Food Friday: Summer Tomatoes are Upon Us!

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Cake is the perfect food. Really. You can eat cake for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You might get a wee bit roly-poly, but nonetheless, a nice slice of pound cake can be eaten at any time of the day or night. You can toast it for breakfast, eat with your fingers while reading the newspaper at lunch, and serve it with an amusing wine and perhaps a salad for supper. It is the Spackle of the kitchen – it covers up for your shopping and food preparation flaws.

Tomatoes are the perfect fruit. Once again, you can have them for any meal. The British fry up breakfast, long touted as the best thing about British cuisine, always includes eggs, cold toast, fried bread, sausages, bacon, grilled mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. At lunch the tomato is the vital ingredient for BLTs, which as we all know, are the pinnacle of all lunch experiences. And for dinner, the tomato is the most versatile item on your windowsill.

So far, this week for dinner, we have had gem-like tomatoes grilled in a pan with a little oil and garlic, and then tossed them into a mixed green salad, with bacon, some extra basil, homemade croutons and chunks of fresh mozzarella. Tuesday night we boiled up a pot of fresh (though, admittedly, store-bought) pasta and sautéed some tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus tips, garlic and shrimp, and threw everything into a couple of bowls. We also had garlic bread, in case there wasn’t enough garlic in the sauté… We also had some delightfully cheap Chardonnay.

Wednesday night we had big beefsteak tomatoes, sliced with more fresh mozzarella, garnished with lots of basil from the container garden, oil and balsamic vinegar. And more garlic bread. Oh, and some wine.

Thursday night we grilled a couple of small steaks, sliced the heirloom Ugly tomato generously and drizzled them with brown butter, and also had some mixed greens. And wine.

https://food52.com/recipes/18779-brown-butter-tomatoes

Friday night is Pizza Night, and we will be making some Big Love Pizza; cooking small pizzas on the grill, adding handfuls of squeezed and drained Marzano tomatoes, grated mozzarella, sliced of pepperoni and at the very last minute a handful of fresh basil. Dare I add some wine?

Perhaps we are in a tomato/basil/mozzarella rut? What a delirious place to be! Perfect for the summer, when the humidity makes us limp, and the afternoon thunderstorms induce longing for coma-like naps.

Grilled Tomato Salad – for two

12 or so small tomatoes that you picked from the back yard, or bought at the Farmers’ Market
4 slices of bacon
2 slices thick, day old bread, cubed
1 ball of fresh Mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 garlic clove, peeled, please
1 salad bowl filled with mixed salad greens and some basil leaves
snatched from the garden

Fry bacon. Drain on paper towels. Crumble.

Cut the bread into cubes, and fry in the hot bacon fat until golden brown. (Pescatarians – use oil, you poor suffering souls) I sprinkle the croutons with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and a little dried oregano while draining on paper towels.

Add a little oil to the still hot pan, and carefully deposit the tomatoes and the garlic, roll everything around with a couple of wooden spoons, until the tomatoes start to blacken and blister and the garlic becomes overwhelmingly and seductively fragrant.

Fill your salad plates with the greens, top with tomatoes, mozzarella and crumbled bacon. Bliss!

How about a slice of pound cake for dessert?

Here is a link to my blog and the original recipe for Big Love Pizzas: http://jeandsanders.blogspot.com/2011/06/june-4-2010-its-food-friday-big-love.html

“A thin grey fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England.”
― Rudyard Kipling

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
― Miles Kington

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Gummosis, Paper Wasps, & Patience!

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: I have a weeping cherry tree that has some holes in the trunk. Sap is dripping out of them and is even dripping to the ground. So far the tree looks pretty healthy. Could this be some sort of insect infestation and what can I do to help the tree? This tree has been in my front yard since I bought my house many years ago.

Answer#1: The oozing sap is called ‘gummosis’ and generally happens any time an injury occurs to the bark of a tree. Gummosis can be caused by many factors such as insects, mechanical damage, diseases, or weather. Pushing out sap is the trees attempt to protect itself by flushing out pathogens or insects. Ornamental cherries are prone to both borers, which are insects that bore into the tree, and canker diseases. Both of these conditions are serious and unfortunately can’t be cured once they attack the trunk of a tree. However, in many cases the tree continues to do okay and can remain viable for a few years. If the tree has borers or a canker disease it will start losing branches and then will eventually have to be removed. These trees are generally not long-lived and have an average lifespan of about 25 years. For additional information on ornamental fruit trees, go to our website and look for publication HG 93 IPM Series: Ornamental Fruit Trees found under ‘publications’.

Question #2: In the corner of the ceiling on my front porch there is a papery, honeycomb like, circular shaped nest. I see paper wasps flying in and out of it. How concerned should I be about paper wasps and should I do something to get rid of them?

Answer #2: Paper wasps tend to be less aggressive and threatening than yellowjackets. The nests are usually fairly small, only a few inches in diameter, so they do not contain as large a number of wasps as found in yellowjacket nests. But if the nest is in a frequently used area, control is warranted because they will sting if they feel threatened. Active nests can be sprayed with a registered wasp and hornet spray. Look for one that is labeled as non-staining and can be sprayed from a distance. Treat in the evening or early morning. Paper wasp nests located in non-frequented areas should be left alone. The wasps prey on caterpillars and are considered to be beneficial.

Question #3: My husband and I planted 4 beefsteak tomato plants in late April. They are producing tomatoes but none are turning red. Last year at this time we were already eating vine ripened tomatoes. What is going on?

Answer #3: Patience may be the key word this year. Tomatoes and some other warm-season vegetables are behind their normal schedule. In April, soils were not warm enough for tomato plants to grow. Root growth does not occur until soil temperatures reach about 65 degrees F. Do not fret there is still plenty of time for your tomatoes to ripen. Gardeners need to be flexible in their expectations because every year is a different year in the garden.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Crow Farm Products To Be Showcased at Buy-Local Cookout

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Kent County’s Crow Farm and Vineyard & Winery products will be featured in one of the 16 recipes showcased at Governor O’Mally’s 7th Annual-Buy-Local-Cookout on Thursday, July 24th.   Sabrina Sexton, of Sabrina in the Kitchen in Kent County, paired with Judy Crow of Crow Farm, was chosen to present Chile-Cumin Skirt Steak with Cornbread Salad.  Crow Farm’s Grass Fed Angus Beef will be used in the recipe.  Also, Crow Vineyard and Winery wines will be poured at the Maryland Winery Association’s table.  To learn more about the Governor’s Cook Off see this link.

crow BBQ

To learn more about the Governor’s Cook Off see this link.

http://news.maryland.gov/mda/press-release/2014/06/24/governor-omalley-announces-local-menu-for-the-7th-annual-buy-local-cookout/

 

Colchester Farm Creates New Opportunity for Local Teens

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Colchester Farm has been a long standing resource for college students and recent graduates to learn the skills and techniques of sustainable agriculture. Now they are offering this hands-on training and experience to area high school students.

Area teens come to this non-profit community supported agriculture farm and work side-by-side with an expert in sustainable vegetable production. Seasoned apprentices are, also, in the fields to guide and mentor these budding farmers. During the summer, teens have the chance to meet new people, develop valuable skills and earn service learning hours towards high school graduation.

“[VolunTeen] is a great opportunityand it’s a way for people to get their foot in the door and learn a lot about agriculture” -Kate Leier, 2014 Apprentice

“It’s nice to have the extra hands and to have such young people come out to work is good motivation for me. [the VolunTeens] are years ahead of me…and that’s something to be proud of!” -Keifer Russell, 2014 Apprentice

“The work keeps me focused and the people are amazing they inspire and motivate me.” -Tim Lindsey, 10th grader at Kent County High

“VolunTeen is flippin’ stellar…I feel like I’m really accomplishing something”. -Bryan Betley 11th grade homeschooler

Colchester Farm’s VolunTeen Summer is still welcoming new students who are entering 9th through 12th grade. VolunTeens come to the farm every Thursday from now through August from 7:00am to 12:00pm. VolunTeens are welcome to bring their lunch and stay the afternoon for additional farm experience and occasional on-farm recreation. For more information about this or any of the other volunteer opportunities at Colchester Farm email: education@colchesterfarm.org

Food Friday: Fresh Picked Daily

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Our Pacific Northwest family vacation broke us out of our hamster wheel routine here at home, and plunged us into all sorts of new experiences, food and eating being tantamount among them. We trolled new grocery stores, strolled farmers’ markets and stalked the miles of corridors and underground passages in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in our quest for the Next Meal.

There was something new to be seen around every corner. Imagine – carrots that come in colors other than orange! We saw artful displays of asparagus that ranged in size from pencil thin to baobab-tree-trunk-thick. Pink radishes gleamed. Red raspberries twinkled. Blueberries were silvered and glistening. One rather imagined romantic interludes, sitting by the water, watching the sunset, tossing back Prosecco and nibbling on the day’s gathered goodies. It was our vacation, after all.

We spent a week on San Juan Island, in a house in Friday Harbor. There were all of the usual family squabbles but there was also lots of easy laughter. We were using a strange kitchen, searching the cabinets for salt and pepper and colanders, while preparing lovely fresh produce and washing buckets o’berries. We had the leisure to pause and carefully compose Instagrams of our meals. We also huddled silently together a couple of times to watch a delicate deer tippy toe her way up the verdant lawn, pausing to nibble along her leisurely way. We are such tourists. Never mind that the owners of the house would probably have been out on the porch raising the dead and pounding on pots with wooden spoons to spook the deer (and undoubtedly, her Lyme disease ticks) off the property. We were content to absorb the quiet and enjoy the novelty of wildlife .

One day we went on a hike that had us circling around through some fields down to the water, through fresh smelling, waving grasses. We kept sniffing an aroma that somehow reminded us of Thanksgiving while we trotted. We puzzled about this as we walked along and tried to identify songbirds, observing crop circles (seemingly) and we photographed a fox, unselfconsciously posing on a little mound. It wasn’t until we attended the San Juan Island Green Market the next day, with all of its thoughtfully labeled goods and wares, that we learned we had been striding through sage, which would explain our Thanksgiving fixation.

One plant booth at the market had clearly tagged plants, which informed this ignorant traveller some of what what we had been viewing: sage, wild ginger, Siberian iris, Alaskan yellow cedar, Asiatic lily and blue fountain iris.

Also carefully labeled, which I didn’t grasp at first, at a bakery booth, was a big fat “GF Brownie”. Luckily, the Pouting Pescatarian rescued me, and steered me to the other end of the baked goods table, and supervised my purchase of a good, old-fashioned, riddled with sugar, eggs, chocolate and gluten: a real, honest-to-goodness brownie. That could have been a good morning walk spoiled! Instead, it was a pleasant, warm and gooey event.

In addition to the brownie, we also bought a fresh, warm baguette from the Café Demeter Bakery, some heirloom tomatoes, fat radishes, plump strawberries, and heads of rich, dark green buttery lettuce, plus a few sausage rolls to keep the Tall One’s calorie count up, at least until lunch. The village was feeding our family, and very nicely, too.

We didn’t have the same sort of shopping experience once we got back to Seattle and its busy market. We were not hunting and gathering for dinner in the big city. We were touring the sights and sounds and smells without needing to do daily food shopping. We snacked quite liberally, though, which could explain why our clothes are a wee bit snug now. We visited museums and galleries and the aquarium, but kept returning to the market in Pike Place, which had the tantalizing allure of foreign movies, with bright colors and exotic people. It was truly an amazing spectacle.

Now we are home, and I say, “Get thee to a farm stand, a U-PICK-IT, the local farmers’ market and take a big bite out of summer!”

You can never go wrong with a nice sun-warm tomato, eaten like Harriet M. Welsch, sliced up into a good juicy sandwich with a little mayonnaise, but here are a few summer tomato recipes from our friends at Food52 and Bon Appétit. You’ll even get ideas for using up that leftover corn!

https://food52.com/blog/7782-9-summer-tomato-recipes

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grilled-flatiron-steak-with-toasted-spice-vinaigrette

“The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, ‘Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?’ Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.
‘Tomato,’ said Harriet, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading.”

~from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Pecometh’s Sustainable Garden

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For the past two years, something has been growing in the middle of Camp Pecometh, located in Centreville, Maryland: namely, a 1.5 acre sustainable garden. This all came about almost two years ago when new chef Chris Shultz proposed the idea to Pecometh management of starting a sustainable garden. He also suggested that his brother Matt, a horticulturalist who works in tech services for an agronomic products supplier, be allowed to contribute to the project. An agreement was made, and the rest, as they say, is history.

New Pecometh volunteer Michael H. McGrath, AICP, also contributed to the beginnings of the garden. From 1983 to June 2011, McGrath managed the work of the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation and the Planning Section in the Delaware Department of Agriculture, where he led the Department’s efforts in statewide land use planning and agricultural development. He used this knowledge when his daughter Joy approached him about starting a new student garden project at St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, Delaware. The school has a strong history, going back to the 1930s, of involving students in producing food for the school. In 2003, Mike and his daughter revived the program with a small garden which grew over a two year period into two acres. Since his recent retirement, he has passed on his knowledge to the next generation of students through the Penn Farm project, a collaboration with students from William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware. Pecometh management knew that they needed Mike’s expertise when starting the sustainable garden, and the results have been well worth it.

Chris’ brother, Matt, was very beneficial to the project in adding insects to increase the ecological diversity of the garden. Three weeks ago, lace wing insects were released for generalist control of soft bodied insects. These insects are nicknamed Aphid Lions because they have two large mandibles (mouthparts) that they grab aphids (small sap-sucking insects) with and take out the inside portion. Also, three different types of parasitic wasps were released into the garden. These wasps attack aphids. Finally, Orius insects, those that feed on other pests like thrips, were introduced into the garden’s habitat. The beneficial insects were produced and donated by Syngenta Bio-Line, an international leader in this cutting-edge approach to eliminating the use of harmful chemicals. Matt also secured significant donations from his own employer, Harrell’s, Inc. Donations have included nutrients, fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides, all of which are certified for use in organic gardening.

The primary use of the garden’s bounty is to supply the dining operation for Pecometh’s Riverview Retreat Center (RRC). This means fresh, local produce for the buffet meals served to adult retreats, meetings and conferences at the RRC. In addition, a large amount of surplus produce has resulted from the hard work that has gone into the garden. Chef Chris has been donating the fruits and vegetables to local shelters and food banks, including an organization that helps down-and-out men in Elkton. Donations have also been made recently to Centreville United Methodist Church in Centreville, Maryland, and other establishments. Chris adds, “We’ve donated 10 cases of lettuce, and there’s 3 pounds to a case.” Chris is also excited about the crop this year, and how it helps others. “We’ve grown tomatoes, cucumbers, beans… this fall, we’ll plant pumpkins. The garden also helps to inspire our campers and guests to start gardens of their own.”

You can be a part of this effort by attending Pecometh’s 2nd annual Farm to Table Dinner where you’ll hear more from Chef Chris himself. The dinner will be held on Sunday July 27 at 4:30pm. Seating is limited so make sure to purchase your tickets early by calling Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries at 410-556-6900 or visiting them online at pecometh.org.

Pecometh Camp Offers Farm to Table Dinner July 27

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Join Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries for their second annual, locally- sourced, five-course Farm to Table Dinner on Sunday, July 27, at 4:30 pm. You’ll hear how Pecometh’s efforts to model sustainable living are bearing fruit and a whole lot more. Last year’s menu included such delights as grilled rockfish and peach cobbler, and this year’s menu promises to be just as superb. Vegetarian options will also be available.

Tickets are fifty dollars each. Proceeds support Pecometh’s Sustainable Garden. Seating is limited, so be sure to purchase your tickets early online at pecometh.org or call Dana Squares at 410-556-6900 extension 105.

Ask the Plant & Pest Professor: Plant Pests & Watering Tips

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“Ask the Plant and Pest Professor” is compiled from phone and email questions asked the Home and Garden Information Center (HGIC), part of University of Maryland Extension, an educational outreach of the University of Maryland.

Question #1: My three year old Concord grape vine has lots of brown spots on the leaves. The fruit is also turning black and wrinkly like a raisin. What should I do? Are there any natural products I can spray them with?

Answer #1: Most likely your grape vine is infected with black rot, a fungal disease. This is a very common disease problem on grapes. Unfortunately it is already too late to treat the disease this season. Right now sanitation is important. All the diseased grapes, including the grapes and leaves that have fallen to the ground should be disposed of. The disease will not kill the vine, but next season you will need to begin a spray program to prevent this from happening again. Prune the vine in the dormant season and spray using a registered fungicide as soon as new growth begins to develop next spring. Sulfur and Bordeaux mixture are the organic options. Spray to protect the foliage before a rain event.

Question #2: What can I use to kill insects in my lawn that is safe to use around pets and children?

Answer #2: Other than grub prevention, which we only recommend in cases where a lawn has a history of grub problems, we do not recommend applying an insecticide to control insects in lawns. Many, if not most, of the insects in your lawn are beneficial and contribute to the overall health of your lawn and the soil beneath it. For example, ants are predators of termites, helping to keep their population down. Tall fescue lawns have few insect problems that cause any significant damage. If you suspect you have an insect problem in your lawn call our gardening hotline or send a question to us through our website.

Question #3: I am a beginner vegetable gardener and have a pretty basic question. What is the best way to water a vegetable garden and how much water should I give my plants?

Answer #3: Vegetables planted in average well-drained soil require about an inch of water per week from rainfall or irrigation (equal to about 62 gallons of water per 100 square). Gardens in sandy soil will require a bit more than that in the height of the growing season. Water is crucial during seed germination, after planting transplants, and during flower and fruit production. Avoid overhead and frequent shallow watering which encourages plant diseases and a shallow root system. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are the most efficient means of watering. They provide water right to the root system and minimize water usage. When using a hose, use a wand attachment so the water can be directed under the foliage directly to the roots. Water as early in the day as possible to allow the foliage to dry before evening. Add compost or other types of organic matter to increase the water holding capacity of the soil and mulch to conserve soil moisture.

To ask a home gardening or pest control question or for other help, go to http://extension.umd.edu/hgic Or phone HGIC at 1-800-342-2507, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Food Friday: Endless Possibilities!

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An embarrassment of riches barely describes what an extravagantly glorious place the Pike Place Market is! We crawled all over this 9-acre historic district for several days on our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I feel like we could have spent another few of days of exploration there. It is huge, sprawling, varied, multi-cultural, multi-leveled, colorful, loud and bustling with myriad folks of every variety. People watching here was a unique pleasure. Sometimes we forgot to keep up our end of the conversation as we gawped with abandon. We stared a lot. More importantly, we ate a lot, and often.

On our first morning in Seattle, jet-lagged and creaky, we stumbled over to the Market and posed for the obligatory tourist selfies in front of the large red neon sign “PUBLIC MARKET CENTER” that towers over the brick street. As it was quite early we did not annoy too many of Seattle’s patient drivers when we were striking poses in the middle of the Pike Street and First Avenue intersection. Later in the day it might have been a different story, although we never saw a single traffic casualty for all the frenetic driving.

For the record – I could never drive in Seattle – at least not in a car with a standard transmission. The roads are San Francisco hilly, and I shudder to imagine stopping at a red light, at night, the road slick with wet, fallen leaves. The mind boggles and the spirit shrinks. Cars must yield to pedestrians in Seattle, and jaywalking is frowned upon. Seattle is not like New York City where gonzo pedestrians dive into the rivers of traffic with center-of-the-universe impunity. In Seattle, as long as you are within the safety zone of the cross walk, you are well and truly blessed. And then you can explain to me how Seattle drivers can back into diagonal parking spaces, on inclines!

After indulging our tourist egos we had that enormous breakfast I nattered on about a few weeks ago at the Athenian, with its broad swathe view of Elliott Bay. It is only one of dozens, DOZENS I say, of restaurants at Pike Place Market. There are sit down fancy places, sit down casual spots, and you can sit down on Tom Hank’s stool at the Athenian. There are market stalls with take away food. There are strolling musicians of varying degrees of professionalism and skill. There are cafés and stands and storefront bakeries. There is a Starbucks whenever you hear the siren song. I am amazed that we were even able to roll onto our plane for the return flight.

There are Korean, French, Persian, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Kastoori, Irish, Mediterranean, Turkish, German and Chinese as well as standard American foods represented here. In no particular order, we visited many of the eateries:

I had an excellent buttery salty shortbread cookie at Le Panier. Le cookie était délicieux! http://www.lepanier.com/

We watched cheese being made at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. It explained once and for all the notion of “curds and whey”. Amazing! www.beecherscheese.com

We toured the Pike Brewery, had burgers and Dungeness crabs and revisited the Naughty Nelly. http://www.pikebrewing.com/
At the Shy Giant we had some locally made Snoqualmie gourmet ice cream. Not everyone can boast about that!

One of our best meals in Seattle was at the Virginia Inn: www.virginiainnseattle.com
I had an excellent bar burger. Good beer. Great wait staff. And a fab neon sign. Neon is something they do very well in Seattle. They are all very proud of the glassworks done by the artist Dale Chihuly and his workshop, but you’ve got to appreciate the abundance of great neon designs, which are cheerful beacons in the dark – when the sun finally goes down on these long summer evenings.

We queued up for Pike Place Chowder: http://www.pikeplacechowder.com/ A busker played his violin while we ate, with the sweetest saddest baroque piece I have ever heard, while we were watching the crowds swell and the line lengthen.
One memorable breakfast, later in our trip, was at Caffe Lieto, where we experienced the Biscuit Bitch. I stuck to my usual timid sausage biscuit, the Pescatarian had something healthy with veggies and eggs, but the Tall One out-ate us, as usual with his order for a Smokin’ Hot Bitch – biscuit and gravy smothered in cheese and topped with a grilled Louisiana Hot Link & jalapenos. You have to go there. The competition for an outdoor table with dueling mommies with double strollers was highly amusing. I guess the locals eat there, too! http://biscuitbitch.com/

We only had one grumpy indifferent meal in the Pike Place Market, when we were all surly, and feeling end-of-the-vacation-y with each other. It was not a reflection on the restaurant. But a few hot French fries and a Diet Coke later, I was my sweet middle-aged self again. You are never more than a step away from palliative food therapy here.

There is much to explore at Pike Place Market, and the prepared foods are just the beginning. I haven’t even mentioned the incredible displays of flowers, fruits, vegetables, Dungeness crabs and the amazing flying fish! Next week…

http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/

Here is a biscuit recipe from Food52 in case you want to make a nice big fat Seattle breakfast this weekend: https://food52.com/blog/7641-rosie-s-buttermilk-biscuits

“May I recommend three Maryland beaten biscuits, with water, for your breakfast? They are hard as a haul-seiner’s conscience and dry as a dredger’s tongue, and they sit for hours in your morning stomach like ballast on a tender ship’s keel. They cost little, are easily and crumblessly carried in your pockets, and if forgotten and gone stale, are neither harder nor less palatable than when fresh. What’s more, eaten first thing in the morning and followed by a cigar, they put a crabberman’s thirst on you, such that all the water in a deep neap tide can’t quench — and none, I think, denies the charms of water on the bowels of morning? ”
― John Barth, The Floating Opera