Secondhand Smoke in Restaurants

  • At least 450 restaurants in Snohomish and King Counties banned smoking in all dining sections in 1994. As recently as 1982 only 12 restaurants in the area provided completely smoke-free dining.
    American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and Fresh Air for Non-Smokers, May 1994
  • About 153,000 Washington state residents work in the restaurant industry where 43% of all residents food money is spent.
    Washington State Employment Security Department, September 1994; Restaurant Association of Washington, 1994
  • Researchers measuring the air in more than 400 restaurants and 600 homes found restaurant workers were exposed to levels of secondhand smoke twice as high as other office workers and 1.5 times higher than persons living with a smoker. In bars, workers’ secondhand smoke intake was at least four times higher than in offices and homes.
    UC Berkeley/UCSC Preventive Medicine Residency Program, JAMA, July 28, 1993
  • Restaurants that allow smoking can have six times the pollution of a busy highway.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking Or Health
  • A huge majority of diners think smoking in restaurants should be banned, according to a 18,000-person survey by Zagat Survey, publisher of restaurant, hotel, resort and spa guides. Seventy percent of New York residents agreed all smoking in restaurants should be banned; 79 percent in San Francisco and 81 percent in Los Angeles also agreed. Results were published Sept. 29.
    Zagat Survey, September 1994
  • Fifty-six percent of adults would rather dine at a restaurant that banned smoking entirely than one in which smoking was permitted.
    National Restaurant Association, January 1993
  • The National Council of Chain Restaurants, which has 90,000 restaurant members, supports a ban on smoking in all public buildings, including restaurants. A third of their 90,000 members already ban or restrict smoking.
    Washington Post, Feb. 24, 1994
  • Thirteen cities to completely ban smoking in restaurants had no statistically significant loss of business to restaurants in neighboring communities without such laws. In Lodi, Calif., where nearly one-quarter of the 51,000 population smokes, restaurant sales totalled $10 million in 1990 – and remained the same 20 months after the smoke-free laws were in place.
    Stanton Glantz, Lisa Smith, University of California, San Francisco, Oct. 27, 1993
  • City bans on smoking in restaurants don’t significantly impact restaurant sales. Researchers who examined tax records and total retail sales for restaurants in 15 smoke-free communities between 1986 and 1993 found such laws did not affect the fraction of retail sales that went to restaurants or total restaurant sales.
    University of California, San Francisco, “The Effect of Ordinances Requiring Smoke-Free Restaurants on Restaurant Sales,” July 1994
  • Since 1985, nearly 50 jurisdictions, including Puyallup, have banned smoking in restaurants.
    Washington Post, Aug. 3, 1993, Puyallup City Council, September 1994

Secondhand Smoke and Kids

The Children’s Health Index, a nationwide survey of parents sponsored by the magazine PREVENTION, included exposure to second-hand smoke as one of the 15 factors by which it measures children’s overall health. Some of the index’s other factors included wearing seatbelts and bicycle helmets, knowing how to dial 911, and receiving regular check-ups with the doctor and dentist.
The survey said, “The overall health of America’s children would be improved if more parents quit smoking.” It reported the following findings regarding children’s exposure to second-hand smoke:

  • 43 percent of children live in a household with someone who smokes tobacco.
  • 79 percent of children living in smoking households were rated as having “very good” or “excellent” health, as compared to 89 percent of kids in non-smoking households.
  • Children who live in households with an income of $25,000 or less are more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke. Regardless of income level, however, children in non-smoking households tend to be healthier than those in smoking households.
    The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates, interviewed 766 parents nationwide in November, 1994.
    Source: “Children’s Health Index,” PREVENTION, September 27, 1995.
  • More young people are killed by parental smoking than by all other unintentional injuries combined.
  • 5.4 million children suffer annually from non-fatal asthma and ear infections as a result of parental smoking, requiring $4.6 billion in treatment each year.
    Source: Study by University of Wisconsin, found in the July 1997 edition of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Knowing the Difference between Port Amp Sherry

The main difference between Port and Sherry can be defined by location. Port (noun) a sweet dark red fortified wine from Portugal. Sherry (noun) a fortified wine originally and mainly from southern Spain.

Similarities – both are fortified wines from Europe.

Differences – vast !

Lets start with Port.

Port is a fortified wine originating from the Douro Valley in Portugal it takes its name from the city of Oporto. Port style wines are now made around the world including Australia and California but in order to be a true Port it must come from Portugal.

Over 80 grape varieties are authorized for the production of Port but the 5 considered the best are :

Touriga Nacional; the backbone of most vintage Ports, renowned for its colour, intense blackcurrant nose and powerful tannins.

Touriga Francesca; a much more delicate variety brings a certain softness to the blend.

Tinta Roriz; also known as Tempranillo, brings firmness, structure and length.

Tinta Borocca; an early ripening variety with a much higher sugar content than the other grapes, a more flowery aroma and softening properties.

Tinta Cao; noted for backbone and structure it contributes to the long finish on the palate.

Much of the harvesting in the Douro Valley is still done by hand due to the steep slopes and inaccessibility for machine harvesters, sadly the tradition of stomping the vintage bare foot has in the main given over to machinery. Now, however, a few of the Port houses maintain the tradition for at least a part of the blend. And the festivals after the ‘crush’ are amazing to attend, even if you have purple feet!

Once the fruit has been crushed the juice (known as ‘must’) is stored in stainless steel tanks and allowed to ferment relying on natural yeasts. When around half the sugars have fermented into alcohol grape spirit is added to the wine at a ratio of around 1 part spirit to 4 parts wine to halt fermentation, this is where the Port wine is fortified. The wine remains sweet and the alcohol level is raised.

Once the fortification has been completed the resulting wine is then moved to one of the shipper’s lodges where it is stored in wooden casks to begin maturation. The wines can be stored for years before the master blender believes they are ready to become part of a blend.

The blending of the wines is a very specialised art with sometimes up to 12 / 15 batches of wine being brought together to make that perfect blend. The majority of Port wines that can be purchased are Non Vintage wines – a blend of wines from various years. A Vintage is only declared when the harvest for that particular year has been exceptional.

There is so much more to learn about Port I could go on for another page, but let now look at Sherry.

Sherry is a fortified wine made in and around the town of Jerez (pron : Hereth) in Spain. Legally if the wine is not from the area of the province of Cadiz, a triangular area between Jerez, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria, then it cannot be called Sherry unless clarification of region is clearly given on the label such as ” Californian Sherry”

There are only 3 grape varietals used to make Sherry:

Palamino Fino ; used in around 90% of Sherry producing

Pedro Ximenez (PX); used in the darker sweeter Sherries, these grapes are sun dried after harvesting to concentrate the sugar levels.

Moscatel; used in the same style as PX but now rarely used

The majority of these grapes are grown in vineyards on ‘albariza’ soil, this soil is chalk, limestone and clay and the perfect growing medium for Palamino grapes.

Harvesting is again done mainly by hand due to the fact that the Palamino grape is a very delicate thin skinned varietal.

After harvest the grapes are gently pressed with the first 65 – 70% going to make Fino and light Sherry styles, the next 20% goes to Oloroso and heavier styles and the remainder is sent to be distilled.

The production of Sherry differs from that of Port as the fermentation is allowed to finish completely turning all the sugars into alcohol, whereas Port fermentation is stopped halfway to maintain the sweet style.

The wine will have developed a layer of yeast known as ‘flor’ on the surface. This is important for the winemakers as it has a distinguishing effect on the style of the wine and their decision making as to what Sherry will be produced from each barrel.

If you ever get to experience the heady aromas from a Sherry barrel hall it is quite amazing.

Once the winemakers have chosen which barrels will go to which styles of Sherry then fortification is carried out by the process of blending in to the wine alcohol grape spirit. Fino is fortified to a lower level than Oloroso to enable the Flor to survive. In the Oloroso barrels the Flor will die and oxidation will occur which gives Sherry its dark colour – imagine an apple core left open to the air and the colour changing from clear pale fruit to brown.

At this stage there are only 2 styles of Sherry – Fino & Oloroso. From these 2 base wines the winemakers will blend out the other styles.

Once fortified to the required level the wines are left in barrels for around 6 months. The winemakers constantly monitor the progress of their maturation in order to decide which barrels will remain as Fino Sherry and which will be blended out to become other styles.

The aging and blending process for sherry is unique. The method is called the ‘solera system’ and is a process difficult to describe without pictures but I’ll have a go.

Imagine a stack of wine barrels 3 high. Sherry for blending and bottling is only ever drawn out of the bottom barrels ( the oldest wine) , these are never emptied. Once part of this wine has been drawn out the bottom barrels are topped up with wine from the layer directly above. These barrels are then topped up with wine from the barrels directly above. These barrels are then topped up with the new vintage wine just produced.

This system maintains a style required by the winemaker and is a constant blending and aging process.

Sherry styles include :
Fino – the pale dry style (think Tio Pepe)
Manzanilla – a variety of Fino but made around the area of Sanlucar de Barrameda
Amontillado – darker than Fino but lighter than Oloroso, dry to taste
Oloroso – aged oxidatively for longer than Fino or Amontillado a dark rich wine, dry to taste
Palo Cortado – very difficult to find nowadays, crisp and dry but dark
Sweet Sherry – This is where PX is added to sweeten the blend. Many varieties abound – Pale Cream Sherry, Cream Sherry, Medium Sherry.

PX – WOW ! If you ever get the opportunity to try a bottle of Gonzales Byass PX you really must. It has incredible sweetness and depth.

Kitchenaid 12 Piece Knife Block Set in Red or Black

Every kitchen needs a good knife set.  Some knives are meant to be kept in drawers, but the KitchenAid 12-piece knife block set comes with its own block of wood to store the knives in, so you can save drawer space.  The block itself has a fairly small footprint, so it won’t take up much counter space, and the knife slots are angled, so you can fit the set on a counter beneath an overhanging cabinet.

This KitchenAid knife set comes in black, with stamped end caps, and candy apple red.  Other than color and style, the two sets are almost identical.  Both have the same knives, but the Santoku knife that comes with the red set is listed as having a four-and-a-half-inch blade, while the Santoku knife that comes with the black set has a five-inch blade.

The knives in this KitchenAid set are good quality.  They come with a sharpener, but you may never need it, because the knives keep their edge for a long time.  There are four steak knives, a slicer, a chef’s knife, a serrated utility knife, a Santoku knife, and a parer.  The set also comes with a strong pair of kitchen shears.

The knife handles are decorative but also provide a good grip.  The blades are solid, high carbon stainless steel, and it takes a lot of force to bend the tips.  The paring knife has a very sharp point and blade.  It’s a great small knife, perfect for coring and cutting onions.

On one website, the instructions say to only hand wash these knives and dry them immediately, but they have survived many trips inside the dishwasher and come out with nothing worse than water spots.  Whether you hand wash them or wash them in the dishwasher, be sure that they are completely dry before putting them back in the wood block.

The wood block looks good and makes a great holder for the knives.  Because some of the knives are very sharp, however, you have to be careful when sliding them into their slots – if they glance the wood, they can easily splinter it.

The KitchenAid 12-piece knife block set can be purchased from several places online. and both sell the black knife set for $49.99.  The red set can be purchased from for $89.99 or from for $88.99.

Kids Love Eggplant with these Delicious Tricks

What makes eggplant great to cook with is its mild flavor and its ability to take on the flavors of the other ingredients.  Eggplant is a versatile vegetable, an excellent wheat/pasta alternative and is a good source of fibre, potassium, manganese and copper.  The key to getting kids to like eggplant is making a good impression the first time.  If you serve eggplant as boiled glop with nothing to flavor it, kids will connect their repulsion of that dish to any dish containing eggplant.  So choose delicious ingredients and go for familiar dishes first where eggplant is not the key feature or flavor.  Utilize the shape of the eggplant, whether you make long slices for lasagna or wheels for mini pizzas, eggplant provides a variety of choices.  Let’s take a look at 3 good recipes to introduce eggplant to kids.

1. Eggplant Lasagna: 

This dish is usually very popular with kids, and it can easily be tailored to suit a variety of dietary concerns, be it wheat-free, gluten-free or vegetarian.  Soy cheese could even be substituted if lactose intolerance is a concern.  The key here is that a variety of savory ingredients conceal the limited flavor of the eggplant while utilizing its shape and texture quite nicely.

2. Eggplant Mini Pizzas: 

Here again, a few simple ingredients and utilizing the shape of the eggplant leads to delicious mini pizzas.  The author here also cites the versatility of both eggplant and the recipe.  The eggplant is a bit more exposed, but nonetheless, still a very background flavor to the other ingredients which could include meat, cheese and a variety of spices and herbs.

3. Eggplant parmesan:

There’s a pattern here.  Cheese is a great cover for eggplant.  But also, a good tomato sauce and a few herbs make this dish brilliant.  Don’t want the breading?  Lightly grill the eggplant instead.  Don’t have all the ingredients for the parmesan?  Use the breading to make it a “schnitzel”, a vegetarian version.

Once eggplant becomes accepted as a part of normal eating, feel free to experiment and try a few recipes with eggplant a little more exposed.  But in the beginning, first impressions are crucial, and if the kids like the dish, don’t be afraid to use it on multiple occasions.  Cheese, meat, herbs, tomato sauce, breading, these are all your friends when trying to make eggplant a little more palatable for the kids.  Use the flavors and ingredients they already like to ease them into the idea of eating eggplant, and don’t overemphasize the fact that the dish contains eggplant, just treat it like normal.  Of course, the wonderful thing is, these recipes are not just delicious for kids, they’re delicious for adults too!

Italian Food Recipes Chicken Scarpariello

My Italian-American roommate (actually, my landlord) introduced me to this recipe, which he remembers, was made famous locally by Frank Sinatra’s chef (hence, the name: chicken scarpariello). As what is typical with Italian-sounding meals, the pronunciation sounds way different from the spelling (check it out from your favorite dictionary), but the meal is simply juicy and appetizing. My roommate also tells me that this is believed to be a “poor-man’s meal,” with 3 main ingredients: chicken, garlic, and lemon juice.  We even checked out online recipes; he was surprised to see a number of liberal variations made by other chefs on the meal. Some even add sausages to make it tastier.

To make this particular recipe we recently had at home for dinner, please prepare the following ingredients:
5 pieces of chicken thighs, with skin, cut to smaller chunks
3 whole peppers, cored, sliced and diced
9 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium-sized onion, minced
4 tablespoons of butter
15 tablespoons of lemon juice – adjust according to quantity of chicken
1 cup of white wine
2 cups of regular flour
1 cup of olive oil

1) Boil the chicken cuts for at least 1 hour in medium fire. When done, drain the broth but keep 2 cups for use later. Let the chicken cool down.

2) Flour the chicken. Pour olive oil in your frying pan, set fire to medium. When oil is hot, start frying the chicken. Fry until the chicken cuts have been lightly browned. When done, drain excess oil from the chicken and set aside in the meantime.

3) Saute the garlic and onions in the same pan you have used in browning the chicken, using the same olive oil. After which, toss in the minced peppers, and stir.  Add in the butter, then followed by the white wine. Saute for at least 5 minutes, and add in the chicken broth, and stir. Turn off fire.  This will be the main sauce of this meal.

4) Set oven at 350 degrees.

5) On a roasting pan that has aluminum foil on it, set in place the chicken cuts. Then pour all the sauted ingredients from the frying pan onto the chicken cuts.

6) Give the chicken parts ample dash of the lemon juice – this will give the chicken its tangy flavor.

7) Bake for at least 1 hour.

This is good for 4 persons. Make sure you serve this meal while hot, and with your favorite side dish. Enjoy!

Note: adjust the recipe by giving the chicken a dash of salt to taste. We usually don’t put salt while cooking our meals at home.

In-depth guide to wild morel mushrooms

Wild mushroom season starts as early as March, depending on the weather, and ends as late as October or November in some places, again depending on the weather. Anyone who likes store-bought button mushrooms would probably love wild morels. They make for an enjoyable outing and best of all, in most places, they are free.


Safety needs to be stressed at the outset. Some mushrooms like the morel are very difficult to mistake for any other mushroom. Other mushrooms, such as the Chanterelle, have several look-a-likes and not all of them are good or safe to eat. It is advisable for even veteran mushroom pickers to have handy a field guide to mushrooms that includes color plates. For the beginner, it is a good idea to go mushroom picking with someone who is experienced. Never eat a mushroom if you don’t know exactly what kind it is and that it is safe to eat.

Growing location

Morels grow, sometimes in great profusion, in most of the conifer forests of Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest. They are common in many areas of the US and Canada, including in deciduous forests. In Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and Northern California, they can be found in such numbers in the fir and pine forests that it isn’t uncommon to fill a five gallon bucket with morels in two hours or less. This is the reason that the Pacific Northwest is known as the morel capital of the world.

Morels will nearly always be found in areas where the ground has been disturbed during the previous year or two. This makes old wildfire areas prime morel areas, but don’t overlook deer trails, logging roads or other similar places where ground has been disturbed.

Growing conditions

Morels will generally only grow where there is surface moisture, whether from melted snow, rain, dew or other sources. They don’t do well in very dry areas nor in boggy areas. They prefer shady areas that do get some sunshine, so it is common to find them growing next to trees that have fallen, or under trees. Many people have the greatest luck in finding them in mixed fir and pine forests, where firs dominate, and they tend to be more often found near fir trees or fir dead fall. This makes it valuable to periodically bend or stoop when looking for morels. Looking at different angles can sometimes let you see morels that you might otherwise miss entirely.

They can also be found in deciduous forests, but seldom in nearly as great a profusion since they are acid loving fungi. Many people have firmly believed that morels love broad-leafed plants, but have been totally amazed at the number of mushrooms they’ve found in pine and fir forests.

Life cycle

Mushrooms like the morel start from a spore. This puts out very fine roots, called mycelium, each strand likely to be smaller than a human hair. These grow and inter-mesh, often very close to the surface of the ground, as they take in nutrients from decaying vegetation. This is important to know for a couple reasons. First, the root system can be several feet across and second, it may put up more than one fruiting body. If you find a morel, scour the area nearby. There could very well be other morels growing there.

Mushroom size and appearance

Like button mushrooms, the morel grows in various sizes. Most are fairly small, but some people have found white morel that had almost ten-inch caps. It is the cap that is the good part, and it is easy to pinch or snap the morels off just below the cap, when collecting them. The cap itself is conical in shape, with many many holes, unlike most other mushrooms. Naturally, the smaller ones are a little harder to see, and making it even more difficult, they will often look like pine and fir cones at first glance. Still, they are occasionally found in staggering numbers.


Be sure to store the morels in water or an ice chest as soon as feasible, as they are usually moderately delicate. You don’t want to lose any flavor or to have them going bad. They last well, but older morels do often lose flavor.

Morels can be preserved in a number of ways. They can be air dried. They will readily rehydrate by soaking them in water. They can be canned. And they can be frozen. Many people prefer the latter, since they are similar to fresh mushrooms when they are thawed out for use. To freeze them though, you should blanch them first. This keeps the flavor fresh. You can blanch them by frying them in hot grease or butter for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, or by cooking them about the same length of time in boiling water. Let them cool for a few minutes, but then freeze them immediately to preserve the flavor.

For smaller morels, cut the cap width-wise in about 1/2 inch slices, before preparing them for freezing. The larger morels are superb for stuffing with such things as meat, cheese, a combination of both or whatever else you might want, since the caps are hollow. For these, blanch them whole. Also, it is helpful to know that when cooking, morels don’t shrink like button mushrooms will, so a smaller amount will go farther.

Morels are one of the easiest to identify of the mushrooms, so it is hoped that more people will keep their eyes open for them. This mushroom tends to come up in the early spring, after the ground has warmed and doesn’t cool appreciably at night. They are fun to find, and even more pleasurable to eat. 

How to Thicken Gravy how to Fix Runny Gravy

Oh no! Your perfect meal is almost ready, but your gravy is runny! What to do? The first thing you should do is take a deep breath and relax. This is a problem with an easy remedy. Gravy can become runny for a couple of different reasons. The most common reason is that you either didn’t use enough thickener for the amount of liquid that you have or the thickener that you used wasn’t thick enough. If you are using a left-over gravy, sometimes it will break down during re-heating causing the gravy to become runny.

The solution to any of the above stated problems is essentially the same. You will need to mix up a thickening agent and add it to the gravy. The type of agent that you use depends on both your personal taste and the type of gravy that you are trying to thicken. For a milk-based gravy you will need to use flour to thicken it because any other method will not result in the look and texture that is desirable for a milk-based gravy. For meat-based gravies (beef, chicken, turkey, etc) you may use either flour or cornstarch. Some people prefer the taste and home-style appearance of gravies thickened with flour, while others prefer the texture and clearer appearance of gravies thickened with cornstarch.

To thicken with flour: Heat the runny gravy to a low simmer. In a small bowl or cup, whisk together 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/4 cup of cold water for every cup of gravy that you have. Whisk until there are no lumps. If there are lumps in your thickening agent, there will be lumps in your gravy. Gradually whisk this mixture into your simmering gravy. Stir constantly for approximately one minute, or until the gravy thickens.

To thicken with cornstarch: Again, heat the runny gravy to a low simmer. In a small bowl or cup, stir together one tablespoon of corstarch and one tablespoon of water for every cup of gravy. Stir this into the simmering gravy. This gravy will thicken very quickly. Simmer for about a minute until the “starchy” taste disappears, but do not cook for too long or the excess heat will cause the gravy to thin out again.

With both of these methods, it is important to stir the thickening agent into water before adding it to the gravy. If you attempt to add the thickener to the gravy without whisking it into water first, the fat particles in the gravy will adhere to the flour or cornstarch and result in lumps that cannot be smoothed out and the gravy will still be thin. If you find that the gravy becomes too thick, you can gradually stir in a small amount of broth or water until the gravy reaches the desired consistency. Bon Apetit!

How to tell if a Pineapple is Ripe

It is not hard to tell if a pineapple is ripe or not. You just need to use your senses properly and conclude correctly. Here I will show how you can diagnose a closed pineapple from its symptoms. Yeah, it is really like doctors job before they send you for x-ray. You can use the look of pineapple, its softness, its smell, and its weight to tell if it is the pineapple you are looking for or not.

Pineapple look: Well this is a very important step for choosing ripe pineapple. Unripe pineapple skin has more green color than yellow, and the green color is very pure. A rape pineapple skin color has less green color and more golden yellow color plus the green color is not very pure and it is a bit brownish. From far an unripe pineapple looks green but a ripe pineapple looks more brownish green. From close look the skin of an unripe pineapple has very sharp edges and the leaves of pineapple looks very fresh, but for a ripe pineapple the edges are not so sharp and leaves look older.

Pineapple softness: Now after looking at pineapple, it is time to pick it up and sense it in hand. If you press a ripe pineapple skin edges – the part which is more golden –  it should be soft. If the edge is hard, the pineapple is not ripe.

Pineapple smell: Well this check is a bit hard and may be different from one person to another one. If you smell a unripe pine apple you should smell the some sort of fresh smell which is not the case when you are face with a ripe pineapple. If this test is hard to do for you just stick to the look and softness tests and you will be happy with the result.

Pineapple weight: Another tricky test is to feel the weight of the pineapple. When you pick up and pineapple and move it up and down in you hand, if you fill that it is as heavy as if you had the same amount of water in your hand then the pine apple is ripe if not the pineapple is most probably not ripe. Again if you think this test is hard to do just try with the first two tests.

If most of the above mentioned tests passed for the pineapple, then you can be pretty sure that your pineapple is a ripe one and it will not disappoint you later on in the house in front of your family and guests.

How to Make your Picnic one to Remember

Liven up a picnic by inviting lots of children. Watch as they go about entertaining themselves and playing games of tag, hopscotch, kick ball and other games. By this they can release their pent up energy while having fun. Adults who allow themselves, for the occasion at least, to enter into the fun with the children, will find that picnics are great stress relievers.

Music, where every one can join in singing or picking on the guitar, is great fun at picnics. These can be staged in backyards or in picnic areas or actually be pre-arranged musical events where people are invited to bring their own chairs and foods. Example of this are the  the music on the Ohio river bank park in downtown Huntington, WV. The  symphony orchestra schedule these have summer time informal performances. They are scheduled in late evenings and are quite successful.  

Have an assortment of games to play. Charades is a good game, so are horse shoes, sack races, baseball, or whatever. Groups can choose to participate according to their preferences. Conversation may idle and game playing is one way to get lively discussions and to loosen up pent up emotions.

Clowns know how to have fun and inviting one or a group, professional or otherwise – dependent on the type of picnic and the overall purpose – will be sure to liven up a picnic. Maybe this is a political rally and fun and games will be interspersed among the many speakers and rallies. Parents and grownup will come out and bring the children and will be forced to listen to the speeches.

Invite local celebrities, especially if they are in the entertainment business, to join a picnic will be sure to increase the excitement and the fun. Or open air stage plays where local entertainers can perform or perfect their skills for the hometown audience, will work to get things moving at picnics.

At this stage of the picnic assessment, lets put all the fun back in and take out all the business. Too often weekends are given over to pseudo fun while business deals are masquerading as picnic style fun for families. The original picnic had a more innocent venue than it often does today. It was nothing more than an excuse to get out of the house for some inexpensive fun.

Maybe eating out a fancy restaurant was beyond the means of the family, and they packed up their dinner and headed for the park. It was one way of creating some adventure for the kids and letting them run loose for an hour or two. Maybe friendly neighbors living in crowded apartments needed a way to relax and let the kids play safely.

All that is really needed to liven up picnics is plenty of food and plenty of children. They  naturally bring with them lots of ideas for fun. The adults either join in or it back and watch, ready with water, snacks, and band-aids for skinned knees, handi-wipes and a thankful heart.

How to Make Catfish Batter

Making catfish batter is a simple (and sometimes messy) process. Many cooks opt to simply dredge their catfish fillets or pieces in a mixture of cornmeal and spices. However, a batter gives the catfish another whole dimension of flavor and texture. You don’t have to be Julia Child to create a scrumptious piece of fried catfish but you do need to prepare for the process.

First you should decide if you will be using catfish fillets or pieces. If you prefer catfish nuggets, then the fillets can be cut into the appropriate size. If choosing nugget size, look for fat fillets or you may end up with skinny catfish strips instead. For battering, nuggets are the easiest to work with.

Do you like your catfish regular or packed with punch? A good catfish batter will have the typical salt and pepper but if you prefer a flavorful kick, you may want to add something extra to your recipe like Cajun spices or hot sauce. A popular addition to catfish batter or most any fish recipe is Old Bay Seasoning. Remember, you can ruin a good catfish batter by not adding any flavoring like salt or adding way too much. Find a recipe that you know you will enjoy the flavors – one of the most popular recipes is a beer batter.

If you don’t want to make a homemade catfish batter, there are some very good boxed batters available at the grocery store – some cooks even prefer to use a boxed onion ring batter. Your own additional flavors can be added to the boxed versions like hot sauce, pepper flakes, or Cajun seasoning. For making your own catfish batter, a typical recipe will call for

1 cup flour,

1 teaspoon baking powder,

2 beaten eggs,

2/3 cup milk,

buttermilk, or beer,

1 tablespoon melted butter,

salt, and spices.

The ingredients are whisked until smooth. This recipe is enough for approximately one pound of fish.

Preparation of Catfish
You have a choice to simply dip the catfish fillets or nuggets into your batter recipe or prepare the catfish for battering. Soaking the catfish in buttermilk for up to 2 hours is a common preparation technique.

Cooking Catfish
After finding a good batter recipe, the catfish is dipped in the batter and deep fried in oil. Oil should be 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit. Tongs are the best way to dredge the catfish pieces and place in the hot oil. Do not crowd the fish when frying. Fry the catfish until fully browned on all sides; remove from oil and dry on paper towel.

One of the most common problems that novice catfish cooks come across is the batter not sticking to the fish. This problem is typically caused from wet fish. It’s important to work with catfish that isn’t overly wet. Simply dry the fish with a clean paper towel to remove any access moisture from the outside of the fish. This is extremely important if the fish has been soaked in buttermilk beforehand. Moisture on the outside of the fish will keep the batter from staying attached to the fish.