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.