One Twenty Over Seventy Two


After thirteen years in China I am back in the USA. Yesterday I went to the doctor and there was good news: my blood pressure was one twenty over seventy two. For your reference, here is a chart provided by the American Heart Association. My doctor also recommended cholesterol and diabetes mellitus screening.

When the blood tests came back there was more good news. Sort of. It seems my cholesterol levels are low to normal, but my blood sugar is considered “pre-diabetic.” Must have been that carrot cake I had for breakfast.

For a man crossing the threshold of retirement I consider this to be a relatively good checkup. Such was not the case in 2004 when I boarded a plane bound for Shanghai. I can say with some degree of certainty that my turnaround in health probably has more than a little to do with my diet during those thirteen years.

Here then is a link to a post I wrote a few years back!

 

 

 

 

 

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Wine Wars


A Glass of Red Wine
A Glass of Red Wine

Where does the best wine come from?

Wine lovers are passionate people. If you doubt this, simply ask a devotee or two the question above. Be prepared, however. The answers are sure to be varied, entertaining and (hopefully) enlightening.

At some point, an element of regional pride may creep into the conversation. For example:  “I KNOW the best wines come from my hometown!”

Actually, I am fairly certain that some of the best wines DO come from my hometown of Walla Walla, Washington.  By way of evidence, I point to the list of top 100 wines published every year by Wine Spectator Magazine.*

Pick any year and scroll down the page. You are almost certain to find one or two (or more) Walla Walla wines featured.  Okay, okay enough of this; see what I mean about wine lovers being passionate?

Anyway, let’s step back from the debate for a moment and offer up some objectivity by way of a brief history lesson.

The “common” grape

Fine wines are made from a particular species of grape known as Vitis vinifera. Wild varieties of Vitis vinifera are believed to have originated from the Mediterranean, central European, and southwestern Asian regions. Nowadays, Vitis vinifera grapes are cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.

The earliest evidence of winemaking practices can be found in Egyptian hieroglyphics, as well as in Roman and Greek texts. In ancient times, wine grape cultivation and winemaking seems to have been primarily reserved for the ruling class.

Roots of modern winemaking

During the European Renaissance (14th to 16th centuries) wine grape cultivation and wine-making began a shift from traditional methods to more scientific ones.  As European countries (notably France, Italy and Spain) began to colonize the world, they took their grapes and wines with them. Because of this, an important distinction arose between the New World (the colonies) and the Old World (the colonizers).

Old World vs. New World

Why is the distinction between Old World and New World wines important? There are several reasons. Let’s talk about a few of them…

Regulation

Winemakers in Old World countries have been making wine the same way for centuries. This is because of restrictions placed upon them by governmental and/or other supervisory organizations. On the one hand, this regulation assures a continuation of heritage and tradition. On the other hand it leaves little room for variety or experimentation.

True to the pioneering spirit, New World winemakers are afforded more freedom to follow their own concept for a particular vintage. It is also often easier for New World winemakers to incorporate the newest discoveries, techniques and advances in technology into their wine-making process.

One of the ways in which New World does follow Old is by way of a system of Appellation. The word “appellation” comes from the French verb “appeler.” It means ‘to call or name.”

Appellations are used to identify the particular source of grapes used in wine. Usually, it is a legally defined geographic region, but can also require other specifications as well. Each country has its own rules for bestowing Appellation status.

Of course, Old World Appellations have been in place for centuries. New World appellations are still being granted.

I remember when our Walla Walla Valley gained this distinction. The year was 1984 and, at that time, there were really only a handful of wineries and vineyards in the area. My sister-in-law had been tasked with helping to fill out the AVA paperwork. AVA stands for American Viticultural Area.

Although we were a fairly small “band of believers,” it was still very exciting when we got word the Walla Walla Valley Appellation had been recognized. Somehow we knew that our little valley was destined for great things in the world of wine. (Oops! There is that passion thing again.)

Vive la difference!

To be sure, there is no lack of variety among Old World wines. With such rich histories and diversity of language and culture, how could there not be? In addition to stricter regulation, however, there are other factors to consider when discussing the topic of New World wines vs. Old World wines.

In my next post I would like to delve into the concept of “Terroir,” (another word borrowed from the French).

Until then, try not to let your passion get the better of you!

Ciao for now,

Ron

* http://top100.winespectator.com/lists/

(About the writer: In the late 1970’s, Ron Hendricks partnered with his father and brother to establish Seven Hills Vineyards, the first commercial vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley Appellation. This small region in the southeast corner of Washington State regularly produces world class, award-winning wines. Ron is an author, teacher and wine lover who has lived in China since 2004.)

 

 

National Chocolate Day


Ron's Blog

Chocolate Rose Chocolate Rose

The list of U.S. federal holidays seems a rather odd assortment. It appears to be mostly about finding a politically correct excuse for a day off with pay. The list is as follows: New Years Day, Martin Luther King Junior Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first one and the last two seem to be the only legitimate holidays to my way of thinking.

As a kid, I used to look forward to the start of the “holiday season.” In my mind, the first big holiday was Halloween, followed about a month later by Thanksgiving, and then a month after that was Christmas. It was a glorious stretch of freedom from school, combined with presents, combined with all sorts of sweet things for the tummy. By the time New Year’s Day rolled around we actually looked forward…

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Ginger or Mary Ann?


Ron's Blog

Article first published as Politically Correct Gingerbread on Blogcritics.

I had fun doing research for this article. My entire ten minutes was wasted, however, as I’m writing about the hot and spicy root plant called ginger, and not Ginger, the hot and spicy castaway from Gilligan’s Island.

Be that as it may, I did discover I’m somewhat in the minority. It seems Mary Ann consistently outpolls Ginger in which-one-do-you-prefer competitions. In support of Ginger, let me just refer you to this wonderful 1957 recording of Tina Louise singingIt’s Been a Long Time.

Chinese love ginger. I also think some of them may get a perverse pleasure out of tricking me into sucking on a mouthful of it. My first experience was on a bus during a school field trip to the China countryside. Somebody was passing around a bag of ginger candy and WOWEE! Chunks of ginger are not…

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Lose Weight and Save Money by Switching to an Asian Diet


Ron's Blog

My friend told me a joke the other day: “Have you heard obesity in America has hit a plateau? Yeah, we’ve gotten as fat as we can possibly get!” Not so funny, huh? My friend weighs over 300 lbs.

The other alarming trend – and this is no joke – the rate of poverty is also on the rise. The latest statistic I read is 1 out 7 Americans lives at or below poverty level. And there’s certainly a lot more of us struggling to make ends meet.

How can this be? Wouldn’t you think if so many of us are just scraping by, there would be a lot more skinny Americans? It can’t be just lack of exercise. Something else must be going on. My guess is that we are eating the wrong things in the wrong way.

Here are some steps to help you take control of your…

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Happy Thanksgiving – Don’t Forget the Pie Plant!


Grandma's Rhubarb Pie
Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Consider the humble pie-plant. That’s what rhubarb is sometimes called.  Like tomatoes, it belongs to a small group of identity-challenged fruits, I mean vegetables, I mean fruits. Apparently rhubarb got into some legal difficulties in New York back in 1947 and had to go to court to prove its fruitishness.

Rhubarb is a card-carrying member of the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae. Now doesn’t that make your mouth water? It’s leaves are toxic and it’s roots are perennial. It’s green-to-reddish stalks, however, are the stuff of childhood memories. At least the stuff of my childhood memories.

My grandpa on my mother’s side was an insurance salesman. But he spent all his free time in his beloved garden. Now when I say garden I mean backyard farm. He was a beekeeper and organic hippie without the beads and long hair. He was cool and didn’t even know it. Nor did I at the time. Rhubarb reminds me of him.

Apparently there is something called the Rhubarb Triangle in Jolly Olde England. If you have nothing better to do, look it up. No ships have been reported missing, however local residents apparently harvest rhubarb stalks by candlelight. Are they Rhubarbarians? Nobody knows for sure.

My sister-in-law compiled a family cookbook a few years ago. On page 47 is a recipe for Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie. The recipe actually came from an old newspaper clipping my mother found. Although it calls for a cup and a half of sugar, it’s not a big deal because the recipe was written back in the days when sugar was good for you.

Ingredients:

2 cups diced rhubarb (more or less)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 ½ cup sugar

Directions:

Put rhubarb in unbaked pie shell. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over rhubarb. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and 40 additional minutes at 375 degrees. Pie will begin to set up as it finishes baking.

Sister-in-law Becky adds this note: This easy recipe makes a very rich dessert. I have often used other fruit such as blackberries, raspberries or peaches. It’s especially good when made with the first rhubarb from the garden in early Spring.

Spring is still a long way off, but don’t let that stop you. Rhubarb, with it’s cheerful shades of red and green is also a Christmas fruit. Or vegetable.

Hurrah for the (please make your selection) Pie!


Ron's Blog

Article first published as Hurrah for the (Your Selection Here) Pie! on Blogcritics.

I have a confession. I’m not a big fan of pumpkin pie. My favorite is apple. Hot, deep dish apple, to be precise. With vanilla ice cream. Two scoops.

This article isn’t really about pie, however. I’ll tell you in a minute what this article is about as soon as I figure out what this article is about. Let’s go with the pie theme for now.

According to my source (starts with G and ends with oogle) pumpkin pie is well down the list at number eight. No big surprise to me that apple is number one, followed by chocolate, coconut, pecan, berry, key lime, lemon, pumpkin, cherry, and banana cream at number ten.

But this is all a little, uh, fruitless. Gee, too bad I don’t have a pie chart to show you. Anyway, enough of…

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