Books for Understanding Politics

Global politics seems to have gone off the rails in recent years. We have more populists today than at any point since World War II, internal polarization, and conspiracy theories getting treated like facts.

Whether you believe the news is fake or not is a personal choice. When you’re ready to understand politics better, these books are the ones you’ll want to read.

1. What You Should Know About Politics But Don’t

This book reviews the most pressing issues you can find in modern American politics. It takes a nonpartisan view on climate change, energy use, and why both parties take a specific stance. You’ll discover whether you lean right, left, or toward the middle.

2. Fascism: A Warning

Madeleine Albright, who formerly served as one of America’s Secretary of States, released this title in 2018. It examines how fascist rule developed in the 20th century, including reviewing the warning signs of this problematic structure. You’ll also get to know the after-effects a little more.

3. Team of Rivals

This exciting book serves as the foundation for the 2012 movie Lincoln. It profiles America’s arguably most famous president, telling the story of how he went from a rural lawyer to one of the most influential people in the world. He worked to achieve victory in the Civil War even though his cabinet wasn’t always on his side.

4. The Populist Explosion

Although some readers might feel the author is a little biased in this work, it is a fact-based discussion about how populism becomes a political force. It’s written by a journalist who posits that this atmosphere will endure on both sides of American politics – and governments throughout the world.

5. Alexander Hamilton

Ron Chernow’s biography inspired the Broadway hit, painting a vivid picture of this early president. It’s a fantastic read for anyone who wants to get to know the founding fathers better.

When you tackle these titles along with current political blogs, you’ll have the chance to understand more about why decisions get made the way they do.

These States Are Known for Their Fruit Harvest

When you wake up in the morning, you probably take a multivitamin to help your body get ready for the day. If you live in some states, their fruit harvest can provide a similar outcome.

That’s not to say you don’t want brands like Nutridyn and Bluebonnet in your pantry or medicine cabinet. A well-rounded approach to your health ensures that nutritional deficiencies won’t occur.

The following states can give you the fruit you need for a boost of vitamins and minerals with some of your favorite options from the store.

1. Alabama

You’ll find blackberries coming ripe throughout the state when June comes along to visit. The vines offer sweet, semi-tart options that are perfect for pies, snacking, and more.

2. Connecticut

The unique climate you’ll find in this state is perfect for Asian pears. They grow crisp and sweet so that you have a September to remember. Several local orchards even let you go out there to pick your own.

3. Delaware

The strawberry is the state fruit because you can find dozens of farms out there growing this tasty offering. You’ll want to plan ahead during the summer months because places like Walnut Springs get packed quickly.

4. Maine

There aren’t many fruits that have a beautiful blue color. If you visit Maine during the summer, you can come home with baskets of blueberries that are perfect for shortcake.

5. Massachusetts

Although the cranberry isn’t the most popular fruit you’ll find because of its tartness, the bogs where it grows can help you get the antioxidants needed to cleanse free radicals from your body.

6. Washington

Although you can find numerous fruits growing in the coastal climate that this state offers, the apples that grow here get shipped around the world. They’re sweet, crunchy, and filled with lots of good stuff.

What are your favorite fruits to eat each day?

What Makes an Idaho® Potato Special?

Idaho® Potatoes are so special that the state is a trademarked part of the name. What makes this crop better in this state than anywhere else in the world?

Although the marketing efforts for Idaho Potatoes are excellent, people keep coming back because of the flavors and consistency that the state produces each year.

That outcome is possible because there are three traits that you’ll find in Idaho for potato-growing which isn’t available in other parts of the United States (or the rest of the world).

  1. Most of the potatoes grown in Idaho come from the eastern part of the state where elevations are around 5,000 feet above sea level. That means you get warm summer days and cool nights.
  2. The croplands sit at the base of the Teton Mountains. Those summits collect snow each year that serves as an aquafer that delivers nutrients and irrigation for the potatoes.
  3. The Snake River basin was given a massive coating of volcanic dust millennia ago. That event produced a light soil foundation that is perfect for potato growth.

How Are Idaho Potatoes Better Than the Rest?

Because the growing conditions are so favorable in Idaho for potatoes, you’ll find that they tend to have some unique traits that aren’t found in other locations.

For starters, the texture of an Idaho potato is often better. It tends to be fluffy instead of dense, allowing for a more enjoyable dining experience. This quality remains even when you do a long, slow bake on them.

If you fry the Idaho potatoes to create French fries or other items, they outer part cooks up crisply while the interior absorbs less oil.

Since a potato has more potassium and vitamin C than a banana, it’s a vegetable that deserves the attention it receives. If you’re looking for a tasty treat, grab a potato from Idaho today!

These 5 States Make the Best Grits

Grits is any coarsely-ground grain that gets turned into a porridge-like dish. It’s typically made from a starchy corn, with the product often soaked in lye to remove the hard hull.

If you’ve had hominy before, you got to try the root form of grits.

It’s different from polenta, although the latter option is essentially Italian grits. The primary difference is that it is made from cornmeal.

If you want to taste authentic Americana, you’ll want to book a flight through WestJet and visit these states where they make the best grits in the country.

List of the States Where You Must Try Their Grits

1. South Carolina

If you want some of the best grits in the United States, you’ll need to visit Poogan’s Porch in Charleston. It’s often named the best dish of its type in the state, and it has even received some national recognition. They use local shrimp and grains to create more freshness.

2. Mississippi

Head over to Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford if you want some incredible grits. The restaurant sources the ingredients from a small business that uses locally stone-ground corn to create the dish. They won’t disappoint!

3. Louisiana

When you head over to New Orleans, take some time to visit The Court of Two Sisters. It’s right in the French Quarter, and they use a traditional grits recipe that works well with their jazz buffet.

4. Georgia

When you visit The Flying Biscuit Café in Atlanta, the white cheddar infusion they use creates a dreamy experience. Pair them with their trademark biscuits to have a mouthwatering experience!

5. North Carolina

At the Mimosa Grill, Sunday mornings are meant for grits and brunch. You can select from several topping choices to have a customized flavor experience.

Do you have a favorite grits recipe at home when making this dish? What are your secrets for a successful outcome? Let us know!

Here’s Why We Celebrate the 4th With Fireworks

One of the iconic traditions for the 4th of July celebrations that happen each year in the United States is to light fireworks. Did you know that we all have President John Adams to thank for this tradition?

When Adams was getting ready to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he wrote a letter to his wife. In it, he said that the moment would be one of the most memorable occasions in America’s history. It should be solemnized with numerous activities, including bonfires and illuminations, from “one end of the continent to the other.”

Since Adams was a well-known figure in the colonies, it didn’t take long for his wishes to spread to each community. Only one year later, in 1777, the first party to celebrate the 4th of July was held in Philadelphia. They set off 13 firework rockets in the town square.

The U.S. Has Never Had a 4th of July Without Fireworks

Although most cities didn’t celebrate with fireworks on that first 4th of July remembrance, it has been a holiday when fireworks have always been present. Even if we’re not celebrating together in person because of the ongoing pandemic, the colorful displays in the sky are still viewable online or while following social distancing.

It’s a unique holiday tradition, especially since most historians think that fireworks were invented over 2,300 years ago in China.

Adams would be proud of what would become a holiday tradition if he could see it today. From hot dogs and apple pie to the pomp and circumstance of community parades, this day is one of the few times when people set their differences aside to celebrate their country.

Can you imagine what would be possible if we were to follow the same process each day that we do when celebrating the founding of the United States?

States with the Best Seafood

If you love having seafood, you’ll find that some states do a better job of delivering the ocean’s bounty than others.

You don’t need to live in a coastal state to enjoy fresh seafood. Many areas have inland waters, including rivers and lakes, that offer freshwater fish and other species to enjoy.

Here are the best states for seafood you’ll want to visit. If you already live in one of them, you should consider yourself lucky!

1. California

With almost 900 miles of coastline to manage, you’ll find a wide range of seafood to enjoy here. When you’re in SoCal, expect to find everything from rock crab to spot prawns. As you travel north, you can find Dungeness crab, abalone, and oysters.

2. Florida

The Intracoastal waters and access to deep-water fishing make this state a fantastic seafood destination. When you add the Gulf of Mexico into the mix, the bounty becomes phenomenal! You can get almost anything here, including snapper, grouper, spiny lobster, and several crab species.

3. Louisiana

About 40% of the country’s estuary marshes are found in this state. It’s the home to the largest commercial fishery as well, producing everything from oysters to catfish. If you stop for a visit, don’t forget about the crawfish that came from the local waters!

4. Alaska

With nearly 7,000 miles of coastline, some of the best seafood you’ll eat comes from this state. Many of the king crab, halibut, salmon, and shrimp supplies we enjoy come from these waters. You can even talk with the wholesalers about shipping items directly to your door.

5. Massachusetts

The fishing industry is what helped to build this state’s economy in its early days. That’s because over 80 different seafood species live off of the coast. You’ll love the bass, trout, and tuna that are plentiful, and you can even grab clams and oysters in season.

Where do you like to go for your seafood adventures?

On another note, does anyone know where to go for a good pepperoni roll?

5 Smallest Towns and Why They’re Great

You should visit New Glarus at least once. This small town of about 2,000 people sits halfway between Madison and Monroe in Wisconsin. You’ll find Swiss culture is prevalent throughout the community, even with the chalets that serve as residential homes.

You’ll even find an award-winning brewery operating in the community. With numerous festivals, alphorn concerns, and Swiss-related businesses, it’s a cool small town.

Here are some other small towns in the United States and why they’re great.

1. Fairhope, AL

This Southern community has a French Quarter, one of the state’s best hotels, and access to a fantastic spa. You can find two golf courses awaiting your arrival, with both often rated as some of the best in the United States.

2. Unalaska, AK

About 4,500 people live in this small town that became famous after the Deadliest Catch series premiered. Several major cruise lines have now added it as a destination. You can do some whale watching, catch a fishing charter, and explore the wartime history from the 1940s.

3. Eureka Springs, AR

This small town is often listed as one of America’s most distinctive destinations. You’ll find Victorian-style homes perched on cliffs, over 100 shops in the downtown area, and plenty of galleries to explore.

4. Carmel, CA

This village might only be one square mile in size, but it is one of the best small towns in the US. You’ll find fairytale cottages there, upscale boutiques, and a famous basilica to tour. If you love to visit the beach, this destination is for you.

5. Mancos, CO

When you visit this small town, you’ll be right outside of Mesa Verde National Bark. About 10% of the town’s population are working artists, writers, and other creatives. With the mountains on one side and ranches on the other, it’s a fantastic spot for those who want to live a slower lifestyle.

What are some of the best small towns you’ve visited?

Why Kentucky Is the Bourbon Capital of the World

Although there isn’t a law that says bourbon must be made in Kentucky, there might as well be with the production levels that happen there. The corn-based spirits age in barrels to create about 95% of the world’s supply.

If you think that something must be in the water in Kentucky to make great bourbon, you’d be right. Much of the state is on top of blue limestone deposits, adding more magnesium and calcium to the groundwater tables.

When you dunk a cup into a Kentucky stream, the water will taste better than almost anything else you’ll find in the country.

Kentucky’s Weather Contributes to the Bourbon

The continental climate you can find in Kentucky also makes the state an excellent place for making bourbon. You get hot summers and chilly winters, allowing the whiskey to develop its distinctive flavor within the charred aging barrels.

Those temperature changes allow the wood to breathe, creating the expansion and contraction needed for the alcohol to move in and out.

That facet of Kentucky life is also why corn production in the state occurs at high levels. Immigrants from Virginia were given 400 acres of land to use if they built a cabin and planted the crop, with many of them coming from Ireland and Scotland.

With the distilling knowledge they brought with them, Kentucky was a paradise for those who loved bourbon.

Kentucky Bourbon Changed the Recipe

It’s said that a Baptist preacher invented bourbon after storing whiskey in barrels that got charred by a fire. State officials say there isn’t any truth to that idea.

By 1794, there were already 500 distilleries operating in the state. Most of them got to work relatively tax-free until the Civil War, except for a War of 1812 tax.

You can make bourbon almost anywhere with the right ingredients. If you don’t get your spirits from Kentucky, what are you actually drinking?

Books That Share the Real Stories About American Cowboys

When you think about the Wild West, what comes to mind? It is a set of stories about cowboys, Native Americans, gangs, sheriffs, and the occasional gold rush for many people.

It’s one of the most romanticized eras of American history. If you look at what happened in the late 1800s, it’s also about two decades of homesteading that doesn’t fit the fantastic tales Westerns offer.

If you want to know about the real stories of American cowboys, here are the books you’ll want to read.

1. Lonesome Dove

Although there are some fantastical elements in this story, it has everything from cattle drives to riverboat gamblers. It’s one of the few stories that paint an overview of the myth while keeping the people real and flawed.

2. Legends of the Fall

This collection of three novellas is one of the best stories of cowboys in the Wild West that you can find. The author uses an omniscient view that shows a lifetime of trials (and sometimes tragedy) that families encountered after moving West.

3. Appaloosa

If you want to catch some authentic dialogue from a Wild West marshal, you’ll want to pick up this book to read. It’s a classic tale of a lawless town with new lawmen providing some cover. You’ll get a feel for the authentic environment without everything getting blown out of proportion.

4. Desert Solitaire

This non-fiction book delivers a tribute to the American west, including all of the wild places you can find in the southwestern states. It’s written by a ranger who served at Arches National Park, delivering an honest commentary on what it means to live on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

5. Cowboy Life: Reconstructing an American Myth

This 1975 novel is a landmark study on the legendary role of the American cowboy in the Wild West. It follows the daily duties of what this life was like in the Great Plains from the 1860s to about 1900, including a discussion about how Lonesome Dove and other stories influence modern perceptions about it.

What are some of your favorite cowboy stories that you’d recommend?

The Bloody History of Texas Chili

Texas chili is one of those dishes that people tend to love or hate. Numerous recipes have developed over the years, some with meat and others without, creating a spicy soup-like dish with beans, peppers, corn, and other vegetables.

This dish’s popularity is so strong that it has spent over four decades as Texas’s state dish despite the region’s love of barbecue.

What many do not know about chili is that it has a remarkably bloody history.

Chili Was Served in Texas in the 1860s

The first chili dishes were introduced by women called “Chili Queens” in San Antonio. During the 1860s, they provided these meals in the Military Plaza to soldiers operating in the area.

You could also find chili stands in Houston and Galveston, delivering the combination of dried cumin and peppers with tamales. Local laborers began to see it as a quick and filling meal, especially when they realized that beans went well.

If you go back even earlier, Mexican families served spicy dishes out of the slums and hovels around Texas. Some writers during the time described the house-based restaurants as serving a plate with “a fiery pepper that bites like a serpent.”

The original recipe was red pepper, peas, beef, and gravy for chili con carne in San Antonio. A newspaper article from the time says that “they always have enough to go around, for no stranger, no matter how terrific a durned fool he is, ever calls for a second dish.”

Then they say you can’t put water in him fast enough with a “steam engine hose.”

Why Is the History of Texas Chili “Bloody?”

Although laborers enjoyed chili on a lunch break, much like we want to visit a taco truck today, this dish served as a simple military recipe that could be taken almost anywhere.

If it was cold outside, soldiers could eat the chili to get warmer. It was filling, satisfying, and something to provide energy for a battle to come.

There’s also the history of San Antonio to consider. It could be argued that no other community in the United States has seen as much conflict.

Whatever the case may be, you’ll find that modern chili is still as tasty as its predecessor recipes.