For the offended

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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Read the label.

     My wife has a cutting board she's fond of. Belonged to her parents, probably 50 years old.
     Now a cutting board gets pretty beat up and sad looking after half a century—a cross-hatching of deep gouges, some kind of black rot settling in one corner.
     Nothing I couldn't clean up with 20 minutes of vigorous sanding with my gorgeous DeWalt orbital sander.
     Which left the challenge of finishing the newly-naked cutting board. You can't use regular stain—it'll get in your food and poison you. But food-grade mineral oil, or block oil, does the trick.
     I presented myself at the local Ace Hardware.
     "Do you have food-grade mineral oil or block oil?" I asked, cutting straight to the point.   
     "Halfway down Aisle 18," he said.
     More like most of the way down Aisle 18, but I found it, eventually, with help. 
     They had both, a large bottle—16 ounces—of Swan Mineral Oil. And a small bottle—8 ounces—of Bayes Wood & Bamboo Conditioner/Protectant. The first cost $6.99. And the second, $7.99. To be honest, I wasn't sure just what "block oil" is, so I read the label, which often cues a potential customer into the contents of a product. Here it explained that the block oil consisted of "100 percent food grade mineral oil."
     Hmm, which to buy, which to buy ... I did the math, and saw that buying the mineral oil gives you twice as much of the same exact same stuff for a dollar less.
     It would seem, in a world where consumers weigh their choices, read labels and think about stuff, that no one would ever buy the block oil. Obviously, we do not live in that world.


  1. Best part of the story is the fact that you asked where food-grade mineral oil was, and the guy actually knew - as opposed to you wandering around Menards or Walmart for 3 hours trying to find the item because an employee, if you found one, doesn't have the first clue what you're talking about.

  2. Not that I'm in the pocket of Big Block Oil, but years from now you will have descendants sorting through your basement. They may wonder why you hid an almost completely full bottle of food-grade oil in with your leftover painting supplies, where finding a half-empty bottle of wood protectant would make sense. And sometimes less is more, more so when dealing with hazardous chemicals.

  3. Imagine a world where people actually read food labels, thought about what they're actually ingesting, and acted accordingly. We would be a healthier nation, that's for certain.

  4. Food grade mineral oil is more highly refined and even though you can ingest mineral oil as a laxative it does not lay down as well on wood and will oxidize and can go rancid.

    Safest thing to use is is the block oil. Worth the extra couple bucks.

    1. 'block oil' is defined as 100% mineral oil.

  5. Does no one else wonder what products were missing from the shelf? I bet the real answer was there.

  6. Kudos for re-posting Philip Evergood’s “An American Tragedy,” depicting Chicago’s Memorial Day Massacre of 1937, (in which police fired into a crowd of striking steelworkers and sympathizers and killed ten, seven of whom were shot in the back). You first posted it a little over a year ago. After yet another senseless police shooting (Oh, no...I fired my gun instead of my taser!), it is especially appropriate to be able to see every excruciating detail.

    The same artwork is also the image on the cover of "The Last Great Strike" by Ahmed White, an excellent book about the labor movement, the CIO, and the bloody 1937 steel strike.

    Evergood was an activist in the Thirties, and his style was part of what came to be known as "Social Realism"...notice how the woman in the foreground has a tree branch in her hand. The Chicago cops claimed they were attacked by Communist thugs with clubs, rocks, and even guns. That was later shown to be a lie, during testimony at Congressional hearings.

    Newsreel film proved that after a tree branch was thrown, the cops began firing. Most of those killed and wounded were actually running away from the police, not toward them. Murder-by-cop has been happening in America for a very long time.

    1. That's right, it was that recent; I saw it at the Whitney in February, 2020. Sorry, I try not to be repetitive. And thanks for the book suggestion, I'm going to seek out "The Last Great Strike."

  7. Hopefully not being too off topic. In my opinion the best board for pastry and bread making is a soft wood with no finish. Over time it develops a minimal stick surface perfect for kneading dough or rolling out pastry. Using a bread board for cutting is verboten, it creates scratches that will snag the dough when trying to build a gluten layer. If you are charged with murder of your significant other, during the trial casually mention they would insist on cutting food on your bread board, instead of the cutting board. You have a good chance of getting a hung jury, if not an acquittal.


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