Monday, December 06, 2010

Cookie baking time!

But first, one of those things that makes you go **facepalm**

I had a student plagiarize a paper in one of my classes, right? And great consternation was heard throughout the land, because OH NOES they didn't realize they couldn't do that and OH NOES they really need to pass the class (and it's their second go-round at taking it) and OH NOES can't I see my way clear to letting them redo the assignment, even for partial credit. (Um, no, on three fronts: 1. You cheated. Cheaters may get do-overs in the "real" world, but not in my classroom. 2. It violates the stated class policy and 3. Even if you earned FULL CREDIT on the assignment, it would not bump your grade sufficiently much for it to help).

Well, the person wanted to meet with me. I sent a reminder of my office hours, suggesting a particular time. Person never showed.

Then, I come in this morning to six - SIX - e-mails from this person.

"merciful Heavens," I moaned, "Is it never going to STOP?!?!"

Then I opened the first e-mail.

It was one of those things where a person's computer gets taken over by a virus, right, and sends out a spam message directing the reader to a website.

Second e-mail was the same. As was the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

(No, I did not click on the links, and I certainly hope my computer didn't get infected by merely opening the e-mails. I'm running a scan right now)

But, I think I'm justified in NEVER OPENING ANOTHER E-MAIL FROM THIS PERSON and telling them, if they ask me, "You spammed me. I don't open mail from spammers." and explaining what happened.


On to happier things. I did some baking this weekend. Because this week is our Five Days of Fabulous Finger Food Feasting for Finals, we all make stuff and bring it in. I usually front-load the stuff to the beginning of the week - more people are around, and besides, it's more fun to spend a Sunday afternoon rather than a time-after-a-final when I'm tired cooking.

I made those peanut blossom cookies (take a recipe of peanut butter cookie dough - there are different ones out there but I used a more complex one. I've even seen some "flourless" ones out there - and bake it as balls, and then when the cookies are done, mash an unwrapped chocolate kiss on the top. Simple, and most people like them.) I also did those goofy "wreath" cookies that are made like Rice Krispie treats, only you use cornflakes. And put green food coloring in. And shape them like wreaths. And stick red-hot candies on them for the "berries."

I spent some time looking through my cookbooks, too. There are so many interesting old recipes I'd like to try. One church cookbook I have has something called "cry baby cookies" (I don't know why they're called that). They have buttermilk and raisins in them and sound kind of good. And there are a number of old, old recipes I've seen - for things like hermits or date cookies where you have to cook the dates up first.

I like the idea of making old recipes. I think I realized why this weekend - it's kind of similar to how I like working up old patterns to see how they will look when finished. Part of it is the idea of, as I've said before, "shaking hands with the past" and maybe honoring those past people a bit with using their contributions.

But part of it, also is the "Come, tell me how you lived" aspect of it: it's interesting to taste the foods that people in the past ate, to think about the flavors that they used. That may be why the Little House on the Prairie cookbook, and Jane and Michael Stern's "Square Meals," and some of the older cookbooks (like the Settlement House Cookbook - the edition I have is from the 1950s, but it still has some of the older recipes in it) are such favorites of mine. For example, in the Little House cookbook, the author talks about how rosewater was widely used in the years before vanilla extract became common - anyone with a rosebush (and some clear, taste-free alcohol) could make it, whereas vanilla only became common with the spread of places like the A and P.

(Are there still A and P stores? I haven't seen one in years. Same thing with IGAs - they used to be everywhere, now I never see one. Or are they exclusively an upper Midwest thing, and I just don't see them where I live now. I know that Red Owl - if they still exist - are pretty restricted in their extent, and places like the Acme chain, and Fazio's - which I think is long gone anyway - were exclusive to Ohio/Pennsylvania).

I think in some ways my interest in the recent past - and my love of movies like "A Christmas Story" - is that in some respects, my life and memories overlap the time before computers, before some of the enormous changes in how marketing and stuff was done. Where things were more like they were in the 1940s and 50s, in some ways, than they are now. I remember as a child shopping with my mom at the tiny Red Owl store in downtown Rapid River (when we were up visiting my grandmother). Some of the things were still behind the counter and you had to ask for them.

I also remember shopping at an A. and P. store somewhere - probably near the town where I grew up - because I remember my dad telling me a little bit of the history of how the stores got started, and what A and P stood for.

I remember being able to buy penny candy. (Well, mostly nickel and dime candy, in those days. The inflation in the price of sugar had already started). But the fact that stores still sold penny candy, still had jars of it behind a glass counter, where you could ask for what you wanted...that's a lot less common now, unless you go to an "olde-timey" confectioner's shop, and even then, the stuff is more likely to be sold from bulk bins.

So I remember the smaller, older type of grocery, before hypermarkets made the scene.

And while there are a lot of things to recommend the hypermarkets - the enormous choices, the large stock, the tendency for cheaper prices because they can buy in bulk - there's also an anonymity about them that I think does affect a lot of modern life, and can negatively affect the experience you have there.

Some of the worst shopper behavior I've seen has been at the local wal-mart. I've just learned not to go there over the noon hour, or between three and five p.m., or in the afternoons on a Friday or Saturday, or on the day people get paid, or really, pretty much any time other than very early on a weekend morning. Because people push and shove. Or they walk up the aisles lost in their cell phones and run into people. Or they park their carts diagonally in an aisle, blocking all other traffic. Or they bring all their children (I realize for some people leaving them home is not an option) but then allow those children to run amok in the store. Or whatever. And it just makes me sad and kind of despair for other people.

It's funny, though - I've mentioned the Green Spray before. It's a small, locally-run grocery. The choices they have is nowhere like wal-mart's, they're a lot smaller, there are some things they don't carry at all. But. I've been in there the afternoon of the first of the month sometimes, and never felt uncomfortable or frustrated by my fellow shoppers - the place was busy, but it wasn't frantic.

I guess it's that it was more like the way I remember grocery shopping, back in the days when you didn't feel like you needed roller skates to get from one end of the store to the next.

Most of the clientele at the Green Spray seems to be older, from what I've seen. I don't know if it's where they are, or that they have fewer varieties, or if things are a few pennies more (at times) than the wal-mart, and the younger shoppers don't mind traversing the jungle that wal-mart can be at a busy time. I do hope the Green Spray is able to keep going, at least for a few more years, because it's certainly nice to realize, for example, that you need another onion for the soup you're making and have that onion in less than 10 minutes, instead of having to make the trek out to the wal-mart and do battle with the crowds, and the "I can count, honey, I'm just really in a hurry" people with 45 items in the 20-items-or-fewer line.

I wonder what memories of grocery shopping people a bit younger than I am have. Is all they know the hypermarkets? (I also remember shopping at a food co-op; my parents belonged to one for a few years when I was a kid. That was interesting because you learned more about where the food came from.)

ETA: here's the old Red Owl Foods logo that I remember from Northern Michigan. I guess two Red Owls still exist in Wisconsin, according to an online source. (Funny how nostalgia is. I'd actually kind of like a t-shirt with that Red Owl logo on it.)


Charlotte said...

I know of one IGA store in St. Louis but haven't seen an A&P in years.

TChemGrrl said...

I've got a cooking-the-dates date bar recipe that I was just thinking about making because I have some nice ones to hand. I think the recipe is in a Moosewood cookbook, and it's definitely a yum if you like dates.

Mom on Health Patrol said...

I'm pretty sure I've seen both an A & P and an IGA in the last few years...either in Maine or Rhode Island, can't remember where. Although I suppose they could've closed by now...

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel