Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

We did not get to the "Trunk or Treat" at the drive-in again this year. The annual Halloween party was organized by the Wellfleet Fire Department. That's where all the neighborhood kids went. We did not receive any little trick-or-treaters, which is a shame. But, we did get one adult, and boy, was she ever dressed to kill. What a costume! I caught a glimpse of our big trick-or-treater through the kitchen window and trembled. Femke Rosenbaum, of Clean Water Art Action Cape Cod, had decorated her cape with the names of the herbicides NStar intends to use under the power lines. These herbicides are very scarey, too. She and husband Peter were on their way downtown to go trick-or-treating. The trick? Spraying herbicides. Don't you just love this American holiday? Yay for Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bonus Post: Cahoon Hollow, This Afternoon

Did the Nor'easter Bring Snow to Cape Cod?

Over the past week, Commercial Street has been closed for repair. Outside, this morning, the wind is still howling. Our cottage guests are here to watch their son perform at the hang-gliding event, up at White Crest Beach. They expect the event to be cancelled due to the nor'easter. The weather has certainly been weird this year. Global warming?

From the AP: "The unusually early snowstorm bringing heavy, wet snow to the East Coast has knocked out power to more than 2.3 million homes and businesses.

More than 665,000 people are without power in New Jersey, including Gov. Chris Christie, who declared a state of emergency Saturday. Two hospitals that lost power are operating on generators.

Utilities in Connecticut are reporting more than 700,000 without power, while utilities in Pennsylvania are saying more than 560,000 are without power.

In Massachusetts, more than 485,000 are without electricity. In New York, more than 260,000 have lost power.

Western Maryland has more than 26,000 outages."

And, Cape Cod? We did not get any snow. Just heavy wind and rain all night. No outages so far. But check out what the wind blew over. A sailboat! The owner seemed pretty jolly, considering. The boat was on its trailer last night. This morning he found it flipped over. Some wind!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fishy Business

Would you care to eat genetically-modified salmon? I wouldn’t either. Yes, it’s back, despite opposition voiced over the summer of 2010. Now CBS wants to know how you feel. Do respond!

Also, friends from Boston brought me last Sunday’s Globe with a long article about how some restaurants replace certain types of fish with less desirable eats but neglect to mention the change on their menu. Wellfleet responded through Mac and Alex Hay, purveyors of great local Seafood to the world. (Read their Letter to the Editor.)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Which Wellfleet Restaurants Are Open This Fall?

Every fall presents a new conundrum as I seek to advise our guests on where to eat supper. Which restaurants are open? When do the multi-season establishments close for a well-earned vacation? In order to answer this question, I started my research at PB, which sports a new porch-like structure to protect customers who wait in line, as well as intricate tiled and brick parking spaces, instead of the oyster shells of last summer: PB will close January 2 and re-open right before Valentine's Day.

Here's a list of four other all-season restaurants, with their closing dates:

Wicked Oyster: Open Thanksgiving weekend, then closes that Sunday or Monday. Reopens mid-January.

The Bookstore: Closes after New Year's and remains closed until Valentine's Day.

The Lighthouse: Closes the third weekend in February and will remain closed until Patriots' Day.

Finally JPs: Closes the first weekend in December, then reopens Martin Luther King Weekend. (Will be open Thursday through Sunday in early 2012.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why Green Guests Are The Best

Every Chez Sven guest fills out a short questionnaire at registration. One of the questions: How important to you is our being green? Another, How important to you is eating organic? Guests have the choice of 1, 2, 3, or 4, with 4 meaning “very.” In 2011, most guests circled 3 on both questions. Some circled 3 for the first question, and 4 for the second. Others, 4 for the first, and 3 for the second. When I get two circles around 4, part of me cheers because I know we will have a lot in common. On a recent weekend, the Green Room and Liberty Coin guests circled 4 on both questions. Guess what type of car graced our parking area while they were at Chez Sven? All together now, PRIUS!

The Green Room guests, Jack and Anne, instigated the private tour of Hatch Cottage and the Biddle compound with Cape Cod Modern House Trust’s Peter McMahon.

In Liberty Coin that same weekend, we had photographer Steve Schaub and eleven-year-old daughter Greta. They needed a sugar-free breakfast because the family is conducting a very unusual experiment: for ten months, all family members have eschewed all forms of sugar, except fruit. Steve’s wife is writing a book about the experience. (Check out her blog A Year of No Sugar.)

Sven and I enjoyed both visits immensely and hope these guests will return.

Guests who circle 4 are intelligent and environmentally aware. They turn off lights upon departure, they do not leave the heat on unnecessarily while out exploring. Green guests willingly recycle and eschew plastic bags/bottles. These guests are my kind of people. They understand Chez Sven is not a hotel and behave accordingly.

The questionnaire serves two purposes. 1.) It clues me in to appropriate behavior on my part, 2.) It offers the occasion to suggest guests who circle, say 1 on eating organic, might want to think twice when eating strawberries from California, due to pesticide residue.

If you had to fill out our questionnaire, what numbers would your answers be?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More on OWS and GMOs

I just took the bus home after spending two days in Boston. I know, I know. I wasn't present at Town Meeting. Unfortunately, schedule conflicts would not allow me to be. I'm eager to read summaries in the local newspapers. I have two things to report this afternoon.

The first is a very comprehensive examination of why we must demand the labeling of GMOs, published by East Bay Express, an online journal from the San Francisco Bay area, where food seems to matter more than any place else in the country. Please do check out this report. (I wrote about the same topic last week.)

The second is an email from Nick Macdonald, who summers in Wellfleet and lives in Brooklyn. Nick, above with wife Elspeth and Sven, writes, "I have been e-mailing my sons some daily impressions of Occupy Wall Street (OWS). I think it gives a flavor, and decided to share it with you (all). Edited appropriately. So here (attached) are my impressions of OWS so far.

Also, there are some ways to get involved, if you are interested:
1. Visit OWS.
2. Go to AVAAZ (register your support)
3. Follow the occupation: OccupyWallStreet, New York City General Assembly, Take the Square, OccupyTogether.
4. Donate food, warm clothes: in person, or by mail: UPS Store/118A Fulton St. #205/ New York, NY 10038.
5. Donate money: in person, or through NYCGA or by check to: Alliance for Global Justice/1247 E Street, SE/Washington, DC 20003. Indicate 'Occupy Wall Street' on the memo line. Or call: (202) 544-9355

Finally, as an introduction, what inspires me so much is that OWS seems like democracy in action --- without leaders, without politicians, without celebrities or egos (mostly). Grass-roots, from the bottom up. It is peaceful, transparent, uncompetitive, communal. In short, anarchistic. Or “horizontal democracy” as OWS puts it. And it naturally leads one to think more about what you can do, or suggest. Becomes truly a participatory democracy. Without anyone getting credit for anything. An idea is simply in the pool of ideas."

Nick attaches his blog, which is not yet online, unfortunately, but I can share the first few lines:

October 5, 2011 (Wed.)

Day 19 at Occupy Wall Street. My first day (Elspeth started yesterday). Back from the rally and march (and occupation). Very inspiring. Got my juices going in a way similar to the Vietnam days. And what is even better, it’s a real grass-roots, as-of-now, inchoate outpouring. Anarchistic, no leaders, no politicians ..."

Three Sailboats, Four Cottages

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Which I Visit Hatch Cottage

Imagine having this seascape as a view! Last Friday I was fortunate enough to go on a private tour of two unusual Wellfleet houses with Cape Cod Modern House Trust’s founding director Peter McMahon. Like many things in life, the occasion simply presented itself, so I seized it. Before describing our visit to Hatch Cottage, I should offer thanks to our Green Room guests, who instigated what was a marvelous afternoon. Jack is a builder from Pennsylvania and an ardent fan of modern architecture. His girlfriend Anne works as a pediatrician in neonatal care and came in search of a restful vacation. When they asked me about Wellfleet's modern houses last Wednesday, I told them to Google CCMHT. Jack contacted Peter and got to visit the Kugel/Gips house, which I have already been described. I had never been to Hatch Cottage, however. Since I expressed an interest, he offered to show it, too, taking me along.

A veritable walking encyclopedia, Peter spewed fascinating facts as we wound our way out Bound Brook Island towards the bay. This area was once the center of Wellfleet. “The harbor silted up, so they moved the town, flaked the houses, put them on barges,” he said. We were driving past the Atwood Higgins house, in the hollow. “The farms here had all been abandoned. Jack Hall sold his house to the Biddles and moved to the old Baker farm …”

We had already made several turns at forks. I was wondering whether I could find my way here with Sven.

“You really know where you are going,” I said.

Peter just smiled. He must have driven that dirt road hundreds of times already. Down the long driveway we sped, past the hill where Wellfleetians used to hold memorial picnics before sculptor Penelope Jenks’ house rose on the spot. As the car emerged from the woods, all four of us exclaimed in unison, “Wow!”

“Robert Hatch was a book editor at The Nation. His wife lived here until 93. She was an artist and had a lifetime deal on the house from the park ...”

(For those of you not familiar with the National Seashore saga, it's too long to tell here, but you can imagine the complication of creating a national park in an area that already contained homes.)

Hatch Cottage was designed by Jack Hall. Restoration was supposed to start last summer, but Peter is still waiting on final approval of the project from the National Seashore. (If you would like a private tour of four modern houses, consider membership in the Cape Cod Modern House Trust at the $200 gift level.)

“There’s a set of working drawings …. Prefabricated modules … sense of floating …”

Bits of Peter and Jack’s conversation reached my ears. Victoria Kennedy was trying to listen in, too, since she leads this tour when her boss is out of town. A ferocious wind, whistling across Cape Cod Bay, made the task difficult, so we admired the spectacular view of blue sky and landscape, framed by the wooden beams connecting two of the modules. The front wall was boarded up. Behind the boards, Peter said, there was a wall of windows. We could appreciate the high placement of smaller windows on the opposite side and see how the house must capture the summer breeze in a marvelous way. Hatch Cottage seems to float above the vegetation. There's an incredible feeling of freedom, of being close to nature.

Underfoot, the narrow boards of the walkway strained under our weight.

“It’s so fragile,” Peter explained, making a rolling-sea movement with his hands.

Before leaving, we walked down the hill to Cape Cod Bay. The beach is half a mile from Duck Harbor. The Hatches had it made, with this quick and easy path to such an extraordinary beach. The wind was whipping up waves, making for quite a dramatic beach visit.

On the way home, we stopped at what used to be the Biddle compound, also on Bound Brook, where I snapped the photo below. The eleven-acre property now belongs to the National Seashore, a purchase arranged over the past year in conjunction with the Trust for Public Land. Here’s a look at Hatch Cottage from below. During restoration, Peter intends to “pick it up in pieces.” I loved the architecture, the sense of being far from civilization, the proximity to Cape Cod Bay. How fortunate that the Cape Cod Modern House Trust will restore this gem to its original splendor!

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's On Chezsven Blog Tomorrow?

Peter McMahon of Cape Cod Modern House Trust took me along with some Chezsven guests for a private tour of Hatch Cottage. This photo shows off the beach below. (Read my blog tomorrow for the full story.) Today is Town Meeting in Wellfleet. Also, of note, Wellfleet's Noam Chomsky addressed the Occupy Boston crowd, as part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series ...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Buy Fresh Buy Local Celebrates the Harvest

Not sure what to do today? How about joining local foodies at a Buy Fresh Buy Local Harvest Celebration event? On the Outer Cape, you can learn about cranberries in Harwich or grill oysters in Eastham at Mac's Seafood. There will also be farm tours at Eldridge Farm in Brewster from 11 to 2. Or, journey down to the Falmouth area for fun activities in pumpkin patches.

Food has been on my mind a lot of late. Did you know that the nutrient value in foods is diminishing? Read why in Mother Earth News.

Also of note this week, Time Magazine reports that the Environmental Working Group will rate 10,000 foods for safety. The new database will be similar to Skindeep for cosmetics.

Finally, how do these dishes sound? Zucchini Manicotti w/ Herbed Almond Cheese, Hail Kale Caesar Salad, Living Lasagna, Sun Burgers, Thai Stir Fry w/ Basmati Rice & Almond Butter Sauce, and, for dessert, Pumpkin, Key Lime & Mudslide Pie? Yum! They're all available starting this month at 141 Bradford, in Provincetown. FarmMaid Food's Katie Reed has a new gig. She's serving up great raw dishes Sunday from 9 to 6, as well as every other day of the week. Check it out!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Update on Herbicial Spraying on Cape Cod

Anyone who has been to the Orleans rotary over the past week was able to admire goats prancing along the fence, proxies for real goats that would love to eat vegetation under the power lines. These marvels were created by Clean Water Art Action Cape Cod. Someone "complained" (NStar execs?) and made the Department of Transportation take down the banner. A shame. Still, it was up for almost a week.

I decided to ask GreenCAPE’s Sue Phelan for an update on the situation with our local utility company. Here it is: “It is disappointing that NStar appears not to have followed through with the goat pilot project this year. Searching for the ‘ideal’ test plot for the goats' appetites, they have failed to recognize there is very little that isn't ideal for goats. A missed opportunity.....Some cutting and mowing would still be needed when goats are part of the rights-of-way maintenance, but less often. Bottom line remains – NStar has chosen to spray large quantities of mixtures of untested designer poisons that a homeowner wouldn't be allowed to purchase much less spray on property they don't own – without consent of the owner (as NStar does). What would you prefer to see in your back yard or behind your child's day care-goats or goons in moon suits?”

Scott Michaud, at the Cape Cod Commission, told me that he is anticipating the release of NStar’s vegetation management plan for 2012 but has received nothing yet. He reminded me that NStar “did not agree to not apply the herbicides,” although the Cape Cod Commission was able to obtain two moratoriums of one year each, which expire at the end 2011. Scott suggested I contact his colleague Martha Hevenor.

Martha said she had asked NStar if it would consider a pilot project with goats, the one Sue refers to above. Martha located a local grazer, who is a contract herder, and sought out a potential location for the pilot project. Now she is waiting to hear back on scheduling. The ball is in NStar's court, in other words. Unfortunately, she has been waiting "a long time." Martha remains hopeful, especially since this option has been proved to work for municipalities across the country.

Next I spoke to Seth Rolbein, Senator Dan Wolf’s senior advisor. Seth said Wolf remains optimistic. There was a presentation on Wednesday to the County Commissioners by Chip Osborne from Marblehead. GreenCAPE had brought Chip in to go over his approach for alternative lawn care that does not involve herbicides. The presentation was well-received, and the hope is that the broader issue of pesticide application across Cape Cod can be addressed. “But the clock is ticking,” Seth admitted. He pointed out Senator Wolf was present at the Bourne Canal press conference in August. The spraying was postponed, which Seth called only an incremental step, adding, “We need to continue the conversation to be sure to get a permanent change in policy.”

Senator Dan Wolf is on our side. Rep. Cleon Turner and Rep. Sarah Peake are both on our side. Dozens of banners have been created. We have collected thousands of signatures. We have proposed other options, like goats, that work perfectly well at Google’s corporate headquarters. NStar persists in its foolhardiness. They base their decision to spray on antiquated science. Glyphosate, one of the herbicides, has recently been shown to cause birth defects and has also been linked to ADHD.

A couple weeks ago I discussed how the mentality that corporate powers have a right to do whatever they please – which in this case is contaminate a sole-source aquifer – ties Cape Codders into the Occupy Wall Street movement. Does NStar’s CEO Tom May care about the Cape Codders who will drink well water contaminated by herbicides? Until the utility company abandons its plan to spray under the power lines, I must conclude he does not, and we must continue to defend our sole-source aquifer, as EPA New England suggests.

What have you done recently to protect Cape Cod drinking water?

Are there any private property owners, preferably along well-traveled roadways, who would be willing to sport a banner, custom-made according to what he or she wants to express about NStar?

What all of you can help with is spreading the word. Educate friends on the dangers herbicides pose to health. Many local stores still sell Roundup, the retail version of glyphosate. Tell merchants to replace the poison with alternative products that are safe. We are the 99% for clean water. Say so now, before it's too late ...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Wellfleet Kids Swap Halloween Costumes at Prez. Hall

Yesterday the Recycling Committee and Preservation Hall held Wellfleet’s First Annual Costume Exchange in the basement of Prez. Hall. I was warmly greeted by RC Chair Lydia Vivante and RC member Tracey Hunt, mother of two young children who paced nervously, not sure what the turn-out might be. She need not have worried. At 2:30 sharp, Wellfleet moms materialized, with eager kids in tow.

I immediately spotted a small accessory table that would have pleased my granddaughter. Sure enough, no sooner had kids approached than two little girls and one boy began to play with the beaded necklaces, below right. Their moms were more interested in the disguises laid out on the stage, “clean and gently worn,” as specified by the RC swap flyer. In June, Prez. Hall held a very successful summer clothing swap, which provided the spark for this fun new event, conceived to make Halloween more affordable and to recycle used costumes.

When I turned to go, a four-year-old girl swooped up to the stage to claim a witch’s hat. “Am I bewitched, Mommy?” she asked. That’s the magic of masquerade as far as kids are concerned. Don a few scarfs and a mask and feel transformed.

My mom wasn’t very imaginative when it came to Halloween. I usually wore a sheet, with two cut-out eyes, becoming Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Does your town organize a Halloween costume exchange yet? Do you plan to attend the fall clothing swap at Prez. Hall, which will take place next Thursday, from 5:30 to 7:30? What was your favorite Halloween costume when you were a child?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Let’s Talk Mattress Pads

WBCN used to have a radio show called The Big Mattress. I was on that show once. The topic was recent immigration to Boston. Charles Laquidara asked me to do a simultaneous translation so any French-speaking immigrants listening would understand. Today I run B&B Chez Sven with three big mattresses and, by the end of the season, they all need mattress pads. A cinch to find, you say? Not anymore. Good mattress pads have become as rare as Democrats pleased with Obama’s first term.

Did you know that mattress pads may contain flame-retardants, a family of POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) called PBDEs? Indeed, now we have to worry about chemicals in mattress pads as well as in the mattresses themselves. Cynthia Gaw, a University of California student working on a senior thesis project about flame retardants in foam, discovered half of the mattress pads she had examined contained flame retardants, despite the fact there’s no flammability standard that requires manufacturers make them that way. (Read about PBDEs on this EPA information page, as well as in the great chapter that summarizes the topic in Slow Death by Rubber Duck.)

The laws to prevent bedroom fires were written back when no one knew better. For one thing, many people still smoked, which is why flame retardants seemed to make sense. No one realized these chemicals in themselves would prove harmful. Unfortunately the molecules make their way out of furniture into household dust.

Body burden analyses have shown flame retardants can accumulate in our bodies and cause health problems, ranging from hormonal changes to disruption of the reproductive system. The thyroid can be affected, as can the neurological development of infants and children. Flame retardants are a four-million dollar industry, so this dreadful situation is not going to change any time soon if the chemical companies have their way. (Have you already told your senators to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011?)

Do you know the composition of your mattress pads? If foam, they may be harming your health. I was going to take part in Cynthia’s study, but my mattress pads do not contain foam, which is the good news. (If you want to participate, email foamstudy AT gmail DOT com for instructions.) The bad news is I have not found a satisfactory mattress pad for 2012.

Here’s what I want in a mattress pad:
1.) No synthetic fiber.
2.) Doesn’t bunch up overnight.
3.) All cotton on top.
4.) Easily washable.
5.) No flame retardants.
6.) Made in the USA.

(Read how to avoid toxic chemicals in your home here.)

Do any innkeeper-readers have mattress pads to recommend? Do you worry about flame retardants in the home environment? Do you have friends who have had reproductive problems or testicular cancer?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Keep Wellfleet Beaches Pristine

When Sven and I took a walk at LeCount Hollow two days ago, I was shocked to see not one but two dog excrement bags, you know those blue ones covered with paw prints, right on the beach. What dog owner, in his right mind, would leave such things behind? One was open, way down towards Marconi. Another I found at the foot of the parking lot dune, neatly tied up. Did the dog owners forget these bags? Did they think someone else would come along, like me, and pick them up for proper disposal? Did they hope the tide would wash them away? Should these people be considered good pet owners? You already know how I feel about renegade plastic bags, flapping in the breeze. This wanton act is almost worse. We need to all work together to keep Wellfleet beaches clean. Disgusting!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beauty To Take Your Breath Away

Why we beachwalk at low tide: beauty to take your breath away.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Where Can I Park at Wellfleet Oysterfest?

Rather, the question should be, where did all these people park for Oysterfest? With Main Street closed to traffic, best for festival-goers to think ahead. Parking is available at the Wellfleet marina. The town also runs shuttle buses from two ocean beach parking lots, Newcomb, and White Crest.
When Sven and I went up to inspect yesterday afternoon at lunchtime, the Newcomb lot was almost full. The buses are frequent and present a reliable transportation option. Everyone I saw riding one of the school buses seemed happy. Either they were eager to reach Oysterfest, or on their way home, tummies full.

I hate to imagine what the Newcomb lot was like on Saturday, the day that brought numerous day-trippers from Boston, at least 15,000 by some counts. 150 kegs of beer were drunk on Saturday, the same amount organizers provided last year for the whole weekend. That's a lot of beer!

Yesterday morning Kai Potter told us a shellfisher friend sold twice as many oysters Saturday as at Oysterfest 2010. We were walking down Long Pond Road together. A few bikes zipped past, but not as many as the day before when we saw a young man at the intersection of Long Pond and Main, hawking parking spaces for $10. On Sunday, he had raised his price to $20. Further up Main Street, parking spaces were going for $15 at the Congregational Church. The Methodist Church offered parking for the handicapped. These lots filled up fast. By Saturday afternoon, some drivers, who had spurned the shuttle bus option, were desperate to ditch their cars.

“A friend, walking along Commercial Street, had paused by an empty driveway,” Kai said. “A car stopped and the driver asked if he could park for $100. Thought the space belonged to him. Incredible!”

The evening drive out of Wellfleet was apparently horrendous. Blog reader Nancy Deppen reports, “David left our house at 6:30 to drive to Barnstable to get our daughter on the bus. Fifteen minutes later he called to say that he was no further than the police station! Fifteen more minutes and he made it to Dunkin Doughnuts. All in all it took him 55 minutes to get out of Wellfleet.”

Those who were unwilling to take the shuttle buses had parked at the elementary school, beside the water tower, along the cemetery. Anyone who chose to ignore the No Parking signs along the road, got a ticket. And, meanwhile, down on Main Street, the shellfishermen shucked away. Tens of thousands of oysters were opened, sold, and consumed. Everyone seemed happy. It was a special day. Wellfleet celebrated the oyster. I bet even the folks who got those parking tickets didn’t mind ... Note: As soon as I get the official number of festival-goers, I will post it here. Anyone want to hazard a guess? Did you enjoy Oysterfest?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Do You Eat Foods Containing GMOs?

It’s Blog Action Day and the topic for 2011 is FOOD. Above, visitors arriving at Oysterfest yesterday morning. How appropriate for this post to have, as a backdrop, Wellfleet Marketplace where Wellfleetians buy food. At Oysterfest, we celebrate the oyster, a food consumed by Native Americans, then Cape Cod settlers, who threw the shells out their windows. Winslow’s Tavern gives a good description of why Wellfleet oysters are the best on Winslow’s Blog. Food is important. It nourishes us. Or, should. Many of us start the day with a bowl of cereal. (Check which brands provide true nourishment here.) Did you know that 80% of the food sold at stores, therefore technically at Wellfleet Marketplace, half of the food, available in the USA today, now contains GMOs?

Most Americans, when polled, say they do not want to consume GMOs. Do you?

GMO means genetically-modified organism. Anything not organically grown or certified non-GMO that has any corn, soy, canola oil or cottonseed oil, or products made from them, such as lecithin, and high fructose corn syrup, are very likely to be GMO.

I believe sufficient testing has not been done on GMOs and that they are not “good” for us to eat. “Good” is a euphemism, according to this short video:


I do not want to serve GMOs at my bed & breakfast, so I have been writing manufacturers of certain products to inquire. For instance …

“I plan to blog about GMOs on Blog Action Day, when the subject will be food, Oct. 16. I would like to know whether Nonni’s biscotti contain GMOs. I no longer plan to serve products with GMO ingredients at my B&B. I looked on your site and could not find this information. Since your biscotti are a personal favorite of mine, I hope you will respond that they are all natural, no GMOs. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.”


“Please stop using GMOs in your muffins. I love them. I just checked to see if you use GMOs and, with regret, have decided to stop buying. GMOs are not safe for health, no matter what the FDA claims. These ingredients should be avoided. I plan to mention Thomas English Muffins in the list of foods served at my B&B for Blog Action Day, but add that I am no longer buying until all ingredients containing GMOs are removed.”

I also wrote to my favorite pasta manufacturer. A Ronzoni rep actually wrote back:

“Dear Alexandra:

Thank you for your kind comments. They are greatly appreciated.

We are proud of our commitment to excellence in manufacturing quality products. We are always pleased to hear from consumers who appreciate our efforts. Our company has built its reputation on this tradition, and we will continue to manufacture the superior quality products you enjoy.

GMOs are not currently available in Durum Wheat, our major raw material. Nevertheless, we will continue to monitor developments in this area to ensure that the quality and safety of our products remains above reproach.

If we may be of further service to you, call us toll-free at 1-800-730-5957, weekdays 9-5 Eastern Standard Time …”

Note, the rep avoids saying whether Ronzoni will use GMOs in the future.

Anyone who cares about nutrition should be writing letters like these. The Internet makes it easy. Manufacturers do pay attention to public opinion. If they receive enough letters against GMOs, they will make an effort to buy non-GMO ingredients.

As of today, it is still hard to tell what is GMO and what is not. That is because BigAg has succeeded in lobbying against labels. This decision, at least, can still be reversed. Sign the petitions to demand the labeling of GMOs here and here and here.

Read a summary of the situation in yesterday's Daily Beast.

Do you worry about food containing GMOs or do you not care?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oysterfest, 2011: Where Oysters Educate, As Well As Please the Palate

The 11th annual Wellfleet OysterFest opened under sunny skies. It was a breezy day, but the mood was joyous. Oysterfest marks the end of tourist season and everyone is ready to party. It is the chance to see old friends, and make new ones. Here shellfisher Barbara Austin exchanges a laugh with someone who approached the Pirate Shellfish stand. Sven and I walked down as soon as I had finished serving breakfast.

Oysterfest means fun for young and old alike. Daytrippers arrived on foot, by bike, by shuttle bus from the ocean beach parking lots, and by car. Below, Helen Purcell, in her 90s, makes her way up Main with a contribution for one of the church bake sales. We saw numerous families, out for a good time. The foot traffic along Main Street was intense. Of course, the early bird gets the worm, or, in this case, the unique oyster pendant or scarf, and those in the know do not want to miss out. I picked up a felted hat by textile artist Nicole St. Pierre that would probably have been gone by mid-afternoon. Oysters were already being swallowed by eager connoisseurs. Perhaps that’s what they were having for breakfast?

Among the products for sale: felted hats, environmentally friendly soaps and candles, local chocolate, jewelry, photography, paintings, pottery, eco-tiles, fleece scarves; many T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring the familiar image of the Wellfleet oyster. The most unusual object I saw was surely this Wellfleet Oysterfest shot glass. There were wood-carving and glass-blowing specialists to watch. Sven liked the Harwich artist Geoff Semonian, much of whose work featured a whale motif. Children had their faces painted or bounced on the inflatable playground behind Prez. Hall.

A favorite stand of mine offered reusable tote bags, which are sorely needed here in town when so many people still accept single-use bags for groceries. These particular Hoistaway Bags are made of recycled sails.

We stopped at Wellfleet Waters and asked if I might take a photo for this blog. One of the vendors cried out, “Oh, my gosh! I read your blog. I love your blog!” So, of course, you get to see these two ladies, with Beth, the blog-reader, on the right. Check out the cheerful textiles they created, inspired by Wellfleet where they spend the summer.

Of course, Sven and I admired
the display of hand-painted oyster plates at Preservation Hall. The table arrangements were still up from the night before. Prez. Hall shirts were on sale out front.

I always get a kick out of the people posing in the oyster shell cutouts, don't you?

From Prez. Hall to the intersection with Briar Lane, education trumped the desire for sales. NOAA, MA Audubon, Friends of the Herring River, and half a dozen more non-profits were staging exhibitions and distributing literature. (Here a festival-goer enjoys roasted corn on the cob, an Oysterfest specialty.)

A major component of the 2011 Oysterfest was, in fact, education. Shellfish Constable Andy Koch led a tour called “Oysters = Clean Water” from 8 to 9 this morning. Attendees got to visit a real shellfish grant. From 9 to 10:30, at the pier, several scientists gave a talk to explain the two-acre Duck Creek propagation site, which will improve water quality. This is where the oyster shells are being recycled. (If you attended Oysterfest, 2011, you could not help but notice how dear this project is to festival organizers. A woman was even walking around, dressed in an oyster suit. Posted signs read, “Give ‘em back. Please recycle your shells here.”)

The Historical Society opened its new Lorenzo Dow Baker Room for Oysterfest. Sven and I were very impressed by the artifacts and furniture that had been assembled to recreate the life of a man who must surely have been Wellfleet’s most famous citizen, founder of the company that first imported bananas green, the one that became United Fruit. Sunshine streamed in the windows, making it possible to imagine a life back in another century, when town’s folk could never have believed something like Oysterfest might one day exist, not in their wildest dreams. 20,000 people, down for a weekend in mid-October? No way, the oldtimers would have said.Everywhere you looked, people were consuming oysters. If they were not consuming them, they were standing in line to buy them, or shucking them. The big event is the annual shucking contest that takes place Sunday afternoon.

If you missed Oysterfest this year, do plan to come in 2012. Plan on three days, to avoid sitting in traffic on Route 6.

An event like this takes many months of preparation, endless meetings, and incredible dedication from a handful of Wellfleetians, members of SPAT, a non-profit that fosters an understanding of the shellfish industry. To them, I say a hearty BRAVO!

The food stands, under the big tent, were better than ever. Check out this fried dough specialty from Pirate Shellfish, where the line was longer than any of the seafood restaurant booths. The live music from local bands had festival-goers dancing in the aisles. We picked up some paella for dinner and wondered if Mac's was selling yummy lobster tails on a stick, as it had for Wellfleet Boogey. I could not tell. The line was too long.

I bought a loaf of organic pumpkin bread at the Congregational Church. There was an apple pie on sale, made by my friend Denny O’Connell. Hurry on down. It may still be there.