My grandparents just recently moved out of the home where they lived for fifty years, and my grandmother gave me almost all of her cookbooks and recipes (minus the ones for her Christmas cookies), and I've been slowly going through them to see which things I want to keep and which I should toss. She had quite a few of those cookbooks that are put out by junior leagues and garden clubs, etc., and sometimes they can yield up real treasures, and then sometimes you encounter hilarious stuff like this (from Seasoned to Taste, the 1957 cookbook of the Women's Club of Kingsville), a heart attack on a plate, if ever there was one (although it would make a mighty fine solution to a particularly vicious hangover):
Cream Tacos serves 20-25
2 large cans Wolf brand chili 4 cans ranch-style beans 2 small cans Ro-Tel [a kind of spicy stewed tomato-pepper concoction] 2 #2 cans tomatoes
Place above ingredients in large container and bring to boil. Add one pint whipping cream [!] and let come to a boil. Add one pound Velveeta cheese [!] and dissolve. Serve over Fritos [!].
This is the season when, as a political junkie, your heart starts to race as you wake up each morning, power up your computer and rapidly scan your favorite political blogs looking for the latest polls. I've been cautiously optimistic over the past few months about the Democrats' chances on November 7, but now I'm experiencing outright surges of giddiness, which I quickly tamp down for fear I'll jinx the voting decisions of 150,000,000 people. All the polls show solid leads in the generic voting question ("Do you prefer Democrats or Republicans to lead Congress?"), Democrats are running close races in places they shouldn't be--like Indiana and Arizona and even Idaho, for pete's sake--and they're opening solid leads in races that were tight just a month ago.
I'm not going to give in yet though, because the Republicans have a vastly superior GOTV operation in the 72 hours before Election Day, and one shouldn't ever underestimate their ability to fire up their base--that 33% that still supports the Iraq War, the same number that approves of Bush's job performance, the same number that doesn't mind going to war with Iran (from the comfort of their computer terminals, natch). But...still...yes, I do think I'm going to be one happy person come the evening of the 7th.
Fwiw, I predict we'll win 20-21 races in the House (we need 15 to take control). A part of me wants to predict a blowout of 30 races, but there won't be confirmation of that in the polls until the final week, when the undecideds start to make up their minds. And I think we'll win 5 seats in the Senate: Rhode Island, Montana, Pennsylvania and Ohio are givens. Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia are razor-thin close, but I think we'll take one of them. Which means a tie in the Senate. Which means Cheney, according to the Constitution, will have to haul his pasty, creepy ass up to Capitol Hill to cast the deciding vote each time a bill breaks down on party lines. In my wildest dreams, I imagine that we win Virginia or Tennessee by a hair and take the Senate too, but I don't want to let myself go there.
Anyway, it's a good time to be a Democrat, and boy, has it been a cold, dark wilderness over the past 6 years. But people are finally getting sick of the Iraq horror, and maybe, just maybe, Congress will be able to force Bush to reduce forces over there during the next two years.
I'm going to go out on a very short limb and declare that Parmigiano-Reggiano may be the most wonderful food in existence. (Although it's competing with perfectly ripened peaches, perfectly unbruised raspberries, bratwurst, mole Poblano, pico de gallo, buttermilk biscuits, green peas, horchata, and barbecued brisket in my personal galaxy of favorite foods.)
I love, first, the grittiness of it. In fact, one of my favorite things is standing at the kitchen counter, shredding Parmesan with a box grater, and feeling the crunch of the cheese pass over the teeth of the grater. But I love just cutting off little chunks of it too (although I do this fairly sparingly since it's so expensive) and just sinking my teeth into it, and tasting the grassiness that pops up first. Even when a chunk is almost finished, I like to let the rind sit out for a while, and then chew on it slowly (encased in a paper towel, because it's quite greasy), while I sit on the couch reading.
I've also gotten James addicted to it, and we'll stand there at the kitchen sink together, while I cut off one bit for me, one bit for him, one bit for me, one bit for him at the cutting board which sits right next to it, and discuss what he did in school that day. (I must say, modesty apart, that he is developing a damn good palate.)
When I stopped by Whole Foods this weekend to pick up some Parmesan for Saturday lunch, they had a sign up saying that the cheese was the first non-processed (or at least non-astronaut-processed) food to be taken aboard the international space station. It really should be included in some kind of time capsule that will be opened a millennium from now, although hopefully humans will still be producing the stuff then.
Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.
What the bill calls for, among other things:
Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.
Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.
Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.
The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration. They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
It's strange to witness the crumbling of an empire from the inside. I mean, all empires fall and you read about this kind of stuff in history books, but to be present for it, and watch it happen in slow motion, is a very odd sensation. I've never bought into the myth of American exceptionalism, but the United States Constitution is an incredible document, one that will continue (one hopes) to influence human beings for centuries. That's why it's so sad to see it abused and dismissed like this, and hardly anyone among the general American population even knows or cares particularly.
What explains this? What causes people to become so passive about their own basic rights and way of life? I mean, it makes you start to entertain crazy theories about too much fluoride in the water affecting people's brains, or high fructose corn syrup inducing a catatonic haze in the general populace. I guess it probably boils down to our educational system, and the average American not being able to tell you what habeas corpus even is.
Yes, the Supreme Court will probably strike down the worst parts of this legislation, but much of it will remain on the books, with no sunset provision. I really, truly don't get it.
I don't know why I feel so affected by the news of Ann Richards' death yesterday. Maybe it's because she was governor while I was in college, the moment when I became more consciously interested in politics and aware that your vote really does matter (yes, I still believe that to be the case, even though I'm not naive about the dangers of manipulation and incompetence in electronic voting).
Ann Richards was always what I thought of as a true Texan, someone who spoke her mind, was forthright, embraced the traditions of the state, but who wasn't afraid to fight for new things, and to try to change the old, encrusted political status quo. If there was ever a person who could speak out for Democratic issues and make the man or woman on the street understand them in a heartbeat, it was her, and she will be sorely missed because of that, and because of her support for women in politics.
She was so unlike that Connecticut WASP in faux-cowboy clothing, whose Texas accent mysteriously reappears pretty much only during campaign seasons. Speaking of whom, Ann Richards had the best comment ever regarding Bush: "Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
After I recommended it to lsugaralmond, I decided to rent The Verdict again, which I usually watch every 3 or 4 years because Paul Newman's performance in it is so good. He plays a washed-up, has-been lawyer who now spends his time chasing ambulances and drinking himself into oblivion. An old attorney buddy of Newman's tries to help by sending him a straightforward medical malpractice suit involving a hospital run by the Catholic Church that accidentally put a woman into a permanent coma by giving her the wrong anaesthetic. The idea is that PN will settle and end up with a nice check from the proceedings, with enough money to be able to continue his drinking career without ending up on the street. Of course, this is a courtroom drama, so things don't resolve themselves so tidily.
The production design is great--everything takes place in old, shabby buildings in a tired, cold, depressed Boston--and the screenplay is by David Mamet, so there's crisp dialogue, lots of plot twists, a tightly written story. There are a few plot holes in the second half of the movie, but by that point you're so heavily invested in the characters that you wave them off. The most amazing thing about the script is that Mamet loads it with every cliche of the courtroom drama, yet still manages to make them seem fresh and necessary. The supporting cast is excellent: Jack Warden plays Paul Newman's long-suffering old pal, and James Mason (whom I love) plays a particularly devious villain as the smug, corrupt defense attorney with a staff of hundreds to help him plot his nefarious deeds. There's also a scene involving Charlotte Rampling and physical violence which will shock you, especially because you find yourself cheering for something which you shouldn't. And then, of course, there's PN's performance, which, because it's PN, means you can't take your eyes off him while he's onscreen.
An odd little thing happened yesterday evening. It was about 8:30 or so, right when it's just turning dark here now, and I had gone to the backyard to get the sprinkler attachment to hook on to the hose in the front yard so that I could water the totally parched grass there. I was coming around the side of the house and heard a small screeching noise, but it wasn't like something a cat would make. It was so different that I thought at first that it must be a pipe that whines or groans when the water hasn't been turned on quite all the way.
Then as I round the corner to the front yard (the motion-sensitive light was on), I see two small owls wrestling with each other on the ground right beneath the pear tree. I was totally taken aback because I never think of owls as alighting on the ground, but the funny thing was that for a split second they both turned their heads to stare at me, like two kids who have been caught fighting, then immediately went back to their wrestling. I slunked back into the shadows at the side of the house to watch them, but by this time James had opened the front door because he had heard the screeching too, and the birds flew away.
What are these little owls called? I used to know and now have forgotten. They're so round and small and compact, I love them. One of them at least must be hanging around, because I heard it this morning in the pear tree as I was eating my cereal in the living room this morning.