Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Recipe for Rest While Congress Is On Recess

I've been enjoying Congress'es recess. There has been a lull in newspaper articles about Congresspeople arguing and maligning each other. The news stations have been a tad quieter, too. It’s time for us all to take a collective deep breath. Oops! Did I use the word collective? Pardon moi.

That aside, it’s time for a rest. This is the week that’s holy to many of us who are in the midst of observing Passover or the Holy Week leading up to Easter. Celebrating Passover, my husband and I recently received a brochure from Ha Mazon (, a Jewish response to hunger that distributes funds to food pantries and other organizations feeding the hungry throughout America. In addition to the Four Questions that are asked at every Seder, they posed a fifth one: Why on this night are millions of people still going hungry? Should local charities feed hungry people, or does government have a role? As Congress rests and we rest along with them from the fighting and malice, I think that we must ask ourselves why in America are funds for Food Stamps being cut when people in the 1% are enjoying unprecedented wealth?

Mazon has presented us with a new face of hunger in 10 year old John, a boy whose mother has struggled with underemployment and intermittent unemployment. At times, he and his brother went to school hungry until their family began to receive food stamps. Unfortunately, he is not the only boy going to school on an empty stomach. He’s just the only one whose picture is on Mazon’s latest mailing. Does our government have a responsibility to see that he is fed? We are the government. Do we have a collective responsibility as a society? Oh no! There’s that ‘collective’ word again. If we weren’t so afraid to use it, I think we’d have to say ‘yes.’

So when this recess is over, we can resume answering Mazon’s questions. Then we can write to our representatives and tell them about John and his brother and why we want the government to fulfill our responsibilities to him and all the other American families who are food insecure [who aren’t sure of if and where their next meal is coming.] Then we can contact our food pantries and or soup kitchens wherever we are and see what we can do to help.

Happy Recess, Congress. I think I need to stretch during this relaxing week. Even though some are food insecure, we still need to eat and I have some cooking to do. This is an easy recipe for baked chicken. Preparation time is 15 minutes. It serves four.

                                                          Apricot-Sesame Chicken
1 whole chicken cut up
1onion diced and sautéed in vegetable oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced garlic sautéed in vegetable oil
sage, thyme, onion powder
sesame seeds
apricot jelly

Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.
Put the chicken pieces in a baking dish skin side up.
Saute the garlic and onion
Sprinkle chicken pieces with seasoning and pour lemon juice over them. Put some apricot jelly over them. Add the onion and garlic over the time. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top.
Bake for about an hour. 


Thursday, March 14, 2013


I’ve been rereading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. She wrote the book in 1963 and this is the 50th anniversary of its publication. In the 1997 edition, she wrote a preamble “Metamorphoses”. By then, her book had been a catalyst of the 1970’s Women’s Liberation movement and much had changed in women’s roles in society. “The problem that has no name” had largely been resolved. By then, women were participating fully in society outside of their homes holding jobs and getting elected to public office, enrolling in professional schools and defining their own destinies.

Yet, even as much had changed, Betty Friedan was prescient enough to see the backlash starting from those who abhorred or felt threatened by the changes and predicted that the backlash would polarize society. She herself had retreated from her earlier militancy and suggested changes that would humanize the workplace for men, women, and children. She was a leader of her time and she can be credited with much of the progress made.    

Nevertheless, even though the “Women Libbers” of the 1970’s were able to get much changed, much remains to be done. Betty Friedan was one of the people who advocated re-introducing the Equal Rights Amendment. As far back as Abigail Adams admonishing her husband John Adams to “remember the ladies,” women were only remembered once in the Constitution when the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote. The Equal Rights Amendment was proposed then and again in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, but it has never become law. I participated in many marches and rallies  on its behalf during that period unfortunately in vain.(You can see more at Without the ERA being passed, all our rights are in jeopardy.

The polarization that Betty Friedan saw coming in 1997 over abortion and birth control are definitelystill with us. Just last week, Arkansas enacted a law with the strictest limits on abortion in the nation. In 26 states, laws have been proposed which would severely limit and even outlaw many forms of birth control. The supposed simplicity of the 1950’s is often glorified as a prototype in TV shows and movies.

In short, we still have work to do. There isn’t much time to cook so I’m sharing a recipe from Peace de Resistance, the Women’s Strike for Peace cookbook from that same era. Many of their recipes were quick and gave whoever is doing the cooking (more often than not women) time to get out of the kitchen and do other things. This one is my adaptation of “Mary’s Mishmash.” Prep time 10 minutes or less.

                                                     Mary's Mishmash

2 cans chicken gumbo soup
½ can water
1 can vegetable beef soup
1 can tiny shrimp (optional)
1 can corn drained
2 small tomatoes quartered or 1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can chick peas
seasoning to taste (I suggest coriander, turmeric, cumin, and garlic but put in whatever you like)

Mix all the ingredients in a big pot and cook. Serve with bread and salad. It doesn’t get easier than that.      

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Do Women's Situations Improve [In Guatemala]

When I travel, I love meeting people from other cultures and having my assumptions questioned. My husband and I recently returned from a tour of Guatemala which included Panajachel, a Mayan village near Lake Atitlan. Our guide told us to re-think our concept of poverty as we explored the Third World. We tried to heed his advice as we explored several Mayan villages hoping to learn about Guatemala today since the end of their 36 year civil war in 1996. Children were helping their families work but they were also going to school on triple shifts practically around the clock. At a parochial school we visited, fifth graders shared computers and greeted us as we arrived. Were we seeing poverty or a reflection of our First World prejudices?

As we walked through the main street of bustling Panajachel, we saw the sign for a Mayan Women’s Center. We found it in Thirteen Threads (Trece Hilos), their store which sells handicrafts at fair market prices. I told them that I was a social worker from the United States and really interested in their programs so they gave me a tour. The classroom was empty at the moment, but they told me that they teach classes in four subjects – artisan and product development, health and well-being, small business skills, and democracy and team building. Besides teaching at the center, they have several outreach workers who go out to the villages to teach and provide support. They also provide micro-loans for women to start small businesses. Whatever had been women’s situation in Guatemala during their civil war and since, this center is doing a lot to improve it.

The Center receives no government financial help so they depend on private contributions and grants. If you want to donate to them, their website is or you can go through their United States based fiscal sponsor. Maya Educational Foundation, P.O. 1483, Wellfleet, MA 02667. They have mixed groups of local and foreign women going out to the villages also. That sounded like a great experience for anyone whose Spanish speaking ability is adequate -alas mine is not.

The tour of the Women’s Center over, we returned to the main shopping street where we found a bookstore. Luckily for me, their last English language Guatemalan cookbook was still there. The Guatemalan food that we had on the trip was very tasty. While they had many of the same foods that are found in Mexican cuisine, they used different spices so it had of course, a totally different taste. For the most part, Guatemalan food is less spicy than Mexican food but very flavorful. Starting with a less complicated dish, here is a recipe for black bean or guacamole tostadas. Guatemalan women still make their tortillas from scratch which we watched them do in some restaurants. Most Americans aren’t going to do that but here are recipes for guacamole and for black bean spread that I got from Favorite Recipes from Guatemala by Laura Lynn Woodward. Either of them are good on tortillas.

1 large very ripe avocado
½ tsp lemon or lime juice
1 tsp finely chopped onion
½ tsp ground oregano
¼ tsp salt

Mix all ingredients until smooth.

Black Bean Spread
½ pound black beans
1 medium onion quartered
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion chopped

Boil black beans, onion, and garlic until medium cooked then add salt and continue to cook until beans are very soft. Grind in a food mill. Fry the small onion until golden in oil and add the beans and fry about 20 minutes.

To Prepare the tostadas
Heat oil and deep fry corn tortillas. Spread with desired topping and sprinkle with cheese, parsley, sliced onion, and a dash of hot sauce.