Saturday, June 03, 2006

Potatoes Anna in the Kitchen

It started Wednesday when an e-mail arrived with the heading "911 -- Help!" Lila had a problem. Her boyfriend (they told his parents they were engaged Friday evening) had been talking her up to his parents. Talking her up and inflating her with regards to cooking. Lila was told to bring a dish to Friday's dinner. Though he'd played down the big news on the way, he'd raved and raved over Lila's cooking.

Lila wrote, "I asked him, 'Nachos? That's your idea of cooking?' That's the only thing I've ever cooked for him." She didn't know what to do. She felt it would compound the dishonesty to haul some takeout over and pass it off as her own. "I can slice," she wrote, "and that may be about it. I skipped Home Ec in high school, don't regret it, and don't know what I can cook. I can't do anything fancy but I've got to take something."

I wrote back, "Are you scared of the oven?" She wasn't. So I suggested this recipe.

Potatoes Anna
6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup of butter
Salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes, then slice them into round pieces 1/6 to 1/8 inch thick. (Thinner will make them even more crisp.) Use the butter to grease a casserole or pie dish. Take the potato slices and lay them down, overlapping, spiral-like. Do this in layers, building each layer upon the previous with. With each layer season lightly with salt and pepper while adding bits of butter. When you've completed the layers, cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. If the potatoes are not brown and crisp, bake for an additional five minutes. Once the baking is completed, place a plate (serving side down) on top of the dish, then invert so that the potatoes are now on the plate. It's now ready to eat. If you're bringing it as a dish to a get together, cover it immediately with foil so that it will keep warm.

Lila made the dish as a test run on Thursday and invited two of her best friends over to sample with the advice that they be as critical as possible. She was advised she needed to use more pepper and less salt but otherwise, everyone thought it turned out well.

Friday evening, she made the dish for the second time. She was nervous but it turned out well and, at her then-boyfriend's parent's home, everyone found it delightful. We're working on a casserole right now and that will be next week's recipe. (Tomorrow, there's a pot luck get together where they'll be informing his brothers and sister of the engagement.) She's already informed her future mother-in-law that she'd just learned to make Potatoes Anna and that her cooking abilities had been highly inflated. Her mother-in-law-to-be thinks she's modest. But as Lila pointed out, "I told the truth so no one can come back later and accuse me of lying."

Lila thought she had a "cooking crisis" on her hand. To my way of thinking, there are two cooking times you're faced with actual emergencies, not enough food on hand or something burned beyond a quick scrape. When I'd asked her how she felt about potatoes, her immediate response was that she couldn't take mashed potatoes because that was "too much work" and baked potatoes were out because that really "wasn't cooking." But there are many things you can do with potatoes and tonight's recipe is one example. Aong with mashing, baking and boiling, there are very simple recipes that will produce very tasteful food. So if you look through the kitchen one evening and find nothing but potatoes, don't despair.

Kat just posted her latest review: "Kat's Korner: Janis Ian blows in on a gentle breeze." I'd mentioned to her how much I liked the CD Folk Is The New Black and asked her to let me know when she posted her review of it. If you missed it, my son Mike spoke with her for "My interview with Kat" so please check that out. And you can read her seven previous reviews as well:

1) "Kat's Korner: Pink's not dead or silent"
2) "Kat's Korner: Pearl Jam does Pearl Jam"
3) "Kat's Korner: Need deeper? Check out Josh Ritter's The Animal Years"
4) "Kat's Korner: Richie Havens: The Economical Collection"
5) "Kat's Korner: Neil Young's Living With War -- key word 'Living'"
6) "Kat's Korner: Springsteen's Seeger Sessions"
7) "Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way"

Another thing you have may have missed is a wonderful roundtable featuring Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and of The Third Estate Sunday Review, and Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix:

"roundtable with cedric, betty, c.i. and myself participating"
"news via Democracy Now and a conversation in three parts"
"A conversation in three parts"
"Focusing on the paper to avoid my husband"

C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" Friday ran down the basics on the three investigations into American troops activities in Iraq:

There are at least three alleged incidents in Iraq that are under some form of investigation. (Remember that The Christian Science Monitor asked mid-week whether or not the military could investigation itself.) For two who were confused by the new ones noted last night, there is Haditha. Haditha took place November 19, 2005 and resulted in the deaths of twenty-four civilians. This is the one Rep. John Murtha has spoken of and that has had the most attention and media focus. Next, there is Ishaqi which took place in March 15th of this year. For background refer to Democracy Now!'s March report as well as the BBC's report on a tape that has turned up which appears to refute the US military claims. In that incident, the official version is that "four people died during a military operation" when a building that was on fire collapsed on them while the version put foward by Iraqi police is that "US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people." The third incident under attention currently took place on April 26th of this year in Hamandiya this is where one man died and US troops are accused of planting a shovel and gun on him while insisting that he was attempting to plant a roadside bomb. This is the incident that David S. Cloud (NYT) reported "[m]ilitary prosecutors are preparing murder, kidnapping and conspiracy chargs against seven marines and a Navy corpsman" for. Kidnapping? When Jim Miklaszewski reported it for NBC Sunday, he noted that the allegations included taking the man from his home, murdering him and then attempting to hide their own actions by planting the shovel and gun on him.
Those are the three incidents currently under some form of investigation and media light.
On the middle item, Jonathan Karl of ABC News (ABC, United States) is reporting that with regards to the events in Ishaqi, "military officials have completed their investigation and have concluded U.S. forces followed the rules of engagement." Which one is that? This is the one that BBC only recently reported having a tape of. One might argue far too recently for "military officials" to have "completed" anything that could pass for a full investigation. Or, as Australia's ABC puts it, "But a video obtained by the BBC shows evidence that the people were shot." Among the dead so-called insurgents in this incident that alleged followed "the rules of engagement," Australia's ABC reports were "a 65 year old grandmother and a six-month old baby." The Independent of London summarizes thusly: "But the BBC said its tape, which comes in the wake of the alleged massacre in Haditha in November, showed a number of dead adults and children at the site with gunshot wounds."
Pressure on the Iraqi prime minister and puppet of the occupation, Nuri al-Maliki, has led to his announcing that Iraq will launch their own investigation. As Ferry Biedermann notes in the Financial Times of London, this investigation is supposed to "look into other allegations of misconduct by the US-led forces in Iraq and the way troops behave toward the civilian population after they have come under attack." The Guardian of London reports that al-Maliki informed US ambassador to Iraq (and puppet master) Zalmay Khalilzad of this decision "during a visit to a power station."

I think about the above and my stomach just goes into knots. The roundtable I highlighted earlier does a wonderful job of addressing the topic. (Your stomach won't go into knots reading that.) But when I think about any of the three, and, I guess more importantly, the reaction in this country which is to disavow accountability on all except the Bully Boy, it just makes me feel ill.

Truthout has posted a wonderful excerpt from a new book. This is from Peter Laufer's new book, Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq:

"We was going along the Euphrates River," says Joshua Key, a 27-year-old former U.S. soldier from Oklahoma, detailing a recurring nightmare - a scene he stumbled on shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. "It's a road right in the city of Ramadi. We turned a real sharp right and all I seen was decapitated bodies. The heads laying over here and the bodies over here and U.S. troops in between them. I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, what in the hell happened here? What's caused this? Why in the hell did this happen?' We get out and somebody was screaming, 'We f**king lost it here!' I'm thinking, 'Oh, yes, somebody definitely lost it here.'"
Joshua says he was ordered to look around for evidence of a firefight, for something to rationalize the beheaded Iraqis. "I look around just for a few seconds and I don't see anything." But then he noticed the sight that now triggers his nightmares. "I see two soldiers kicking the heads around like a soccer ball. I just shut my mouth, walked back, got inside the tank, shut the door, and it was like, I can't be no part of this. This is crazy. I came here to fight and be prepared for war but this is outrageous. Why did it happen? That's just my question: Why did that happen?"
He's convinced there was no firefight that led to the beheading orgy - there were no spent shells to indicate a battle. "A lot of my friends stayed on the ground, looking to see if there was any shells. There was never no shells, except for what we shot. I'm thinking, Okay, so they just did that because they wanted to do it. They got trigger happy and they did it. That's what made me mad in Iraq. You can take human lives at a fast rate and all you have to say is, say, 'Oh, I thought they threw a grenade. I thought I seen this, I thought I seen that.' You could mow down 20 people each time and nobody's going to ask you, 'Are you sure?' They're going to give you a high five and tell you that you was doing a good job."

That's going to be it from me tonight. I'm depressed by the reported war crimes and more depressed that the only blame seems to be laid at the Bully Boy's door step. If the reports are accurate, war crimes were committed and the criminals aren't just the ones at the top, they're the ones who did the killing with their own hands.

Stealing from Wally's way of noting highlights, recommended:

"NYT: Re: Haditha, ask the Times for a correction"
"And the war drags on . . . (Indymedia Roundup)"
"My interview with Kat"
"more marine news and talking about my grandmother"
"Quick post"
"TV commentary: About the women"
"Kat's Korner: Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way home while NYT gets lost along the way"
"TV commentary: About the women."