2014 Year In Review

I haven’t blogged a whole lot this year, but it’s Year in Review time!

2014 was a very good year, my first full year as an Oregonian (which I can call myself now) and 2015 is going to start with a bang, but I’ll get to that later.


Well, fitness kind of took a back seat this year, but that’s something Lisa and I are working very hard to fix.  Since before Thanksgiving we’ve ramped our workout routine back to 4-5 days a week and are being better about what we eat.  Summer was a blur with planning and executing the wedding and things got set aside.  I’ve “lost” about 10 pounds over the course of the year, but in reality I’ve yo-yo’d up and down by a good 30 pounds several times.  Right now the better exercise routine has stabilized that and I’ve held the same weight for a couple months but it’s not moving down again quite yet.  Hopefully that will come in the new year, and not in a resolution type way, more in a “change of schedule” type way.


Well, we didn’t have a lot going on race wise this year, especially in the second half of the year but we still managed to complete three more half marathons.  January 1st saw us ringing in the New Year with another 5K, this time in Portland.  The Portland “First Run” which starts at midnight just like the Tanglewood race and then circles the waterfront and crosses a couple bridges in true Portland fashion. In March I participated in a much beloved Portland institution, the Shamrock run.  Lisa wasn’t able to join me for this one, but I was itching for a medium sized race, longer than a 5K but less than a half.  I originally signed up for the 15K (9Miles) but ended up dropping to the 8K(five miles).  It was great fun and I hope both of us can do it in 2015.  Our last organized races of the season were a 3 in 62 days set of Half Marathons designed to qualify Lisa for the Half Fanatics.  We started with the Oregon Spring Half on May 3rd.  This was an interesting race for both good and bad reasons.  On doctors orders I wasn’t allowed to run long distances for this race, so I devised a run/walk method to allow me to complete the race safely.  Lisa and I ran together for the first mile, and then after than she took off while I walked 2 miles before my next running mile.  About 3/4 of the race (mile 8 or so) I was absolutely sapped of energy. I tried to run my run miles and I just couldn’t.  I managed to finish the race with my slowest time ever (getting passed in the last 1/4 mile by a woman with a cane who was BOOKING it!) and then only to get home and discover I had a fever! I didn’t know I was sick before the race. Also, Lisa PR’d this race!  Next was the Vancouver USA Half on June 15th.  This was a fun race and a great course.  Unfortunately I cramped up yet again at around mile 11 and we had to run/walk/limp/shuffle to the finish.  We finished with the July 4th Sauvies Island half that I watched Lisa at last year.  For this race I can say, well we finished.  We ran really well for the first 6 miles or so and then a couple walk breaks stretched into walking a mile stretched into walking all the way to the finish.  We were both crashing hard, but we made sure to finish.  We may be crazy half marathon runners, but 2 races within 2 weeks was too much for us to handle.


I picked up a new hobby this year, homebrewing beer! I’ve made 4 batches and the first 3 turned out pretty good.  Still waiting on the 4th one, but so far it’s not looking promising.  We’ll see how it goes.  I got a Mr Beer kit from my sister in law for Christmas and then Lisa immediately encouraged me to jump in with both feet and I started brewing away.  She’s biased, but she likes my homemade beer.  It’s a lot of fun and I get to geek out with all my food science stuff.  I joined a homebrew club as well where I can share that geekiness with others! It’s great.  I’ll actually do some writing for the club next year, but whether that will inspire me to start blogging again, or rather eat up all my writing time is yet to be determined.


Lisa and I didn’t do as much traveling this year, but we had a couple good memorable trips.  We went to San Francisco to visit some of her friends who live down there and that was a whole lot of fun.  So much good food and cool sites to visit.  Lisa says San Fran is the only place other than Portland she’d ever want to live.  We also made our second trip to Seattle for a friends graduation.  We only got in one hike this year, but it was a good one.  We drove down to Molalla and hiked up to the top of Table Rock.  It was an interesting and challenging climb, but the reward was an amazing vista in all directions.  Sadly it was too hazy from the wild fires to see very far, but we could faintly make out Mt Hood and Mt St Helens.  We went out to the coast for a couple days after the wedding (see below) and that was great and relaxing.  As much as you love having your family in town, a week surrounded by 100 people all vying for your attention is pretty insane! Weddings are great but they can be a lot of work!


Well, of course the big thing this year is Lisa and I got married! We tied the knot on August, 23rd and my whole family made it out from the East coast which was a great thing!  She moved into my apartment in SE Portland and now we have a cute, little (emphasis on little!) house together.  Things are great and it helps us stay motivated with our exercise and eating now that we are spending more time together.


Well, as I promised 2015 is starting with a bang! In, oh, about 36 hours from right now Lisa and I will be headed to Disney for our honeymoon! We’re super excited and we both need some time to “unplug” so it will be great.  We’re spending 3 days at the Parks and then a 4 night Disney cruise to the Bahamas, so the other great thing (as it dips well below freezing tonight) is that we’re going somewhere warm! We are taking workout clothes with us, and along with a lot of walking at the Parks we’re hoping to get in some kind of workout while we’re on the ship.  Elliptical, swimming, something like that.  We’re going on a nature hike and then kayaking while we’re on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, so that will be a decent day’s work.

Changing Food Landscape

It’s been a long time since I’ve put pen to page but there’s been some interesting things going on lately that I wanted to put to words.

Cow farts kill the planet?

The first thing, I heard recently from a colleague that meat production contributes to over half of greenhouse gasses.  Supposedly the official number is something like 18%, but the World Bank revised that upwards to 51%. I passed this by Lisa and she said she had heard similar numbers.  Apparently, the original estimate was based on industrial production and didn’t take into account the methane and CO2 production, plus the land and water usage of the living animals themselves.  If that is accurate, and honestly even if it’s not, it should spark a lot of thought about the way we eat and grow food.  Here is a link (albeit an old one) about the World Bank study. Based on this info, all the recycling and hybrid cars in the world aren’t going to even put a slight dent in climate change. Kinda scary.

Now, I love a steak as much as the next guy and I’m in no danger of turning into a militant vegan, but we eat a LOT of meat in this country and we also waste a lot.  Not just the gray expired stuff at the store that gets thrown out, but how much of the animals we don’t use.  Back in the old days every single part had a purpose.  Lisa and I don’t eat a lot of red meat, we mostly eat chicken and fish.  Occasional pork and on even rarer occasions beef.  Lately we’ve also experimented with some meat alternatives.  Lisa got a great deal on some black bean crumbles (kinda like ground beef) and some tofu “Chik’n” strips.  Now, one of the things I have a problem with the alternatives is when they try to pretend to be something else.  If you want to eat tofu, that’s great.  But what’s wrong with a block of tofu? Why do you have to cut it in the shape of a turkey and call it tofurky? But, I digress.  Turns out, the stuff isn’t half bad.  The strips made really good grilled “chicken” tacos, and we also made tacos with some of the crumble that was already Mexican seasoned.  The best was actually using some of the unseasoned crumbles to make sloppy joes.  That was good.

I’ll admit when I was younger I was pretty excited to order that 18 ounce steak.  I don’t need that now, really no one does, and anyway I can’t eat that much anymore anyway.

Oysters are awesome!

Ok, well we mostly knew that, but now they aren’t just awesome to eat! Recently there was an article about a picture posted online of two dirty fish tanks and how quickly some oysters cleaned one of them.  Here’s a post that sums up the original tweet and some of the amazing responses to it. One of the main takeaways I had from this article is not only that they can clean the water, but that the way they are raised, even the “farmed” variety, is incredibly sustainable! I would assume that this applies to other shellfish as well, such as clams, mussels etc.  Here’s another article, which is aimed at kids, but explains how cities can build structures, boardwalks, decks etc on the coast and grow oysters under them as a way to clean up the coast.  How cool is that?

GMO Labels.

The last big thing that happened recently was a vote in Colorado and Oregon to force food companies to label if their products contained GMO or genetically modified organisms.  Genetic engineering pulls small portions of DNA from bacteria (which are super easy to grow) and implants it into plants to change attributes of the host plant.  Some people equate this to hybridizing plants (like mixing two breeds of apples to make Honeycrisps) while some people equate this to “playing God” and messing with things we ought not be messing with.  As usual, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but it’s murky.  Not a lot is known about the health effects of eating these products.  On the one hand, there isn’t a lot of data that says they are harmful.  But on the other hand, there’s not a lot of data that says they are safe either. More research needs to be done.  Both Colorado and Oregon rejected these bills in the vote, however, while the Colorado vote was strongly opposed (65+ percent) the Oregon vote was much closer with only 51% against. I don’t know a lot about the Colorado proposal, but here’s some thoughts I had about the Oregon bill and why I think it may not have passed.

Alcohol is exempt – Since alcohol does not fit the FDA definition of “food” it is exempt from the labeling law.  I don’t know if this is really a big deal since I haven’t heard anyone yelling to boycott “Frankenstein beer” but GMO use is pretty predominant in grain growing and I’d imagine those major adjunct brewers are using some of that “high yield” corn.

Animal feed is exempt – Cat food, dog food, and livestock feed are exempt because, well, animals don’t count right? Again, I think this is a technicality in the definition of “food” in the bill as grown and prepared for human consumption, but this raises a serious loop hole in the wording of the bill.  Fresh meat, milk and eggs from animals feed with GMO grains would NOT be labeled as containing GMOs.  Now, whether any of the GE material remains in the animal is probably unknown, but because the grain would not be labeled you wouldn’t know whether the feed was GMO or not.

Costs increase? – The opposition to this bill loudly proclaimed that food costs would increase and would certainly effect the poorest populations (who supposedly buy a lot of cheap pre-prepared food?) the hardest.  I have a hard time believing this would actually do anything to the cost of food.  Labels would cost the same and it only takes a couple seconds to switch labels mid run.  Yes, it would be annoying to have to label some stuff for the states that require it and not label it for those that dont but hey, you could always just switch the regulated label for ALL products whether it’s required or not.. novel idea yes? Also, claims about having to make separate food plants and separate storage areas for GMO and non-GMO is a bit far fetched.  I can’t imagine someone who is using GMO products is going to suddenly create an entire new non-GMO line for one state.  It would be more economical to either decide to label it or stop selling in that state.  This would achieve what the proponents are looking for though.

“May contain” – I couldn’t find the exact wording in the bill, but supposedly some products would need to have a label that proclaimed they “May Contain GE materials”.  I’m not sure if this was a “items made in the same facility” type thing in the same way as allergens, but at least with allergens it makes sense.  This has the potential to cause confusion and also tarnish products that may be GMO free.  The proponents of the bill wield this like a weapon to scare consumers into thinking certain food products are harmful to them.  I hate this kind of fear mongering no matter what context in which it’s being used.  The “food prices will go up” rhetoric by the opponents of the bill is the exact same thing.  Both sides are guilty of it and it’s disgusting.

It’s redundant – If you want to avoid GMO foods there is already an extremely easy way to do it.  Products that are certified FDA Organic cannot contain GE materials.  A lot of companies also already voluntarily label products as “GMO-Free”.  What this labeling initiative would accomplish that these other programs wouldn’t is a little baffling.


So, my apologies for not writing for 6 months and then blasting you with a wall of words, but these are just some things that have caught my attention lately and stuff I wanted to write about, and fit my themes of both food and health for the blog so there ya go!

Vancouver USA Half Marathon – Vancouver, WA – June 15, 2014

Last Sunday was Lisa and I’s second in a series of three half marathons this summer. (I never got around to blogging about the Oregon Spring Half on May 3.  I’ll get that soon).  Vancouver represented a new state for both of us as well as a city we spend a lot of time in.  I work there, Lisa’s parents live there, we are getting married there.  The other fun thing about this race is it included a beer festival at the finish!


A nice shirt and a beer mug for the festival were the swag for this race! Pretty exciting!

Lisa’s cousin Karadee as well as Karadee’s sister Zandra and Zandra’s husband Mike were running this race as well.  We managed to find them at the start and while Zandra and Mike were planning a much faster pace than us, Karadee was right where we were planning to be and so we promised to stay together as best we could.  It worked out really well.  We stayed together most of the way and also hung around with the 2:45 pacer (a fellow Half Fanatic!) most of the way as well.  Our goal for this race was merely to finish and enjoy the race.  No PRs for this one, at least not for Lisa and I.  Karadee and Zandra both PR’d!

The race started at Esther Short park in downtown Vancouver and wound it’s way through downtown, through Officers Row of Fort Vancouver (which was awesome!) and then up the only major hill of the course but it was a doozy! A mile and a half slog up the hill of death.  Then we careened down the hill through a couple parks and then along the waterfront and back through Fort Vancouver to finish back in Esther Short park.  It was a really nice course, even with the hill of death.  We all stayed together until about mile 8 when Karadee just caught some kind of groove or second wind and she took off! We cheered her on as she pulled away.  At about mile 11 my calves started cramping up (again!) and we had to stop and walk a bit.  Tried to run again but only made it another 1/4 mile or so before they cramped up again.  The only complaint I could have about this race is the late stage water stops had run out of gatorade.  I doubled up the water and even ate a second Gu for the sodium and potassium but it wasn’t enough to help.  We had to walk until mile 13 and then we just had one corner to turn for the finish, so we jogged it out to the finish.  I cramped up again immediately but I was able to keep going just until the finish.


We finished! HUGE medals! Very nice.

After the race we grabbed some much needed food and gatorade and then walked to the car to change clothes and get our beer mugs.  We headed back to the beer festival for some beer and food!  We didn’t realize until too late that the gear check tag from the bottom of the bib got us a free beer from the beer sponser Heathen Brewing in Vancouver.  Oh well.  But we had our free tokens to get some samples.  We had enough tokens to get two samplers (one token each) and then one full beer pour (4 tokens) with our dinner.  I sampled a NW Red Ale from McMenamins, a Saison from Heathen and then got a full pour of Kiwanas Cream ale from Pelican Brewing.  Lisa tried a Porter from Heathen, another one I don’t remember that she just liked the name, and then got a full pour of Irish Stout from Breakside.

10419484_10152171479252543_4023595224265889456_nBeer fest selfie!

It did suck to cramp up towards the end, for like the 4th race in a row no less, but we finished and we made it.  We had a great time and got to spend most of the race with Karadee which was really fun and made the miles FLY by.

Up next is the Foot Traffic Flat on July 4th, which I spectated last year, but this year I get to run it.  This will be the 3rd race in well under 90 days to qualify Lisa for the half fanatics, but after this race we are going to take a break from halfs for a while.  The training has been grueling and trying to fit it in among work, school, church and wedding planning has been daunting.  For the rest of this year and probably all of next year we are going to concentrate on shorter races, mostly 5Ks but some 10Ks and one 15K (Shamrock).  We’ll set different goals, like go for time and work on speed.  Both of us would love to nail a sub 30 minute 5K.

On to the next!

Drink Local

Since I’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest I’ve discovered the joy of eating local and cutting out the middle man and long trips that pollute the oceans and air.  Organic lettuce isn’t that expensive when you’re not trucking it in from China. But what about the other side of that coin? What should we have with our wonderful local dinner? Just crack open a Budweiser or a California wine and call it a day? HELL NO!

Portland is known as Beervana, home of the highest concentration of microbreweries on the planet.  However, Portland is also home to several micro distilleries and the areas to the southwest and north of Portland are prime wine regions (Williamette Valley, Columbia River Valley, Horse Heaven Hills to name a few of the AVA Regions). The choices are endless, although what grows best in this region is Pinot grapes.  Both Pinot Noir (Red) and Pinot Gris/Grigio (White) are world class in this area.

Just as an example of what a plethora of choices we have, here is a partial list of the breweries, wineries and distilleries in the area, and this is JUST the one’s I’ve tried or visited.  All in the Portland area unless otherwise noted.


Portland Brewing
Laurelwood Brewing
Red Hook Brewing (Seattle)
Full Sail Brewing
Deshutes Brewing
Rogue Brewery (Newport, OR)
Widmer Brothers Brewing
Hopworks Urban Brewery
Lucky Labrador Brewpub
Burnside Brewing
Occidental Brewing Co
Fearless Brewing (Estacada, OR)
10 Barrel Brewing (Bend, OR)
Caldera Brewing (Ashland, OR)


A to Z Winery
Dobbes Family Estate
Columbia Winery (Seattle/Yakima Valley)
Chateau Ste Michelle (Seattle/Yakima Valley)
King Estate/Acronym
McMenamin’s Edgefield
Christopher Bridge
Erath Winery
Willamette Valley Vineyards

I feel like I’m missing several, but this is still a good list.


Eastside Distilling
Rogue Spirits (Newport, OR)
New Deal Distillery
McMenamin’s Edgefield Distillery
McMenamin’s CPR Distillery
Distilling Head

You see, the choices are endless.  Why anyone in this town would drink a Bud Light or a Kendall Jackson is beyond me…


I made Beer… and it was easy.

My first batch of home brewed beer is now finished and aging (conditioning) in bottles in the fridge.  It was fairly easy, but it was not fast.  I started on May 5th when I created the wort (young beer) and pitched the yeast.  Two weeks of primary fermentation in the barrel and then on May 20th it was ready to bottle.  Done right? Well, not quite.  At this point I had to add more sugar for a secondary fermentation to create the carbonation we all know and love.  The carbonation serves multiple purposes.  First it gives us the fizzy crisp mouth feel we are used to in beer, but more importantly Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the bottle as well as pressure inside prevents oxygen from getting inside the bottle and ruining the beer.  Oxidation and sunlight are what cause a beer to go “skunky”.  That’s why good beer (not Corona or Miller High Life) comes in brown or green glass bottles, or aluminum cans.

Here’s how it went down.  First the easy part.  The Mr Beer kit is self contained and really easy to use.  The beer ingredient can is what’s know as “Hopped Malt Extract”.  This is essentially wort that’s been boiled and then concentrated into a syrup.  It includes all of the malt sugars needed for fermentation and flavor as well as hop extracts for bittering, flavor and preservation.


You can’t really see anything but Lisa took a picture of me pouring the malt extract from the can into a pot of boiling water to dissolve it into the wort.  Behind me you can see the Mr Beer fermentation take (designed to look like a barrel) and a large pitcher full of water to fill the keg with.  After I poured the hot wort in the keg (half full already with cold water to cool the wort) I filled it the rest of the way with water, placed it in a safe place and pitched the yeast.  The yeast in the kit is a dry yeast you simply sprinkle on top.  I was unable to take an initial gravity reading with my hydrometer, which at first I thought was not a big deal, but later realized it was indeed a big deal.  More on that later.


It’s hard to see, even with the flashlight but this is what the keg looked like after about three days.  This thick foam is known as “krausen”, which if you ask me sounds like a sea creature, and the first 2-4 days are when the yeast are most active and this period is known as “high krausen”.  After that the yeast die down and the foam goes away, but they aren’t done.  After the easiest to ferment sugars are gone, the yeast keep working for another 2-3 weeks depending on the beer style and alcohol level desired, they just slow down after their initial binge.  The Mr Beer kit recommends fermentation for 2 weeks.

About halfway through the fermentation I began to notice a strong smell of apples in the room where my brewing kit was.  I didn’t have a clue what this could signify so I googled it.  Now, searching the internet for brewing problems is like looking at WebMD when you have a cold.  It’s going to tell you a whole bunch of stuff that is wrong with you, like having 12 different kinds of cancer.  Turns out the apple smell is caused by acetaldahyde.  On the one hand, this is a normal byproduct of yeast fermentation, so that’s not so bad.  On the other hand if it doesn’t go away, it can be a telltale sign of all kinds of things that went wrong including dead yeast, poor temperature control etc.  So what I’m reading is basically “Your yeast is dead, and your beer is ruined”.  *sigh* Not a great start to my homebrewing career.  So I start a post-mortem to find out what went wrong and I turn to the only test I have at my disposal.  I check the specific gravity with my hydrometer now that I had acquired a “hydrometer jar”, essentially a tall glass tube tall enough to accommodate the hydrometer.  I didn’t have this the day I made the wort which is why I wasn’t able to get an initial gravity reading.  The gravity reading I get is 1.012 (water is 1.000).  This is low.. very low.  This is bad.. very bad.  Or is it?  I pull out my Brewmaster’s Bible and flip to the potential alcohol tables.  My specific gravity relates to a ABV of about 1.7%.  This is way too low and something has gone horribly wrong.  I mull this over in my head for a little while and then I read how the alcohol levels are calculated.  You take the ABV of the initial gravity and subtract it from the ABV of the final gravity and this is the approximate alcohol content of your beer.  Having not thought about relative densities of alcohol and water I have to read through this a couple times before it clicks.  Alcohol is less dense than water, therefore the gravity of the wort (sugar solution) will be HIGHER than the gravity of the final beer.  The gravity starts high and then drops.  EUREKA! I used an online tool to estimate the starting gravity of my wort which it tells me is about 1.030.  Subtracting the data from the table gives me an ABV of 3.2%.  This is lower than the 3.7% that Mr Beer lists on the can, but at this point my beer is not done yet.  I’ve still got about 5 days left to go.  Maybe my beer is not dead after all!

I was thinking about making some changes to my beer, letting it ferment longer, adding more yeast, or just throwing it out when Lisa reminded me of a good point.  For good or for ill I had stated I was going to make the first batch exactly by the Mr Beer recipe and let the chips fall where they may.  If it’s good so be it, if it got messed up along the way, so be it.  We can assess it at the end if something goes wrong.

On May 20th my beer was ready to bottle.  My kit came with 11 750ml plastic bottles.  This is roughly equivalent to 22 12 ounce bottles.  So for 14-17$ depending on the style, my kit makes nearly a 24-pack of beer.  So it’s not dirt cheap, in fact you can get some beers for cheaper than that, but it’s going to be low alcohol, flavorless beer like Michelob Light.  Supposedly the homebrew should be much better than that.


Getting ready to start bottling.  The pitcher contains a sanitizing solution to clean the bottles with.


Bottled beer, but it’s not ready yet.  Now it takes another 2 weeks for carbonation, and some websites even suggest another 2-4 weeks of “conditioning” after that for the flavors to mellow.

So we wait.. and we wait.. then comes to moment of truth.

May 30th.  Two of my bottles (the last two filled) got a little extra yeast in the bottles.  So they ended up getting fully carbonated first and I stuck them in the fridge for a couple days.  One day when Lisa was over we cracked one open and we tried it.


Well, it looks like beer, it smells like beer, what does it taste like?

Turns out, it tastes pretty good.  It has a very light, crisp taste and a dry finish.  The Mr Beer American Light Lager is exactly what it sounds like, it’s their version of the style that includes Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light etc.  Light flavor, light body, low alcohol.  Lisa really liked it.  I think I was trying too hard to describe it or compare it to something to appreciate it fully, but I have 10 more bottles of it.  Some of which will be shared around, especially to Lisa’s family who has been waiting since Christmas!

So, I did it! I successfully made beer! After we start making a dent in this batch and getting some empty bottles back I’ll start the second batch.  Lisa is requesting a stout.  We’ll see.🙂

WalMart Organic and Food Insecurity

I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately, but a couple of stories have popped up recently that caught my attention and I just had to say something about them.

The first one involved Wal Mart partnering with Wild Oats Marketplace to offer affordable organic food to carry in Wal Mart stores.  Here is a link to the press release. With the promise of offering consumers more healthy choices and blah blah blah… Bullcrap.  The quote in the release tells you exactly what this is.

“We know our customers are interested in purchasing organic products and, traditionally, those customers have had to pay more,” said Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of grocery at Walmart U.S. “We are changing that and creating a new price position for organic groceries that increases access. This is part of our ongoing effort to use our scale to deliver quality, affordable groceries to our customers.” 

Cheap organic food.. Give Wal Mart a chance to cash in on a trend (10 years too late) and further an attempt to put places like Whole Foods and Trader Joes out of business.  Looking into Wild Oats at the bottom of the page, they are essentially a holding company that owns the brand name, and they are “relaunching” at Wal Mart.  I’m almost willing to bet that mean for all intents and purposes Wal Mart will own the brand and make it one of their exclusives.

I don’t like this at all.  First off, looking at Wild Oat’s product line, while they may be “organic” they certainly don’t look particularly healthy.  Canned vegetables? Canned sauces and condiments? Potato chips and snacks? Everything loaded with salt and probably a lot of fat too.  Second, to be able to produce organic vegetables at that price point will involve a massive commercial farm, and not in the US.  Large scale organic farming is no better for the environment than conventional farming.  These fruits and vegetables will be grown in Chile on 10,000 acres of what USED to be rainforest.  Lastly I just don’t trust Wal Mart to have anyone’s interests in mind.  True confession, I used to love Wal Mart, I used to exclusively shop there, I used to own stock in the company.  As their stores got bigger, dirtier, more crowded and less staffed I started shopping there less and less.  Shortly before I moved out here I sold my stock and no longer have a stake in the company.  Now I won’t go within 100 yards of a Wal Mart, which works out well since there’s not 5 of them here in Portland like other places.  There is one on the NE edge of town right by the interstate and there is one down in Clackamas.  That’s it.  Lisa has told me people here have resisted Wal Mart and with good reason.  Plus with Fred Meyer and Trader Joes in town we don’t need a Wal Mart.  This is simply a move to pressure other companies, both individual food manufacturers and other grocery stores, and how long will it be before Wal Mart is pressuring the USDA to change the requirements for Organic labeling? This stinks bad and I don’t like it.

The second story was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine and it involved high school students who were posting twitter pictures of pitiful school lunches and mocking Michelle Obama for destroying the lunches and for the schools for “starving” them.  First, Mrs Obama has been a vocal champion of healthier food for school kids, but she doesn’t make the decisions about the programs.  She has not control over what is going on.  Second, a little deeper digging and it turns out what was pictured was not what the kids had ONLY been served.  They were throwing half of it away, and what were they throwing out? The fruits and vegetables! So in reality what you have going on is kids having tantrums and hissyfits and WASTING FOOD! What a bunch of brats.  They certainly aren’t helping anything with the image of modern kids as spoiled, entitled brats.  This article from a conservative blog which is attempting to shame Mrs Obama actually has some pretty telling quotes in it.

The new standards led to kids throwing out their fruits and vegetables”  They are voluntarily not eating what is offered them.  That is not “starving” them.

The standards forced some schools to stop serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and led middle school and high school students to opt for vending machines or buying food off campus to avoid the lunch line…” Once again, the kids are making choices to eat junk.

What these kids need is a lesson in food insecurity.  For those who may not be familiar with the term, food insecurity is not just going hungry, but literally not knowing when and where you will get your next meal.  People in Asia, India and elsewhere may have access to a pound of rice but it might have to last them 2-3 days, or 2-3 weeks depending on what they can get access too.  Plenty of places in the world don’t even have access to clean water, much less soda and candy bars.  These kids are not starving, they aren’t even remotely close to starving.  Their parents ought to be ashamed of them.  They think they are making a “political statement” but all they are doing is being idiotic and making themselves look incredibly stupid and foolish.

My Beer Journey

Runners love beer.  It’s refreshing and cold and a lot of races hand it out for free. What’s not to like?

I had my first beer at a Civil War re-enactment when I was… well let’s just say I was underage.  That first beer was a Coors Light.  It was essentially fizzy water, when it was ice cold it was pretty much flavorless.  We all start here right? Something light (and usually cheap) like Coors, Beast, PBR etc.  Beer for a lot of people is an acquired taste like many things, coffee, wine, etc.  Start light and work your way up.  A couple years later (again at a re-enactment) I was introduced to a lovely Canadian lager LaBatt Blue which put me on my butt, literally, with a much stronger taste and much higher alcohol content.  I liked it though, for a long time in college this was my beer of choice.

Fast forward through several years of whatever was on sale, on special on draft, or whatever was in the keg and I end up in Greensboro NC.  Here I am introduced to a locally made red ale known as Red Oak.  I fell in love with this beer, and to this day it is one of my favorites, although sadly I can’t get it anymore.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was my first taste of local craft brewing.  I went through a period, like many people I’m sure, thinking that some of the “special” brands like Shock Top and Blue Moon were “micro-brews”.. they aren’t.  They are made in the same factory as Budweiser. Microbrews are made in a place where you can walk in and see the fermenting tanks.  Red Oak was made at the Greensboro Ale House and it was only available on draft in a few places around town.  No cans.  No bottles.  They have since opened a new brewery and a cannery and you can get the beer at grocery stores in bottles.  I never got around to trying it before I moved away so I don’t know if it was as good.

A couple years later I end up in Winston Salem and get introduced to several more local beers.  It’s here I discover my first brewpub, Foothills Brewing.  They made their own beer on site! They had several year round brews including three IPAs, a Pilsner, a Porter and an American Pale Ale, plus all kinds of crazy seasonal and one off beers.   It was at this point I was starting to experiment and discover that I liked certain styles of beer, not just certain brands.  I don’t like overly hopped beers.  IPA (India Pale Ale) is usually out, and even some normal Pale Ales are too hoppy.  I like wheat beers a lot (both Belgian Style like Blue Moon, and German style Hefewiezens which are very similar), I like my Red Ales and I like brown ales like Newcastle, Nut Brown Ale etc.  I’m ok with Porters and Stouts but they aren’t my favorite.

Speaking of moving, then I moved to Beervana.  In case you didn’t know Portland, Oregon and most of the whole state of Oregon to be honest is the beer brewing capitol of the planet.  There’s several reasons for this.  First is access to fresh clean water.  A lot of the municipal water around here from from lakes and rivers that are fed by snowmelt.  Very pure and clean and they don’t put any chemicals in it, at all.  The tap water here is awesome.  Also, all of the beer ingredients grow here and grow well.  Hops flourish in this area and in fact a lot of the best hops are from this area.  Cascade, Mt Hood, Williamette etc.  The area south of Portland grows enough hops it’s probably second only to maybe Germany.

EVERYONE here makes beer.  And I mean everyone.  There are brewpubs and microbrews everywhere.  Why anyone would drink “name brand” beer (Bud, Coors, Miller etc) in this town is beyond me.  There’s a couple of fairly big local breweries around here that distribute nationwide, Rogue and Full Sail to name two that I could get back on the East Coast.  McMenamins makes their own beer (and wine and spirits) and not only is that all they carry at their locations, you can only get their beer at their locations.  Laurelwood is a local brewpub with two restaurant locations and their beer is also available at grocery stores.  There’s too many to name but there are so many, I’ve rarely had the same beer twice since I’ve been here.  Every time I go to the store I want to try something new.

Now, since hops grow so well here, Northwest beers tend to be VERY hoppy.  The NWPA (Northwest Pale Ale) tends to be hoppier than most IPAs elsewhere, and the IPAs here will blow the top of your head off.  This proves to be troublesome for me, since I don’t like overhopped beers, but there is still plenty here I can drink.  Widmer makes a great Hefeweisen.  Rogue makes an amazing Hazelnut Brown Ale that I just tried the other day. Laurelwood makes a good Red Ale.  I have plenty of choices.

But now I have one other choice.. My beer journey has now come full circle.  Very soon, within the next couple weeks, I’ll be making my own beer.  Lisa’s sister got us a homebrew kit for Christmas last year and the only reason I haven’t started yet is it’s been too cold for the fermentation to take place, but it’s finally getting warm enough.  Now if I can’t find something I like I can just make it.  I can take something similar to something I like and tweak it to be even better.  I can experiment with different flavors and combos of ingredients and just make stuff up as I go along.  It’s a small kit, only 2 gallons, so if I make something that’s terrible and undrinkable it’s not a huge waste.

Stay tuned as I’m about to seriously get my food science geek on.  There will be updates!

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.