Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Novel Approach to Racism

         On cold winter days, it’s great to stay in, read, and cook so I finished reading the novel Parting of the Waters by Kim McLaren. After reading it, I felt as though the waters had indeed opened up and swallowed its readers whole. This story of the relationship between two Philadelphia journalists, Porter Stockman, a white man, and Lenora Page, an African-American woman, is fraught with suspense. Throughout the story, the reader is on pins and needles wondering if they will be able to get past their individual world views to forge a relationship or if the prison of their racial upbringings will render it impossible. Since you may decide to read the book, I won’t spoil it by telling you the end.

What surprised me the most about this book, which was published in 2001, are the racial hatreds voiced by many of the characters. I grew up in an the ‘50’s and ‘60’s when most people had little exposure to people ethnically different from themselves. Many people I knew were quite prejudiced. When I moved to Chicago in the mid seventies, I was aghast at the racial divide here. Although it seems to have gotten less severe in the last 20 years,  racism is still a major problem. I thought I had heard feelings about all the prevailing stereotypes but Kim McClaren’s characters say some things I have to admit that I never heard before, proving again that one is never beyond learning something new.

         After reading Parting of the Waters, I wondered: Do people really think these things about each other? If they do, America has an even longer way to go to achieve unity than I had thought. It makes Barak Obama’s election seem like a miracle. I hope as the year goes forward, I will hear about more efforts to work on this issue.

         Meanwhile, in this spirit, I felt the need to cook and make something that could bring people together so I did. Here is a Spanish recipe for turkey meatballs. Everyone should like it. The prep time is 20 minutes and it serves four. It’s good served over orzos or couscous. I got the recipe from the Chicago Tribune about two years ago and it’s become one of my good easy recipes.

                                 Smoked Paprika Turkey Meatballs

         1 pound dark turkey meat
         1 egg
         ¼ red onion, chopped very fine
         ¼ cup dry breadcrumbs
         ½ tsp salt
         ½ tsp sweet or spicy smoked Spanish paprika
         garlic powder to taste
         6 sprigs parsley
         1 tablespoon olive oil
         4 heaping tablespoons tomato sauce
         1 cup dry red wine

1.      Mix the turkey, egg, onion, salt, paprika, and parsley together in a medium bowl. Form the mixture into 2-inch balls.
2.      Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook meatballs turning on all sides until they’re brown, about 8 minutes.
3.      Add the tomato sauce, wine, and garlic. Spoon the liquid over the meatballs. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for 20 minutes.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Learning An Important Truth As I Celebrate Martin Luther King Day

As I wait for the journalism student from Northwestern University to interview me as a member of the Community Of One I am realizing something: I am a historic relic. Yes, at the age of 62, I am part of what's becoming a vanishing breed, one who can remember firsthand participating in the Civil Rights Movement.

Growing up in Valley Stream, New York City, I attended high school in a hotbed of defacto segregation. Because of segregated housing, only two African-American students attended my high school. My parents were part of a group that founded a fair housing committee in our suburb. I was part of the high school youth group and spent a lot of time advocating for equal rights on Long Island. We were never subjected to the dogs or the hoses or any of the violence of the South, but we faced some ostracism for our activities. I haven't been back on Long Island in many years so I don't know what Valley Stream is like now. I hope it's different than when I was growing up there.

I was fortunate to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in person several times at rallies at Madison Square Garden and at the Island Garden. His speeches were an inspiration to all of us Black and White, young and old. I'm sure that they were a formative part of my coming of age. As I marched with the Community Of One in Evanston, Illinois, I remembered many marches that we were in to support the Civil Rights Movement in the south and to support people in nearby Malverne who were demanding bussing for integrated schools in their school district. For me, the march through Evanston was a fitting re-enactmant as we remembered how so much changed for the better within a few years in large part because of Dr. King's leadership. The Chinese have a curse: May you live in interesting times. Looking back, I feel that it was a blessing.

I feel fortunate now to live in Evanston where I could be part of the committee of the Community Of One planning this year's MLK events. We still have a way to go, but at least we're working on it. I took some pictures of the Evanston events which was a first for me technophobic as I am. I share them with you now. I think these pictures speak for themselves.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

After This Tragedy, What Is Left To Say?

            After watching President Obama address the crowd at the University of Arizona, I am at a loss. What is there to say after the President has so eloquently spoken? I feel that anything I could say would sound trivial.

            I could say that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Nevertheless, if  Loughner hadn’t had such easy access to guns and ammunition, he would have had to use a knife, his fists, or another less lethal weapon and the six victims may have been beaten up but would still be alive. Now isn’t the time to say it, so I won’t. Maybe we can think about it next week or next month as we try to make our country live up to its better self.

            In the meantime, I am grateful that Martin Luther King Day is coming this Monday. I can focus away from this tragedy and work on the events planned in Evanston, Illinois by the Community Of One for Monday, January 17th. For more information on the event, visit our website at During events throughout the day, all participants will be encouraged to sign a peace pledge. At our first event, a coffee at the First United Methodist Church, nonprofit organizations and local government agencies, will be on hand to recruit volunteers to help their fellow citizens in various projects  throughout the year. In light of all the tragedies of the past year, it is a small step but I think it will be a good step in the right direction. If you live nearby, I hope you come to one or more of the events.

            Another way for me to focus on something else is to cook. It felt appropriate for me to try another recipe from Peace de Resistance, the Women’s Strike for Peace Cookbook. their recipes are always quick and I wanted to be finished with dinner in time to watch the memorial. It also felt soothing to remember people who had worked hard for peace.

            I tried their recipe for Oven Fried Chicken. It serves four and the preparation time is 15 minutes.

                                                         Oven Fried Chicken

1 frying chicken disjointed
¼ cup margarine
½ cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon tarragon
½ teaspoon basil
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chives to taste

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Put chicken on a shallow baking dish skin side up. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, and chives. Melt margarine or butter in saucepan and add tarragon. Slowly add wine. Spoon a little of this mixture over the chicken every 15 minutes. Cook for about one hour.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Martin Luther King Day 2011 in Evanston, Illinois

 Tuesday evening was the last meeting of the Community Of One Evanston before the 2011 Martin Luther King Day observances on January 17th. I feel really fortunate to live here and be part of the committee of The Community of One that is planning the day’s activities. The group is comprised of faith organizations and Garrett Seminary. This year Y.O.U. (Youth Organizations Umbrella Inc) and the City of Evanston will also be participating. Check out our website to see all the planned activities.

 The day will begin with a coffee at 9:30 AM at the First United Methodist Church during which time nonprofit organizations will be at tables recruiting volunteers for the coming year. From there, the group will have a peace march at 10:30 AM to the Music Institute of Chicago where Y.O.U. has planned a program. Some of the marchers will leave from there at 11:30 and march to the Second Baptist Church for a convocation including a keynote address by Rabbi Andrea London of Congregation Beth Emet. The Y.O.U. has activities planned for the day. Those attending at Second Baptist may stay for a light reception and a seminar at 2:30 PM on diversity. The last activity will be a candlelight vigil at 4:30. 

With all the divisions that still exist in our society, I feel hope being part of a group that is honoring Dr. Martin Luther King’s memory by having a day calling for unity by promoting volunteerism and encouraging everyone present to sign a peace pledge. By the way, those attending are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items for a collection for Connections for the Homeless.

Coming home from this meeting late, there was little time to cook. Fortunately, my leftovers came to the rescue. For this occasion, I defrosted chicken breasts in soy sauce and peppers. As leftovers, the preparation time is one minute. Just defrost in the morning before work and then put in a pot on top of the stove and cook on a low to medium heat when you’re ready to eat.

Chicken Breasts with soy sauce, peppers, mushrooms, and onions
(Serves 6) Preparation time is about 25 minutes but freezes well. Make two or three times what you need and freeze the rest.

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
¼ cup plain bread crumbs
3 tbsp olive oil
1 green pepper sliced
1 onion chopped
10 mushrooms sliced
2 tbsp minced garlic
ginger powder to taste
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup lemon juice

  1. Roll the chicken breasts in bread crumbs
  2. Heat a deep skillet on top of the stove. Add the olive oil. Saute the chicken breasts lightly for 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Add minced garlic and vegetables to the skillet. Remove from pan and drain oil.
  4. Turn down the heat and add soy sauce, lemon juice, and ginger powder
  5. Put the chicken and vegetables back in the skillet and cook covered for about 45 minutes.

It’s good served with white rice.

For reheating, put in a pot and heat on low to medium heat on top of the stove. I called my husband when the meeting was over and told him to start reheating. When I got home, dinner was ready.