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If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc

Dateline: December 2, 2004

Here we are headed right into the cold and flu season. The best way to avoid colds and the flu is to avoid crowds of people. If you can't avoid the crowd, wash your hands every time you think of it. This will get you a reputation for being obsessive-compulsive, but it's better than the flu.

The doctor has been getting lots of calls from folks suffering cast-iron ferrousoxideitis. In layman's terms, that's rust on the Dutch oven or cast iron skillet. In all but the most severe cases, the rust can be polished off with fine sandpaper or steel wool. The utensil is then washed, dried and reseasoned. All the instructions for the care and feeding of cast iron can be found elsewhere in

The Doctor also gets lots of calls from folk who had fathers, grandfathers, uncles or the like who cooked things in a hole in the ground. This process is not something that can be written down and a set of standard plans drawn. This is something you learn from watching and doing. The standard drill is to dig a hole of the proper size. Proper size depends on what you are going to cook. While digging the hole you need to allow room for the fire, coals and rocks that will store the heat. The heat-storing rocks need to be the proper size and composition. Some rocks just won't work. The proper amount of wood needs to be burned to coals. The precise measurement for the correct amount is "That looks about right". The food needs to be properly wrapped in banana leaves, burlap, canvas, old bed sheet or whatever. Finally, the experience needed to know how long to cook the item is required. Digging dinner up only to find it's not quite done would require redoing the whole process, which would throw your feeding schedule all off track. The Doctor doesn't want to discourage anyone from doing the primitive cooking. It's just that he's got to the point in life where he thinks it's way more trouble than it's worth.

The Doctor has a friend who is allergic to eggs. The Doctor did a little research and came up with the following that might benefit anyone who does not have eggs on their diet for some reason or other.

Egg substitutes

As leavening

  • 2 tablespoons carbonated water plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon vinegar (add vinegar separately at the end for rising)
  • 1 teaspoon yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of soy flour plus 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon bean flour plus 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons gluten flour or unbleached white flour, 1-1/2 teaspoons corn oil, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 2 tablespoons water, mixed together

    As a binder

  • 1/2 large banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup applesauce or puréed prunes
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed mixed with 3 tablespoons water
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons water, 1-1/2 tablespoons oil, and 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Combine one packet unflavored gelatin with one cup boiling water. Three tablespoons of this mixture equals one egg.
  • 1 tablespoon apricot puree
  • 1/4 cup soft tofu
  • 1/4 cup soy milk For whipping
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum with about 1/4 cup of water. Let stand. It thickens and can be whipped like egg white.

    Now that we have this month's health tips out of the way, let's get right to them questions:

    Tina asks: I would like to know what causes cookies to crumble? Are they too dry, and what should you add to make them more moist and chewy -- not dry?

    Hi Tina. Without knowing what recipe you used, I can't help much. My best guess would be too much shortening. Thanks for writing.
    Dr. John

    Micky wants a smoker: I've acquired a 250-gallon oil drum. I would like to convert this into a smoker. I am stuck on the design and how to do this. Can I put the fire pit right in it, or is it best to have another barrel outside. Why or why not?

    Hi Micky: You need to do some research before you start welding. Hit the library or your bookstore for information on building smokers. Better Homes & Gardens puts out a special book on the subject near every year.

    If you have a good bbq cafe in town, go visit the guy who runs the smoker and ask his opinion of how things should be done. Visit some Internet sites such as to see what the commercial guys are doing. It won't take long for you to get some ideas that you can incorporate into a good working smoker. Thanks for writing.
    Dr. John

    Charles asks about chili powder: I keep seeing chili powders that are marked: California, Sweet New Mexico, light and dark. Is there a big difference between them or is it in the preparation?

    Hi Charles: Chili powders can vary greatly in taste, color, the heat they contain and texture. Each pepper produces a different powder.

    The foundation powder is from the Ancho. All your chili blends start with the Ancho. Peppers of the same variety can vary from crop to crop. Growing conditions affect the end product. You just have to experiment and find the powder that best suits your needs. Thanks for writing.
    Dr. John

  • If you have a question for Doctor John, send an email to moc.oohay@nevarkeerc
    end article

    Traditional Texas Food Articles
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