Thursday, December 27, 2012

Time Travel - A Recipe For Community

In Travel As a Political Act, Rick Steeves terms travel political. Intrigued, I read his book and understood what he meant. As we travel to other countries and observe other cultures, we can learn other ways of dealing with social issues and resolving political problems. Sometimes, it makes us clamor for the United States to change, but more often, it can make us appreciate what we have here.

If travel can be a political act, just think about time travel. In Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan, she explores how time travel affects two main characters, Anna and Joey – New Englanders from 2010 – as they are unwittingly transported to 1844 Ireland, the year before the Potato Famine started. They must be careful not to mention telephones, e-mail, laptops, television, flush toilets and many other devices not yet invented in 1844 lest they appear suspicious. As it is, many of the locals suspect them of being British spies. As Anna suffers a degree of malnutrition eating a steady diet of potatoes, she reflects on how much more cohesive their communities are than the one she’s been thrust from. There for just a few weeks, she has already developed relationships with many more people than she has in Boston. When she thanks her hostess for taking care of her after she is rescued from a supposed ship wreck, in surprise she replies, “That is what friends do for each other.”

While I wouldn’t want to be transported to 1844 Ireland for all the potatoes in the Emerald Isle, there may be something to be learned from that society. Are we ignoring each other for the sake of being “plugged in”? Have you been on the subway or in a room where everyone is ignoring one another while texting or talking on their smart phones? Will future generations forget how to have conversations? This is something to mull over as we spend the holidays with family and friends and reading Jacqueline Sheehan’s novel.

Since this is a time of year when we do try to connect, you may be going to some parties. If you’re looking for a dish to pass, here’s an easy one to make. It serves a lot of people and preparation time is about 15 minutes. It is good served hot or cold.

                               Couscous and Vegetable Salad with Orange and Garlic

1 ½ cups couscous
½ cup raisins
1 tsp turmeric
2 cups boiling water
2/3 cup sliced almonds
2 cups garbanzo beans
3 scallions thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes

1/3 cup lemon juice
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tablespoon minced basil 
2 tsp dried grated orange rind
½ tsp salt
pepper to taste

Place couscous in boiling water. Stir and remove from heat. Add the raisins and turmeric and stir again. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Stir in almonds, garbanzos, scallions, and tomatoes.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and orange rind. Blend. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

Add the dressing to the couscous and vegetables.











Thursday, December 20, 2012

Knives and Forks Don't Kill People. People Kill People.

I often say that my husband is a walking argument for gun control legislation. In Chicago in the mid 1960’s, he and a couple of his friends were attacked by a much larger group of boys while walking home from a high school football game. The larger group had brass knuckles and knocked out three of his teeth. This remains a horrible memory of his teenage years that he remarks on every time we pass the scene of the crime. Nevertheless, he’s around to relive it because none of the boys who attacked him had guns.

Gun proponents often say that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. To some degree, this is true. Yet how many of the 26 people including those 20 young children would still be alive in Newton, Connecticut if Adam Lanza had charged into Sandy Hook School with a knife, brass knuckles, or a bow and arrow? Perhaps he would have managed to kill or seriously wound one or two people before being subdued, but in all likelihood, the others would not have been harmed.

Gun proponents say that we have to make mental health services more accessible and that's the root of the problem. To some extent, I agree, but I don’t think that’s the whole answer. Even if everyone who needed counseling and/or medication and/or other community support were to receive all the needed help, someone would fall through the cracks. Someone receiving help who wasn’t yet stable or someone who needed but didn’t seek help could still do what Adam Lanza did. Even with an almost perfect mental health system, occasionally people would fly under the radar.

Adam Lanza killed with guns that were legally registered to one of his parents. Now it’s come out in the New York Times that he and his mother regularly visited a shooting gallery both alone and together. People will ask how she could have missed what was right before her eyes, but that is often the case. It’s much easier to see other people’s problems more clearly than our own. To make sure that such shortsightedness doesn’t result in more carnage, we have to  make it more difficult for many civilians to have guns. By the way, do hunters kill deer with submachine guns? I am realistic enough to know that gun ownership will always remain sacred to some Americans, but we have to be able to agree on some reasonable restrictions. Maybe it is treating the symptoms of our violence-oriented society, but until we can turn that around, we need to treat the symptoms. I hope we do it soon before we're all mourning for more victims yet again.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fearing Mexico and A Big Enchilada Recipe

Many Americans are afraid of Mexico or at any rate, the Mexicans who have emigrated to the United States. That’s probably why agreeing on a reasonable policy concerning the 11 to 12 million undocumented people living among us has been so intractable. Are they really alien (a la E.T.) or are they our friends, neighbors, and co-workers? And do some persist in calling them “illegal aliens” in an attempt to visualize them as the former?

These issues are explored fully in i put the fear of méxico in ‘em the play that premiered at the Chicago Dramatists Theatre presented by Teatro Vista. Taking place in a back alley of Tiajuana, the play, written by Matthew Paul Olmos, has two couples, one white American and one Mexican confronting each other about these issues. Do we look past and through each other as if the other is not even there? Does the Mexican couple really need to hold the American couple up at gunpoint to get their attention? How do we react when our children reach out to the Other in friendship or in dating? Is a real relationship possible with all the factors that rear up to divide us? Teatro Vista dramatized the dilemmas quite effectively forcing us to examine our true feelings about them. i put the fear of méxico in ‘em is  no longer playing, but hopefully it will arrive at a theatre in your city or get revived in Chicago. Therefore, I won’t reveal the ending. You should see it and contemplate it for yourselves.

In the meantime, don’t be afraid to try this recipe for low-fat enchilada casserole. At least we can enjoy learning each other’s foods although this recipe seems like an American adaptation. Once we know each others’ cuisine, it’s impossible to feel alienated from each other. The preparation time is about 20 minutes and it serves four to six people.

                                                Low Fat Enchilada Casserole

 2 14 oz. Cans of Black or Red Beans with most of liquid drained
½ cup chopped onions
chili powder, ground cumin, ground pepper to taste
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup water
cooking oil
non-stick covering or margarine or butter
11.5 oz jar taco sauce
6 corn tortillas
1 ¼ cup shredded 2% sharp cheddar or Mexican cheese
2 green onions finely chopped, shredded lettuce chopped fine, tomatoes, and fat free sour cream for garnish.

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit. Grease a casserole dish or spray with nonstick covering.
Heat cooking oil in a skillet. Add the onions, garlic, and other spices and cook for about five minutes. Add water and beans and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Lightly cover bottom of 9” by 13” casserole dish with half of taco sauce. Place three corn tortillas in bottom of pan cutting tortillas to fit. Spread half of bean/onion mixture over it. Sprinkle half of cheese. Repeat the layers.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with green onions and other toppings. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Les Miserables" and the Fiscal Cliff

When my friend Tien invited me to participate in a read-along of Les Miserables, the idea piqued my interest. The idea was for all participants in the read-along to read sections of the book on the same two week schedule so that we could each discuss it on our blogs and read each others’ posts. I looked forward to reading what people throughout the world had to say.

There is a lot more to the book than Jean Valjean's going to prison for stealing a loaf of bread and a lot of really great songs (as there are in the play and movie.) I read Les Miserables while I was campaigning for Pres. Obama and now even after the election, many issues discussed in Les Miserables remain hot topics. The most salient issue for me was the right wing attack on America's frayed social safety net. I found Les Miserables grappling with many of these issues. For example, “the fiscal cliff” debate which rages in Washington is essentially about how we as a society are going to treat people in need. Are we going to arrest people like Jean Valjean for stealing a loaf of bread and then forever hold it against them? Although Jean Valjean leads an exemplary life after serving a 19 year prison sentence, society and he himself forever view him as unworthy. The circumstances which drove him to commit his crime are never taken into consideration. Even Marius and Cosette are repulsed when they hear about his past. Their attitudes didn’t endear these characters to me, but is it much different from the treatment afforded ex-convicts today? The whole message of the book is that we can redeem ourselves from past mistakes by living perfect lives, but without community support or recognition, it is a nearly impossible undertaking. Les Miserables  reminded me that public attitudes about the causes of poverty remain unchanged. Written in a manner that is very different from how novels are today - A lot of prose waxing philosophic about a variety of topics as Victor Hugo digresses from the story - made it difficult at times to continue with it. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I did.

For many, the reading of Les Miserables would spoil their appetite. For others, it may make them hungrier. For the latter, here’s a recipe I used shortly after Thanksgiving. It’s good served with a loaf of French bread ( in keeping with the spirit of the story).  Prep time is about 20 minutes.

                                                                   Turkey Casserole
Leftover turkey cut into julienne slices
Broccoli cut in pieces
Mushrooms sliced
1 can of cream of chicken soup
garlic, onion powder, pepper, basil to taste
a Tbsp of dry sherry
olive oil
Italian flavored breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350º F.
Heat a skillet with the olive oil and sauté the mushroom slices. 
Place the turkey in a casserole dish. Place the broccoli over the layer of turkey. Add the mushroom slices. Spread the cream of chicken soup over it all. Add the seasoning and sherry. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the top.
Bake for about 40 minutes.






Monday, October 15, 2012

In 2012, The Issues of "Les Miserables" Live

I had a Les Miserables moment last week when my husband and I volunteered at our synagogue’s soup kitchen. As I helped to cook and serve over 100 of my hungry neighbors, I mused about whether or not we had progressed since the time that Jean Valjean was sentenced to prison for breaking into a bakery to steal a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children. Yes, we have some social safety net programs in place but due to their inadequacy, soup kitchens are still necessary. And yet, many in our country resent the tax dollars that are spent on feeding the poor. In fact, Congress has failed to pass a law to extend food stamps because Republicans want to cut down on the amount being spent and can’t agree on how little to spend.

But I was digressing there. My task is to discuss the Cosette section of Les Miserables that my friend Tien has put together so that all of us from around the world can have this online discussion. Thank you, Tien for doing this. As sadly relevant as the book is to today’s American issues, I would never have read it if not for your invitation to participate in this read-along.

Before answering Tien’s discussion questions, I have to say that I unwittingly bought an abridged copy of Les Miserables. It is edited and abridged by Laurence M. Porter and translated by C. E. Wilbur. The part about the battle at Waterloo was severely cut and so, I won’t comment about that question.

As for Cosette, I feel that everyone is born with some personality traits and each person reacts differently to trauma and hardship. Evidently, Cosette was endowed with a sweet nature. When she meets Jean Valjean, she senses immediately that he is there to rescue her from the degradation in which she’s been living. Not remembering her mother, all she remembers is being abused. This would make most people bitter and angry, but why isn't she? In the my version of the book, that question isn't explained. Maybe we should keep in mind that his book was written way before Freud or any psychological studies as we now know them. Perhaps, Hugo didn’t consider that question. Or perhaps Les Miserables was meant to be a larger than life study of the plight of the poor and Hugo didn’t want to delve into the psychological makeup of each character.

What do I think that life in a convent would be like for Cosette? I can only project on the basis of what I’ve read thus far. After life with the Thenardiers, Cosette may find the convent a haven. After all, her savior and protector Jean Valjean is there with her. At the end of the story, Hugo suggests that Fauchelevant paves her way with the Mother Superior pointing out Cosette’s homeliness. If the nuns like Cosette and treat her as equal to the other girls in the school, she may feel sheltered in the convent. It may prove to be the most peaceful years of her tumultuous life. This remains to be seen and I look forward to reading the next section of Les Miserables. Good reading, my fellow read-alongers.  


Monday, October 1, 2012


I was very intrigued when my friend Tien invited me to participate in a read-along of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. What I remembered from seeing the musical Les Miz over a decade ago was Jean Valjean’s being arrested for stealing a loaf of bread. As any former high school French student remembers, Les Miserables broke new ground in 1862 in depicting the plight of the poor in France. I thought that this book would be relevant to today’s struggles of the poor, working poor, and embattled middle class in America.

At the same time, I was intrigued to be invited by someone in Australia to participate in an on-line book discussion with people throughout the English speaking world, the Philippines, and Indonesia. I look forward to reading everyone’s opinions and seeing how our outlooks are shaped by place and time.

That said, I enjoyed reading the first section Fantine of Les Miserables more than I thought I would. Although the book describes the plight of the poor in France at that time, it is also a book about redemption. Although Jean Valjean’s desperation is a major factor in his decision to commit his crime, he had control over whether or not he did it. Evidently the view of Victor Hugo was that Jean Valjean had free will and used that free will to break the bakery’s window and steal the bread even though he was driven to this act to a large degree by the hunger of his sister’s children. We could argue that he, in fact, had few remaining opportunities and so he did what he did. Nevertheless, I don’t think that was the point Hugo was trying to make. The point was that after he was released from 19 years in prison, he was able to redeem himself by leading an exemplary life. In my view, becoming wealthy enough to have many more choices made it considerably easier to do so. I’ve never wholly subscribed to the adage that money cannot buy happiness. Although it can’t buy happiness, it can buy health care, an opportunity for a good education, and more alternatives in sticky situations which can aid us in reaching happiness. The converse is that not having money for the rent or food can lead to a lot of unhappiness. Hence, Jean Valjean stealing a loaf of bread.

Bishop Myriel comes across as a character in a fable. He is part allegory and part reality placed in the story to show how one can influence another to turn his life around. For the most part, he seemed to be too good to be true and maybe he was.

As we all are, Javert was a product of his socio-economic environment embittered by earlier injustices done to him. As it can make some more compassionate, it seemed to make him more rigid. Thus, he is the perfect counter-point to Jean Valjean. They are two sides of the same coin showing how people are affected by a life of poverty. It will be interesting to read how they each grow and change as the story unfolds. I look forward to finding out how Victor Hugo handles this unfortunately timeless topic.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Due to various circumstances some of which are beyond my control, I am taking a hiatus from posting on this blog. In the fall, look for new blog posts by me with new recipes and new ideas. In the meantime, have a great summer everyone.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Surviving the Heat Wave With A Family Recipe for Fruit Soup

The heat wave has been raging in Chicago for days so I went to my favorite indoor walking track. When I arrived, three women were speaking to each other in Russian. I wasn’t able to converse with them although I have Jewish-Russian origins. I watched them perusing the flyer from a local produce market. The ad, the weather, and the Russian speaking reminded me of foods eaten in my childhood namely my great-grandmother Bryna’s fruit soup. It would definitely hit the spot today. And right now, I can practically taste it.

In the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, most people didn’t have central air-conditioning in their houses.  If we wanted to be in air-conditioning, we went to the movies. Sometimes we went to the beach. We’d eat things that didn’t entail turning on the oven. (Most of us who were around then probably have favorite hot weather recipes.) At night, we’d take cold showers and only partially dry off. We’d use big window fans. Generally, we used less energy but not having a choice, we accepted it that way.

During one heat wave, when the mercury hovered at about 100 for a week, my grandmother suggested that we go see a movie. The content of the movie was a secondary consideration to the air-conditioning in the movie theatre. Many years later, when my grandmother was on her deathbed, she asked me, “Do you remember that heat wave in New York when we went to that movie about English people mumbling on a train? What it was it about?”

Of course, I remembered it. Absent the subtitles and nonverbal cues –extensive hand gestures, vivid facial expressions – 90% of the dialog was lost on me as well. What I understood was that I was tired of sitting in the one air-conditioned room in the house and it felt good to be somewhere else for a few hours.

Nowadays we’ve gotten spoiled. We go from air-conditioning to air-conditioning even finding cool indoor places to exercise. Sometimes the air-conditioning in public places is so cold that I fear we’re wasting valuable resources thus speeding up climate change and making it worse for ourselves. I’ve heard and read that we can’t reverse the trends. There must be a way, however, that we can keep them from getting even worse. I take sweaters to restaurants for the air-conditioning hoping that I won’t need them. We have to learn to be more careful with the Earth’s resources.

In the meantime, here’s my Great-grandmother Bryna’s recipe for fruit soup. It’s great cold with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and goes well with cheese blintzes.

                                                            Fruit Soup
6 peaches
4 dark plums
1 apple
1 cup of pitted sour cherries (don’t become ripe until mid-August but you can buy them frozen)
cinnamon, ginger powder, lemon juice, vanilla extract to taste
2 heaping T. sugar

 Partially boil the peaches. Cool under cold water and peel.
Cut up all the fruit. Put all the ingredients in a pot with enough water to cover the fruit. Let it come to a boil. Then leave it on warm. Cook until the fruit gets mushy.
Pick out dissolved fruit peels. Mush down remaining fruit and chill in refrigerator.
Serve cold with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt on top of each serving.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Affordable Health Care Act Upheld - A Recipe for Us All

As a social worker, I don’t receive good news that frequently. When I do, it’s a cause for celebration. Once one of my clients was chosen by a lottery system to receive the Illinois Homebound Program enabling her severely disabled daughter to get needed funding for special services. I felt like I had just won the Lottery myself and I cheered over the phone. When the center for developmentally disabled adults where I worked received a special user van with five spaces for wheelchairs, I rejoiced for days. Today feels like winning the Power Ball now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Health Care Law. By 2014, almost all Americans will be able to get health insurance. At present, about 30 million Americans don’t have it. For many, the provisions that affect them, such as the one that prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, won’t kick in until 2014. It’s something to look forward to anyway.

There’s so much bad news that I won’t have to hear any more. I had a client who tested positive for cervical cancer who had four children one of whom was severely disabled. Although her children were able to get Kids Care [the state insurance for children], she and her husband had too much income for Medicaid. Miraculously, she was able to be treated just in the nick of time. Fortunately, four kids didn’t lose their mother, no thanks to prevailing health policies.

Another client had illnesses too numerous to mention. She couldn’t get health insurance because she was single so she didn’t qualify for Medicaid. She was disabled and unable to work and fighting to get Social Security Disability (her only proof qualifying for Medicaid) for years. When she finally received it, she had so many health issues that had gotten worse in all those years, she probably overtaxed the health care system for years afterwards.

I’d tell you my victory dinner, but I de-frosted leftovers so I can get out and make phone calls for Pres. Obama’s re-election. Anyway, here’s another healthy recipe for another time. It serves four and preparation time is 30 minutes.


                                                  Eggplant – Sweet Potato Bake

1 eggplant sliced
1 large sweet potato sliced
fresh spinach
½ cup uncooked macaroni
4 ounces ricotta cheese
tomato sauce
1 T minced garlic
olive oil
cinnamon, curry powder, turmeric to taste

Preheat oven to 350º. Boil water to cook the macaroni. While the water is coming to a boil, heat some olive oil in a frying pan. Saute the mushrooms and garlic. Put pan aside. Put tomato sauce in a medium saucepan. Add the mushrooms and garlic and other seasoning and cook for a few minutes.

When all the ingredients are ready, assemble.

A thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, then layers of eggplant, spinach, macaroni, sweet potato slices, ricotta cheese, then tomato sauce again. If you have leftover ingredients, repeat. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour until cheese is baked in and sweet potato slices are soft.

It’s good served with a green salad and Italian bread.

Stay healthy until at least  2014 everyone!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Chicago - On A "Slippery Slope" or The Road to Good Sense?

Forty one years ago, On June 17, 1971, President Nixon declared war on drugs. While there are many statistics on the percentage of Americans who acknowledge using or abusing illegal drugs, I wonder about their accuracy. After all, how many people will admit in a survey to committing a federal crime? Whatever the statistics, I bet that the actual number of people using illegal drugs is higher. Just as Prohibition didn’t stop people from drinking and abetted the rise of Mafia power and violence, the War on Drugs hasn’t stopped people from using illegal drugs and has probably contributed to the rise of drug gangs throughout the USA and Central America.

In an effort to cut down on the cost of lives broken by ineffective incarcerations for marijuana not to mention the financial costs to law enforcement, Mayor Emanuel has endorsed a proposed Chicago ordinance that would decriminalize marijuana. Instead of being arrested, people caught with less than 15 grams of marijuana would be fined $250 to $500. Minors and people without ID’s would still be arrested. Since the majority of alderman have said they support the bill, it will likely pass.

In a June 21st  editorial, the Chicago Tribune calls this a “slippery slope” [to sending a message to our kids that drug use is okay]. I disagree. To me, this is just acknowledging that legislating against self-destructive behavior is ineffective. In the process, the city can gain some revenue from the fines. With luck, using marijuana will become legal in the United States someday and the sale of it can be taxed just as we tax the sale of cigarettes and alcohol, both potentially harmful. That could really bring in some needed revenue.

In some other countries, even the harder drugs are legal. For example, Rick Steeves in his book, Travel As A Political Act describes the Swiss policy toward heroin use. Rather than treating it as a crime, they treat it as a public health problem. Vending machines with sterile needles are provided throughout their cities. People can get help for their addictions. It sounds like good sense to me. Nevertheless, I don’t expect the United States to legalize drug use any time soon, but decriminalizing marijuana usage would be a first step to a good sense drug policy. Yeah Chicago!

In the meantime, since there is little that I can do on this issue, I return to food. It is also  potentially harmful when too much of the wrong things are eaten. Look at the growing rate of obesity in our country. This recipe for Pumpkin Spinach Bake is healthy and inexpensive. Preparation time is about 20 minutes.

                                                                 Pumpkin/Spinach Bake

1 can pumpkin
1 8 oz package frozen spinach
spiral pasta ( I use about 4 uncooked ounces.)
4 ounces mozzarella cheese
6 T tomato sauce
allspice, cumin, curry powder, and cinnamon to taste
grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
Boil the water for the pasta.
While waiting for the water to boil, slice the mushrooms.
In another pot, mix the tomato sauce with the seasoning.
When the water is boiled, add pasta to it. Cook until its al dente.
When the pasta is finished mix all the ingredients into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese. Bake for 45 minutes.



Thursday, June 7, 2012

77cents - What recipe is that!

Lilly Ledbetter is angry – and so am I. You probably remember that she’s the woman of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first law that President Obama signed as President. After working as a night supervisor at the Goodyear Rubber factory in Gadsden, Alabama for more than 20 years and earning a paycheck that was far less than her male co-workers doing the same job, Lilly Ledbetter decided to fight back. She sued Goodyear and the case eventually went to the Supreme Court. 
Decades ago, I bought the campaign button seen here.  Thirty years ago, that was what women earned in comparison to men doing the same job. Now all these years later, the same button would say 77cents. That’s better, but it isn’t good enough. The days are long gone when women worked to earn “pin money”. In fact, even in days of yore, working merely for “pin money” was a privilege of middle and upper class women. For poor women, those days never existed. Women have always worked as domestic and factory workers, waitresses, and in many other jobs to make ends meet.

Today, women of many socioeconomic levels are either single wage earners supporting their children alone or members of couples that need two incomes. Working as a hobby is a privilege of very few. For those women who need to work (i.e. most of us), their work isn’t any less valuable than their male co-workers and neither are their economic needs.

In an attempt to rectify the problem of unequal pay, the Paycheck Fairness Act was proposed in Congress. Tuesday, June 5th, it failed to get enough votes in the Senate to open debate. A majority of 52 to 43 voted yes to begin debate on the bill, but that is the subject of a whole other discussion. The bill would have protected workers from getting fired for sharing information about their rates of pay with their co-workers and enabled them to sue for some infringements of the Fair Pay Law. Unfortunately, all the Republicans voted against this bill preventing women from getting a tool sometimes needed to gain equal wages. Lilly Ledbetter sent an e-mail to me and millions of other women asking us to co-sign a letter to Mitt Romney asking him to take a stand on this issue. We need to send the letter to our Senators, also. If you don’t know how to contact your Senators, you can go to Equal pay for equal work still needs our advocacy.

Another thing that hasn’t changed through the decades is the need to cook a meal when we get home from work. This recipe for an eggplant and chickpea stew has a prep time of 20 minutes and feeds four. That leaves plenty of time to contact your Senators while it’s cooking.

                                                   Chick-­ Pea and Eggplant Stew

2 large eggplants cut in small pieces
1 14 oz can of chick peas
3 tbsp of olive oil
l large onion chopped
1 tbsp of minced garlic
1 14 oz can of stewed tomatoes
cumin, cinamon, coriander, salt, and pepper to taste
a dash of curry powder

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for about 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and garlic until they soften. Add the spices and cook for a few seconds. Add the eggplant and stir to coat with the other ingredients. Add the tomatoes and chick-peas. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

It’s good served with rice. Bon appetit! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Ended My Strike - A Recipe for Good Eating

A few weeks ago, I declared personal strike refusing to post more recipes. What had triggered this decision was the Supreme Court’s voiding a provision of the Family Leave Act. I was furious at this attack on the job security of working women, specifically women working for a state government or state university who can now no longer sue the state if they are denied family leave under the act.  I’m still angry, but is my small symbolic act making a difference?

I reflected on that last week when my husband and I saw the play Her Naked Skin written by the British playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz. It was originally performed in London. We saw it performed at Stage 773 in Chicago by The Shattered Globe Theatre directed by Roger Smart. The play is about the militant faction of the British suffragette movement and relationship conflicts they had as they campaigned for votes for women. They committed acts of disruption for which they were often imprisoned. In prison, these women often went on hunger strikes and were violently and abusively force-fed. Some militant suffragettes died for the cause. Her Naked Skin is worth seeing and runs through June. To Chicago area readers out there, I recommend your seeing it.

As for women’s suffrage, some British women were granted the right to vote in 1918 – women over 30 who owned property or who were married to men who owned property. (This was a year ahead of American women and 25 years after New Zealand women.) In 1928, women’s suffrage was extended to all British women over the age of 21. Did their hunger strikes further their cause? We’ll never know because many strategies were being employed simultaneously in the Votes for Women Movement. My hunch is that the hunger strikes hurt the women doing them more than it helped their cause.

Granted, I’m hardly starving because I’ve stopped posting recipes and neither is anyone else reading my posts. Nevertheless, since many enjoy the recipes and I enjoy writing them, I think I’ll start posting them again and here is one as I resume posting my recipes.

It’s fake crab meat and zucchini. It feeds three and preparation time is 20 minutes. It’s good served with rice. That gives us plenty of time left over to contemplate what we’ll do next to make the world a better place.

                                              Fake Crabmeat and Zucchini

8 oz fake crabmeat (usually made from pollock or cod.)
1 zucchini sliced
mushrooms sliced
½ yellow or red bell pepper diced
1 diced onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
some chopped ginger root to taste
juice from 1 lime
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Start cooking the rice. While it’s cooking, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Saute the garlic, onion, and ginger root for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, pepper, and zucchini for 3 more minutes. Add the crabmeat. Then add the lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Let everything cook together for 5 minutes. Serve hot with the rice.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

1968 All Over Again? I Hope Not

All of us in Chicago have been forewarned. We’ve been told on the local news and in the newspapers of the police plans to contain the demonstrations. We’ve been told of the security measures being taken by Metra [commuter trains] and about all the places in Chicago that will be closed on May 19th and 20th. We’ve been told that the Chicago police will contain the march so that violence isn’t allowed and freedom of speech is preserved. It sounds like it’s all supposed to scare us into staying home and thus far, my bet is that this goal will be achieved.

People from across America have been arriving. Maybe they weren’t told of the police plans or maybe they don’t remember the 1968 Democratic Convention that vividly. Either way, various groups have announced plans to march, among them the Nurses’ Association who will hold a march on March 18th.  Meanwhile, I, who am on the e-mail lists of almost every progressive group, have received no e-mails at all informing me of the marches or asking me to participate. Nothing from Nothing from the Occupy groups. Nothing from the pro-immigration groups. Nothing. The silence is deafening. Is there a glitch in my e-mail or something more? Either way, I don’t like the sound of it.

Yes, I was against the War in Iraq before it started and still think that America should make a total exit as soon as possible. Yes, I was against the War in Afghanistan, also. The war was launched against Al Quaeda which is not part of any specific country. I still feel that this amorphous body could be more effectively combated by covert actions to foil terrorist plots against Americans rather than by wars that destroy the Middle East one country at a time. The purpose of NATO has been to provide for a common defense so that we are all safe. Will people be protesting these wars in which NATO has been participating or will this bring out people protesting a plethora of injustices? 

Yet, that is not what is worrying me now. What is worrying me is that all these efforts to contain the demonstrators feels like an assault on our right to free speech. Has the Patriot Act totally negated it? How many rights are we willing to give up for total security? Will the Chicago Police act calmly or will we see a repeat of 1968? Do we still have the right to speak freely? Will the helicopters be hovering overhead taking pictures of all the demonstrators as they did during the War in Vietnam? Will there be agents provacateurs fomenting violence?

In another few days, we will know the answers to these questions. I’m anxious to find out the answers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What Is Art and Why Collect It?

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s newest wing was designed by the noted architect Santiago Calatrava. The building itself is well worth a trip and our reason for driving up there from Chicago (90 miles away) to see it. Once there, we viewed the exhibits which were equally interesting.

An exhibit that just ended on Sunday May 6th was “Accidental Genius,” the collection of 200 works from the Anthony Petullo Collection. The collection represented self-taught artists from the United States and Europe many previously unknown. Their stories were varied. Some painted in prisons and psychiatric hospitals. Others, because of poverty, had never had an opportunity to study art. The result was that many of the artists had a refreshing way of expressing themselves generally thinking outside the box of art convention. Some of the artwork appeared somewhat childlike and naïve to me but other pieces seemed really impressive. One artist in particular did large intricate canvasses totally in pen and pencil. Another Minnie Evans (1892-1987) from Long Creek, North Carolina, used oil and pencil on paper to paint portrait-like pictures of mythical looking figures. Some of her work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Friedrich Schroeder Sonnenstern, a German artist who lived from 1892-1982, used pencil and crayon layered over paint washes to do allegorical drawings. Others expressed themselves through sculpture or other art media. It makes one think about what art is and who should be the one to decide.  It makes you think and that has to be a good thing.

I was curious about what motivated Anthony Petullo, a retired Milwaukee businessman, to spend four decades collecting the artwork of largely unknown, self-taught artists. I’m happy to say that he has been able to protect himself on the internet from nosy people like me. I couldn’t find any information about him. In videos that he made for the Museum to advertise the exhibit, he said that collecting this art became a challenge and a passion for him and that he often identified with the art which was made from a fresh perspective. At any rate, it was an eye opener for anyone who was able to view the exhibit. I’ll be looking for more of it in the future.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

If There Is A God, What Is She Thinking?

I’ve always thought that the world would be a better place if everyone practiced the ethics of whatever religion he (or she) claimed to follow. After all, don’t all religions adhere to the Golden Rule – Do unto others what you’d have them do unto you.

With this in mind, I was very interested to read a column by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post syndicated in the May 2nd Chicago Tribune. She reported that the budget passed by the House authored in large part by Rep. Paul Ryan (Rep-Wisconsin) was rebuked by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They said that they feel that any budget should help “the least of these” –the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the jobless. “A just spending bill cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor and vulnerable persons,” they said.

Representative Ryan has his rationale for shortchanging the poor – that they need initiative to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and the rich need to be able to donate to them more easily by having the current array of tax cuts and loopholes.

It’s somewhat dangerous to second guess which side of the argument God is on, but I’m glad that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops didn’t allow Paul Ryan to claim God as his ally in his quest to gut any social safety net that we have left. All those who believe in God want to feel that God is on their side, too.

In the future, however, I hope that we can leave our individual ideas of God’s thoughts out of this conversation that we’re trying unsuccessfully to have in America across regional, religious, ethnic, and ideological divides. It seems close to impossible to come to a consensus as it is. If we add “God says,” it makes it that much harder to come up with a response. “Well I disagree with God on this one” one might say. But then the other person might say, “How dare you disagree with God!” and walk away in a huff. Or one could say, “God didn’t say that!” And the other person could say, “He did so!” Either way, at that point, the conversation is over and any chance at finding a solution has eluded us once again. So now that we’ve all had our say about what we think God thinks, let’s just leave God out of this. I think we need to figure something out together without her.   

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sor. Juana Tells It All to Current Feminists

The National Museum of Mexican Art ( ) in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago is best known for its exhibits of Mexican art and history. The museum has become a focal point for the community offering classes and celebrating many milestones, events, and people in the Mexican-American community. The neighborhood surrounding the museum is home to many outdoor wall murals such as the one in the picture below which are themselves worthy of a visit.
One of their events coming soon is the Sor. Juana Festival. Never having heard of Sor. Juana before, I was intrigued by the notices about her on the museum’s walls. Sor. Juana Ines de la Cruz, who lived from 1651 to 1695 in Mexico, is often considered the first feminist of the Americas. Unwilling to live under the restrictions placed on married women of that time, at age 16, Sor. Juana joined a convent where she was better able to study, learn, and achieve. She became a renowned writer and scholar writing many plays, comedies, historical vignettes, essays, and poems.

Intrigued about this woman who had achieved so much despite all the obstacles which she faced, I sought her works in the library. The one I found that had been translated into English was a A Sor Juana Anthology translated by Alan S. Trueblood with a forward by Octavio Paz. This book contains her famous answer to the Bishop of Puebla who denounced her endeavors and urged her to restrict her activities to Bible reading only. In the letter, Sor. Juana talks about the difficulty she had learning when there were no teachers or classes available to her. Almost all of her knowledge was self-taught. Despite being able to overcome the obstacles herself, she advocated for girls to have the opportunity to get an education.

In addition to this letter, many of Sor. Juana’s poetry is in this volume. While I’m sure much of it was lost in the translation across centuries, worlds, and languages, Sor. Juana still has something to say. Many of her poems have a feminist theme such as “52” which extols an 18 year old girl’s achievements and decries the obstacles in her life that the powers of the time placed in her path.

I have to marvel at all that Sor. Juana did and be grateful that I live in this era instead of then. Despite all that we have achieved in securing women’s rights, however, there are those who wish to take them away. I think that we can all learn from Sor. Juana about how to fight that.

For more information about the Sor. Juana Festival, you can contact the National Museum of Mexican Art ( )

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Our Tax Dollars At Work - Can't We Get An Itemized Bill!

For most of us, writing checks to the IRS is a painful experience worthy of really deep procrastination. Maybe that’s why last year on April 15th when I went to the post office to mail a package, the line was out the door and around the corner. For many, paying taxes is a major hardship so people wait to file until the last possible minute.

With that in mind, organizes a protest each Tax Day [the last day that tax return forms are due] at post offices throughout America. They hope to reach people as they run into mail their last minute tax return forms. This year, I joined at the main post office in Evanston, Illinois.

We distributed literature with information about where our tax dollars are going. According to and The War Resisters League, 29% of the Federal budget is being used for the current military and 18% for past military – 47% of the budget.

Besides the human tragedy of people killed and severely wounded, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing us all a lot of money. According to a Brown University study, the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost a combined 3.7 trillion dollars thus far. According to the, the cost has been $802, 833, 805,000 for the War in Iraq and counting and the War in Afghanistan has cost $502,655,230,000 and counting. These numbers are so huge that I can’t relate to them. I doubt if many other people can either. Maybe that’s one reason why we allow our government to do these things in our name with our money.
Here’s a number to which most people can relate, however: These above groups estimate that the wars have cost each American about $12,000 thus far. While the War in Iraq is officially over, we are still paying contractors. The War in Afghanistan goes on. I don’t know about you, but my husband and I have already spent at least $24,000 on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be continuing to pay for it until these wars can be ended. I can think of a lot of places that I’d prefer my money to go. We have to remember that this is our money that’s being spent. We have to remember that not only when we file our tax returns but also on every Election Day. 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Bowl of Oranges On My Seder Plate

Is 2012 the year of the women in America or the year of the backlash against the progress that women have made in being able to shape their own lives and participate in the world? Hoping that it’s the year that women unite to protect and reclaim their rights, I attended the Women’s Seder at Beth Emet Synagogue. It was a wonderful event that was hosted by Beth Emet and Temple Emanuel and attended by women from several Jewish Congregations and Churches. We shared our own stories after reading the Women’s Haggadah and realized how much more we have in common than we have issues that divide us.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, women’s seders were more popular. They celebrate the contributions that women made to Jewish survival and the flight from Egypt and slavery. At most women’s seders, an orange is added to the Seder plate. Many reasons have been given as the orange on the seder plate has joined our many myths and folk lore. This explanation is taken from a women’s seder that was done at Temple Shir Shalom in Buffalo Grove, Illinois in 1997:

 “Years ago, when women were first ordained rabbis, Susannah Heschel gave a speech in Florida.

After Heschel spoke of women’s emerging equality in Jewish life, a man arose in anger exclaiming, “A woman belongs on the bimah (pulpit) as much as an orange belongs on the Seder plate!”

Since attending that Seder, I have added an orange to our family Seder plate every year. This year, the orange will be a poignant reminder of all the rights women stand to lose if we are not vigilant and organized. This year I will put out a bowl of cuties (mini tangerines) instead to remind us of how people fail to take women seriously. I will cut them with my E.R.A. knife, the knife I used many years ago to open a box of fliers in Bloomington, Illinois where some of us had gone to publicize a rally in Chicago for the E.R.A. We’ll remember that 36 states are proposing laws to outlaw contraception and that affirmative action is under attack. We’ll remind ourselves that the E.R.A. was never ratified and so constitutionally, women were never granted full citizenship. We’ll remind ourselves that we have to strive to further and protect freedom in our own time and place.

At the same time, we’ll feel united with people around the world. We’ll rejoice with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who was recently elected to Parliament in Myanmar formerly known as Burma after almost two decades under house arrest. We’ll pray with the women of Saudi Arabia that by next year at this time, they will all have their driver’s licenses. We’ll pray that women everywhere are safe. We’ll pray for a peaceful and safe world for all people.

I want to wish everyone a blessed and happy holiday Passover/ Easter season. Let’s all remember what we have in common and work together for a world where all people are treated with respect and fairness. Happy Passover. Happy Easter. May the coming year be a better one for America and all the world.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The War Against Women Widens

When I saw it on a discussion, I couldn’t believe it. On March 20, 2012, had the Supreme Court really voided a provision of the 1993 Family Leave and Medical Act? Before I jumped into the fray, I verified that the Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Tribune, and several blog sites had in fact, reported it. So I guess it’s true that the Supreme Court ruled that state employees don’t have the right to sue the state or state colleges/universities if they are denied unpaid medical leave. The Court has ruled that individuals have no right to sue a sovereign state on this matter. Employees of private companies can still seek redress so all is not lost but once again, protections under our fragile, crumbling safety net have been whittled away. Ruth Bader Ginsburg felt strongly enough about it to read the dissenting opinion aloud in the Court’s chambers.

First people in many states wanted to pass restrictions on abortion. Next came the attacks on contraceptives. (In 36 states, bills are being discussed to outlaw contraceptives.) Now the Supreme Court has just made it more difficult for a sector of workers to take the 12 week unpaid family leave for health conditions including pregnancy and giving birth. This only makes it more difficult for women to hold on to their jobs after having a baby, further eroding support for working families many of whom need two incomes or a single mother’s income to survive. “Welfare as we know it” was done away with in the 1990's and now, people are losing another semblance of job security. What’s next? Perhaps there’s a legalistic reason to strike down child labor laws, the eight hour work day, and OSHA. If there is, let’s do it. After all, we have to do everything we can to protect “the job creators.”

When I first started writing this blog, I intended to give nutritious, tasty, and above all quick recipes so that we could spend less time in the kitchen and more time making the world a better place. As a refrigerator magnet I once received says, “Cook your own damn dinner.” For the time being, as a symbolic protest to the assault on women’s rights, I will not be sharing any recipes. We all have too much to do out there to be spending much time in the kitchen.

Thank you, everyone, for allowing me this rant. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Looking for Comfort Recipes and a Return to the Past

Tuesday was Primary Day in Illinois and this year, people were trying to shape the future by returning to the past. I am referring to two issues: contraception and school desegregation.

First contraception: What are they thinking? That women are having sex by themselves? Why aren’t men being held partly responsible? In other posts, I’ve decried a nostalgia for the ‘50’s. The thinking here goes far past that to 1916 when Margaret Sanger organized the first birth control clinic.

In 1960, the birth control pill was first approved by the FDA making it possible for many people to decide how many children they would have and when they would have them. At this point, women (but why not say couples? Is there a political plan in talking about women’s contraceptives) were, able to actually plan their lives. Now many powers that be want to take that empowerment away. In 36 states, laws are being discussed that would curtail couples’ rights to use contraceptives. Republicans, who talk of limiting the role of government in controlling our lives, are often spearheading this return to the bad old days when contraceptives were illegal and back alley abortions were one of the few family planning alternatives available.

Now school desegregation: In the Skokie-Evanston School District #65, we voted on a school funding referendum to build a new elementary school in a low-income mostly minority neighborhood. Since we did not live in the district when our children were school age, we aren’t as familiar with all the history behind this, but for the past 40 years, busing has been used in this district to achieve racial balance in the schools. The referendum was for building a neighborhood school that would have essentially resegregated the children in this neighborhood. It felt wrong to vote against a referendum for school funding but it felt even more wrong to vote for school resegregation. It didn’t work before 1954 and I see no reason why it would be successful now. With a sad heart, I had to vote NO. Hopefully, a better plan will be devised for next year to educate all the district’s children in a way that will promote maximum academic achievement and good citizenship in our multi-ethnic world.

There are many aspects of modern life that are frightening and perhaps that’s why many long for a return to a simplistic past – which I believe is for the most part over-idealized. Maybe you have some thoughts about it readers. I’d love to hear them.

At any rate, yesterday was an upsetting Election Day. At times like these, many reach for comfort foods. This is a family recipe for meatloaf. It’s simple food both to eat and to cook and feels really good. Prep time is 10 minutes. Serves four.


1 ½ pounds ground beef
¼ pound bread crumbs
catsup, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley to taste
¼ pound mushrooms sliced
½ package of onion soup mix

Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
Mix the ground beef with the breadcrumbs, catsup, and seasoning in a big mixing bowl.
Put in a baking pan and shape into a loaf. Put mushrooms and onion soup mix on top of the meatloaf. Add water to bottom of the pan. Cook for about 45 minutes.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

So Good to Be Back In the U.S.A.

“We need to see your passports,” said the person at the door.
We showed our passports and the contents of our backpacks. The door cracked open. “Where are you from and what do you want here?”

“We’re from Chicago and we’d like to come in.”

He opened the door and warily let us in. We were at the main synagogue and Jewish Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Having lived in the United States for most of our lives, we couldn’t have anticipated that reaction to our request. We take for granted the ease with which we can enter a synagogue anywhere in the U.S. We can do this without fear because for the most part, we are safe here. Our trip to South America was a jolting reminder that that is not the case for Jews in many other parts of the world.

Even passing inspection, we were not allowed to walk through the Museum freely. Rather, we were taken on a guided tour by a guide who wouldn’t let us out of her sight for more than a minute or two at a time. Twenty years ago, the Jewish Federation building in Buenos Aires was bombed and 85 people were killed. The Jewish community of Argentina, which used to number about 500,000, is now about 250,000. Many Jews left during the Argentine economic crisis 10 years ago. Others had left earlier during their Dirty War (1976-82) during which 1900 Jews were among the 30,000 Disappeared. Now, although Jews seem to be free to enter professions and live in Argentina anywhere, the community is still extremely fearful.

A few days later, we had a tour of their federation (AMIA) building and had to pass through a similar inspection. Once we passed it, however, we were treated cordially. Their organization is strong, reaching out to all the subgroups of their community. I would show you pictures of the synagogue, but we were emphatically told by an armed security guard not to take pictures of it. We did take pictures at the AMIA and here is one of a memorial created by Agam, the abstract artist, to those who perished in the bombing 20 years ago.
Sometimes, in the process of advocating for America to be even better, we forget what is good here.  There were many wonderful things to see in Argentina and Chile and we had a great trip. I’ll talk about some more of them in the next week of two and share a couple of recipes I got there. Nevertheless, I wasn’t kidding when I said it was good to be back in the U.S.A.

Another good thing was having access to working appliances. We got home early enough to defrost leftovers for dinner. A working refrigerator, washing machine, and dryer. Yeah!!

                                  Chicken in White Wine with Capers and Mushrooms

Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Italian flavored breadcrumbs
Olive oil
Mushrooms sliced
Minced garlic
Onion chopped
White wine

Dip the chicken breasts in water and then breadcrumbs. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the chicken breasts. Then set aside.
Use the rest of the olive oil to sauté the mushrooms, onions, and garlic.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the skillet and bring sauce to a boil.
Add the chicken breasts back and turn down the heat to low-medium. Cook for about 45 minutes.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Now From the Other 1% - An Interview With John H. Sibley

Today my guest is John H. Sibley, painter, writer, and author of Being and Homelessness.
Q.What do you think is the most pressing problem in America today?

A. Wealth and income disparity. We are talking about 400 wealthy Americans that have more  aggregate wealth than 150 million Americans

 As I state in my book, blacks are still reeling from the horrific effects of four hundred years of institutional racism. Released from slavery in 1865 -only 147 years ago, but without the ' fourty acres and a mule', without equity for centuries of free labor has had a devastating effect on black economic growth in US.

 Only twenty five years after Lincoln freed the slaves, much of American industry had merged into huge firms. In fact, of the fortune 500 largest corporations in 1994 more than half were founded between 1880 and 1930-----75 years after blacks were freed. Companies like Kodak, Johnson and Johnson, Coca Cola, Westinghouse, Ford Motor and Walt Disney.

 None of those American industrial colossus of the first decade of the twentieth century were owned or controlled by blacks. I think of black inventors like McCoy, Matzellger, Latimer, Carver and Garrett A. Morgan , who patented an automatic traffic signal which directed the role of the traffic. What if Morgan had retained his patent instead of selling it to General Electric Company for the paltry sum of $140,000.

Q. How do we introduce a discussion of class and poverty into the discussion of race?
 A. I think without the shackles of historic institutional racism, black's generational poverty' would not be as  persistent. The only way to introduce this volatile issue into the national discussion on race is education in schools. Which would increase the awareness of the economic impact of slavery on blacks. Black's have to also blame themselves for not making capitalism work for them rather than against them. Since 2008, 530 black youths have been killed in black on black genocide. The so called black leaders have been sold out via the allure of status, wealth, women, using entitlements as their bargaining tool. Black people must become more scientific, frugal, and abandon individualistic greed.

Q How did you end your downward spiral into hopelessness?
A. I was hired as a temp by a hi tech accoustic company. I have worked 23 years as a supervisor. A Polish production manager named Mark Sokolis hired me and changed my life forever. I made a vow I would never be jobless...... and I would pursue my creative impulse after working. Being homeless taught me not to have illusions about how the effects of depravity can happen because of  not understanding how to navigate in a brutal market driven capitalist system.

Q. Do you still paint?
A. I still draw and paint. But writing is so much easier. No turpentine. No brushes. No canvas. No mask from the carcinogenic toxins in paint. No pollution. Writing is more cerebral. Easier. When I say easier, I mean it is not as cumbersome. Not as subjective. A Jackson Pollock painting needs a narrative to understand it. You don't need that to understand the words I am writing.

I believe like the streetwise artist David Hammons that gallery paintings are just one of the objects that's in the path of your existence. The Chicago art world is a metaphor( globally) for galleries, art brokers, art magazines and agents. Unlike literature, too many people have to critique your work on a subjective level. The Chicago art world is so full if nepotism, cronyism, and racism it makes me ad nausea .

Q What supports do you think homeless people need to survive?

A. The essays in my book are meant to give a micro and macro view of Homelessness in the US and also grabble with the global impact. I hope this book, which is a plea to maximize this nation's resources,  both public and private, helps the wretched existence of the homeless.

 The homeless problems had become a Malthusian nightmare not just in Chicago but in urban areas across the nation and the world.

It would be disingenuous to state that the homeless only need shelter when the problem is much deeper than that. The government needs to invest in creating what I call IHRC integrative-holistic-rehab Centers that combat the multiple causes of Homelessness.

We must always keep in mind that the homelessness in the US is wretched. Yet when you consider that there are 2.4 billion people in the world living on $2 a day or in Uganda 25 cents a day, those problems are even more dire.

Thank you, John, for your thoughtful answers to these questions. Readers if you have any more questions for him, you can contact him at

Thursday, January 26, 2012

And Now A Message From the Other 1%

According to the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness and Wickipedia, 2.5 to 3.5 million people experienced homelessness in America for some period of time in 2011. Although statistics vary to some extent depending on who the reporter is, on any given night in America, approximately 75,000 to 80,000 people are homeless. I could not find statistics on how many people are on the brink of homelessness either breathing a sigh of relief as they send in their rent checks for one more blessed month or living with friends or relatives whose patience is reaching the breaking point. We’ve heard from the top 1% and how misunderstood they feel (tsk, tsk). Now it’s time to hear from the homeless, that other 1% whose existence few want to acknowledge.

With that in mind, I felt honored when John H. Sibley asked me to read and review his book Being and Homelessness – Notes From An Underground Artist. John Sibley is an artist and writer who graduated from The School of the Art Institute who has taught in the Chicago Public Schools and worked in the high tech industry.

What I enjoyed about Mr. Sibley's book is that it wasn’t what I expected, thus forcing me to reexamine my perceptions and images of who the homeless are. An artist and writer, John Sibley unexpectedly found himself homeless in the late 1970’s. The hopelessness and despair that he talks about so articulately could only be described by someone who has experienced it.

Despite what you think, this book is not about John Sibley’s journey in, through, and out of homelessness. While I would have liked to hear how he managed to pull himself out of homelessness, he does not really tell us that. He does, however, describe some of his experiences and his words paint a stark picture of what that reality is for those who have to sleep on the street or in homeless shelters. He is able to give us a glimpse into a world that most of us hope and pray we will never see. If you read Being and Homelessness, you will be able to see a part of that world. You’ll also see how our country has failed to adequately address the needs of poor people who should be helped to avoid ending up in this situation.

Nevertheless, Being and Homelessness isn’t only about homelessness. Rather it is one man’s view of life on a variety of subjects. This in itself was interesting. Prior to reading Being and Homelessness, when I heard that word, that was all I could focus on. This book was a reminder that the situation in which John Sibley found himself was not all he was. His collection of essays is about his thoughts on myriad subjects – art, music, Afrocentrism, math, treatment of the mentally ill, politics, and his opinion of President Obama to name just a few. Some of it was actually difficult for me to grasp. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A challenge keeps our minds from ossifying and with that in mind, I recommend that you read John Sibley’s book Being and Homelessness.  


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Martin Luther King and "The Help"

Since it was Martin Luther King Day this week, it’s a good time to talk about The Help by Kathryn Stockett. After all, Dr. King was killed while in Memphis supporting the Sanitation Workers’ Union. The people in it were among the poorest workers in America, so underpaid that even working full-time, they were eligible for Food Stamps. The rights and needs of the poor were a strong focus of Dr. King after 1967. The Help, after all, is about poor working people.  

The Help, which takes place in Jackson, Mississippi is about the complex relationships that existed between African-American domestic help and their affluent white employers and the caste system that shaped those relationships. The layers of complexity are difficult for those of us who weren’t involved to understand. Nevertheless, the characters were richly drawn and I found myself on the edge of my seat reading about their plight.

I have to admit that growing up in New York my only contact with Jackson, Mississippi was meeting the contingent of exchange students at my college Binghamton University. Up North, however, being a maid was hardly an honor. I remember overhearing the mother of one of the African-American girls in my school mention to my parents that her daughter wanted to try out for school plays, but she didn’t because she was afraid that she’d be cast as a maid. Imagine my shock a few weeks later when in Spanish class, the teacher asked this same girl to read the part of La Criada (the maid) in our dialgo. As she sunk into her chair, I thought, “Oh my God! I don’t believe the teacher did that.” For two weeks after that, this girl did not show up at Spanish class. The next time I saw her, she denied that she had been absent. I guessed that was her way of telling me to leave the situation alone so I did.

A lot has changed for the better since those days, in large part because of Dr. King’s leadership. I hope incidents like that one don’t continue to occur.  People should have gained more awareness about race since the 1960's. Our awareness about class has not progressed as much. There are still many working poor of every color and the problems for them cry to be addressed. With food pantries strained and soup kitchens full, there are too many people going to bed hungry. That said, here is another recipe that is inexpensive and nourishing. Prep time is 20 minutes and it feeds four.


                                                Greek Tuna Casserole

2 5 oz. Cans tuna
1 ¼ cups cooked rice
1 can stewed tomatoes
olive oil
2 onions peeled and diced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
lemon juice, parsley, and mint flakes to taste
feta cheese crumbled (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
Put rice in pot with twice as much water to cook on top of stove.
While the rice is cooking, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil in a frying pan. Add the tomatoes and seasoning.
When the above ingredients are ready, put them in a casserole dish. Add the tuna. Mix it altogether. Sprinkle feta cheese on top if desired. Bake in oven for 40 minutes.

Have a great week!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

First the Town Crier - Now The Blog

I was drawn to the TV news watching the Iowa Presidential caucus campaign and the New Hampshire primary campaign watching with great interest. News reporters and TV journalists flocked to both campaigns telling us that the future of American politics hung on the outcomes. It was almost impossible to ignore these two events.

According to the 2010 United States Census, Iowa has a population of 3,053,787 and seven electoral votes. New Hampshire has a population of 1,321,445 and four electoral votes. Yet as little actual power as these two states have, the whole world was watching them with bated breathe.

In The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone, she states that from time immemorial, there have always been media shaping how we look at the news and even what news we look at. It is just now in modern times with the advent of the internet, TV, radio, social media, and even blogs such as this that we have myriad sources of news and an even better chance of finding out what’s going on. Yes, with all the sources of news, it just gets better for all of us if we want to know what’s happening out there.

I’m not sure that I agree with Brooke Gladstone’s point of view. Despite all the internet connections and blogs, TV and radio is a more powerful attention grabber for most people. After we’ve seen the TV images, we may read another version of the event or a thoughtful article, but our impressions have been formed. the visual images are almost impossible to erase. First there were the town criers. Now we have the internet. There is so much more to sort through and assess. We have to take all the news sources with a grain of salt or maybe a huge block of it as we try to figure out what's really happening.

And speaking of salt, my recipe for the week is stuffed baked eggplant. It only calls for a little salt to taste, but you’ll enjoy eating it as you listen to the latest news. Just don’t believe everything you hear while you’re eating it. The preparation time is about 25 minutes. It serves two if it's the main dish or 4 to 6 people as a side dish.

                                                        Baked Stuffed Eggplant             

 1 eggplant
¼  cup raw white rice
¼ cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 onion chopped
½ green pepper diced
olive oil
about ½ dozen green olives
walnuts broken into small pieces
pine nuts
½ Tbsp lemon juice
4 Tbsp tomato sauce
cumin, tumeric, garlic, and salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350º.
Put the rice and quinoa in a pot with the water to cook.
While the grain is cooking, cut the eggplant in half length wise and scoop out the meat. Cut in small pieces.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the eggplant meat, pepper, and onions and sauté.
Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.
When the grain and vegetables are ready, stuff the eggplant shells with the grain on the bottom and vegetable mixture on the top.
Bake for 30 minutes.