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The Honor Culture Creates the Violence Culture

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 Interesting article. And the Old South’s cultural weaknesses, from colonial times to the present day, includes inflated notions of “honor” (honor, in that cultural view, being perfectly compatible with owning slaves: the rise of the double standards of the Southern outlook). This folly has long been noted: Mark Twain clearly identified Southern culture and its weaknesses and put the blame on the novels of Sir Walter Scott for creating a kind of romantic fantasy, one that the Old South attempted to emulate. (See below for quotation from Life on the Mississippi.)

From the article at the link above:

In Albion’s Seed, historian David Hackett Fischer argues that honor culture arose among the herding societies that populated the border region between England and Scotland. The region’s frequent wars led to political instability and the lack of a strong criminal justice system, and the result was strong norms in favor of private vengeance and self-protection. Furthermore, as Nisbett and Cohen emphasize in their work, poor farming conditions led these regions to be dominated by herders, and the mobile nature of a herder’s property—a flock rather than a field—often required more forceful protection and a reputation for retaliation. Ultimately, colonists from these “borderlands” settled in what would become the Southern states, and they brought their cultural norms with them. [The article includes other theories about the origins of the cultural value of “honor.” – LG]

I would suggest that great sensitivity regarding honor reflects (and stems from) fear driven by insecurity, and the article provides examples that seem to reflect fear and insecurity — for example, how people who embrace the culture of honor society are less willing to avail themselves of treatment for mental illness. That is, some people view “honor” as something bestowed by public opinion (or peer-group opinion) rather than something intrinsic to the individual. In this view, “honor” and “reputation” are closely linked, so that you have honor only if people view you as having honor. Not having control of honor (unlike, say, the sort of direct control one has over his or her own actions) would account for the insecurity: honor, in that view, can be lost easily just by others changing their opinion. Honor is not some one has, it is something given to one by others, and they can take it back at any time for any reason. That would indeed make one’s honor insecure. Contrast that with, say education, of which my grandmother would often say, “They can’t take that away from you.” If you have learned something, your knowledge cannot be taken from you by a change in the opinion of others.

It occurs to me that the Old South had two distinct cultures regarding honor. Quite obviously the honor culture of the Southern whites was not an option for their slaves: a slave quick to take offense at any perceived slight or insult would not last long, I imagine. So two distinct cultures (at least) emerge: that of the slaves and that of the slave-owners.

When I was a very young boy my grandmother read and told me lots of Uncle Remus stories, and I suddenly realized that these stories are all about avoiding direct conflict, which Br’er Rabbit (or a slave) would be sure to lose. Instead, Br’er Rabbit, clever and alert, outwits Br’er Bear (brute power and a slow intellect, possibly how plantation owners were viewed by their slaves) and Br’er Fox (smarter and more dangerous, but also to be outwitted rather than outfought). And it should be noted that on one occasion Br’er Rabbit did indeed show the kind of sensitivity to slights that is an earmark of honor culture, he got into serious trouble. That’s the story of the Tar Baby, which refused to respond to Br’er Rabbit’s friendly greetings and so at first enraged and then trapped him. Having fallen in the clutches of his enemies by showing aspects of honor culture, Br’er Rabbit is able to escape only by falling back on his wits, using practical psychology: “Br’er Fox, do anything with me you like, but please don’t fling me into that briar patch. Please don’t do that.” etc. I see the Tar Baby story as a parable of the dangers for blacks of assuming honor society mores.

Stories like this define and teach the cultural values of the storytellers. Such stories are children’s stories, because cultural values must be taught to children at an early age. (And I just realized that “Br’er” is not pronounced to rhyme with “there,” as I’ve always read it, but is pronounced “BRUH-er,” eliding the “th” in “Brother” and the vowels pronounced as the schwa: “brother” has two schwas. That’s why “Br’er” is  generally spelled with an apostrophe to mark the elision; it might be more accurately spelled “Bro’er.”)

AND, it just occurs to me, Uncle Remus is a former slave telling these stories to a young white boy, son of the plantation owner, thus teaching the boy values subversive of the honor culture. A battle of memes, for sure. And the battle goes both directions: certainly there are black populations that now have embraced the honor culture. UPDATE: I just found this interesting post on this view of Uncle Remus, which notes:

Uncle Remus, a former slave, tells stories involving Brer Rabbit and the other critters to a little white boy after the Civil War. The Brer Rabbit stories are, for the most part, versions of African-American folk tales that Harris collected. Harris created the characters Uncle Remus and the little boy to serve as a narrative frame.

Also still UPDATE: I just discovered that Amazon has several Uncle Remus collections by Joel Chandler Harris free for the Kindle.

But I imagine there are libraries full of volumes about black culture and how it developed. So I’m very late to this party. But it’s clear that the culture Fischer describes is a white culture. (And, BTW, I cannot recommend highly enough his book Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. Anyone who reads history should read that.)

Update: Of course, the very best study of honor culture is Don Quixote. Don Quixote himself personifies the devotion to honor, the sensitivity to slights, the readiness to fight physically to defend abstract notions, that bedevil honor culture.

UPDATE: Mark Twain writes in Life on the Mississippi:

Against the crimes of the French Revolution and of Bonaparte may be set two compensating benefactions: the Revolution broke the chains of the ancien regime and of the Church, and made of a nation of abject slaves a nation of freemen; and Bonaparte instituted the setting of merit above birth, and also so completely stripped the divinity from royalty, that whereas crowned heads in Europe were gods before, they are only men, since, and can never be gods again, but only figureheads, and answerable for their acts like common clay. Such benefactions as these compensate the temporary harm which Bonaparte and the Revolution did, and leave the world in debt to them for these great and permanent services to liberty, humanity, and progress.

Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote. Most of the world has now outlived good part of these harms, though by no means all of them; but in our South they flourish pretty forcefully still. Not so forcefully as half a generation ago, perhaps, but still forcefully. There, the genuine and wholesome civilization of the nineteenth century is curiously confused and commingled with the Walter Scott Middle-Age sham civilization; and so you have practical, common-sense, progressive ideas, and progressive works; mixed up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune romanticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of charity ought to be buried. But for the Sir Walter disease, the character of the Southerner—or Southron, according to Sir Walter’s starchier way of phrasing it—would be wholly modern, in place of modern and medieval mixed, and the South would be fully a generation further advanced than it is. It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, before the war; and it was he, also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it was he that created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Enough is laid on slavery, without fathering upon it these creations and contributions of Sir Walter.

Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure responsible for the war. It seems a little harsh toward a dead man to say that we never should have had any war but for Sir Walter; and yet something of a plausible argument might, perhaps, be made in support of that wild proposition. The Southerner of the American Revolution owned slaves; so did the Southerner of the Civil War: but the former resembles the latter as an Englishman resembles a Frenchman. The change of character can be traced rather more easily to Sir Walter’s influence than to that of any other thing or person.

One may observe, by one or two signs, how deeply that influence penetrated, and how strongly it holds. If one take up a Northern or Southern literary periodical of forty or fifty years ago, he will find it filled with wordy, windy, flowery ‘eloquence,’ romanticism, sentimentality—all imitated from Sir Walter, and sufficiently badly done, too—innocent travesties of his style and methods, in fact. This sort of literature being the fashion in both sections of the country, there was opportunity for the fairest competition; and as a consequence, the South was able to show as many well-known literary names, proportioned to population, as the North could.

But a change has come, and there is no opportunity now for a fair competition between North and South. For the North has thrown out that old inflated style, whereas the Southern writer still clings to it—clings to it and has a restricted market for his wares, as a consequence. There is as much literary talent in the South, now, as ever there was, of course; but its work can gain but slight currency under present conditions; the authors write for the past, not the present; they use obsolete forms, and a dead language. But when a Southerner of genius writes modern English, his book goes upon crutches no longer, but upon wings; and they carry it swiftly all about America and England, and through the great English reprint publishing houses of Germany—as witness the experience of Mr. Cable and Uncle Remus, two of the very few Southern authors who do not write in the Southern style. Instead of three or four widely-known literary names, the South ought to have a dozen or two—and will have them when Sir Walter’s time is out.

A curious exemplification of the power of a single book for good or harm is shown in the effects wrought by ‘Don Quixote’ and those wrought by ‘Ivanhoe.’ The first swept the world’s admiration for the medieval chivalry-silliness out of existence; and the other restored it. As far as our South is concerned, the good work done by Cervantes is pretty nearly a dead letter, so effectually has Scott’s pernicious work undermined it.

Written by Leisureguy

26 August 2014 at 10:47 am

Belated military insight

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I remember years—nay, decades—ago when my friend Spaeth, who had been in the US Army, explained why morning roll call was so important in the military: it told you who you had left to fight that day’s battles.

I suddenly realized (now in vol. 4, The Mauritis Command) that the ridid hierarchical structure of the military, so repugnant to the liberal mind, has a purpose: it enables everyone to know immediately who’s in charge after a loss of high-level officers, because that situatioin occurs in battle, and during a battle is not a time to negotiate or have an election: “who’s now in charge” has to be easily determined in a way agreed upon by everyone previously.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2014 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Military, Uncategorized

GOPM: Explanation and template

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This post offers a description and template for “Glorious One-Pot Meals.” Elizabeth Yarnell originated the cooking technique in her book of the same name: Cooking 2-4 meals at once (2 meals for very active adults, 4 meals for sedentary adults) in a 2-qt cast-iron Dutch oven (enameled or not), the food layered in the pot, which then is covered and put into a 450ºF oven for 45 minutes. The food is thus cooked mainly by the steam within the pot, which means that the meat is not browned (though it is tender) and fatty meats don’t work so well as leaner cuts.

Generally, you can assemble the pot of food in about the time it takes the oven to get to 450ºF. Variations are easy and almost always successful. I have used the technique often — see these posts for ideas.

Very important: This is not a “slow-cooker” method. Some see “one-pot” and stop thinking: even though they read the description, “one-pot” overrides everything and they think these are slow-cooker recipes. They are not: they are “fast-cooker”: 450ºF for just 45 minutes. Some foods that work well in slow cookers—shanks, oxtails, short-ribs—would not work at all in GOPM meals because those foods require long cooking at low heat, and this method is the opposite: short cooking at high heat.

Layering and a warning

The layering is one reason it works, and the layers make it easy to assemble the meal in your mind (the first creation, as Stephen Covey calls it) before assembling it in the pot (the second creation): that is, the technique makes it easy to improvise with some assurance that you know what you’re doing. (The layering technique is what Yarnell patented.) While I’ve had a failure—at most, two—the meals virtually always turn out to be tasty, nourishing, and balanced.

Two caveats about the recipes in her book: 1) they tend toward blandness (a little sprinkling of crushed red pepper helps), and 2) for some reason she cooks 4 servings (not 2) of rice. A serving of rice, measured before cooking, is 1/4 c, so two servings is 1/2 c. I generally use 1/3 c for two servings because I limit my intake of starch, but Yarnell’s recipes call for 1 cup (4 servings).  After I switched to a low-carb diet, I used 1/4 c—just enough to absorb extra liquid—and began using barley (pearled or pot barley or hulled) rather than rice, since barley has a lower glycemic index than rice. I also get four meals from one pot rather than two.

When I think of a recipe, I first consider what I’ll use for the three main parts: the starch, the protein, and the vegetables. Then I may think about the pour-over: the 1/4-1/3 c of liquid poured over the assembled vegetables just before covering the pot.

Pot options

The pot itself can be any cast-iron dutch oven that holds about two quarts. These tend to come in two versions: tall and narrow, or short and squat. Both work. Here are some possibilities:

AIDEA 2-qt dutch oven with skillet lid (enameled)
Tramontina enameled 2.5-qt sauce pot
Enameled cast-iron 2-qt sauce pot
Martha Stewart 2-qt dutch oven (enameled)
Bayou Classic 2.5 qt bean pot
Amazon Basics 2-qt dutch oven (pre-seasoned)
Cajun Cookware 2-qt sauce pot (pre-seasoned)
Bayou Classic 2-qt dutch oven (handle can be removed)
Lodge 2-qt dutch oven (pre-seasoned)
Le Creuset 2-qt dutch oven (enameled — and very expensive)

Staub for a time made a 2.25-qt (2-L) round cocotte with enameled exterior, some type of tough non-stick interior that I like a lot. The Staub comes with a metal knob to begin with—and a knob with a long shank, easy to grip while wearing oven mitts. Staub now seems to have 2.75 qt as the smallest size, and that’s rather large. The Staub 2.25-qt pot is is what I use.

Contents and assembly

I first spray the interior of pot and lid with olive oil, and then use a dry paper towel to wipe off excess oil, leaving only a thin film of oil. Then I layer the food. Below, and when I write recipes, I list the layers in the order in which they go into the pot—i.e., bottom layer first, and ending with the top layer.

It’s good to have some sort of “theme” in the back of your mind: Greek, Mediterranean, German (e.g., egg noodles, pork, cabbage, apples, etc.), Caribbean, Oriental, whatever. A theme will suggest things to include that go well together.

a. Starch: This is usually the first layer, or you can put it atop the aromatics. Starches that work well: white rice (converted rice has a lower glycemic index and higher arsenic content than, say, Lundberg rice grown in California), pearled barley, pot barley, hulled barley, cut pasta, egg noodles, lentils, quinoa (rinse it well, otherwise bitter), diced yams or potatoes. I use 1/3-1/2 cup, or for noodles and pasta, 3-4 oz. Aim for 1.5-2 servings (even though now I get 4 meals from the pot, which makes  it more low carb). Yarnell in her book uses 1 cup of rice (four servings) and gets two (not four) meals from the 2-qt dish, but she and her husband are triathletes. For non-athletes, I suggest 1/2 cup rice and also making the completed dish 4 servings, not 2, so that each serving of the completed dish includes only 1/2 serving of rice.

b. 2 Tbsp vinegar of some kind—I often use sherry vinegar, but rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar are also options. Vinegar brightens the taste.

c. Aromatics – use some or all of the following, layer by layer
c1. Chopped allium (onion, shallots, leek, cippolinis, scallions, spring onions, whatever)
c2. Minced garlic (also an allium, but I always add some)
c3. Chopped celery (you can chop an entire bunch of celery, drying the stalks well before chopping, and it will keep in the fridge: the drying is important; if it’s wet, it rots)
c4. Diced carrot
c5. Diced green bell pepper
c6. Finely chopped mushrooms

d. Protein: 8 oz. cut into chunks for easy serving: boneless skinless chicken breast, thigh or leg; boneless skinless turkey; boneless pork chop; lamb; Dover sole (I just lay the fillets down without cutting into chunks) or salmon, cod, swordfish, halibut (any of which I do cut into chunks); tofu or tempeh (diced or cut into small slabs). It’s better to avoid very fatty things, like duck breast: the fat doesn’t cook off and will make a greasy meal. Still, I sometimes use linguiça or chorizo or lamb sausage, but generally a small amount (thin slices) as an accent with some other protein.

e. Seasonings: Crushed red pepper, thyme, Penzeys Mural of Flavor, Emeril’s Essence, whatever. Generally I cannot taste the seasoning, though I certainly can detect the presence of (say) crushed red pepper. You can also use condiments in this layer (or as another layer): chopped olives, capers, anchovies, sesame seeds, and so on: whatever might spark up the taste. Pickle slices? Why not? (I’ve not tried them, but now will.)

f. Veggies the rest of the way—choose what you like and give each vegetable its own layer. Frozen vegetables work fine without requiring thawing before putting in the pot. Again, to make serving easy, I chop or dice or slice the vegetables. Diced zucchini or summer squash or bitter melon; chopped or diced tomatoes; pitted olives, halved or chopped; eggplant, sliced (Japanese) or diced (Italian); chopped okra; sliced or diced mushrooms (if not used in the aromatics layer); chopped bell pepper of whatever color (ditto); corn kernels (fresh or frozen); dried cranberries; raisins or chopped prunes or dried currants; peanuts, walnuts, or pecans. As a top layer, green beans (fresh or frozen, cut into 1″ sections) or chopped greens (spinach or dandelion greens or cabbage or sliced Brussels sprouts) or chopped cauliflower. Experiment: look around the produce aisles and see what you like. Diced or thinly sliced whole organic lemons are good with fish or with greens. I’m eager to try halved kumquats.

Fill pot to the top. Greens will wilt as they cook, thus taking up less volume. The heavy lid of the Staub is an advantage.

The pour-over: Keep in mind the likely volume of liquid you’ll get from the vegetables and how much liquid the starch will absorb—yams and potatoes don’t absorb much, for example, while rice and noodles do; tomatoes, lemon, frozen vegetables may contribute a fair amount of liquid. Adjust the volume of the pour-over to complement the amount of liquid you expect. Experience will quickly teach you, and too much liquid is not really a problem since it tastes good.

I always use 2 Tbsp of vinaigrette and then add whatever strikes my fancy: soy sauce, mirin, ponzu sauce, sherry or red or white wine, Dijon mustard, gochujang sauce or other hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, whatever. You can also add seasonings here: ground black pepper, paprika, and the like, though they tend to remain on top, so it’s often better to put them atop the protein layer. I have a small bottle that once held some food; I use that to receive the pour-over mix, which I then shake vigorously before pouring over.

Experience will polish your routine

I recommend that you make a few GOPMs. Even a little experience provides knowleddge and confidence that makes the process enjoyable. I would say that by the time you’ve made three, you’ll get the idea and find it easy and interesting. Although it’s said to be two meals, many will get at least three from a pot, sometimes four.

If you have a family, you can simply use a larger pot. I have a 3-qt Staub round cocotte, and you can also get larger sizes: a 4-qt pot could doubtless serve 4 athletes easily, and probably 8 moderately active adults and children, or 2 teenagers. 🙂

For examples to stimulate your imagination, look through the GOPM posts in this blog, most containing recipes. Measurement of starch, vinegar, and protein is always exact—of course, if I buy (say) Dover fillets, I generally do not get 8.00 oz exactly, but I am going for 8 oz and I buy as close to that as reasonable. Same for chicken, pork, etc. For tofu, I will use a 10 oz cube and figure what the hell; tempeh conveniently comes in an 8 oz package. The vegetables I simply use enough to make a layer. The vinaigrette (containing the oil) I measure exactly: 2 Tbsp.

You can also look at Elizabeth Yarnell’s own website.

Leave some of your successful GOPMs in comments: just list the layers, starting with the bottom layer, ending with the top, and describe the pour-over.

Written by Leisureguy

28 November 2012 at 9:58 am

TYD and Don Quixote

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A few days ago I mentioned that TYD as a young child had played a “game” in which everything that was happening in real life (setting the table, picking up toys, etc.) was being done by her, pretending to be the little girl and her mother cast in the pretend role of being the mom. That is, everything is as it is, but perceived as a game.

I’ve just reached the point in Don Quixote where Cervantes, crassly cheating by looking forward in time and stealing the idea, has Don Quixote in the deserted mountain region explain to Sancho Panza that knights errant often go mad for love of their ladies, and that he, Don Quixote, will now pretend to be mad in honor of Dulcinea of Toboso. So he will do some mad acts and Sancho Panza will witness them and then leave to report to Dulcinea how the Knight of the Sorrowful Face has been overcome by madness.

But, of course, Don Quixote is mad, so now we have a madman whose madness has veered in the direction of pretending to be a madman. And when he asks Sancho to leave him and go away, returning after seeing Dulcinea, Sancho shrewdly suggests that, since they’re pretending, after all, it would save a lot of time and effort if they also pretended that he, Sancho, had made the trip, talked to Dulcinea, and had now returned.

The whole incident is filled with flipping back and forth between reality and various ways of viewing it. For example, Don Quixote more or less acknowledges all the crazy misadventures they’ve had (in reality) and explains that things turn out this way because of the enchanters who bedevil him. Quixote also acknowledges that the Helmet of Mabrino does indeed exactly resemble a barber’s basin, which is the genius of the disguise, because otherwise it would have been taken—but because it looks exactly like a barber’s basin, it was not, so that Don Quixote still has the precious object. (My custom Rosenthal china notion, now that I think about it.)

This book really is a hall of mirrors: reality, pretense, madness, interpretation, all beautifully woven together by Cervantes. And it gets better in the second part, published some years after the first, because Don Quixote keeps running into people who have read the first part and thus know him (as the character in the book they’ve read), so the differences between reality (as depicted in the novel) and the art/fiction become murkier.

This is indeed an amazing book.

UPDATE: Interesting connection: Have you ever observed, as have I, that persons who are inebriated find it amusing to pretend that they are inebriated?

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2012 at 11:41 am

Posted in Books, Uncategorized

Reading Don Quixote and crying

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Ford K. Brown, a highly esteemed tutor when I was a student at St. John’s in the late 50’s, told of attending a function at the Spanish Embassy in DC (only 25 miles from the college) and asking a member of the Embassy what people in Spain thought of Don Quixote. He said that the person he asked looked casually around to make sure that no one would overhear him (this was while Franco still ran Spain as an iron-fisted (and iron-hearted) dictator) and said, “So long as they read it and laugh, all will be well; but if they read it and weep, we are in trouble.”

Brown then ended his anecdote by asking us, “What in this novel could make the Spanish Ambassador—for it was he—take such care not to be overheard?”

I’ve often wondered, and today in Chapter 21 I think I might see one reason. By this point Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have had many (painful) adventures: the windmills/giants, Panza being tossed in a blanket, Don Quixote badly hurt by stones from shepherds’ slingshots (in the great battle of the two armies of sheep), the terrors induced by the fulling mill, and so on. And by this point they have grown close, developing a trust in and fondness for each other. Sancho Panza continues to hope for his insula (island kingdom) and Don Quixote for chivalric adventures. Here’s the passage, from the Edith Grossman translation, locations 3597-3656 in the Kindle edition. UPDATE: I highly recommend that you find a spot where you can read the passage aloud, in Don Quixote’s voice, as it were, and giving it the serious tone and the pure and utter belief that Don Quixote brought to it. This exercise will, I believe, give a deeper understanding—certainly worth a shot. – LG

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Written by Leisureguy

12 June 2012 at 3:15 pm

Grub template

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I now have a draft of a grub template as an Excel spreadsheet (current version: 30 June 2012 – 11:42:03). You pick items from Columns A through F to build a grub:

A: Protein, 3-4 oz
B: Starch, 1 small serving
C. Oil, not more than 2 tsp per day—so I usually use 2 Tbsp when cooking a batch of grub (good for 3 days)
D. Greens, a good amount—lately I’ve been using two bunches, sometimes three (different greens, usually)
E. Vegetables, as many as you want
F. Condiments: add to grub as desired, but careful with the salty ones (soy sauce, for example)
G. Fruits, 1 for morning snack, 1 for afternoon snack

I use the template to remind me of possibilities, so rather than simply listing “rice,” for example, I list all the rices I regularly enjoy: black, brown, red, Minnesota wild, converted, and so on. Similarly, rather than listing (say) “onion”, I have Spanish onion, sweet onion, red onion, spring onion, leek, shallots, garlic, green garlic, scallions, ramps, … and any others that may later occur to me. [UPDATE: Pearl onions—just thought of those. I generally buy those frozen: too finicky to peel otherwise.]

Because you probably have your own favorite foods, the template is an unprotected spreadsheet: you can modify it as you want.

I use “grub” to describe the dish that results when all the foods are combined in one pot and then cooked—and that’s what I do, since I don’t like to wash pots. But obviously you could make your selections and cook each item separately and using a different method: broil the protein, boil the starch, sauté some vegetables, steam others—use as many pots and cooking methods as you like, but still hit the template. For me, it’s simply easier, faster, and more efficient to cook them all in one pot, but if you enjoy cleaning lots of pots, go for it: it’s still the same idea and the sample template still applies.

Those whose work week allows little time and who like to cook each food in its own separate pot can cook up several days’ supply and then combine appropriate amounts for a meal. For example, try the following:

Protein: cut a chicken breast or two into chunks, perhaps marinate, then broil or roast and use 3 oz per meal;

Starch: cook 1.5 cups black rice in 3 cups water for 30 minutes and then use 1/3 c (or 1/2 c for a full starch serving) per meal

Greens: actually, “leaves,” since they may be another color, generally red (red kale or red cabbage, for example)—rinse and chop a three or four bunches of greens and steam or simmer until done, splash with a little vinegar or lemon juice, and use a cup per meal;

Vegetables and oil: stir-fry some veggies in a 2 Tbsp sesame or grapeseed or olive oil: chopped onions, minced garlic, chopped celery, diced carrots, diced summer squash, diced zucchini, chopped bell pepper, chopped jalapeño pepper and use 1 c of those for a meal.

The above method also makes it quick and easy to assemble a good lunch to take to work—use containers that allow sufficient room for the volume of vegetables. This three-tier stainless carrier would work: put the protein and starch in one container, the greens in another, and the vegetables in the third.

Grub benefits: Tastes good, nutritionally sound, uses one pot, format independent (that is, grub can take the form of salad, soup, stir-fry, stew, casserole, or whatever: cooking method doesn’t matter), quick, easy, and (to me) interesting combinations.

Grub drawbacks: Because things are cooked together, appearance generally is not striking. This is daily grub, not company fare.

Grub cookware: When I cook rice, I generally cook it in a separate pot (typically 1/2 c rice cooked in 1 c water), and then add the cooked rice to the grub when I add greens. Pasta I just put in the grub pot and let it cook with the grub.

After a certain amount of experience, I can say that the ideal grub pot has a large-diameter bottom (for sautéing and browning) and reasonably tall sides, enough to hold the (frequently quite bulky) greens (which then cook down). My ideal pot is the All-Clad Stainless 6-qt “stockpot” (as they call it): just the ideal size, shape, and material. I found one at a good price on eBay. But any pot of this approximate size and shape will do. That size makes roughly 6 meals.

I also include with the template a chart to assist in selecting vegetables by color: David Heber wrote a very interesting book, What Color Is Your Diet?, in which he suggests eating each day plants from each of 7 different color groups. (Used copies starting at $1.) The color groups:

Green – Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, kale, Swiss chard

White/green – Artichoke, asparagus, celery, chives, endive, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, scallions, yellow onion

Orange – Acorn & winter squash, apricot, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, pumpkin, sweet potato, persimmons

Orange/yellow – Nectarine, oranges/juice, papaya, peach, pineapple, tangerine, lemon, mandarin orange

Yellow/green – Avocado, collard greens, corn, cucumber, green beans, green peas, honeydew, kiwi, mustard greens, turnip greens, romaine, spinach, yellow/green bell peppers, zucchini with skin

Red/purple – Beets, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries & juice, eggplant, grapes & juice, red peppers, plums, prunes, red apples, red pears, cooked red cabbage, red wine, strawberries, red onions

Red – Tomato juice, tomato sauce, tomato puree, tomato salsa, stewed tomatoes, cooked tomatoes, watermelon

I frequently dice vegetables such as zucchini, squash, eggplant, carrots, and the like. It’s quite easy and takes little time: using a chef’s knife, I cut the vegetable length-wise into slabs, stack those and cut the stack length-wise into strips, then cut across those to make dice.

UPDATE: I was reflecting on the Color Chart and realized suddenly that I am getting no orange at all. I think I’ll be using sweet potato for starch more often and including diced carrots among the aromatics (with the onion and celery).

UPDATE 2: For quite a few examples of grub and gradual development of the idea, look through my grub posts (generally “recipes”—i.e., descriptions of what went into the grub).

UPDATE 3: The templates at work: I have to make a new batch of grub tomorrow. I already have a 10-oz cube of extra-firm tofu, so I have my protein in hand, and for some reason I fixated on red dandelion greens for the greens, and that seemed to work well with black rice and I know I’ll use olive oil, so all that’s left is to decide on the vegetables.

I haven’t been doing orange, though, and one possibility is to use a sweet potato (half of it diced for this batch of grub, half held back for the next batch) instead of black rice—and it would be more colorful. So that’s the first change.

I always use onions, and I saw some nice spring onions, but I already have shallots on hand. So I’ll buy just one spring onion and eke it out with shallots. I already have—and will use—garlic and chopped celery. I’m thinking domestic white mushrooms cubed to play games with the cubed tofu (they will look alike). And I think I’ll get a few Roma tomatoes and chop (with their juice and seeds) to add: the liquid will be useful for the sweet potato and dandelion greens. And cubed carrots can play games with the cubed sweet potato (both looking alike).

Acid brightens things up, so I’ll look for Meyer lemons and cube one of those to add as well. [Had to use a regular organic lemon instead; worked fine.] And I have jalapeño peppers on hand, so I’ll use a couple of those as well.

At this point, I’m just playing with it. Maybe add an anchovy or two from the handy bottle I keep for umami purposes. But I also have miso on hand, so I could add a tablespoon of that after I’ve cooked it, and let that be the umami. But I’m thinking the anchovies…

Here’s the recipe as I made it, using my new All-Clad Stainless 6-qt “stockpot”, which was wonderful: plenty of room to hold all the greens.

2 Tbsp EVOO
3 red spring onions, chopped (bulb and leaves)
2 large shallots, chopped
good pinch of salt

Sauté until softened and transparent. Add:

10-12 cloves garlic, minced

Sauté for a minute or two, then add:

10-oz cube extra-firm tofu, diced small
6 domestic white mushrooms, diced the same size
3/4 c chopped celery (two good-sized handfuls)
2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed and minced (including seeds)

I sautéed that for a while, then added:

5 whole large Roma organic tomatoes, chopped in food processor—I processed whole tomatoes (with the seeds still in) because I wanted the liquid for cooking the potatoes and greens
1/2 sweet potato, washed but not peeled, and diced
2 carrots, diced the same size
1 bunch red dandelion greens, chopped
1 bunch Lacinato kale, chopped
1 organic lemon, ends cut off and then diced whole
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
4 anchovies, minced

I did two kinds of greens: they both have quite narrow leaves and the bunches were relatively small. Dandelion greens are a little bitter, as is the lemon’s peel, but I like a little bitter from time to time. Bitter melon is a summer favorite.

I covered the grub and simmered it for 30 minutes. At the end there was a fair amount of liquid, so I added:

1/3 cup Israeli couscous (to absorb extra liquid—chia seed is another possibility)

Cover simmer about 10 minutes more. Grub!

— Just had a bowl: really tastes great! I’m surprised, especially since I haven’t had any combination like this one—this was a “themeless” grub. But it tastes very fresh and light. The lemon was a good touch.

Written by Leisureguy

22 May 2012 at 11:30 am

Don Quixote is funnier than I recall

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Or maybe I’m just paying more attention. And certainly the Edith Grossman translation is excellent.

Early in the novel Don Quixote and Sancho Panza encounter a funeral party with a story: the poet Grisóstomo had fallen in love with the unsurpassed beauty of Marcela, a young woman of wealth who has elected to live alone as a shepherdess. Grisóstomo becomes a shepherd to court her and is rejected and ultimately dies. His friends blame Marcela with some anger for being arrogant, disdainful, and so on. Then Marcela herself shows up at the funeral—incredibly beautiful—and makes a strikingly modern speech about women’s rights—specifically, how a woman has a right to lead her own life and is not required to return the love of anyone who falls in love with her. Guilt for Grisóstomo’s death properly belongs to Grisóstomo himself.

All that sounds right to modern ears, though it must have been startling at the time. Then Marcela leaves the funeral, and such is her beauty that several of the men there are inclined to follow her, even though she has specifically said she wishes to be alone.

Don Quixote quickly makes himself her champion, and holding his lance astride Rocinante, he blocks the way and says that, if anyone attempts to follow Marcela, who wishes to be alone, they will have to answer to him.

No one’s interested in the challenge, and they all leave. Whereupon Don Quixote immediately turns and follows the way Marcela went, calling for her. I had to laugh, after Don Quixote’s fine speech and actions defending Marcela’s desire for solitude, at the picture of Don Quixote, followed by Sancho Panza, riding through the wood and yoo-hooing. “Marcela? Yoo-hoo, Marcel-l-l-l-la.”

They don’t find her and eventually lie down to rest in a pleasant meadow at one end of which are some ponies. Sancho doesn’t bother to hobble the aged and skinny Rocinante, who is old and chaste. But lo! Rocinante does indeed get flirty with the pony mares and he is beaten for his ardor, as are Don Quixote and Sancho Panza when they try to rescue him.

I’m sure Rocinante’s little fling is in some way an echo of Don Quixote (also old and chaste) following after Marcela. “Yoo-hoooooo. Marcel-l-l-l-la?”

Maybe you have to read it for yourself, but I got a chuckle—first from Don Quixote’s artless pursuit—no comment made, he simply goes to find her after everyone’s left, in spite of his rousing defense of her solitude—followed immediately by Rocinante imitating his master, as it were.

Written by Leisureguy

12 January 2011 at 9:42 am

When drought hits, environmentalism becomes the norm

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Environmentalists seem to face much skepticism from those who have fully embraced the consumer mentality: buy it, use it, throw it away, buy something new, …

But when hard times hit, environmentalism suddenly starts to make sense, even to diehard skeptics:

It has been made brutally clear to Metro Atlantan’s that Lake Lanier is not bottomless and that, in fact, that bottom is getting uncomfortably close.

Now what once was considered a radically “green” way to supplement our water supply is becoming acceptably “grey”.

Grey water is water that has been used, but is still clean enough to be used again. Previously, using grey water is something only committed environmentalists did. Now, it is something we will all have to look at.

Showers used to be a place to relax, now we’re being asked to cut them to five minutes and re-use the water.

“As my wife says,” offered environmentally aware homeowner Curt Mann, “one thing we’re absolute certain of is that the status quo is not working.”

So Curt Mann and his wife installed what’s called a Brac Grey water Recycling System when they renovated their house.

“Our definition of grey water,” explained Charles Cone of Southern Energy Solutions, “is bath water, shower water, water from your washing machine, it can also be condensate from your air conditioner.”

The system collects the water from the Mann’s shower, and bathroom faucets, and washing machine, and sends it to a fifty three gallon reservoir.

When a toilet is flushed, that greywater is pumped to the toilet tank to replace the water just used.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2007 at 9:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Friday cat-blogging: This is a Watchcat watching me

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Watchcat

Megs, being a Watchcat on top of the supplies cabinet in back of me.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2007 at 7:39 am

Posted in Cats, Megs, Uncategorized

ClassicShaving.com

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Classic Shaving is the first vendor I found when I began exploring. I was actually simply looking for a good shaving brush for The Son, and when I found the site and started reading it, I was astonished to see safety razors and double-edged blades were still made and still offered. Fairly quickly I moved from buying a shaving brush to buying a razor, blades, shaving soap, shaving cream, aftershaves, ….

Classic Shaving sells a variety of straight razors in addition to the safety razors that I use. For example, this handsome model:

Straight razor

The ne plus ultra of straight-razor shaving is having a set of 7 straight razors, boxed with the slots and/or razors labeled Sunday through Saturday: a razor for each day of the week. The benefit is that with such a set, where each razor is used but once a week, you can go for months and months without having to hone the razor.

Classic Shaving sells the Merkur line of safety razors, including the recommended beginner razor, the Merkur Hefty Classic (aka HD). They have a good variety of shaving soaps and creams and, in the same section, aftershaves and colognes. And they sell the wonderful Rooney shaving brushes in Styles 1, 2, and 3 (all sizes, all handles) plus the traveling shave brush.

The site also includes a number of useful articles in the “How To and Why” section.

Like all the on-line vendors, Classic Shaving relies a great deal on word-of-mouth (or, more properly, email) recommendations from one shaver to another, or on favorable comments on the shaving forums, so they (like the other vendors) have superb customer service. I’ve ordered from them many times, and always the orders have been handled promptly and fulfilled with no problems.

Written by Leisureguy

8 October 2007 at 10:04 am

Posted in Shaving, Uncategorized

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More on DDT and malaria

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The latest issue of New Scientist has, as an opinion piece, a “history” of the use of DDT. You get the thrust of the piece from the title: “How the world let malaria off the hook.” The author, one Fred Pearce, implies without saying so that “the world” stopped the use of DDT for fighting malaria through killing mosquitoes. This is simply and utterly false. From Wikipedia, for example:

The Stockholm Convention, ratified in 2001 and effective as of 17 May 2004, outlawed several persistent organic pollutants, and restricted the use of DDT to vector control. The Convention was signed by 98 countries and is endorsed by most environmental groups. Recognizing that a total elimination of DDT use in many malaria-prone countries is currently unfeasible because there are few affordable or effective alternatives for controlling malaria, the public health use of DDT was exempted from the ban until such alternatives are developed. Regular updates on the continued need to use DDT and on global DDT production and use is available from the Stockholm Convention. [4] Malaria Foundation International states:

The outcome of the treaty is arguably better than the status quo going into the negotiations over two years ago. For the first time, there is now an insecticide which is restricted to vector control only, meaning that the selection of resistant mosquitoes will be slower than before.[14]

As of 2006, DDT continues to be used in other (primarily tropical) countries where mosquito-borne malaria and typhus are serious health problems. Use of DDT in public health to control mosquitoes is primarily done inside buildings and through inclusion in household products and selective spraying; this greatly reduces environmental damage compared to the earlier widespread use of DDT in agriculture. It also reduces the risk of resistance to DDT.[15] This use only requires a small fraction of that previously used in agriculture; for the whole country of Guyana, covering an area of 215,000 km², the required amount is roughly equal to the amount of DDT that might previously have been used to spray 4 km² of cotton during a single growing season.[16]

Agricultural use of DDT was banned, and a good thing, too: it was devastating to wildlife and the continued promiscuous use would have quickly led to resistance in insects. I fear that Pearce’s article is yet another in a disinformation campaign. Too bad New Scientist fell for it, but at least they categorized it as “opinion.”

Written by Leisureguy

7 October 2007 at 11:07 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Food notes

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Roasting the boneless pork roast from TJ’s and then using it for sandwiches for lunch worked out very well, so yesterday I bought a boneless beef roast, roasted it, and put it in the fridge after it cooled. Sandwich fodder for this week. And today I’m going to caramelize a bunch of onions for the sandwiches (I got six large Spanish onions yesterday just for that)—and I have some gorgonzola on hand…

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23 September 2007 at 9:30 am

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And what does the Truth-o-Meter tell us today?

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I like to start each morning with a look at the Truth-o-Meter. It’s a good habit: bookmark that link (or click over in the blogroll at the right, under “Election”) and check it often. If people start checking the truth of what politicians say, maybe more frequently they’ll tell the truth.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 7:57 am

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Shea and Weishi

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I’m starting to work through my most recent acquisitions. The shaving soap this morning was Institut Karité Shave Soap (scroll to bottom), 25% shea butter.  I used my new Simpsons Harvard 1 Best Badger brush, and immediately got a fine lather. The brush is small, but still holds enough lather for 3 passes. It generally goes without saying, but to make it explicit, I (as always) called on MR GLO for the initial beard wash.

The razor was the Weishi polished chrome and satin gold, which I loaded with a new Astra Superior Platinum blade.

It’s a good shave. The Weishi is a very nice razor, sturdy and well-made. It is a mild razor, very similar (for me) to the 40’s Gillette Super Speed, which makes it a good razor for a newbie. I like a slightly more aggressive razor, but for all that, I did get a good shave.

The aftershave was Geo.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 7:38 am

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Leisureguy’s modem is broken :-(

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This is The Wife writing. LG’s modem died, and the replacement modem requires a different kind of DSL wiring than he currently has (or something), and the guy who’s coming to do the work can’t make it until tomorrow. So it’s a day without blogging. To tide everyone over, here’s a picture of Molly squinting down at me from the top of the hutch.

Molly squinting

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2007 at 12:55 pm

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New razor, new shave

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President

I just got a “new” razor: an English-made version of the Gillette President, but with an open comb design. Moreover, the comb design is such that the blade’s edge does not lie flat on the comb but is raised slightly above, a touch that I like.

And this morning, after wanting to try it for a while, I made a superlather using Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap and Musgo Real shaving cream. Very thick, very nice. And while shaving, I thought perhaps too thick. But it turned out that this razor (loaded with a new Astra Superior Platinum blade) has uneven blade exposure: one side seems to provide more blade action than the other. Odd feeling. I can’t quite see the cause, but I can definitely feel it.

Withal, a superb shave, exceptionally smooth. Musgo Real was the (extremely pleasant) aftershave.

Written by Leisureguy

24 August 2007 at 7:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Repetition, resonance, and time travel

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I recently exchanged messages with a guy who coaches college football, who said that August is his favorite time of the year: getting the squad ready for the playing season.

I got to thinking about that. It has a characteristic of many experiences that we enjoy: the same, yet not the same. Think of a musical note. Played twice, it’s just the same. Played once and then the octave: same and yet not the same.

So each August, I would imagine, it’s much the same: checking out equipment, getting to know new players, running drills, and so on. Yet it’s not the same: some new guys, some guys have left, different problems, and so on. It’s a niche version of the “back-to-school” experience that we all have had—and, I think, enjoyed (in later years).

Rituals have this character: the same each time, yet different. Even the shaving ritual has some of it, but it happens too frequently to build up resonance, which seems to require some time between repetitions.

I’m thinking of Thanksgiving dinner, for example. Once a year, so that the last occurrence is well in the past. Yet in the repetition, one recalls those past dinners: a kind of time-travel resonance in the ritual, brought about by having many of the same people, many of the same dishes, and many of the same rituals (each person saying something they are thankful for in the past year, for example, or a traditional walk, or watching a game, or whatever).

The resonance is amplified, I think, if each occurrence brings back some unique markers: a special dish (orange-almond-cranberry sauce), special dishes (the Thanksgiving turkey platter),  a special tablecloth and napkins, special decorations brought out each year.

This, come to think of it, is why so many people like to decorate for holidays, especially Christmas: all the old decorations, table settings and set-up, treats (Lizzies, for example) along with the new tree (but still a tree), the new friends, new presents (but still presents), and so on. The number of special once-a-year decorations give a larger and stronger foundation, as it were, for the resonance. (This insight is helpful to me, who never liked decorations because I didn’t understand the idea. Put them all up and then take them all down? Why not just skip them? Now I understand—and I think most people understand immediately, at some level. Perhaps they just immediately tune in to the resonance.)

Where does this come from, this appreciation of repetitions that are the same yet different? Perhaps it’s very basic, from evolving on a world with seasons that repeat each year—for example, every year a winter: the same, yet different. Each autumn: the same, yet with its own differences.

To return to music: we do like to hear old pieces again—either the same performance (recorded) or a variation (a different artist, a different orchestra in a different concert hall). And even in the short run, music seems to exploit repetitions: the repeating chorus, the repeated theme, with variations.

Written by Leisureguy

7 August 2007 at 10:40 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Thinking about tomorrow

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Executive new

I have loaded a new-to-me Gillette Executive with a made-in-Czech-Republic Gillette Silver Blue Blade, set out the D.R. Harris Marlborough shaving stick and aftershave (yes, I’m going to be Marlborough Man), and am looking contemplatively at the Plisson HMW 12.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2007 at 5:09 pm

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The rubbing alcohol solution

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Jar

It looks as though I do not need to keep the razor head immersed in the rubbing alcohol. Just rinsing the razor after use, shaking it as dry as possible, and then swishing it in a little rubbing alcohol (a 91% alcohol solution, which displaces any remaining water) and putting it in the rack where the alcohol quickly evaporates is enough to keep the rust away from the carbon-steel razor blade.

The photo shows what I’m using: a small (one cup, I think) jar with the usual lid-and-ring top. The ring I don’t use at all, though it’s shown in the photo for the sake of completeness. Instead, the lid by itself forms a tight enough seal to keep the alcohol from evaporating and from absorbing water from the air. And it’s easy just to lift off the lid, swish the razor head, and replace the lid.

Now I’m going to see how many more shaves I can get from a 11.5¢ blade. (Eat your heart out, you guys using the disposal $3.50 Fusion cartridge. For $3.50, I get 30 blades. Yep, DE shaving is the way to save ever so much money. 🙂 )

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2007 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tabac-happy

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I used the well-loved Tabac shaving soap this morning—a fine lather quickly created with the G.B. Kent BK4, and applied to a beard prepped with Mr. Glo. The second day of the Treet Dura Sharp Hi-Tech (i.e., carbon) Steel blade went fine: whiskers removed without any pulling or hesitation. Quite a smooth shave.

Then I used Tabac aftershave, which I just got. Very nice completion to a Tabac morning. Then I went for my blood draw.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2007 at 10:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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