Archives for January 2016

Panic Strikes the Department of Agriculture

Our homemade Socci Sauce, a family tradition.

Our homemade Socci Sauce, a family tradition.

Yesterday, I had to contact the Georgia Department of Agriculture to find answers to questions like:

  • How does one go about getting a homemade food product inspected so it meets the safety requirements for public sale and consumption?
  • Is it OK to use a catering kitchen to make our product, or do we need to rent a commercial kitchen?
  • What are the safety regulations involved in canning tomato sauce?

Generally, I wanted to learn what it takes to get Socci Sauce from a local church bazaar and festival market to the gourmet food store and restaurant market.

After several phone calls to the Department of Agriculture and recounting my spiel (“Hi, my name is Karla. We make pasta sauce and we want to find out what we need to do to meet all the food safety and labeling requirements to sell our sauce to stores and restaurants…”) to several different people who passed me off to more people, I finally got to a very nice woman whom I’ll call “Roberta” just in case someone from the Department of Agriculture or Health Department reads this and is shocked. I don’t want anyone to get in trouble.

Let me say, this may quite possibly be one of the best examples of irony. Ever.

Here is what happened:

I’m sitting at my desk with my father next to me and Albie behind me at his desk. I make the phone call to the Department of Agriculture, get transferred around five times, then speak to Roberta.

I repeat my inquiry and Roberta replies in a rapid-paced, Southern drawl – which is an oxymoron. Clearly she has been asked these questions about food regulations before and is an expert at answering them. I attempt to take notes as quickly as she is speaking, while simultaneously interpreting her accent. My dad watches as I scrawl on the paper between us.

  • UGA must review
  • Is it “shelf stable”?
  • Ph test – 24 hours
  • Might have to take class
  • Licensed kitchen?
  • Business plan
  • Health dept.
  • Letter from kitchen; letter from Health dept.

Suddenly, I hear a commotion in the background and Ms. Roberta abruptly stops her recitation of food handling requirements and says, “Hold on a minute, please.”

“I’m on hold,” I inform Dad and Albie. I wait with the phone still pressed to my left ear, pen poised in my right hand. The commotion on the other end of the line continues. Apparently, putting me on hold means setting the phone down on the desk.

“Well, get it out of here! I don’t want that in here with me!” I hear Roberta saying to her coworkers.

“Kill it!” I hear. Then, slamming noises like someone is hitting the wall with a shoe. Laughter. Panic. Movement.

I hear muffled sounds and then Roberta’s voice again. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud, just let me get it.” More commotion.

“Did you kill it?” Roberta asks a minute later. Laughter. Voices I can’t understand.

“Oh my God,” I say to Dad and Albie. “They are trying to kill a bug!”

“Are you serious?!” Dad says, incredulously. “The Department of Agriculture has a bug?”

“Apparently,” I say. “It sounds like they are all chasing it around the room with a shoe.”

The three of us are laughing. I am wiping tears from my eyes. We all wait while the commotion continues for several more minutes. I am wondering if Roberta forgot about me.

Then, I hear movement closer to the phone, papers rustling, and a voice on the other end of the line. “I’m sorry about that. Where were we?” says Ms. Roberta in her most professional tone.

“Did you kill it?” I reply.

Unable to contain herself, Ms. Roberta bursts out in a high-pitched cackle and calls out to her colleagues, “She asked if we killed it! I thought she was on hold! She asked if we killed the bug!”

Then, to me she says, “It was one of those water bugs, you know? When it’s cold outside they just come inside. I mean they spray for ‘em, but they find a way in. I had to put it out of its misery!” She laughs again. She is clearly amused by the situation and proud of herself for being brave enough to kill it.

My stomach muscles hurt from laughing. We continue our conversation about food handling protocol and Roberta says she will send me an email with all the details I need to get Socci Sauce “up to code” with the Health Department. She tells me to call her if I have any questions at all and she will be happy to assist us.

Unlike the Department of Agriculture, we do not have any bugs in our kitchen, so I think we are off to a good start.

My Breastfeeding Rant

This morning I woke up early so I could take my daughter to before-school chorus rehearsal. It wouldn’t have been so bad getting up an hour earlier than usual if I had actually gone to bed at a reasonable time. Instead, Albie and I stayed up watching Sisters – the hilariously funny movie with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Then, we talked about the movie, then let the dogs out, then talked about how I had to get up ridiculously early, then went to bed around 2:00 am.

So, after dropping my daughter off at school at 7:40 am, I decided I would just “lay down for 10 minutes” since I only had four and a half hours of sleep.

That’s when I had this dream:

I was angrily writing a Facebook post about the importance of breastfeeding in public. I had somehow heard that a woman I knew was breastfeeding her baby on a bench in a park and she was harassed for her indecency. “Dream Me” decided to take a stand against all the breastfeeding bullies in the world and fired off a short exposition about the importance of nursing in public.

I saw myself typing the post.

“I don’t usually use Facebook to get up on a pedestal, but today I can’t just sit by and let another injustice occur. Breastfeeding is totally natural and acceptable and it is just our own hangup as Americans that we find it offensive. People breastfeed in Europe all the time and nobody gets upset. Thank you. I’m off my pedestal.”

When I woke from my short, informative nap, I decided this must be an issue my subconscious (unconscious?) mind feels very strongly about. My conscious mind does, too. I just didn’t realize it was at the top of my list of causes at this point in time since I have no plans to breastfeed again in this lifetime. Ever. I already did that 10 years ago for 17 months. I did it in public and in private – because a hungry baby has no idea where you are and frankly, doesn’t care.

Kind of like my dogs. They don’t care who’s around when I roll out their food containers. They just want to eat.

Please don’t get upset that I compared my dogs to children. Then I’ll have to dream about ranting about how pets are part of the family and should be treated with the utmost respect.

(Here’s the trailer for Sisters, in case you want to check it out. You’re welcome.)