Saturday, August 26, 2017
The poor fruitcake. It's America's most lampooned dessert. No, it's not the simple ingredients. You just add candied fruit, diced nuts, a dash of spices to your basic flour cake. Rather, it is fruitcake's impressive shelf-life that is the source of ridicule. Since the fruit is candied and nuts are dry, most fruitcakes last three months...some up to a year...before spoiling. This is where the notoriety starts. Famed talk-show host Johnny Carson often joked that their is actually only one fruitcake in the USA...it just passes from family to family.
You're asking: How long have fruitcakes been around? Forever! Naturally, ancient Romans were the first. They mixed in pomegranate seeds, raisins and pine nuts into their bread. Medieval times saw the addition of honey and dried fruit. But the fruitcake really took off in the 1600's. That's when products from the tropics first came to England. Cones of sweet sugar flooded the European market, giving rise to the horrendous Sugar-Slavery triangular trade. But, let's face it...even today...most people have no idea how delicious foods came to their lands; they just came up with tasty ways to eat them!
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Across the US, people are counting down. The first complete solar eclipse in 99 years is just days away! Throngs of stargazers have besieged Portland, OR and Nashville, TN...the only major cities on the totality passage...places where the entire sun will be blotted out my the moon. Sales of eclipse glasses dominate Amazon.com. Tabloids are warning of swamp creatures, awakened only by a rare astronomical events. Yep, America is celebrating the solar eclipse in every way imaginable.
At first, the Carib people were friendly. They gladly traded food for beads and trinkets. However, after six months, both sides grew angry and began to fight. Although superiorly armed, Columbus' men were weak and weary. It looked like the voyage would end in tragedy...then Columbus had an idea. According to the almanac, a lunar eclipse was coming. He met with the Cacique with a threat. Columbus told the chief that his mighty Christian god would destroy the moon if he did not comply. It worked. Carib workers not only fed the Spaniards, but also helped repair their boat and Columbus returned to Spain, never to sail again.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Last month, the governor of Augascalientes presided over a special event: The opening of a brand-new Nissan production facility in the capital city. Carlos Lozano de la Torre stood shoulder to shoulder with a handful of representatives from Japan and his full-time Spanish / Japanese translator. The plant is enormous...21 million spare feet of factory will produce 175,000 Nissan Sentras in the first year. They'll accomplish this by never closing the plant. Well...okay...it will be open 23 hours a day, six days a week. Sunday is important in Mexico.
It's not just Nissan that's investing in Mexico. In the neighboring state of Jalisco, Honda recently opened a cavernous facility near Guadalajara. To the north, General Motors runs a plant in Guanajuato. You'll find Chrysler in Toluca and Kia in Monterrey. BMW, Mazda, Mercedes, you name it...they have a factory in Mexico. In terms of dollars, auto manufacturers have invested $22 billion in the last two years alone.
But that's not to say that all cars made in Mexico are shipped to the US. Nope, many are sold in the domestic market. Just ask Volkswagen. Back in 1964, they were the first company to open a factory in Mexico. Their plant in Puebla remains the largest VW plant outside of Germany, employing over 13,000 workers. For decades, their top model was the ubiquitous Beetle. Mexicans fell in love with this car and bought tens of thousands of them. Even today, you'll see tons of bugs on the streets of any Mexican city.