What’s for supper? Vol. 111: Make America grate again

I have a doctor’s note that says I don’t have to write a pointless introduction today. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Aldi was out of those wonderful sourdough loaves, so we had our sandwiches on ordinary bread. It was sadder than I expected. Thank goodness there were pickles.

***

SUNDAY
Pork gyros

New recipe!  Pork gryos from the New York Times. And it’s a doozy. I found myself standing in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, still in my pajamas, and grating a tomato. Worth it. (I had purposely bought large, firm tomatoes for this recipe.) The marinade (olive oil, lemon juice, grated onion and grated tomato, minced garlic, paprika, salt and pepper, and fresh oregano leaves) on its own is extremely delicious, and would not be out of place as bruschetta topping.

So you slice the pork shoulder thin, marinate it, add a quartered onion, and roast the meat and onion in a shallow, oiled pan at 450 for 40 minutes or so. When it was close to being done, I took a rocking knife and broke it up a bit, then put it back in the oven, and then used the broiler toward the end to crisp it up a bit. I wish I had sliced it even thinner so it roasted up a little more crisply, but we were too hungry to keep messing with it. It was fantastic.

I gave the kids plain pita bread, because I’m lazy, but Damien browned up a few pitas in olive oil for the two of us. Lordy. I served it with triangles of cucumber, grape tomatoes, crisp french fries, hot sauce, and a basic yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt with lots of minced garlic, lemon juice, and a little salt). If you’re somehow not familiar with gyros, you wrap everything, even the french fries, up in the warm pita bread

and just cram in into your face.  You look at your husband, who is doing the same, and you just nod wordlessly at each other as you chew. Gyros.

I think the NYT recipe is locked, but really all you need to know is the marinade ingredients for 2.5 pounds of pork shoulder:

  •  Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium-size tomato
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, approximately 5 sprigs

One onion is for the marinade, and the other gets quartered and added to the meat when you cook it. Next time, I’ll get more fresh oregano to sprinkle on top, or maybe some mint leaves. I made a double recipe, which was juuuuuust enough for everyone.

***

 

MONDAY
Roasted kielbasa, cabbage, red potato, cauliflower

Everyone except my husband likes this dish. I was extremely hungry while shopping, and this head of cauliflower looked amazing to me (?), so I cut that up and added it to the mix. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t out of place, either. I love the texture of roasted cauliflower, as long as I’m not required to pretend it’s rice or pizza dough or some friggin thing.

Here’s the recipe from Budget Bytes. Cheap, tasty, and very easy to prep right before dinner time, and it’s a true one-pan meal. I like the sauce, but reduce the amount of oil by quite a bit.

This is an old picture, sans cauliflower, plus parsley. I remember being very proud of that parsley.

***

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup

In this topsy turvey world in which we live in, steak is cheaper than stewing beef, so I got a few pounds of steak. Cubed it and sautéed it gently in the Instant Pot with a little olive oil, a diced onion, a tablespoon or more of minced garlic, a few diced carrots, and oregano and fresh pepper. When the meat was brown, I added three small (15 oz?) cans of tomatoes with the juice, about eight cups of beef broth, and about 15 oz of sliced mushrooms. When the vegetable were all soft, I added some more water, about a cup of red wine, and about a cup of barley, and gave that a little boil until the barley was soft (probably half an hour or more).

I like adding wine toward the end of soup-making, so you can really taste it. That may be uncouth, but I like it. Also, I kept eating this soup for lunch for the rest of the week, and the barley and the broth just kept improving.

It was the first night of Hanukkah, so I planned to make potato latkes, but it turned out that doing the Advent wreath, the Jesse tree, and the menorah was enough to keep me busy on a Tuesday night, so we had bread and butter.

***

WEDNESDAY
English muffin pizzas, salad

I have no memory of Wednesday. Something about cheese.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, tater tots

I actually took a nap before supper, and then decided someone who was that tired could legitimately be excused from making another salad.

***

FRIDAY
I think mac and cheese?

There’s no end of cheese in the house from various dinners, so I’ll use this yummy and reliable recipe from Copy Kat for Instant Pot mac and cheese. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put it in a casserole dish and add some buttered bread crumbs on top.

And it’s my birthday! I’m 43. I’m sitting here on the couch sharing a blanket with my curly-headed toddler, watching Masha and the Bear, still feeling nicely full from the special breakfast my husband made me before he left for work, and looking forward to presents and cheesecake tonight. Muy contento. We’re super busy this weekend, so I’m gonna request a birthday outing in January to see the Winslow Homer oil exhibit in Worcester. Eeee!

How to make chocolate caramel almonds without panicking

When we manage to make treats for Christmas, we usually make fudge and buckeyes, sometimes rum balls or peanut brittle, and of course rugelach. Last year, looking for something a little more decorative, I tried chocolate caramelized almonds from Smitten Kitchen. You don’t need a candy thermometer to make them, and you can use whatever kind of sugar or sprinkles you like, so they are adaptable gifts for just about any holiday.

Here’s the ingredients list from Smitten Kitchen:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup whole almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky salt
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • Approximately 1/2 cup cocoa powder, sanding or coarse sugar, or sprinkles to coat

You will want a good, heavy pot and some parchment paper or silicone pads for this, too.

I’m trying very hard not to run afoul of recipe copyright laws here, so I’m going to send you right to her page to get the detailed directions. Basically you put sugar and water in a pot and bring it to a simmer, add the almonds and simmer them until they’re caramelized, stir in the salt, and then spread the almonds out on a pan covered with parchment paper.

Put the pan in the freezer for a few minutes until they are set. Then break them up and dip them in melted chocolate; then roll the chocolate-coated almonds in various fancy coatings. Let them set again, and then you can store them for quite a long time at room temperature.

Here’s my reason for writing a whole post about it: In the detailed instructions for caramelizing the almonds, she says,

“Once the liquid has fully evaporated, it will become sandy and you will think something has gone wrong; it has not. Continue stirring and the sandiness will dissolve into a bronzed but clear liquid; this is the caramel.”

I was glad of the reassurance, and prepared myself not to freak out. But then! I freaked out anyway! Weird stuff happens in that pot!!! So I’m sharing the photos of the caramelization process here, so you can see how it goes and maybe not panic like I did.

Here we are simmering, fine, very good:

then it got thicker, and yes, there are soap-like bubbles forming:

the the liquid was just about evaporated, and all was well:

then, sure enough, it started to get dry and a little bit cakey, and I was like, “Wow, she was right! That is sandy.”

Then it got dry and even more sandy, and I thought, “Good thing she warned me, because this does not look normal at all. I would definitely be worrying right now.”

Then this happened. And it went on and on. Just kept on being sandy. I didn’t stop stirring, but it was the stirring of futility. I assumed the candy gods were onto me, and knew I had no business in any kitchen, smitten or otherwise. Look at this!

Yeah, these are totally ruined. Great, now they’re clumping. No one said anything about clumping. Dammit. Almonds are expensive! Dammit!

But wait! Down there in the center of the pot, under all the nuts, there’s a little, kind of syrupy patch!

Well, hallelujah! Those little bastiches are caramelizing after all, aren’t they.

And there they were, coated with caramel, just like Smitten Kitchen said. So I put them on parchment paper, slid them in the freezer, and went to sit down for a bit.

I was so emotionally spent by this time that I left them in the freezer for a few days, rather than the suggested five minutes, until I did the next step. I don’t recommend this, as they got a little soggy; but you will be the best judge of what kind of load you can carry at this point in the evening. It still worked, but they weren’t as crunchy as they might have been.

Now I’ll send you back to Smitten Kitchen for the rest of the directions. You’re going to pour the nuts into melted chocolate, stir to coat, and then pick out the almonds and roll them around in your sugars or sprinkles or whatever. It’s messy and time-consuming, especially if you’re making a large batch, so don’t think you can just zoop-zoop-zoop (as my mother used to say) and be done with it.

The good news is, you can make them ahead of time and then store them at room temperature for a long time. Here’s the finished product:

I wish I had a brighter picture of the finished product. They were so pretty, especially the sugar-coated ones! They looked like little Christmas gems. (I buy up expensive seasonal-themed sugars and sprinkles after holidays, when they are marked way down. This doesn’t work, as the kids tend to develop an unconquerable hunger for tiny little bats in May, but it’s a good theory.)

I think these almonds make nice treats on their own, or they would make lovely accents to a package of fudge or cookies. Just keep telling yourself, “It’s supposed to look this way,” and you’ll probably be right.

 

 

 

How (and how not) to make rugelach for Hanukkah

Hey, it’s your friendly neighborhood Jew lady! It’s the first night of Hanukkah tonight, and I’m here to show you how to make rugelach (and what horrible errors to avoid). The fact that I kept on chugging even after screwing it up so many times tells you how good rugelach are.

Rugelach (pronounced “ROO-guh-lachhh,” possibly Yiddish for “little twists,”) are sticky little filled pastries, made of insanely rich, tender dough and rolled up with any kind of sweet filling you like. My favorite is apricot and walnut, but you can also use raspberry or any other fruit preserves, nuts-and-cinnamon, sour cherry, raisins, poppy seeds, even Nutella. A few years ago, for Thanksgivukkah, and I made pecan pie rugelach. Rugelach will work with you.

Other spellings: rugelakh, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach. These are all plurals. I don’t know what the singular is, because who could eat only one? This recipe is from my sister, Abby Tardiff, who reminds us that these freeze beautifully.

I’ll share the ingredients and very basic directions first, and then go through it step by step with photos and more detailed instructions. This recipe will make about eighty little pastries or more.

INGREDIENTS

Dough
Two sticks of butter (half a pound)
One 8-oz package of cream cheese
Two cups of flour
White sugar for rolling

Filling: 
Maybe 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of preserves or jam
1/2 to 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

You will also need parchment paper and a pizza cutter.

BASIC DIRECTIONS

Blend dough ingredients together. Roll dough into 6- 8 balls, cover, and chill them in fridge.
Roll chilled dough in sugar into a round. Add filling, leaving the center bare. Cut into triangles, roll from wide end, place on pan on parchment paper, and chill rugelach again.
Bake at 400 for 11-14 minutes.

Now here’s the more detailed instructions, with photos:

Blend the dough ingredients together until it’s smooth. This is not like pie crust dough; you can use the standing mixer and really manhandle it.

Divide and roll the dough into 6-8 balls, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Chilling it should make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 400. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Rugelach get very messy while baking.

Sprinkle the counter (or a very large sheet pan, if you have it, to contain the mess) heavily with sugar.

Yep, you’re going to roll out the dough in sugar, rather than in flour. Roll it out as thin as you can, so it’s the size of a large dinner plate. I like to turn the dough over a few times while rolling it, so both sides get coated.

It doesn’t have to come out perfectly round.

Swizzle up your jam with a fork to make it more spreadable. Spread the filling and sprinkle the nuts all over the dough, leaving a circle in the middle bare.

You really just want a thin skim of filling, even less than what is shown here. Too much will bubble over and make a horrible mess. If you are using nuts, it’s also good to chop them finer than I did here, so they stay put.

You can make more than one kind of rugelach at a time. This pic shows too much filling, though, so don’t do that.

Cut it like a pizza into 16 triangles. I use a rolling pizza cutter. It helps to hold the center in place with one finger so the dough doesn’t curl up while you cut.

Roll each triangle up, starting from the wide end.

Put the rolled-up rugelach, tip down, on the pan covered with parchment paper. Leave at least two rugelach’s width between pastries. In this picture, I had put several batches in one pan to chill! Do not bake them this close together!

Chill them again for half an hour or more before baking. At this point, turn on the oven so it can preheat while the rugelach are chilling. You can make a ton of rugelach ahead of time and chill them all, then put them on pans in smaller batches to bake.

Bake them in the preheated oven for 11-14 minutes. They should be slightly golden on top.

They will leak a bit when baking. This is inevitable, and this is why you used parchment paper! Just let them cool for ten minutes or so before you peel them off the pan.

After much trial and error, I came out with three batches that turned out pretty good. Did I take pictures of them? No, I did not! I am very angry at myself. But you can get the general idea.

The finished rugelach will be slightly crisp on the outside, studded with sparkling sugar, and tender, sweet, and rich inside.

And now here are some horrible errors you can commit:

You can spread too much jam on and bake them too close together, so the filling will all leak out and form one solid platform of jam taffy with little rugelach islands trapped in it.

You can still eat them, but it cuts down considerably on how presentable they are. It’s only really a problem if you use too much filling, bake them too close together, and burn them, too:

I’m here to tell you that you can still eat them like this, if you break them apart. I did it for science.

Believe it or not, you can also get tired of waiting for them to bake, and turn on the broiler for “just a second” to brown up the tops, and then you forget to turn the broiler off before sliding the next batch in:

This, too, cuts down on their general attractiveness, as they become quite turdly.

Good luck! They’re a lot of work, but so worth it.

 

Axed from Amazon. Argh.

Well, this stinks. I got a letter from Amazon saying this:

Hello from the Associates Program,

We are writing to tell you that effective as of today’s date, Amazon is terminating your Associates account.  Under the terms of the Operating Agreement, we may terminate your account at any time, with or without cause.  This decision is final and not subject to appeal.

It is important that you immediately remove all Amazon Content from your Site(s).  Please be aware that any other accounts you have, or may open in the future, may be closed without payment of any fees.  Amazon reserves all other rights and claims.

Because you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement, Amazon will not pay you any outstanding advertising fees related to your account.  Amazon exercises its right under the Operating Agreement to withhold fees based on violations, which include the following:

-You are incentivizing others to visit the Amazon Site by specifying that purchases made using your Special Links will help to support you or your website.

-You are encouraging customers to bookmark your Amazon links, as opposed to clicking through your Site to reach Amazon.

Thank you for your participation in the Amazon Associates Program.

Warmest Regards,

Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/associates

It was so weird and abrupt, I thought it might be fake (“Warmest Regards”??), but it’s not. I knew they changed their Terms of Service on Dec. 1, and I thought I was following the new guidelines, but apparently not. I understand the second guideline, but the first one they mentioned doesn’t even make sense to me.

Well, this is a pretty big kick in the teeth, especially now, when everyone’s buying tons of stuff. I’m telling you about it for three reasons.

One is, if you’re shopping on Amazon, please use someone else’s link! Lots of folks have Amazon Associates accounts, and it would be a shame to waste that money.

Two: If you have an Amazon Associate account that’s important to you, stop everything make sure you’re in compliance. They didn’t give me any warning whatsoever; they just shut it down.

Three: I’ve installed a PayPal button on the top right sidebar. I have really mixed feelings about this. I try to give people something for their money, so I was pretty happy about the Patreon system. I’m very aware that my patrons are essentially giving me gifts, for which I am very grateful! But at least folks got access to our goofy little podcast, and I could tell myself I wasn’t just begging. When I started putting ads on the site, I spent a lot of time hunting for the right ad agency, so as to avoid cluttering it up too much for readers. I hate begging. Hate it.

On the other hand, I don’t really know, at the moment, how we’re going to make up this lost income. It was real income, not just fun money. November to January is when I make the most money through Amazon, and all of that is just gone, even if I do somehow manage to get reinstated in the future. I’m looking into alternative affiliate programs, and I can push harder to get another book out sooner than I planned, and of course Damien can get yet another job. We’re not destitute, by any means, and there are many families needier than ours! But it’s a little nail-bitey just the same, and I did not sleep a lot last night.

So, argh argh argh, I guess if you had some cash dragging you down and you really wanted to get rid of it, and you sometimes enjoy my scribblings and bibblings, you could do worse than to click that button.

Thank you.

I’ll keep calling Amazon and trying to get reinstated, but I am not optimistic. They are just extremely big, and I’m just another blogger!

Argh.

Very inside basketball

The most amazing Twitter thread just happened. If you’re not familiar with NFP, probably just keep walking. Here’s how it happened:

First, Lauren the Great drives down the court:

with me giving a somewhat competent assist:

but no, it’s a block shot from Tommy Tighe!

It’s savage out there. No one can trash talk like Billings. And now Advent Friday sets a screen:

but then Sugar PLUM Jenny brings down the house with a dunk for the ages:

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

Podcast 49: Not trying to hurry you (FREE PODCAST!)

I’m making today’s podcast free, just for the hell of it. Normally, podcasts are open to patrons who pledge $1 or more through Patreon. You are still highly encouraged to pledge. But this one is free, who can say why.

In this podcast, my husband Damien and I cover:

How to get motivated at work and not put people’s business cards in your mouth (unless you are Judge Judy);
a very fine story about boy, some other boys, some cement, and a microwave;
what Sr. Mary Immaculata saw when she went to check on my little brother on his circuitous route toward adulthood;
some choice moments with Edward G. Robinson and a certain rat;
For this story about bad sex writing, let me adjust the microphone, if you will;
Woop! Woop! That’s the sound of the . . . billiard racks, and other irrelevancies;
And the priest said, ” . . . well . . . .”
Damien denies having any knowledge of Mexican baloney;
Irish dogs and other unreliable sources;
an actual ankle-biter;
And a poem by Michael Lavers.

***
Image: By Trailer screenshot, from DVD The Ten Commandments, 50th Anniversary Collection Paramount, 2006 (The Ten Commandments trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s for supper? Vol. 110: Ah’m a-splurgin’!

Have I told you this story? “Ah’m a-splurgin’!” is what I said in my best Yosemite Sam voice to my daughter, as I grabbed a large bottle of hot sauce off the shelf at the supermarket, rather than our customary medium-sized bottle of hot sauce.  Only problem was, it wasn’t my daughter.  It was some stranger, who moved on quickly.
Anyway, this time we already had hot sauce, so I got steak. 

Here’s what we had the rest of the week:

SATURDAY

Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Got home late. Pepper jack cheese with deli ham on sourdough, pickles on the side. So good.

***

SUNDAY
Korean steak tacos with pickled vegetables

This meal was the crown jewel of the week. I splurged on actual steak. The recipe, from Epicurious, calls for guacamole, but that seems stupid to me.  Instead, I sliced up a bunch of cucumbers, carrots, and radishes, and set them to quick pickle all day in vinegar with a little sugar mixed in.

The vinegar turned pink from the radishes after a few hours! Should have saved it for salad dressing.

I cooked the steaks up under the broiler and then sliced it pretty thin. Outside would have been better, but it was still pretty damn good.

The flavor definitely permeated the meat, but it wasn’t as spicy as I hoped. Next time, I’ll either add more jalapenos, or maybe just have some hot sauce to shake over the finished tacos. The entire dish was quite sweet, which was not bad, but unexpected.

Next time, I’ll cut the carrots into matchsticks. The pickled veg were very snappy and good, though. We also had shredded red and green cabbage, chopped scallions, and spicy toasted sesame seeds.

I spent the day awash in color, and almost wasn’t hungry by the time the food was ready. Well, that’s a lie. I ate a ton. But I had fun chopping!

Verdict: Definitely going into the rotation. More spicy and less sweet, and thinner veggies would be even better, but it’s very, very good as is.

***

MONDAY
Hot dogs and chips.

I was doing something or other all day, I forget what, so that’s how dinner shook out.

***

TUESDAY
Weird-ass soup

Which, as a friend pointed out, is always preferable to weird ass-soup.

I had a sort of Italian Wedding Soup in mind, but didn’t really get there.
I started out with two pounds of ground turkey, which I made into small meatballs with two eggs and about a cup of bread crumbs, plus some herbs and minced garlic, and I boiled them in chicken broth. I should have used much more bread crumbs, because they did keep together, but they were just mushy and not great.

Anyway, in another pot, I sauteed some diced onions and garlic. I couldn’t find my carrots, but we had plenty of cabbage left over, so I chopped up a large handful of red cabbage and sauteed that, too. Then I added the meatballs and broth, a few big cans of diced tomatoes with the juice, and a big lump of frozen spinach, and added more water, and salt and pepper. Then I threw in some little shell pasta.

It wasn’t bad. You couldn’t really taste the cabbage at all. It was somewhat bland and incoherent, and I let it simmer too long, so the pasta got kind of flabby. So we had this flabby, incoherent, somewhat bland soup that wasn’t very popular, but you know what? It’s not healthy to identify with your meals, so I’m not going to.  At least I don’t taste of cabbage. I mean it doesn’t.

Benny and I also made pumpkin muffins, not because they go with the soup. but because I’d been shooing her away all week, and we needed a little project together.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken drumsticks, risotto

OH DID I MENTION MY INSTANT POT HAS BEEN RESTORED TO ME? I mean I have a new one. The lovely friend who sent me the first one sent a replacement for the one I boneheadedly melted. I’m so happy.  I fired it right up to get some of my favorite butternut squash risotto going.

Turns out it tastes even better if you put the squash into the pot at some point while cooking the rice. No matter! I have an IP again, and all is well with the world.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets

It was the elementary school Christmas concert, so we rushed home, scarfed the chicken nuggets down early and rushed off, then filled up on cookies afterward. No concert pics, because they are all jerks.

I made the cookies Wednesday night. Nice, simple recipe for soft ginger cookies here. After the concert, I made chocolate muffins from a mix for Benny’s school birthday treat. She wanted snowflakes on them, so I grumpily made up a batch of this royal icing recipe.

I put them on a cooling rack, and then, ignoring every speck of wisdom gained from dreadful experience, and all the horrified screams of warning coming from my psyche, I thought, “Aw, they’re probably cool enough. I’ll just go ahead and pipe the snowflakes on now.”

Guess what? They turned out fine. THEY TURNED OUT FINE. Cute, even.

They dripped a tiny bit, but then hardened up nicely without really losing shape. Yeah, I bookmarked that royal icing recipe. It’s a keeper.

***

FRIDAY
Lasagna! It’s Benny’s birthday, and that was her request. It’s a solemnity, which calls for meat.

I used a box and a half of noodles and layered them with 47 ounces of ricotta cheese mixed with salt and five eggs and four cups of shredded mozzarella, half a cup of parm (that’s all I had), and probably 2.5 pounds of ragu and 48 ounces of jarred sauce. I also poured in some water, as the internet suggested, to make the noodles come out softer. WE SHALL SEE. I may have eaten kind of a lot of ragu while defrosting it, and it has only increased in magnificence over time. This lasagna is a monster. A beautiful, beautiful monster.

Seasonal Readiness Level: Patti LaBelle

  1. It turns out my husband may have wanted a few pet turtles in an elaborate aquarium set-up for Christmas many years ago, but now he doesn’t. I really can’t bring myself to fault him for this. Back to square one.
  2.  This week, I heard a man say that it’s hypocritical and inappropriate to sing Christmas songs when there are poor, needy, people in the world who don’t even know where they’ll be spending the night.

3. Speaking of doozies, how in the name of all that is holly jolly did I never see this video from last year?

 

4. In the spirit of Advent, I took out all the parts of this post I was going to regret, and now it has 87 words.

5. I also spent some time this morning writing a wry parody of “Holly Jolly Chirstmas” which included a pointed send-up of Instrgram culture. “Where is it?” you ask? Oh, I threw it away. MERRY CHRISTMAS.

6. When I got my own site just over a year ago, I look’d at the internet with wild surmise and thought about all the amazing and brilliant things I could do with my newfound independence.

7. ??

 

 

On fly ashes and flexibility

The Church doesn’t say, “Oh, well, no one should have to swallow a bug, so let’s just say that, if there’s a fly in there, it’s not really Jesus’ body, blood, soul, and divinity. Do what you like.” No. But neither does she say, “If you really, truly believe in the sacrament, then you have no other choice. Down the hatch, or you’re out.” She makes allowances for our humanity without denying Christ’s divinity. She is, in short, incarnational all the way down.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

***
Image:  By Aravind Sivaraj (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mom? Dad? I think I’m politiqueer.

What accounts for the growing number of young people who don’t identify as either male or female? My friends and I floated various theories in a recent conversation. Some thought there are too many freaky deaky chemicals in the water supply, and it’s messing with our hormones. Some thought it’s nothing new, and that people simply feel more free to accept and announce what they’ve always felt inside. Some think it’s the result of cultural pressure, and calling oneself “non-binary” or “asexual” or “gender fluid” are merely the newest way of irritating one’s parents and asserting one’s individuality, like growing hair long in the early 60’s, or wearing pants backwards in the 80’s.

And some, including me, thought it’s not only a combination of the above, but also sometimes a sign of good psychological health. Let me explain.

Some of the folks I see calling themselves neither male nor female present in such an aggressively counter-cultural way, they appear to set themselves irredeemably apart from anyone who values ordinary, bedrock principles like fidelity or monogamy. But under the strident “I’m not like you” exterior, most aren’t looking for anarchy or even libertinism. Many of them are saying something true and valuable. They are saying: “I reject the idea that you have to chose between being a girly girl or a macho man. I hate the notion that I have to sign on to spending my time obsessing over either makeup or sports. I don’t see myself primarily as always passive or as always aggressive. I reject both silly, simpering, bubbleheaded femininity and slavering, swaggering, manhandling masculinity.”

In other words, they’re not rejecting masculinity or femininity, so much as they are rejecting what 2017 is telling them it means to be male or female. 2017, in case you haven’t noticed, doesn’t know its ass from its elbow. So if people are opting out of a binary system that’s pure caricature, then opting out is the right thing to do. Certainly, it goes too far to say, “I’m not male or female,” but at very least, it’s a sign that folks are embracing the idea that who we are is more than just an assemblage of clothing and hobbies. They are rejecting constrictive, reductive, dehumanizing stereotypes, and that’s a good thing.

Okay! So this conversation came back to me this morning, as I listened to the talking heads on the news chatting about the Roy Moore election. Now that our president has openly endorsed Moore, the GOP has decided to go ahead and fund his campaign after all.

This move has left a good many voters in the lurch. A lot of folks who call themselves “republican” have lost their damn minds — but a lot haven’t. They hoped (because man is, at heart, irrationally optimistic) that the party of God, family, responsibility, and values would somehow find their way to saying, “Maybe let’s not rush to elect a likely sexual predator.”

A lot of voters, like me, are basically conservative. We reject abortion. We think marriage should be between one man and one woman. We only reluctantly accept divorce as a necessary evil. We think immigration should be approached with care and caution. We think gun ownership should be protected. We believe freedom of religion exists outside the walls of actual church buildings. We think America is special, and has something to offer the rest of the world.

But we reject the caricature of American conservatism, which says that you have a moral obligation to anyone who yammers about being “pro-life” when he wants a vote, but who has no qualms about crushing single mothers and their kids, the poor, the disabled, and the uninsured.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says marriage is holy and sacred when you’re selling cake, but if you’re a politician, then you can swing your dick wherever you like.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says it’s a crime against nature to have too much melanin in your skin or too much of an accent in your voice.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says the Bill of Rights is mainly about not getting in the way of evil men with an arsenal and a grievance.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that believes in a young, flat earth populated by Muslim lizard people masquerading as secret Kenyans who hate Christmas.
We reject the caricature of American conservatism that says anything America does is good, right, and just, and we can teach the rest of the world to be like us by alienating our allies and nuking everyone else.

Oh, and we reject Nazis and rapists, that kind of thing.

Since I reject all of these things, does that make me a liberal or a progressive? Not unless you’re insane.

But listen. Progressives are suffering their own descent into grotesque caricature. My progressive friends don’t have any friends in the white house right now, but they’re also not thrilled when they think of the backlash that’s likely to come next.

Remember, Americans love that pendulum swing. The moment Donald Trump is gone, a reactive voting populace will ram through some equal but opposite horror, who’ll undo all Trump’s bad deeds and replace them with a whole new set of equally bad deeds, but different ones. Read your history. This is what happens when a country allows something terrible to happen. It makes amends by lurching toward something even more terrible, but opposite.

When there’s a natural calamity — say, an earthquake or a tidal wave — there are the initial casualties, and then thousands more are left homeless in the aftermath. This is what’s happened politically. Trump vs. Clinton was an earthquake setting off a volcano, or a tidal wave triggering a mudslide, or Mothra vs.King Ghidorah, or whatever. There was no good guy to root for, but there sure were a lot of innocent bystanders left with nowhere to go after the monsters moved along.

So that’s me. I’m homeless. I’m a non-binary voter. I’m politiqueer, or something. I reject all the petty caricatures. I care about the Ten Commandments, and that’s why I reject Roy Moore. I care about women, and that’s why I reject [Margaret Sanger’s reanimated corpse, or whoever the dems will put up next].

You can’t make me say I’m on one grotesque side or the other grotesque side, and you can’t make me say that if I’m not one, I must be the other. As currently presented, neither one of them is anything worth being. There’s more to me than an assemblage of cruelty, extremism, and reflexive ideological posturing. Show me something good, and maybe I’ll vote for it. I’m a citizen of the United States of America, and I reject all the monsters.

***
Images: Destoroyah: Bandai Namco Entertainment America, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48781603
Gigan: Bandai Namco Entertainment Europe [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
ballot: Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/elections-vote-sheet-paper-pen-536656/