Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 10th, 2019

Yet another great BC whisky

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I don’t know whether this is available in your country, but it is amazingly tasty. More info here.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2019 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Drinks

Interesting paragraph from Charles McCurry’s “The Shanghai Factor”

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From The Shanghai Factor: A Novel, by Charles McCarry

Evenings and weekends, I worked on re-Americanizing myself. I had half-forgotten how to live in my own country while I spent one-fourth of my life blundering around Afghanistan or lying in army hospitals or living a lie as every honest secret agent must do, or reducing my mind to rubble by speaking nothing but Mandarin and screwing Chinese women whom I could not permit myself to love without breaking my solemn oath of loyalty to my country and my craft. In my absence, everything had changed just slightly—the slang, the food, the music, the clothes, the drugs, the etiquette or such potsherds as remained of it, the conscience of the nation and its hopes and fears, the president, the Constitution. The educated class, always less happy than it deserved to be, was deeply, maybe incurably peeved. Many who died on 9/11 were people like themselves, who were not supposed to die in American wars. Now that the taboo was shattered, something worse could happen with even more disconcerting results. No one was safe, no matter how many diplomas he or she had, no matter how special he or she might be. Suicide bombers could not be far in the future—in fact, they should have started blowing themselves up in America long ago. This loss of immunity, this end of specialness, was somebody’s fault, probably a hidden somebody or more likely a vast conspiracy of hidden somebodies. Mother had been right, America was askew. Anger was the fuel of politics. In her opinion, the atmosphere was worse than the sixties. Now as then, the nonconformists only succeeded in being all alike—same thoughts, same vocabulary, same costumes, same delusions, same cookie-cutter behavior masquerading as rebellion. Coming home to this country on the brink of a nervous breakdown was like waking from a coma and seeing two moons in the sky.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2019 at 6:11 pm

Posted in Books

How my mind works now, regarding food

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It was a fairly simple question on Quora: “What’s better: cabbage cooked in a microwave or cabbage sauteed in butter on the stove?” My answer shows the path my mind took after being poked by the quesiton:

Personally, I would go with sautéed cabbage in a heartbeat.

Some thoughts: I would use my largest cast-iron skillet (my Field No. 12 Cast Iron Skillet) because cast iron holds a lot of heat (it doesn’t become cool when you add the cabbage and it absorbs some of that heat) and moreover it cooks by radiative heat as well as by conduction (unlike stainless steel) and because the large cooking area means no crowding, which means better sautéing.

I would put the skillet into a cold oven and turn the temp to 350ºF to load it with heat. (Cast iron is not a particularly good conductor, and while warming the pan on a gas range would work—the flame spreads out—it’s not practical to warm a pan so large on an electric coil burner, which is what I have.) I do use a handle cover to (a) protect my hand and (b) to remind me the handle is hot.

I would probably use extra-virgin olive oil, though, rather than butter. I do use butter for some things, but for this, EVOO sounds better to me. I might add just a little toasted sesame oil to the mix, and then perhaps some good soy sauce at the end.. And I might chop a couple of shallots or a few scallions to cook in the oil first. Then add the cabbage, and I would go with shredded rather than chopped. Salt—probably Maldon salt for this—and pepper and I think just a little smoked paprika, like 1/4 tsp, 1/2 tsp at most. And for a wild card, 1 tablespoon of grated horseradish (the good kind, from the refrigerated section, not that dreck that sits on the shelf in the middle of the store). It’s possible I would add a handful of nuts (peanuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios).

My picks for best cast-iron skillets includes a list of some of the advantages of that cookware, but carbon-steel pans are also good.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2019 at 5:56 pm

Subtle things that deteriorate your mental health over time

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Alyss Thomas, Registered Psychotherapist since 1992, posted on Quora a list that in her experience cause slow but inexorable deterioration in mental health:

This list may surprise you, and you are of course free to disagree! It is my opinion only, based on my observations of over 30 years of psychotherapy practice.

1. Watching TV

2. Watching violent, negative or scary movies

3. Avoiding time spent in nature, instead just spending time outdoors

4. Avoiding strenuous physical exercise or exertion

5. Being interested in what other people think about you or how they judge you. This is none of your business.

6. Not practising some form of mental discipline and thought control so you are not the master of your mind and it runs all over the place

7. Bad diet

8. Being in the company of negative people

9. Not doing the things you really long to do, whatever these may be, whether big or small.

10. Pretending you are not creative and not engaging in any creative activities that you really enjoy

11. Trying to please anyone else but yourself, as you will definitely fail.

12. Avoiding dealing with the big issues in your life such as what you are scared or anxious about, or unfulfilled desires.

13. Staying too long in a relationship that has become unhappy, where you have lost love and respect for each other.

14. Indulging in drink, drugs, or food as a way of self-medicating or numbing emotional pain. Just deal with the pain instead.

15. Too much or not enough routine and structure, depending on what works for you individually.

16. Basing your life on anyone else’s ideas or rules.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2019 at 4:19 pm

The Aftertaste of Slavery Still Haunts American Cooking

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This illustrates how memes have a ripple effect on the memes that define the various spheres of human existence—cooking, in this instance. Tom Philpott writes in Mother Jones:

Amid the ongoing controversy over Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his  racist medical-school yearbook hijinx, his wife, Pam Northam, recently plunged into another one. During a school tour of the governor’s mansion, built by slave labor in 1813, Pam Northam handed cotton and tobacco to kids and “asked them to imagine being enslaved and having to pick the crop,” the Washington Post reports. According to some attendees, the first lady singled out the black kids in the group for this exercise in historical imagination; she and another witness deny it.

A small detail in the Post piece caught my eye: Northam’s hands-on history lesson took place outside a cottage adjacent to the mansion “that had long ago served as a kitchen,” the Post noted. That reminded me immediately of archaeologist and historian Kelley Fanto Deetz’s excellent 2017 book Bound to the Fire: How Virginia’s Enslaved Cooks Helped Invent American Cuisine. In the latest episode of Bite, Deetz talks about her deep dive into the world of enslaved cooks on antebellum Virginia’s plush plantations.

In her work, Deetz describes how Virginia’s planter elite developed a fashion for kitchens built apart from their mansions and a cuisine based on lavish abundance. The Virginia territory started in 1607 as a scrappy colony of fortune-seeking English settlers—mostly men—and their African slaves and European indentured servants. Houses tended to be small affairs, with internal kitchens. And food was a simple, functional matter—”really about staying alive,” she says. As she puts it in Bound to the Fire, “these early settlers ate what they could: rats and other vermin, grains, and even each other when necessary.”

As more women arrived from the old country, Deetz adds, the settlers began starting families and building bigger homes. Meanwhile, indentured Europeans and enslaved Africans began forming alliances and bristling at their place at the bottom of colonial society, a loose alliance that ultimately took the form of Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. After the landed planters crushed the uprising, Deetz says, they phased out reliance on indentured labor and emphasized chattel slavery. Simultaneously, they isolated enslaved black people from poor whites as much as possible, hoping to prevent any new white-black revolts from forming. In her book, Deetz calls this shift the “strategic ideological promotion of white supremacy,”designed to enshrine the power of the planters.”

Around this time, plantation dwellings began being built with external kitchens of the kind on display in Virginia’s governor’s mansion, the structure Pam Northam chose as the site of her demonstration. The point was to separate enslaved black cooks, and the messy, smelly act of cooking massive feasts, from the elegant, genteel big house. And the feasts—which underpinned a then-emerging, now-enduring culture of Southern hospitality—were grand indeed.

The not-so-secret ingredient was slave labor, embedded in everything from the elaborate dishes made from plantation-grown and -processed ingredients to the wine “shipped from Portugal and France on ships that might have also been carrying enslaved Africans” to the “rum from the Caribbean that was literally from seed to bottle grown and and farmed and created by slave labor.”

The dining room’s bacchanalia stood in stark contrast to life in kitchen cottage, which doubled as living quarters for enslaved cooks. These structures tended to be about 16 feet wide, one side dominated by an enormous hearth with a fire that often burned nonstop—obligating cooks to be “literally bound to the fire 24 hours a day,” Deet says. “The smells, the heat the humidity were something that you couldn’t escape.”

On top of grueling labor, rough living conditions, and the agony of being someone else’s property, enslaved cooks had to constantly perform hospitality and polite subservience to the planter family and their guests—a formidable psychological burden, Deetz says.

But intimate relationship between cooks and the people they feed could also proved stressful to the planter family—especially after the Nat Turner slave rebellion of 1831, when rebel slaves killed as many as 65 white people in Southampton County, Virginia, and ushered in an age of fear and trembling among the planter class.

And suddenly, frightened eyes were cast at the cook minding the stove—and what she might be sneaking into the stew. Deetz says that post-Turner,  “you see a flood of letters” from “white ladies really uncomfortable about what their cook might do to them—and lots of fear about the risk of being poisoned.” Deetz calls it “one of those rare moments during the history of slavery in America where some of the enslaved people had a little bit of soft power over their slavers.”

Of course, these antebellum Southern kitchens operated before Louis Pasteur had established the germ theory of disease, and long before the advent of refrigeration. So routine cases of unintended food poisoning could be easily be misconstrued as malicious, especially by a plantation mistress put on high alert by the specter of the Turner uprising. So the tension over food poisoning also heightened pressure on the cooks themselves, Deetz says.

In her book, Deetz notes that the era’s grand plantation mansions have . . .

Continue reading.

Update: This was the article I was actually thinking of: Where Soul Food Really Comes From.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2019 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Memes, Recipes

Some interesting articles on partisan perceptions

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2019 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Democrats, GOP, Politics

6 Reasons Paul Manafort Got Off So Lightly

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Ken White, attorney and former federal prosecutor, writes in the Atlantic:

Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Donald Trump, entered Virginia federal court on Thursday facing a recommended sentence of 19 to 24 years, and left with a sentence of less than four years. Many people are outraged by what they see as an unreasonably lenient penalty for an unrepentant crook, and have accused United States District Judge T. S. Ellis of bias. Others have decried the sentence as an example of America offering two tiers of justice:  one for the rich (and more often white) and one for the poor (and more often not white).

Criticizing American criminal justice is fitting and proper. But there are two kinds of critiques—simplistic ones, which let the larger system off the hook, and complicated ones, which point out that many factors combined to get Manafort the dramatic break he enjoyed. Any criticism of Ellis as an individual is woefully inadequate. The American criminal-justice system works at every stage and every level to give chances to people like Manafort and deny them to poorer people.

First, there can’t be a sentence without an investigation. After 9/11, the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices that it controls shifted resources and focus from white-collar crime to drugs, guns, and immigration. In Los Angeles, the U.S. Attorney’s Office shuttered the Public Corruption and Government Fraud Section, where I served. Investigations of people like Manafort—people who have committed complex financial crimes—are time-consuming and resource-intensive. You can jail 20 drug traffickers for life with the resources it took to prosecute Manafort. America picks who goes to jail when it picks whom to investigate—which is one of the reasons so few people involved in the 2008 Wall Street debacle went to jail.

Second, prosecutors have enormous power over who goes to jail and for how long. That power doesn’t just involve deciding who gets indicted. It involves deciding how he gets indicted. Manafort faced a recommended sentencing range of 19 to 24 years under U.S. sentencing guidelines. But that range was driven only in part by what he actually did. It was driven just as much by how the special counsel’s office chose to pursue the case—what charges it brought, what evidence it presented to Ellis, and what part of Manafort’s history it cited as “relevant conduct” at sentencing. Federal prosecutors can substantially shape a sentence by the plea deal they offer, choosing which parts of the sentencing guidelines apply. Prosecutors are more inclined to wield that power to benefit people like Manafort, not people charged with crimes involving drugs, blue-collar property crimes, and violence.

Third, Congress has given Ellis the power to give people like Manafort a break, but has denied him that power when the defendant is accused of many blue-collar crimes. Last year, Ellis sentenced a 37-year-old man named Frederick Turner to 40 years in federal prison for methamphetamine distribution. He had no choice: Congress passed laws making 40 years the mandatory minimum sentence.

More than half of federal prisoners received a mandatory minimum sentence. Congress has passed mandatory minimum laws for drugs, guns, child abuse, and child porn. President Trump pushed for harsher mandatory minimum laws for immigration cases. These laws reflect America’s judgment about which people are so irredeemable that federal judges should not have the discretion to show them the sort of lenience Ellis showed Manafort. That judgment favors the rich at the expense of the poor.

Fourth, the U.S. sentencing guidelines treat some crimes more harshly than others, and though, unlike mandatory minimums, they are only recommendations, not strictures, they strongly influence judges. USA Todayreported that fraud cases in Ellis’s district yielded an average sentence of 36 months, versus 66 months for firearms charges and 84 months for drug charges, all higher than the national average. Ellis announced that he was sentencing Manafort below the recommended guideline range because that range was far above what defendants received in similar cases. That is, in fact, a factor that he’s required by law to consider. Manafort’s case was arguably much more serious than others, but there’s no question that his sentencing range was atypically high for a white-collar defendant. This is how the system’s discrepancies become self-justifying and self-perpetuating: Judges give white-collar criminals lower sentences because white-collar criminals typically get lower sentences.

Fifth,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 March 2019 at 9:00 am

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