Cornbread and Buttermilk

Some of the strangest things can trigger memories.

Today it was a random commercial. To be honest, I don’t even remember what they were hawking. That is a sad, sad statement on the people who designed that particular commercial just to draw the attention of the viewer to their client’s product. Regardless, I was drawn because the commercial showed a very tired man coming home at dawn with his wife disparaging the rigors of the “graveyard” shift. This was followed by the magical passage of time to the man getting ready to go back to work and finding his young son at the refrigerator. In a scolding tone he asks the boy what he is doing up so late. To which the child replies, “I wanted to eat breakfast with you.”

Touching, isn’t it. Brings a tear to the eye. In these hard times, so many people are having to make compromises and give up time with loved ones just to make ends meet. This brings up a whole other conversation/argument/battle royal with my best friend about the cost of living vs. the potential wages earned. Not really where I was going.

That commercial stirred a memory, actually a couple of different memories. Both my father and my grandfather worked some non-traditional hours. Dad worked long hours. I often wouldn’t get to see him except for the brief time we got to spend as he drove me to my grandparents early in the morning to catch the bus to school. Dad’s old Volkswagon station wagon. It smelled like smoke and mustiness from his firefighting gear. The ride every morning was usually less than 10 minutes, but still those rides are some of my best memories of my father from early childhood, listening to the AM radio and shivering because the heater was practically non-existent.

My grandparent’s house was where I spent a lot of time, before and after school and during the summers. My grandfather, worked shiftwork. Sometimes days, sometimes 3-11, and sometimes graveyard. When Pappy worked the 3-11 or graveyard, I would sneak up well after my designated “lights out” to tiptoe into the kitchen. My grandfather’s favorite after work snack or pre-graveyard repast was a glass of buttermilk with homemade cornbread (you know the kind, cooked in a cast iron skillet) crumbled into it. Pappy always pretended to be surprised to see me, no matter how many times he found me at his elbow. He would pour me my own glass and slice me a piece of the cornbread for me to crumble into my own glass. The two of us sitting at the very 50’s-style Formica-topped kitchen table eating cornbread and buttermilk in silence while the rest of the house slept.

When asked about their best memories from childhood, many people think of beloved pets, winning the big game, or a trip to Disneyworld. Like a few of us, my best memories of childhood are quiet, purely mundane moments: A 10 minute car ride on frosty mornings with the smell of old smoke and the sound of classic country music on a tinny AM radio… and the taste of cornbread and buttermilk.

Attack of the Vapors: A Juice by any other Name…

For so many of the friends and family I have who have been switching over to vaping from smoking, the biggest complaint has been about trying to find a flavor that suits them. The taste options are so much vaster than with combustible tobacco, but it is still a very different experience for most lifetime smokers.

Contrary to what the media and the anti-smoking coalitions have been screaming for many years, most smokers did not start because of pretty colored cigarettes or sweet flavors. Most smokers started with plain ol’ tobacco or possibly menthol. And, the stupid cartoon camel had relatively little to do with coaxing them to the “dark side”. There was possibly a “cool” factor. Their friends were doing it. More likely, their parents were doing it. They may possibly have thought James Dean and Steve McQueen looked super-cool lighting up, but the majority of the young adult population today couldn’t even tell me who those people are.

So, the smokers of today, predominantly, smoke tobacco-flavored cigarettes in a rather bland looking carton, and most likely purchased whatever happened to be cheapest and didn’t give them immediate headaches or nausea. Still, prices went up and sin taxes attempted to wage war against poor health choices. The pharmaceutical companies promoted various options in gum and patch and pill form to help people who wanted to quit smoking. However, all parties concerned never considered that there were people who didn’t want to quit. They knew it was bad. It wasn’t even necessarily the nicotine. People felt comfort in the ritual of lighting up. There was camaraderie in the smoker’s circle, shed, hovering around an ash receptacle.

But I started this talking about the juice, not the ritual. The point I was trying to make was that there have been a number of people that I have spoken to about vaping, and the common thread is that they really cannot find a juice that tastes right to them. Tobacco flavors tend to taste like “wet cigarettes” (according to my informers), the heavy PG types smell and taste like the fog machine juice, there is often a chemical aftertaste with the electronic cigarettes, and the fruit flavors are fine for a while, but many have stated that they just don’t like the “sweets.” The folks that can’t find their go-to juice for that daily vape by and large tend to drop back off the vaping wagon and go back to their old friend, the “ciggies.” It isn’t that they didn’t have the fortitude to stick with it, and it usually isn’t a resistance to change. They just don’t like it. It doesn’t feel or taste the same, and without the familiarity of the comforts ingrained in the habit, they just can’t get what they need out of the new practice.

Is there a magic formula that makes some people transition successfully to vaping while others do not? Is it something different about the people who choose to vape and give up on combustible tobacco products? It may be a combination of all of it, but here is what I have noticed in talking to people on both sides of that coin.
First is the amount of nicotine in the juice. While the ritual is definitely part of the process and one of the reasons vaping works for people for whom pharmaceuticals and patches did not, the active addicting ingredient is still the nicotine. If there is not a high enough level in the vapor inhaled, it isn’t going to satisfy that part of the smoker’s draw. Everyone is different, but for the moderate to heavy smoker, most of the “pen” variety of vaporizers do not produce a big enough spike in nicotine to fulfill the craving of that first cigarette of the morning (or last at night). The vape pens and starter kits generally provide a level of nicotine and vapor to keep a maintenance level of nicotine in the system. I’m not going into the electrical jargon of it all (there are way too many people I know who could do a better job at that), but for the spike issues, a variable wattage or dripper tank that produces a higher level of vapor as desired generally fulfills that part of the deficit.

The second part of the equation, and the more tricky part, is the flavor conundrum. There are two different arguments on this score. There are those who want that flavor associated with their old “friend,” and there are those who want to get clean away from any suggestion of the cigarette flavor that might just make them want to go back. Almost universally, tobacco flavors do not do well for new vapers. Again, I call your attention to the phrase “wet cigarette.” Now, the exception to that has been some of the pipe or cigar tobacco flavors with hotter vapes. The “hotter” usually refers to higher wattage and dripper rigs that produce literally warmer clouds of vapor that taste and feel more like smoking a pipe or cigar. Also, rumor has it that there is a manufacturer who does naturally extracted tobacco processes and has managed to come up with some decent flavors, River Bottom Fog Sauce. However, all their juices have some percentage of PG. Johnson Creek also produces a number of decent tobacco flavors with VG only options. Also, there has recently been a reddit discussion specifically about tobacco flavors that don’t suck. So, for those who really want the tobacco flavor, it might be worth a read. So for those of you, who just really want your tobacco flavors, check out some of the links below. Something may work for you, and the folks producing liquids are getting better every day with replicating flavors. No need to despair.

For the cooler vape and smokers who like or even tolerate menthol, most of the menthol liquids manage to come closer to the mark and make for a reliable daily vape. For those folks wanting to get away from the tobacco flavors, there are a plethora of options. Most of the local vape shops and dealers have a wide variety. Some mix their own and can do custom liquids for you. Custards and fruit flavors tend to be popular. Chocolates are more difficult to replicate, but frequently have more of a cocoa flavor. Coffee flavors often do pretty well, and spices like cinnamon transition to the vape medium nicely. Some flavors need to steep, meaning they need to sit for a while to allow the liquid (PG or VG) to absorb the flavors, and some tend to fade with time if not used. Several people I have spoken with like to try different flavors and have their “special sauces” for dripping or for the after dinner or social vape and then something else that is more constant for their “daily vape.”

Something else to keep in mind, when you first start vaping after smoking, your sense of taste and smell are still a smoker’s. What do I mean by that? Smoking combustible tobacco tends to dull the taste and olfactory senses. The longer you are away from smoking, the more your sense of smell and taste return. The liquid you liked so much at the beginning may not taste the same after being combustion-free for a couple of weeks. That is when it is usually time to adjust and possibly change over to something different.

For anyone having trouble with the transition but are still wanting to make the change from combustible to vapor but have not been able to find that right flavor, just keep looking. If nothing in your local area works for you, try some of the available options online. Join some of the social media groups or follow some vape lines on Twitter, and register for free samples. The point is that it may take some trial and error to get what works for you. Also, what you need to get you past the first hurdles may not be what you stick with for a daily vape forever. For those sensitive to chemical tastes (perhaps even have reactions to PG) try some of the 100% VG options. There are more available than there used to be. If you have a good vapor lounge or vape shop in your local area, talk to your vendors and let them help you find something for yourself. If they have smaller bottles (like the 10 ml options), try several just to see which one works for you.

EC Blend –

Ether Vapes, LLC –

eVape Lounge –

Johnson Creek Smoke Juice –

Knoxville Vapor –

Orb Vapor –


Reddit thread about tobacco flavors –

River Bottom Fog Sauce –

Saffire Vapor –

Up-N-Vape –

Vapor Boss –

Velvet Cloud –

Vintage Vapors –

Physical Fit: The “D” Word

Before the 12-year-old mentalities start kicking in, I’m going to let you know that the D-word in this case is DIET. What? You weren’t expecting it? Of course you were. I even warned you in an earlier post that it would happen. However, more than that, it is a new year. One of the most popular resolutions for the New Year is related to weight loss, physical changes, and nutrition.

I am already completely over the number of different diet plans that are currently vying for my attention and hard-earned wages. The holiday jewelry, vehicle, and electronics commercials have given way to various diet programs, weight loss supplements, and work out videos. Every other commercial on radio or television right now is some type of weight loss, weight management, quick fix, just-send-your-money-and-you-can-look-like-a-pro-athlete program… Social media is no exception, and they are tricky: “Look at what this celeb has been lying to you about!… See how this starlet lost 30 pounds in just 6 weeks!… These exercises will lead to a firmer backside in just a month!… Five surprising food items you should never eat!” It is overwhelming and really, really annoying.

There are a lot of people that on January 2nd (let everyone have their holiday) said they were changing their approach to life, liberty, and the pursuit of junk food. Sadly, New Year’s resolutions frequently lose their resolve right around Superbowl Sunday. I mean, seriously, who can resist the Superbowl party foods and … yeah, party beverages.

The upshot of all of it would be that people kick themselves for falling off their proverbial wagon and their resolve for better living, healthier eating, and a smaller waistline tends to find its way into bin 13.

As a species, humans are indolent. I don’t mean that necessarily as a criticism. We are designed to be efficient in our use of energy so that we can put more of that energy into survival replicating our genetics in the next generation. The more efficient; the more energy. The more energy; the more available for the aforementioned survival and replication processes. So, we tend to crave high calorie and high fat foods and expend as little energy as we can. It isn’t really laziness or gluttony. It is merely a factor of evolution that said ancestors who put on enough fat to get them through the lean times survived while those who didn’t pack on enough storage perished. If you think about it that way… it’s not really our fault.

However, we live in a society and modern era where food is generally available to most. Even the destitute have options (despite what the commercials on the television will tell you). Unfortunately, the most available and least expensive foods generally have the least nutritional value and are, for the most part, horrible for you: Packed with processed sugars and preservatives that most people cannot pronounce. It is an unrealistic goal in this day and age, but I personally feel that if I can’t make it come out of my mouth readily with correct pronunciation, it probably shouldn’t go in my mouth and body. Just a thought.

So, back to what I was saying: The diet thing. Part of the problem is the word itself. Seriously. Just think about it. You hear the word “diet” and immediately, you mind jumps to every wonderful comforting edible that you will have to deny yourself until the pants fit. This is never a good way to approach a lifestyle change. The word itself really doesn’t mean that. In fact, the first definition in the dictionary isn’t related to denial or restriction at all:

Diet /ˈdīət/ noun. The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

As you see, the word was completely innocent; innocent of negative connotations and ill feelings towards calories and restrictive eating habits. It just meant what we eat, but now… it to most people, it means counting calories, giving up favorite edibles, crying into our bowl of rabbit food… <sigh> Am I right?

This is a recipe for disaster and sets us up for failure in the healthy goal-setting scenarios. Initiating any change with a negative feelings and expectations does not bode well for making that change a habit. The human brain is more likely to adopt behaviors that relate to all those positive, feel good brain chemicals. The fact that in modern, western cultures we equate diets with punitive measures just doesn’t help matters at all.

You know what else doesn’t help? Television. The boob-tube, the idiot box, the… well, you get the idea. There are so many reasons why our electronic masters counteract positive measures in the dietary line. If you are a curious sort and are interested in how much our brains are assaulted by the visual and auditory media of the television, sit through an hour long television show and let the commercials play. Yes, I know, most of us DVR or record by whatever device we can to avoid that precise thing, but just for one show, try it. While you are sitting through the show and all the commercials count the number of food commercials (pizza, fast food, buffet restaurants with all-you-can-eat blazoned on their ads and signs). I’ve actually remarked on this little phenomenon for years, and mostly bitched because they would show the most mouth-watering deliciousness after closing hours for those particular entities that might provide said sustenance. The thing is, all of these commercials are designed to make that food look appealing. They are trying to get you to come in and drop monetary reward upon them in exchange for the feast laid before your eyes. However, you know what happens when the commercials play with their beautiful food items? Your brain thinks it is hungry. Seriously, even if you just had a meal, your brain says “Ooooh, I need that. Look at it!” And… your stomach ignores that it is full and prompts you to seek out something to make the brain shut up.

Other ways the telly is not your friend: Eating in front of one generally increases the amount of food you consume. That’s right. If you sit down in front of the tube and eat your meal while watching your favorite shows, you are likely to eat more because you are paying more attention to the show than on what you are eating or the sensations of fullness. This is true of snacks, too. So… here’s a scenario with which I am sadly too familiar. I’m watching a show on the TV and the first commercial break shows steaming, delicious food, piled with all the best and most favorite flavors. Brain says, “Hey, that looks sooooo good… I want some of that.” The body is a willing follower and suggests, “We might be hungry.” So, instead of leaving the house and going out to the establishment responsible for the suggestion, the legs take brain and body into the kitchen where upon the eyes stare into the pantry or fridge. Though the beautiful and appealing food from the television is not present, I grab any old snack to satisfy the perception that everyone wanted food. The giant bag of chips from the pantry is brought back to the couch and opened. The show is back on, and the hand to mouth ritual begins. The show being a riveting appeal to the other senses, attention stays focused until the cliff-hanger ending and credits roll. The eyes look down and find what, do you think? The entire bag of chips is gone. I have consumed an entire family sized back of greasy, salty crisps and barely even noticed. Does this sound familiar?

Another big enemy of healthy eating: Boredom. Yes, friends, being bored can lead to eating when we are not hungry. Our bodies seem to mistake all sorts of emotions for hunger, but the boredom aspect is definitely a big one. For me, it usually manifests as feeling antsy and “blah” and then, I go to the kitchen and stare at all of the things that might be edible, but nothing really screams “EAT ME!” So, I grab something… anything really. I eat that, but it wasn’t satisfying. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. By the end of an inactive day, I could have eaten a fridge full of food and not one bite satisfied.

Getting too hungry is possibly my biggest pitfalls. I’m one of those people that doesn’t plan well when it comes to daily nutrition intake. It is a combination of time constraints, laziness, and distaste for grocery shopping bordering on the pathological. It probably wouldn’t take all that long to just prepare a week’s worth of lunch and snack options that I could take with me to work, but even with the best of intentions, this doesn’t seem to occur. Instead, I frequently get caught in projects, meetings, and crises at work that occupy my mind and distract me from a growling belly only to find that somehow it is close to 3:00PM… and why eat at that point? Close to quitting time and then can just eat dinner when I get home. Yes, this is a routine for me. The problem is that by the time I leave the office (often later than I expected) and run to the gym, it is even later than I expected to get home. At this point, my stomach has given up on subtle hints and is loudly proclaiming that hunger strikes are not ok! Anyhow, instead of eating a reasonable meal with appropriate helpings, I am prepared to eat an entire herd of cattle by myself with accompanying sides. When we get too hungry, we eat more and we eat fast not giving our system time to recognize that we are full.

Temperature is also a trigger for me. When it gets cold, my appetite skyrockets. Perhaps my body is trying to add blubber to help insulate, but along with not being able to feel warm, I seem to always be hungry.

Oh! While we are exploring all the various ways we can be enticed into less than appropriate intake, let’s not forget the ridiculous portion sizes at most restaurants. This is possibly a touchy subject, but I cannot help but think that eating out is more of a detriment to healthy eating and diet, not because of the quality of the food, but because of the portions. I can almost hear the willpower-gifted among you say “well, you don’t have to eat it all…” Um… yeah. So, I see things like “$5 for two feet of sandwich! What a deal!” What?!? Who needs two FEET of sandwich. That is 24 inches. Let’s put it in perspective. The most calorie conscious of the commercial sandwiches is 230 calories for the vegetarian option and 280 for turkey… for 6 inches. That is also with no condiments. So, no mayo. No mustard. No cheese. Do the math. That is 920 calories for your $5 value of two feet of sandwich with nothing but vegetables and bread. That is a lot of calories. Now, if you were sharing that deal with 3 other people, it’s not a bad situation. Each person for a little over $1 can have a 6-inch sandwich, or if one person buys the $5 worth of sandwich and eats one 6 inch portion, they could save the rest for later. Potentially, they could have 4 meals worth of sandwich for five bucks! Not bad at all, but the truth is that if someone goes in and spends $5 for two feet of sandwich, they are probably going to eat every blessed inch themselves. There are too many people that do not have the willpower to divide an oversized portion appropriately and save it for later, share it with someone else, or (heaven forbid!) leave it on the plate. It just is not going to happen. And why won’t restaurants serve appropriate portions with appropriately divided prices? Because they have market analysts and business planners who know psychologically people are more likely to pay the higher price for larger portions than the cheaper prices for what they may see as inadequate portion.

For what it is worth, I honestly do not know the magical formula and perfect nutritional plan to increase satisfaction and decrease adipose tissue. If I did, I am fairly certain I would be getting paid for my valuable insights instead of just ranting about my feelings of frustration. There are some remarkably successful plans out there that are not crazy, unhealthy, or astronomically expensive. The best diet is going to be sustainable and safe. Everyone is different. The same diet that worked perfectly for your friend may not have the same results for you, and it is a good idea before embarking on any drastic changes in lifestyle or diet to consult your doctor. Yeah, I know, it sounds trite and cliché, but it isn’t a bad idea to get some baseline measures, too (like your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.). Also, restricting your intake of edible nutrients can also impact your intake of water (we do get some of it from the food we eat) and natural vitamins and minerals. So, it’s important to stay hydrated and a good idea to take a multivitamin.

Anyhow, for myself, I believe that my approach will be to avoid boredom, avoid a lot of television, try to eat at regular intervals to avoid being over hungry, and pay more attention to the food I put in my mouth overall. We’ll see how that goes.