation.

The past century has not been good to minimum wage workers. It’s not their fault. But they’re the ones getting ridiculously punished for it.

Regarding the second claim, “Increasing wages will increase the costs of what I pay for”, you’re being greedy, and so are employers, corporations, and middle-men. That’s all there is to it.

Let’s look at some numbers … in “How to Price your Restaurant Menu“, Lorri Mealey of gives the equation for calculating prices from food costs using the industry standard of 35% markup. But here’s the catch: Labor is not calculated as part of the food cost before the markup. What this means is that labor is stripped right off the profit margin, however low that might be. This is particularly troublesome for dishes where the labor cost might be higher due to more intensive prep work.

In the article “Cheat Sheet: Retail Markup on Common Items” by Kentin Waits on WiseBread we see that the markups for many items are much higher than for foodservice … clothing and shoes at least 100%, furniture and medicines upwards of 200%, eyeglasses better than 800% markup … but grocery is, interestingly enough, far less than that of menu prices at 5% – 25%.

The question arises: Why is food in general treated so differently when it comes to pricing than just about anything else?

In the Wall Street Journal, Sumathi Reddy has written quite an interesting piece on the subject of, “Unwanted New Item on Menu: Higher Prices“. The piece is rathering interesting in the context that the cost of labor isn’t mentioned once. Instead we see statements such as, “Increased food prices have hit the restaurant industry hard, causing some to pass on part of the cost to consumers for the first time since the recession …”, “… the $20 price increase instituted earlier this year [at Per Se] was due to overall increases in costs, ‘food being the most substantial.’ [general manager Anthony Rudolf] said it was the first increase since 2008 …”, and “… the cost of a case of eggplant has more than tripled, to $72 from about $20″.

Increases in labor costs are rarely mentioned, if ever. They’re certainly not accounted for, simply because those increases don’t exist.

Back here I discussed how milk prices have changed so little since 1975. Yup, same problem. It’s still ongoing, and workers at restaurants are suffering the same as farmers and their laborers.

In “Concession stand treats – a license to print money” by Paul Michael on WiseBread, Mr. Michael rants about the prices of concession foods:

“Be it a movie theater, zoo, church event or a local concert, you can expect to pay serious extra cash for a regular item. From the $5 bag of popcorn to the $4 corndog, these are premium prices for very ordinary foods. But you usually let it go, because you’re having a good time …  We’re talking a 97% profit margin on a simple Sno-Kone! … You could even hire someone to man the stand for you, at $8-$10 per hour you’ll easily cover the cost of that person’s salary with the huge markups you’re making from the menu.”

Head back on up to the cheat sheet on markups on common items. It’s on the same web site as Mr. Michael’s piece. Go ahead, I’ll wait … It’s easy to see that a 97% markup isn’t much at all when compared to other items. But less of a markup is expected only because food is involved. Otherwise Mr. Michael, you’d pay it without complaint just like everyone else. And if the markup was more inline with the rest, the food concession worker could then also get a competitive wage, if it were offered.

Again, in this post about the milk prices I’d stated specifically why I felt a gallon of milk should currently be $7.50 – $8, about triple what I’m paying at local grocery stores in SE Michigan/NW Ohio. Frankly, if foodservice workers, grocery floor staff and farmers were to actually make what they’re worth via a competitve wage, food prices across the board, from farmers to distributors, grocers, stand operators and restaurants, should also be at lease triple what they are. Those wages should also go up annually via cost-of-living increases and performance-related raises.

Think for a moment about the price of beef. But don’t think about what you pay for beef at the supermarket. Think about the fact that cattle farmers sell their animals whole, for a single price. A processor then partially breaks that animal down, with butchers completing the work later. The farmer doesn’t see the difference between 73/27 ground hamburger and the best cuts of steak reflected in his or her price. Those are set by other workers and managers later on in the process. So when you pay $2.99 for a one-pound chubb of hamburger, but then pay $7.99 per pound for a Porterhouse, it’s actually likely those came from a single animal for the same price, that price per pound to the farmer that spent time, energy, and money breeding and raising the thing, being less than that for the hamburger.

Meanwhile, you get upset, wanting to boycott the place, or yell and scream at some minimum-wage worker, if the price of your precious dollar menu item goes up by one iota, something they have zero control over, with the increases going into the owner’s or coporation’s wallet, not that of the workers, but you don’t care.

You not caring really is part of the problem. Figure it out.

As to that last claim, “Those people don’t work as hard as I do/aren’t educated like I am, and don’t deserve it”, you have a lot to learn.

Restaurant work is inherently dangerous, with long hours. Many shifts are 10, 12 or even 14 hours long, with workers sometimes being scheduled “open-to-close”, even on holdays and weekends when you’re off work. They have no “TGIF” like you do. If you’re at a family-owned restaurant, that may be the owner in the kitchen the entire time the place is open. Grills, broilers, salamanders, both deep fryers and pressure fryers, even rinse water are all at scalding temperatures that can injure, maim or even kill. Knifes, both flat and rotating, have to be kept as sharp as possible to cut correctly, and those that are rotating are moving extremely fast. Cleaning chemicals are highly toxic, and even basic chemicals such as bleach are used in large amounts. I’ve been cut, burnt and had my eyes clouded over too many times to count. I’ve had 350F fryer oil all over the back of my right hand just in simply adding new shortening into the fryer to top it off. And a friend’s face was disfigured by chemicals used to clean fryers, chemicals that were so hot as to sear him in a very short period of time.

Meanwhile, you want your fast food “fast”. Even in restaurants that don’t generally serve quicker, you want it now. So workers have to be quick. And you tend to forget you aren’t the only one there, so you get very demanding. The workers have numerous tickets in front of them, sometimes in the dozens, but that’s not something you care enough to consider. Well, I’ll tell you what, you need to consider it, especially since if you do this you don’t know what you’re talking about.

As to the worker’s education, what do you know about them? Nothing, that’s what. That kid in front of you may have aced their 11th grade calculus final while you were happy with an ‘A’ in algebra. They may be in their first year in the physics degree program at a nearby university, nailing all their courses, while you’re “only” an amazing self-taught finish carpenter. But still, who’s more educated? That 50-year-old at the register that you smirk about because of their “five-year” pin … How do you know if they were let go from a UAW position in automotive position in the 2008 crisis and can no longer get back into factory work because of age discrimination?

That’s right, you really haven’t a clue.

And as to the side issue of immigrants working in this country … A large part of the problem is that, not only do U.S. citizens consider restaurant and farm labor work to be mundane, below them and of a throw-away status, immigrants are more than ready to take their place. In The Nasty Bits Anthony Bourdain wrote:

The bald fact is that the entire restaurant industry in America would close down overnight, would never recover, if current immigration laws were enforced quickly and thoroughly across the board. Everyone in the industry knows this. It is undeniable. Illegal labor is the backbone of the service and hospitality industry–Mexican, Salvadoran and Ecuadoran in particular. To contemplate actually doing without is to contemplate mass closings, a general shake-out of individually owned and operated restaurants–and, of course, unthinkably (now) higher prices in the places that manage to survive. Considering that our economy and employment picture is now largely based on us selling hamburgers to each other, the ripple effects would be grave. … I suggest immediately opening up our borders to unrestricted immigration for all Central and South American countries. If the [Culinary Institute of America] grads don’t want to squat in a cellar prep kitchen for the first couple of years of their career, or are too delicate or high-strung or too locked into a self-image that precludes the real work of kitchens and restaurants, then they should just stand back and watch their competition from south of the border take those jobs for good. Everyone will end up getting what they deserve.

Americans, especially younger people, are largely unwilling to do the work (with wages possibly being a big factor), and the illegal immigrants are happy to step up to work harder for lower wages. But you scoff at all of them regardless, becuase you’re damn certain you’re better than they are.

You’re not.

Next time you want to complain about anyone else wanting a higher wage, stop thinking only about how that will affect you, and think instead about how to get it for them. Both history and current reality speak for themselves. You’re the arrogant one not thinking it through.

Recipe: Harvest Sautéed Green Beans

A serving of Harvest Sautéed Green Beans served with deer venison tenderloin medallions.

This is one of our go-to side dishes that seems to go with just about everything. It’s particularly good with meats, and game meats seem to suggest it. At that point it also goes very well with the wild rices and other grains that are generally served with game.

This recipe, however, gained some traction a couple weeks ago. On November 12th Flint Journal Entertainment Reporter Scott Atkinson posted that he was looking for a green bean recipe to include with the MLive Group’s statewide set of Thanksgiving recipes for the year. I submitted this recipe even though I’d never written it down … I was in such a hurry I ended up submitting it as follows:

Fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped to 2″ lengths
Toasted almonds
Dried cranberries
Trimmed and chopped green onions
Unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
Granulated garlic

Melt the butter in a skillet. Sauté beans, cranberries and green onions 4 minutes, add almonds one more minute. Season to taste. Different amounts give different flavor profiles, experiment at will, for example, using chopped Vidalia onion instead of chopped green onion.

There was some discussion in the comments from other submitters that this wasn’t a green bean casserole. But Scott had never specified that’s what it had to be. By that Friday Scott had selected this recipe and asked me for a more complete version. I threw some guesstimates for measurements into a Word version, fleshed out the procedure a bit more, and sent it off.

The first warm surprise came in the form of the rest of the complete menu from across the state:

  • Apple Cider Brined Turkey, Ann Arbor: Chef Joe Flores of Full Circle Group, Zingerman’s Roadhouse and Frita Batidos
  • Michigan Salad, Detroit: Marilyn Thibodeau
  • Mashed Potatoes, Frankenmuth: Bavarian Inn
  • Sweet Potato Casserole, Kalamazoo: Karen Stowall, made by Chris Kidd, Chef de Cuisine at Rustica
  • Stuffing, Bay City: Vince Stuart, owner of downtown Bay City’s Stock Pot
  • Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins, Jackson: Mat Stedman of Mat’s Cafe and Catering
  • Cranberry Jell-O, Muskegon: Penny Larson
  • Apple Pie, Rockford: Julie Setlock, Julie’s Pies

I was certainly in excellent company here with these folks, some of them rather heavy-hitters. But MLive also included this description in the listing of included recipes:

We know how attached people are to the green bean casserole, and Flint is no exception. But taking the main ingredient out of the casserole and mixing it with less traditional pairings — like almonds and cranberries — added up to a side that could end up being the star of the show.


When Scott finally posted the official version of the recipe there were 19 photos, along with a video of the completed dish. He described the completed dish with the sentence “I expected this recipe to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was.” That kind of thing is always great to hear, or see.

This recipe works year round, as long as you can get the fresh green beans. If you feel you have to use frozen or canned beans, please … don’t bother.


Harvest Sautéed Green Beans
1 lb fresh green beans
½ cup green onions
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup slivered almonds
4 garlic cloves
4 tbsp unsalted butter
Kosher salt
fresh-ground black pepper

Rinse the green beans and break off the ends. Rinse and trim the green onions (leave the white bulb end for flavor) and chop to 1/4 ” length. Mince the garlic and set aside.

In a high-wall skillet or a wok, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter is hot, sauté the green beans over medium-high heat about eight minutes. Add the chopped green onions and garlic and sauté one minute. Finally, add the slivered almonds and cranberries, season to taste, and sauté one more minute. Transfer to a glass bowl and serve hot.

Note: Different amounts and other ingredients give different flavor profiles. For example, try using chopped sweet Vidalia onion instead of chopped green onion, use toasted slivered almonds, try golden raisins instead of or with the dried cranberries, replace half the grean beans with 2″ lengths of grilled asparagus, etc. This is one of those recipes where measurements could be a handful of this and a pinch of that.

Recipe for “Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs”, a Flint Style Coney Sauce

After we’d discussed the conclusions of this test of Gillie’s recipe, Monica Kass Rogers updated her “Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs” recipe with a small-batch version that she likes. It’s definitely worth trying.

Most online recipes and recipes in-print are about as far from Abbott’s original sauce as they can possibly get. They involve ground hot dogs, kidney, or maybe haven’t been tested and should never be made.

Still, in scouring the web for variations and specific versions of recipes for Flint-style coney sauce, we’ve stumbled across what appears to be a “diamond in the rough”. This one is seriously as close to the original as we’ve seen so far …

Over on her Lost Recipes Found site, greater-Chicago-area food writer Monica Kass Rogers has posted what she wrote up as the recipe for “Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs“. Her notes on the recipe included the following statement:

“Gillie’s Coney Island [circa 1985 in Mt. Morris, Michigan] … shared this large-volume recipe for Flint-style Coney Island chili in a Michigan Restaurant Association cookbook more than 20 years ago.”

It turns out that, sometime in the 1980s (data seems to support 1987), the Michigan Restaurant Association did, in fact, publish a spiral-bound cookbook titled “A Taste of Michigan“. The timeframe for this book would support Rogers’ claim that the recipe is printed there. Until we receive a copy of the book we’ll refrain from further conjecture on our part …

It must be noted that Gillie’s Coney Island is currently showing an image of an Abbott’s Meat truck on their web site that indicates that’s where their sauce is coming from. Which sauce they’re actually serving at the moment remains to be seen.

There are a couple things uniquely interesting about the particular recipe Rogers posted on her site that illustrate a high level of authenticity. First of all, there’s the 10 lb of ground beef. This might seem extreme to a home cook. But anyone who walks into a GFS Marketplace store in Michigan, Ohio, or elswhere along the GFS “trail” to Florida, will find that’s the minimum amount of ground beef they can purchase there. This is because that’s the volume most restaurants base their GFS truck purchases on. Gillie’s would certainly specify this same amount.

More interesting, however, is the process for this recipe, i.e.:

  • Over medium heat, melt shortening. Heat until quite hot.
  • Add onion and saute for 1 minute
  • Add spices and stir, heating for 2 minutes
  • Add 10 lbs of hamburger; reduce heat to very low and cook for one hour

This is extremely interesting because it matches the description regarding the making of the Abbott’s sauce given by none other than Edward Abbott himself to an interviewer from the Flint Journal:

“According to Edward Abbott, who eighty plus years later is still making the ground meat base for Flint’s coney island sauce, the only meat ingredient is beef heart, regardless of the stories and rumors of other meat parts being used. Abbott’s added some seasoning … The sauce is made by boiling commercially prepared beef suet for several hours, then browning finely chopped onions in it and adding the spices and the meat. Taste varied according to the size of the chef’s hand … ‘They still sell the traditional sauce; the meat base … that has all the seasonings – cumin, chili powder, onions and the rest of the spices … The Abbott product has always been sold uncooked …’”

“Two to Go: A Short History of Flint’s Coney Island Restaurants”, 2007 by Florine, Davison & Jaeger (Genesee County Historical Society)

What this means is that someone at Gillie’s either read that same article/interview, or they used to work for Abbott’s or one of Abbott’s direct competitors. They then used the information from Abbott’s to create the recipe that was subsequently published in “A Taste of Michigan” and reposted by Monica Kass Rogers.

We’ll re-post it again here with Ms. Rogers’ kind permission, also assuming this is how it was published within the now out-of-print “A Taste of Michigan”. Once we find a copy of that book, we’ll ensure what’s listed here is updated to match those pages. And we’d like to thank Monica Kass Rogers for inadvertantly pointing us in the direction of this “diamond in the rough”.

Gillie’s Coney Island Chili Dogs

Makes 10 lbs of chili

Flint-Style Chili Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup fine-diced onion
  • 3 Tbsp each paprika, cumin powder, chile powder
  • 10 lb extra-finely ground hamburger

Hot Dog Assembly Ingredients

  • hot dog buns
  • Koegel Vienna hot dogs
  • mustard
  • ketchup (optional, frowned upon by some)
  • diced sweet white onion
  • Gillie’s Coney Island Chili


  • Over medium heat, melt shortening. Heat until quite hot.
  • Add onion and saute for 1 minute
  • Add spices and stir, heating for 2 minutes
  • Add 10 lbs of hamburger; reduce heat to very low and cook for one hour
  • Assemble hot dogs: Grill hot dogs (preferably a Koegel Vienna dog from Flint, MI)
  • Place dogs in buns and top with Gillie’s chili, mustard, (ketchup optional) and raw diced sweet onion.

To be honest, this is a lot of Gillie’s coney sauce. If you eat coneys as much as we do this might be a worthwhile venture. But to be honest, the amount this makes simply isn’t at all “family friendly”. We’ll adjust these amounts to something that makes more sense for a home kitchen.

Ground beef it now specified in ratios of lean meat to fat. In most foods, especially burgers, we’ll use an 80/20 ground chuck. But for this sauce we’ll use more of a utility beef, a 73/27. Since it’s readily available in 3 lb. chubbs, that’s the amount we’ll adjust the recipe for and divide the other measurements by about a third.

Also, the spices simply specify “paprika”. Most people don’t realize there are numerous kinds of paprika available. If a cook happens to have the Hungarian style in their pantry and use it, the sauce will end up far too sweet. We’ll make sure to specify the more savory Spanish paprika.

But there’s also one other adjustment we want to make. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 cup shortening. When this recipe was apparently printed, shortening had different characteristics than it does now, back in the pre-trans fat ban era of the 1980s. Still, shortening is vegetable oil, not an animal fat, and we can certainly do better in the interest of flavor.

We can replace the shortening with lard to get better richness. But remember, lard is made from pig fat. Mr. Abbott specifically mention boiling beef suet for several hours, the result of which is beef tallow. This would certainly give the sauce a more accurate flavor profile. Premium edible beef tallow is readily available in jars from FatWorks. (It’s also available from Amazon at an inflated price, so we’ll go with ordering directly from FatWorks.) What we can do is specify both the lard and the tallow as options, forgoing the shortening completely.

The end result of these adjustments, along with modifying the list of ingredients to match currently-available products (and obviously ditching the ketchup), is below:

Gillie’s Coney Island Sauce (Home Version)

  • 1/2 cup edible beef tallow (available from FatWorks) or lard
  • 1/3 cup fine-diced white onion*
  • 1 Tbsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin seed
  • 1 Tbsp mild chili powder
  • 3 lb 73/27 ground beef
  1. Over medium heat, melt the tallow or lard. Heat until very hot.
  2. Add onion and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add the spices and stir, heating for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the hamburger; reduce heat to very low and simmer for at least one hour to let the flavors develop. Stir regularly to ensure the meat is broken up to be as small as possible.
  5. Assemble hot dogs: Grill hot dogs (preferably a Koegel Vienna dog from Flint, MI.)
  6. Place dogs in steamed buns and top with Gillie’s chili, mustard, and raw diced onion.

* Notes:

  1. For the onions, just cut a couple medium onions about 1/8″ small chop, then set aside 1/3 cup for use in the sauce.


  1. This recipe turned out to be quite bland. During testing, 1/2 tsp Kosher salt was added to kick up the other flavors. Doubling the amounts of the spices would certainly help. But we’re not so sure paprika of any kind is a necessary part of the equation, while garlic powder or granulated garlic would certainly be a nice addition. So the spices should probably be 2 Tbsp ground cumin seed, 2 Tbsp mild chili powder and 1 Tbsp granulated garlic.
  2. The extremely dry and loose but greasy/oily nature of this particular sauce indicates the real need for the textured vegetable protein, i.e. soy flour, in the circa 1907 original Abbott’s sauce package. It’s obviously used there as a binder to give the sauce at least a bit of body. The Bob’s Red Mill version of soy flour is inexpensive, while cacker meal would also work.
  3. What this obviously does for this is to set up the direction for developing a recipe for recreating what’s in the circa 1907 original Abbott’s Flint coney sauce package at home in smaller batches.

Home Dishwashing: A Standard Operating Procedure

“What do you mean … I have to put dinner away when I do dishes? That’s can’t be an ‘implied’ rule, I don’t see that written down anywhere.”

And the pot containing cooked No. 3 spaghetti noodles mixed with sauce sat on the clean stove. The rest of the dishes were washed and air-drying while the former Marine just stood there with a smirk on his face.

Really?? Oh, he ain’t gonna like me …

I’m a rather fair technical writer. I wrote early video editing manuals at DeVry in 1985, then a few extremely detailed NAVAIR calibration procedures while in the Navy before moving on to assisting in the technical editing and some authoring of Microsoft Access and Visual Basic programming books for Wrox Press. So I can write me some techie stuff.

What’s he’d inadvertantly triggered was a Standard Operating Procedure for dishwashing at home. It took a few hours to nail down this morning based on what I’ve bitc … er … complained about in the past. But I do believe it’s all there. If not, there shall be revisions.

last updated June 30, 2014

1. Dishes should be washed each evening. 48 hours from the last washing is an outside time limit to prevent insect infestations, odors, and other issues.
2. Collect all dirty dishes from the living room and bedrooms. Stack dishes to the right of the sink. (If stacking also on the rangetop, first ensure the elements are turned off and cool to touch.)
3. Put the previous meal away, throwing away food as needed (i.e., if the food will not store well, such as cooked pasta without sauce). Ensure there are no open containers in the refrigerator. If there are, fix the problem as needed, asking for recommendations if necessary.
4. Put away the clean dishes from the last washing, stacking largest on the bottom to smallest on top, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc. If you don’t know where something goes or how it’s stored, ask.
5. Change the drying cloths, the wash cloth and scrubbing sponge you’ll be using, and any drying towels, putting the older ones in the laundry.
6. Clean the sink bowls with hottest possible water to touch, and dish soap if necessary.
7. Stop the right sink, add hottest possible water to touch till 2″ from the top (deep wash water distributes foodstuffs better), adding 2 tablespoons dishsoap halfway through.
8. Wash the drain rack and its drain surface in the right sink first, along with the counter underneath, rinsing the drain rack and its surface in the left sink under hottest possible running water to touch.
9. Wash dishes individually in the right sink, checking all surfaces, soaking only when necessary.
10. Check the inside of the microwave and wash the glass plate if necessary.
11. Rinse dishes in the left sink under hottest possible running water to touch.
12. Stack rinsed dishes in a safe manner, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc.
13. While washing, if more room is needed to continue stacking dishes in a safe manner in the dish drainer and on the drying towel space, towel-dry and put away the clean dishes, stacking largest on the bottom to smallest on top, keeping pieces together, such as lids to travel mugs, grease catcher in the electric griddle, etc. If you don’t know where something goes or how it’s stored, ask.
14. While final dishes are soaking in hot soapy water, clean the inside of the microwave (including the ceiling and carousel), rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap. Reassemble the microwave with the glass plate and carousel and close the door.
15. Clean the rangetop with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap. This includes lifting the elements (first ensure they’re turned off and cool to touch) and cleaning the drip bowls.
16. Clean all counters and backsplashes with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap, including under appliances, cutting boards, etc., and corners.
17. Clean the table with hot soapy water, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap.
18. Finish washing, rinsing and stacking any dishes left to soak. NOTE: There should be zero dishes left soaking at this point.
19. Drain both sink bowls, putting rinsed and clean drain stops upside down on the back of the sink top. Clean the sink bowls, faucet and faucet area with hottest possible water to touch, and dish soap if necessary, rinsing with a hot and wet dishcloth that’s been rinsed of dishsoap.
20. Rinse dishcloths and scrubbing sponges in running hottest possible water. Wring out and lay out dishcloths to dry. Wring out scrubbing sponges and place on the back of the sink top next to the clean drain stops.
21. If the Keurig was unplugged, plug it in and turn it on. Ensure water tank is filled to the Fill line, and if it isn’t, fill it and reattach it to the Keurig with the lid on correctly.
22. Take the garbage out (including items next to the trash can, and any trash in the bathroom trash basket). Put a new trash bag in the trash can correctly for use and place the lid correctly.

Me: Well, whadaya think?
Ryan: I’m still reading …
Me: You hate me, don’t you?
Ryan: I’m still reading …

Yeah, they don’t like very much, do they? Meanwhile, Mary and I are still laughing.

The Effects of Scotchgard™ on Wakefulness: A Study

This piece is satire. If you take it another way, that’s your problem, not mine.

A recent study has determined that certain substances commonly used in upholstery for furniture has a tendency to cause a form of sleeping disorder, particularly in the presence of small crowds or large amounts of alcohol.

The conclusive study, funded by the Fulfilled Associates of Naps & Slumbers (FANS), visited more than a dozen residences in north Columbus, Ohio, east of High St. between 5th and Lane.

“It became obvious early-on that the number of individuals in the residences, coupled with the amount of alcohol ingested by the observed individual, combined to create an almost instantaneous reaction similar to a sleeping disorder when that individual came into contact with Scotchgard™ on a piece of upholstered furniture” said Dr. Richard Head, director of FANS. “We don’t know exactly what the Hell happens, but those drunk-ass college students just go comatose.”

The situation is apparently linearly exacerbated in the presence of varying numbers of other individuals. In parties of two or three, individuals can be found hours later lying in heaps on Scotchgard™-treated sofas, loveseats and the aptly-termed easy chairs. With larger numbers, particularly in excess of about three dozen, Scotchgard™-treated couches can be found containing slumped people in large amounts in yards and sidewalks.

“We’re lucky their haven’t been any hospitalizations”, continued Dr. Head. “Some looked like they’d been put out with the trash and could have ended up at the landfill. Maybe some of them should have been. This shit is dangerous.”

Other effects were also observed, some more disturbing than others. Major holidays appear to also cause a shortening of the timeline for the effects of Scotchgard™-treated upholstery to take hold. But not only is REM sleep entered shortly after the mid-day meal, inhibitions seem to be loosened as well. This can be easily seen with a loosening or complete removal of waist belts, an opening of the waistband of pants, and on occasion a lifting of the shirt. It’s soon after these actions that REM sleep takes hold of a subject located on Scotchgard™-treated furniture.

“The size of the subject is obviously included in our calculations”, Dr. Head said. “In these subjects we were able to examine navel lint without touching the subject as it was readily exposed, and conducted a separate survey on brand selection of underarm deodorant, including a certain percentage of non-use. Methane samples were also taken and will be analyzed when they are considered safe by the Health Department.”

According to FANS, however, a mystery exists with data tied to local and cable-based broadcasts of local and national sporting events. When these events are underway, the effects of Scotchgard™-treated furniture on the observed subject exhibited a latency issue. Dr. Head: “It’s as though the adrenaline produced in a given subject during various sporting events inserted a lengthy ‘lag’ into how quickly the Scotchgard™-treated upholstery put the subject down. American football appeared to produce the most lag into the equation while horse-racing and golf introduced the least lag. The amount of food ingested during these sporting events appeared to have effects similar to that of holiday rituals, vis-à-vis a shortening of the necessary time until REM sleep was achieved. But meanwhile, women’s beach volleyball, while not seemingly as adrenaline-producing, had the same lengthy amount of lag as American football, regardless if the subject was male or female. We were like, WTF??”

An opposite effect did have to be noted with a disclaimer, as FANS had some difficulty making mathematical and observational sense of a certain matter. “It’s those damn Comp Sci and Physics brats”, Dr. Head exclaimed. “They don’t drink, they don’t like sports, they don’t eat a whole lot on holidays … but when they do eat a lot on a given day or they’re oversized anyway and wearing flood pants, the food just seems to make them want to do more homework. Assholes. No help at all. Gamers are the same way. Up the whole damn night, Scotchgard™ or not. Threw a wrench into the whole thing. We just wrote them out of it with a footnote, the last one, which nobody will notice anyway. You’re not going to print that, are you?”

Before dropping off for a nap on his couch Dr. Head did have this to say: “We’re definitely going to have to take another look at the Culinary Arts students. It didn’t matter how much Scotchgard™ was involved, they weren’t affected, they were up half the night drinking heavily, and jumping around and screaming at cooking shows on cable the way the rest yelled at football games … as if food is actually important or something …”

Scotchgard™ is a trademark of 3M and is definitely not used with permission for this satire piece.

My Food Bucket List Suggestion: How Many Have You Had?

Number 49 on the list, handmade Coarse Liverwurst (Liver Sausage) from Kilgus Meats in Toledo, Ohio. I just eat the stuff by itself, no sandwich required.

In December 2006 shortly after starting this blog over at the Monroe News web site, I fell victim to the whole “Foodie Quiz” thing and wrote one myself. Looking back at it now I can see how ridiculous the concept is. The fact is, there’s no way to really define the thing people call a “foodie” because our cultures are different, we were raised in different environments, and to be perfectly blunt, it’s completely unfair to write any kind of “foodie evaluator” that excludes considerations for vegetarians, vegans, Kosher upbringings, or any other nuances in the culture of the person taking your quiz.

A few days ago some online friends posted a link to a so-called “foodie quiz”, one that was supposed to be a test of some “rare foods” the quiz-taker might have had. It was entirely boneheaded, completely ludicrous, including staples such as BBQ ribs, pulled pork, maple syrup … and then threw in “purple ketchup”, which is nothing more than a novelty item from Heinz. The “quiz” set my teeth on edge.

A lot of the “foodie quizes” out there, and sadly my own from seven years ago included, assume the people who score the highest are “better” at enjoying food than people who score lower. That’s simply untrue. A lot of folks who would never touch a lot of things are actually better educated about the foods they do focus on. That should mean something.

So, I decided something had to be done. Someone needed to make a list people might look at and think “Hey, some of these things might be kinda cool. I think I’ll try that.” Or maybe even “Oh yeah, I remember grossing my sister out when I ate that, and it’s real food!”

I decided to develop a list of a hundred items (frankly an arbitrary number), none of which could be called “rare” but possibly located in just few areas. These would be foods I think people should take the time to try at least once, not an actual measure of anything whatsoever.

When it came right down to it, it became what I’d like to consider to be my own suggestion for a “Food Bucket List”, a list of foods I think people should try before … well … you know …

In letting those online folks who knew about the purple ketchup fiasco know about what I was doing, I did take some suggestions from them. They’re either fellow tech writers or fellow food enthusiasts whose opinions I value. Some of their suggestions did make it into the list.

After releasing the Food Bucket List on November 7th I got a nice surprise. My own score on the list, also the number of items on the list that I’ve tried (the items that are bolded), is currently 54%. However, my son Adam who’s now a U.S. Marine ended up with the current high score of 57%. Part of that is not only my insistence that my kids try everything at least once, but also that since his orders have taken him to Japan and Korea, when he was in Okinawa he’s actually had a meal of real Kobe beef that was stuffed with foie gras. And then … ummm … drizzled with chocolate. He picked that over shallot butter. Go figure … But regardless of that, he specifically ordered a food that I may never be able to enjoy since it’s only available there. That makes me proud of what I’ve taught him about food.

On the other end of the spectrum is one of the tech writing leads (says she’s a “Manager” … supposedly that’s a better title …) at Symantec Corp. She’s a vegetarian and scored 9%. I might give her a hard time about that (and I do!) but the honest truth is that she does seriously enjoy food her way, and her own Food Bucket List is going to look completely different from mine. And that’s fine with me. Just don’t tell her I said that.

There are no right or wrong answers in this one. But remember, if you don’t try something just because you’re squeamish, there are people around the world who likely eat that particular item on a regular basis because either that’s their culture and heritage, or they’re simply so poor that that’s all that’s available to them. Think about it before dissing something completely.

So check out my Food Bucket List and use the comment section below to let us know how you did. And maybe why you scored a certain way. Because when it comes right down to it, that’s really the interesting part.

Food Safety vs. The Shutdown: A Country of Food Safety Wimps

A loaf of Farmhouse Bread from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they make this and other breads from scratch.

A couple days ago on Huffington Post, staff writer for food and culture Joe Satran posted an article that made me think a little deeper about how things used to be. In his article, “FDA Confirms All Routine Food Safety Inspections Suspended During The Shutdown“, Mr. Satran gives the numbers:

8,733 food safety inspections that the FDA had commissioned states to perform in fiscal year 2014 … are being delayed until funding resumes. That works out to about 167 delayed inspections per week … the furloughing of 976 of the FDA’s 1,602 inspectors will prevent another 200 inspections from being conducted each week of the shutdown.

Mr. Satran also lists what these inspections generally cover:

The FDA oversees the safety of 80 percent of the American food system, including dairy, juice, raw eggs, farmed seafood and so-called manufactured foods, such as Cheerios, peanut butter, M&Ms, hummus, canned soup and frozen ravioli.

At the same time though, USDA inspectors will continue inspecting meat, poultry and egg facilities on a daily basis since they “cannot be furloughed by law”. That should make people feel better about the safety of what they’re eating …

Well, shouldn’t it?

It should, but it probably won’t.

Part of the basic issue is that people are no longer able to trust the safety of the food they eat. They see numerous reports of food recalls from bacterias and foriegn objects and other items in their foods, they hear of e.Coli and other food poisoning outbreaks, they read of spinach fields being on the receiving end of runoff from pig farms, they drive past mega-farms and see  hundreds of cattle wallowing in mud containing Lord-knows-what from all the animals in there …

Facing the reality sucks. Food is an industry. And when it comes to far too much of where our food comes from, caring about the quality by the people who should be responsible for said quality DOES.NOT.EXIST.

This has zero to do with the government shutdown. It’s a simple fact that people in the United States today generally have no clue how to ensure their own food is safe. There’s really no widespread practical training in this area, which is thanks to the demise of youngsters no longer being taught how to cook by their parents or other relatives, via the old-school “home economics” classes, or the like.

It also has a lot to do with corporate greed. Money ends up being ahead of food safety, regardless of what the corporate “spokesmen” or “legal counsel” say via their filtered/redacted/glossed-over press releases. The lack of real honesty in this area is ridiculous, irresponsible, appalling, whatever you want to call it.

This is easy to prove. Head to your local butcher shop, a farmer’s market or roadside stand, a local bakery or artisnal bread-maker’s shop. You likely won’t see any inspections going on except for maybe an annual county health inspection. What you will see, however, is quality foods made by a small company that actually cares about what they do … and not a single recall in sight.

Go to a “farm-to-table” restaurant, such as Salt Of The Earth in Fennville, Michigan, or Chef Alan Merhar’s Evans Street Station in Tecumseh where they actually care about the ingredients they use. Get yourself connected to Farmer Lee Jones and his Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio, where they not only provide fresh vegetables to more than 1,200 chefs worldwide, but are also leaders in food safety because Farmer Jones actually cares about his products. Then head to his Home Delivery page and try some of that wondeful stuff for yourself.

And then … go to a chain resturant. Or a large chain grocery store. Look at the meats, the vegetables, the so-called breads. Where did they come from? Who was involved? What’s in there? Is the place clean? Did the employees wash their hands or wear gloves? Was the meat and dairy kept at the right temperature at all times?

Frankly, if people were taught about actual food safety prior to working in these places and practiced it, these questions would not be necessary. Why? Because the employees along the way would know better than to let things go. And, not to put to fine a point on it, the FDA and USDA inspectors people seem to be so concerned about right now wouldn’t be necessary either.

Meanwhile, people are enjoying Chicken Sashimi in Japan, something that would never be allowed here in the United States. We are also largely not allowed to buy or sell raw milk, we are not allowed to have the classic Scottish dish Haggis because it includes sheep’s lung, and foie gras is being banned because the process to create it is being misrepresented on-purpose.

Here’s my bottom line on this:

We’re a country of food safety wimps, unwilling to learn what the realities of real food safety are, being led like sheep by our dependence on the internet and popular news media for information we are unwilling to learn by actually taking the time to investigate these things before making an educated decision, and passing that information on to the next generations.

There ya’ go. Deal with it.