Saturday, November 18, 2006

Panic in the Kitchen?

A number of readers e-mailed to say last week's post calmed them down. I was already to think "good" but then I read on. "I need something amazing!" seemed to be the tone of many e-mails. Something amazing to take to a Thanksgiving gathering.

No, you don't. You don't need amazing in the sense that people will see the dish and "ooh" over it. You're not going to a photo shoot. You'll be attending a dinner. At a dinner people eat. You want something that will be eaten. So instead of attempting a new recipe (Suzette's been trying all week to make cranberry sauce from scratch), find a recipe that's worked for you in the past -- from here or elsewhere.

The biggest compliment to something you cooked isn't, "Oh, that looks amazing!" The biggest compliment is an empty pan. With that and e-mails requesting another potato recipe in mind, I'm offering this:

Potato Strips with Cheese
3 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup or 3 ounces of cheese
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the potatoes into strips the way you would if you were making fries. If you leave the skins on normally, leave them on, otherwise peal the potato skins. You need a rectangular dish ideally and it should be 10 x 7 and glass. Place the strips of potato into the dish. Pour the 1/2 cup of milk on top. Dot the strips with butter. Sprinkle with pepper and salt (omit salt for people who have to wash sodium intake). Cover the dish and put it in the oven to bake for 45 minutes at 425 degrees (on baking, remember those with electric ovens, you do not bake on the 'preheat' setting).

Are you cooking in your own kitchen? If so you will now sprinkle with the cheese of your choice. You will then sprinkle some parsely on top of that for a visual more than anything else. This is not a layer of parsley. Just a bit to give it another texture and another visual. Put the dish, uncovered, back in the oven and bake for an additional ten minutes. You are now done. (Make sure the milk has been absorbed. If not, extend for five minutes.)

Are you taking the dish to another home? Stop after the initial forty-five minute baking period. If you're dish is warm, get a cardboard box to carry it in. There are things made for carrying but I prefer a square cardboard box. Why? When you put it in the car, the dish is safe in the box. Everyone knows the box is there, they don't accidentally step on it. In a container, combine the cheese and parsley. By keeping the dish with the potato strips covered, it is staying warm. That's the entire time it's covered. So if you are unable to get it to an oven upon immediate arrival, do not panic.

You need to heat it for ten more minutes. Ask (ahead of time) whether you can use the oven or microwave oven. Either will do. You don't need to make alternate preparations for using either, but you do need to ask ahead time. When I'm cooking and people show up, I always remember who gave me a heads up that they'd need space. The person responsible for most of the cooking has enough headaches without worrying about a long list of people waiting to use their resources.
Asking ahead of time may not put you top of the list. I've often let a whiner go first just to get rid of him or her. But it will be appreciated, that you gave a heads up, by the person whose kitchen you're using. You need ten minutes of oven or microwave oven time tops. Most of the milk will have absorded during the time the lid was kept on (do not remove it) after you took the dish out of your own oven. The dish, covered, will have acted in the same way that a slow cooker does. So do not panic as you wait your turn. You also want your dish to be warm so do not get nervous if you're near the end of the line. Pies, for instance, need to cool, so they should go in before anything that's being served as part of the meal.

When it is your turn, sprinkle the cheese and parsley on top, put it in the oven at 425 degrees (don't worry about preheating unless the oven is cold) for ten minutes. You did not do this at your home because if you had, warming it up now may lead the cheese to burn. You are putting the dish in the oven without the cover. If you'll be eating within ten minutes, you may not want to put the cover back on. If it'll be more than ten minutes, place the cover back on the dish and leave it on until it's time to start eating. That will keep the potatoes warm.

If you're using a microwave, you will probably need ten minutes. Do it in two five minute periods to make sure you do not overcook the cheese. As with the conventional oven, cover the dish after you take it out of the microwave unless dinner is starting within ten minutes.

I love mashed potatoes. I never eat the dish I've just given the recipe for (or never at Thanksgiving). But I make it every year and it's always the first pan emptied. I think it's because it's similar to fries. Most children who try to avoid vegetables will eat it. (We've discussed the cheese factor before.) Many adults will as well.

If you're responsible for the turkey, people will remember and talk about that. The same with a dessert. Everything that is a side will be overlooked by most. The compliment is did it all get eaten. The reason sides are brought to a meal is to be eaten. They can also extend a turkey. Drop ins often mean that the turkey you thought was big enough isn't. A side dish that goes quickly is appreciated not just by the people who eat it but by the person responsible for most of the cooking.

Unless you are famous for bringing a green bean casserole (can of green beans, can of mushroom soup, onion topping of some sort), do not take one. Everyone makes that dish and everyone thinks they make it well. Everyone is not correct. (And you may be 'infamous' for that dish -- not 'famous' for it.) If you've never mastered it, don't bother to. That's the one thing all my friends complain about after Thanksgiving and Christmas -- how too many people brought that, how too few ate it. Because the ingredients are all canned (most use onions that are similar to Funyons -- the snack) it's apparently considered an easy dish to master. Few who think they've mastered it actually have. What you usually end up with is a running dish that no one wants to look at, let alone eat.

If you usually take that dish and are wondering, "Do people think that about me?" well . . . Unless you're prone to paranoia, they probably do think that about your dish. So drop it. Immediately. The fact that the potato recipe above is easy is one reason I went with it. Another reason is that since most Thanksgiving dinners include mashed potatoes, very few people bring other potatoe based dishes. You can bring that and be pretty sure that you're not replicating someone else's dish. If children will be present, especially bring it. They love it. (I have a nephew who has to put ketchup on it. He's been that way since he was a child and he is that way now that he's a young man. It's because they're similar to fries. And that's why the dish is popular. Don't be offended if someone asks for ketchup.)

If there's a dish you've already prepared this year and you were happy with the way it turned out, prepare it. Don e-mailed that he was thinking about the cole slaw recipe up here this summer because he made it and it turned out well. He was wondering if he could bring it since it's "a picnic food"? It's a salad. There may be some who will not eat turkey or any other meat. They'll be grateful it's there. There are salad eaters who do eat meat that will still be grateful it's there, chances are. If you bring it or another dish that causes someone to say that it's not really "Thanksgiving food," just reply that you were trying to bring something that wasn't already being brought. (Green bean casserole people tend to be the most critical of the dishes other people brought. Again, the confidence must come from the fact that all their ingredients come from a can.)

Now I'm moving quickly because C.I.'s already done this morning's entry and, due to a catching a plane, saved it to draft. Jim's posting it today. And he's waiting on me to post here so that it can be noted.

Is impeachment off the table? Nancy Pelosi has said so, but have we the people? I don't think so. This is from Cindy Sheehan's "Impeachment Proceedings" (BuzzFlash):

There are many important issues facing our nation and the 110th Congress. Minimum wage increases and universal health care are long past due. I certainly appreciate the stirrings about bringing our troops home from Iraq within 3 or 4 months, too! After all, six more troops were killed yesterday while our politicoes are playing footsies with each other! We thought that Nov. 7th was a day to celebrate! When the last of our brave young people come limping home to their relieved families that will be a joy-filled and historic day.
I believe, though, that those same troops and others who have fought so bravely, died so needlessly, and have been wounded for life deserve justice for what the Bush regime has put them through. I believe that this country and the world deserve justice for the raping and pillaging by the pirates who have stolen our liberties and inflicted torture and other pains and hardships upon the world. I believe that impeachment proceedings are the most important issue that the 110th Congress should put on OUR table.
Since I have written open letters to George and Reps Pelosi and Conyers, I have had almost overwhelming support for the ideas, but there are also some legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.
First of all, many people believe that impeachment proceedings will be seen as "political" revenge for what the Republicans have done to the Democrats for the last 12 years or revenge for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Impeachment is not a political tool as used by the Republican Congress, but it is a Constitutional remedy for elected or appointed officials who are abusing their powers. If George has not abused his powers as president and commander in chief, then no president in history has. I will not detail his high crimes and misdemeanor and crimes against peace and humanity, because all of his illicit activities have already been well documented. Justice should not be a partisan issue and if Congress took their oath to the Constitution as seriously as they take their allegiance to the special interests and to partisan politicking, George would have already been impeached.
[. . .]
Please visit
Impeach for Change to learn about the new and powerful people's movement for accountability. Sign up for an impeachment forum in your area on Human Rights day, December 10th, or organize one locally if there is not one near you. I will be speaking with, among other notable Americans, Elizabeth Holtzman, at the forum in NYC that day.
Please visit
Gold Star Families for Peace to learn about our Walk for Change campaign in the Halls of Congress on January 3rd and 4th, 2007. You can join Gold Star Family members in our demand for peace and accountability.

The second excerpt I wanted to offer is from today's paper, Rick Klein's "Meehan targeting 'don't ask, don't tell'" (Boston Globe):

Two leading House Democrats said yesterday that they intend to reverse the 13-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays and lesbians in the military when Congress comes under Democratic control in January.
Representative Martin T. Meehan, a Lowell Democrat, said he plans to hold congressional hearings early next year of the House Armed Services Subcommittee, which he is likely to chair, on a bill that would allow homosexuals to serve in the armed forces.
"We will have hearings, and then we can have an honest dialogue with members of Congress," Meehan said.
"I believe, and have always believed, that once people see the facts, it will become clear that this is a policy that actually hurts national security and hurts the military."

I have seriously mixed feelings about the above. Everyone should be treated fairly and equally but with the illegal war ongoing, I'd be just as happy if no one could in right now to fight Bully Boy's illegal war. If gays and lesbians want to serve, there should be no barrier preventing them from doing so. At another time, I'd read the story and think, "I'm so glad someone's standing up." But with the illegal war . . .

If you use the link, you'll note the pundit who rushes in to talk 'cohesion.' England opened their military to service by all and I haven't heard reports that their 'cohesion' has vanished. It's a nonsense argument. Gays and lesbians have always served. They will always serve. The only question is whether they will be able to do so with dignity or be shoved into a closet.

The US military has had an openly gay member who was openly gay while serving and was able to fight back legal challenges to drum him out. Perry Watkins was his name (he's deceased now) and for information on him and this issue you can read The Third Estate Sunday Review's
"Recuriters struggle to meet lowered targets but gays and lesbians are still 'unfit'." Also please read Betty's "The Girth of the Tabby." I'm not sure whether I'm posting next weekend or not but Betty will be doing another chapter (I can't wait for that).

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, November 17, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; Bully Boy's long journey to Vietnam is complete (you can refer to the various stops since Tuesday or you can take it back to his days in and out of the National Guard); Ehren Watada's father Bob wraps up his current speaking tour Friday night; Tony Blair may have lost a supporter; war resister Kyle Snyder still needs support; and the US military has all sorts of announcements and numbers including 57,000 US troops to deploy to Iraq next year.

Starting with yesterday's kidnappings -- there were two.
Reuters cover this: "Passengers from up to six minibuses may have been abducted after being stopped at a fake security checkpoint in the capital, police and local residents said" from yesterday and, in addition, there was a kidnapping in southern Iraq.

C4 reported on the mass kidnapping in Baghdad one of the few that did.* Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) noted: "Much of the day's other violence was directed at Shiite Muslims. Gunmen erected fake checkpoints in a Sunni neighborhood and seized Shiite passengers off minibuses." Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) noted: "Six missing minibuses were mostly carrying Shiites when gunmen, some in uniform, pulled them over for bogus security checks, police sources said."

The dickering over this kidnapping among Iraqi's various members of government follows the pattern after Tuesday's mass kidnapping which
Kirk Semple (New York Times) observed was being seen (by Jalal Talabani, Iraqi president) as a potential "complete collapse of the government"). Queried by Jon Snow, of England's C4, as to whether "you think there are other ministers in the government who are complicit?" in the kidnappings, Iraq's minister of Higher Eductation, Abd Dhiab, stated he did believe that and, while refusing to answer whether he personally believed the police could be trusted, he noted that "the people" do not feel they can be.

Jon Snow: You seem to be describing a situation of anarchy here?

Abd Dhiab: Anarchy clearly, nobody can deny that.

Jon Snow: But, I mean, if you feel you have to resign then in a way we're beginning to see the disengration of the government?

Abd Dhiab (in a rambling answer) agreed.
Kirk Semple noted Mohammed Bashar al-Faidi (Muslim Scholars Associaton) declared on Al Jazeera TV, "I don't know how to describe it, but it represents the bankruptcy of the sectarian government following one scandal after the other." The willingness of officials go to public with their own stark observations about Iraq comes as Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, is in Turkey. Louise Roug (LA Times) reports that al-Maliki believes the matters can wait until next week to be resolved in a meeting of his cabinet.

Bully Boy believes that the answer for a 'win' is, as
Simon Tisdall (Guardian of London) reports, "a last big push" that could result in increasing US troops in Iraq -- not withdrawing them. Tisdall also reveals that sources say "Bush family loyalist James Baker" and others on the supposed independent Iraq Study Group are now doing the bidding of the Pentagon and will include the following points as "victory strategy:"

1) Increase US troop levels by up to 20,000 to secure Baghdad and allow redeployments elsewhere in Iraq.

2) Focus on regional cooperation with international conference and/or direct diplomatic involvement of countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

3) Revive reconciliation process between Sunni, Shia and others.

4) Increased resources from Congress to fund training and equipment of Iraqi security forces.

David Jackson (USA Today) reports that Bully Boy declared in Hanoi that "he was unaware of a British newspaper report that he is considering an additional 30,000 troops in Iraq."
20,000 and, if Bully Boy's denying, chances are it's true. (Flashback to his performance of "My Guy" to Rumsfled right before the election and then, after the election, his rendention of "Hit the Road, Jack.") The
AP reports that Bully Boy has compared Iraq to Vietnam yet again and offered, "We'll succeed unless we quit." Not quite as catchy as "stay the course" but certainly many of lemmings will show up, possibly in face paint, at his domestic gatherings to change "We'll succeed unless we quit." Of course, the reality is you suceed unless you lose and, more reality, the illegal war is lost.

CNN reports it's whack-a-mole time again "as 2,2000 more Marines are being deployed to Iraq's volatile Anbar province". Interviewed by Joshua Scheer (Truthdig), US Congress Rep. Dennis Kucinich noted of al-Anbar that it's "a place which was already declared 'lost' for the purposes of military occupation. Why are we sacrificing our young men and women? Why are we keeping them in an impossible situation? Why are we stoking a civil war with our continued presence? We have to take a new direction in Iraq, and that direction is out."

This as
Al Jazeera reports Rabah al-Alwan of "the Union of Lawyers in al-Anbar governorate in western Iraq" is asserting that 211 families have been thrown out of their homes in Al-Anbar Province so that the US military can occupy them. Among the homes seized is al-Alwan's and he states: "Ten months ago, the US army seized my house and dozens of houses in the neighbourhood where I live. Residents were not allowed take any of their savings, jewellery, furniture or clothes. . . . They [US snipers] killed a lot of people, such as Ayad Mutar and Muhamad Ayad, for approaching their [own] houses to try to get some of their families' clothes and belongings." al-Alwan tells of promises to compensate families for their homes with money that never got handed over, of attacks on the homes now that the US military is lodged in them, and the continued occupation of the home have led former occupants to join the resistance.

Hearts and minds? Or are they supposed to take comfort in the empty words mouthed by the Bully Boy, as
noted by Mark Tran (Guardian of London), "One lesson is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while."
A while? What is known is that the illegal war hits the four-year anniversary in March of 2007 -- four months from now.

What is known also includes the fact that yesterday's other kidnapping, in southern Iraq, resulted in the kidnapping of at least five people. The
BBC reports that the abducted were four Americans and one Austrian. Will Weissert (AP) reports that two of the abducted turned up: an Austrian who was dead and an American "gravely wounded" -- in addition, Weissert notes that "[n]ine Asian employees" were kidnapped and that they have been released. Xinhua reports that 14 people were kidnapped and that the area was under the control of Iraqis having been turned over to them by Italy in September. Kirk Semple (New York Times) identifies the site of the kidnapping as the Nassiriya. AP places the location as Safwan. Edward Wong (New York Times) reports that searches are ongoing to find the abducted but that there are denials of any of the kidnapped being released or found.

In other reported violence . . .


Reuters notes that four police officers were shot dead outside a bank in Baghdad, that two brothers are dead from a Baghdad attack, that a civilian was shot dead in Kirkuk and "his baby daughter" injured and, in Baquba "Lieutenant Colonel Sattar Jabar, chief of police media" was shot dead. Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reports "the British military said a British private security guard was wounded in a clash with Iraqi police. The police said two policemen and another Westerner were killed" and that Zubayr was where "police said colleagues stopped an unmarked car. Western in civilian clothes inside opened fire, killing two officers and wounding two women passers-by. Police returned fire, killing one of the Westerns and wounding another." The 'Westerners' may or may not be British or American.


Reuters notes two corpses were discovered near Falluja and and two near Numaniya. CNN reports that 25 corpses ("bullet-riddled") were discovered in Baghdad today.

Also today, the
US military announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed by small arms fire Thursday during combat operations in Diyala province." The total number of US troops who have died thus far this month to 45, and to 2865 since the start of the illegal war. This as Donna Miles announces on behalf of the Defense Department that 57,000 US troops will being deploy to Iraq (8,300 to Afghanistan). The 57,000 will be part of the rotation to keep the total number of US troops on the ground in Iraq at 144,000 -- the increased number that was put in place last summer for the now-cracked-up Baghdad crackdown.

In other signs of the dissention in the puppet government,
Hannah Allamn and Mohamed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report that the Shi'ite dominated Interior Ministry "issued an arrest warrant for one of the country's most prominent Sunni Muslim clerics, charging him with violating antiterrorism laws." The BBC notes the cleric, Harith al-Dhari, is the head of the Association of Muslim Scholars and that he is currently in Jordan. Ross Colvin (Reuters) notes that the reaction to the warrant (issued while both al-Dhari and al-Maliki were out of the country) has been intense with the largest Sunni political party (The Islamic Party) calling it a "mercy bullet" that would put the dying government down. Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) notes that the Association of Muslim Scholars is requesting "Sunni politicians . . . quit Iraq's government" in response to the arrest warrant and notes that: "The move came as cracks emerged within Iraq's six-month-old unity government over the numbers of government employees taken in a mass kidnapping on Tuesday and whether some were tortured and killed." In addition to the above support, Al-Dhari also received support from Sunni clerics and, as Will Weissert (AP) reports, from one of Iraq's vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, who stated that the warrant "is destructive to the national reconcilliation plan." And CNN updates to note that the Iraqi government has backed off ("clarified") the warrant which they now maintain was never to arrest al-Dhari but merely to "check security files linked" to him.

In other news,
Mike Corder (AP) reports that De Volkskrant, Dutch newspaper, has reported that "Dutch military interrogators abused dozens of Iraqi prisoners in 2003, dousing them with water to keep them awake and exposing them to high-pitched noises and strong lights" and conducted by "members of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service in November 2003 in buildings of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Samawah, 230 miles southeast of Baghdad." Alexandra Hudson and Nicola Leske (Reuters) report that the report, which emerged Friday, has already resulted in announcement from the Dutch Defence Minister Henk Kamp that he knew abuses were possible but an earlier investigation had not turned up anything -- now he's "announced an independent investigation into the earlier study by military police and his own conduct in the affair." As the BBC notes, the revelations come "days before the country's parliamentary elections."

Meanwhile, in England, the
Guardian of London reports that Margaret Hodge has created a stir in England. The MP Hodge is seen as an ally of Tony Blair so it came as a surprise to some when it was reported that she called the illegal war Tony Blair's "big mistake in foreign affairs" while speaking to the Islington Fabian Society where she also noted that she accepted pre-war claims because "he was our leader and I trusted him."

In peace news, Vietnam war resister
Gerry Condon has posted a letter at Soldiers Say No! on Kyle Snyder. To recap, Snyder, on October 31st, turned himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again after discovering the military had lied yet again. Since then Snyder has been underground, surfacing to speaking out against the war.

Condon is requesting more calls supporting to Snyder:

Thanks to all of you who have made calls to the Commanding General at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The phones have been ringing off the walls there. Now it is time to make the phones ring at Fort Leonard Wood. Say hello to Fort Leonard Woods's brand new commander, Major General William McCoy, Jr., recently returned from the U.S. occupation of Iraq (you can read his emotional address upon assuming his new command at
Here are the numbers to call at Fort Leonard Wood
Office of the Commanding General (that's how they answer) 573-596-0131
Public Affairs Office, tel. 573-563-4013 or 4105, fax: 573-563-4012, email:
We want to deliver one clear message:

Kyle Snyder is a US war resister and part of a movement of resistance within the military that also includes people such as Ehren Watada, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. That's just the ones who have gone public. (Over thirty US war resisters are currently in Canada attempting to be legally recognized.)

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress in January.

Bob Watada, father of
Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq, is wrapping up a speaking tour he and Rosa Sakanishi (Ehren's step-mother) have been on to raise awareness on Ehren Watada. The tour winds down tonight, a full schedule can be found here, and this is the final date:

Nov 17, 7PM, Atlanta, GA, Location: The First Iconium Baptist Church, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 125, The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta, Atlanta WAND, Contact: Debra Clark, 770-855-6163,

In addition, to Atlanta,
Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports this event on Sunday:

The Honolulu chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League will hold a symposium surrounding the actions of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is the first military officer to face a court martial for refusing to fight in Iraq. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the University of Hawaii's architecture auditorium. The featured speaker will be Watada's father, Bob; Jon Van Dyke of the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law and Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz.

iraqehren watadabob watada
kyle snyder
the new york timeskirk semple
the washington postsudarsan raghavan
gregg k. kakesako
joshua scheer
edward wong

[*Thank you to a friend at C4 for calling -- repeatedly -- to pass the C4 interview on.]