Monthly Archives: April 2012

Contest! Your Food Memories About Mom

Do you have fond memories of baking with your mom or grandmother? Photo by Flickr/edenpictures

Mother’s Day is right around the corner and WFAEats is celebrating the occasion with a contest. We want to hear your food stories about mom.  Whether it’s a favorite recipe passed down from your great grandmother or bitter memories of being force-fed Brussels sprouts, we want to hear it. Your story could win one of five $25 gift cards from Lowe’s Foods. Please keep your story to under 500 words and send photos if you have them! Don’t forget to include your name.
Email your entry to Contest@WFAE.org by May 9th.
Good luck!

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Judges Will Likely Have Final Say On Amendment One

With early voting under way, North Carolinians have a variety of offices and issues to resolve leading up to the May 8th primary election.  But the voting contest that seems to be attracting the most attention is the proposed amendment to the state constitution regarding marriage.

And when asked about the issue, depending on how the question is posed, North Carolinians seem to be of two minds: against gay marriage, while at the same time for legal recognition of civil unions for gay couples.  The key to either passage or defeat of this amendment is how the issue is ultimately worded and framed in voters’ minds.

Public Policy Polling has been tracking the public’s collective opinion about the issue. The amendment is designed to enshrine into the state’s governing document language that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, something that state law already does.

Starting in September of 2011, PPP asked about both same-sex marriage and the constitutional amendment supported by Republican legislators in the General Assembly.  In that month’s poll, 61 percent of North Carolina voters said that they wanted same-sex marriage to remain illegal, but that 55  percent would vote against the GOP’s constitutional amendment that would appear to ban marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships for gay couples.

A month later, PPP found that the marriage amendment garnered 61  percent of likely primary voters, with 80  percent of GOP likely primary voters, 52  percent of unaffiliated/independents, and 49  percent of likely Democratic primary voters expressing support for the amendment. 

Then, in December 2011, 58  percent of likely primary voters said that they would vote for the amendment, a three-point drop in support. 

Democrats at that time were supporting the amendment, but only by 4 points (47-43).  Among independents, support for the amendment remained the same at 52  percent. Republicans, not surprisingly, continued to be in strong favor of the amendment (77-16).

Come 2012, the amendment was bouncing around between 56 and 58 percent—until this week’s latest poll. Support is down to 54 percent. What’s especially interesting is that, for the first time, Democrats are solidly against the amendment, 56  percent, to only 38  percent supporting it. This opposition caps a transition in opinion among Democrats moving against the amendment.

But Democrats alone aren’t enough to defeat the amendment. As is typically the case, both in the nation and the state, a coalition of one party’s supporters and independent voters is needed to put together a winning vote, whether it is for a statewide office or on this issue.

An interesting development is the lack of information about the amendment’s intent.  This is why you are seeing more advertisements — especially from those opposing the amendment — coming out to frame the issue.

The main opposition to the amendment is by the “Coalition to Protect NC Families,” whose ads are here and here.  Recognizing that the moral perspective was dominated by the amendment’s supporters, opponents have taken to the airwaves to frame the issue in a different context.

Amendment opponents most likely got their inspiration from the official explanation regarding the amendment, found here. In the official explanation, there is uncertainty about the term “domestic legal union” as used in the proposed amendment. 

In their ads, opponents refer to various unresolved issues — such as the relationship between unmarried couples living together, domestic violence laws, child custody and visitation rights, and end-of-life arrangements.

When enshrining public policy into either governing documents, such as constitutions, or passing legislation into statutes, language has a distinct power in creating meaning and defining ideas.  And in our system of governance, it is the power of the courts to decide what language means.

While one of the main reasons cited by amendment supporters was to prevent “judicial activism” on the issue of gay marriage, it appears that these unresolved issues will have to be decided by the courts, even if the amendment passes.

As Alexis de Tocqueville observed in his journey through the new American republic in 1831, “scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.”

While North Carolina voters have the opportunity to voice their opinion one way or the other on this controversial issue, the likelihood is that judges will ultimately cast the deciding vote regarding the meaning of one simple, but complicated, word: Marriage.

Related- WFAE Public Conversations: Defining Marriage

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Mutant Strawberries! They’re Big, But How Do They Taste?

Note to readers: that is a real human-sized spoon, not a Barbie spoon.

Portions and foods in general are getting bigger and bigger, but this is ridiculous. My fiance brought home some freak, mutant strawberries last week. I had to share the photo because I didn’t know you could actually buy strawberries this big. I thought they were the subjects of “whoa, look at that thing” ribbons at the state fair or perhaps B- horror movies (Attack of the Killer Strawberries?) Is this the result of some kind of nuclear radiation or genetically modified seeds grown with steroid fertilizer? I decided to investigate.

Giant is right.

According to their website and a representative I contacted, they do use some pesticides:

…we use practices and methods to minimize the need for pesticides whenever possible. Our team works closely with scientists at the University of California to determine the best time for applications of pesticides and insecticides and they are used ONLY when necessary to protect the survival of plants.

They add that they also offer organic berries, as well. As for genetic engineering:

California Giant does not use GMO’s. We rely on traditional breeding methods to develop and enhance our berries’ flavor, quality, size and color.

If GMOs are not involved, the size must be attributed to some selective breeding. I’m no farmer or geneticist of course, but it seems like it would be difficult to breed for BOTH size and flavor. Based on the strawberries I had, it seems like size won, they weren’t particularly flavorful or juicy…

The giant berries growing in their giant habitat. Photo from California Giant Berry Farms Facebook page.

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Kickoff To 2012: A Redux Of 1980’s Most Memorable Lines

Michael Bitzer

Romney’s visit to Charlotte to “prebut” Obama’s upcoming September acceptance speech made headlines, but on the same day the Romney campaign released a second blow against the president, in the guise of Obama himself.

When it comes to the role of attack ads in political campaigns, nothing works better than an opposing candidate’s own words.  With the release of “President Obama’s Measure of Progress,” the Romney campaign is effectively doing just that: Using Obama’s claims of what he sought to accomplish in a four-year lease on the White House, all from his 2008 acceptance speech in Denver.

 Then, the hit: with footage of Charlotte that many will recognize, and no narration, words about Charlotte and North Carolina’s unemployment and economic picture are presented. 

In presenting a comparison and contrast ad, campaigns need the credibility of the source to make the ad effective—and what better creditability is there than the opponent’s own words. 

In a nutshell, the Romney campaign is using one of the most effective and informative frames for voters to consider in this year’s election, crafted by “the great communicator” himself, Ronald Reagan.

In the only debate of the 1980 presidential contest between President Jimmy Carter, Reagan finished his remarks with the following classic line: “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” In painting a picture as stark in contrast as that question, Reagan was able to capture the voters’ sentiments at the time.

Romney’s campaign is seeking to make the general campaign and presidential election a retrospective framework for the voters to decide, believing that with unemployment, gas prices, and the economy in the current state it is in, voters will do to Obama what they did to Carter.

But there is another classic line delivered by Reagan that Obama could pull out as a playbook of his own: “there you go again.” 

In watching campaigns, one can always see a “recall” moment, when something happens that reminds us of a past campaign.  It appears that 2012 has started off by pulling out all the greatest hits of 1980. It will be interested to see what other playbook moments from past presidential contests will be torn out and recycled this year. 

There’s plenty of time and material between now and November.

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My Ode to Harissa

Harissa in a jar. Photo by Flickr/jules:stonesoup

Put down the sriracha. There’s a new condiment in town. And just like the popular spicy “rooster sauce” everyone went crazy for over a few years ago, this one adds depth, piquancy and spice to anything you put it on.

It’s called harissa, and I’m a little in love with it.

I don’t know when I first heard of or tasted the thick North African sauce–perhaps in the Moroccan restaurant in Bristol, England where I used to go with friends, despite its unfortunate name, Rock the Casbah, or maybe here in Charlotte at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, Meskerem, on Kings Drive, that serves tibs wat, or beef sauteed in berbere, a spice with a taste somewhat similar to harissa.

So what the heck is this harissa stuff? The first thing you notice about the spiced sauce is its color: bright, rich crimson. Just as an onomatopoeia sounds like its meaning, so harissa looks like its own taste. Earthy, foreign, roasted, pungent, smoky. It is a condiment with a depth of flavor and spice. I’m pretty sure I could eat it on anything, from scrambled eggs to grilled fish to any vegetable.

I made it for the first time myself just a few weeks ago. My friend Lisa was coming over for dinner, and I had decided to cook something “North African-y,” even if I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Something with cous cous and lemon and mint, right? Harissa! I cried, Archimedes-style, when I came upon the recipe. Using my own spice-biases, I tweaked the recipe a bit, and couldn’t believe how well it turned out. I served it over sauteed chickpeas and spinach, and it was the exact taste I had been trying to create.

In this Internet age, anything, of course, is available online, so you can certainly purchase a wide variety of harissas from any number of international food sites.  It comes canned, bottled, even “tubed.”  But really, when it’s this easy and fun to make, there’s really no need to squeeze it–or anything you’re going to eat, really–from a tube.

Harissa in a tube. Photo by Flickr/fred_v

Now, this recipe won’t have you delving into the gorgeous chaos of the Asian market at Tryon and Sugar Creek or even visiting one of the many African food shops around town. I was really surprised to find that everything I needed to make harissa was available at my neighborhood Harris Teeter. I even got to use my oft-neglected mortar and pestle, though you can use a spice grinder if you prefer.

The batch for the recipe below made about a cup and a half, and I’m told that it will last for weeks well-sealed in the refrigerator. And don’t despair if you open the container next week and find a thin layer of oil on top.  It separates when it sits, but all you have to do it give it a good stir, and you’re right back to the key to your very own “North African-y” meal.
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Romney Kicks Off General Election Campaign In NC

Mitt Romney addresses supporters in Charlotte on April 18. Photo: Tanner Latham

With Mitt Romney giving a “prebuttal” speech with Bank of America Stadium in the background, we can now officially signal the beginning of the general campaign in North Carolina.

But even though North Carolina’s May primary won’t be as active as four years ago, it appears the groundwork for November is well underway, either in terms of mobilization (as in “get out the vote”) or staking a presence in the state. 

The warning signals are all there.  First, there is the quiet “field operations” of the Obama campaign’s organization within the state. With no battle for the nomination (unlike four years ago), the president’s campaign has used the time to lay the foundation for a real contest in North Carolina by staffing various field offices around the state.

This organization mirrors what Obama was able to do in North Carolina with the late primary battle in 2008. By having an extensive ground game and organization established months before the 2008 general election, the Obama campaign was able to turn a ruby-red Republican state in 2004 to a deep-hue of purple toss-up.

By not having a competitive primary challenge on May 8th (perhaps Gingrich can make Romney work for the state, but one would have believe the overall deal is done with his presumptive nomination), Romney needs to begin making North Carolina competitive.  He can’t afford the same mistake as the McCain campaign did four years ago and take the state for granted.

With the “prebuttal” address and by using the backdrop where Obama will accept his party’s nomination, Romney is making a claim in the heart of the Democrat’s Tar Heel strategy—straight into Charlotte as the location of the Democrat’s national convention.

Romney’s commitment to raise $800 million in conjunction with the national party means the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will have the resources to enable a Republican foundation constructed in various competitive states—including North Carolina.

While a lot of the techniques and strategies of modern campaigning goes unnoticed by the larger electorate early in the campaign season, the hints are already there. Welcome to the general election North Carolina — it’s gonna be a bumpy ride to November.

WFAE: Romney Makes A ‘Prebuttal’

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A Hot Dog By Any Other Name…

A hotdog from Nathan's. Photo by Flickr/Chrisjbarker

By Roshunda Anthony

A foray into the age-old question of who makes a better hot dog, New York or Chicago?

My boyfriend Ryan and I have a little on going debate about which hot dog is the best.  A New York Nathan’s Famous Frank or the Chicago Style hot dog?  By me being a savvy New Yorker, quite naturally I said the New York Nathan’s, but he is a boisterous young man from the “Windy City” so he says the Chicago Dog.  So, we decided to settle the score by comparing and contrasting what makes each of our beloved regional delectation the best.

I grew up on Nathan’s Famous Franks.   I have fond memories of my mom taking my brothers and me to the Nathan’s Famous Franks Restaurant in Garden City, New York.   Oh, how I remember us enjoying the robust flavorful taste of what is known as the Nathan Famous Frank.  So, when I moved to Charlotte and discovered that there is a Nathan’s located on the outskirts of Charlotte (in the Concord Mills Mall), I was elated!  A Nathan’s Frank is an all beef hot dog based on the recipe of Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker’s wife.  It is served on a basic bun and yummy toppings such as onions, ketchup, mustard, and sauerkraut (my favorite) can be used to enhance the experience of eating this tasty treat, but it is the savoriness of the hotdog itself you really want to experience.

A loaded-down Chicago style hotdog. Photo by Flickr/Shanubi

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