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.
(make according to the package instructions, they all probably vary. This particular one we made like this…)
1 cup black forbidden rice
1/2 t salt
1 T butter
2 cups water
Rinse and drain the rice. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. Check every now and again to make sure nothing’s burning. After half an hour, taste to make sure the rice is soft, but still a little nutty and chewy. Take it off the heat and let it sit covered for a few minutes.
1 cup french lentils (also called puy lentils or green lentils)
1 T olive oil
1 medium-sized shallot – diced very fine
1 clove of garlic – diced very fine
2 bay leaves
pinch of rosemary, thyme, sage
bit of butter, bit of balsamic
salt & Black pepper to taste
In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When warm but not sizzling, add the shallot (it has to be very finely diced, or you’ll get big lumps of boiled shallot!). When the shallot starts to brown add the garlic and herbs. When the garlic starts to brown add the…
Lentils. They should be rinsed a few times, and any little non-lentil detritus removed. Let them sizzle in the olive oil for a minute or two, stirring them to coat completely, and then add…
3. About 5 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, and simmer until done. Test after 15 minutes, but it might take closer to 20. You want them to be soft, but not mushy, they should still have their own shape, and almost a little crunch.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir it right into the broth. Strain the lentils, but keep the liquid, because it makes a delicious broth to add to soups or stews.
Add a dollop of butter and a dash of balsamic to the lentils, to really bring out their flavor.
10 oz mushrooms (I used baby bella, but “ordinary” mushrooms would be fine)
a few T olive oil
one medium shallot
one clove garlic
preheat oven to 400.
cut the mushrooms into thin slices. It doesn’t need to be completely even – variation will just give the mushrooms nice texture.
add finely diced shallot and finely chopped herbs. Drizzle olive oil over and mix well. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Stir frequently. After about 10 minutes add finely diced garlic.
The mushrooms go through a few stages while they cook. They’ll release their juices, and then they’ll dry up again, and eventually get crispy and caramelized. This is what we’re going for! You don’t want them to be black and charred, but don’t be afraid to let them get quite dark brown. They’ll reduce a lot, too, you might end up with about a cup.
Season well with salt and pepper.
TO MAKE THE CROQUETTES
1 1/2 cups french lentils, prepared as above
1 1/2 cups black rice, prepared as above
1 cup mushrooms, prepared as above
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup grated smoked gouda
salt and pepper
Olive oil, to cook.
Preheat the oven to 425. Combine everything in a food processor and whizz until combined and broken up, but not completely puréed. You want some texture.
Lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Form the mixture into patties of whatever size and shape you like. Put them on the sheet, and then turn them over so they get oiled on both sides.
Bake for about 20 minutes, till they’re browned and crispy on the outside and puffed and firm on the inside. Turn them, carefully, from time to time.
Serve however you like! On buns, in pita or tortillas, or with a dipping sauce of your choice.