Tag Archives: Wegmans

Mama Mia, Don’t Break The Pasta

(This column originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Refreshed Magazine)

(photo December 2015)

(photo December 2015)

Over the holidays I noticed a new product on my grocery store shelf: half-sized spaghetti. It’s basically plain spaghetti, but half the length of regular spaghetti and touted as the “perfect size for any pot” because there’s no need to break it in half.

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, have we become so lazy as Americans that we can’t break our own pasta in half?

I posted that sentiment, along with a photo of the box of spaghetti, on my Facebook page. My intent was to generate discussion about the way we rely on convenience items and technology to do everyday things we really should be doing ourselves. I’m not even talking about things like relying on GPS instead of reading a map. I’m talking about using electric staplers and wearing self-tying sneakers.

The little rant made sense to me, so imagine my surprise when instead of people talking about the laziness of half-sized spaghetti, I was hit with a barrage of replies that all shared the same message: Never break the pasta.

Yes, dear readers, the fact that we’re too lazy to break our own spaghetti is a far less serious offense than the fact that anyone would dare to break spaghetti in the first place.

The debate over pasta size included comments from my friend, Bob, who regularly cooks a variety of delicious-looking Italian dishes for his family and shares the photos on social media.

“Never break the pasta,” he wrote. When I asked why, he replied, “You’re not supposed to break it.”

For the record, I don’t break the pasta; I know not to do that. But why am I not supposed to do that? I asked the question again and again, and dozens of people responded. The conversations went something like this: Continue reading

Men come to aid of stabbing victim – just another way to love your neighbor

Last night, a Henrietta teen stabbed his girlfriend in the frozen food section of the Wegmans on Calkins Rd. It sounds like a scene from some crime TV show.

But apparently 18-year-old Kevin Minemier and his girlfriend, 17-year-old Nicole Bean, were shopping when Minemier took out a knife and started stabbing Bean. Right away, shoppers Mustafa Said, 19, and Christopher Patino, 16 came to Bean’s aid, fighting Minemier to the ground; Said was stabbed in the hand in the process. Other shoppers helped hold Minemier until police arrived.

I wonder what I’d do in that situation.

I once stopped at Burger King on my way to a writers’ meeting. Outside of the restaurant a guy and a girl were having an argument. It seemed a little heated, and I kept my eye on the situation as I got my food. The girl looked like she might already have a black eye, but it was dark out and hard to see for sure. The guy tried to wrestle her car keys away as I walked out of the restaurant.

I looked at the girl and asked if everything was OK, and she said she was fine, to just leave them alone. The guy took a step toward me and glared. Then he threw her car keys onto the  Burger King roof. I walked to my car, trying not to make eye contact with the guy for fear of escalating his temper. I didn’t know what to do. I was no match for him, and I didn’t want to make things worse for her. But I didn’t want to leave her, either. 

As I walked back to my car, I saw the guy pull the girl into a car and they sped away. I called the police from my cell phone to give them a description of the car and … well, then I went to my meeting. I didn’t know what else to do.

That’s why it’s so impressive that Mustafa Said and Christopher Patino stepped in last night. They didn’t care about what happened to them; they saw a girl in desperate need and rushed to her aid. Said ended up in the hospital for treatment for the serious knife wound to his hand, but both men could have been seriously injured or killed.

I think that’s what Jesus means when talks about loving your neighbor. It means stepping in where there’s a need without regard for yourself. It’s not something most of us could do; obviously, I couldn’t.

Paper, plastic, or lead – and the Law of Unintended Consequences

This week, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) released new lab results showing that a number of major retailers’ reusable shopping bags contained excessive levels of lead.

Last year, a local group found lead in some of Wegmans’ reusable bags, and the grocery chain pulled them from the shelves. But it looks like the problem is more widespread.

According to the press release, bags from 44 organizations were tested, and “16 are selling or distributing reusable bags containing lead in amounts greater than 100 ppm (parts per million), which is where many states set the limit for heavy metals in packaging.”

National chains such as CVS, Safeway, Bloom, and Walgreens were among those with high levels of lead found in their reusable bags. CVS and Safeway led the pack with 697 and 672 ppm respectively; both were nearly seven times the 100 ppm limit. To date, CVS is the only store that tested above 100 ppm to have recalled their bags. Previously lululemon athletica, Sears-Canada, and Wegmans have all recalled bags due to high levels of lead.

Other retailers testing positive for excessive levels of lead included Staples, Giant Eagle, Piggly Wiggly, Giant, Gerbes, KTA Superstore, Brookshire Brothers, Stater Bros., and, ironically, the District of Columbia Department of Environment.

Enter the Law of Unintended Consequences, which in short says that sometimes the consequences of actions are unexpected. Could be a positive result, could be negative, or it could make the problem worse.

“Across the country, legislators are proposing bills to ban or tax paper and plastic bags, but the unintended consequence of such legislation is that people are using reusable bags, which independent testing shows can often contain excessive levels of lead,” said CCF Senior Research Analyst J. Justin Wilson, in the press release. “As an advocate for consumer choice, I believe consumers should have the option of using lead-free plastic and paper bags when they’re bringing home their groceries.”

“Environmental activists are trying to have it both ways. They’ve spent decades campaigning against lead in paint, toys, and even packaging, but when it comes to their own sacred cow, they seem willing to ignore the issue,” concluded Wilson in the release. “In the end, retailers shouldn’t have been goaded into selling these bags in the first place. They were merely doing their best to respond to environmental activists’ demands.”

In other words, we try to save the environment by getting people to use reusable bags other than paper or plastic – and the solution ends up being poisonous.

Me? I’d rather have paper. I have a few of those reusable bags only because people give them to me. Then again, I’d be happy writing with paper and pencil and sending letters with stamps.

What do you think? Is it worthy giving up paper or plastic for lead tainted reusable bags? Have we become so worried about the environment that we act without thinking? And do we really need to buy reusable bags from China, where everything seems to be tainted with lead? Why can’t a US company make them – thereby helping the environment and the US economy?

Where did your breakfast come from?

My breakfast sandwich. Do you know where your breakfast came from?

I was just thinking about my food and where it came from. For breakfast this morning, I had a toasted mini pita with ham and cheese and an egg.

Mini whole wheat pita- from Father Sam’s bakery, Buffalo, NY,. Ingredients: whole wheat flour, enriched unbleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin, mononitrate [vitamin B1], riboflavin [vitamin B2], folic acid), water, sugar, salt, yeast, l-cysteine, calcium sulfate, fumaric acid, calcium propionate added to retard spoilage.

Ham – Wegmans Ham Off The Bone. The only thing I know about is what’s on the Wegmans’ website: “The best ham sandwich. Fresh, naturally delicious double-smoked ham is smoked 10-12 hours using real wood chips. Made with natural juices with no water, binders, fillers or sweeteners added. Natural juices. Fully cooked. Off-the-bone. 97% Fat free. U.S. Inspected and passed by Department of Agriculture.” The pig could have been farmed in Guatemala for all I know.

Egg – From my backyard. I don’t know which chicken laid it. But I know what all of the chickens have eaten and that the egg was laid within the last few days.

CheeseKerrygold Dubliner Vintage Irish Cheddar.  I love this cheese, made from milk from small farmers in Ireland. For all I know “small” could mean leprechauns milking leprecows. Not that I would care. They’ve ruined me to all other cheddars. But you’ve got to try the Vintage; it’s harder than the other two types, much like a Parmesan in texture.

Butter, in which I fried my egg Organic Valley. I’m a firm believer that the closer to real food you can get, the better. So I don’t use margarine, and whenever possible only organic butter or butter from grass-fed cows. I promise, you’ll notice the difference. More expensive? Absolutely. But I use less so I eat less, so it’s healthier all the way around.

The cheese  may seem to violates my normal “made in America” food policy, but it doesn’t. Dubliner is a company that pays attention to the quality of its product, unlike most things made in China. So don’t feel guilty about enjoying some imported from Ireland.

31 days without Walmart – Day 2, and I’m already tempted

Oooo! I could add an amusement park to my Christmas village!

It’s day 2 of my 31 Days Without Walmart and the first time that my commitment  to the project was tested.

I had a list of errands to run today; here’s what I needed to do:

  • Go to the credit union to deposit darling husband’s paycheck
  • Purchase a gift for a family member for Saturday’s family Christmas party Secret Santa
  • Purchase tablecloths for the lodge tables for the party
  • Get ingredients for a dish to pass for the party
  • Get Christmas cellophane bags for something darling husband needs for Saturday’s party
  • Get milk.
  • Find a Kodak kiosk to print out photos for a game for the party.

Normally, this is a perfect Walmart errand list. I could get groceries, a gift, use the Kodak photo kiosk and do it all in one stop. Plus, the credit union is right up the road from Walmart.

But ah, this is 31 Days Without Walmart, remember?

Damn. Continue reading

31 days without Walmart – the mission; care to join me?

Today is the day I kick off my “31 days without Walmart”, and to be honest, I wouldn’t be going to Walmart today anyway. Or anywhere else for that matter. I have strep throat, and I’m contagious until I’ve been on my antibiotics for 24 hours. “Don’t go anywhere,” my doctor said. “You’ll spread this around.”

Okey dokey. You don’t have to twist my arm to get me to stay home in pajamas. So while I sit here nursing my hot tea and Advil, it’s a good time to recap the mission of this project.

First and foremost, I want to emphasize again this is not a Walmart-bashing month. Walmart is just my go-to StuffMart, so cutting it out for a month will make the most difference to me. If you’re going to join me, you can cut out any StuffMart you want.

Here are the goals:

1) To pay more attention to the products we buy. On the advice of my allergist, a few years ago I cut out all artificial colors and flavors, along with preservatives like BHA, BHT, TBHQ, Sodium Benzoate from my food in attempt to get rid of some itchy skin problems. What I learned reading labels is that there is a lot of artificial crap in the food we eat. And reading other product labels? Man, I buy a lot of stuff made in China. Do you know how workers are treated in China? I didn’t, until I started investigating.

2) Support local businesses whenever possible. The goal this month is to spend my money at businesses that are locally-based or owned. (Thankfully, Wegmans counts!)

3) Buy locally produced products if possible. Given the choice between a squash grown in Groveland, NY or in Mexico, I’ll go for the one in Groveland, NY even if it’s more expensive. Either that, or I skip it all together. I won’t know where a lot of products come from, but the goal is to at least ask.

Before I make any purchase, I need to consider at least one the above goals. The end goal is to be a more educated consumer, and by eliminating Walmart as a shopping option, I’m forced to think before I spend – or eat, get dressed, wrap a gift. You get the picture.

Care to join me?

RELATED POST: Fair trade, engaged consumer holiday shopping, and 31 days without Walmart

31 days without Walmart – the night before

Here's my red pepper from Belgium. Isn't it pretty? I wonder how many miles it traveled to get to my pizza.

Tomorrow morning I kick off my “31 days without Walmart” adventure, and today I got a glimpse at how it might affect my husband.

This weekend is his family Christmas party, and he and his brothers are playing host. It’s held at a lodge in the park, and he asked me a couple of weeks ago to get plastic tablecloths. Except he didn’t know what size the tables were or if they were long rectangles or rounds or if the lodge even supplied the tables.

So today, I told him that if he needed me to go to Walmart to get the tablecloths or any other party supplies, today was the day. Because tomorrow Walmart was off limits to me. I told him that I probably wouldn’t shop at the Dollar Store either, since that kind of defeats the whole purpose of the project.

If we need tableclothes, I’d try Wegmans. “Never mind,” he said. “I’ll do it myself. I’m glad I’m not the one doing this little experiment.” Hmm. This little project could come in handy in ways I’d never imagined.

But I do have a dilemma: even though I’m skipping Walmart, can I still shop at Big Lots? I think I can, since my goal is to skip my usual go-to discount StuffMart so that I can at least think about purchases.

And here’s my second dilemma: I went to Wegmans, our locally-based, first rate grocery chain to get my prescription filled (strep throat, lovely) and while I was there picked up some stuff to make pizza for dinner. I like red peppers on my pizza, and I usually buy enough during the summer to freeze them and get me through the winter.

But I’m fresh out, so I grabbed one while I was at the store. Where was it from? Belgium. The orange peppers were from the Dominican Republic and the yellow ones from Mexico. So, do I skip the peppers? I could drive over to Lori’s Natural Foods and get an organic, locally grown pepper. Starting tomorrow, that’s what I would need to do in order to stick with the spirit of my adventure.

But today? I bought a red pepper from Belgium. If I’m going to buy a foreign vegetable, I might as well get the most unusual one, right? I’ve never even had chocolates from Belgium, let alone a pepper. I do wonder, though, how many chemicals it took to keep the pepper fresh on its journey.

RELATED POST: Fair trade, engaged consumer holiday shopping, and 31 days without Walmart