Thursday, October 27, 2011

One Community's Recipe for Dealing With the High Price of Clothes

Times are hard for many Americans. People are angry saying that wealth is inequitably distributed. Hence the rise of the Occupy Protests. Yet occasions still go on. Being unable to afford an outfit to wear to a wedding is a problem for many people.

I was reminded of a solution yesterday when I received a request in the mail for a donation from the Jane Webster Simcha Gemach. This organization fills a special need in the Orthodox Jewish community in Chicago. People donate outfits to the Gemach that are  appropriate for the mother, grandmother, sister or other significant family member in the bride’s life. Women in the community who need the outfits can borrow them after paying a small deposit. They must pay for any needed alterations themselves and have the outfit dry cleaned before returning it. The Gemach works with particular tailors who understand the needs of the Gemach and are able to make the alterations temporary enough so that they can be torn out and re-altered for the next user. The best part is that everyone can look well dressed while spending a minimal amount of money. The community has similar Gemachs that lend bridal gowns and give away used children’s clothes. I’m not Orthodox myself but a great idea is a great idea. I’ve often wondered why other communities don’t copy them and set up similar organizations.

The Gemachs don’t fix our country’s problems, but they help to address a need on a local level. Maybe people will become more inventive and learn to help each other more as they respond to need. If any of you know of other efforts, I’d love to hear about them.

In the meantime, I continue to search for economical, nutritious recipes to share. Here is one for mushroom-black bean curry. Preparation time is 20 minutes. It serves four.

                                                          Mushroom Black Bean Curry

 2-3 tbsp butter
½ pound fresh mushrooms chopped
1 onion minced
curry powder to taste (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 apples chopped fine
salt, paprika to taste
1 cup raw brown rice cooked in 2 cups of water
1 cup plain yogurt
1 14 oz. can black beans with liquid drained

     1.  Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
     2.  Put the rice to cook.
     3.  While the rice is cooking, sauté the mushrooms in the butter. Add the onions and curry powder.   Saute for a few more minutes. Add the apples but don’t let them get mushy. Remove from the heat and stir in the paprika, salt, and yogurt.
      4. When the rice is cooked, assemble the casserole. First layer is the rice. Then comes the mushroom yogurt sauce spread evenly over the grain. Add in the black beans. Sprinkle paprika and more curry powder (optional) over the top.
      5. Cook for about a half hour or until the sauce feels more solid.

It’s good served with a green salad or vegetable and sweet potatoes.    

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Recipes From Occupy Wall Street and Beyond

Protests supporting Occupy Wall Street are springing up all over America. In the past, working class and poor working people haven’t expressed outrage about the economic/political system that has contributed to their situations. Now, however, people are getting angry. 

Have you ever wondered why thus far, the working poor have been using their hunting rifles to shoot themselves in the foot at the ballot box? Frank Thomas tried to explain that phenomenon in What’s The Matter With Kansas. Barbara Ehrenreich described the problems with which working poor contend very eloquently in Nickeled and Dimed. Nevertheless, both authors as members of the middle class wrote from outside of the world of hardship and bare survival looking in.

For a look from inside the world of the working poor, Deer Hunting With Jesus by Joe Bageant is much more enlightening. I just finished reading it and I’m still shuddering. Learning about how the religious right has grown, multiplied, and seized power is enough to scare most of us “urban educated liberals” to death. The author, Joe Bageant, grew up in Winchester, Virginia, a small town near the West Virginia border, and then lived in the west for 30 years, working mostly as a journalist. After 30 years away, he returned to his home town where many people that he knows are members of an unacknowledged underclass of white uneducated poor people. He does a great job of explaining how the people in his town view the political situation and how they are being screwed by the current economic-political system. He also talks about how liberals and Democrats have failed to address many of the concerns of this group. Since he wrote the book before Barack Obama became President, he does not comment in it about the Affordable Health Care Act or Occupy Wall Street. At any rate, Deer Hunting With Jesus is a must read for all of us urban educated liberals who are concerned about America’s future.

Many more than the power elite care to admit worry about when they’ll have their next meal. During this next year, I’ll try to stick to recipes that are economical as well as quick. This week I’m including one of my daughter Brina Gonzalez’s recipes. Preparation time is 15 minutes. Adjust the amounts to how many you’re feeding.

                                                         Mexican Chicken Stir Fry

 Leftover chicken cut in 1” chunks
White rice
Vegetables cut up
Canola oil
Salsa dip
Limes cut in slices
Cilantro leaves
Garlic powder, onion powder to taste

1.Cooking the rice according to directions.
2.While the rice is cooking, heat a large skillet with canola oil. Saute the vegetables for 2-3 minutes. 3.Add the limes squeezing the juice into the skillet.Add the seasoning and the chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.
4.Add the cilantro.
5.Mix with the rice and serve.    

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Joining the 99% at Occupy Chicago

    As those who know me can tell you, I am not part of the 1% of the population that is cornering 37% of the USA’s household wealth. Therefore, it was about time that I joined the other 99% in a long overdue moment of rage. With that in mind, I headed over to Occupy Chicago to see whether or not the outrage that has been inexplicably absent until now had  finally come.

Yesterday, October 12th, was the 20th day of Occupy Chicago. In solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, people have been occupying many cities throughout America. A few hundred people have been occupying the area outside of the Federal Reserve Bank on LaSalle Street, the heart of Chicago’s financial district. I think that people are coming together to say that they are serving notice that they will no longer allow an oligarchy to control America’s wealth. It belongs to all of us and needs to be distributed more equitably than it has been.

While the majority of the people appeared to be young, the crowd spanned the age spectrum. It was exciting to see the crowd being overly considerate of one another. I asked one woman why she was there. She said that this was the first protest that she had ever participated in her whole life and she was doing it for her grandson to insure that he had a world of opportunities in his future. She proudly carried a sign that said, “I am doing this for you.”

A middle aged woman from Indiana said, “This is the eleventh hour. If the middle class is destroyed in America, there will be nothing to hold up democracy.”

I spoke with a college student from Florida who referred to herself as a college dropout. When I asked her if she had dropped out for lack of funds, she said yes, that her family is very poor and can hardly feed themselves. She hopes to resume her studies someday when she can find the funds to continue.

Many ideas were suggested for resolving America’s financial crisis. One that I found interesting was for Illinois to establish a state bank. Another was for a one-time-only progressive net worth tax to reverse the widening distribution of wealth. The person who suggested this had even set up his own web site to discuss his ideas.

Although everyone was united in a feeling of anger against the 1% whose noose is tightening around the rest of us, there were no concrete demands made. Maybe that will come soon. When it does, I hope they can stay organized enough to press those demands forward. In the meantime, I share the sentiment. I hope that it can be translated into some concrete political action soon. As was said before, we’re in the 11th hour.