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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

Updated: Apr 4, 2021

The transition from living in an urban megalopolis like New York City versus living in rural Michigan has been interesting to say the least. When new people we meet find out we lived in Brooklyn they immediately remark, “Wow, how are you managing that change, how are you adjusting?” For over a decade, we have been visiting our lake home 5 - 6 times a year and I knew very well what the experience would entail as I was no stranger.

I think the biggest adjustment is how far we need to travel to go food shopping, go out to eat, or basically do anything - because we live in the sticks surrounded by farms and dozens of lake communities. The pace is decidedly slower as compared to NYC and my access to hard-to-find ingredients, fresh seafood, and quality produce is limited.

On the flip side on a positive note, we are tucked in among a hundred plus acres of woods and have ample lake front to enjoy. We are excited to ‘wake up’ our pontoon from its seasonal daycare and get it back into the water. We think in a few more weeks we will have it delivered to us and then we will be buzzing around the lake soon.

We are excited for the spring season to fully kick into gear, we’ve had some warmer days and we’ve had some dustings of snow. Last week, the ice melted away from our lake, it was amazing to see ducks and loons return almost immediately. The loons are my favorite wildlife ‘attraction’ on the lake. Each year, we have a pair of Loons that call Windover Lake their home. It has been a few years since we’ve had baby loons so our lake association decided to move the floating nest built by our neighbors to our cove. Maybe a change of scenery and a less busier boating area will result in some chicks. The best part is how loons communicate, it’s hard to explain if you’ve never heard one so I’ve dug up what Cornell Lab of Ornithology has posted.

“Common Loons are famous for their eerie, beautiful calls. Among these are the tremolo, a wavering call given when a loon is alarmed or to announce its presence at a lake. The yodel is the male loon’s territorial claim. Each male has his own signature yodel. If a male moves to a different territory, he will change his yodel. The wail is the haunting call that loons give back and forth to figure out each other’s location. Hoots are soft, short calls given to keep in contact with each other. Parents might hoot to a chick, or one mate might hoot to another.” (Source:

My partner, Marc, has turned me into a bird nerd. His love of feathered friends – I believe – stems from his grandmother’s affection for these winged creatures. Bluebirds, Flickers, myriad Woodpeckers, Blue Herons, Owls, Wood Ducks, Goldfinches, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red Winged Blackbirds, Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos, cute little Black-capped Chickadees, Mergansers, Purple Martins, Hummingbirds, majestic Eagles, and of course the Loons.

At night, if we are lucky and the loons are chatty, we will hear that haunting wail. For me, it’s incredibly moving and reminds me of what a special place we now call home.

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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

Updated: Mar 20, 2021

The older I become, the more I can appreciate some of the philosophies my father was passionate about in his life. Growing up in an immigrant household, my parents were not only older than many of my friends’ parents they were also old-school. When I say ‘immigrant’ that conjures up lots of ideas – so, I’ll break it down. Both sets of my grandparents were born in Europe and made the life-changing voyage to the U.S. to become Americans. My mom was born in my hometown in NJ and my dad was born in New England.

My parents were in their early 40s when I arrived in 1969 – so, growing up and having older parents was something I had to learn how to navigate. Being the baby of the family, my older brother and two older sisters paved the way for me to get away with most everything. Not that I was a bad kid, I just didn’t think the rules were meant for me. By the time I was high-school aged my parents were in their late 50s – older than I am right now – and I was given more freedom than any of my siblings. I took that in stride and respected some boundaries.

One memory that has bubbled up in my mind is the persistence that my father had for buying products made in the USA. At the time, I didn’t understand the importance, and quite frankly found it annoying. I didn’t think about the big picture as I didn’t have the worldly experience to appreciate his demand. I was confounded and just thought it was one of those ‘Dad’ things that had no validity for me.

Little did I know… I’ve arrived at that same ideology. Building our new home here in Michigan - from lumber to kitchen appliances - I’ve worked hard to seek out, research and buy products that are made in the U.S. From building materials to finishing products, working with our general contractor we have tried to buy as much locally as possible.

Creating my kitchen design and layout was a daunting task. I’ve never done it before and I knew I had one shot to get it right. As the layout was being configured, I had the task of sourcing my appliances. Here’s where my ‘Made in the USA’ need was paramount.

I have been following a 130 year old company in Pennsylvania called Blue Star that manufactures ovens and range tops. So when it came time to pick those big ticket items, I knew exactly what I wanted and knowing that I was contributing to the bottom line of a product made in the USA made all the difference. I wanted commercial grade cooking appliances and feel confident that Blue Star was the right choice.

Blue Star's powerful 22,000 BTU burners

Our refrigerator is being manufactured by a company that has been in business since 1945 and all of their products are made in Wisconsin and/or Arizona. Our washer and dryer brand is Whirlpool. The company was founded in 1911 in Benton Charter Township, Michigan and is still headquartered there.

Making the conscious decision to buy American-made is our choice and some might say, why does it matter? Knowing that I am supporting a business, its employees, and the myriad people around that purchase makes me very proud. I feel like I am holding out my hand for a virtual handshake and doing business as locally as possible.

I finally can appreciate that lesson my father was trying to teach me in his own way.

Thanks, Dad – I get it now.

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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

The history of food preservation is fascinating; for centuries people have salted, pickled, smoked, and dried their food to make it last longer without the aid of refrigeration. Imagine your life without your trusty refrigerator. I experienced it for a short time growing up when our family’s refrigerator stopped working. I don’t quite remember how long we dealt with not having one but it seemed like an eternity and it taught me to appreciate our avocado green Frigidaire a lot more when it was finally repaired. Luckily it was winter time and we had coolers set outside to store milk, juice, butter, etc. We also had a chest freezer that was styled like a ‘57 Chevy with chrome finishes and bulky rounded edges – it was a behemoth.

That experience taught me to examine foods that did not need refrigeration and that astounded me. My Dad would buy planks of dried salted cod fish or as we called it – Bacalhau. I was intrigued how a dried out piece of – once fresh fish – could last so long without spoiling. They were stiff as a board and looked inedible. It was remarkable to think how this once fresh fish with firm flesh, clear eyes, and no fishy scent was transformed into a piece of wood. But as we all know, fresh fish and houseguests start to stink after three days.

Long ago, someone thought about taking that fresh fish and drying it to remove all of the moisture. Ingenious, since bacteria requires a moist environment to survive and the fish can be kept for a long time without spoilage. Legumes (that bag of dried navy beans kicking around in the back of your pantry) that have been dehydrated last a long time because moisture-loving microorganisms are kicked to the curb with no place to live.

For centuries, salt cod was a major food export and is still integral in many European and Scandinavian cuisines. My family had bacalhau on holidays and even on not so special occasions. It was Portuguese comfort food at its best. I recall the large pieces of salt cod needing to be soaked in large stock pots of water to rehydrate it over a few days. The water needed to be constantly refreshed for the salt to be removed from the fish. One of my favorite things my Dad would make were bacalhau fritters – crispy on the outside and then a creamy, cod fish filling with potato and fresh parsley on the inside. Right from the fryer with a sprinkle of sea salt – so delicious!

Homemade bacalhau fritters

Now, I think it’s important that we chat about fat Tom – no, not my portly friend who ate too many fritters, but an acronym. FATTOM reminds us what nasty microorganisms need to thrive and multiply. FATTOM is a simple reminder when it comes to food spoilage. Here’s what is necessary to spin the spoilage wheel.

Food – very simply, bacteria needs food to survive; Acid – microorganisms also like a certain pH balance, somewhere right in the middle (not too acidic, not too alkaline). The two T’s are for Time and Temperature – the longer food is left out at unsafe temperatures will allow bacteria a chance to grow and multiply. That is why it is very important to cool large portions of food before placing in the refrigerator. O for oxygen, yes bacteria needs it too! Moisture is the last piece of the puzzle as explained above in the dried fish example.

Drying food is just one of the ways to preserve it. Pickling, for instance, works because the liquid used to preserve the food item is very acidic, too acidic for bacteria to grow. By the way, bacteria also has two other pals in the spoilage world – including yeast, and mold. I think you get the point.

Coming full circle, let’s round out the general techniques of preserving food. We have dehydration, alcohol is used primarily for fruits (think pear brandy or eau de vie), sugar used in fruit preserves (sugar slows down enzymatic activity), pickling, dry cure or salt, a liquid cure/brine (think of that Thanksgiving turkey), smoking (think BBQ) but also include cold, hot and wood smoking, pasteurization (milk & dairy), sterilization (think of grandma’s canned veggies or fruits), refrigeration & freezing (including quick freezing & freeze drying), and lastly, sealing & coating – such as in making duck confit – basically the duck is dry cured to remove moisture and then cooked in its rendered duck fat. The layer of fat creates a barrier and microorganisms can’t get in to spoil that yummy goodness.

I hope this post about methods of food preservation proves interesting. I am definitely interested in learning to safely can (a bucket list food challenge) and I do love to quick-pickle a summer cucumber or red onion but most importantly, I think about honoring the ingredient and trying to reduce food waste as much as possible.

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