Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 8th, 2020

Sheringham Distillery’s Kazuki Gin

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I realize that for most of my readers this incredibly good gin will not be obtainable.

Let the maker, Sheringham Distillery — just up the road in Sooke — describe it:

Kazuki Gin 和輝

Kazuki Gin was born out of love of both Eastern and Western botanicals and gin making techniques.

Alayne fell in love with Cherry Blossoms while living in Asia and Jason became intrigued with Yuzu as a professional chef. KAZU, meaning “harmony”, is the blending and respect for both East and West cultures. KI means “radiance” and is an ode to the radiant flavours of the botanicals as they dance on your palette. Cherry blossom petals and yuzu peel were imported from Japan. From Westholme Tea Farm we procured green tea leaves and flowers. Expect dynamic flavours from start to finish with the unique essence the Kazuki provides.

Made from our Vodka, with botanicals sourced locally and from Japan, including Japanese Cherry Blossoms and Green Tea + Flowers from Westholme Tea Farm in Cowichan Valley.

AWARDS

CASC BEST CANADIAN ARTISAN SPIRIT (Best in Show) 2020  
SAN FRANCISCO WORLD SPIRITS COMPETITION 2019 SILVER MEDAL  
BC DISTILLED 2019 1st PLACE GIN AUDIENCE FAVOURITE

On that page, you’ll also find descriptions of Sheringham’s Seaside Gin (WORLD GIN AWARDS WORLD’S BEST CONTEMPORARY GIN 2019, among other awards) and their Akvavit (“Notes of dill, caraway, anise & citrus with a hint of the ocean from locally harvested winged kelp.”), also superb.

I don’t want to be a dick and just list incredibly good spirits not available, so let me add one from Victoria Distillers that is exported: Empress 1908 Gin, whose blue color is due to the inclusion of butterfly pea blossome in the botanicals. It’s totally wonderful (though, IMO, not quite so good as their Victoria Gin — but that’s not exported; Oaken Gin is also quite good).

Two other gins worth mentioning: Unruly Gin, from spirits distilled from mead (their slogan: “Fundamentally Against the Grain”) and Wallflower Gin, made from 100% BC-grown barley by Odd Society.

And — also available in the US — Bearface Whisky is worth seeking out, made from 100% corn. In a tasting when I visited The Son, Bearface bested Pappy Van Winkle.

This was a serious tasting, with multiple participants, as we played crokinole.

It occurs to me that I might be partial to single-grain spirits: Bearface (100% corn), Wallflower Gin (100% barley), and Canadian Club’s 100% Rye all seem quite good to me — and Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye is exceptional (though only 90% rye).

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

Neanderthals, Homo Sapiens, and the advantage of cooperation

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Yuval Noah Harai (author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind) reviews a new book by Rebecca Wragg Sykes in the NY Times:

KINDRED
Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art
By Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Ever since we discovered their existence in 1856, Neanderthals have captured our imagination. While we find it easy to accept that the world is home to different kinds of bears, foxes and dolphins, we are startled by the idea of other species of humans. Just by being, Neanderthals challenge some of our most cherished ideals and delusions. Neanderthals force us to question the belief that Homo sapiens is the apex of creation and, more generally, what it means to be human.

These questions are now more urgent than ever. In 1856, it seemed that Neanderthals belonged safely to the past, and that Homo sapiens would forever dominate the great chain of being. In 2020, we are far less certain. New technologies might soon make it possible to resurrect the Neanderthals. Even more important, new technologies might make it possible to re-engineer Homo sapiens, or to create completely new kinds of humans.

New technologies have also revolutionized the study of Neanderthals and other ancient humans. Over the past few decades novel techniques to analyze stone, bone and DNA have made it possible to reconstruct what occurred around a Neanderthal campfire 100,000 years ago. A handful of tiny fragments are sometimes enough to determine what some Neanderthal ate for breakfast, what ailments afflicted her, what was the color of her skin and whether her parents were first cousins.

Every year, enormous amounts of new data about Neanderthals gush forth in scientific journals. The media has picked up the most sensational scoops, most notably that Neanderthals interbred with Sapiens, and that about 2 percent to 3 percent of our genes today come from Neanderthal ancestors. Yet for most people Neanderthals remain the brutish cave people familiar from countless cartoons. We think in stories rather than in data-bits, and the only thing that can replace an old story is a new one.

In her book “Kindred,” Rebecca Wragg Sykes aims to tell a complete new story about Neanderthals. She has done a remarkable job synthesizing thousands of academic studies into a single accessible narrative. From her pages emerge new Neanderthals that are very different from the cartoon figures of old. “Kindred” is important reading not just for anyone interested in these ancient cousins of ours, but also for anyone interested in humanity.

Sykes’s most important contribution is to understand Neanderthals on their own terms. We tend to discuss all other human species in relation to our own. We see them as steppingstones on the path to Sapiens, and we want to know in which ways we were superior to them, whether we had sex with them and whether we killed them off. But in Sykes’s story, Sapiens appear only as minor characters at the end. “Kindred” is about Neanderthals.

Sykes explains that Neanderthals were sophisticated and competent human beings who adapted to diverse habitats and climates. They ranged from the shores of the Atlantic to the steppes of Central Asia. They thrived in hot climates as well as in ice age tundra. In addition to iconic large game hunts, Neanderthals also fished in rivers, gathered a multitude of plant species and sometimes stole honey from beehives. They manufactured complex tools, made clothing from animal hides, constructed cozy shelters, occasionally buried their dead and maybe, just maybe, even created art.

Sykes’s book is as much a paean to the wonders of modern technology as it is to the skills of ancient Neanderthals. She describes, for example, how scientists unearthed tiny stone flakes in an Italian cave with some minute smudges on them. Careful analysis revealed that one 50,000-year-old smudge contained a mixture of tree resin and beeswax. Apparently, some innovative Neanderthals discovered that by mixing the two they could produce an adhesive to haft stone with wooden handles and create composite tools. The ability of modern scientists to determine such things is perhaps as startling as the ability of ancient Neanderthals to master such expertise.

Yet Sykes’s convincing arguments about the competence and diversity of ancient Neanderthals lead us back to the inevitable Sapiens question. Scholars always noted the suspicious coincidence that Neanderthals made their exit exactly when Sapiens appeared on the scene. But as long as scholars viewed Neanderthals as simple brutes barely scraping by in ice age Europe, it was easy to give Sapiens the benefit of the doubt. Some scholars said that climate change made conditions more suitable for Sapiens while Neanderthals couldn’t cope with it. Other scholars argued that Neanderthals were already on the brink of extinction even before Sapiens left Africa. Another option was that Neanderthals didn’t go extinct at all — they were assimilated into the expanding Sapiens population.

But Sykes’s new synthesis seems to rule out all these options. For over 300,000 years Neanderthals successfully weathered many climatic cycles and adjusted to numerous habitats. They were capable of innovation and adaptation. They disappeared quite abruptly about 40,000 years ago as a result of what looks more like a sudden shock than a protracted process of decline. And while we now have conclusive evidence that some Neanderthals interbred with Sapiens, the evidence indicates that these were isolated incidents, and that the two populations did not merge.

So what happened? If Neanderthals were so good, why did they disappear? Sykes does not provide a definitive answer, but her findings strengthen the suspicion that Sapiens had a hand in it. Apparently, Neanderthals were sophisticated and innovative enough to deal with diverse climates and habitats, but not with their African cousins.

Sykes provides convincing evidence that on the individual level, Neanderthals were in no way inferior to Sapiens. Neanderthal bodies were as fit, their hands were as dexterous and their brains were as big — if not bigger — than those of Sapiens. The Sapiens advantage probably lay in large-scale cooperation.

Sykes explains that Neanderthals lived in small bands that rarely if ever cooperated with one another. The only tantalizing clue that Neanderthal bands perhaps traded goods comes from a few stone tools. By analyzing different mineral signatures, scholars can identify the exact source of each stone. In a few remarkable cases, stones were sourced from more than 100 kilometers away. It is unclear, however, whether this indicates that Neanderthal bands traded precious items or that Neanderthals traveled over very long distances.

At the time when they encountered the Neanderthals, Sapiens too lived in small bands, but different Sapiens bands probably cooperated on a regular basis. There is much more evidence for long-distance trade among Sapiens, and spectacular burials like the 32,000-year-old Sunghir graves clearly reflect the combined effort of more than one band.

Large-scale cooperation did not necessarily mean that a horde of 500 Sapiens united to wipe out a band of 20 Neanderthals. Cooperation isn’t just about violence. Sapiens could more easily benefit from the discoveries and inventions of other people. If somebody in a neighboring band discovered a new way to locate beehives, to make a tunic or to heal a wound, such knowledge could spread much more quickly among Sapiens than among Neanderthals. While individual Neanderthals were perhaps as inquisitive, imaginative and creative as individual Sapiens, superior networking enabled Sapiens to swiftly outcompete Neanderthals.

This, however, is largely speculation. We still don’t . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 3:32 pm

My current favorite Kamala Harris GIF

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Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 2:03 pm

Made and updated the Other Vegetables recipe

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The recipe I posted yesterday has been made, and it’s extremely tasted. I revised the recipe to match what I did.

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 1:14 pm

The Polls Have Closed — another take on the Evergreen Clip

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8 November 2020 at 12:56 pm

An Architecture Critic Looks at Four Seasons Total Landscaping

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Justin Davidson writes in New York:

It’s been 24 hours and yet it’s still hard to believe … that a presidency erected on gilt and deception met its end in a ramshackle industrial-zone parking lot near an I-95 exit in Philadelphia. Trump, a real-estate and showbiz man, understands the symbolic power of location, location, location. He entered the political arena riding a golden escalator in the skyscraper that bears his name and contains his penthouse, a reminder that the affairs of state and his own possessions would always be intertwined. He gave interviews in the Lincoln Memorial, hoping the architecture’s grandeur would obscure his pettiness. He must have appreciated the idea that his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani—who came to national prominence standing amid the rubble of another architectural landmark—would choose the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia as the spot to challenge the will of the people. It is, after all, the city’s newest, fanciest, highest hotel, occupying the upper floors of its tallest tower, the Comcast Technology Center, designed by an actual Sir, Lord Norman Foster. What better place to broadcast lies?

But the president was mistaken; the press conference was in fact scheduled to take place at a different, unrelated business ten miles away: Four Seasons Total Landscaping. The name itself is magnificently Trumpian, goosed by that meaningless, grandiose modifier, total, which suggests that the firm is in the business of dynamiting mountains or, on a different scale, will mow any patch of body hair its customers desire. Instead of being invested in the majesty of the law and a democratic crusade, Giuliani managed to look diminished by a one-story taxpayer (the ironic term for a generic commercial building that generates barely enough revenue to keep the property from going into default) fronted by a garage door plastered with newly obsolete Trump-Pence campaign signs.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping joins the slabs of forlorn border wall and the graffiti-encrusted bathroom in Lafayette Square as the real monuments of an administration intent on ugliness and pathetic façades. Maybe the choice of venue was a not-at-all understandable mix-up. Perhaps it was sabotage on the part of a minion who had had enough. There’s speculation on Twitter that Trump announced an event at the Four Seasons (hotel) before it had been booked, and aides had to scramble to find any venue that made his words true. None of these explanations makes sense, because the site was simultaneously too perfect to be accidental and too elaborate to be intentional. An administration marked by episodes of sordid sex, wishful thinking, and mass death took place next door to a dildo-and-porn store named Fantasy Island and across the street from a crematorium. If you were hunting for such a symbolically rich stage, how would you even Google it?

The photos that emerged from the event had the tawdriness of America’s worst cityscapes and the richness of an allegorical painting. The sound system’s snarl of cables lay sloppily piled on the asphalt, the emblem of every garbled message. A Sunoco sign presided over the end of an administration desperately addicted to fossil fuels. Windows covered in blackout shades and bars recalled ICE detention centers. A rusting steel scaffold . . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 12:18 pm

ANFSCD: Tuba Skinny – Jubilee Stomp – Royal Street I 2018

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Recorded in New Orleans 04/07/2018

Shaye Cohn – Cornet
Todd Burdick- Tuba/Sousaphone
Robin Rapuzzi – Washboard
Jason Lawrence – Banjo
Max Bien Kahn – Guitar
Greg Sherman – Guitar
Barnabus Jones – Trombone
Ewan Bleach – Clarinet

Buy CD’s: http://tubaskinny.com/updates/

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 11:05 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Feeling Lots Of….Feelings? Overwhelmed and/or Confused? Journaling Can Help

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Andrew Limbong and Audrey Nguyen report in NPR:

The term “journaling” encompasses a lot of different things: the list of birds you’ve seen in your neighborhood; the descriptions of sights you saw on your last vacation; the notes you jotted down about the dream you had last night. But the general, tried and true everything is a bit much in my life right now, and I have to write it down type of journaling can really help when, well, everything is a bit much.

James Pennebaker, a professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, has spent decades studying “expressive writing.” Basically, Pennebaker says, if you find yourself ruminating on something, “set aside some time to write about it for anywhere from five to 20 minutes a day, for one day, two days, maybe as many as five days.”

Expressive writing is associated with improvements in physical healthimprovements in markers of mental health, and improvements in immune function. It’s also been shown to improve working memory in college students, says Pennebaker.

Don’t worry if you’re not exactly sure where to start. Journaling is actually perfect for those times when you can’t pin down what you’re feeling.

“It’s that great first step to opening up and learning who you are and what you believe in and how you feel and how you see and understand the world,” says Rashawnda James, a licensed therapist, YouTuber and a big advocate of journaling.

These four tips will help you get started: . . .

Continue reading.

And by all means let me recommend the 12-week morning pages program set out in The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. For that I found that handwriting worked best (better than a keyboard). I used this sort of notebook. At 3 pages per day, you’ll need three of them, so getting a pack of six is not a bad idea, particularly if two of you are going to take on the project. The book itself offers very good guidance.

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 11:00 am

Rigorous Study Backs A Psychedelic Treatment For Major Depression

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Jon Hamilton has an intriguing article for NPR:

The substance that makes some mushrooms “magic” also appears to help people with major depressive disorder.

A study of 27 people found that a treatment featuring the hallucinogen psilocybin worked better than the usual antidepressant medications, a team reported Wednesday in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

“The effect was more than four times greater,” says Alan Davis, an author of the study and a faculty member at both Johns Hopkins University and Ohio State University.

The study comes after earlier research offered hints that psilocybin might work against depression and after a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins found that it could ease depression and anxiety in patients who had life-threatening cancer.

The study of cancer patients “led us to consider whether or not this treatment might be effective for people in the general depression community,” Davis says.

In the new study, patients received two doses of psilocybin on different days and also received about 11 hours of psychotherapy. The drug was administered in a supervised yet homey setting designed to put participants at ease, Davis says.

“They have a blindfold on, they have headphones on, listening to music,” he says. “And we really encourage them to go inward and to kind of experience whatever is going to come up with the psilocybin.”

Half the participants began treatment immediately. The rest were put on a waitlist so they could serve as a comparison group until their own treatment began eight weeks later.

“There was a significant reduction in depression in the immediate-treatment group compared to those in the waitlist,” Davis says. And patients responded much faster than with typical antidepressants.

“The effect happened within one day after the first session and sustained at that reduced level through the second psilocybin session all the way up to the one-month follow-up,” he says.

The study is notable for its scientific rigor, says Dr. Charles F. Reynolds III, distinguished professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine and the author of an editorial that accompanied the research.

“It offers, I think, a good deal of promise as a feasible approach to treating particularly chronic forms of depression,” Reynolds says. Even so, the results still might be skewed because patients were told they were going to get the drug.

“Some of the rapid improvement that we saw could have been related to expectancy effects on the part of the participants,” he says.

The study comes less than two years after the Food and Drug Administration approved the anesthetic and party drug ketamine for depression. And the emergence of treatments like ketamine and psilocybin may signal a new era in treatment, Reynolds says.

“Certainly that’s  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 10:48 am

Four Seasons Total Landscaping gets odd calls — but they’re used to it.

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8 November 2020 at 10:11 am

The Danish Poet: A short but poignant animated film

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Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 7:10 am

Kurt Vonnegut on The Art of Fiction: A Paris Review interview

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Paris Review is opening its archives for a few things, and this one is interesting for us Kurt Vonnegut fans. The interview begins:

This interview with Kurt Vonnegut was originally a composite of four interviews done with the author over the past decade. The composite has gone through an extensive working over by the subject himself, who looks upon his own spoken words on the page with considerable misgivings . . . indeed, what follows can be considered an interview conducted with himself, by himself.

The introduction to the first of the incorporated interviews (done in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, when Vonnegut was forty-four) reads: “He is a veteran and a family man, large-boned, loose-jointed, at ease. He camps in an armchair in a shaggy tweed jacket, Cambridge gray flannels, a blue Brooks Brothers shirt, slouched down, his hands stuffed into his pockets. He shells the interview with explosive coughs and sneezes, windages of an autumn cold and a lifetime of heavy cigarette smoking. His voice is a resonant baritone, Midwestern, wry in its inflections. From time to time he issues the open, alert smile of a man who has seen and reserved within himself almost everything: depression, war, the possibility of violent death, the inanities of corporate public relations, six children, an irregular income, long-delayed recognition.

The last of the interviews that made up the composite was conducted during the summer of 1976, years after the first. The description of him at this time reads: “ . . . he moves with the low-keyed amiability of an old family dog. In general, his appearance is tousled: the long curly hair, mustache, and sympathetic smile suggest a man at once amused and saddened by the world around him. He has rented the Gerald Murphy house for the summer. He works in the little bedroom at the end of a hall where Murphy, artist, bon vivant, and friend to the artistic great, died in 1964. From his desk Vonnegut can look out onto the front lawn through a small window; behind him is a large, white canopy bed. On the desk next to the typewriter is a copy of Andy Warhol’s Interview, Clancy Sigal’s Zone of the Interior, and several discarded cigarette packs.

“Vonnegut has chain-smoked Pall Malls since 1936 and during the course of the interview he smokes the better part of one pack. His voice is low and gravelly, and as he speaks, the incessant procedure of lighting the cigarettes and exhaling smoke is like punctuation in his conversation. Other distractions, such as the jangle of the telephone and the barking of a small, shaggy dog named Pumpkin, do not detract from Vonnegut’s good-natured disposition. Indeed, as Dan Wakefield once said of his fellow Shortridge High School alumnus, ‘He laughed a lot and was kind to everyone.’“

INTERVIEWER: You are a veteran of the Second World War?

VONNEGUT: Yes. I want a military funeral when I die—the bugler, the flag on the casket, the ceremonial firing squad, the hallowed ground.

INTERVIEWER: Why?

VONNEGUT: It will be a way of achieving what I’ve always wanted more than anything—something I could have had, if only I’d managed to get myself killed in the war.

INTERVIEWER: Which is—?

VONNEGUT: The unqualified approval of my community.

INTERVIEWER: You don’t feel that you have that now?

VONNEGUT: My relatives say that they are glad I’m rich, but that they simply cannot read me.

INTERVIEWER: You were an infantry battalion scout in the war?

VONNEGUT: Yes, but I took my basic training on the 240-millimeter howitzer.

INTERVIEWER: A rather large weapon.

VONNEGUT: The largest mobile fieldpiece in the army at that time. This weapon came in six pieces, each piece dragged wallowingly by a Caterpillar tractor. Whenever we were told to fire it, we had to build it first. We practically had to invent it. We lowered one piece on top of another, using cranes and jacks. The shell itself was about nine and a half inches in diameter and weighed three hundred pounds. We constructed a miniature railway which would allow us to deliver the shell from the ground to the breech, which was about eight feet above grade. The breechblock was like the door on the vault of a savings and loan association in Peru, Indiana, say.

INTERVIEWER: It must have been a thrill to fire such a weapon.

VONNEGUT: Not really. We would put the shell in there, and then we would throw in bags of very slow and patient explosives. They were damp dog biscuits, I think. We would close the breech, and then trip a hammer which hit a fulminate of mercury percussion cap, which spit fire at the damp dog biscuits. The main idea, I think, was to generate steam. After a while, we could hear these cooking sounds. It was a lot like cooking a turkey. In utter safety, I think, we could have opened the breechblock from time to time, and basted the shell. Eventually, though, the howitzer always got restless. And finally it would heave back on its recoil mechanism, and it would have to expectorate the shell. The shell would come floating out like the Goodyear blimp. If we had had a stepladder, we could have painted “Fuck Hitler” on the shell as it left the gun. Helicopters could have taken after it and shot it down.

INTERVIEWER: The ultimate terror weapon.

VONNEGUT: Of the Franco-Prussian War.

INTERVIEWER: But you were ultimately sent overseas not with this instrument but with the 106th Infantry Division—

VONNEGUT: “The Bag Lunch Division.” They used to feed us a lot of bag lunches. Salami sandwiches. An orange.

INTERVIEWER: In combat?

VONNEGUT: When we were still in the States.

INTERVIEWER: While they trained you for the infantry?

VONNEGUT: I was never trained for the infantry. Battalion scouts were elite troops, see. There were only six in each battalion, and nobody was very sure about what they were supposed to do. So we would march over to the rec room every morning, and play Ping-Pong and fill out applications for Officer Candidate School.

INTERVIEWER: During your basic training, though, you must have been familiarized with weapons other than the howitzer. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 6:57 am

Posted in Books, Writing

President-elect Biden’s website is up and running

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Biden has already announced several immediate steps he will take: rejoin the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization, repeal the Muslim travel ban, and reinstate the DACA program to allow people brought to the US as children to remain in the US and provide a path to citizenship.

Already he has instituted a pandemic task force, which headed by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and Yale University’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith (instead of being headed by a politician and a real-estate mogul). I think having a task force headed by people with relevant expertise will be a big help (meaning no unwarranted disrespect to Kushner’s fraternity brothers).

To keep on top of what is happening now, bookmark his transition website. You’ll have to scroll down to the main menu:

Home
The President-Elect
The Vice President-Elect
Priorities
Transition
News
Español

Time was when websites were designed to minimize scrolling and fit as much as possible on the screen. Important things (like the menu) were listed first. Now, with so many using smartphones to browse the web, scrolling is the default, so things are often hidden from the initial screen view. — update: the menu is indeed at the top in my Opera browser, but it isn’t there for Firefox.

Opera:

Firefox:

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 6:32 am

Make your own herb-spice blends

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I’m a sucker for making my own foods — not just the meals, which I like to cook myself rather than buy prepared, but also foods generally bought off the shelf: tempeh, ketchup, mayo, Worcestershire sauce. And now I can add herb/spice blends to the list. I think for the Italian blend I’ll include some fennel — grind up some fennel seeds in the grinder. Update: In comments, The Eldest suggests including dried dill in the Greek blend. — That’s the advantage of doing your own blends: tailoring them to your tastes. (Ground fennel seed is what gives Italian sausage its Italian taste.)

Written by Leisureguy

8 November 2020 at 6:12 am

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