Here’s Blind Willie McTell with Amazing Grace
I like the idea of Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. Have I read them? I have not, not even a smicker of them, as our Malcolm used to say. Will that stop me talking about them? It will not! According to my understanding, Barthes examines certain aspects of modern life that have become accepted as fact and shows how they are, in truth, myths: stories that we use to define ourselves and our place in the world. Barthes was writing in France in the 1950s, and it seems that now, here, in America in 2014, we’ve woven such an insane tangle of stories to explain ourselves to ourselves and the rest of the world that it’s almost overwhelming. It seems important, though, to take a step back from time to time, and to try to unravel them to arrive at some truth. Some ever-shifting never-reachable truth. Here’s one I’ve been thinking about lately. “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” It all starts in pre-school, when they’re handing out crayons or cookies. The fundamental idea, of course, is to be content with what you’re given, and to shut up and stop whining! At its most basic, it’s toddler crowd control. At its most basic, I like the idea. I would like my children to be capable of contentment, a difficult state to achieve. I would like them to be grateful to get anything at all. I would like them to be even-tempered and agreeable rather than whiny and difficult. Of course I would. And I would like to live in a world where these qualities are rewarded. But the truth is that we don’t live in that world. We can send an army of five-year-olds home chanting the catchy little rhyme, but if they absorb the lesson too completely how will they ever become successful modern Americans? We’re not supposed to be happy with what we have! We’re supposed to want more! Too much is never enough! We’re supposed to want whatever other people have. It’s one of our older myths, as Americans, that if we work hard and strive for more, for better, we can achieve success and riches. How would advertising work if people were content with what they had and who they are? It wouldn’t! It wouldn’t work, and billions of advertising dollars would be wasted trying to manipulate people based on desires and insecurities they didn’t really feel. In America we award the loud people, the talkers, the salesmen, the people who want what they get and want what everyone around them gets, too. We don’t admire people who settle. We’re scornful of people who don’t strive to better themselves, even if they face insurmountable odds such as we can’t even dream of. I believe there are countries where ambition is looked upon as a negative quality, as a vice, but we don’t live in such a country. As long as we’re telling stories about the world we inhabit, I’d like to tell this one: You get what you get, and you change it to make exactly what you need. And if you don’t get the right parts to make what you need, you share with your neighbor. You trade them the parts they need for the parts you need, and everybody creates exactly what they want. Obviously, if everyone makes a picture with the one crayon they’re given, which might not even be a color they like, it won’t be as satisfying as if everybody shares all the colors to make their pictures. Everybody makes something beautiful. And still, nobody gets upset.Croquettes! Or kofta, if you like. Or burgers. These would make great veggie burgers! These are very flavorful, very umami-ish. They have a nice texture-quite crispy. We ate them in warm tortillas with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, grated sharp cheddar. Which was delicious! But you could also make them larger and put them on a bun to make burgers. Black rice is not hard to find, I think, but you could make these with any other kind of rice, even rice leftover from your take-out food. All of these things, the lentils, the rice, can be used in other meals, which is good because the recipes given below will give you more than you need.
Here’s Bob Marley with Want More.
Eggplant croquettes! We were eating eggplant almost every day at one point in the summer. We grew it, and we got some from our CSA. So I was trying to do something new and unusual with it, and I came up with this idea. I cooked the eggplants whole until they were meltingly soft. Then I peeled them and processed them with pine nuts, bread crumbs, cheese and herbs. Then I baked them in olive oil till they were nice and crispy outside and soft and warm on the inside. These have a nice smoky flavor because of the charred eggplant, the smoked paprika, and the smoked gouda.
Here’s Tom Waits with Singapore, because many of these stories could easily become a Tom Waits song.
It’s the season of summer squash and tomatoes. What a wonderful season! I like zucchini croquettes. I wasn’t sure what to call these, in point of fact, because they’re almost like dumplings. They’re soft inside, crispy outside, with a pleasant denseness. They’re very flavorful with golden raisins, sage, oregano, garlic, pine nuts and a bit of sharp cheddar. They’re nice dipped in or covered with a sauce, and this time of year of course it’s going to be a tomato sauce! We ate them one day with fresh chopped tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic, and one day with a simple cooked fresh tomato sauce. Good either way!
Here’s Dirt Dauber Blues by Memphis Minnie. We found such a large blueblack wasp in our store today! Nearly two inches!!
Happy St. Patrick’s day. As far as I know, I’m not Irish in any way, so I probably have no right to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of green-beer-drinking Americans, so why should I let it stop me? Actually I don’t have any Ceilidhs planned, but I did spend some time Reading Yeats’ poems today, in keeping with the situation. I’d never noticed how preoccupied Yeats is with growing older, but now that I’ve started to become more preoccupied with the subject myself, it seems that his poems are suffused with memories and regrets of youth, and fear of growing old and of bodily decay. Many of them are filled with sadness and disappointment, and though they’re beautiful, they’re not easy to read. I love this one, though. I love the idea of thinking in a marrow bone.
A Prayer for Old Age
God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;
From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
O what am I that I should not seem
For the song’s sake a fool?
I pray—for word is out
And prayer comes round again—
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.
Colcannon is, I’m told “An Irish dish of cabbage and potatoes boiled and pounded.” I made this with kale, rather than cabbage, but they’re both brassicae, so I think that’s okay. Basically this is mashed potatoes with kale, cheese, eggs and herbs mixed in, and then baked in olive oil till they’re crispy outside and soft inside. You can use any herbs you like (or no herbs at all). I used tarragon, rosemary and basil, because I like them and that’s what I had. I made an olive hazelnut sauce to eat these with, but the boys actually at them with catsup!
Maybe it won’t get me reservations at the newest latest whatever, but who wants to go there anyway, when I’ve got a bottle of cheap wine, shelves full of spices, a drawerful of vegetables, a head full of strange and delicious meals to make, and good friends to eat and drink with. I made these little flavorful “meatballs” out of mushrooms, hazelnuts, pecans, black beans, and smoked gouda. They’re seasoned with sage, rosemary, smoked paprika an nutmeg. The boys ate them with long pasta and red sauce, but you can eat them with any kind of sauce you like! You can dip them, or put them in a sandwich. The possibilities are endless!
Here’s I am I Be by De La Soul
As poet R. Lee Sharpe tells us, we’re all give the tools to work with, we’re all given the lego starter set, and what we do with it is up to us…
R. Lee Sharpe
“A Bag of Tools”
Isn’t it strange that princes and kings,
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings,
And common people like you and me,
Are builders for eternity?
Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass, a book of rules;
And each must make- ere life is flown-
A stumbling block, or a stepping stone.
Here’s The Heptones with Book of Rules, based on R. Lee Sharpe’s poem.
To sweep the front room meant, principally to sweep the heavy red and green and purple Oriental-style carpet that had once been the room’s glory, but was now so faded that it was all one swimming pool of color, and so frayed in places that it tangled with the broom. John hated sweeping this carpet, for dust rose, clogging his nose and sticking to his sweaty skin, and he felt that should he sweep it forever, the clouds of dust would not diminish, the rug would not be clean. It became in his imagination his impossible, lifelong task, his hard trial, like that of a man he had read about somewhere whose curse it was to push a boulder up a steep hill, only to have the giant who guarded the hill roll hte boulder down again–and so on, forever, throughout eternity; he was still out there, that hapless man, somewhere at the other end of the earth, pushing his boulder up the hill. He had John’s entire sympathy, for the longest and hardest part of his Saturday mornings was his voyage with the broom across this endless rug; and, coming to the French doors that ended the living room and stopped the rug, he felt like an indescribably weary traveler who sees his home at last. Yet, for each dustpan he so laboriously filled at the doorsill demons added to the rug twenty more; he saw in the expanse behind him the dust that he had raised settling again into the carpet; and he gritted his teeth, already on edge because of the dust that filled his mouth, and nearly wept to think that so much labor brought so little reward.
Well, as I scrubbed the bathroom I thought about how I’ve written about dust demons, and I’ve written about cleaning and Sisyphus! And I thought how foolish it is to feel good about having written about the same things in the same way as James Baldwin, how foolish it is to compare myself to James Baldwin at all, except that he makes everything feel so human and at once so specific and so universal that everybody reading him must find revelatory similarities and sympathies. I started reading Baldwin, at this time, because I’m writing a novel (insert laugh-track hilarity here.) And I always believe that if you read well, you’ll write well. I was hoping that some of Baldwin’s fierceness and honesty and fearlessness and poetry would rub off on me. And I happen to be writing about a person who cleans (yes it is going to be as interesting as that sounds!) It’s funny how sometimes something well-done can be inspiring, but if it’s so well-done it might make you think, “Why bother? Give it up, kid!” But I suppose, as in all things, there’s a balance. And for now I’m just grateful that Baldwin made it to the end of the rug and left the room, and found time to write this haunting and beautiful novel, to give this hapless woman something to think about on a dreary January day.I love food you can eat with your fingers and dip in different sauces. I always pretend I make a meal like this for the boys, but it’s really for me. David asked me to make romesco sauce, which I was glad to do. Since romesco sauce is Spanish, I decided to invent tapas to dip in it. I made these croquettes with semolina, artichoke hearts and mozzarella. They’re like little semolina dumplings…soft and dense inside, and crispy and puffy outside. As ever, I used canned artichoke hearts that are packed in brine, but you could use fresh or frozen if you like. I also made oven-roasted fries to dip in the sauce, and I sauteed some kale and spinach with golden raisins, pecans and garlic, which might have been my favorite part of the meal!
I like after holidays when giant mushrooms go on sale. I used giant white mushrooms–stuffing mushrooms they call them, but you could easily use portobella instead. I stuffed them with a mixture of chopped pecans, chopped mushroom stems, chopped black beans, and grated smoked gouda and sharp cheddar. I got a new food processor for Christmas, and I’m chopping everything in sight! Watch out!! They were flavored with sage, thyme, and nutmeg. They took on a nice savory-sweet almost praline-y flavor once the pecans browned.