Friday, August 29, 2014

TOMATOES: The Beauties of a Fall Harvest

This is the time of the year when the fall harvest begins. For gardeners, anxious to taste the first tomatoes of the season, this is the time when the fruit swells on the vines and everyone scurries to find ways to store the pretty red or yellow beauties for future use. There are more than 4,000 varieties of tomatoes in our world, ranging from the small, marble-size cherry tomato to the giant Ponderosa that weights more than three pounds.

Tomatoes can be cooked, eaten raw, canned, frozen and used in a variety of sauces. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat more than 22 pounds of tomatoes every year. More than half this amount is eaten in the form of ketchup and tomato sauce.

Technically, a tomato is a fruit, since it is the ripened ovary of a plant. In 1893, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of “Nix vs. Hedden” that tomatoes were to be considered vegetables.

The word "tomato" comes from the Spanish tomate, and is member of the deadly nightshade family. Tomatoes were not cultivated in North America until the 1700s, and then only in home gardens since many people thought them to be poisonous. By 1782, Thomas Jefferson was raising tomatoes on his plantation. But it took until the 1900s for them to may their way into American cookbooks.

The H. J. Heinz Company, also known as the Heinz Company, and commonly known as Heinz, is a food processing company and is worldwide famous for its "57 Varieties" slogan and its ketchup. Its world headquarters is in Pittsburgh, PA. Henry Heinz picked the number 57 at random because of its sound after he rode an elevated train in New York City and spied an advertisement for a shoe store boasting “21 styles.”

Whether your eating pizza sauce, tomato soup, ketchup on your fries, or a simple BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato) sandwich, the tomato is now a common ingredient in most people’s diets. Let the fall harvest begin!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Today in History

Do you read a daily newspaper? In our small town, we get our local newspaper, The Progress, still delivered to our door by a paper girl. After a busy day at the computer or working in the yard and around the house, I enjoy sitting down with a cup of coffee and the local paper. I even have our newspaper held when we’re on vacation, or sent to us if we plan to be away for a long period of time at one particular place.

I know many people now read all their news online, but I still love the newspaper in its original form—a somewhat flimsy, drab ecru, non-glare news print that allows you to touch, browse, flip from news to sports to comics to Dear Abby in seconds. You can easily lay it aside if you get interrupted, but quickly return to your favorite spot minutes later. And no one cares if you fold, bend, or wrinkle it—or later reuse it to wash your windows or catch the water and mud from your dirty boots!

There is one particular section of the newspaper I particularly like. It’s called, “Today in History;” and for a writer, it has a wealth of information. For example, on Tuesday, August 5th in 1884, the cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal was laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. In 1914, what is believed to be the first electric traffic light system was installed in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1924, the comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray made its debut. And in 1962, actress Marilyn Monroe, 36, was found dead in her Los Angeles home, her death ruled a probable suicide.

Along with an important event on a selected same date in time, “Today in History,” also includes birthdays of important people and a “Thought for Today.” As a writer, we are always looking for those rare tidbits of information to squeeze into a historical novel or to give us a spurt of creative energy, a springboard leading to other similar ideas. Right now, I’m curious to learn about the behind-the-scenes preparation and work for erecting the Statue of Liberty. But of course, when today’s paper arrives, I may be led astray to yet another topic.

We all have ways to jump start our imaginations as writers, artists, musicians, dreamers, and people who enjoy toying with the creative muse. What are some of your catalysts for creativity?

To be fair to my favorite Progress column, I can’t end without sharing my favorite “Thought for Today,” taken from the August 4, 2014 edition: 

        “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”—Anne Frank (1929-1945).