Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Tuesday, Pasta

     There was a pound of ground sirloin in the fridge that needed eating, and a jar of Michael's of Brooklyn "home style gravy" on the shelf.

     Presumably, that's what his grandmother called it.  Out here in flyover country (unless your grandparents hearken from the regions where they invented the stuff and darned well know their own gravy when they see it), we call it pasta sauce -- and a darned good version, too.  In single-jar lots, it is neither the most nor least expensive on the shelf at our corner market, but it's worlds above the usual  thing.  It is just one of their varieties -- I have been nerving myself up to try the hotter Arrabbiata style.

     Of course, I can't leave well enough alone, so in short order, I diced half an onion and a stalk of celery, sliced up a few big mushrooms and added some shishito peppers* cut into rounds to the drained, mostly-done beef, then poured the sauce over and let it all get better acquainted.

     It turned out to want a little salt, and why use the shaker when there's a jar of Castelvetrano olives in the fridge?  I sliced up several and added them, and we had more on the side at dinner, essentially as a condiment.

     There was half a box of rigatoni to use up, too.  It takes a little longer to cook than most pasta but paired well with the thick sauce.
* Shishito peppers are sold in a big bag.  When I buy them, they show up in dinner for several days.  They get along well in many dishes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Grilled Cheese And Tomato Soup

     But not merely grilled cheese and tomato soup, oh no.  Grilled Swiss on whole wheat, with a layer of sliced shishito peppers in the middle and cream of tomato soup with chopped, sauteed celery for a garnish.

     Next time, I might give the pepper slices a quick tour of the hot frying pan before layering them into the sandwiches, just to wake them up a little more.  Tam would like hotter peppers.  And I'd like to try it with Manchego cheese.  But it was darned good and quick to make.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Nope. Not Today. Celebrate Today. Be Annoying Another Day.

     It's too much to have to cope with a world where stupidity, deliberate ignorance and violence have somehow become virtues to be celebrated.   I am not having it today.

     It's Juneteenth.  This country did something right; we were a long time getting there, we bled a lot making it happen, the Federal government was slow telling the people most affected and it was only a start.  But we did something good.  STFU and enjoy it.   Maybe ask yourself how we can do better.

     But don't tell me.   I've got too much to deal with already.  Just go do good stuff.  Or don't.  Whatever.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Aunt Jemima's Retiring

     And it's about damn time.  The company that owns the brand is retiring the image and the name this autumn.  Oh, they tried to update her; in recent years, the "Aunt Jemima" shown on the products is certainly no nanny/cook -- to me, she looks like a Home Ec teacher, and smile notwithstanding, one who mostly hands out C grades unless you really apply yourself.  Nevertheless, the original image was indeed a minstrel-show "Mammy."

     The first woman who portrayed Aunt Jemima was Chicagoan Nancy Green, an ex-slave hired by the R. T. Davis Milling Company to demonstrate their pancake mix at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.  She worked for the company in that role for until her death in 1923.  She used the income to help start a church and worked to advocate for greater opportunities for African-Americans.  So remember her when you see the label, a woman of her times, making the best of her situation.  The real smiling, friendly Nancy Green was a woman with aspirations who made a positive difference, not someone who kept quiet in the kitchen flipping flapjacks.

     The pancake mix itself isn't going anywhere, so don't write me, bewailing that "they're taking my favorite pancakes away."  That's not so. 

     No word (as I write this on Wednesday) on Uncle Ben of the famous (and tasty!) converted rice; recent ads show the character as Chairman of the Board and his label portrayal (and the current origin story) has been as a successful rice farmer.  I'm not sure if he'll get to stick around, but he seems like the kind of guy who'd already be hanging out with Chef Boyardee and Betty Crocker, so...maybe.  On the other hand, "Uncle" has some seriously unfortunate associations, so who knows.

     Alas, the chef on Cream of Wheat wasn't treated so well, especially early on.  The image is based on a real-life chef, Frank L. White, who died in 1938.  But the company named their character "Rastus" and a lot of the early ads were just as cringeworthy and stereotypical as you might expect.  Over time, the chef started to be portrayed as the chef (and presumably manager) of the "Cream of Wheat Inn," but given the background, I won't be surprised if we find ourselves saying farewell to him, too.  (But not the product, I hope!  It's good stuff -- hot cereal was a breakfast staple when I was growing up, from Indiana's own Coco Wheats to Ralston whole wheat cereal and Cream of Wheat.  They're all still wintertime comfort for for me.)

     "Mrs. Butterworth?"  Oh, dear.  See Aunt Jemima?  Okay, now imagine you based her on Butterfly McQueen.  Because the syrup company did.  The actress wasn't thrilled about playing stereotyped roles and eventually gave up acting in Hollywood, but Mrs. Butterworth is another "mammy" character and the clock is probably ticking.

     The problem with removing harmful stereotypes is that you risk erasing representation altogether.  Who's going to step up and sit with Tony the Tiger and the Michelin Man?  Better be somebody, but who, besides the athletes on Wheaties boxes?  The solution to that, I haven't got.

     Update: I have already had comments from people who did not read past the headline and first sentence.  I did my homework -- and I provided  links.  If you just showed up and skimmed, your (mostly meme-based and not entirely factual) comments aren't going to be published.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Sun Is Shining

     It's a pretty day out there, a nice blue sky with a few clouds.  It was a pretty day yesterday, too.  It's going to get plenty warm this afternoon, but right now, the air is like wine.

     It's too nice a day to come up with another essay on things that used to be covered in Civics classes but are now, it seems, slipping from public awareness.  Today I'm just going to let them slide; there's a whole Internet out there, filled with well-researched history, solid information about the nature, function and basic law of government in the United States and many other countries, and a wide range of news and current affairs, from tabloid nonsense to sober, factual reporting, opinions all across the entire range of political and social thinking -- and endless supply of shiny, empty distraction.  It's your choice what you reach for, but hey, maybe try some fresh vegetables and fruit instead of candy and potato chips, just for one day?

     Spend some time outdoors today.  Read a news source (real news, not opinion) you don't usually read.  Dig into some oddball corner of history.  Examine a strange plant in your back yard and look it up online.

     Exercise your body and mind.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

A Free Press, And Worth Every Penny Of The Price

     It's no secret that I moderate comments.  There are a lot of divisive issues floating around these days and this is my blog, not a debating society.

     I tend to shelve comments that will only lead to a spiral of unresolvable differences: this is the Internet, soap-boxes are cheap, and shouting past one another isn't nearly as useful as shouting on one's own patch to willing listeners.  It's a big country and a big Internet.  There's room for everyone.

     My observations on the Press did prompt a response that was interesting and a little sad--  But first, let's start with this thing called the Press, which the Bill of Rights tells us is supposed to be free of government meddling.  What is it?

     "The Press" is a common noun hiding a bunch of verbs: observing, collating, writing, editing, reporting, publishing.  It is these acts that the first Amendment protects.  Not reporters or editors or publishers, who are, like the President or the police, Just Some Guys.  Just some guys who happen to be performing vital jobs.

     So when a comment claiming, "Journalists have no special protection.  If the crowd is told to disperse, they are part of the crowd.  Citizens like everyone else. Same protections but no more," showed up, the complete lack of understanding of the underlying principles saddened me.

     Let's take it a piece at a time:

     "Journalists have no special protection."  Dead wrong.  Journalism is a specifically protected activity, called out by name in the first article of the Bill of Rights.

     "If the crowd is told to disperse..."  By whom, and under what circumstances?  Police?  They do not have blanket authority to tell any peaceably-assembled crowd to disperse (that pesky First Amendment again).  The police are not your masters; they are public servants.  But wait, there's another mistake:

     "...they are part of the crowd."  Nope.  Wrong.  Journalists are observing the crowd.*  They're not participants in it and are often not even among the people assembled, but off to one side or behind police lines.  Where, in recent weeks, they have been shoved, gassed, pepperballed, had cameras smashed, been detained, handcuffed and arrested.  But not, interestingly enough, charged -- because the higher-up police officials, not to mention prosecutors and judges, know that journalism is not a crime.

     "Citizens like everyone else."  Yes, they are -- and so are protesters, police, judges, legislators and Presidents.  Some of them, from time to time, engage in Constitutionally-protected activities, like practicing their religion, functioning as members of the free Press, peaceably assembling, keeping and bearing arms, speaking freely, enjoying security "in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," and so on.

     "Same protections but no more."  Yes, precisely -- spelled out right there in the highest law of the land.

     Many journalists -- many people, including protesters, police, etc. -- are jerks, fools or just annoying.  They often have opinions that strike others as ignorant or distasteful.  Nevertheless, even they are protected from government force by the Bill of Rights, especially when engaging in those activities the Feds are supposed to steer clear of limiting.  In my lifetime, I've seen the government get pushed back from many infringements and it has been a good thing.

     The police are not the boss of me -- or of you.  They're damn sure not the boss of the free Press.
* A clearer example: a war correspondent embedded with troops is nevertheless a reporter, not a soldier.   He or she is not a combatant.  A reporter among protesters remains a reporter.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Where Was I?

     Right back into the wonderful world of whatever it is I do after a week off -- and what a week to be off! 

     It was interesting to watch news happening from the outside.  From the inside, it appears a record number of reports had bad encounters, mostly with police, a few with rioters.  I'm not talking about shouting matches, that's just part of the job.  No, there were widespread cases of cameras being broken, of journalists being gassed, pepperballed, detained or arrested, a lot of it recorded as it happened.

     It would seem a refresher course in the First Amendment and how to recognize press credentials might be in order for some Public Safety personnel.   Daily Worker or Wall Street Journal, Fox News or CNN, just being there with a notebook, pointing a camera or a microphone at events is not, in fact, reason for getting shoved around, let alone handcuffed and hauled away.  Yes, the Press gets away with a lot and yes, they do push limits -- that's their job.  Only evil fears daylight.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Shelves, Done

     Phase One is done, at least.  There are more things I'd like to do, but this replaces a small storage bench, jammed into a corner and piled with clothes.
     It doesn't look too bad.

     I spent the last three days assembling, sanding (and sanding....) and applying a finish (boiled linseed oil, hand-rubbed) to the shelves.  The wood is inexpensive pine, with a lot of, shall we say, character--
     But I like it.