This book explains how palm oil and high-fructose corn syrup came to be the main ingredients in American processed food and how convenience foods and fast food came to be the predominant source of sustenance for many American people. I think that later in the book there will be discussions of the health effects of this, but I am currently just in the politics and economics section.

You may have noticed before that I find the connections between economics and history fascinating. If you do, too, you should put this book on your reading list. The same author has a new one coming out that looks at the prescription drug industry, and is planning one on cell phones, so you can see that he has his finger on the pulse of U.S. industries.

But this may not be a comfortable read for all of us. I think that I can read this book cheerfully because I do not eat much processed food or fast food, and use palm oil strictly for soapmaking. When I checked the labels in my kitchen, I found HFCS in the bottle of corn syrup left over from last Thanksgiving’s pecan pie and in a bottle of barbecue sauce which I bought from laziness when I didn’t feel like making my own. If you visit fast food restaurants 22 times a month (this is their goal for you, I was astonished to learn) and have a kitchen full of convenience foods, you might want to skip this book. It does make you want to go check the labels in your kitchen.

The Headline News cap is getting bigger. I changed needles sizes up to 5s. I increased at either side of the stockinette sections. I knitted a good many more repeats in the unshaped section than the pattern specified. So I now have a healthy-looking hat. I also have no real idea when I should begin decreasing. The pattern said I could go up to 5-7″ for dreadlocks or “big hair”, but I am not convinced that this will actually make the hat larger. It seems as though one would end up with a tube rather than the slouchy circle I am wanting. When you sew a newsboy hat, after all, you cut a couple of circles, not a tube.

Adding to my uncertainty in the matter is Brooklyn, whose sleeves keep growing and growing and growing. We have gone past gorilla length to orangutan length, it seems to me. I feel that I should have begun the decreases several inches earlier than I did. I am also worrying that I will run out of the ecru yarn.

What is the connection between the two? Well, in each case I am using a published pattern. From a book. With an editor or two, no doubt. I want to make the item as pictured. I am not trying to make it “just like that, except with a different neckline and length and stitch.” I am just following the directions. And in each case, I have lost faith. I don’t believe the pattern any more.

So it is probably me, isn’t it? This causes me to doubt my ability to judge appropriate sizes, and wonder whether I should not have just left the hat as it was originally written.

In an attempt to follow the instructions from last week’s HGP, I sent in my Knitpicks order. I am making a dozen wool things, and I figured that I needed about two skeins for each. So I was thinking I would just order up a couple dozen skeins of Wool of the Andes. It appears to be the best bargain around, and I heard good reports of it in the blogs, including from our own Ruby Plaid.

However, I did not do that. I ordered about half that much. Why? Well, I was not sure about the colors. Elann’s Peruvian Highland Wool comes in a greater range of colors, for only about 50 cents more per skein. And this way, if I have to order another ball of that ecru denim cotton, I will  not be as resentful of the shipping costs, because I will be able to add in a dozen skeins of Peruvian Highland Wool. Or, having tried the Wool of the Andes, I will love it so much that I will cheerfully order another dozen of it. Or, I will run out of time and only be able to make half a dozen projects, and not have excessive yarn hanging around.

The HGP for this week has us thoroughly clean our bedrooms, including closets and dressers. We are to put a meal and a batch of “goodies” in the freezer, buy 1/8 of the gifts we intend to purchase, and begin spending an hour a day working on our handmade holiday gifts. Had I followed the instructions from last week properly, this would just be a matter of grabbing the plastic bag marked “Grandpa” or whatever and plunging in. Since I did not follow the instructions properly, there will instead be a certain amount of hemming and hawing and deciding, not to mention waiting for the yarn to arrive and debating about ordering more, but let’s just admit that I enjoy that and move on.

Tomorrow is #2 son’s birthday, so today we are going to meet my parents for lunch at the local Palais de Fried Chicken. I will be eating grilled fish, because I have lately been very far from eating as I should, and have resolved to begin today to return to Eating Right.

Except for birthday cake. #1 son and I went to the bakery with the handsome baker and found a wonderful cake ready-made. #2 son had expressed a desire for a chocolate cake with white icing, and I had intended to make him one at home, with reasonably healthy ingredients, no palm oil or high-fructose corn syrup or anything. #1 son persuaded me that this would be an error.

However, not having called ahead as we usually do to have the handsome baker make a cake to order for us, we had to sneak over there yesterday and hope they had one on hand. Fortunately, after we had discussed removing the flowers from the one they had in their case, the nice ladies there found one in the back which was not girly. Having a girly cake would be almost as bad as having a healthy one, you know?

#1 son also found an excellent candle alternative — a sparkler in the form of #2 son’s first initial. We expect this to be a huge success.

(I discovered, by the way, that the nice lady at the bakery who decorated #1 daughter’s wedding cake was the Pillsbury Grand Champion cake decorator this year. I hadn’t even known that there was a Pillsbury Grand Champion. Just goes to show.)