Reading The Great Disruption

July 22, 2011

I’m usually quite skeptical of books or media movements that predict impending doom. This time, reading the book, The Great Disruption, by Paul Gilding, he’s got me thinking soberly about the future of humanity. I bought the online book for less than $10 (now up to $13.50), and I’ve been reading one of the 20 relatively short chapters every day. What first caught my eye about Gilding’s message was his prediction that economic growth is no longer sustainable as a national goal. Here is something that I had thought many times. The news would come on, and I’d be saying to my partner, “They should be talking about quality of life, not economic growth.” However, as I began to read Gilding’s book, I saw that his arguments were not just the usual moral ones (like how wrong it is that millions of children starve to death), but also—at least he claims and provides the statistics to prove his point—arguments from the science of the consequences of an earth full to overflowing with greedy humans. The main point that Gilding keeps returning to, again and again, is that the consequences of overpopulation, climate change and, yes, the pursuit of growth for all nations, instead of pursuing sustainability, these consequences are soon to deluge the inhabitants of the earth in almost unimaginably catastrophic ways.

I won’t try to convince you of the validity of his arguments here. But on the outside chance that even one of you will give his book a chance, I am publishing this recommendation. He’s got me thinking hopefully again about alternative sources of energy, but he’s also got me thinking that, despite the apocalypse to come, there is hope for humanity. He believes that once the leaders of a few nations get behind the idea of putting us on a war footing towards the enemy—us and our unsustainable lifestyles—a decades-long struggle to slow, stop, and eventually reverse environmental degradation will begin. He often uses the metaphor of World War II as a comparison.

This will be The Great Disruption, then, Gilding thinks. You should look at his and others arguments that our politicians’ glib and continued use of growth as a national goal as a solution to our problems is simply a reflection of their denial of undeniable scientific facts. And while the book starts out grim, Gilding picks up another theme, mid-book, that once a critical mass of humanity accepts the need for sacrifice and, yes, altruism and sharing, change will come, and not too late to save the planet. I hope he’s right about this second theme, and I’m pretty sure that sooner or later, something like The Great Disruption will occur.

Of particular interest might also be the last four chapters of his book. It is here that Gilding will probably loose 90% of his potential readership, and yet, the ideas are good to consider. In Chapter 16, he talks about the end of shopping, since our belief in the perpetual need for new and fancier or prettier things is what keeps a lot of this self-destructive social machine working. Is there life after shopping? According to Gilding, yes, there is, and a better life at that. Try convincing your daughter of this fact! Chapter 17 has Gilding not only questioning the biblical prediction that the poor will be with us forever, but suggesting that giving up growth as a global goal will pave the way for the eventual end of poverty. I’m not entirely convinced that such altruism can be dredged up from the collective human soul, if there is such a thing. However, you should take a look at his well-thought out arguments that the growth model has consistently not only not delivered on its promise to increase the general wealth of humanity, including the poor, but also, the growth model has made things much, much worse, and ruined the planet in the process. They are good arguments, not to lightly be cast off. Chapter 18 is a free market advocate’s worst nightmare or biggest joke, depending. He argues for a modified form of unlimited capitalism, with governments regulating markets for the good of all. Well, hmm. That would be so nice, and Gilding thinks the impending Great Disruption will force our hands in this direction.

I’m just now working on Chapter 18 and I’m looking forward to finishing the book. I have to thank you, Paul Gilding. You trawled for fellow advocates, and you turned up one old former Greenpeace advocate and peace song singer lost in a relatively aimless retirement of bridge playing and opera enjoyment. You’ve got me thinking, you’ve got me hoping again. God, how I hope you’re even partially on the right track.

Reading Zero History

October 21, 2010

“She watched as he sank instantly into whatever it was that he did on the Net, like a stone to water. He was elsewhere, the way people were before their screens, his expression that of someone piloting something, looking into a middle distance that had nothing to do with geography. p. 179, Zero History

Omega on my face

May 24, 2010

I had a good experience in church today. Well, for starters, the sermon was riveting. This was Pentecost, and the priest amazed us all by literally engaging in a flame-swallowing exhibition. I hadn’t seen this phenomenon since I was a child. It’s really quite astonishing to see someone put a burning flame right on his tongue, and then next put the whole wick in his mouth and extinguish the flame. It’s even more astonishing when it comes in the middle of an episcopal church sermon by a crimson-vested priest. But then again, I was so distracted by the flame-swallowing, that now, at a distance of a few hours, I can’t remember how the words he said segued in and out of the main show. I’d have to listen to the sermon again. Not that I’m criticizing the good reverend; his sermons are fine.

However, for me, the most important sermon that I hear on Sunday is the one that goes on in my head. I’m just not that good of a listener—too active. I think I catch on quick, and then I want to go out and do it. At this late age, I’m not likely to change much before I croak. Sometimes it’s the sermon, or part of it, some times it’s the readings, and sometimes, the thought just pops into my head. But sooner or later, most every Sunday, I am busy thinking about things spiritual, and not just what the preacher said. This Sunday’s first reading was Acts 2:1-21. This is the story of the Holy Spirit coming into a place where the disciples all were gathered and resting on them as the tongues of a divided flame. They began to speak in their native tongues, and yet they understood what each other were saying. As my partner, Stephen, said later, “This was the undoing of the events reported in Genesis of the Tower of Babel.” (Where humans tried to build a tower to heaven, but not to praise God, but humans.) This being Pentecost, the gospel reading was from John 14, where Jesus answers Philip’s request to be shown the Father by saying that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, and that he will in fact send an Advocate, the very Holy Spirit.

All this scriptural talk about the Holy Spirit, plus the concrete demonstration by the priest got me to thinking. In the Episcopal Church, we frequently say the Nicene Creed immediately after the sermon. I have kiddingly called this affirmation the “Not-So-Nicene Creed,” and I have long been aware that it was written in the 4th Century by bishops that Constantine locked in a room and wouldn’t let out until they had a way to denounce the hypocrisies abroad in the land that either Jesus was not fully human or Jesus was not fully divine. It is my opinion that certain things that are said in the Nicene Creed got us quite off the track. For example, the idea that Jesus Christ is the only son of God. However, I don’t have to nit pick the Nicene Creed or any other Creed to do my sermon for the day.

The point I wish to make is that creeds are fine for the people that want to say them as an affirmation of what they have come to understand as the truth. What is not fine about creeds, generally speaking, is that almost all of them contain the idea that if you do not agree with them, you are in trouble—with God and with his earthly emissaries, namely the blokes that wrote, believe and say the creeds. And speaking of finding the Holy Spirit, such a creed (that sorts human beings into two piles, sheep, who believe it, and goats, who don’t believe it) is really death to spiritual development. I would argue that the central message of Jesus Christ is that human beings CANNOT be divided into sheep and goats. Look at it this way. God made us all. So God is in all of us. My metaphor is suffering here, but the idea is clearly that you can’t possibly be evil just because you believe something that somebody else disagrees with.

I have a problem with evangelizing, Christian or otherwise. Supposedly, the whole point of evangelizing is converting people to seeing things the (right, Christian) way that you see them. Woah. There goes loving your neighbor as yourself down the tubes. What I think is much closer to the truth is that all these religions, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, are somewhat imperfect attempts to show how we can all be one family, one big, human family under God. But we aren’t there yet. If we are born into one of these religions, practicing it faithfully is probably better than having no spiritual discipline at all. We can all learn a lot by trying to live a good, religious life of one form or another. But evangelizing for a particular religion, especially one that says you can’t be a son of God unless you emulate the founder of that religion, is a step in the wrong spiritual direction.

I’m much more comfortable with ecumenism than evangelism. Maybe we need a new word: ‘ecumenizing.’ If the world’s religious would stop evangelizing so much and start ecumenizing more, they would be starting with the premise that we are all imperfect, striving souls in the same boat. Perhaps the true religion that will embody God most perfectly is still far into the future. It is a goal toward which all the world’s religions can strive. I seem to be clear, however, that the sincere practitioners of such a religion will never meet neighbors that they don’t like, even though they probably will disagree with them.

Which brings me around to the title of my post. Jesus said “I am Alpha and Omega.” I guess I just have a little too much Omega on my face today.

Lamb-Millet Pilaf

April 28, 2010

(Watching Hamlet on Masterpiece Theatre as I write this, so beware the preposterous prose.) And why should you, the blog reader, pay attention to yet another insipid recipe-post in an unknown blog? Here’s why. Stephen—man of few praises—is sharing this repast with me. About three-fourths of the way through the first plate, I say to Stephen, “Well, you haven’t said anything about the new recipe yet.” A significant pause insues, and then, “I think it’s a little triumph,” he says, “Interesting textures, lovely blend of seasonings, healthy, balanced food.” So there you have it, don’t read on at your own peril. Heh.

Lamb-Millet Pilaf

First, though, a word about the rareness of some of this recipe’s ingredients. Millet is a much underused grain in our American culture. You virtually never see it anywhere but in bird cages as a treat, certainly not on restaurant menus, even veggie or health restaurants. But we have grown to love its nutty flavor. Millet is basically cooked like rice, about 15 to 20 minutes in two to two and a half times its own measure in water salted or flavored to your taste. Lamb never appears on some tables, and for most, perhaps one or two times a year (say Easter), unless one is of Greek or Middle Eastern extraction. Lamb chops are impossibly expensive, but leg of lamb is affordable sometimes, and ground lamb can be a positive bargain. Make sure it is lean, though. We also just don’t cook much with leeks and ginger, well, leeks in French fabrications, and ginger in Asian inventions. Finally, this recipe calls for feta cheese made from sheep’s milk, which is going to cost you about twice as much as regular feta. Go ahead and substitute regular feta if you like, but I guarantee you, you will be pleasantly surprised by the sheep milk version—both in the flavor, and in how LONG it keeps in the fridge. So here in this recipe are five things most Americans are not likely ever to “have on hand,” and almost never in combination—you will definitely have to go shopping.

  • 1 cup millet
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 lb. lean ground lamb
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini squash, julienned, then diced
  • 1 med. thinly sliced leek (disgard the tough tops)
  • 1 in. peeled, chopped ginger
  • 1 lg. clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • garlic salt
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 lime, half squeezed, half cut in crescents
  • 2 oz. sheep feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the millet in slightly more than twice the salted water for about 20 minutes until all the water is absorbed and set aside. Meanwhile, saute and chop the ground lamb in the olive oil until it has lightly browned. Be sure to chop the cooking lamb with a wooden spoon until it is in quite small pieces. As you have time, prepare the remaining ingredients as directed in the list. Add, in this order the leek, ginger, garlic, zucchini, parsley, lime juice and more salt, if desired, to the lamb and continue to stir and fry, about 15 minutes in all. Now stir in the cooked millet and blend thoroughly.

To serve, transfer a good helping, about 3 or 4 scoops, to the plate. Sprinkle about an ounce of crumbled sheep feta over the pilaf, and garnish with crescents of lime, which can be squeezed by hand if additional flavor is desired.

I am of the opinion that this recipe is truly my own creation, but please feel free to modify and improve it as you please. Enjoy.

Gluten-Free Pineapple Upside-down Cake

March 26, 2010

I have been telling people that I have given up on blogging—because almost nobody reads this blog—and started to contribute my writing efforts to Wikipedia, where what I can do is occasionally useful. And that IS more or less what I have been doing this year. However, tonight, with relatively little effort, I produced from the same batch, one very beautiful (I daresay, perfect) gluten-free pineapple upside-down cake (for dinner tomorrow) and six gluten-free blueberry muffins (for breakfast tomorrow). And I just have to tell you how I did that, and of course brag just a little. I came up eager to tell Stephen that I had missed my calling (as a chef), but he was already snoozing. So . . . finally, ‘nother blog entry.

Pineapple upside-down cake made with Bob's Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake Mix

There are a couple of tricks to this recipe. One of the tricks is to be found in Bob’s Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake Mix. I love this stuff, and several times have made cakes and muffins by adding various fruits and spices to it. I just keep a bag of it in the pantry, and whenever I get a request for this or that (even chocolate-chip muffins) I don’t need another trip to the store. The recipe does make a lot, enough for two 8″ cake rounds, or 18 muffins. The other trick is to adapt a recipe that I daresay is the best pineapple upside-down cake recipe that I have encountered. Part of Stephen’s dowery when he came to live with me 25 years ago was a three volume set heavy white notebooks called McCall’s Cooking School. This set is subtitled “Step-By-Step Directions for Fool-Proof Cooking,” so you can see it was just the thing for me. Each recipe comes on an 8 1/2″ x 11″ card that has pictures with each stage of the recipe. You can still buy it on Amazon ($50 new, $10 used). The recipe I used for the pineapple upside-down cake came from the first of three volumes, cakes section.

I borrowed the first part of the McCall’s recipe for the pineapple topping. You can see in the photo above that I used my 10″ Creuset deep frying pan. Wimps or those with painful joints beware, this sucker is HEA-VY. Probably weighs more than 10 pounds. But does it ever make beautiful upside-down cakes and buttermilk cornbread!

  • Set the oven exactly between 325 and 350 degrees. (Required by gluten-free flour.)
  • Open and drain a large can of pineapple (contains 10 rings)
  • Melt 1/4 lb. butter on the stove top
  • Add 2/3 cup of light brown sugar. Stir until smooth and remove from heat.
  • Sprinkle part of 1/3 cup of medium chopped pecans over the butter mixture.
  • Put one pineapple ring in the center of the pan and surround it by six other rings.
  • Cut the last three rings in half (6 halves) and arrange around the outside edge of pan
  • Put half of a maraschino cherry in the hole of each pineapple slice, and fill with remaining pecans.
  • Set the pan aside.

Next prepare for making the muffins (this makes six) by putting paper cups in the muffin tin and setting aside. Since I made blueberry muffins, I laid out a cup with 2 or 3 blueberries for each muffin. You can see what the finished cupcakes look like.

Now you are ready to mix up the vanilla cake mix; the directions are on the package. You will need 3 eggs at room temperature, 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of oil. A trick I use if the eggs have been in the refrigerator is to put them in a small bowl or big cup and fill with hot tap water for 5 minutes.

  • Break the three eggs in a large mixing bowl; beat on high for 30 seconds.
  • Add the package mix, and then the oil and water.
  • Beat for up to a minute, but this mix is quite gelatinous, so you may have to stop sooner.

Next you will divide the cake mix between the pineapple upside-down cake and the muffins. For the muffins, spoon a tablespoon of mix into each of six cups (enough to cover the bottom well). Drop two or three blueberries into the cup. Add another tablespoon of mix (enough to cover the berries). The cups should not be more than half full. Pour the remaining batter over the pineapple upside-down topping.

Place both the six filled muffin cups and the upside-down cake with batter into the pre-heated oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, check the muffins and remove them if they are done. (But close the door immediately, so the upside-down cake can continue baking.) They should be a very light tan, and spring back to a slight touch. 22 minutes is probably too much, unless your oven is off. Then set the timer for another 20 minutes. At the end of this time, the upside-down cake is probably done. It will be much darker, a rich tan or light brown. Remove and cool for five minutes on a rack or cutting board. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan with a thin knife or spatula. At the end of the cooling period, cover with a large plate, and flip. (This is quite tricky, but you can do it. I have only had one flipping failure in my entire life.) The cake will fall onto the plate after just a few seconds. If some of the topping or a ring sticks, patch it up. But mine was perfect.

The McCall’s recipe says to serve the upside-down cake warm, but I can tell you it is just as delicious in the morning as coffee cake. The muffins for some reason do not keep well if they are covered. Best to just leave them sitting out and eat them up in a day or two. Gluten-free does not have to be a sentence to rock-hard rice biscuits. You will taste a slight difference, but it will be a delicious one. Happy eating.

Gluten Free Fruitcake

December 23, 2009

Now HERE’s a real contribution to the gluten-free dessert recipe collection: a delicious, no wheat or soy in it, rich fruitcake that I would wager you could not recognize as gluten-free. Not eating wheat or soy (and a few other foods) has made a real difference to the health of one of our family members. Naturally, when the holidays rolled around, I googled the title of this blog entry. After perusing several of the results, I was not finding a convincing answer to my question. So I thought, OK, I will do this myself, I will come up with my own gluten-free fruitcake.

Digressing for a moment here, I want to brag up a set of cookbooks that I still go back to, especially when I want to cook something truly mid-twentieth-centurish. When she got married back in the late 1960′s, my sister was offered this set of books and she did not want them. So I leaped into the fray and obtained them from my mother. Fifty years later, they are frayed and stained, but they are cherished. I refer to the five volume set Favorite Recipes of America. They are signed by Mary Ann Richards, Staff Home Economist, and the set is dated 1968. She says “These recipes were selected from my files of more than 100,000 favorite recipes to represent the desserts that Americans like best. Many outstanding recipes are from winners of Blue Ribbons at fairs, officer’s wives, and home economics teachers.” Indeed, each recipe is signed and the position of the contributer identified. Some people would find these recipes to be out of step with modern nutritional wisdom, as they are. However, I am unwilling to give up occasional comfort foods and reminders of my culinary past, because they have become traditional. If you ever get a chance to see or own this set of cookbooks, I recommend you do. They are fascinating and an important part of the culinary history of this country.

Favorite Recipes of America

So, back from the digression, the basic recipe approach with which I started was a blue ribbon prize-winning recipe from a Lucile Heckman, La Verne, California, Los Angeles County Fair. The recipe can be found on p. 48 of the Desserts volume of Favorite Recipes of America. Lucile tells us that she began developing the recipe while living as a missionary in Nigeria, and that since she lived 400 miles from the nearest store it was necessary to make substitutions and to candy the fruits in her own kitchen. I have made this fruitcake at least five times in my life; it is quite good. In addition, I was inspired by the personal comments in the recipe to raid my own pantry and see if I could just make the fruitcake from what I had on hand, no trips to the store. The recipe that you see below, then is significantly modified from Lucile Heckman’s recipe. Most significantly, I replaced the flour, salt and baking powder in her recipe with something I have bragged about before in this blog—Bob’s Wheat-Free Biscuit and Baking Mix.

The finished gluten-free fruitcake

1/2 c. soft shortening
1 c. brown sugar
2 1/2 eggs
1 1/2 c. Bob’s Wheat Free Biscuit and Baking Mix
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 lb. lemon peel
1/2 lb. candied red cherries
1/3 lb. candied pineapple + 2 dried apricots
1/2 c. dark + golden raisins
1/2 lb. candied green cherries
1/4 lb. each walnuts, almonds, pecans
1 c. moist shredded coconut

Cream shortening and sugar thoroughly; add eggs, one at a time, and beat well. Stir the spices into the biscuit mix and add in three parts alternately the biscuit mix and the orange juice to the egg mixture. Stir in the fruit, coconut and nuts. Pack into a greased tube pan (I used an old angelfood cake pan with removable bottom). Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Test with a straw. Cool, cut and enjoy, or cut into blocks, wrap and store.

Later this evening came the true test. The fruitcake was cut into slices and served with eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg. I couldn’t tell the difference from the other fruitcakes I had made from this recipe. Maybe it is the fact that being loaded with fruit and nuts, those flavors overwhelm any differences in the flavor of the flour filler. But whatever, here is the photo, we are satisfied, we have our fruitcake.

Eggnog and fruitcake

New World of Social Networking

December 22, 2009

A lot of my contemporaries register reservation, frustration or even contempt for the evolving world of cyberspace. For example, in one social group that I belong to, the median age is about 75. We meet monthly. A couple of the members have just given up on even email. Others struggle bravely with Google, cell phones, or even online commerce. Crashed computers, online failures, and virus problems are rife. Just a few, mostly dragged there by their middle-aged children, are registered facebook users.

I am widely known as a computer guru, but that is quite far from the truth. I really don’t have a quick answer to most problems that people have. Rather, it’s more like, me and computers, we are as close as my index and my flicking finger. Most people see computers as unpredictable. Whaa?!! I see people as unpredictable. Computers I can figure out. I like to have staring contests with computers, I hate that with people.

I digress slightly, but not really. I have been dancing with computers since Dec. 24, 1979, with the internet since around 1993. For me, even though I am now 71, the world of computers, and now, the world of cyberspace, is not scary or frustrating at all (Second Life being the only exception to that). Rather, it’s a huge and fascinating and ever developing landscape. One of the most fascinating landscapes of all for me has been the world of social networking, especially as it has been realized on facebook. I finally landed there last year after trying a couple of other systems. I have learned so much from my time on facebook that I scarcely can put it down in a blog post. Let me just focus on a couple of things about it that I find neat.

Facebook is a genuine new and rewarding bridge between the generations. I now have as friends my sister and her three sons, my brother and his daughter, an eighth cousin in Luxembourg, nieces and nephews of my dad, in-laws of my daughter, and my daugher and her spouse. One of the totally amazing facts about facebook conversations is that young people say things in front of you on facebook that you wouldn’t have a chance in hell of hearing in normal life. This is because the younger working generation uses facebook to blow off steam, talk about the frustrations of the job, share thoughts about music, plan impromptu get togethers, and just a whole range of everyday living concerns. AND if you are their friend, you get to eavesdrop on these conversations, especially if you risk making an occasional comment.

It took a while for me to get my stride in relating cross-generationally, if there is such a term. Many of the comments young people make on facebook, especially if they are living away from home in another place, probably reflect meaning and situations that you are entirely unfamiliar with. I discovered that I was prone to misinterpretation at first. In fact, my daughter and I went through kind of a problem period where we were kind of irritating each other without really fessing up. But I decided to hang in there, but with love in my heart. As with any social situation, online or other wise, hanging in there with love in your heart will pay off in the end, and will run away the people who don’t likewise share that trait. So you have to be brave, but cautious and listening, and eventually you will find the right pace. Mostly, I recognize that the best conversations are between people of my own generation, with an exception or two.

There is one other aspect of facebook that I want to share with you. It has to do with the synergy that builds up when you have more than 100 friends and half of them are actually paying attention to what you are saying. I have made a practice for the last year of trying to post one or two comments a day in the status line, the one that always prompts you with “What’s on your mind?” I try to make the comments down to earth, or thought provoking, or sharing a moment of my day, or even sadness or joy. Sometimes I don’t get any comments at all. But other times, the conversation that emerges, and between people who can be strangers to each other, is amazing. So let me just show you an example. I captured a snippet of one facebook conversation that emerged just today:

Facebook conversation

So here are these eight women tracking my casual thought. Two of them are former members of my church who moved away to separate locations years ago. Another was a good friend and the wife of a guy who went through graduate school with me. Another is my daughter. Still another is the daughter of a former colleague of mine, that became my friend when I posted a picture of her with sibs and parents from 30 years ago. And then there are two current members of my church.

But I am talking about cooking, and mostly, it’s women who talk about cooking. Forgive the stereotype, not saying that EVERY woman talks about cooking or that EVERY man doesn’t, it’s just a tendency. But doesn’t this just amaze you. All these different people, different ages, different places, different points of view, coming together to share a moment to talk about what I am cooking or what they are cooking. Or in my daughter’s case, making a joke about there being “eenies” in it, because she hated most vegetables when growing up. Certainly no zucchini for her, at least back then.

But note, if I didn’t risk and talk about these mundane facts about my life, no one would be commenting on them, and I wouldn’t be having this fabulous feeling of being connected, really connected, across space and time to these many prior and present acquaintances, friends and family members. It’s really no different than going back for coffee after church. You got to risk the awkward first attempts at conversation to begin developing a sense of the community that can come with church attendance.

I feel as if I am moving into a time when no one will be very far from anyone they want to relate to. One scenario I read about was that in the near future we will be able to walk up to any wall and say, “I want to talk to Liz Cunningham in Marietta, Ohio,” and before long, there her image will be, staring back at me from the wall I am looking at. Or how about a family room where there is a hemisphere of seats on one side and you see a hemisphere of seats from someone else’s living room on the other side? Or maybe just a webpage with realistic avatars of folks in boxes looking at each other and chatting.

In the meantime, I check my facebook a few times a day. Hey, I’ve got a busy life. I still shop, caregive, cook, eat, play the piano, read, sit in front of the fireplace. I’m not addicted to facebook. But I’m also not addicted to a world without facebook. My life always has been an open book, and now it’s an open facebook.

Poor old Tiger, So long Tiger

December 15, 2009

Maybe I do have something to say about Tiger Woods that hasn’t been said yet. At least I haven’t seen this angle in the news. But first, the background . . .

I am not a sports fan at all, just a person with an enduring interest in popular culture. Here is how bad it is: I never know who is going to be in the play-offs for the world series until I hear some of my friends talking about it. Then, in self-defense, I start paying attention to the news. And, golf, let me tell you, the ONLY time I have ever attended a golf match was to watch Arnold Palmer play a demonstration at OSU back in the ’60s, and that was at the begging of my drummer-buddy of the time, Ted Hamilton. I pretty much found out about the Tiger Woods scandal like most of the world. The news is saturated with the story.

Gradually, a picture of Tiger Woods began to emerge as just another superstar whose power and prestige led to him taking risks that most of us wouldn’t dream of trying. Tiger Woods was doing what most hot, relatively young guys in good condition dream of doing for most of their waking moments. I kept thinking of Bill Clinton. Clinton is one of the brightest and most talented men in the world, a guy with a phenomenal memory, the ability to connect directly with people, a genius for politics, genuine humanity, and on the downside, an ego the size of Manhattan and a sexual addiction problem. Oddly, I seldom read the words “sexual addiction” used when “Monica Lewinsky” was becoming a household word, and now I don’t hear those words used when Tiger Woods is being discussed.

Another part of this picture of Tiger Woods is that this guy is not a particularly deep-thinking person when it comes to matters of relationships and sex. Most of us aren’t—either deep-thinking or wise—when falling into the significant relationships we forge. We just find ourselves in the middle of them, and most of us don’t have the talent or skill to make the kind of bucks that Tiger does. And because we have to have our heroes perfect, Tiger has known for a long time that he has to pretend to be as perfect as we want him to be, and and the money-makers need him to appear to be. He made all the right moves, mainly learning to keep very quiet. Unfortunately for Tiger, if a bright guy like Bill Clinton couldn’t avoid eventually being brought down by his political enemies, Tiger was doomed to be revealed in his (actually unbelievably excessive) dalliances by some self-interested person along the way.

So, to summarize, genius golfer, average social and moral intelligence, and sexual addiction pretty much equals this mess. It’s a real tragedy, and I’m not inclined to be too hard on the guy, except, he shoulda known that this kind of outcome was likely and would be SO HARD on everyone close to him.

If making the right choices in life is hard for all of us, it must be infinitely more so for superstars like Tiger. The road to disgrace, however, is paved with the little tiny choices that face us every day. It took Tiger years to get himself into this mess. Look how long it took to catch Bernie Madoff at his incredibly destructive shenanigans.

I’m an old duffer now, and I never achieved much fame or fortune. But I have really worried about my choices as I moved through life. I have lots and lots of weaknesses and flaws that I will probably be working to improve until my dying day. But one thing I have really worked on is this. I really have tried to make my choices in life be ones I could at least live with. In my case, I stayed faithful to my partner for 25 years. It was hard, but I did it. I said, “The only way to have a relationship is to have one.” And before that, I played the field, so I’m not trying to pretend to be a moral goody two shoes here. But WHILE I was playing the field, I didn’t lead someone or “my public” to believe anything else. I don’t really think you can combine those two modes successfully, whether you make $5,000, or $50,000 or $5,000,000 a year.

Being good to the people you relate to, even when they don’t return the favor, is worth a lot more than getting your rocks off. And each little choice you make in your life can take you in one direction or the other. Each little choice. But it gets easier and easier to make the choice, whichever direction you choose to go in.

Cauliflower Quiche—Gluten-free

November 22, 2009

It looks like this blog is turning into a recipe blog. Maybe that’s because in this hectic time of mainly caretaking and basically surviving, cooking is one of the things I still manage to do successfully, and occasionally even have a little fun with. For decades now, I have been making a cauliflower quiche that’s to die for. But I hadn’t made it in a while, because the recipe uses a wheat flour crust, and you may remember that in this household we are spending the year gluten-free.

I got the original recipe out of this WONDERFUL 1981 cookbook edited by Janeth Jonathan Nix, who has since written many fine cookbooks. If you ever get a chance to obtain a copy of this one, go for it. Every recipe is a delicious treasure from the whole wheat zucchini pizza, through the Armenian vegetable casserole to the oatmeal pancakes with blueberry sauce! It is unfortunately now out of print.

What you do is make a quiche crust and partially bake it and then put in a quiche filling and bake it some more. In the original recipe, you made an oatmeal crust. However, what I did was to try the pie crust recipe on Bob’s Red Mill Wheat-Free Biscuit and Baking Mix for the first time. It IS a little bit tricky to make, because gluten-free flour does not hold together like wheat flour. I managed to douse my iPhone in pie crust mix when I flipped the crust over into the pie plate. Won’t make that mistake again. And I also had to patch up the crust quite a bit. I certainly don’t mind doing this, but I’d say most cooks would rather take a pre-made pie crust out of a package. There. I’ve been completely honest with you. HOWEVER, if you are on a gluten-free diet, and you PINE for pie with a pie crust, this may just be your best bet. Because the crust turns out to be crunchy and delicious, or at least as delicious as a gluten-free pie crust ever gets to a wheat flour hound.

And now, there’s the quiche filling. I’ll give you the recipe just the way it was in the original 1981 cookbook. The recipe was called “Golden Cauliflower Quiche” on p. 41, now stained with oil and batter in my copy.

1 small head (about 1 lb.) cauliflower
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 eggs
1/2 cup each milk and mayonnaise
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded longhorn cheese (I use cheddar)
1/8 tsp. each pepper and ground nutmeg (I double these)

Prebake the crust. The flour version bakes in preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, the gluten-free version in a preheated 425 degree oven for 16 minutes.

“Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into 1/2 inch pieces. (You should have 4 cups.) Steam over boiling water until just crisp-tender (about 4 minutes.) Drain, plunge into cold water to cool, then drain again.

“Spread almonds in a shallow pan and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes or until lightly browned (you should check). Place cauliflower in bottom of pastry shell and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

“In a blender or food processor, whirl eggs, milk, and mayonnaise until smooth. Add 1 1/4 cups of cheese, along with pepper and nutmeg, and whirl briefly to mix. Pour over cauliflower and nuts in pastry shell. Sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

“Bake on bottom rack of a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until an knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving. Makes six servings.”

I make several little modifications, but you will gradually develop this into a dependable recipe, because it is worth serving again. Tonight, I served it with a fancy spinach salad—lots of goodies like nuts, blueberries, goat cheese, black olives, pearl onions and the like with a vinaigrette dressing, Golden Monkey tea and a glass of Trinity Oaks Chardonnay.

Mmmmmmmm.

And sometimes, thy neighbor loves you, too

November 10, 2009

I had a nice surprise this morning. My neighbor, Dayle, lives two doors down the street in the same 1895 six-unit three-story yellow-brick row house building that we live in. She and her husband were one of the first tenants of this building when it was rehabbed in the early ’80s, so she knows all the block gossip. Stephen and I were out at the doctor’s this morning, and when I got home, there was a message from Dayle. She was providing the ingredients and recipe for the entrée to a fabulous supper, and all I had to do was put them together!

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Ernst Janssen designed this six-unit row house building


Night before last when we were driving her home from a social gathering we both attended, Dayle heard my story of the labors of providing a gluten-free diet for Stephen loud and clear. The conversation then turned to kinds of flours alternative to wheat flour. “Did you ever try chestnut flour?” she had asked, and I had replied, “No, I didn’t even know there was such a thing!” And then she promised to follow through with her fail-safe quick and easy recipe for trout prepared with only four ingredients: the fish, lemon oil, chestnut flour and ground pine nuts. “Just go to epicurious.com and search for the recipe,” she had said, and now here she was today providing it for us.

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Sautéed trout, lima beans, and an eggplant blend

This blog is proud to report the results of this unplanned and impromptu dinner. Dayle showed up as promised about 4 p.m. with a plastic bag of trout on ice, a small vial of lemon oil and baggies of chestnut flour and pine nuts. “The recipe calls for half a cup each of pine nuts and chestnut flour, but I like to use almost a cup of pine nuts. Just throw the pine nuts into a blender and grind. Then coat both sides of the boned trout fillets (cut along the back into two fillets) with lemon oil and dredge in the nut mixture. Saute in butter 3 minutes to a side and that’s it.”

So now I had a problem to solve. What to serve with the trout? No question there, I had an eggplant that had to be used in the crisper and half a can of diced tomatoes and half an onion to be used in the fridge. So I invented (or more accurately, reconstructed) a recipe for these things. Had I added sweetened vinegar and celery, I would have had a version of caponata.

  • Put some olive oil in a sautée pan, heat and add some diced onions.
  • Meanwhile, peel and dice an eggplant and add that to the pan, sautée and stir occasionally
  • Add the tomatoes and a handful of chopped black olives, sautée some more
  • Chop up three cloves of garlic, and add along with little piles of salt, basil and oregano
  • When it looks cooked (about 15-20 minutes), turn on low, cover and keep warm while you do the rest

Also, I had half a package of frozen lima beans. Cook ‘em in a little water for about 20 minutes, add salt and sprinkle cumin.

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Trout coated in lemon oil, dredged in chestnut flour and ground pine nuts and sautéed in butter

The trout turned out really fabulous looking. I had thought maybe more like 4 minutes on a side, but sure enough, Dayle was right medium heat, 3 minutes a side, starting with the flesh down, and then turning the skin down, produces a perfectly browned fillet. The first thing Stephen said was, “This has a really subtle flavor.” A couple of minutes later, there was not much trout left on his plate. I guess he was trying to find the flavor.

Dear Dayle, thanks for remembering to follow that old maxim, “Love thy neighbor.”


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