Monthly Archives: July 2011

Trout with Mango Salsa

Sometimes the best laid plans turn sour. And sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Tonight was one of those cases. All week, my husband had been saying “Let’s go to Red Minnow on Saturday.” Red Minnow is a fairly new restaurant we’d been planning to visit for a while now, but just never got to. Finally, tonight was going to be the night. My husband talked about it all week, but he never made a reservation. Whoops. When we called this afternoon, we were disappointed. Apparently, Red Minnow is so good, that we could eat at 5:00 or at 8:00. Being neither a retiree or a college student, we said we’d try again another time.

Trout with Mango Salsa

My friend Anne just told me they had gotten some local trout from Ingle’s and that although it was farm raised, it was local and really good, so I suggested we try that. Ingle’s does pretty good with local suppliers: tomatoes, milk, meat and now this trout, which is one reason it’s become my very favorite grocery store. (That and I can walk there, being half a mile from it.) We stopped by on the way home and I nabbed a mango, some scallions and a red pepper while I was at it.

MMM, excellent stuff. Here’s what I made:

TROUT: Pan fry the trout with a little bit of salt and pepper in a small bit of olive oil, 2 minutes a side. Very mild flavor to it, not fishy at all.

SALSA: peel the mango and chop into small pieces. Add about a third of a red pepper, chopped very fine. Add two chopped scallions, a shake of cumin, about a tablespoon or two of cilantro (or parsley if you hate cilantro) and about 2t of lime juice. Make this ahead and let it sit for a while (in the fridge) to let it meld.

QUINOA: make it according to the directions. I made a quarter cup with 3/8 of a cup of boiling water and let it simmer for 2o minutes.

Then, you spread the quinoa on a plate, place trout on top, top with mango salsa. DELICIOUS. So good, in fact, nothing is left. We managed to save a few scraps for the cats, that’s it.

Was it as good as what we would have gotten at Red Minnow? I don’t know yet. But it certainly was good, ran us about $20 total and probably used a whole lot less butter.

We’re looking forward to having more fun with the trout. Husband wants to try bruschetta next. He’s in love with the recipes from Delicious Memories, from the Chef Boyardee family. (Actually, it’s a fabulous cookbook and very healthy. Highly recommend!)

Lebowski sleeved

Will it fit my husband? Only the shadow knows.

Will it fit my husband? Only the shadow knows.

Hey! I finished a sleeve! Turns out the husband has traveled very very little this summer, so I’ve been working on it in drips and dribbles. I’m both excited and tentative about this.

The excitement comes from moving forward on the project and seeing it start to, literally, come together. It’s really starting to look like the one in the movie.

The tentativeness comes from several things. I worry about it fitting. It seems like it won’t be big enough, but I’m trying it on a coworker that comes close to my husband’s size. Also, I’m not wild about repeating the process of making another sleeve. And thirdly, I’m worried about my yarn! I don’t think I’ll have a lot of the darkest color left.

Will it last for one more sleeve? Please?

And so, for now, it’ll have to sit in the drawer. Travel season is coming up and I’m in great shape at this point. On to other projects, like this one! (It’s similar to one someone is selling on Etsy, so I’m only giving them as gifts.)

Baby boob hat

Harry Potter and Hunger

We all got to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 on Saturday, henceforth known as HP7.5. Good stuff! I started the series when I was about 2 months pregnant, a Christmas present from my mother. “It’s the latest craze in England,” she tells me. Apparently even though it’s a children’s book, everyone is reading it. Hmm, well OK, not the first time I read a kids’ book, but a bit of an odd present, so it sat until February.

It was one of those few times when I read the last page, turned back to the first page and re-read the entire thing. Now I was not so crazed that I went to book openings at midnight or to opening showings or anything like that. The craziest thing I did was get The Order of the Phoenix preordered and delivered by Amazon on a Saturday. But I was never obsessed by the books to say the least. So, I’ve read them all as my child went from growing inside me to a 12-year old who enjoyed the books and movies right along with me. In fact, she cried quite a bit during the last movie, which I thought was touching that she was so moved. I’ve grown as a parent reading Harry, and my child became a young woman while the series came out.

The final book came out several years ago and I am one of those people that just can’t wait. I read the last chapter first. Does knowing what happened ruin things for me? Oh no not at all. In fact, I like seeing where the story is leading. But that is just me. (If you are not one of those people and you don’t like spoilers, skip this paragraph.) I was relieved to learn that Harry lived, like many. And, although I suspected that Snape could not possibly be evil, as Harry thought, I was still moved and surprised by the depth of Snape’s loyalty and devotion. (It didn’t hurt that the amazing and sexy Alan Rickman did such a glorious job of playing this character.) I thought they did an excellent job capturing this in the movies too. They couldn’t cover the weaknesses of Dumbledore (also shocking) in the detail that J.K. Rowling did in her books, but they did a lovely job of showing that there was much more to Snape than appeared behind the sneer. Perhaps I was surprised by this because the characters were so well drawn and thought out. The characters in these books were not one notes. (OK maybe Voldemort, but even he had a tortuous past that explained, ok well only some.) But even the Malfoys, who didn’t exactly become good … but they sure as hell walked away from evil! (Note that I don’t endorse this choice, but mention it to again show character complexity. I also love that she made the evil side BLOND, not because I hate blonds, but because way too often, we poor brunettes are painted to be the dark, evil ones.)

I truly believe that the original complaints from a small group of fundamentalist Christians have died down. This was a Jesus story wrapped in robes and wands and flying brooms. A story of good versus evil, except that almost all the characters had a little bit of all of that in them. They had demons to fight, and doubt to face. They questioned their motives and their decisions. And really, who hasn’t questioned their faith? Can it be called faith if you just believe in it without ever examining it? To me, true faith is examining the unexplainable, questioning it, mulling it and still deciding, despite it all, that you believe. To me, the Harry Potter series is all this and more. But … I’m a Unitarian Universalist and our very nature is to question, to challenge, to make decisions about our actions and our beliefs based on our very doubts about the world and whatever may lay beyond that.

In fact, we’ve been teaching lessons from Harry Potter to our UU kids this summer, and boy there’s lots of good ones to choose. I chose hunger, because I figured we could make something. Here was the quote from the Deathly Hallows that we worked from:

This was their first encounter with the fact that a full stomach meant good spirits; an empty one, bickering and gloom. Harry was least surprised by this, because he had suffered periods of near starvation at the Dursleys’. Hermione bore up reasonably well on those nights when they managed to scavenge nothing but berries or stale biscuits, her temper perhaps a little shorter than usual and her silences rather dour. Ron, however, had always been used to three delicious meals a day, courtesy of his mother or of the Hogwarts house-elves, and hunger made him both unreasonable and irascible. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Ultimately, we taught them what real hunger is about. Not the kind of hunger that means you’re really ready for dinner; the kind where you ache from not getting enough nutrients to grow and thrive, 800 million people. This was not a number they were terribly impressed by until we asked them how many people live in SC. We then explained that there were 200 South Carolinas of hunger people in the world. We taught them that the strength of the community relies on the residents having enough good nourishment to have the energy to change things. Our UU communion services reflect this philosophy. We do not drink and eat the blood and body of Christ. Rather, we thank the earth for giving us nourishment, and with the energy we receive from said nourishment, we hope we use that to make the world a better place. We showed them countries where more than a third of the residents suffered from malnutrition. Perhaps one of the saddest things (besides seeing the majority of African is starving) was that right across the border from starving countries were places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where almost no one starves. Oil money seems to bring nourishment as well.

And we made a list of how we could make a difference. They included:

  • Donate to organizations that help feed the hungry in your community. One of the things we’ve done is let the kids search for canned goods instead of Easter eggs full of candy. The canned goods then go to Clemson Community Care.
  • Donate to organizations such as Oxfam or Feeding America or UNICEF that help feed the hungry in other communities. The kids collect pocket change during the Halloween season and have an excuse to wear their costume to church.
  • Donate to organizations that teach people how to grow or raise their own food, such as Heifer or Guest at Our Table.
  • Donate your time to local organizations, such as Clemson Community Care.
  • Consider taking advantage of programs that give away food and donating that to food banks. I did this with an Ingle’s turkey that I couldn’t use, but earned through shopping there regularly, something I was going to do anyway.
  • Plant your own garden.
  • Support your local food providers, such as farmers and ranchers. With your support, they will grow more food. Clemson is blessed to have more than one little farmer’s market, including the one at Patrick Square, the one on campus and the Clemson Student Organic Farm. There’s also one in Pendleton, in Easley, in Greenville and in Spartanburg. You can also buy from Upstate Locally Grown or you can buy from the Clemson Area Food Exchange. We even have a co-op in Six Mile. And, while you’re at it, look for local products in your grocery stores. My favorite store carries a generic milk that comes from cows that are local, and they sell local products when they can.
  • Teach others in your community to grow their own food.
  • And, only eat what you need to eat. When you eat more than you need, you are taking food out of the mouths of people that might not have enough.

We were so inspired that we decided to make hunger the focus of our social justice projects for the year. It can touch so many areas of our congregation: green sanctuary, the locovores group, the food bank folks that work with the social justice committee. And kids love food! So why not teach them about good food and why it’s so important?

After all the seriousness, we made a potion. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Boil 2 cups of water and 1 cup sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
  2. Pour a small cup half full with the sugar water.
  3. Add some lemon juice or a fruit juice of your choice.
  4. Add some food coloring. The funny thing is the water is so saturated with sugar that it will just sit on top of the water.
  5. Add a spoonful of baking soda. Stir until mixed.
  6. Now, add some vinegar. It should bubble up pretty good.

Taste. Chances are, you’ll toss it. Yes, it’s kind of wasteful and it goes against everything we taught them, but they had fun watching the chemistry lesson. And it made a real pretty green solution!

A Liberal Lives in SC, the meditation

The opening words are from Sam Watkins, of the 1st Tennessee Regiment during the Civil War. America has no north, no south, no east, no west. The sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains, the compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a north and a south. We are one and undivided.

 

(Joys and Sorrows followed the attempted lighting of the chalice, then we played Dixie by Bobby Horton.)

How does a liberal end up living in South Carolina? Let’s start with a little background on how this liberal ended up here. I’m not officially Southern by Southern standards. My parents were grad students at the University of Connecticut when I was born. When I was two, we ended up at Clemson after a year in Ohio. My parents figured they would end up in the south for several years, then move somewhere more respectable. Most of you know that they live around the corner in the same house they bought when they moved here in 1966. (For those furiously doing the math, that makes me 47.) Between finding jobs for two Ph.D.s at another institution and making friends here, it just got increasingly difficult for them to leave.

I suppose I could have left a long time ago. I had planned to do just that. I was going to go to school far away, but in the end I got a degree from Clemson. Then I was going to move far away, to New York City, and design Rolling Stone. That proved to be too much work and I got as far as Charlotte.

So, besides inertia, why do I choose to stay here? I don’t really fit any demographic for the area. Sure, I might eat grits and I love a good apple crisp, but I loathe sweet tea, fried chicken and pork rinds. I don’t water ski or shoot or fish. Hell, I don’t even go to football games. What am I doing here?

Ten reasons.

Coach Tom Landry: “I like the South because it is so much warmer on the sidelines than it is up North.”

This may seem insane to say when it’s been so hot, but I hate cold weather a lot more than hot. That’s why we have air conditioning, folks. Four days in Minneapolis one December and I honestly thought I would die. I need the sun. I need the warmth. I enjoy a good sweat. It feeds my soul.

Lee Hazlewood: There’s nothing worse, I guess, than being black in an all-white church or being southern and being a liberal.

I grew up being in the minority, so I’m actually a little uncomfortable being in the majority. I’m a David Sedaris kind of person, just not fitting in anywhere. When I’m up north, I don’t belong there. When I’m down here, I know I’m not a typical southern gal. I might as well not fit in where I already am.

Maya Angelou: The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity formal education.

I’ve concluded my reason for living in SC is not to change people’s minds on the issues. I’m here to show conservatives that liberals are not evil, sushi-eating, tea-sipping freaks. I’m here to show them that I’m their neighbor who happens to eat sushi and sip tea. A story: we became close with the neighbors when our kids began to play together. And yes, they were conservative Baptists. I overlooked their rants about the health care bill on FB and she never said a word about the Planned Parenthood or Sierra Club mailings she picked up while we were on vacation. We did share a sense of humor and we found that we really wanted the same sort of thing for our country and our kids. I’ve concluded that being here is a way to remind conservatives (as well as myself) that we’re not the evil other team.

Biltmore’s director of horticulture Parker Andes: Sugar Maples, Sweet Gums and Sourwoods around Asheville are center stage, showing all the fall colors imaginable — yellow, orange and every shade of red.

It can be stunning down here. Within 30 minutes, I can be in the mountains. And even where I live is really pretty, an old neighborhood, with lots of trees and wildlife. On a warm summer morning, there just is nothing better than running down a country road, surrounded by the pines and the birds singing. I don’t have to drive to get to this route. It’s part of my running route from my house.

As for raising a daughter, it’s a terrific place to be. I know, since I was raised here myself. Clemson is a bit of an oasis. It’s a great little small college town, with fun little restaurants and good green spaces. The families may not be liberal, but they are fairly educated, usually. If I really want a city experience, Atlanta, Charlotte and the always funky Asheville are all nearby.

John C. Calhoun: Learn from your mistakes and build on your successes.”

 

Living here keeps me grounded reminding me that my opinion isn’t so obvious to everyone else. I become a better person for having my ideas and beliefs challenged. I’m not the status quo. This is good. Want to be a good UU? Live in the South. If you come out with your seven principles still intact, still believing that your Fox News-watching neighbor has the right to an opinion as much as you, the NPR-informed person, then you are a good UU.

But growth doesn’t happen without a little nurturing and care. If you’ve ever talked to me, I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about the importance of religious education for our youth. I’ve talked about giving them a haven, a community, a safe place to talk about who they are, why it’s OK to not be Christian (and OK to be one too) and how that makes them feel. The same goes for adults. UUFC is a safe spot for us.

Gore Vidal: Southerners make such good novelists; they have so many good stories because they have so much family.

After being in Dallas for a year, we realized we had this adorable child you all know as Bella that could be loved by four people who she should get to know. So why were we living 1,000 miles away? We moved so that our child could have grandparents. And we moved so we could be closer to our family.

From the hyperdictionary:  rebel: 1. noun (informal) `johnny rebel,’ a nickname for Confederate soldiers 2. noun, someone who exhibits great independence in thought and action.

Let’s face it: anywhere else and I might be your run of the mill soccer mom. But down here I’m a crazy liberal, with crazy ideas! Letting my kid learn about Hinduism and Buddhism on Sundays! Eating quinoa and acorn squash! CRAZY! It’s a lazy gal’s way of being a rebel.

Now rebel is a word with powerful meaning down here in the south. The original confederate rebel was brave enough to stand up for his way of life. Although totally wrong about owning slaves, don’t get me wrong, he did believe their liberties were suppressed enough to die for it. From her diary, Sarah Dawson, a southern girl during the civil war, “When so many outrages were committed by the fanatical leaders of the North, though father regretted the Union, said, “Fight to the death for our liberty.”

Am I a rebel in the tradition of the confederate rebels? Not so much in the states rights tradition, but I do believe in my way of life. Would I die for it? I’ve never had to face this. Instead, all I can do is live what I believe and give back where I can.

Joe Hollingsworth: If Donald Trump was from the South, he would say, ‘You’re fired, but, bless your heart, you’ve tried.’

I have a great job. I have a manager that listens to me kvetch all day and helps me channel that into solutions. I have a director that begs his employees to grow and learn. Both are incredibly supportive. They give me freedom to get the job done as I see fit.

My manager is very southern, at least a third generation Six Mile boy. A southern Baptist, likes a good meat and three, talks very slowly, he surprises by being very forward thinking and sharp, very smart. He pushes us to think in different ways. The fact he talks slow is a lesson for me to stop and listen, because there are important things to be heard, both from the words and from the silences.

Reynolds Price: I think we Southerners have talked a fair amount of malarkey about the mystique of being Southern.

Many of my stories begin with “ok, you know I love irony.” I have a young friend from Massachusetts who had problems handling some of the attitudes around her. (Yes, I tried to convince her to attend this church.) Me, I find humor in them. I’m so deep into irony that I really get a charge out of people’s differences. This makes SC the perfect spot for me to live.

Margaret Walker: I want my careless song to strike no minor key; no fiend to stand between my body’s Southern song — the fusion of the South, my body’s song and me.

Beyond the weather and the lazy rebel and the setting, this is indeed my home. I love my home, warts and all. I’m very comfortable here and I love the people who live around me, despite the differences we might have. It would be easy to leave it and head somewhere else, but I stay here to fight for it. I stay so that I can indeed say “leave the arts alone, why destroy that rich tradition we have here?” or “do not cut education, it is worth investing in our children” or “let’s work on building a first class institution here so that we can attract industry” or even “uh, taking down the Confederate flag off the capitol and flying it down front isn’t exactly what we meant?” I love SC enough that I’m willing to fight for her.

And so, 45 years later, I’m still here. There are times when it might be easier to live in a place where everyone agreed with me. But how boring would that be? I’ll leave you with a little Walt Whitman: “O magnet-South! O glistening perfumed South! my South! O quick mettle, rich blood, impulse and love! Good and evil! O all dear to me!”

Big Lebowski, knitted to Big Lebowski

Big Lebowski sweater, front almost finished

So my husband today volunteered to help the wonderful folks at Upstate Holistic Health take down a wall as they are expanding their space. We met them through my daughter’s elementary after school program. They offered martial arts lessons for $6 a lesson twice a week at the school. This sounded insanely cheap to me, plus I didn’t have to get her to class, so I couldn’t sign up fast enough.

Turned out to be the best thing I could have done for her. And, it’s been so good that my husband signed up too. Toran and Sarah, who are married and run the business, are young but extremely good at what they do, and so my husband was happy to help them out.

And I was happy for him to do so too, because it meant I had plenty of time to work on the sweater without him sneaking around. Since the main pattern was coming up next, this was all good.

Once I got started, I realized that the last time I saw the movie, it was on Netflix instant play, so I thought I’d watch it again and lo, there it still was! What a hilarious movie, folks. I’m assuming most who have read this blog have seen the movie, but it’s just completely absurd. Even the story is kind of pointless. It’s all about these outlandishly drawn characters, really, and seeing Jeff Bridges play the most stoned out guy you’ve ever see is a great way to kill an afternoon.

Here’s one of my favorite exchanges:

Lebowski (the millionaire): “Isn’t it being prepared to do the right thing, no matter the cost? Isn’t that what makes a man?”

Dude Lebowski: “Sure and a pair of testicles.” 

And this, autotweeted from @TheBotLebowski because I put “lebowski” in a tweet: “You see a wedding ring? Does this place look like I’m fucking married? The toilet seat’s up!”

That said, I also realized the collar on the pattern is probably too short. So, I’ll have to think about lengthening it.

Otherwise, I’m zinging through it. On to sleeves before I know it.

The Food History, the college years

Back to the food history! My teen years were mostly a variation of how I grew up. Lots of sweet snacks, breakfast was cereal. No lunch. When I was a second grader, someone ratted me out to my mother that I was only eating the roll. She then tried packing me a lunch, but didn’t pack anything I enjoyed eating. So I again ate the bare minimum and threw the rest away and again, someone ratted me out. She told me to pack my own damn lunch and so eventually, I just quit bringing a lunch all together. And dinner was much the same as it was when I was a kid.

But then, I went to college. In college, I was on the meal plan. It was the cheapest option and my parents wanted to make sure I ate appropriately. Here’s what I found at dining hall:

1. Unlimited soda! It came out of the tap, just flowed freely! You’d see lots of people with two or even three glasses full of the stuff. It didn’t take me long to learn that the sugary stuff had “calories” in it and that was a bad thing and I learned to switch to the diet stuff.

2. Unlimited food! OK it wasn’t very good. If today’s college student think the dining halls get stale, they have no idea what it used to be. You’ve heard of mystery meat? It really was. It was large pans of meat floating in water. Ick. And the veggies were totally overdone too. I think there was a salad bar at some places, but not in the one closest to my dorm. However, there was also unlimited desserts!

I usually didn’t make it there for breakfast, which would have been my very best choice, but at this point, I was sleeping in late and dashing off to class.

I only did the 5-day a week plan and weekends were usually a can of soup, maybe a baguette I’d gnaw on all weekend or we’d get a meal somewhere and follow that up with beer.

After my freshman year, I convinced my parents to get me off the meal plan (it doesn’t matter … 5 days a week of whatever you’re served institutionally, it does get old.) I didn’t have a car and I’d walk a mile to the grocery store. There were few vegetables or fruits in my bags. I only had a mini-fridge and the stove and microwave was 4 floors down. I really don’t remember what I’d buy but I think it was a lot of bread and sandwich meat and Chef Boyardee and chips and salsa and maybe frozen dinners. And I drank a lot of Diet Coke too. A fancy meal might be that I boiled spaghetti and poured Ragu on it. And I ate out a fair amount too, I think.

And after my freshman year, there was a fair amount of beer involved too.

I’m surprised I could get out of bed at all! Anyone else eat any better in college? I hope?