Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 qts. Vegetable broth or stock
¼ lb. wet sundried tomatoes* chopped coarsely
1 qt. half and half
In large stock pot, combine celery, onions and vegetable stock. Cook until vegetables just become soft. Add sundried tomatoes and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are softened (about 10 minutes).
Stir in half and half and remove from heat.
*"Wet" sundried tomatoes are those that are sealed in a package rather than loose (and dry) in a bin or in plastic bags. They are available in the produce sections of most grocery stores, usually near the fresh tomatoes.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Monday, April 23, 2007
I have long reflected on what we could do to reduce the level of violence in this country. I have no magic answer, and certainly have no plans to run for office—so bear with this rant, and take it for what it is—a blogger puzzling her way through what is essentially a senseless event.
I grew up in an Anabaptist church tradition. One of the hallmarks of Anabaptists is that they began as people who resisted the government intrusion into their lives by using non-resistance—or passive resistance. This history became very clear to me when our family went on a trip some years ago, going to my husband’s European ancestral home. As nearly as anyone has been able to trace, his family came from Switzerland, and from the area of Germany called the Bernese Oberland. They were Anabaptists who eventually traveled up the Rhine, ending up in the Netherlands. From there they sailed to the New World, America, settling in Lancaster County, PA, which looks remarkably like the rolling hills of some parts of Switzerland and Germany (without the Alps, of course!)
One day on the trip, we visited a farm with a cave that had a waterfall spilling over the opening of the cave (Täuferhöhle). This site was known to have been a worship place for these Anabaptists—a perfect setting: hidden, sound muted by the waterfall, and high enough to allow some advance warning of encroaching authorities. What did these Anabaptists have to fear? Well, they were hunted by both Catholic and Protestant authorities. That area of Switzerland is where the cantonments divide between those with historically Catholic government and those with Protestant. In the 17th and 18th century, the state and the church in Europe complemented each other. Absent governmental systems to keep track of population—births, marriages, and deaths—the state relied on the church to do that work. So, babies were born, baptized and registered in the churches. People got married in the church, and the event was recorded. People died, and the church kept the records.
The Anabaptists had a central tenet of theology that argued for adult baptisms. Along with other Protestant reformers, they searched the Scriptures to guide them. But on one issue they parted with other Protestant reformers. Nowhere could they find convincing support for infant baptism. They found several examples of adult baptism, so they staked their theology on adult baptism. The result was—no registration of birth and baptism: a clear challenge to the state/church agreement. So Calvin and his reformers in Geneva went after the Anabaptists, and the Catholic Church also went after them as reformers. The Anabaptist way was to not conform, to resist but not by force.
Why do I recount all this history? Because deeply ingrained in me, even though I am now a Presbyterian (heir to Calvin!) I very much hold with a personal philosophy of non-violence. And that brings me back to the events of last week.
There are things that I think could be done to bring down the level of violence in our country. The first step would be to reduce our infatuation with personal ownership of handguns. The statistics speak for themselves.
In 2004 (the most recent year with full data available) there were 29,569 gun deaths in the U.S:
--16,750 suicides (56% of all U.S gun deaths),
--11,624 homicides (40% of all U.S gun deaths),
--649 unintentional shootings, 311 from legal intervention and 235 from undetermined intent (4% of all U.S gun deaths combined).
Note that the number of suicides by gun exceeds the number of homicides.
Writing in the Journal of Trauma, A. Kellerman noted that : “A gun in the home is 4 times more likely to be involved in an unintentional shooting, 7 times more likely to be used to commit a criminal assault or homicide, and 11 times more likely to be used to attempt or commit suicide than to be used in self-defense.” (I added the italicized emphasis.)
Now compare us to other industrialized countries. Below are the homicide by gun rates for several other countries. The last year that comparative data was available was 1998: Killed by homicide by guns were
--373 people in Germany
--151 people in Canada
--57 people in Australia
--19 people in Japan
--54 people in the United Kingdom and
--11,789 people in the United States.
I am enough of a researcher to know that you really should do an incidence comparison, that is how many homicides by gun per 100,000 population. So, here’s another way of looking at gun deaths: in the U.S. for every 100,000 people there are 4 homicides and 6 suicides; that compares to .5 homicides and 2.6 suicides in Canada; .25 homicides and .5 suicides in the UK; and .04 homicides and .04 suicides in Japan in which guns are the cause of death.
The second thing we could do is reduce the emphasis on violence all around us. Our children are raised with so much violence that they really become desensitized to it. The American Academy of Pediatrics has addressed this problem and gives a great overview of the exposure from television here.
I was probably a very quirky mom when it came to raising our children with as little exposure to violence as possible. My husband and I did not want our children to play with guns when they were small. So we forbade toy guns as gifts. I remember being infuriated with my mother-in-law when she presented our son with a small cap pistol one Christmas. I could barely speak, but she said—oh, it’s only a little play gun. Yeah, I muttered inside my head, but it’s a gun. Thankfully, our son fired it a couple times, then discovered that it was much cooler to take the caps out and explode them on the sidewalk with a hammer.
Our daughter had very little exposure to toy guns except for one day when she and some of the neighbor kids were playing. I found them with a toy gun of some sort, and marched out and demanded that she stop playing with it. No doubt she was mortified at my temerity to interrupt their play. I recall that I launched into one of my “love is stronger than guns” speeches. I think the kids all rolled their eyes and probably said—whatever.
This post is already way too long, but there are so many other ways we could reduce the violence we experience. We really do live with a culture of violence, certainly in our country, and of course to an extent in the whole world. I don’t know if humans are hard-wired to be violent, as some researchers have argued. But I do believe that we can intentionally determine that we will be more civil, that we will take less confrontational approaches to daily conflicts, that we will in every way possible eschew violence as the first or only course of action.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
I see that I have not yet posted a recipe with fish as the main ingredient. This soup, Salmon Potato Chowder, is just plain yummy. It features an unusual ingredient--one that I had not used ever before making the soup--fennel bulbs.
On the The World's Healthiest Foods website, the description of fennel is most interesting. Here is a small portion:
Fennel is a versatile vegetable that plays an important role in the food culture of many European nations, especially in France and Italy. Its esteemed reputation dates back to the earliest times and is reflected in its mythological traditions. Greek myths state that fennel was not only closely associated with Dionysus, the Greek god of food and wine, but that a fennel stalk carried the coal that passed down knowledge from the gods to men.Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible. Fennel belongs to the Umbellifereae family and is therefore closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.Fennel's aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise, so much so that fennel is often mistakenly referred to as anise in the marketplace. Fennel's texture is similar to that of celery, having a crunchy and striated texture.
SALMON POTATO CHOWDER
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 fresh fennel bulb, chopped
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1 tsp. fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
6 medium red-skinned potatoes cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups vegetable stock or clam juice
1 cup tomato juice or V-8
2 lbs. fresh salmon fillet, skinned and cut into 1-inch cubes
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and fennel and sweat 4 minutes, until tender.
Add thyme, fennel seeds, bay leaves, and stir to coat the vegetables.
Add potatoes, stock and tomato juice and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves from pot.
Add salmon. Remove pot from heat as we do not want to overcook salmon. It will start to cook as soon as it hits the hot soup mixture.
Stir in heavy cream and fresh tarragon.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Once seen as a leading light in sub-Saharan Africa, in recent years, Zimbabwe has suffered mightily under the megalomaniacal rule of its president Robert Mugabe. Today's BBC News features some of the present woes of this once lovely country.
Photo of the Matobo Hills in Zimbabwe, taken by my nephew Nevin.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Of course, I try to get them to explore the cultural ramifications of what we eat. Why do we eat cows, pigs, sheep, various fowl—and not dogs or cats? The discussion can go many directions—being vegan, eating meat during travels that one does not traditionally eat, having religious restrictions on what meats we eat.
I had sort of settled this question of the cultural influence on what meats we eat in my own mind until a recent post by Julie Zickefoose on agoutis got me thinking again. While you can read her post for yourself, one of the things she points out is that she had not seen an agouti in the wild because of the “edible–animal syndrome: anything big enough to roast on a spit is pretty much extirpated wherever people live.” So that’s what got me to thinking. Is there anything wrong with eating bushmeat? If you say yes—what? If you say no—why?
I struggle with the implications for survival of species if humans have no limit on killing bushmeat for food. While I was growing up in Rhodesia, Africa, we occasionally killed local animals. Mostly our meat supply came from livestock on the mission station, such as cattle or pigs, but there were also various antelope such as kudus that missionaries killed. Such meat was never a staple, but the meat could be eaten and was used. That was the extent of my exposure to bushmeat in Africa.
Bushmeat now means something altogether different. One of the websites dedicated to education about this issue states baldly that “In Africa, the unsustainable bushmeat trade is wiping out wildlife including gorillas, chimpanzees, antelopes and many other species.” (Bushmeat Crisis Task Force) It is the permanent loss of species that haunts me. The dilemma is how do we balance the needs of humans against the existence of other animals?
For desperate people in some parts of the world, Africa for example, eating bushmeat is the one available means to stave off starvation. Here is a thought-provoking piece on the role of bushmeat in Africa.
photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushmeat
Of course, this practice is as old as humanity. Before humans domesticated animals, they killed game—this term is a far less objectionable one than bushmeat. Obviously, I am not opposed to humans killing and eating game that is plentiful. But I really shudder at some of the types of bushmeat that is now being sold in some African markets—for example, gorillas. The one photo that I include here is of an African porcupine being sold as bushmeat. There are far more graphic photos on the Internet of bushmeat for sale—particularly chilling are gorilla heads. The great apes are virtually our cousins, so how can we possibly eat them?
So, I wrestle with the problem—how can we humans co-exist with other animals on this earth. Humans eating other animals and in so doing possibly wiping out species is not the only way we threaten animals. There are so many ways that humans and animals clash. Another thoughtful blogger addressed one of these problems—humans encroaching more and more on habitat that displaces animals. Then when those animals come around where we live, we take action that sometimes harms them. See Natural Notes 3 thoughtful post on Birds or Bears.
We humans have to accept that we are part of all creation, that the destruction of habitat affects us, that the loss of species affects us, that the great web of creation sustains and supports us. Destroy it and we destroy ourselves.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
No doubt there is some Kentucky soup I could feature, but I don't know what. Yesterday in our meeting we were learning about the impact of hunger around the world, focusing particularly on Haiti and Democratic Republic of Congo. Two projects that are underway in those countries are to grow the moringa tree. This tree, which can grow in even the worst of soil, has edible leaves, roots and pods. It is a source of vitamins, of iron and of calcium. Its leaves can be eaten like green vegetables, or dried and ground into flour that can be mixed into porridge or made into cookies!
Well, I have no moringa soup recipe, but many parts of the world depend on sweet potatoes for food, so how about some sweet potato soup?
4 cups chopped onions
2 cups chopped celery
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2-1/2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon salt
8 cups of water or homemade vegetable stock
10 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange peel
1/4 cup dark rum
2-1/2 cups pineapple juice
Two 14-oz. cans reduced-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and celery in the oil until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Cover the pot and stir often to prevent sticking.
Add the ginger, curry, nutmeg, bay leaves, and salt and sauté for another minute, stirring constantly. Add the water or stock, sweet potatoes, grated orange peel, and rum. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaves. Pour the pineapple juice and the coconut milk into the soup pot. Puree the soup in a blender in batches until smooth. Stir in the lime juice.
If desired, garnish with cilantro or scallions and/or toasted coconut.
This is an adaptation of a Moosewood recipe.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I took more than one such course in my college career. Eventually, in my senior year, I took a course on the Gospels. We studied the synoptic Gospels together—that is Matthew, Mark and Luke. Synoptic derives from two Greek words meaning “seeing” and “together.” These three Gospels tend to tell the same stories. Then we studied the Gospel of John alone.
For the first time, I learned that in the oldest documents that Biblical scholars have (since there is no extant original Bible) the Gospel of Mark, which is widely accepted as the first gospel recorded, ends abruptly in chapter 16, at verse 8. The closing words are: ‘. . .and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Later translators, aware of the unresolved aspect of that closing, added the remaining verses out of other textual traditions. The great Catholic theologian Raymond E. Brown argues, in his work The Birth of the Messiah, that the construction of the Gospels likely began with disciples assembling the arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection accounts. That makes sense—when someone we love dies we gather around and reminisce about how he died. Then, like the disciples, we move on to the remembrances of the person’s life. Brown says that the birth stories were probably collected last.
Reflecting on the abrupt ending of Mark, several years ago, I wrote a poem about that first Easter. I offer it here, as a reflection on the meaning of resurrection for us today on Easter.
Mark was always breathless in the telling of the story
Too rushed to even be bothered
To let us know how Jesus was born
Jumping right in to “the beginning of the Gospel”
Crying make way, make way.
Too hurried to attend to mundane details like babies
Crying in the night or shepherds shivering on the hillside.
And so it comes as no surprise that Mark dispenses
With details yet again. Right to after Sabbath sunrise
He leads the two Marys coming to complete the burial.
Almost an idle chatting, who will roll the stone, they ask.
Then looking up they see an open tomb. And Mark tells
Us they were amazed. Who wouldn’t be?
Angelic assurances aside, we’d be amazed to learn
That Christ has risen.
Is it any wonder that Mark ends abruptly the telling
That he began without fanfare or flourish. What is
There to say in the face of such wonder? Addenda
Are extraneous. And we can even forgive those early
Believers their silence and their fear.
By Donna F. W.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
2 medium onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup pearl barley
1-1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed, drained, and picked over
2 leeks, white part only, finely diced
10 cups vegetable stock
20 large fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, or 1 Tablespoon dried, crushed mint leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper (or to taste)
1) Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
2) Add the garlic, barley, and lentils. Cook, while stirring, until the barley turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the leeks and stock.
3) Cover and cook, until the barley is tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
4) Add the mint, season with pepper, and serve immediately.
This recipe was adapted from an original recipe in A Biblical Feast: Foods from the Holy Land by Kitty Morse.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I have many favorite dead poets, but one of my favorite living poets is Billy Collins. Billy Collins has a wonderful poem called Introduction to Poetry, in which he uses the line “tie a poem to a chair with a rope/and torture a confession out of it.” I love that line. While it really applies to the interpretation of poetry, arguing that you can just appreciate poetry without always explicating all its meaning, I would also apply it to the process of creating poetry.
As a young woman, fresh out of graduate school (which I attended immediately after college), I had the great good fortune to teach at my alma mater. I ended up teaching literature and writing there for 8 years. Since, at that time, the college was relatively small, I got to teach a whole array of literature and writing courses, including creative writing. Oh, what fun!
When we came to the poetry portion of the course, I had a most difficult time with students. It seems that when someone has a deep emotional experience, and puts that experience down on paper, the writer believes she (or he) has become a poet. I had the sad task of telling many an eager student that “just because you have felt deeply and have put those feelings on paper does not mean you have written a poem.” I also had the unhappy task of then looking into many a sad face.
So, what does make a poem? When I teach creative writing, or literature, I begin with prose. It is the most approachable form, in my opinion, because humans are born story tellers. If we were to be able to transport ourselves back in time, to the dawn of humanity, we would likely find a camp fire somewhere with a group of humans sitting around it at night wiling away the long hours by telling stories. If you think of some of the earliest great works of literature—the Odyssey, for example—what you really have there is a marvelous story, or really a series of events strung together into a story.
From prose, I move to poetry. I begin by asking students what the difference is between prose and poetry. And, inevitably, someone eventually says—they look different. And usually they do. Occasionally, you find a poem that is purposefully put into prose form just to challenge the reader and see it you can tell what makes a poem a poem. But usually you can tell it’s a poem just by looking at it.
Understandably, because of the kind of poetry students have been exposed to, I usually have someone say poetry rhymes. And I say, some poetry does, but not all. A particularly astute student might say, poetry has rhythm and meter. This is truer than poetry rhyming, in part because words have rhythm and meter. Some poetry arranges words purposefully so the rhythm is accented and repeated. The most common rhythm and meter—iambic pentameter (code for unstressed, stressed, repeated 5 times= da DA, da DA, da DA, da Da, da DA). That is the meter Shakespeare preferred.
Does an iamb confuse you? Think “Whose woods these are I think I know.” That is four iambs long. Oh well, getting too too technical.
After students have exhausted themselves trying to figure out what I might be asking them, here’s what I point out about prose and poetry:
o Prose speaks ABOUT something through the words; poetry MAKES something through words.
o Poetry IS what it creates.
Of course, the class goes on longer than that! But to achieve those two attributes what poetry does is select every word as though it were a gem. The word has to be just right, sparkling and packed with meaning. A poet can’t afford to waste words. You will find no (or maybe hardly any) modern poet who goes on and on the way Dickens does in one of his novels. Since he is writing prose, he can be profligate with his words.
Poets have to be parsimonious, sparing of words.
So, let’s find a poem to tie to a chair. How about Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come.”
Let the light of late afternoon shine
through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
Isn’t that wonderful? Look at some of the words and phrases that just sparkle: “chinks in the barn”; “cricket. . .chafing” compared to a woman with her knitting—but she doesn’t say knitting; she say “takes up her needles and her yarn.”
Or “moon disclose her silver horn.” And “fox go back to its sandy den”—not just “den” but “sandy den.”
And of course the repeated refrain of “let evening come” which holds the poem all together.
Well, untie the poem, let it shake itself loose from our temporary bonds. Now, just read it for pleasure.
Here endeth the lesson. Maybe another some day.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Sunday, April 01, 2007
You just have to stop and consider the implications of the command
Jesus telling some disciples to steal—if only for a day—
A colt, a colt that has never been ridden. If you were hearing this—
Be honest with yourself—wouldn’t you have said
If only inside your head—well, now he’s finally lost it?
After everything we’ve done—walked the entire length of Palestine
Even those forays in Samaria. Wearing out our sandals.
Battling the crowds, all those great unwashed sickly needy people
And the fishing! Always the fishing—by day and night.
Even going to sea in a storm. And now this!
Stealing colts! What are we to say if the owner protests?
The Master has need of it. Really? You think that’s going to cut it?
So we just walk away with it, paying no money—
What about the authorities, why can’t someone else do this?
What will he come up with next?
By Donna F. W.