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Volume xviii, Issue 20 ~ May 20 to May 26, 2010

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Wanted: Local Food for Gov’s Barbeque

Team up now to serve Maryland’s Best

Goat cheese and sweet potato risotto finished with vanilla honey. Pan seared rockfish with grilled yellow tomato vinaigrette and Silver Queen corn relish. A blueberry tart with Firefly goat cheese and lemon curd.

Are your taste buds on high alert?

These scrumptious dishes — and 53 others — all use local ingredients. They were chosen as the best of Maryland’s bounty and served at last year’s Buy Local Cook Out at the Government House in Annapolis.

Now this year’s cookout is just around the corner.

If you are a Maryland grower, producer or preparer — and you think you’ve got some of the best — Gov. Martin O’Malley wants to know about it. In celebration of the 2010 Buy Local Challenge Week (July 17-25), the governor is inviting teams paring a chef and farmer, producer or waterman to submit original recipes using local ingredients. The best of the submitted recipes will be featured at this years cook-out on Thursday, July 15.

“We are very excited to feature local chefs, farmers and products at the cook-out,” O’Malley said.

You don’t have to be a professional chef to qualify. Just ask students Katie Burroughs and Edward Bowen. The Calvert County teenagers’ barbeque pulled pork and cole slaw was picked as one of the best recipes last year.

Recipes are chosen in six categories: Appetizer; Main dish; Side dish or salad; Dessert; Beverage; and table decorations (centerpieces for café tables).

Send your entry before June 1 to: Maryland’s Best Bounty Cook Out Recipe, Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401. Or email to [email protected]

During the Buy Local Challenge Week, all Marylanders are asked to eat at least one local product every day of the week. That shouldn’t be a challenge in July when farmers’ markets and roadside stands overflow with fresh, seasonal food.

“When we purchase and eat fresh, local products, we are putting our families first by providing strong nutrition, keeping jobs in the local economy and preserving open space by keeping farmers on the land,” said O’Malley. “Buying locally moves us toward a smart, green and growing future for all Marylanders.”

Learn more:

–Margaret Tearman

Hey, Hey, Hey, Get Out of My Way

The Blue Angels’ support plane, Fat Albert, has a few tricks up its wings

“The current temperature is about 65 degrees with clear skies. The wind is calm,” Captain Edward Jorge, aircraft commander, tells his crew as he starts the pre-flight brief just minutes before his plane, Fat Albert, starts the Blue Angels’ show.

The six-man crew hangs on to Eddie’s every word, digesting the information, with stone-cold focused faces and the occasional nod.

Wind speeds, coordinates and the course are detailed too rapidly for a civilian to catch, but speed puts Eddie and his crew in their element.

Fat Albert, a C-130 Transport, is the Blue Angels’ support plane. It carries crew, maintenance personnel and equipment for the shows. Not completely behind the scenes, Fat Albert has a few tricks up its wings, tricks shown off at the start of every Blue Angels’ show.

Fat Albert’s Tricks

“We give the aircraft as much power as possible, get up to about 130 miles per hour, then we’ll pull up at about a 45-degree angle at which point we reach 200 miles per hour,” Eddie says. “It’s more than six times the impact of a commercial flight, and it’s going to happen just like that.”

Eddie snaps his fingers.

The engines blare. As the plane lifts and the landing gear click up and away, passengers — sitting strapped tight on parallel benches in the back — hold tight to railings lining the plane’s sides.

Gravity kicks in and movements appear in slow motion. But people aren’t moving slowly on purpose; instead, their arms feel so heavy that lifting them is a challenge.

At 200 feet, the aircraft dips steeply back down, almost like a nose dive, and almost instantly the pressure inside the plane drops so that you go from feeling like you weigh twice what you do to weighing nothing at all.

At that moment, as the plane plummets toward the ground at a 45-degree angle, everything not strapped down floats.

Unbuckled crew grab onto a ladder strapped to the floor as their feet float to the ceiling. Objects slowly gravitate out of unclosed pockets and off the seats and floor.

An instant later, anything in midair crashes to the ground with the unstoppable force that makes everything feel twice its weight again. Fat Albert is going back up.

After moments of weightlessness and double weightedness aboard Fat Albert, our writer returned to earth safely.

In a series of twists and turns, Captain Eddie shows spectators — referred to as “crowd right” and “crowd left” — just how precise the plane’s navigation is, as he whizzes by at nearly 400mph, just 30 feet above them: half the length of the wing span.

In the “bubble” — the cockpit and the space around it — double-decker windows give a 180-degree outside view. A hula girl wiggles on the dash. From the captain’s seat, Eddie see waves of color made up by people and tents, then blue sky, then people and tents, then blue sky. Peripheral vision is limited.

As Fat Albert turns on one side and then another, its movement is so smooth that in the cockpit, only the horizon reveals the plane’s angle. Then it dips, as Eddie continues a routine to exhibit what tight turns the big plane can make.

To end its show, the 55-ton Fat Albert will land almost on a dime.

Coming down, passengers again hold tight as their legs and feet float skyward. Landing gear clicks out with a thud, and Fat Albert rolls to a stop within 1,000 feet of touching down, a feat no comparably sized commercial airliner can match.

Fat Albert has had its fun. Now it’s the Blue Angels’ turn.

The Blue Angels fly over Annapolis for practice Tuesday, May 25, and for U.S. Naval Academy Commissioning Wednesday, May 26. See 8 Days a Week for times.

–Amy Russell

This Week’s Creature Feature

Feathering their nests everywhere

Have you ever found a hummingbird’s nest? More precisely, a hummingbird’s nest perched atop a clothespin? An Anna hummingbird found the perfect abode on a California clothesline.

It’s an incorrect assumption that birds nest only in trees and hedgerows and similar places. In reality, if it doesn’t move — or seldom does — it’s a possible site for a nest. Like flower baskets, old boots and abandoned teacups. Or basketball hoops, mailboxes and tractor engines.

#205, nest in a roll of wire by Odis Johnson and Kathleen Riley McMahon.

Once again, those studious ornithologists at Cornell University want to know about the unusual place where you have found a bird nesting.

Funky Nests in Funky Places is part of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s year-round citizen science project, Celebrate Urban Birds, educating urban- and suburbanites about their neighborhood birds.

Last year’s Funky Nests challenge brought in more than 600 entries of birds’ nests in unusual spots.

“We’ve had such fun with this challenge,” says project leader Karen Purcell. “You wouldn’t believe how many people showed us bird nests in barbecue grills, bathrooms, garden tools and signs. We even had tree swallows nesting in a cannon!”

To join the 2010 Funky Nests in Funky Places challenge, find a bird’s nest lodged someplace where you’d least expect it. Being careful not to disturb it or its occupants, take a picture or shoot some video, draw it or write a story about it.

Email entries to [email protected] before July 1, 2010.

Prizes include Kaytee bird feeders and seed, CDs, books, Cornell Lab gift baskets, nest boxes and more. The first 50 entrants get a copy of the Doves and Pigeons poster by Julie Zickefoose; selected images and videos will be posted on the Celebrate Urban Birds website. And the best entries will become a Nest of the Month in a 2011 calendar.

For more information and entry rules:

One More Reason to Love Chocolate

Dark chocolate has a chemical that helps your brain fight strokes

It’s not like you needed an excuse to eat chocolate. Still, now you have one.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that epicatechin, a chemical in dark chocolate, has the potential to reduce brain damage in the event of a stroke. Even if you’re not a dark chocolate eater, it can help you if administered within three and a half hours after the stroke. Speed is of the essence in all treatments for stroke; epicatechin gives you a little more time than most.

Epicatechin works by affecting two brain pathways that can shield brain cells from damage. The chemical seems to stimulate the cells to work, not actively to protect against damage. The medical implications are multi-fold, stretching from the effective dose of epicatechin to the brain’s innate ability to help itself recover from a stroke.

Sad to say, dark chocolate is not the be-all and end-all of stroke treatment. Epicatechin is very volatile, and many dark chocolates lack the crucial compound.

The discovery arose during study of the Kuna Indians in and near Panama. They have little cardiovascular disease, a blessing scientists link to a local cocoa-based drink high in epicatechin.

–Daniel Manning

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