I am a freelancer in the publishing industry, so words are very important to me. I'm a leftist living in a world gone mad, so politics are very important to me. I'm an environmentalist living in a degrading world, so pick up your damn trash, get rid of your gas guzzlers, and don't touch ANWR, you self-absorbed capitalists!

Do leave comments: let's make this a conversation. If you prefer, you can contact me at friuduric at yahoo dot com.

29 September 2006

Modern-Day Chile, USSR, and Argentina, All Wrapped Into One

When I was growing up, in the dusk of the Cold War, I would daydream about becoming a modern day Jane Bond, Super Spy. I’d be sent on dangerous missions, risky but full of adventure. (I’d have a great soundtrack to my adventures, but none of those tacky seduction scenes.)

My employer would use my skills against governments which routinely jailed people for years without charging them with a crime. I’d rescue victims from secret prisons where torture was a legal and acceptable means to procure “evidence” against people loosely defined as enemies of The State. I’d whisk away detained citizens before they’d have to face military tribunals that were already stacked against them, as evidence consistently would be withheld from the defendants. Before leaving on assignment, I’d have my gadget guy provide me with an ample supply of anti-bugging micro-machines, so I could defuse any domestic wiretaps planted on the phone lines (plus, in the modern world, in the computers and cell phones) of the beleaguered citizens of these rogue governments.

Back in the days of my youth, I thought to prepare myself for such a career by learning Spanish and Russian.

Today, I see I’d need no foreign language training, as I could fulfill my Jane Bond daydream by being fluent in American English.

28 September 2006

Back to Routine

My mother left this morning, and she said she had a wonderful time. The Consort thinks I should believe her, but I wonder (maybe it’s because I know what I was *thinking* at some points). The latter part of the visit was better—because I had some work to do, but also because there were some things she needed that we could go out and get, rather than just sit at home or in a café and chat. Chatting on the go is much more palatable to me.

Privacy was never a big deal with my mother when I was a kid: she looked through our drawers on a regular basis, she steam-opened letters we received, in 12th grade she opened all my college application reponse letters before I got home from school, and there was even a roll of film that she developed which really, she shouldn’t have touched (seeing as it was in the back of a drawer). Ahem.

Anyway, that’s part of why conversations now can be such a strain. Living far away, she tries to cram in all sorts of questions into a brief visit, and I resist some of it just because of this history. In case it wasn’t clear, did you know I can be stubborn and contrary at times?

So I’ll try to stop second-guessing things, and believe that she really had a good time.

21 September 2006

The Bus and Me

A bit ago, the Consort had a meeting off campus that required him to use the car during the time that Trixie needs to be picked up from school. Not a problem—I took the bus, met her near her school, and we took the bus home. She liked it so much that we’ve made a deal to take the bus home on the one day a week that we don’t have a carpool scheduled. (At least until the weather turns blizzardly cold.) Now, public transportation in this typical American city sucks. Luckily, the route from our house to Trixie’s school is straight along one of the main arteries connecting us to the inner suburbs. But we wouldn’t be able to take the bus to an evening activity or a weekend get together (the buses stop running around 8:30 on weekdays, are on a reduced schedule on Saturdays, and don’t run at all on Sundays).

I’m glad that Trixie enjoys using public transportation; and it has reminded me how much I associate taking buses with freedom and independence. Growing up in northern New Jersey suburbia, our fathers took the train in to NYC, but we kids never took public transportation. Unless you lived really close, your mom drove you to school and picked you up at three. Perhaps this was different for public school kids, but my sisters and I went to parochial school, and in sixth grade we transferred from our town’s school to a parochial school in a nearby town. So we became even more dependent on our mother to drive us to and from places.

But in the summers, I would visit our relatives in Belgium. I would spend time in the homes of family friends, cousins, and aunts & uncles, but my personal pied à terre was my godmother’s house (just as my sister’s was her godmother’s house). My godmother lived in one of those tall and narrow city houses on a hill whose streets were still paved with stones. She lived near La Gare des Guillemins, Liège’s train station; and in front of the station, at the foot of the hill, across the street from the prostitutes in their windows (but don’t worry, they were all registered and officially “clean”), the tobacconists shops, and restaurants, were, of course, several bus stops.

My godmother had multiple sclerosis, and in all the visits I remember, she was in a wheelchair. Her husband worked during the day. I enjoyed hanging out with my godmother in her kitchen—listening to the radio, drinking many cups of coffee, chatting with her, learning to knit. And for several years I had a friendship with a girl, Carmenne, who lived next door—she’d come over to the kitchen as well and we’d play together, she’d sleep over, or we’d explore the spooky third and fourth floors of the house together.

My grandmother also lived in Liège. Across the river, near the Place Cathédrale. Which also happened to be a bus transfer point. And this is how my enchantment with buses began. The first time my godmother suggested I take the bus to spend an afternoon with my grandmother, I was shocked. Take the bus? Alone? In a city??? Growing up near New York City with my protective mother, taking public transportation in NY was just unimaginable (the fact that NY [pop: 8 million] is eNORmous compared to Liège [pop: 185,000], and that English was my mother’s second language, may have had something to do with this, I realize now as an adult). I didn’t want to do it. But my godmother didn’t believe in letting one hide behind one’s fears; she was a gentle soul, but she had terrific faith in me, and that, of course, bolstered my own sense of the possible.

I walked down the steep hill, got to the station, found the correct booth, waited for the bus, paid my fare, got off when everyone else did at the transfer station, got my bearings, and made it to my grandmother’s apartment. It was great!

It was so fun I thought of different things I could do by taking that same bus. Carmenne and I went to the movies at the theater in the Place Cathédrale. We window-shopped in the pedestrian thoroughfares along the Place. I visited my grandmother often. And I gained a sense of independence and self-reliance I hadn’t really had before.

So when I pick Trixie up on Mondays, and I feel the hydraulic brakes of the bus, or hear the rumble of the diesel engine, I remember those preteen summers in Liège, and I’m happy. And I think I’m going to enjoy Monday afternoons, even in the cold weather.

20 September 2006

(Long) Catch-Up

Well, people, here's another Wednesday, and there won't be a Word Wednesday for you. (Note: after putting this together, I realize it is a pretty long post, so I've separated it into three sections, and you can peruse each one separately, at your leisure.)
During the past few blogless days I've been busy painting the second coat of paint in the kitchen (yes, I know I did the first coat on the first day of *June*) and trying very hard not to let the cold that the the girls shared with the Consort and me get the upper hand. Oh, and there were gardeny things done, too. . . . But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

Fighting the Cold

This coming Sunday, my mother will be popping in for a 3.5-day visit. Cowgirl just had her baby boy yesterday (don't ask me the name because they don't know it yet). [I know: 9 months isn't enough time for you to pick a nice name? ;-) In case she's reading this blog in her post-caesarian haze, let me just say, Cowgirl, that I am urging the girls to call the baby Cousin It*.] Bonne Maman is visiting with Cowgirl for a week, then she's taking the high road back from Texas to visit us here in the midwest before heading home. Now, last time she visited I spent most of the week in bed with a terrible sinus infection. Remember that? The one that made me cry? So it is imperative that I don't get sick this time, otherwise it will be seen as a purposeful diss (which it isn't). Now, this is a pretty tough bug, because the Consort stayed home from work yesterday. Not only that, but he CANCELED HIS OFFICE HOURS! If you knew the Consort as well as I did, you'd all be in shock and awe right now, because the man has a saintly responsibility-meter, and neither hell nor high water would keep him from holding his office hours. Even if we would get a great head start on a trip if we left a couple of hours earlier. Or if there was a school function that really needs an environmental scientist. Or if his wife needs to be picked up from outpatient surgery.** Ahem.
So anyway, it seems like a pretty rough bug. I am dousing myself with buckets of green tea, orange juice, and taking that always-forgotten multivitamin I ought to be taking daily (as in, *daily* vitamin).

Gardeny Things No. 1

We have two pear trees. One, who I will call Pear Tree, is large and always produces lots of fruit. She (this will become clear in a moment) loves the Consort, and the Consort loves her. He never prunes her (I suspect he sings to her, too), so her long, heavy, pear-laden branches encroach onto my okra plants and bullies them into submission. Pear Tree hates me with a passion. When I would mow under her, she'd reach down and tangle her branches in my hair, yanking viciously. Now, she does the same to Trixie when Trixie mows (can you see why I think this bully needs a good solid pruning?). I forgot to take a picture of her in her fullness, but note how many pears are on the ground. And think on the fact that this is just the end of the harvest. There were many more.
The Not-so nice Pear Tree
She is so prolific that it is hard for us to find enough ways to use the pears: Pear Honey, Canned Pears, Pears in your School Lunch, Give Pears to (Probably) Undocumented Mexicans Living Next Door, Give Pears to Somali Neighbors, Pear Cake, Pears in your Yogurt, ... and now, Pear Relish.
You take 12 lbs of fruit, peel and shred it, cook it up with some colorful bell peppers, onions, pickling spices, all in a sugar-vinegar solution:
Bubble, Bubble
Then, you process it for 15 minutes, and, ta-daa! Pear Relish. How does it taste? Pretty good if you ask me. Not as crunchy as pickle relish, but I think this will make a great addition to those veggie Brats I adore on the grill:
Pear Relish: Complete!

Gardeny Things No. 2

We had our first frost warning yesterday. (This is about 1 month earlier than last year, but I'm hoping for a very snowy winter, so I don't mind!) This meant that any delicate plants (like the tons of volunteer basil we had in our yard this season) would be ruined if it wasn't taken in. Here is what I brought in yesterday:
Garden Bounty
This still left a bit on each stem, in case the frost wasn't bad and the basil kept producing. You can also see the garlic we harvested from the garden last month. (We let it go a bit too long, so it is a bit dirtier than it could have been, but the dirt just wipes right off with the papery skin, so, no worries). That is too much basil to use in a reasonable bit of time, so I prepared three batches of pre-pesto (just oil, basil and garlic, pureed in the food processor), used one for dinner last night (by adding in pine nuts and grated Paremesan), and put the other two batches into ice cube trays, like so:
Cube Tray
This morning, I took them out of the trays, so that I had 21 1-Tbsp cubes of puree:
Pesto Cubes
And I bagged them for use either as pesto or as one-cube additions to stews for the coming winter (I adore my chest freezer. Jut adooooore it.)

Today, more green tea, maybe a bath, and a bit of worry as the project I was promised for the beginning of the month is delayed yet again.

*They don't get it.
**Actually, that's poetic license. The time he forgot to pick me up from outpatient surgery, he was in the middle of his 3rd-year review meeting. With some Head Honchos.

17 September 2006

A Common Sense Suggestion

If some jerk makes nasty comments about your religion, quoting a 14th century text which states that the only things you create are "evil and inhuman", and that you follow your prophet's "command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" (not acknowledging that the jerk's own religion did much the same thing for centuries, too)...

...then may I suggest that murdering nuns and burning churches is probably not really the best way to prove this jerk is wrong.

Just a thought.

15 September 2006

A Little Known Fact

If you're looking to score some drugs, apparently all you have to do is walk aimlessly up and down city alleys in the middle of the night. Eventually, someone in the shadows will see you and ask, "Hey, you want some drugs?" (Whatever happened to knowing your source, I ask you? Isn't that how this is supposed to be done? I always thought druggies would "shop local". But what do I know, nerdy middle-ager that I am.)

Thing is, that wily American entrepreneur spirit is everywhere. Because, what, other than a serious attack of the shakes, will druggies bring with them on their midnight alley rambles?

Yes. They will bring cash. And so, in our fair city, muggings are on the rise between the hours of 12 am and 5 am.

(Actually, the Consort, who was told about this by local law enforcement [he being the current Beleaguered Lord of our neighborhood], said that "mugging-like behavior" was on the rise.
"What mugging-like behavior?" I asked.
"Well, they are bopped on the head and their money is stolen."
"Hmmm, and how is this bopping on the head and stealing of the money different than a mugging?" I persisted.
"Yeah, it sounded like mugging to me, too," he said. "But that's what they kept saying, 'mugging-like behavior'.")

The police first sent in decoys, hoping to nab the perps in the act. But strangely enough, druggies who stand up straight and have fresh crew-cuts don't get offered drugs on a regular basis. Who knew? (Of course, as the Consort & I agreed, if they just watched Hill Street Blues more closely, they'd've known that your undercover cop has to look ragged and act strung out, like Detective Mick Belker.)

Then the officers on night duty started stopping and chatting with everyone they saw on the streets during the 12-5 am time frame, getting a sense of who was out there and what they were up to.

Clearly, like American entrepreneurs everywhere, if there is too much regulation and inspection of your business, you up and move your offices to another location, where the rules for business owners are less onerous. Think U.S. Virgin Islands.

They did catch one of the perps (man, I love cop lingo). It seems that the teenage son of a police officer was attacked in a mugging-like fashion in an alley around here. But see, he's a football player -- big and strong -- so he was able to turn the tables on the mugging-like aggressor, and was able to call police to the scene. (I would have two questions. One for the attacker: "You're a newbie, right? This was your first attempt. Am I wrong?" And one for the cop's son: "Hmmmm. And you were in the alley because ... ?"

Oh, and the Consort, being tired, didn't laugh enough when, just before falling asleep, I regaled him with this little childrens' song adaptation. I'm sure you'll all enjoy it much better

"Little Rabbit Foo-Foo, hopping though the alley, scooping up the druggies
...And bopping them on the head!"

14 September 2006

Lying: The Next Generation

Heck, it worked so well for Iraq, let's try it for Iran this time!

"UN inspectors have protested to the U.S. government and a Congressional committee about a report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous and dishonest," according to a letter obtained by Reuters. ... The letter said the errors suggested Iran's nuclear fuel program was much more advanced than a series of IAEA reports and Washington's own intelligence assessments have determined.

It said the report falsely described Iran to have enriched uranium at its pilot centrifuge plant to weapons-grade level in April, whereas IAEA inspectors had made clear Iran had enriched only to a low level usable for nuclear power reactor fuel."

Not much more info in the full article.

13 September 2006

Word Wednesday: The Return

I've been wanting to bring back Word Wednesdays. Hmmm. But today is Finish a Project, Mail It Out, And Clean Out that Pigsty You Call an "Office" Day.

Because I wouldn't be able to blog effectively today anyway, I share a word for your word-a-day calendar:

Trichotillomania is an impulsive control disorder defined as irresistible urge to pluck one’s own hair to achieve a sense of relief. The behavior is often concealed and hence the diagnosis is a difficult one to make.

Can you use it in a sentence?

"Jeannine thought she hid her trichotillomania well, but really, how many people have no eyelashes whasoever, naturally?" (Yeah, her eyes look like a frog's.) {She just wants attention, that little such-and-such.} [Wait -- Is that what that word means? I thought it was someone who was good at sneaking cash from the register!]

12 September 2006

First Impressions, Second Impressions

A week ago today, I happened to tune in to the Fresh Air episode.Terry Gross was interviewing Jonathan Franzen (he of The Corrections fame).

Now sometimes, we find we have underestimated a person. Maybe they didn’t make a good first impression (*nasally:*‘I don’t want my book on the Oprah Book Club* because it will attract the wrong kind of readership’-- Oh really, why? Because you are all that? Well, bub, maybe you think you are all that, but in reality...

[sorry, I got carried away]). They may not have realized the impact of their words or actions (Oprah cancels her on-screen book club). And, when we look at their product, we find it over the top and uncreative at the same time. The Corrections was so bad I didn’t even finish it. It wasn’t that no one was a sympathetic character (none of them were sympathetic, but that can be OK in good writing), it was just that my suspension of disbelief was strained too many times (and yes, I know Coleridge probably wishes he never said that).

Now he’s come out with a new book. A memoir (“Oh my god he’s so brave! After the James Frey fiasco!”). How wonderful to have a chance to revisit this writer, Jonathan Frazen.

After listening to the interview, I can now say that, yes, his first impression sucked, and you know what? It was spot on.

What a self-important airbag. He speaks…with that typical…elisionary style of… pompous academics everywhere… And I wonder—you know, really wonder—if he literally… understands that… he is an example (literally).. of all… that is wrong in literary studies…in this day and age (he is a prime example of why I decided I would not waste any of my time getting a PhD in Literature).

If you feel like shouting at the radio (or your computer), then by all means listen to the interview. It was therapeutic—literally—for me.

*Not that I ever followed the Oprah thing. I don’t watch it, and the books she picked seemed always so “of the moment” and about the tortured lives of weak women. She’s Come Undone was a perfect example. I did read that one, and I didn’t like the fact that as soon as it looked like life was getting better – BAM! – the main character would be taken for a ride by another predatory male. And I didn’t like the fact that so many people would comment, “I can’t believe a man wrote it! He really knows what it’s like to be a woman! It’s unbelievable!” Not it isn’t, and he doesn’t. In my opinion, anyway. And isn’t that a sexist comment, anyway? Any good writer should be able to pull that off. But in any event, the Oprah Book Club got people reading, and, to paraphrase another Lady of the Airwaves, that is definitely "a good thing."

08 September 2006

Random Fridayness

OK, enough with the food, already. Today, two brief things. One political, one not.


I thought you all should know that all that money thrown at Homeland Security is not in vain:

BBC news reported this week that "the US Homeland Security and Justice departments said they had disrupted 'one of the largest ... smuggling schemes uncovered in recent US history.'" In fact, the article title says DHS and DOJ "smashed" the ring.

Holy cow! Alright! This is great! All that money thrown at the Department of Homeland Security is good for something. And something important, to boot!

... What? ... Oh, what kind of smuggling, you ask? Arms? Drugs to be sold for revenue for Al Qaeda? Of course not. This is much more important than silly terrorism stuff, you nincompoop. This was smuggling that put in jeopardy the backbone -- nay, the heart! -- of what it means to be American.

It was counterfeit merchandise smuggling. Nike Air Jordans, to be exact.


Do you like OK Go? Not sure? Well, then -- you should watch this. (This is a link to youtube, so those of you who work for The Man should wait until you get home tonight.)

I'm seeing a new Olympic sport in this.

07 September 2006

"Open me first!"

Yes, the anticipated package from my Secret Pal arrived:

And let me just say that the box was chock full of things:
One thing this exchange has taught me about my Secret Pal is: she must be a Power Shopper! Think back on all the goodies I have received from her, and realize that the total we each had to spend over the three months was $60. Come along with me as we unpack the motherlode...

First, she has a name, and it is Cate (such a beautiful name). Now, Cate always remembers my girls, and this package was no different:
Look at all those cool books! and animal notepads! and a game of jacks!

Then, Cate very early on figured out that I like books, so this time I got:
I will share the gardening magazine with the Consort, and I will get dibs on reading the rest first.

It's a good thing that post-it note addiction is not a crime. Otherwise, with all the neat packets of them Cate has given me over the past 3 months, she'd be on America's Most Wanted as that notorious Post-It Dealer. You know, the one who never cuts her product with rat poison. And finds new ways of sneaky delivery. Such as, a pen with flag dispenser:

I did say in the questionnaire that I like chocolate. Summer is not the best time to mail the stuff, but in this box I received not one but four bars of the delectable treat:
(Pay no mind to what looks like an open packet of dark chocolate. That's all in your imagination. It's not like I can't wait the five minutes it took to take these pictures before eating some!) There is also a bar of--hmmm, lemon fudge? I couldn't quite tell at first, but I placed it in the food photo, along with the teas tied together with a ribbon and button (very cute idea!).

Now, Cate may try to pass herself off as just a regular person, but I ask you, wouldn't having cute stationery such as this:
...lead you to think she may be a, oh, I don't know, Knitter-with-a-capital-(--) [that's a silent "K" in case you couldn't read it]. And one of the notes explains that that bar isn't actually food but a nice big bar of handmade soap (good thing I didn't nibble on that instead of the chocolate).

This was a knitter's exchange, after all, and in this package Cate included some gorgeous yarn. There are three different types in the same awesome red-black-gold family, and she even knit me up a pair of snuggly mittens out of some of it (and gave me enough to make another pair, I believe). There are also two skeins of yarn spun by a local sheep farmer (the natural and gray ones at the top)

Now, in the email telling me this package was coming, Cate had mentioned that she was making something for the Consort and I. In my package there was the pair of mittens, and hell if I was planning to share them with anybody. They're too soft. So I assumed that maybe what she meant was that the included yarn and pattern to make the warm mittens could be used to make the Consort his own pair. OK; but only if he doesn't drive me crazy in the next month or so.

As I was bringing everything back inside, I noticed a knitted thing which had fallen to the ground in all the excitement of the unpacking:
Ummm, OK, (I thought to myself). Cate has given me a knitted heart, complete with aorta. Maybe she's weird, and I hadn't noticed all along? (Maybe I don't really want to go visit her blog...)

No! It must be a double mitten, so that the Consort and I can go for walks in the winter and hold hands. (Awww, that's so sweet!)

(Modeled by Impera and I, although it looks like I took a picture of myself holding hands. I never realized that my arm bent out the wrong way; but really, it's just the angle. [And how would I have been able to have both hands in the mitten and still be able to take a picture of it, I ask you!])

Well, I made out like a bandit. Thank you Cate! You've been a great Secret Pal, and I can't wait to visit your blog and get to know you, now!

More Food Talk (jam-packed with trite idioms!)

Every now and again, I worry that the scope of my reading is too narrow. This often strikes at the end of the summer, after I’ve finished the July release of The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology, followed soon on its heels by the August release of The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. I like these two anthologies because they are edited by folks who have been in the field for many years, and who really have a knack for picking out wonderful stories. I like short stories. Not because I savor them; nope, usually I devour them, bones and all, in pretty short order.

This year, maybe because the crop wasn’t as creamy as in the past—or maybe because I have some writerly yearnings of my own, which were interfering with the published stuff—I closed the YBF&H halfway through and biked to the library to pick up some CDs I had requested. And, I don’t know about you, but I can’t really go to the library and not at least slow down by the New Books section. Usually, I hover at the New SciFi & Fantasy shelf, but like I said, I was feeling antsy with my typical fare, so I moved three shelves to the left and looked at the New Non-Fiction shelf. And there I picked up Best Food Writing 2005 (hmmm, you know, I just realized I may not be as rule-bending as I thought I was before I started to write this).

I know what you’re thinking: “Boy, she really is on a food kick!” Let me just state that I did this last week before The Nation’s Food Issue had made it to our mailbox. So there.

Anyway, I’m really enjoying it. Food writers are more political than I thought. They are also funnier, and very very creative when it comes to writing a bad restaurant review (but don’t worry, there are only a handful of restaurant reviews; these articles are culled from food magazines more than newspapers. The writing in some is overblown, but those are few and far between. My favorite so far has been a piece on a small town in West Virginia with two restaurants: a funky independent and a Bob Evans (franchise “breakfast all day” sort of place). The folks in each can’t imagine eating at the other. Even though the author tries to pull a Pied Piper, it just doesn’t work.

If your library has this book, or you can pick it up at half.com, go ahead. Not as good as SciFi or Fantasy, but hey, books can’t all be perfect.

Some choice lines so far:

“We buy our seeds on our wedding anniversary in early May, over a bottle of champagne, from catalog sources such as Cook’s Garden and Seeds of Change. Since we get a little drunk, we order way too much. It’s easy to have great ambitions at a fancy French restaurant. It’s a different story when we are on our hands and knees under the Colorado sun.”

“It’s quite something to go barehanded up through a chicken’s ass and dislodge its warm guts.”

“To call Baristas a restaurant would be a serious understatement. It is a restaurant, but it’s also a barbershop. And a coffeehouse. And, of course, a massage parlor.”

06 September 2006

Did you know that some people believe that civil servants--say, postal workers--have no sense of humor? Of course they have a sense of humor!

I've been excited about receiving my last Secret Pal package. My SP noted in the comments this weekend that it was on its way. This being a holiday weekend, I knew I'd have to wait a bit more than usual, but hey, this would just whet my appetite.

Today, my mail carrier must have been on vacation, because instead of gettting my mail at 10:30, it didn't arrived until 5 pm, and was delivered by someone I have never seen before.

"I've got a package for you," she sang as she walked up the porch steps.

"Oh goody! I hope it's what I think it is!" I answered. I didn't jump up and down because I am an adult, and adults don't do that.

Yes! It is a package, and I even took a picture of it before I opened it:

Now, you all are a perceptive bunch. I'm sure you see that little floating magenta arrow. I wondered what an arrow was doing hovering over my package (because you never see magenta arrows after mid June or so in these parts), so I bent down to look:

And so, you see: postal employees do have a sense of humor. QED.

I will be strong, and will not yield to temptation. (This will be good practice for me knowing where the chocolate is in the cabinet but not eating it!)

The Politics of Food

Since this week is shaping up to be Food Week here on the blog, today would be a good day to talk about the recent issue of The Nation (you know, that pinko-commie news periodical where I get all my real news) which focuses on food issues and was guest-edited by Alice Waters (founder of Chez Panisse and proponent of the Slow Food Movement).

In the Food Issue (see the "Articles" section in the right-hand column), there are several really interesting articles on the politics of food production in the US, the agribusiness-ification of the organic sector (I'll give you a hint: big business practices are as bad for workers in either type of production), and the impact of our choices on our health and the health of our planet. The editors also created a forum where they asked contributors (people like Wendell Berry and Eric Schlosser [author of Fast Food Nation]) to name just one thing that could be done to fix the food system.

The articles aren't long, and they are definitely thought-provoking. I highly recommend everyone pop over there and give the articles a look.

05 September 2006

Ode to Okra

O okra plant, you grow so tall
You make my daughter seem ver’ small!
And now your growth has hit its peak;
So many pods we eat each week.
Prolific-ness, your raison d’ètre,
Gives me great joy, and then—cold sweat!

Can I keep up with such largess?
I’m thinking no (but that’s a guess).
I offer to my friends your fruit.
I don’t hear back. You’re worse than zuke!
So much of you for four of us;
(Perhaps real soon you’ll hear me cuss.)

For it’s waste not, want not, that is true.
Tomato, pepper, garlic, too—
It’s okra’s own encounter group:
For gumbo, stew, and p’raps a soup!
But fried? Not good for heart and paunch.
…I think I’ll freeze you for the nonce.

I love okra. I love to grow it, I love to cook with it, and I love how healthy it is.

It is so easy to grow (it’s in the same family as hibiscus and hollyhock), and each plant produces lots of pods. The down side of this is that you have to keep up the harvesting, or the pods will keep growing and growing and GROWING. And once they get too big, they get pretty tough and inedible. Lucky for us okra growers, they last a good long time in the fridge, so you can gather them as they get to perfect size, and then wait until you have enough to make a gumbo, stew, or soup.

I don’t normally deep-fry my okra (actually, I don’t normally deep-fry anything: the smell of hot grease just overwhelms the kitchen and in past experiences [deep-fried day-lily blossoms, zucchini blossoms, zucchini coins, etc.] my stomach doesn’t do well with too much batter-fried “goodness”). Most of the time I will saute it to get the glutinousness going (you did know that about okra, right? That when you saute it, it “exudes a unique mucilaginous juice”—I know, it sounds gross, but actually, it’s what thickens Louisiana gumbo, and isn’t that tasty?) before adding in the other ingredients, like tomatoes, peppers, and corn (I’ve also added in eggplant, garlic, more tomatoes…). If the unique mucilaginous grosses you out, I also have a recipe for okra and corn pudding (which is more of a dense souffle).

It is a super-vegetable. This is a term coined (I think) by Laurel Robertson in that bible of vegetarianism: Laurel’s Kitchen. Super-vegetables are the dark leafy greens (kale, chard, bok choy) edible pod peas, brussels sprouts, and (ta daaa!) okra. They are the nutrient powerhouses of the vegetable world, and you really ought to try to get at least one serving of super-vegetables each day. Really. It’s for your own good. Why not have some okra?

Come to think of it, have some of my okra. We’ve got so much, and it’s true, I sent out an email offer to a group of friends for free okra, and no one has responded. So I’ve got plenty!