Thursday, May 26, 2011

Some Good News For A Change and A Good Recipe To Go With It

After the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Rodney King’s plea for peace “Can’t we all get along?” resonated throughout America. He would have been really pleased if had gone to the 2011 21st Skokie Festival of Cultures in Skokie, Illinois because he would have seen everyone doing exactly that. In this suburb of approximately 65,000 people, a Festival of Cultures is held yearly to celebrate the village’s ethnic diversity. This year, 36 nationality groups participated.

The Festival is usually held in Oakton Park on the third weekend of May. We arrived at the Festival just before a cloudburst interrupted a performance by Brazilian dancers.
Brazilian Dancers
We were able to see the rest when it resumed after the rain stopped. The performance was beautiful.We also enjoyed performances by dancers from Armenia, Thailand, India, and the Filipines. Where else would you be able to see dancers from all these countries on the same stage?

Walking around to all the booths felt like a world tour. We met people from Haiti, Cuba, Slovakia, Thailand, and Ireland just to name a few.
Slovakian Booth
Haitian Booth
This international celebration called for an international recipe. This one for chickpea and spinach curry is from the New Zealand cookbook 100 Favourite 20 Minute Dishes by Simon and Alison Holst. They suggested serving it with naan [Indian bread]. We didn’t have any, but it was good with pita. It would have been good with tortillas and melted cheese. It serves 4 to 6 people and really was a 20 minute recipe. And it was really tasty.
Chickpea and Spinach Curry

                                                        Chickpea and Spinach Curry
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed, peeled, and diced
1 Tbsp finely chopped ginger
2-3 medium potatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
2-3 tsp curry powder
½-1 tsp cumin seeds (optional)
½ pound package frozen spinach thawed
1 can whole tomatoes in juice
½ pound can chickpeas drained
¼ to ½ cup water if needed
2 tsp garam masala (I didn’t have any but it came out great anyway.)
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves

 1.Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and stir fry until the onion has softened and is turning clear. Add the cubed potatoes, curry powder, cumin seeds, and bay leaves. Cook 1-2 minutes. Add the spinach with its liquid and the tomatoes in juice. Crush and break up the tomatoes. Stir in the drained chickpeas.
2. Simmer for 15 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Add the rest of the ingredients.
3.Serve in bowls or on plates. Enjoy. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pres. Obama Speaks About the Middle East. Now We Must Decide

Now we must decide. President Obama spoke today. He said that the USA should support the growing democratic movements in the Middle East. Is this going to translate into a strenghthening of civil liberties at home? What price are we willing to pay to feel secure and safe? When do we cross the line between taking reasonable precautions and acting on feelings of paranoia?

This past Sunday, we saw a play that examined these issues in a provocative, dramatic way. Freedom, NY written by Jennifer Barclay was expertly staged by Teatro Vista at the Theatre Wit in Chicago. The story takes place in a predominantly African-American town in upstate New York.  Mayflower, her granddaughter Portia, and their neighbors confront their basest fears when Gabriel, a Mexican immigrant, moves in next door and begins preparing for the Day of the Dead. How the story unfolds and how they reconcile their fears with their desire to act fairly and decently presents a gripping story. I won’t say anymore about the story line because you should see it for yourselves. You won’t be disappointed.

Although Freedom, NY is about the conflicts among three main characters, it provokes thought about larger issues some of which are being debated in the United States as we speak. Are we actually keeping ourselves safe by continuing the War in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda? Do we make ourselves more secure by continuing to keep Payton Manning in prison without formal charges for allegedly leaking secrets to Wikileaks? Or is it actually dangerous to have fully open speech? What price do we need to pay to be reasonably secure from further terrorist attacks in our post 9/11 world? All these questions are brought to mind in Freedom, NY. Where does the line of being reasonably cautious end and the line of paranoia begin? I think that we as a nation need to examine these issues and find a good balance that assures our safety as well as our civil liberties. I’d appreciate hearing from all of you here. We all need to raise our voices about this subject.   

Friday, May 13, 2011

First Came the "Fire Water", Next the Potato Chips

If you’re interested in learning more about Native American history and culture, a good place to start is the Mitchell Museum of The American Indian in Evanston, Illinois.
 The Mitchell Museum was started with the collection of Native American culture and artifacts of John and Betty Seabury Mitchell. The collection, has been in its present location in 1997. Although the museum is small, it has an interesting collection of Native American artifacts, clothes, handicrafts, and other memorabilia from many of the over 500 tribes throughout the United States.

                                                             Corn Mother by Doug Hyde

The temporary exhibit is a lesson geared to children about the prevention and treatment of diabetes. Unfortunately, this disease has ravaged the Native American community. Their rate of diabetes is twice the rate of white Americans. Currently 16.5% of Native Americans ages 20 and older have type 2 diabetes and many of the children have it as well.

A creative set of children’s books Through the Eyes of the Eagle by George Perez is on display both in pictures and videos. In this series, Mr. Eagle tells the children how to prevent diabetes by returning to the ways of their ancestors – eating healthy, spending time outdoors, and being physically active. While the original Native American diet was based on fruits, vegetables, grains, with the occasional fish or animal that was caught, many Native American children today fill up on potato chips and other junk foods. They exercise their thumbs playing video games and watching TV rather then their bodies playing lacrosse and other active games. Mr. Eagle explains to the children what they need to do to stay strong and healthy. The illustrations are beautiful. Here is one of them.

After seeing that wonderful exhibit, I visited the museum library where I found several Native American cookbooks. Although many of the ingredients they used were very healthy, many of them would be difficult to obtain for most of us. I did, however, find a couple of recipes that seemed doable. I admit I haven’t tried them yet, but I will soon. If any of you try them, let me know how they came out.

                                                Sweet Potato Bread

Boiled sweet potatoes mashed up
Corn flour
Baking soda
Salt (optional)

Mix the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Pour into bread pan. Bake in a hot oven (425 Fahrenheit). The recipe didn’t provide amounts or baking times.

                                                Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 pat margarine
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Cut the squash in half. Hollow out seeds and waste. Put the other ingredients on it and bake in 350 Fahrenheit oven for 40 minutes.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Mother's Day Wish List

I began this blog last Fall by paying tribute to all the mothers including my own who participated in Women’s Strike for Peace. I did this by sharing their recipes from Peace de Resistance that were quick to prepare allowing them time to work for peace and social change. This Mothers Day, in their honor, I’m sharing my Mother’s Day wish list that I'm sending to President Obama.       

Dear Mr. President,

1. The world is definitely a better place without Osama Bin Laden in it. Now that he’s dead and Al- Qaeda is weakened, I hope that you will bring a swift end to the War in Afghanistan. It has lasted 10 years already and as guests in their country, we long ago wore out our welcome. I'm not naive enough to believe that Al-Qaeda is no longer a threat. Rather, I believe they are everywhere and this war can best be fought by the CIA and FBI, not by destroying the Middle East one country at a time. The best Mothers’ Day present we could give the mothers of our soldiers in Afghanistan would be to get them home safely in one piece.

2. As talks continue in Congress about balancing the budget, cutting the expense for the War in Afghanistan would be a good place to start. An estimated 14 million children in the United States are living in poverty and the money could be better spent on education and jobs programs. America's top 1% of the population now own 50% of the wealth and this should not be.

  1. Shortly after you were elected, I attended a conference on the Convention of the Rights of the Child. At that time, the United States and Sudan were the only countries in the world that had failed to ratify it. As we finished lunch, the chairman of the conference announced that Sudan had agreed to ratify it leaving the USA alone as the only country to fail to do so. As an American citizen, I felt ashamed and humiliated. I know that there are a host of other issues that demand your attention, but what can be more important on Mothers Day than insuring the security and rights of the world’s children. My third wish is for the USA to ratify this treaty.
I have many more wishes, but even a genie only grants three and it has been unfair of us to expect you to wave a magic wand over all the complex problems that beset our nation. I feel these three wishes would be a good starting point.

Thank you and may you and your family enjoy a blessed Mothers’ Day.

Lisa Sachs   

Well that's my letter. Have a blessed Mothers' Day everyone. I'd share a recipe for the day, but I think it's someone else's turn to cook. It's our turn to kick back.

To link to other Mothers' Day thoughts, you can check out