Cookie tables, government leaks and ag water

By Michael Raffety

7-17-2017

Last year our family attended a friend’s wedding that featured a very small, cake just enough for the bride and groom o do the ritual feeding of cake to each other. I assume that tradition means a lifetime of sharing food with each other. I’m generally OK with that but I never share my ice cream cones. And I never share them with dogs.

The different aspect of that wedding was the guests received cookies instead of cake. I thought that was a pretty neat concept. Then I read about “cookie tables” in the July 8 Wall Street Journal. Cookie tables are an ethnic tradition in Youngstown Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Penn. The tradition is mainly Italian and East European.

Apparently the tradition began during the Depression when families couldn’t afford wedding cakes and instead would organize a family pastry baking party that would enlist neighbors as well.

Families and neighbors still do the baking but the cookie recipes are more elaborate, with recipes being spread on specialty web pages based in Youngstown and Pittsburgh.

Johnna Pro, an employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, organized a cookie table of 319 dozen cookies in 39 varieties, for a national Main Street Now Conference this spring. The cookies were for the Traditional Pittsburgh Wedding Cookie Table.

Her top cookie recipe she learned from her Italian mother is Pesche Con Crema – cookies that look like peaches. After baking, small balls of dough are filled with lemon custard and sandwiched together, brushed with peach-colored liqueur and then coated with sugar.

That sure tops the rum balls my mother used to send me when I was in the Navy –- a package my friends always looked forward to.

My two favorite columnists in the Wall Street Journal are Holman Jenkins and Kimberly Strassel. July 7 Strassel’s column put the intelligence leaks in perspective. In the first 126 days of the Trump administration there were 125 intelligence leaks. By contrast in the same time period of the Obama administration there were 18 and most of those were Obama leaking about the previous George W. Bush administration.

The leaks have ranged from the “contents of wiretapped information, names of individuals the U.S. is monitoring and where they are located, communications channels used to monitor targets. Which agencies are monitoring. Intelligence intercepts. FBI interviews. Grand jury subpoenas. Secret surveillance court details. Military operations intelligence. Contents of the presidents calls with foreign leaders.”

That last one has always puzzled me. Who the heck is wire tapping the president’s phone? There are a lot of people who should face criminal charges.

. . .

I keep hearing that agriculture in California uses 80 percent of the water. Not true.

The 80 percent figure was used during a panel of farmers from diverse regions of the state during a Statewide Issues Form May 10 at the spring conference of the Association of California Water Agencies. Moderator for the panel was Dave Kranz, communications/news division manager for the California Farm Bureau.

“Q: You have all heard it. Farmers use 80 percent of the water in California. What do you say about that?”

Two illuminating answers were detailed in the June 16 ACWA News, first by Aubrey Bettencourt, executive director of the California Water Alliance:

“You hear agriculture represents only 2 percent of the economy. The result is agriculture produces a $54 billion economy. The accurate statistics are that of ‘developed’ water available in the state, 50 percent goes for environmental purposes; 40 percent to ag and 10 percent to urban.”

Also responding was Jake Wenger, a Modesto farmer and a director at the Modesto Irrigation District:

“The 2 percent if farmgate only … it doesn’t include all of the inputs, the shipping, equipment used … the actual economic benefit is seven to 11 times that number. California is the No. 1 producer, followed by Iowa, Texas. California is the sixth largest ag producer in the world.”

The final question was about corporate farming. California Farm Bureau guy Dave Franz answered that question: “Only 1.1 percent of the farms in California are owned by non-family members.”

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