Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Movie Madness

                Except for Libertarian views on certain social issues, I’m a lefty when it comes to politics. Think Bill Maher. So I’m supposed to play the gun control card when it comes to this horrific scene at the movie theater in Colorado, but I’m not doing that because I’m looking at the joker in the deck.   I don’t blame the NRA, I blame Hollywood. I don’t blame Charlton Heston, I blame Heath Ledger.

                 There are a handful of movies of which I recognize their brilliance and power, that I never care to see again. Off top of my head The Deer Hunter and Raging Bull come to mind, although after thirty years I’ve seen The Deer Hunting again, now able to face that scene in the jungle hut without my initial horror.

                But foremost on that list is The Dark Knight. Although I saw it in the middle of the day when prices are cheaper and crowds smaller I can remember no specifics of Heath Ledger’s amazing performance because I’ve blocked it from my mind. What I remember is that he portrayed pure evil in a way not approached before in my experience. He embodied and indeed it seemed became pure evil in a way that disturbed me to watch, and which I knew I never wanted to see again.

               I believe it killed those people in Colorado, and I believe it killed Heath Ledger.

              While I think our allowing assault weapons in the hands of citizens is insane, I don’t think a ban would have stopped this man in Colorado from committing mass murder. And while I’m more troubled by background checks—should the fact that a citizen who has sought psychological help prevent him protecting himself from the crazies who haven’t? – no such law would have prevented this nutcase from arming himself. He had no “red flags”.

            He  amassed this arsenal  over a period of months in preparation for a movie premier he knew was coming, and calling himself “ The Joker” portrayed in the flesh what he had seen on the screen.  When the smoke clears I’m sure we’ll find he’s watched The Dark Knight more than once. My weak mind saw that I shouldn’t revisit that place. His weak mind was sucked into the dark side.

             Hollywood certainly has the right to make that film. The First Amendment, as it should, guarantees it, but just because you have a right to say something does not exonerate you from its effect on your listeners.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


             For almost a year now, I’ve been attending a Spanish speaking Baptist Church.

               This may come a surprise to you given some of my writing on religious subjects and churchgoers, but two things are important to note:

 1) I’m learning to speak and understand Spanish and I get lots of practice there, and

 2) I know this Baptist thing. I can talk that talk even in Spanish.

     Also the music there is excellent. In addition to the church thing, I frequent Hispanic markets and restaurants. My secretaria is of Mexican descent.

    This heavy dose of interaction with Latinos brings with it two observations:

       The first should be obvious to my American readers (Norte Americanos). These are really hard working, law abiding citizens. They do the work the rest of us have gotten too fat and lazy to do, and are glad to get the work.(But they do get fatter after being here, what with all that motorized transportation and fast food.)

         I use the word citizen loosely. Most are not, unlike the Irish, Italians, East Europeans and eventually Africans who came before, permitted citizenship. The vast majority of our laws that they break are a result of their being denied the rights and privileges the rest of us obtained by being clever enough to be born here: driving a car, going to school, working.

       My second observation is that they are much better parents than other Norte Americanos of similar economic status and education. Ever see a Latino yelling at their children in a grocery store?

    Ok, I said two, but one more. With the prior waves of emigration that built this country, the second generation lost the ability to speak the tongue of their parent’s motherland.  Children of South and Central American immigrants not only speak fluent English, but Spanish as well. The niños translate for me in mi iglesia.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Ham the Walrus

      You'll need:
One 6-7 lb. semi-cooked ham, or smaller or bigger,          A bay leaf
the butt portion 

                                                                      Jalapeno hot sauce

1 lb. fresh asparagus                                                     12 oz. colorful
                                                                                   egg noodles
4 cans chicken broth                                                     One pack
                                                                                   split peas

1 can vegetable broth                                                    4 eggs

1 bottle dry white wine                                                  Half and half

Onions                                                                        One Marie
                                                                                    pie shell

A carrot                                                                      One pkg. Kroger
                                                                                   creamed spinich

One stalk celery                                                           Swiss cheese

1 banana pepper                                                           Parmesan

8 oz. mushrooms                                                           14 oz can
                                                                                      ripe olives


Olive oil                                                                      

Flour                                                                         Serves 3 meals
                                                                                 to 6 people

Fresh herbs (thyme, parsley)                                        or 4 Lost Boys
                                                                                      at 3 am

                  First bake a ham.

     Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Take your ham, the cheapest one you could find, wash it  and remove that little round plastic circle sticking in the big end. (What’s that about anyway?)

     You’re going to cook this ham on a rack over a baking pan sufficiently large to hold two cans of chicken broth. Go ahead and put the pan of broth in while the oven is preheating then put in the rack with the ham on it when you hit 325.

    A 6 or 7 pound ham will take about two hours. Turn it over after an hour; you may need to add more liquid at this point. It’s done when a meat thermometer inserted in its thickest point reaches 140. Turn the oven off and take the ham out to cool. I can’t emphasize this enough. Stop cooking it when it’s done.

    At this point you should be proud of yourself. As you peel off a piece of the outer brown part and eat it you’re saying wow! this is good, and wondering what the hell am I going to do with all this ham?

                   Step two:     I Ham the Eggman

     Once your ham has cooled enough to stop dripping succulent juice into the broth, put the ham on a cutting board and pour the broth in a saucepan. Deglaze the broth pan by boiling a half cup of dry white wine in it a few seconds. Add wine to broth. Now take a pound of fresh asparagus and break each spear where it wants to break. Take the tender tops and steam them for five minutes then plunge them in cold water. Preheat the oven 375. While this is happening, sauté two tbs. of finely chopped onion until tender. Next take one Marie Callender deep dish pie shell (or else make your own. The other brands all have sugar added). And make some slits in the bottom and every two inches around the sides. Cook in preheated oven for five minutes.

     While this is happening, heat the pan of broth along with the tough ends of the asparagus and the  juice from the can of olives to a boil then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes or so. Or 15 or 30. This isn’t rocket science. Crack 4 large eggs into a blender. Add enough half-and-half to make 2 cups of egg and cream mixture and a few drops of hot sauce and blend until smooth.

      In your half-baked pie shell, put some of your asparagus cut into one-inch pieces, not more than a layer. Put the rest in a baggie and refrigerate. Add the sautéed onion and about ¾ cup of chopped ham followed by a half cup of grated of Swiss cheese. Pour in the egg mixture. This should fill the pie shell. (We made those slits so the pastry wouldn’t puff up. If it does anyway, poke it back down. We need the room).

   Bake in the preheated oven for around 45 min.  Pie is done when firm to touch in center. Again, stop cooking it when it’s done .

            Step three: Goo Goo Goo Goo Goo, Goo Goo Goo Goo Goo, Goo Goo Goo Goo Goo,   Goo Jube

      Pie’s still cooking. Finely chop one small onion, half of a large banana pepper, mince three cloves garlic, and cut mushrooms in wedges.  Sauté in 3 tbs. butter and 3 tbs. of olive oil (you know the drill,) until tender, adding the mushroms and garlic only when onions and pepper are almost tender. Take a tablespoon–sized soup spoon, heap it with a much plain flour as will stay on it and add to pan. You need 3 of these. You’re going to be stirring constantly for a while now. Add more oil if necessary to saturate all the flour.

        I hope you’ve got a timer on that pie.

     Now take the ham-broth-wine mixture, discard the asparagus and add a few tablespoons to the pan, stirring until you achieve uniform consistency. Repeat this process until all the liquid is gone. DO NOT just dump a bunch in while you still have a thick paste unless you want lumpy gravy.

      Remove from heat add a handful of parmesan cheese, not the powder, the refrigerated shred. Stir until melted.

      Prepare colored egg noodle spirals per package directions.  While this is happening, microwave until fully thawed one packed of Kroger creamed spinach, or else make your own. Bird’s Eye and such don’t use real half and half.

     Stir the creamed spinach, along with half the olives each cut in half, into your sauce mixture. Add a few drops Jalapeno hot sauce. Don’t go crazy with this. You can always add more.

    Now you need another cup of chopped ham.  Pull the sections of the ham apart and cut/scrape off all the fat. Do not feed this fat to your 120 lb. Lab no matter how much interest he shows in the fat removal process. He doesn’t need it. He can lick the cutting board when you’re through. Feed the fat to cats. They love it. (Unless your cat is Black Tuesday, who won’t eat anything that doesn’t have a picture of a cat on the label).

     Drain noodles when done. Mix ham, noodles and sauce. Let sit for at least a half hour before eating. Oh, and you’re probably going to need a stock pot to mix all this in.

                Step Four:   English Rain

    Wash one package of split peas. Chop one onion, one carrot, one celery stalk, and the other half of your banana pepper. Mince 3 cloves garlic.

  This is a lot of chopping. Maybe your son will drop out of  graduate school about now and he’ll do some of this chopping for you.

    Mix 2 cans chicken broth, one can vegetable broth, one cup white wine and enough water to make 8 cups total liquid. Put this in a saucepan and add peas and chopped vegetables along with the bone from your ham and a bouquet garni.

     Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for a long time. Hours. Until the peas turn to mush. You’ll have to stir occasionally and probably add more water.

     Remove bone and cool for dog. Add a cup of chopped ham. Remember the asparagus you put in the baggie? You didn’t get up in the middle of the night and eat it in a pool of ranch dressing did you? No? Good. Chop it up and put it in the soup.

    You now have quiche for breakfast, soup and ham sandwiches for lunch and the piece the resistance, the Goo Jube, for dinner. The cats had a feast and the dog got a bone.

    And yes you still have ham left. Either freeze it or prepare to eat ham sandwiches for weeks.