Saturday, November 25, 2006

Reality in the Kitchen

Margaret e-mailed with a complaint, if she eats anymore raw broccoli or cauliflower, she says she's swearing off vegetables for good. Why is she eating so much?

Her grocer has had a sale on the two for over two weeks. She says she knows how to steam and how to boil them but that's all and is she's sick of both.

So we'll try something here. First, when boiling vegetables, you want them cooked, not overcooked. I steam many of my vegetables, but I will boil still. Boiling does destroy more nutrients than steaming (or microwaving). If you've never boiled a vegetable, you want it flexible. The longer you allow it to boil, the more nutrients will be lost. (They are in the water and you can use that for a vegetable stock.) Since these are both vegetables that you can enjoy crips, I'd suggest first time boilers place them in pans of water, then bring the water to a fast boil and allow to boil for three minutes. Turn off the stove burners, remove them from heat and break off a piece to taste. If you're pleased with the taste, remove from the water. If you're not, allow them to remain in the water a bit longer. The water is still hot and they will continue to cook until the water cools.

What follows is a simple recipe and it may seem like all you've done is boiled and butter. I checked with Margaret and all she does is boil, put it on a plate and sprinkle some grated cheese over it.

You'll need:
a head of cauliflower
broccoli, most is in three bunches with a rubber band around the bottom of the stalks
paprika, cut off the stalks and stems so you're only using the tops
1/4 cup melted butter

Boil (or steam) the broccoli and cauliflower. Not in the same pan. If you've never boiled broccoli before, let me warn you the water turns green. You don't want your cauliflower to turn green.
Put the caulflower in a serving dish (you can use a large plate). Arrange the brocoli around it. Pour the melted butter over the top of the cauliflower where it will then travel down. Sprinkle with paprika.

I'm neutral on paprika as a spice. In this case, it makes the dish and really adds a strong flavor.
I passed it on to Margaret who tried it out and enjoyed it. She also added that, when boiling, she either serves it with cheese sprinkled on top or leaves it in the pot and has her family help themselves. She said this was a nice change.

I'm not able to help the majority of you who wrote on Friday. I'll try to have something prepared for Christmas. But a lot of you are asking about what to do with the left over turkey.
I have a very large family and come from a very large family. Left over turkey has never resulted in recipes in my family because we really don't have any. At most, there's enough for one or two sandwiches. You could cube it or shred it and add to a salad.

I wanted to talk about Tuesday's New York Times, specifically the Dining In section, and focus on Kim Severson's "Pass a Drumstick, and an Olive Branch" which struck me as the "Rest Cure" for dining. For those unfamiliar with the "Rest Cure," I'd recommend Charlotte Gilman's classic short story "The Yellow Wallpaper." The "cure" was an attempt to quash the spirit of women and to 'remove' them from the stress of life by rendering them bland.

Severson, hopefully, cooks better than she entertains.

She advises that you should avoid talk of politics at the table during Thanksgiving.

She must hail from an equally soft-headed family.

I don't mean to shock the delicate flower of feminity that I'm sure Severson must be, but the nation is at war. She can bury her head in the sand all she wants, but Iraqis and foreign troops don't have that option.

I was furious about with her attempt to circumvent the real world from entering her dining room.

I grew up with lively discussions at the dinner table. We were expected to contribute to those discussions. The holidays were no different and the only ones at the table who have ever offended my father were the guests who would think the thing to do was to recall fond holidays.
Usually around their second trip through nostaliga, he'd cut them off with, "If we could talk about something happening today . . ."

Now that may not be the case for every family. But I'm sure my family gatherings were bigger than Severson. Both of my parents came from large families and we all live in the same area to this day with the exception of one member. I myself have a large family, a husband and eight children. My husband also comes from a large family. We're both Irish, so maybe that has something to do with the sort of conversations we have around the table? Maybe the horsey-set is a bit different and shocks easily?

But in our home, we've had the same sort of dining experience and encouraged our children to weigh in with their thoughts and feelings on things happening today.

I showed the article to a friend whose husband teaches political science and she said, "If we didn't talk politics at the dinner table, we'd eat in silence."

Severson's rest cure may provide an enjoyable, bland, salt-free, flavorless dining experience and if that's what she needs, by all means, let's not rock her sinking boat; however, the fact remains to suggest that you focus on bland topics might produce a hazy coffee commercial feel, it may not, real families would probably balk at her bland dinner, it won't reflect your family.

Her suggestions don't reflect the reality of all and that's something she might want to consider before riding in on her Taste Horse next time.

I'm really sorry for her that dining together is something she can have on a regular basis. I'd argue that's all the more reason not to encourage people to play act at being something they're not.

I hope every table across the nation discussed the war this Thanksgiving. I don't care if you're against it, as I am, for it, or still searching for an opinion. The fact of the matter is the nation is at war and this is the fourth Thanksgiving in a row where the nation has been at war.

To not deal with that reality is shameful and hardly reflective of instilling 'manners,' let alone citizenship.

But does the New York Times care about citizenship? I saw it not only as an attempt to relegate women to the role of simpleton, I also saw it as underscoring the paper's reliance on 'official sources' who always know best and the rest of us should just sit on the sidelines and wait for 'the powers that be' to straighten everything out.

Even the old Dusty Springfield song "Wishin' and Hopin'" was more proactive than what Severson proposes.

My family was against the war before it started, for the most part. The few who needed to wise up did so some time ago. So no, there wasn't going to be any conflict discussing the war at the tables this year. But guess what, Iraqis are being killed, Americans are being killed, Americans are coming back to this country with lost limbs, with severe psychological traumas. To imply that you somehow deserves a segregated, safe, little world where even talking of the war cannot penetrate your bubble is not just laughable, it's disgraceful.

Whether you're for the war or against it, when you nation is at war, you darn well talk about it.
Severson wants some sort of fantasy-dinner, in a fantasy world, where reality never intrudes.

I find that offensive and shameful.

"Who cares that almost 2900 Americans have died, over 100 British, over 655,000 Iraqis, let me have my faux dinner where we all retreat and cocoon."

That's how the article struck me.

If you're family supports the war, I truly hope you talked about it. I don't mean, "Talked about it and got smart!" I mean, I hope you expressed your thoughts and beliefs. People are dying, this is a war, it needs to be recognized.

If you're family is against it, I hope you had the kind of conversations we did.

If you're family's split, I hope there was serious debate.

If you avoided it, I'm very sorry for you. I'm sorry that you think chit-chat somehow honors the people who are dying.

I can picture some Donna Reed type in a house dress, hand to head, bemoaning that her Thanksgiving was ruined, ruined!

Oh how sad that must have been. I can't imagine anything more tragic . . .

Except maybe that 14-year-old Abeer was raped, murdered and set on fire by US soldiers, one of whom has now confessed to his own actions in court and pleaded guilty.

Except maybe mothers like Cindy Sheehan who had one less plate to set because they lost their child in this war.

Except maybe someone like Danielle Green whose dream was to play pro basketball but lost a hand serving in Baghdad.

Those are just three examples, there are many, many more.

To counsel a retreat from reality doesn't make you 'tasteful' or a 'good hostess.' It makes you apethetic. I have more respect, even now, for those Americans still cheerleading this illegal war than I do for the mushy-headed fools who think they're being 'tasteful' by counseling on what is an acceptable topic and what isn't.

Advice like Severson's not only dishonors those who have lost their lives or been wounded (on all sides), it dishonors the notion of an informed democracy. The fact that her article ran in the New York Times is hardly surprising.

While she babbled and blathered, the real world was ignored. That includes real problems with gatherings.

My son Mike was very busy the morning of Thanksgiving. Family members of all ages were arriving, they needed help with dishes, he was helping my husband set up the backyard for the kids area (in a large family like we have, that's no easy feat, nor just one or two or three tables).
I was pretty much set up in the kitchen full time, doing my own cooking, warming the dishes others had brought. It was a hectic and busy time. The only newcomer this year were dates. Most of whom arrived later.

While Mike and Elaine are dating now, she was at the last Thanksgiving and every had a chance to meet her then. It hadn't even entered my mind that Elaine would be treated any differently this year. However, she was. There was a natural curiosity due to their relationship. There was also a prying uncle and cousin who were following her around tossing questions at her.

I only found out what was going on as we were getting ready to eat and I asked where Elaine was? She was out in the garage using her cell phone. Mike went to tell her it was time to eat and I wasn't thinking much of it. She'd had to return calls from or about two patients earlier in the morning and used my laundy room for that. I was assuming that it had just gotten too noisy, as even more friends and family had shown up, so she'd gone out to the garage.

That wasn't the case, as my uncle informed me. Instead she'd been asked nonsense like, "You know you're going to break Mike's heart?" And that was one of the nicer statements masquerading as a question. She wrote about it in "Thanksgiving" and she wrote about it much kinder than I would have.

For the record, my son will get his heart broken in life. All my children will, many already have. It's part of growing up and part of life. It may be due to a job, it may be due to a relationship, it might result from another questionable election or anything else.

That is life. It never stops reminding us that it isn't planned out ahead of time. If it were, as Lily Tomlin has often joked, we'd live in a world of cowboys and ballerinas and any other thing children pretend to be when they're younger.

Mike's a grown man now. I can still see my little baby I brought home from the hospital when I look at him, but he's a grown man. I've heard 'jokes' about "apron strings" for as long as I can remember. I can think of few sitcoms that haven't included them. Apparently, the aprons were borrowed on Thursday and passed out. While it's nice that people love him so much that they worry about him, there is a difference between worries and obsession.

He wants this relationship, they both do. Is someone going to end up hurt? Maybe.

Maybe not.

I don't spend a great deal of time trying to predict the future love lives of my children. I just hope that they find someone who can make them happy. That's the case with them.

When Mike was involved Nina, my only concern there was they both seemed to be rushing into marriage. Nina would have been a wonderful addition to our family. She is still welcome in my home. But the two of them were too young to be thinking about marriage. I didn't say that then because they weren't openly discussing it so my opinion wasn't needed. But it was obvious they were privately considering it.

I felt it would have been a huge mistake. Nina's planning on getting an advanced degree which means more than four years of college. She's finding herself and exploring and who will she be six years from now is unknown to her or anyone else. I'm sure she'll be just as wonderful a person as she is today, but dreams and hopes do change over time.

There was an intensity and a rush, by them and others, to turn that into the 'last' relationship by which I mean marriage. It was too soon. For anyone worried about my writing of Nina, we still speak and I called her Friday to give her a heads up to what I intended to write.

My son is very mature for his age and always has been. My only worry there is that at some point the crisis has to pop up. It will pop up. It may wait until mid-life, it may be next week. But he's always been the most responsible and while that's wonderful for a parent with a lot of children, knowing you can always count on at least one not to wonder what burns quickest and how much foam from a fire extinguisher is really needed?, the reality is that everyone needs to be a little goofy at some point. My six other adult children have hopefully gotten their wild days out of their system. (My youngest is still in high school.)

Mike may never have a crisis. He may be one of those even-keeled people who never do. I don't count on that, but it is possible.

What I do know is that Mike and Elaine are in love. They are a couple and they want to be. I was very happy when she 'broke' that news to me. He told his father and she told me. I agree with Nina completely that this was going to happen. It was obvious to everyone but the two of them. It has happened, they're a couple and they're happy. There was no reason to grill Elaine or make her feel like she was somehow endangering him. My father was calling him an "old soul" when Mike was still in the crib. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Elaine sometimes felt she was involved with an "old man." He has his silly side, but he's always been responsible. Sometimes, too responsible. I think the relationship is good for both of them and if it ends up in marriage on down the line, great. If they end up deciding to part, that's a part of life as well.

One of my daughters was miserable in her marriage. If I can really bear down in the mother voice for a moment, she married too soon. But she was going to stay in it. He was miserable as well. They thought the answer might be to have a child. When neither of you wants to be in the same room together, trust me, an infant crying at three in the morning will not make your relationship better -- unless you decided to bond together against it maybe.

But they were considering it and they were getting 'counseling' on that from the two busybodies who made themselves a real pain Thursday. As I pointed out to both, their expertise must stem from the fact that, as a result of no relationships at all, they've had a great deal of time to ponder.

They're prying with my daughter almost resulted in a minor mistake becoming a huge one. (When you know the marriage is over, you shouldn't bring children into it expecting them to salvage it.) They're prying on Thursday was so bad and constant that Elaine was seriously freaking out. She didn't need or deserve that. The next time Severson wants to fret over what could lead a happy gathering astray, she might want to visit the real world.

Even when there were a few members supporting the war, discussing it at the table did no damage. The same can't be said for the actions of 'well intentioned.' Busybodies sticking their noses into relationships are far more damaging than acknowledging the realities of your country.

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

Friday, November 24, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, over 200 die in Baghdad on Thursday, war resister John A. Rogowskyj Jr. finds that the US military feels no obligation to follow even their own written policy, Bully Boy's meet up in Jordan comes under attack, and is Nouri al-Maliki on the way out?
Starting with resistance within the US military. Conscientious objector John A. Rogowskyj Jr. was deployed to Iraq at the start of this month. The twenty-two-year-old Marine was deployed, as the
Associated Press notes, after a Marine captain recommended he be discharged, after a major said he couldn't serve in compbat duty in June, because a D.V. Odell Jr. ("commander of the Fourth Marine Division") doesn't seem to grasp what a c.o. is the policy that the US military has on them. The AP notes that Odell, a major general, found Rogowskyj to be "theologically confused and [he] does not reflect any officially recognized faith group."
Take that, America's forefathers. The slow witted Odell Junior might also make some time to check out "
Selective Service System: Fast Facts" which notes: "Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don't have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man's reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest." By the military's own guidelines, Odell Junior's statements are not only insulting but ignorant. "May be religious in nature, but don't have to be." Rogowskyj was deployed as a result of Odell Junior's failure to grasp the policies the military has set in place. There ought to be disciplinary actions for Odell (busted back down to a New Orleans post?). More likely, everyone will play stupid (well the tone is set from the Oval Office).
Edward Colimore (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports that Rogowskyj declares in the court papers: "I see now that I must separate from the military with all due haste, or suffer without the forgiveness of grace, for defying the truth that I see plainly before me, that violence as a means or end cannot be tolerated."
To repeat for the slow witted Odell Junior, who not only fails to grasp the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution but also fails to grasp official military policy, Rogowkyj need not belong to any church or faith, need not subscribe to Odell Junior's notions of 'old time religion,' in order to be granted c.o. status.
Rogowskyj signed up for the reserves in 2002 thinking he would be helping stateside during national emergencies.
In Iraq, yesterday the violence prompted ABC to break in to their daytime lineup with a breaking news announcement by Elizabeth Vargas on what is being called the most deadly attack in Iraq since the illegal war began. For which ABC got the usual number of complaints, though nothing like the concerned and outraged comments they received in 2003 when they broke in to announce that Bully Boy was carrying a fake turkey around a base in Iraq.
Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports that 144 people were killed. That number is incorrect today and was wrong yesterday as well when AFP reported that 152 were already dead. Today, All Headline News reports that the death toll is now 202, that at least 250 more are injured with doctors not expecting all to live and that "Officials said that the death toll could rise, as body parts and bodies are dispersed throughout the city and could not be counted." The BBC reports that "at least three" car bombs were used in the cooridnated attacks on Thursday followed by mortar rounds and quotes photo journalist Kareem al-Rubaie on witnessing the violence, "I saw a car from a wedding party, covered in ribbons and flowers. It was burning. There were pools of blood on the street and children dead on the ground." Reuters places the number of bombs at six. CNN reported Thursday: "Thursday's attacks, launched within the course of half an hour, were part of a spasm of violence that shook two Baghdad bastions of support for anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr -- the Sadr City slum in the Iraqi capital's northeast and the Health Ministry compound, controlled by the cleric's political movement."
BBC reports that Baghdad is now under curfew and the Baghdad Airport has been closed. Reuters states that all vehicle traffic is banned in Baghdad for Saturday as well. AFP adds that the airport in Basra has been closed as well as well as "its southern seaports."
The 202 dead and counting from Thursday's attack surpasses the previous reported most violent day in Iraq. The
BBC notes September 14, 2005 as a day when there were 182 reported deaths in Baghdad.
As if the violence on Thursday wasn't bad enough, rumors floated that Dick Cheney was in Iraq on Thursday.
CBS and AP report that the White House denies those rumors. Current rumor is that Cheney was supposed to be in Baghdad and the press would be alerted after landing; however, the violence on Thursday resulted in the trip being cancelled.
Press reports continue to caution that Iraq might be on the brink of civil war which leaves one wondering how they might have reported Sherman's March to the Sea?
The violence and chaos continued today.
CBS and AP report that a mortar attack was launched at the Association of Muslim Scholars in Baghdad leaving four guards injured. This is seen as a retaliation for Thursday's attack as are the multiple attacks, noted by Al Jazeera, in the Hurriay district of Baghdad that targeted "four Sunni Mosques with rocket-propelled grenades" and claimed the lives of at least thirty. Reuters reports one dead and two wounded from mortar attacks in Diwaniya and the bombing of "an office of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's . . . in . . . Baquba". CNN reports that a man set off a bomb "strapped to his body" and one in his car in a parking lot in Tal Afar and killed at least 22 people while wounding 30 more.
Reuters reports that at least two funeral goers are wounded in Baghdad after a US helicopter fired on a funeral.
Reuters reports that thirty corpses were discovered in Baghdad while three were discovered in Mosul. Reporting on Wednesday's UN report, Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) noted that, in the September and October period studied by the UN, "Sixty-five percent of all deaths in Baghdad were categorized as unindentified corpses, the signature of militias, who kidnap, kill and throw away bodies at a rate that now outstrips the slaughter inflicted by suicide bombers."
They do so even when the capitol is under 'curfew' (and the never ending 'crackdown').
In addition,
AP reports: "Militiamen grabbed six Sunnis as they left Friday worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive as Iraqi soldiers stood by, and seven Sunni mosques came under attack as Shiites took revenge for the slaughter of 215 people in the Sadr City slum."
BBC reports the death of a British solider in Basra and notes that 126 British soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. The British military announces: "The soldier sustained gunshot wounds during the operation and was evacuated to a nearby military hospital. Despite the best possible medical care, the soldier later died from his injuries. The soldier was a member of the Parachute Regiment, on secondment to Headquarters Multinational Division South East, Iraq."
Thursday's attacks and today's is having ripple effects in Iraq that go beyond bombs and bullets.Tuesday,
Charles Wolfson (CBS) reported on next week's planned meet up in Jordan between Bully Boy and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki. The meet up was quickly announced following the announcement of al-Maliki going to Tehran for a Saturday meeting with the presidents of Iran and Syria. The meet up with the Bully Boy is now in question.
CNN reports that, today, "Muqtada al-Sadr's bloc threatened to withdraw support for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki should he meet President Bush as planned next week" and quotes spokesperson Salih al-Aleiki stating: "We announce that if the security situation and the basic services do not improve, and if the prime minister goes ahead and meets with the criminal Bush in Amman, then we will suspend our memberships with the Iraqi parliament and the government." As Robin Stringer (Bloomberg News) notes, it's not an idle threat: "The United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of Shiite political parties, won 128 of the 275 seats in the Iraqi parliament in December's elections." Should the al-Sadr block withdraw their support, the United Iraqi Alliance would fall from a 128 member bloc to a 98 member one. That's on the condition that all 98 remain behind al-Maliki -- should he find new support his bloc could increase. The second largest bloc, with 53 members, is the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan which successfully backed (with US support) Jalal Talabani for president of Iraq.
The above follows on the heels of
Tom Hayden's report (for Common Dreams) that the US is putting out feelers for new governing officials in Iraq which could include the disposing of al-Maliki.