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.


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