Post #546 The Digest Version of a Master

August 28, 2017 at 1:38 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Mastering the Art of French Cooking” started a revolution in cooking in America in the sixties and its impact is still felt today.  It was written by three ladies, two who were French, and one who was American.  The American became the face of the book, Julia Child.  Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle who started the project and brought Julia in later, continued their solo efforts in France.  The first cookbook created a format that was unique in its day, and followed today by many authors.

MAFC was a herculean effort taking several years to coalesce into a single volume.  Julia insisted on standard measurements, and multiple recipe tests.  Her idea was to make the recipes foolproof and easy to understand and execute.  The project quickly spiraled out of control until through some inspiration, they realized they were repeating my recipes as parts of other recipes.  So they started simply, using recipes that were building blocks for other recipes.  It was a runaway best seller when it was first released, and has been one of the top selling cookbooks ever since.  It’s never far from the top ten in any year.

There are actually two volumes.  The first volume covered recipes and techniques the women considered the essentials.  The second volume was written to include recipes that fans were asking for (predominantly breads and pastries), and favorites of the authors, which at this time was only Simone Beck and Julia Child.  During this time, Julia had returned to America and had started a television career teaching french cooking.  So when Simone wanted to do a third volume, Julia bowed out preferring to concentrate on television.  So Ms. Beck wrote an unofficial volume three on her own called Simka’s Cuisine.  I’ve never read it, so I don’t know what it contains, but I will read it some day.

Each of the two volumes weigh as much as a large bag of flour.  They are truly monster sized books.  They can be purchased individually or as a boxed set.  They come in hardback for over $100, or in paperback for significantly less.  What I like best about this set is the amount of explanation for each section that’s provided.  I’m not just learning a recipe blindly.  I’m learning about the ingredients, and about the techniques and why they work.  I’m learning about the ways to mix and match things and to be creative.

So, buying this set is a large commitment in money and in time.  You have to really want to learn how to cook French food.  BUT, there’s another way to get your hands around the basics and to learn not just French cooking, but how to cook; how to be a chef.  You see, people fell in love with Julia Child and her fearless attitude towards cooking.  So she kept writing, about her life, her interests, and her cooking.

I had a birthday this past weekend.  One of the gifts I got is this one:

I’ve seen this book before, but never really looked at it.  On the surface, I always thought it to be a collection of kitchen hacks, those short cuts learned from a lifetime of cooking.  I know several of those myself.  Things like, if you want to make a slurry of flour and water to make a gravy, to make sure it’s smooth as possible put the water and flour in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake the hell out of it for a few minutes.  So when I got it yesterday, I was happy to see it so I could start rebuilding my collection of cookbooks.

I opened it this morning, and started paging through slowly, getting a sense of what was inside.  As I read bits and pieces, I slowed down and took a closer look.  I was surprised at what I found, and not the least bit disappointed when it didn’t match what I assumed was in the book.  What I found was a digest-sized version of Mastering The Art of French Cooking.  I did a mental happy dance.

Julia wrote this book in the late 1990s.  It comprises a lifetime of cooking tips and tricks.  She describes it as beginning “as my loose-leaf kitchen reference guide gradually compiled from my own trials, remedies, and errors – corrected as I’ve cooked my way through the years.”  Years ago, I wrote a blog post (#31) about keeping a kitchen journal.  This book is based on Julia’s, and I’m thrilled that I was doing the same thing professional chefs were doing without knowing it.  It follows the same format style as MAFC.  Each section starts with a master recipe, then adds variations.

For instance, crepes.  Crepes are the finger food, street food of France.  I’ve walked around Paris and watched people eating crepes from a paper envelope and the fillings were as varied as the people eating them.  One of my coworkers was addicted to crepes filled with banana and Nutella.  He got two every evening on the way home from work.  Seldom ate dinner.  I’ve seen them filled with eggs and veggies and meats and fruits and cheese and jam.  But the crepe is the same basic thing.  It’s only the filling that changes.  So this book gives the master recipe for crepes, some variations in technique or ingredients, and then lists several different ways to fill them and how they change.

So this book running 130 pages and costing about $16 has sections on soups and sauces, salads and dressings, vegetables, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, breads, cakes and cookies, and basic cooking instructions and definitions.  Now, it’s not a comprehensive compendium of these groups.  But it is a collection of her favorites, and the recipes she’s known for are all here.  For anyone who wants to get sense of Julia’s style of cooking, or of French cooking, but doesn’t want to spend over a $100 for several pounds of books, this is a terrific alternative.

And since I usually share a recipe with each post, I’ll share one of my favorite crepe recipes.  This is directly from this book.

Stacked Crepe Cake

Crepes are a very thin pancake and can be folded or rolled to hold all kinds of things.  This is a different way to use them.  You’ll want to make 18-24 for this recipe to work.

  • 1 cup AP Flour
  • 2/3 cup cold milk
  • 2/3 cup cold water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter plus more for pan
  • 1 cup melted milk chocolate
  • 1 cup heated raspberry jam, good quality

Mix all the ingredients to a smooth consistency in a blender or food processor, or by hand with a whisk.  Chill in fridge for 30 minutes to allow flour to hydrate.  This will make the crepes more tender.  Heat a 5 inch non-stick skillet to the point where water droplets “dance” on the surface.  Brush the pan lightly with melted butter.  Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter into pan and tilt pan to coat it evenly.  If you’ve over filled, pour extra batter back into bowl.  If you’ve under filled, add a little more batter to coat the pan evenly.  Cook about one minute until crepe is browned on bottom.  Loosen with a spatula and turn.  Cook just a few seconds on this side.  Remove to a rack to cool.  Continue cooking and cooling crepes until batter is gone.  Remove crepes from rack as they cool completely so there is room to continue.  When crepes are completely cool place in a zip lock bag into the fridge to keep up to two days; freeze if needed up to two months.  When ready to assemble, melt the chocolate and heat the jam, and bring the crepes to room temperature.  Place one crepe on a serving plate and brush lightly with jam.  Place another crepe on top and brush lightly with chocolate.  Make certain to brush jam and chocolate all the way to the edge.  Alternate layers of jam and chocolate until all crepes are used.  Make sure the chocolate is pouring consistency and pour over top crepe and allow to drizzle down the sides.  Chill for two hours, then slice into wedges and serve.

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Post #545 For Love of Onions

August 25, 2017 at 2:25 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I never liked onions too much as I was growing up.  We had them all the time cuz mom and dad both loved them.  Mom put them in everything, to the point where her salmon patties didn’t taste like salmon, her meatloaf didn’t taste like hamburger, and her chili tasted like spicy hot onions.  Her spaghetti didn’t taste like oregano or basil, but mostly like tomatoes and onions with pasta.  So I ate meals that tasted a lot like onions.  It just occurred to me that she never made onion soup.  Now, I gotta wonder why.  As I got older, I found that onions have their place in the hierarchy of cooking, and I’ve learned to like them quite a bit.  Not as much as my parents, but more than I did as a kid.

Growing up, we had yellow onions and spring onions, or scallions.  Imagine my surprise when I learned there were more than just those.

This is not an encyclopedic chart of all the varieties of onions out there, and it will miss your favorite onion, I’m sure, but it shows it all for me.  There are a couple that I use all the time that aren’t on this chart, but I’ll talk about them a little just the same.  And if there’s one I miss, please let me know.  I love learning new ingredients.

I kept using onions when I left mom and dad’s house because I followed recipes and the recipes always called for them.  Then I started being a cook and playing with flavors and left the onions out.  Then I started putting them back in because I discovered two things.  One, I missed the flavor of the onions; and two, onions provide more than just flavor.

When Partner/Spouse came along, he introduced me to two different onion types I’d never looked at before.  I became addicted to one of them, but we use both of them all the time.  The first one he showed me was the shallot.  It’s a small onion bulb with a purplish paper skin and has the flavor of both onions and garlic.  Anytime you want a mild, subtle flavor from the onion/garlic family, but don’t want to play with them, the shallot is the way to go.  It’s mild flavor lends well to its being eaten raw, but also goes remarkably well in soups.  Just add it five minutes before serving.  It’s pungency will quickly cook out.  It’s remarkable in sauces and gravies.  They come in many sizes, but I tend to stick to the smaller ones because they’re more strongly flavored.

The second one is the one I became addicted to, the leek.

It’s very versatile.  You can see it has two basic parts (once you cut the roots off), the white part and the green part.  The green part is very tough so you want to use the inner green part since it’s more tender.  I usually cut the roots off, slice it down the center to clean it out well (due to its growing process to keep the white part large there’s a lot of dirt in them), then slice them into thin circles and sauté in butter.  Once in a while, I’ll add them to soups.  I’ve seen some people cut them lengthwise in thick strips and boil them to use as replacement for noodles.  I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m sure it would be delicious.

Scallions are one most people are familiar with.  Growing up, I only ever had them in salad.  They provided a bitter, spicy bite to complement the blandness of the lettuce, and the tanginess of the tomatoes.  It wasn’t until I learned about leeks that scallions made sense.  But when I was learning to cook Asian recipes is when I learned what the scallion could truly be.  It can take center stage in a soup or a crispy pancake.  In Africa I once had a dish called Beef with Three Onions where the three onions were all scallions handles differently and it was truly superb.

The first Christmas that Partner/Spouse and I were an official couple, he bought me Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the inimitable Julia Child.  And like nearly everyone who’s seen “Julie and Julia”, the first recipe I tried was her famous Boeuf Bourguignon.  Okay, Beef and Burgundy.  It’s a beef stew but dressed up with a ton of ingredients, each requiring it’s own recipe.  That’s when I learned about pearl onions.  The only pearl onion I’d seen were pickled and in martini glasses.  Usually submerged in a martini.  But for this recipe, they had to be skinned then browned lightly in butter.  I didn’t know the “trick” to skinning a pearl onion so I had to do it the hard way.  What a pain in the ass!  But totally worth it once the stew was done.  The trick to skinning them?  Cut a small X in the root end of each onion, then submerge them for about ten seconds in boiling water.  Remove them and submerge in ice water immediately, then use a paring knife at the X end to slide the skin off.  Exactly the same method for peeling the skin off a tomato.

A week or so ago we were sitting down to eat dinner.  I don’t recall what protein we were having, but I’d made Smash Potatoes, and we both wanted a “salad” type of vegetable.  We didn’t have many fresh veggies, and certainly no lettuce at that point.  I had a tomato, which P/S doesn’t like raw (I know, but I still love him), and there was a bag of onion, which I won’t eat raw (I know, but he still loves me.)  So in my bowl, I had tomato chunks with grated cheese and sunflower seeds with dressing, and he had onion rings with grated cheese and sunflower seeds with dressing.  And it was good.

Long ago, I was making dinner for my family.  We were having tacos, family style.  What that meant was fixing up the ingredients to create your own tacos and placing them all on the table in separate bowls.  There was a stack of cooked corn tortillas at hand so each person could build their own when they wanted to.  I had put out a bowl of browned hamburger, one of grated cheddar cheese, one of lettuce, one of tomatoes, one of pico de gallo, a bottle of Tabasco sauce, and a bottle of some other blazingly hot sauce, and a bowl of refried beans.  Next to mom’s plate, I put a small bowl with half an onion diced into small pieces.

Then began the feeding frenzy.  Five people building their dinners at the same time.  Elbows flying, “pardon me”s at the ready, I always marveled that no one lost an eye.  After the first rush, things calmed down as everyone chewed and enjoyed their first taco.  Between bites, conversation about the day ensued, until suddenly mom said:

“My family loves me.”  She had a small, shy smile as she said it.

We all looked at her for a moment, puzzled.

Then dad asked why.

“I’ve got a bowl of onions chopped up here and no one else likes them raw.”

Every cook in the world knows that feeling.  If chopping up a small bowl of onions was all it took, she was going to have a small bowl of onions to go in her cereal if she wanted them.

So, onions.  That’s what it took.

I don’t like onions.  But someone who loves me is making sure I have mushrooms for my birthday dinner.

Post #544 The Original and the Best

August 21, 2017 at 3:50 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ice Cream and I have a long and complicated history.  I like ice cream okay, but I’m not crazy for it.  I know people who think it’s the greatest stuff on the planet, totally forgetting that chocolate actually exists.    When I was a kid, particularly while in Arizona, we ate the stuff like it was a food group.  We have fond memories of hours spent churning by hand to get a scoop full of that frozen stuff.  Dad like it so much, he ate it nearly every single day.  As I got older, into my late teens, I stopped eating it and never really went back to it very much.  People will try to tempt me and are astounded when I say, “No Thanks” and really mean it.

That being said, there are times when I really want some ice cream.  It’s not often.  And the feeling can pass pretty quickly.  There are certain ice cream treats that I’ll eat anytime, and once started, I won’t stop till the box is gone.  Klondike bars, for instance.  There once was a commercial where the chorus sang “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?”  I always answered, “Whatever it takes.”  The Klondike Ice Cream Sandwich is also very good.  Yet, I can still leave them in the freezer for months before touching them.

So, it’s safe to say that I like ice cream well enough, but I don’t eat very much of it and it doesn’t bowl me over.

So this past weekend was one of those perfect New England weekends.  The sun was out so it was warm.  The sky had a few puffy clouds but nothing threatening.  There was a breeze that kept things cool.  On Saturday, Partner/Spouse had a morning meeting.  He wanted to be there pretty early so he would have time to set up.  I rode along and sat in the car until it was over.

We parked in the shade, the doors were open, there was a fresh breeze off the ocean, and I had my tablet and access to some local wifi.  I also had a bottle of water and access to my writing files.  For the next few hours, I was entrenched in my own work, with side forays into research on whatever struck my mind.

Can you believe it?  Middle of August, I’m sitting in the car watching the clock tick down to noon, and the it’s not a health hazard.  It wasn’t even uncomfortable.  I worked and played and soon, he was ready.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“Let’s go through that small town we tried a couple of weeks ago but couldn’t.  They had that festival going on and there was just no getting in and out there.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but that wasn’t unusual.  Lots of times it was “Remember that small town we drove though once and said we’d like to visit some day?”  That describes every small town across the country we’ve ever driven through.  But it was a beautiful day, and nothing was pressing so driving wherever wasn’t a problem.

We traveled west and passed small towns, and farms, and farm stands, and flea markets, and yard sales, and estate sales, and auctions, and more farm stands.  Seemed like it was the day to sell things from your front yard or driveway.  The only thing we didn’t see was a little kid with a lemonade stand.  We saw lakes and lakeside homes, as well as log cabins and kayakers.  There was something to catch our attention every couple of minutes.

Finally, Partner/Spouse asked, “Are you getting hungry at all?”

I hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning.  I seldom eat breakfast.  I’m never very hungry when I wake up.  An odd quirk in my system, if I eat breakfast right away, I’ll eat all day long.  It’s like I can’t catch up on the calorie curve.  But if I don’t eat breakfast, I can go till middle of the afternoon before I suddenly say, “I gotta eat right now!”  So my reply was, “A little, but I’m not famished.  You?”

He likes breakfast, and he likes the foods of breakfast.  So he’d eaten, but he’d also had a pretty busy day so far and breakfast was several hours ago.  “I’m getting there.  We could stop for something.”

I thought about it and suddenly knew exactly what I wanted.

“Hey!  Wanna stop at a DQ for a hot fudge sundae?”

He laughed at me.  I so seldom ask for ice cream, and the idea could so quickly leave that he agreed and told me to look up the nearest on my phone.

In this state, nothing is ever really far away and the DQ was only 2.5 miles away.  8 minutes according to Google maps.  And, it was on the road we currently were driving on.  How’s that for synchronicity?  (Look it up.  It’s a real thing.)

We found it with very little trouble, only one mis-turn.  As we parked, I saw the sign saying “Original Dairy Queen”.  I don’t know much about the history of the product or the store, only that they started in the mid-west, but I impressed hoping it was an original.  Unfortunately, apart from asking the people who worked there, the two teenagers, one male and one female, there wasn’t likely any way to find out.  But, it was very similar to the DQ I grew up with.

 

That one right there, on the corner across from my dad’s gas station.  I spent a lot of time there.

The one we visited on Saturday wasn’t set up like this, but it was this small.  There was no inside seating, and a fairly limited menu.  But it had all the standards.  We both got a medium hot fudge sundae and a medium drink.

Makes your mouth water just looking at it, doesn’t it?

We went outside to sit at a table in the shade of a tree and again I marveled over the fact that it was the middle of August.  It was supposed to be blazingly hot, and any sane human should have been inside trying not to die.  Instead, we were enjoying a drive through our new state, and taking a break with some ice cream and some sodas.

Our conversation drifted all over the place but mainly centered on ice cream treats we’d enjoyed as kids.  Fudgesicles, Dreamsicles, ice cream sandwiches . . . .

“You know,” I said.  “When I was a little kid, I always wanted to try a banana split.  It looked so good and was always covered in chocolate and whipped cream.  When I was sixteen, I had one, and it didn’t live up to its promise.  I don’t know if they made it wrong, or it just wasn’t as good as I thought.  Never had another.”

He nodded.  “Yeah.  For me, it was éclairs.  They looked so amazing, but tasted like wet bread.”

I laughed.  “And they were usually stale, too.”

I finished first, partly because I was hungry, and partly because I was in an ice cream mood.  We cleaned up, drove home, and ate something salty.  It was a good Saturday.

Post #543 The Star of the Show

August 18, 2017 at 1:52 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Two days ago, I was making a pasta dinner.  It was cobbled together with ingredients I had on hand, but was loosely based on a recipe we saw on television the night before.  It was Mary Ann Esposito’s Classic Recipe that makes a tomato based sauce using pork ribs for meat base rather than beef.  We had country style pork ribs the night before with some left over.  They were slathered in barbeque sauce but that wouldn’t hurt the tomato sauce, only make it a trifle sweeter.

It worked out really well.  It’s incredibly easy.  You take a couple of cans of whole roma tomatoes and use your hands to break them apart.  Squishing them is easiest.  You put them in a large skillet with some olive oil, and some herbs, then nestle the ribs into the sauce and braise them until they’re tender.  Then you can do one of two things.  You can leave the ribs whole and eat them straight off the bones, or you can take them out and strip the meat off and put it back into the sauce.  Then you add whatever cooked pasta you like, toss some cheese on top, and eat well.

What I did was make the sauce following the guidelines above.  I added a good chunk of frozen tomato paste to make it thicker and a large sliced onion because we like them.  Then I put the leftover ribs into the sauce, laying them on top.  I put a lid on top of the skillet and set the heat on medium low so everything would cook slowly.  After about 45 minutes, I turned the rib over.  This served two purposes.  First, it allowed the ribs to heat from both sides and become very tender; second, it allowed the barbeque sauce from both side of the ribs to mingle with the sauce.  Once everything was heated through, I made the pasta, removed the ribs, stirred the cooked and drained pasta into the sauce, set everything on the table, and we tucked in to fill our stomachs.

However, as good as that was (and it was very good) it wasn’t the real star of the show.  Pasta is a carb heavy meal as the best of times.  But we both love to have bread with our pasta.  Mostly we like to have garlic bread.  But this night I decided to make Irish Soda Bread.  But I decided to cobble it together to make it unique and it turned out GREAT!!

So let’s talk about ISB for a moment.  ISB was a staple of the peasant diet along with potatoes.  It doesn’t use yeast to leaven it.  It uses baking soda, hence it’s name.  But to make the soda react and cause the gases to make the bread rise, there has to be an acid.  Remember when you used to mix baking soda and vinegar together and have fun the resultant explosion when you were a kid?  It’s something like that only on a baking scale.

So, the first thing you have to do is figure the right proportion of ingredients.  There’s usually just four:  Flour, soda, buttermilk, and salt.  The soda and the buttermilk provide the correct reaction.  The flour creates the bread, and the salt adds a little flavor.  However, traditional recipes add other flavor elements, usually sweeter ones.  I must have read a dozen recipes that added raisins.  Some of them added a little sugar.  A few used sour cream or plain yogurt for the acid.  One even mixed eggs and sour cream which wouldn’t give a traditional soda bread loaf, but I imagine would taste phenomenal.  So, since we don’t keep milk of any kind in the house (neither of us like it), I needed to figure out what I had and how to do this.  I think I came up with a reasonable compromise.

I wanted a smaller loaf, so I went with smaller proportions.  I wanted a tastier loaf, so I added a sweetener.  I originally considered lemon as my acid, but then decided to go with vinegar since I had more experience using vinegar in this kind of situation.  Turned out I only had balsamic vinegar, but thought, oh what the heck! and went for it.  (In case you’re wondering, vinegars are certainly not interchangeable so if a recipe calls for a specific vinegar, use it.  In this case, it worked out.)  So here’s what I ended up with:

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 stick butter

I used the egg to add richness, and I used the butter to add flakiness.  First, preheat your oven to 375.  Part of the rising element is the oven temp, so it needs to be a little hotter.  The next time I bake this, I’m going to try 425 as some of the recipes suggest.  The oven needs to be completely heated before the bread goes in.  since it doesn’t use yeast, there’s no proving time so once it’s mixed it can go straight to the oven.  So it needs to be hot before you start.  (This is the concept of a quick bread.)  Put all your dry ingredients in a large bowl with steep sides and whisk them together thoroughly.  Cut the butter into the flour, then using a fork, a pastry knife, or your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it looks like coarse crumbs.  Make a well in the center.  In a measuring cup, measure 1 1/2 cups cool water and add the vinegar.  Pour into the well, then add the egg.  You don’t want to beat the egg into the water and vinegar so it won’t curdle.  Immediately start mixing with a heavy wooden spoon.  Make sure to mix thoroughly.  The dough will be wet, and it will look brown from the vinegar.  I added another 1/2 cup of flour because it seemed too sticky, but that seemed to make it dense.  More on that later.  You can choose to add more or not.  It’s up to you.  Once all the flour is incorporated and there are no lumps, take the dough out of the bowl and shape it.  Since this is an artisan style loaf, you can shape it any way you like.  Traditionally, it’s shaped into a round loaf with no pan for support.  Also, to allow steam to escape and aid rising, you should cut a large X in the top.  I typically don’t because then the top will crack in unique and unusual patterns.  See the pic above.  But it can help.  I put it into a round tart pan with the removable bottom, but sprayed it well with vegetable spray to make certain it released from the pan.  Then it got baked for 45 minutes.

So, appearance-wise, it was a success.  I got a high rise out of it.  It almost doubled itself at the crown.  It got the wonderful cracks that are the hallmark of a good ISB.  But the proof is in the eating, and I had to wait for a couple of hours for it to cool off.  A lot of people think that warm (or hot) baked goods are best, and there are times when I’d agree.  Have you ever eaten a chocolate chip cookie five minutes from the oven?  Hot, and gooey, and melty, and buttery?  But remember what it does?  It falls apart.  The reason you have to let baked things cool is to allow the steam to dissipate preserving the inner structure so it won’t fall apart.

So, dinner that night, I cut half the loaf into thick slices and set on a plate.  Once everything was ready, we both reached for the bread and slathered butter thickly onto our slices.  I chewed mine, swallowed, and took another bite.

“Does this taste vaguely like banana bread, or pound cake to you?”

He replied, “It does, sort of.”

I thought about it.  “Well, this recipe did call for sugar.  I may reduce the amount for the next one.”

“It tastes good.  Not a dessert bread, but not a sandwich bread either.”

I chuckled.  “A tea time bread, then?”

He laughed too.  “Yeah, cuz we drink tea so much.”

Then it hit me.  “It’s the balsamic.”

“What balsamic?”

“We didn’t have any other vinegar so I used balsamic.  That’s why it looks so brown.  The egg and sugar with the rests of ingredients basically made a cake.  The balsamic added the flavor.”

And you know what?  It tasted good.  Better than good.  Happy accident!  Vinegars aren’t just sour stuff.  White distilled vinegar started as a cleaning agent, but can be used to leaven baked goods without adding flavor.  Apple cider vinegar adds the light flavor of apples.  Balsamic when it’s reduced loses all of the acidity of the vinegar and imparts an earthy, jam-like flavor.

So there you have it.  Follow that recipe and let me know what you think.

Oh, and just so you know, yesterday I made brownies again.  I did it right and these brownies are phenomenal!  I haven’t lost my touch.

Post #542 A Cake Left Out In The Rain

August 14, 2017 at 10:22 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This is a food blog.  You know that; I know that.  Today, it’s not a food blog.  A LOT has happened over the last week, and this is my forum to vent about it.  But, to start us off on the right foot, here’s a food related picture:

The original caption read: Our generation ate fruit and veggies floating in green jiggling slime so your generation didn’t have to.

Now, on to the other stuff.

In the last week our country was:  brought to the edge of nuclear war; the possibility of World War 3; the likelihood of our allies turning their backs on us; the possibility of an actual bomb attack on our shores; and an assembly of people espousing the rise of Nazi-ism where a state of emergency had to be declared and one person lost her life.  It’s been a roller coaster of emotions with barely a time to catch our breath before the next thing happens.  All of these incidents, an more, can be laid at the feet of our President, who refuses to be a leader, and does what is right for him and his cronies, rather than what’s right for his citizenry.  He’s enabled by the spineless majority party in congress who seem to believe that their corporate sponsors are more important that their constituents, the people who voted them into office.  Clearly, something has gone wrong.  It’s broken and needs to be fixed.

But that’s not what this post is about.

I get most of my news from the internet.  I spend a significant amount of time tracking down the veracity of news stories.  There are some sources I trust, but others I want independent verification before I’ll take for fact what they’re saying.  In short, a meme, while sometimes funny, is not enough to make me believe what it’s saying.  I used my FB feed to like a bunch of different news sites, and organizations so I don’t have to wander all the internet to see what I want to see.  I also have a bunch of friends and hobbies and writing and et cetera on my wall.

Some things make me impatient.  Click bait makes me impatient.  Deliberate ignorance makes me impatient.  Rudeness makes me impatient.

There’s something else, though, that I’ve been seeing a lot of recently, and it’s coming from people who are on the “right side of history”.  It makes me impatient.  They laughing and making fun of people.  That’s not right.

We’ve got a problem in our country.  We need to fix it.  We have turned into a country of factions instead of a union.  It’s no longer the country of “huddled masses”.   Our elected leaders don’t seem to be interested in bringing people together.

When I was a child on the playground and having an argument with someone, it inevitably devolved into name-calling, insults, then slugs.  Logic was never among our standard list of options.  Shouting the loudest determined who won.  Making fun of someone was the thing to do.

I’m seeing a lot of this on social media.  So many people say they want to bring the country together.  Millions want to fix the problems.  But millions of people are acting like kids in the school yard.  They shout the loudest.  They make fun of people.  They point and laugh out loud and insult people’s stupidity.  I can’t help but wonder, “How is this fixing things?”  When I want to help someone, or change someone’s mind, I know that the way NOT to do that is put them on the defensive.  I don’t belittle them.  I don’t make them feel inferior.  I don’t try to impress them with my smarts.  I try to find a common ground, a point where we agree on something and work from there.

Laughing at someone never, ever fixes things.  So why are we doing it?

Another thing that irritates me is someone who’s “involved” but is not impacted by the situation who says “Not my President.”

Guess what?  He is your President.  He was duly elected, and confirmed.  Just as we used to tell all those people who, for 8 years, said Obama wasn’t their President.  I don’t like it anymore than they do, but his is my President.  He is not my President of choice, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he’s holds the nations’ highest office, for good or ill.  I don’t like what he’s doing?  Then I work to change that.  I write letters to my congressmen to make sure they know how I feel.  I write letters to congressmen who are on committees making decisions about the things that impact my life.  I post things on social media to try to convince others to write letters, make phone calls, attend town hall meetings, talk to their elected officials.

And I vote.  That’s the biggest thing a citizen can do.  I let a congressman up for election know whether they have my vote or not, because that’s the biggest determinate of how an elected official will act.  They want to keep their jobs.

My point is, I work within the system.  I don’t cross my arms, act huffy, and protest by simply saying, “Not my President.”  That does nothing.

When I have to fix dinner (Hey!  I brought it back to food on a food blog!  How’s that for good writing?) and I don’t know what I’m going to fix, I look at what I have.  I figure out a recipe based on what’s at hand.  If I truly need something, I got get it.  But I get the job done because if I don’t, my family goes hungry and that simply isn’t an option.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a pot of rice and vegetables.  Other times, it a crown roast with stuffing.  But it’s always something.

The state of the country is much the same way.  I look at what I have on hand, and use what I’ve got to create something so my country gets fixed.  Because really and truly at this point, not doing something isn’t an option.  People are dying.  It’s got to stop.  The only people who are going to stop it is us.

Yesterday, Partner/Spouse wanted to do something nice.  He had watched a cooking episode on television and wanted to recreate it based on the things that I liked.  When he was done, he grumbled a little and said, “It doesn’t look the one on TV.  It was a lot harder than they made it look.”  But he got it done.

And it tasted so good!  It’s a raspberry/blackberry tart.

Thanks for letting me rant, and please feel free to share as you choose.

 

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