Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trading Stamps

   Today we have rewards on our credit cards, clip coupons, or go online and click a discount symbol, before we go shopping at the supermarket, to save a little money. We don't always use the weekly offerings as we can frequently find similar items in the store that are cheaper than the item with the coupon.
   The money saving ways in earlier days were trading stamps. Little stamps you pasted in a book and saved until you had enough to go shopping in special stamp premium redemption stores.
   Interestingly enough, trading stamps caught on first with chain gasoline stations, about 1910 in Canada, then spread to the US, with their new chain supermarkets, during the 1920s.
   The stamps were only issued to cash customers. Customers who ran credit accounts and paid once a month mounted a loud vocal complaints as to unfair marketing practices. In the 1930s, the stamp companies began giving the stamps to all, no matter what method of payment was used.
   The little stamps were a big hit with customers and by 1957 there were over 200 different trading stamp companies operating in the United States. They supported 250,000 firms that were using a stamp program to attract consumers.
   The monetary value of the little stamp was about a hundredth of a mill, or 1 stamp for every ten cents of purchase. The books held 1200 stamps, which equaled $120 in premium value.
   Sperry & Hutchinson's Trading Company issued their first stamps in 1896. Those became the largest and most famous, S&H Green Stamps. The company with its little green stamp continued in operation until 1986.
   Other well know trading stamps were Top Value (used by Kroger), Blue Chip, and Gold Bond. Eagle Stamps was the last company to issue stamps. They closed their doors in 2008, which gives us over a century of saving trading stamps for premiums.
   The only stamp redemption store I was ever in was located in Lexington, KY. I remember you had to show your filled books to a doorman to be admitted. Then inside there were aisles and walls loaded with all kinds of merchandise, much like a modern Wal Mart or in combination with Lowe's because there were large and small appliances, carpeting, clothing, nick-knacks, garden tools, etc.
  I still have and use the electric hand-held Sunbeam mixer I got with my little book. The interesting not is in a regular store it was priced at $10.99, by using trading stamps, which were free, people thought they were saving money. On the other hand, maybe I did save money, because it has given good service for over forty years.
   Not long ago I noticed the Internet listed books of the little stamps for sale at Southey's (auction house in New York City) for more than their original value and full sheets of the unused little stamps commanded a premium price.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Tomato Season

Corn Gazpacho
Garden tomatoes are ripping, especially when one got a jump on the season and bought established plants for transplanting to home ground.

   July is tomato month, the farmer's market is packed with home grown specimens, groceries advertise locally grown, while everyone who has a big pot or a little space has plenty of their own.
   Elroy Harris maintains you're a savvy gardener if you know a tomato is a fruit and have the wisdom to not put it in fruit salad.
   How we consume this fragile bounty is a matter of choice. Our favorites are tomato sandwiches - a thick slice of a large tomato on white bread slathered with mayo to which you can add a healthy slice of garlic baloney.
   Add spice to the supper table by gently drizzling slices of
Tomatoes with Basil
tomatoes with olive oil, and threads of fresh basil leaves. Layer these in a glass bowl and refrigerate until time to serve. We keep a pot of basil by our kitchen porch for summer consumption. Harvest it early in the morning for the strongest flavor and keep in a glass of water to use later.
   Preserving for winter gives us canned tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, or if you have an entire day to spend in the kitchen to cook it down and stir to prevent scorching there are tomato puree, paste and ketchup.
   Tomato Jam is a rare treat on hot biscuits. This is a family recipe:

2 to 3 pounds, firm, ripe tomatoes, 2 cups of sugar, 2 or 3 grinds of black pepper and a teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
   If you prefer a spicy jam you can add these ingredients 1 tablespoon of fresh grated or minced ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon & cloves, and red pepper flakes to taste. This is best served with meats as a relish or as a substitute for salsa.
   Skin and gently squeeze out seeds and juice. Cut tomato meat into 1/2 inch pieces. Using a heavy bottomed sauce pan add sugar and pepper.
   Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to insure even cooking and the liquid has cooked down. If foam comes to the top, skim and discard.
  Jam should register 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Ladle into hot jars & seal.
   At this point the jam can be kept in the refrigerator for at least six months. Ours is small so we use a hot water bath to seal the jars. My aunt would turn the jars up side down and place them in a 250 to 300 degree oven for thirty minutes to seal. I don't recommend her method.
   Gazpacho is a classic Mexican tomato soup served cold, which is perfect for a hot summer's day. Serve it with corn fritters (pancakes) for dippers. We can't help experimenting with recipes so here is our take on this popular summer meal.
   Corn Gazpacho combines two fresh summer treats.
   Cook two ears of corn, cool and remove kernels from cob with a sharp knife and set aside.
   3 large tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 1 cup chopped yellow onion, 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar, and hot peppers (seeded & minced) to your taste.
   Skin, seed, and chop tomatoes, cucumber, & onion. In a blender or food processor process these ingredients with limited amounts of the water in small batches, transfer the puree to a bowl and continue until finished.

   Whisk in olive oil and vinegar. Stir in the corn as a last step and chill for at least one hour. Serve with a dollop of sour cream topped with either green onions or water cress. Makes 4 servings.
  Fried green tomatoes and green tomato relish were fall menu items for us when we rushed to cull the vines before a coming frost, but many use them as a sneak preview of the bounty to come.

   Last week we had lunch at the Blue Willow Inn located in Social Circle, Georgia where fried green tomatoes are a standard item on the buffet. If you are in the area (fifteen miles east of Atlanta) it is an off-the-beaten-track gem of gastronomic delights of southern cooking.
   A relish made of garden leftovers of onions, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, pickling spices, and vinegar goes great on hot dogs, in dressed eggs, and on hamburgers.

Nash Black, author of the forthcoming Forged Blade, a detective novel.  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Freedom's Document

July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was approved by the First Continental 
Congress. This bold document severed the political ties of the thirteen original colonies with the government of England.
   It was written almost solely by Thomas Jefferson. The last time I visited his home his working copies were housed in glass cases in the basement. A visitor could see his edits were he worked to polish the final copy.
   Reading the Declaration of Independence one can visualize the young fiery redheaded Jefferson standing in front of King George III delivering an eloquent formal speech of smooth words flowing from his mind, but as it progresses he raises his hand and shakes a finger of indignation under the King's nose with shorter, caustic, and blunter statements of grievances. He then regains control of his temper and returns to articulate phrasing of the beginning.
   At one time every student in America learned the preamble to repeat to their classmates. The stirring words: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights . . ." could be instantly brought to mind. To honor this document and the purpose for which it was written is the reason for the fourth of July holiday and not to be forgotten amidst the fireworks, picnics, parades, and family celebrations.
  This brief document is one of the major hallmarks of freedom in the history of governments and affairs of people. Today the original copy of the document is housed in a special climate controlled vault in the National Archives. That wasn't the case in August, 1814 when it and other documents pertaining to the government were kept in the office of the Secretary of State.
   When word arrived that the British warships were in Chesapeake Bay James Monroe (Secretary of State) sent a note to John Graham, his chief clerk and Stephen Pleasonton, an aide to "take care" of the valuable documents housed in his department.
  Pleasonton followed orders, though General John Armstrong (Secretary of War) advised them there was no cause for alarm. He cut the Declaration of Independence from its frame, stuffed it along with other books, treaties, and deliberations of Congress into protective linen bags they had had made for the removal. Then they were loaded into carts and moved to a mill outside of Washington, D.C.
   Pleasonton still did not consider them safe. He procured wagons and took them to Leesburg, Virginia where he housed them in a vacant farmhouse. Later when Monroe became president he rewarded Pleasonton for his diligence and appointed him custodian of the nation's lighthouses.
  Jefferson became the third president of the United States. John Adams, who devised the Constitution and became the second president both died on July 4, 1826 as the new county they largely created celebrated its fiftieth birthday.