To my mind, poverty in the richest country on earth was the most
underreported story of 2007, as it has been for many years now.
should have been on the front page of every newspaper once a week.
Every day, we should hear radio and TV news announcers reminding us
that some 35 million people live below the poverty line; that 10
million Americans - 3 million of them children - experience hunger.
should flip through the cable channels and find preachers exhorting the
people in their stadium-sized churches, "Help them! Share with them!"
Political figures should be making pickup-truck tours of the dirt roads
of New England, where families live behind plastic-covered windows in
temperatures that drop to minus-20 degrees.
But we've come to
accept it somehow, as if there is nothing we can do or say, as if it's
too much of a disgrace even to read about.
Roland Merullo's latest novel is "Breakfast with Buddha."
Updates: A nice review of Breakfast with Buddha in the Dec 21, 2007, Seattle Times, and for the third week running, that same funny tome is "New & Recommended" in the Sunday Boston Globe Book Review section.
I love stories like this as they involve many favorite things - writers who keep at it even when rejected, food, honoring those who've died...and my alma mater, which has not died, Antioch.
If you get The Sunday New York Times, you'll be able to read the original. Otherwise (or if so inclined, even if), read Alex Witchel's nice recap of The I Hate to Cook Bookauthor Peg Bracken's life (she died in October '07). Antiochians: she graduated in 1940. Here's a snippet:
The men who ruled the world in the late 1950s, or at least six
of the men who ruled publishing, rejected Peg Bracken’s manuscript,
“The I Hate to Cook Book.” It would never sell, they told her, because
“women regard cooking as sacred.” It took a female editor at Harcourt
Brace to look at the hundreds of easy-to-follow recipes wittily pitched
at the indentured housewife and say, “Hallelujah!” Since its
publication in 1960, Bracken’s iconic book, which celebrated the speedy
virtues of canned cream-of-mushroom soup and chicken bouillon cubes,
has sold more than three million copies. That helped lift her spirits,
her daughter, Jo Bracken, said, about her $338 advance.
On this day 130 years ago, my grandmother, Rae Berlin Goldstein, said hello to the world in a shtetl in Belarusse (she called it White Russia) as the youngest of thirteen children. Fled with her family (they had to hide her in the china cabinet when the Cossacks came to the door, so the family lore went), landing on Ellis Island when she was about nine; became fluent in English; marched for woman suffrage; and sent three daughters to college with her sewing machine and candy store at the corner of Clinton and Myrtle Avenues in Brooklyn, NY. (Her hubby, my grandpa, Elias Schochet -- renamed Sam Goldstein at Ellis Island -- who died the year after I was born and whom I never met, a rock-rib Republican, spent most of his time in the back of the store listening to opera, according to even more family lore.)
It was after dinner on Christmas night and I had a hankering for my daughters' (plural as they both make the best) chocolate chip cookies. Miranda rose to the challenge, literally, and the result was this delicious concoction with just a tinge of red for the holiday.
Big baking advice: do not overcook. It ruins them. I was on oven duty and set the timer for the first batch at 9 minutes; for the second, 9 minutes 15 seconds. Ten mins max or you'll have biscotti not cookies.
Christmas Night (Red) Chippers
2 sticks butter 1 c brown sugar (light) 1/2 c granulated sugar (the normal terrible-for-you white kind)
2 c flour 1 t baking soda 1-1/2 t salt 1-1/2 t vanilla (get the real stuff, not the artificial flavoring kind)
1/4 c dried cranberries (chopped - keep these on hand, great snack) 1/4 walnuts or pecans (chopped - we keep jars of these on the counter for snacks) 1 c chocolate chips (dark preferred - the ones we used were 54% organic chocolate) 1/4 c cocoa
Preheat oven to 375. Line cookie sheet with parchment (or silpat sheets). Scoop balls of cookie dough onto sheet, three across, three or four down, depending on size of the sheet. Don't put scoops too close together or they'll run together into cookie-cakes. Bake 9-10 minutes max. Remove when they look nearly done...but not quite. Allow to cool for 5 mins. Take a big plate into the room where everyone else is sitting and watch them disappear.
Dearest family, friends, colleagues, and strangers who read my blog,
As those who know me are aware, by religion, I am an omnivore. In our house, we observe as many holidays as we can bring in the door. Thus, we're deep into our Christmas celebration -- and before we move to our next course (we've already enjoyed Monkey Bread, thanks to our resident chef; next up Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine in honor of our vegetarian), I am sending holiday greetings to all of you.
Family, you know how happy I am when we are all together. Friends of old, you bring the weepies; friends new, I am astonished that we've met and am eager to get beyond the superficialities and into the depths. Colleagues old and new, we have discovered so much together and are launched on paths that will take us who-knows-where. Strangers, thank you for reading.
I woke this morning remembering a few paragraphs from Networking, Jeff's and my first book - written so long ago, a quarter century, that Amazon sells it for a penny - that seem relevant to the challenges of our time -- and to this particular holiday:
We are beginning to accept the idea that "the future" is not something that will "happen" to us. We make the future every moment we live, an ancient idea that is the very essence of "karma" and most readily understood in the West through the biblical passage "As you sow, so shall you reap."
Our future is born out of our transforming ideas, out of our original and most basic human attribute, which is the ability to create images of a world that has not yet existed, but may.
God Is Dead by Ron Currie Jr. (192 pages, Viking, $21.95). Undoubtedly
one of the most original and imaginative short-story collections this
year, Currie's interlocking tales take Nietzsche's famous proclamation
to the extreme by conjuring a world trying to survive after the literal
death of God in western Sudan. What follows is a bizarre blend of
horror, fantasy and pitch-black comedy that includes melancholic dogs
and child-worshipping cults -- all depicted in a highly contagious
The stat counter for this blog (huh, say the nonbloggers - it's the device that lets you know how many readers you have and where they're coming from) indicates that I receive a large number of hits on my food-related posts. Big surprise. Not.
Thus I feel compelled to relate the traditional Christmas Eve menu at our house, which has evolved, might I add, from the earliest days of our children's youth when the big desire was for a meal we never ate (oh, what a good mom I was): hot dogs and beans.
Well, somewhere along the way, we evolved, turning toward a meal designed to skyrocket cholesterol and lead to dining accompanied by one repeated phrase: "This is so good."
Christmas Eve Dinner Chez Lipnack-Stamps
Artichokes (steamed in broth of carrots, celery, onions, and garlic) Fondue Bourguignonne Cheese Fondue Caesar Salad Chocolate Mousse **Vegans, see below
Rather than include recipes, which are available everywhere from The Joy of Cooking to, need I add, The Internetz, let me just add these notes:
For the Fondue Bourguignonne, I use a mix of peanut oil, canola oil, and butter, but mainly the fats that are terrible for you. I always feel guilty so that's why I throw in the canola oil. The main tip here is to heat the oil sufficiently on the stove before transferring to the sterno-heated fondue pot on the table. Test a piece of meat while the oil is still on the stove. If it sizzles, you're good to go. I use strip steak for this and assign the task of cutting it to a family member with less vegetarian tendencies than myself. Don't have the butcher cut it; it usually turns out to be too dry by the time you cook it. NB: We almost always forget to get sterno and there's usually a mad dash to the store.
We serve it with several sauces. I've been using the Bearnaise Sauce recipe in the original Cuisinart cookbook, the one that came with the first machines many years ago, combining the directions with the Hollandaise recipe right before it. One recipe calls for the butter to be cold, the other for it to be bubbling hot. I like it hot. Remember to use enough tarragon. Honestly, in my experience, the dry tarragon provides better flavor than the fresh. I also make a mushroom and scallion sour-cream sauce and a very pedestrian ketchup-and-mayo sauce, which I attempt to make fancy by adding chives, basil and oregano. My lovely daughter Miranda has added a curry sauce of late and Jeff always likes a mustard-mayo sauce.
For the Cheese Fondue, I use a white Bordeaux wine and, important point, about a quarter-cup less than the recipes call for. If you've made Cheese Fondue, you know how easy it is for the mixture not to be thick enough. Yes, I flour the cheese, except if we've got a gluten-free guest (which was me for a number of unhappy years). For the cheese selection, I've settled on this mix: gruyere, emmenthaler, appenzell, and, most important, Italian fontina, which gives a smooth texture. I add a splash of Kirsch (cherry brandy, have had the same bottle for years) and a pinch, very small, of nutmeg, at the end, along with some ground pepper. Oh, I also rub the pot with garlic before I begin.
**Vegan alert: you too can enjoy this meal in the Japanese tradition of Shabu-shabu, only without the beef. A rich veggie broth (remember the kombu and garlic for that incomparable flavor) bubbles in the pot; a beautiful array of veggies and tofu, artfully sliced, are then cooked to perfection. You can even enjoy it with a vegan tempura batter (again recipes all over the net).
Caesar salad - once more, The Joy of Cooking has a great recipe. Very easy, very showy salad. We skip the anchovies, much to my disappointment, as certain family members don't like them.
My hubby adores Chocolate Mousse, which means I've tried many, many recipes over the years. The best, in his opinion (incredibly, I am not much of a sweet lover except for Apple Pie and creme brulee and Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt and chocolate turtles and... - what a prevaricator I am!), is also from that stained Cuisinart spiral-bound cookbook with the back cover finally having ripped itself away. Write to me if you want that recipe. It's ridiculously easy and takes about ten minutes.
I received this lovely message yesterday from Trudy Johnson-Lenz. All who love her and Peter - and all the rest of you who benefit from their ground-breaking work - will release a deep sigh after reading this. I'm posting these two astonishing pictures with her permission. Also of note: Trudy is in the 25% of people with injuries like hers who recover. Congratulations to her doctors on what must have been very tricky surgery to yield such promising results. Keep those healing thoughts flowing her way.
I had a good follow-up appointment with the neurosurgeon Wednesday, after yet another CAT scan. He's *very* impressed with my recovery and wants to put the bone flap back in on Jan. 8. That's probably another two-day hospital stay. He said that sometimes he waits as long as 6 months to replace the bone flap, but I'm doing so well that he wants to do it soon. I'm ready!
I got the sutures removed Wednesday, too, so no more itching and pulling. Yay! (Well, there are still some scabs on the incision that get irritated by prolonged helmet wear, but this is mostly a petty annoyance.) It was also fascinating to see difference in the CAT scans from the time of the surgery and yesterday. Pretty cool technology. I saw the center of my brain pushed 1.5 inches to the left before the surgery. Nemecek [neurosurgeon] said of others with this condition that 50% die and 25% recover with major disabilities. I seem to be in the blessed small percentage with no disabilities. I am so deeply grateful.