Here’s Who Won June’s
First off, I’d like to congratulate everyone who entered our article-writing contest this month.
This one was a much longer challenge, and we still received loads of well-written entries. Nice work, everyone, and here’s to taking an opportunity to practice your writing skills!
Today, we’re happy to announce we have three winners who will each take home $200.
Here to share the winning entries, and a few tips and insights about what makes a great article, is AWAI’s senior copy chief, Sandy Franks.
You can read each of the winning entries below:
From Food for the Privileged to Food for the Masses:
A Brief (and Surprising!) History of Chocolate
Did you ever wonder, as you’re indulging in your favorite chocolate treat, just where this heavenly food originated?
You might think it was Switzerland, or maybe Belgium. Both countries are famous for their mouthwatering contributions to the world of chocolate.
Or maybe you’d give credit to the good ol’ USA. After all, much of the chocolate we enjoy today is produced right here in America.
But if you dig deeper, you’d have to go back over 2,000 years to discover its true origins. And you’d find it bears little resemblance to the chocolate we all love today.
It all started with the ancient Mesoamericans (the Olmec, Mayans, and Aztecs). They were the first to cultivate the cacao bean, beginning around 1500 B.C.
The Olmecs, the earliest of these civilizations, considered chocolate a symbol of prestige and wealth. It was used in religious rituals and was thought to give users power in battle and even enhanced sexual prowess. (Interestingly, chocolate is still considered an aphrodisiac by many today.)
They would roast the beans and grind them into a paste, mix with water, honey, chili peppers, and other spices, and make a thick, bitter beverage. Frankly, pretty disgusting sounding by today’s standards.
Now fast-forward a few thousand years to the 1500s.Spanish conquistadors had invaded what’s now Mexico in search of gold and silver. They found it, but as luck would have it, it already belonged to the indigenous people. So in the way of conquerors throughout history, the Spaniards simply enslaved or slaughtered the native people and returned to Spain in galleons filled with stolen treasures.
But another treasure they took back to Spain was the cacao bean.
The Spanish added sugar and cinnamon to sweeten the bitter drink, and the beverage became a symbol of luxury, wealth, and power. Because it was costly to prepare, it was out of reach of common people.
And so it remained until the invention of the steam engine in the late 1700s. Grinding and processing the cacao beans became easier, cheaper, and made mass production possible. This eventually led to the creation of the chocolate delicacies we all know and love today.
And there you have it: a very brief history of chocolate.
So the next time you’re enjoying your favorite chocolate treat, maybe send a silent “thank you!” back through time to those ancient people for giving the world the gift of the cacao bean.
Because can you imagine living in a world where chocolate didn’t exist?
5 Reasons to Foster Dogs and Start Saving Lives Today
Why would I want to foster dogs? It would be too hard to let them go!
Yes, a common reservation I heard frequently as president of a rescue organization.
There are numerous benefits to fostering, though, that far outweigh letting the dog go (to a wonderful forever home, I might add).
Let me give you five of the reasons to foster dogs:
#1: Save the lives of multiple dogs by fostering just one
Not only do you save the life of the dog you pull from the shelter to foster, but also the life of another dog who now has a spot at that shelter.
Making room in your home for a foster dog makes room in the shelter for another stray dog or owner surrender.
#2: Multiply the odds of the dog staying in an adoptive home
By allowing the foster dog to live in your home while awaiting adoption, he becomes adjusted to home and family life.
Countless dogs in shelters have lived unhappy lives apart from families, whether loose on the streets, locked in kennels, or chained in backyards.
When the dog lives with a foster family prior to adoption, he learns how to live inside a home and co-exist with humans and other furry siblings.
He learns house manners, housebreaking, and how to socialize with children and other animals.
By learning these essentials, the dog’s chances of remaining in an adoptive home multiply.
#3: Receive unconditional love
Nowhere else will you get the unconditional love that a dog can provide!
Dogs are loving, forgiving souls. And they know who has saved them.
They will love and cherish you more than any human can.
#4: Gather information to place the dog in the best home
Having the foster dog in your home gives the rescue group, and yourself, time to learn about the dog before placing him in an adoptive home.
You see his personality, his preferences, and his quirks.
Is a quiet or an active home more appropriate? Is the dog a couch potato or does he want to go for long runs? Does he do better with small children to play with or would he prefer only adults who will let him chill?
These specifics are invaluable to recognize the best type of home and family suitable for the dog.
#5: Relish the emotional reward
Volunteering is a truly rewarding experience.
Especially when you are saving the life of a needy animal who cannot save himself.
Fostering is a win-win. Beneficial to the foster parent, the rescue group, the adoptive family, and of course, the dog.
Yes, it may be hard to let them go when they become part of your family, even temporarily.
But when you find that perfect forever family for your foster dog, the joy and gratification are unrivaled. And that is the best reward.
For more information on fostering, or other ways you can help, contact us at Tails of Hope Pet Rescue.
Get Out in the Backyard and Make Some ‘Smokin’’ Good Meals!
About six months ago, I took up the hobby of smoking …
NO, not that kind of smoking — I’m talking about smoking meat.
I’ve been interested in smoking meat for quite a while, but just never took the time to get started. But now that I have, I’m really glad I did. I really enjoy the process, and the food is amazing! Plus there’s something rewarding about preparing delicious foods for yourself and your family.
If you’ve ever considered smoking meat, I highly encourage you to give it a try.
You will need some basic kitchen tools and supplies to get started, like tongs and aluminum foil — and of course, a smoker.
Smokers can be a little pricey, but if you watch for sales — Black Friday — clearance sales, etc., chances are you can find a good deal. I was fortunate to be looking through some ads one day, and saw my smoker on clearance for half price (I couldn’t get to the store fast enough!). With a little patience and persistence, there’s no reason you can’t find a deal just as good (or even better).
There are basically two different types of smokers, based on what they burn. Some burn actual slabs of wood or wood chips, while others burn wood pellets, which are made from shredded wood, pressed into tiny pellets.
Smokers that burn wood slabs typically use either an electric burner, propane burner, or charcoal to get the fire started. Pellet smokers use an electric igniter, which gets red hot and starts the pellets burning.
Which type of smoker you buy really depends on how much time you’re willing to put into it.
With a wood-burning smoker, you need to have a supply of wood, which you can cut yourself, or you can buy some places. Once the fire is started, you have to watch it closely to maintain the temperature you want. Many people prefer this type, because they think it produces the most natural smoke flavor.
Pellet smokers, on the other hand, have a hopper that you fill with pellets, which you can buy at many large chain stores. And starting a pellet smoker is usually just a matter of flipping a switch and letting it warm up.
Just like wood is available in many different species, pellets are also available in several varieties. Some of the most popular (wood and pellets) are apple, cherry, hickory, and mesquite.
So if you’re looking to get started smoking your own meat without putting in a lot of extra time and work, I’d recommend you go with a pellet smoker.
But, if you’re looking for more of a “down to earth” experience — cutting your own wood, building and tending the fire, then by all means try out a real wood-burning smoker.
Before you know it, you’ll be making delicious smoked ribs, pork chops, salmon, pulled pork, and more — maybe even cheese (that’s right, you can smoke cheese, and it’s delicious!).
To everyone who submitted an entry for June — again, great job!
Ready for your next challenge?
Our July contest is coming up on Tuesday, July 5, so watch for the contest announcement in your email inbox.
And in the meantime — keep writing every day!
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