I just don’t know

My friend Nora said, “If this past year wasn’t the year you learned to say ‘I don’t know’ and ‘the data isn’t clear yet’ and ‘I changed my mind’ then, friend, that year is never coming.”

Right?

Lest you think she said this because she’s trying to sow doubt and division, or make people think they shouldn’t listen to what the authorities are recommending to stay safe during Covid-tide, let me reassure you that Nora is a nurse, and she is the one who first got me to start taking the virus seriously.

What she saw in the earliest days of the pandemic was disturbing enough that she knew it was something new and terrible, something out of the ordinary. After I saw what she had to say then, I went out and started stocking up on shelf-stable foods and toilet paper, and more than once, I consulted her for what to do when we had an ambiguous situation with a possible covid exposure.

The reason I asked her advice was not just because of her foresight and her expertise. It was because she has the humility to understand that dealing with something new means even the experts are learning as they go, and that means you won’t always have the final and best answer to every question, or at least you won’t always have a good answer that’s guaranteed never to change.

Changing your mind doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. It just means that some things in life aren’t perfectly and instantly clear cut. It’s true for everything pertaining to covid, and it’s true for . . . well, just about everything.

My husband and I have taken to adding, “Or, I don’t know. I don’t know anything” to the end of just about everything we say. It’s not a joke. It’s an admission of– not so much defeat, as the realization that certain things just aren’t winnable.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image:”By the Window (Portrait of Olga Trubnikova) by Valenin Serov via WikiArt  (public domain)

 

 

Double Feature with the Fishers, Episode 5: JAWS and BOTTLE ROCKET

Hey! Hey! New podcast! We tackle America’s greatest movie, yes, America’s greatest movie, JAWS, and also BOTTLE ROCKET, and early and underappreciated Wes Anderson film.

We discuss: Who’s the monster? Is Quint Ahab? Should they have made the shark roar? And what kind of scar is it that that Brody has? and also Bottlerocket: a Wes Anderson movie without so much Wes Anderson in it, and that’s a good thing. The discussion includes brief cameos by Iron Balls McGinty and El Guapo, wanders past J.D. Salinger and Truman Capote for some reason.

To hear this and all our Double Feature With the Fishers podcasts, alls you needs to do is pledge as little as a single dollar a month through Patreon. These pledges keep my site running and independent! It’s my El Guapo(?), and it can be yours, too! 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 247: In which beef is on sale

Yeesh, it’s been three weeks! Sorry about that. Slowly scrabbling my way back to normal. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
BLTs and root beer floats

Saturday was Irene’s fake birthday. Her actual birthday was on Good Friday, and she has decided to postpone her friend party until she can have a beach party. So on her fake birthday on Saturday, we went mini golfing, where she (a) hit the ball completely across the highway (b) hit a baby with a ball and (c) got a hole in one and (d) still came in last. She liked her presents, though, and those parents definitely should not have left that baby sitting around so close. 

And it was warm enough outside for me to slink away and eat my dinner in the yard!

I mention this because today, in this same yard, there are about 4 inches of snow outside, and it’s still coming down. 

I won’t make the joke about how I brought this on by finally putting away all the mittens and boots and snow pants a few days ago, because everyone’s making that joke. Instead I will confess that it’s because I stabbed a man and buried him under the St. Joseph statue in the pansy garden. Sorry, it’s all my fault. In my defense, he was sharing that LifeSiteNews story about how Pfizer is halfway to genocide via “top up” shots. I did what I had to do.

SUNDAY
Banh mi with liver pâté (well, chopped liver)

By a strange twist of culinary fate, we now have a tradition of eating banh mi not too long after Easter, because we usually have leftover chopped liver from Passover. Chopped liver is what most people would call pâté, and it is rich and velvety smooth and pungently wonderful. We just call it “chopped liver” to keep the goyim away so we can have it all to ourselves. I made a recipe card just for you, though:

Jump to Recipe

But first you have to pass the test of knowing that it looks like this at a certain stage, and still deciding to make it:

Now for the banh mi! I usually make banh mi with pork,

Jump to Recipe

but beef shoulder continues to be $2.99 a pound, so that’s what I used. I also only had about half the amount of fish sauce I needed for the marinade, so I made up the difference with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce; and I cut the sugar by about 1/3. Well, it tasted exactly the same. The strong flavors of fish sauce and garlic are so strong, that’s what came through. 

The beef was rather tough, sadly, but still tasted good. I served it on toasted baguettes with cucumbers, cilantro, your choice of mayo or sriracha mayo, jarred jalapeños, and quick-pickled shredded carrots. 

I also tweaked the pickled carrot recipe. Normally I just splash in some white vinegar, water, and dump in some sugar (yes, there’s a recipe, Jump to Recipe but I don’t always bother to look it up)  but this time I carefully measured out white vinegar and cider vinegar, honey, salt, and hot pepper flakes according to this recipe. You’ll never guess: It tasted exactly the same.

So either I’m some kind of naturally gifted master chef whose culinary improvisations are flawless, or else I just like food and don’t care much what it tastes like as long as I can gnarrrrrr. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, pasta salad

Chicken burgers were chicken burgers. But we had tons of leftover specialty foods in the house from various things, so it ended up as quite a nice pasta salad. I used a pasta called “casarecce,” which are sort of rolled-up little twists; and I added herb-infused olive oil, black olives, diced red onions, some bits of hard salami, sun-dried tomatoes, raw asparagus tips, and some smoked cheddar from a local farm.

Then I glopped in some jarred pesto, which probably drowned out the herbs in the olive oil, but it was delicious. I added the fixins while the pasta was still hot, so the smoked cheese melted a bit. I usually like a crumbly cheese like feta in a pasta salad, but this worked out very nicely. 

And I enjoyed the victory of not serving chips or fries, even if no one else did. I also happen to love raw asparagus. I think the taste comes through well, and they are crunchy but very light. Good stuff. 

TUESDAY
Chicken on salad with green apples and walnuts

We had tons of walnuts in the house from passover. I roasted up some chicken breasts with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, sliced it, and served it on salad greens with green apples, walnuts, feta cheese, and dried cranberries. An elegant meal, consumed elegantly in bed. 

I had a brief urge to make rolls or something, but it passed. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, veg and dip

Nothing to report. Oh, except some of the veg were sugar snap peas, and they are so good, and, get this, 35 calories for a whole cup. I’m super tired of being fat, so I’ve started counting calories, and am very grateful that I already like raw vegetables. If you give me any advice, though, I will stab you and bury you under the St. Joseph statue in the pansy garden. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls (formerly beef fajita bowls)

Just a fantastic meal. I think only one person in my family doesn’t like this meal, which is pretty darn good. The marinade is so rich and bright and tangy, I just love it. 

Jump to Recipe

The meat turned out wonderfully tender. Here is one of the more well-done hunks. The other ones were bigger and more rare.

I made a big pot of white rice and served it with strips of meat (I marinated and roasted the meat and then sliced it), fried peppers and onions, roasted corn, black beans and tomatoes with chili peppers, cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips. 

I could easily have skipped the rice and corn chips and still had a very filling, satisfying meal. I forgot to use the lime wedge because there is already tons of flavor in this meal. 

As you can see, these aren’t strictly bowls. All our bowls were dirty, so we used plates, so I accidentally helped myself to twice as much food, oops.

I also bought but forgot to use something from Aldi called “elote seasoning,” which is cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and cheese in a little bottle. It goes on corn or whatever you like. The kids thought I was just kidding about people selling corn on the street, the rubes. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

My mac and cheese recipe is just that you make a white sauce and throw in whatever cheese you have lying around, plus a little mustard and/or hot sauce. You don’t really taste it, but it gives the sauce some more depth. Mix with cooked macaroni, pour into a greased pan, and top with buttered panko crumbs, and bake at 350 until the sauce is bubbling and the top is lightly toasted.

Damien and I were actually planning to skip out on the kids and have pizza, but the heavy covering of snow is making outdoor dining less appealing. We shall see. 

Here’s the recipe cards for the week. 

Oh, wait, one more thing! I was browsing through a Julia Child book and she suggests an easy way to peel garlic: You cut the ends off the cloves and then dunk the whole head in boiling water for 30 seconds, then rinse it in cold water. The peels really do slide right off if you’ve completely detached the ends first. This is only worth the trouble if you need to peel an entire head of garlic, which I often do. I OFTEN DO. 

5 from 1 vote
Print

Chopped liver (chicken liver pâté)

A very rich, pungent, velvety pâté made with cheap and humble ingredients. Spread it on crackers with a little horseradish, or add it to your banh mi. It freezes very well (but takes a while to defrost, as it is dense).

Ingredients

  • 2 to 2-1/2 lbs chicken livers, rinsed and trimmed
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 onions
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • oil for frying the onion
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put the livers, the raw eggs in their shells, and one onion into a pot with the chicken broth.

  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for an hour. (This part looks very weird, but don't lose heart.) Drain off the broth and set aside the livers, onion, and eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them.

  3. Chop the other two onions. Set one aside and fry the other one in oil until crisp.

  4. Using a meat grinder or a food processor, grind up the livers, the boiled eggs, the boiled onion, the fried onion, and the raw onion.

  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and chill. It should be moist and spreadable. If it's too dry and crumbly, add a small amount of oil.

5 from 1 vote
Print

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

5 from 1 vote
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quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

5 from 1 vote
Print

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

You can get a dolphin picture anywhere

Back in the days where cameras used film and you only had so many shots to take, my father took us kids to the aquarium.

We had a wonderful time, but when we got our photos developed, I was disappointed to see nothing but . . . us. “Why didn’t you take any pictures of the dolphin show?” I asked my father.

“I can get a dolphin picture anywhere,” he said. And he was right. The gift shop was full of sharp, professional photos of the animals. But there were no postcards with our faces on them — no tourist brochures featuring me, specifically, gasping with amazement, or my little brother, in particular, laughing in delight as he caught the dolphin’s spray.

And that was what my father wanted: Our happiness, our wonder and delight as we watched the dolphins leaping around and splashing us. That was why he had brought us there: So we would be delighted. And there was something in it for him, too. He enjoyed watching us enjoy ourselves. The one thing better than being happy yourself is seeing the joy of someone you love.

I think of this day when fretting over God’s sometimes baffling inefficiency. God is no businessman. If He wanted to maximize the number of souls saved, there are thousands of ways He could have made it happen: By taking away free will, for instance. By making virtuous behavior irresistible. By writing letters on the wall with a giant hand, rather than hinting with parables, whispering with grace, scattering clues of goodness, truth, and beauty all throughout the natural world.

He could have been more direct. He could have skipped all the strangeness, sorrow, and pain we feel as we blunder our way through life, toward Him. He could have been more efficient.

Instead, he chose the promise of delight. Instead, He gives us free will. He gives us the time and ability and desire to decide what to do with it. He wants us to come to Him not because we’re forced to, but because we have discovered Him, because we have found our own way toward Him, because we have realized organically, from the inside out, that we need and want what only He has to offer. He wants us to delight in Him. Not to find ourselves deposited briskly at the porch of Heaven, but to let ourselves be found.

It’s not a business transaction. It’s love. And there’s something in it for Him, too. He delights in our delight when we find Him.

Do we realize this? We may find ourselves miserably struggling to appease God, or anxiously, resentfully trying to avoid offending Him. But do we understand how He delights in us? He enjoys us. He likes us, and that is the only reason He made us in the first place. God is not deficient in anything. He didn’t need to make us at all. 

But He did. He did, because it’s not about the perfect dolphin picture. It’s not about efficiency. It’s about Him and us, us in particular. It’s about love and delight.

So there are two lessons here. One is more practical and immediate, and is mainly for parents:

Just as God loves us intensely now, for who we are, then we, as parents, must keep on reminding ourselves to enjoy, appreciate, and respond to our children now, as they are.

It is terribly easy to get distracted from this purpose — to pursue the “perfect dolphin picture,” and to forget why we came in the first place.  When we’re planning birthday parties, are we trying to please our actual kid, or to impress a thousand anonymous moms on Pinterest? When our older kids are choosing a college, do we nudge them toward the one that will help them be what they were meant to be, or toward the one with the name that strokes our own egos? When our children declare themselves for who they are — through their interests, their dress, their strengths, their humor, their voices, their hearts — do we remember to stop and delight in them, as specific, irreplaceable children? 

Do we let them know we see and delight in them as they are, for who they are? Or do we hustle past their actual selves in favor of a generic family photo op?  God gave us specific children for a reason. One of our primary jobs as parents is to identify and encourage what is good in them — not what we wish they were like, but what is good in them right now. Our job is to find something delightful in them. 

The second lesson is more universal, and it is this:

This intensely personal, specific love and delight that parents should cultivate toward their kids is the same personal, specific love and delight that God feels toward us. Toward you. Remember this.

The Father made you, specifically, on purpose. Christ came to save you, individually, intentionally. He delights in you for who you are. He wants to forgive your sins “more quickly than a mother would snatch her child out of the fire” (St. John Vianney). He wants to save you because He knows you, and delights in you. 

God is no businessman. He is bogglingly inefficient. Christ said to St. Teresa of Avila, “I would create the world again just to hear you say you love me.”  Oh, it’s personal. He could get a perfect dolphin picture anywhere. But he’d rather have you.

 

***
This essay was originally published in Parable magazine in 2018. Republished with permission. 

Image by HAMID ELBAZ via Pexels (Creative Commons)

Don’t live in a pre-furnished house of ideas

Just for fun, one of my sisters posted on social media, “Tell me something about you that sounds like a lie but is true.” The first thing that popped into my head: I vastly prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I knew that would surprise people, and I wasn’t wrong.

There are various, well-examined reasons our family attends a Novus Ordo Mass, instead. But when I said on Facebook that I vastly prefer the TLM, a few people were (as I expected) astonished. Perhaps because I’ve written about feminism and consent and because I’m not a republican, they assumed I must therefore hate tradition and prefer modernism, or perhaps that I have some kind of aversion to reverence or beauty, or that I think the past is just full of garbage and should be erased whenever possible.

These assumptions are, of course, a stereotype, just as it’s a stereotype to assume that anyone who loves the TLM must be rigid and sexist and dour and judgmental. Some people are this way, but some are not. It’s not wrong to notice trends and patterns, but it is wrong to assume that everyone you meet must be part of that pattern.

But I had to acknowledge that I do this to other people all the time. I make sweeping assumptions about people’s worldview based on a few allegedly tell-tale comments or preferences. I assume that if they disagree with me on one important thing, they’ll disagree with me on all important things, and are also moreover probably incapable of basic decency.  I do this even though I’ve been surprised and proven wrong more times than I can count; and I do this even though it drives me crazy when people do it to me!

Well, it’s old news to preach against stereotyping, making assumptions, and slapping labels on people. What I’d like to hear more about is how we make assumptions about ourselves … Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

 

Image by A R Driver, CC BY-SA 2.0 UK <>, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

The man called “Resurrection”

After my mother’s funeral, I drove home and took off my wet, muddy clothes, and found that I could barely move.My flesh had turned to sand and I couldn’t make my limbs work. I crawled into bed, and the longer I stayed there, the heavier I got.

I kept thinking about how my mother’s body was so light, they let her coffin down into the grave by hand.They used heavy machinery to place my father in the ground just before Easter last year, but my mother had become very light.

In my mother’s funeral sermon, the priest spoke of Lazarus. Martha thought her brother’s death was a stupid, pointless death. She accuses Jesus: If you had been here, our brother would not have died! And she was right. But Jesus wanted to show them, I suppose, that he is who he says he is. He is the resurrection and the life.Where he is, there life is. That’s who he is, said the priest: He is the Resurrection. And he comes as close as he pleases, when he pleases, to do as he pleases.

In this story, he raises his voice, and Lazarus comes out. They undo everything that has been done: They take his winding cloth off, they feed him again. Lazarus lives again.

I wonder if Lazarus was afraid to go to sleep that night. I wonder how he felt when the newness of his new life wore off and he sinned again for the first time: how stupid he must have felt when he had to repent again, even after he had already died.

I wonder how he felt later, when he started to die again for the second time. Maybe by that time he had gotten blasé about the process, and thought he’d be protected from that final darkness for a second time.

Or maybe he was afraid he would be rescued, afraid he’d be called back and asked, for some reason, to do it all again.

Isn’t it awful, sinning again and again? Facing death, being rescued, sinning and repenting and being forgiven, and then going out and doing it again?

When my mother first became a Christian, she was crushed to realize it was still very easy to sin. She had heard, and read, and taken to heart the idea that baptism brings the life of Christ into human souls. She thought that, since Jesus had taken up residence there, He would therefore prevent her from doing anything bad. She thought that you choose Jesus and jump in the water, and when you come up again, you’re set for life.

But that’s not how it works. I don’t know which sin she committed that showed her how wrong she was, but I imagine it was something petty, something small and human, which nonetheless showed her very starkly that you can be washed in the blood of the Lamb and then go right back to acting like a stupid sheep.

In fact, it’s inevitable. You go back, Jack, do it again. It’s not a “one and done” situation. It’s an “over and over and over again” situation, and you don’t always know what it’s for.

One stupid thing about the way my mother died was that she was a frail and tiny woman whose brain had long since been pillaged by dementia.

She couldn’t dress herself, or speak, or sit up, and sometimes she forgot how to eat. So this little tiny ravaged woman got Covid. Then she beat Covid, and recovered completely from Covid, and began to get stronger, and then she died anyway of something else.

I think they called it “undetermined” on her death certificate, which made me laugh a little. I snickered through my tears that I knew the real reason she died.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

Image: Resurrection of Lazarus, Workshop of Daniel Chorny and Andrey Rublev, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jewish and Catholic: An interview with my father, Phil Prever

Back in 2018, I interviewed several people for an article about what it means to be both Jewish and Catholic. The interview never made it to print for various reasons, but I have always wanted to share the conversation I had with my father.

He and my mother both grew up in Brooklyn with a cultural Judaism. They married young, had two children, became hippies, drove cross country and back, moved to Israel and back, dallied with Buddhism, moved to a ski lodge in Vermont, had a dramatic conversion to evangelical Christianity, briefly landed in a cult, had two more children (including me), and eventually made their way into the Catholic Church, where they stayed (and had four more children).

 

 
My parents with their eight adult children
 
Here is my father’s account of what his Jewish origins meant to him. 
 
What was your experience of Judaism growing up?
 

We were cultural Jews. We celebrated Chanukah, but it didn’t mean a whole lot. It was just something Jews did around Christmas time. We never had a “Chanukah bush!” 

My grandmother, Anna Olshansky Prever, with my father
 

The only other thing we did in my family was we fasted on Yom Kippur. My father . . . I don’t even know what he believed. He felt a great lack in his life, because he had never been bar mitzvah’d. His parents wanted to get away from all that. He felt he had missed out, so when I was studying for bar mitzvah, I had to learn scriptures, and recite in front of the congregation in a synagogue, and he asked the rabbi if he could be bar mitzvah’d, in his 50’s.

 
My grandfather, Jacob Prever, with my father
 
On Yom Kippur, we would all fast. He would sit in a room with the lights off, no radio, no entertainment, wouldn’t read, would just sit there for all of the whole day and night. I don’t know what he was doing. It was a very solemn kind of thing, really spooky. Everyone tiptoed around him.
 
As kid, on the whole block, we were all Jewish. The joke was, “Are you fasting, or are you feasting?” Most of the kids fasted. We didn’t go to the synagogue, but we hung out around the synagogue and peeped in the windows.
 
Everything was done in Hebrew. The way they did it, the men who went there knew the prayers so well, they recited them at a very high speed. I don’t know if they knew what they were saying, but it was just a jumble and it didn’t seem very meaningful to me, but that’s what you did. 
 
Why did you hang around, if it wasn’t meaningful?
 
There was a lot of horseplay. We weren’t in a devout frame of mind, or anything. But we were drawn to it. We didn’t understand it, but we knew we were Jews and this was what Jews did on the high holidays. Our families didn’t go to Shul, but somehow we wanted something to do with it. 
There was a synagogue where I was growing up, and one day I’m walking along the street and a man comes up and says, “Are you Jewish?” 
“Yeah.”
“Have you been bar mitzvah’d?”
“Yeah.”
“We need one more for a minyan.”
I must have been in my early teens. I sat through the service that was meaningless to me, but on the other hand, I felt like I was doing something devout. After I was bar mitzvah’d, I took it somewhat seriously. I got phylacteries, and for at least a month I used to put on the tefillin every day and said the prayers. Eventually I got tired of doing it. 
 
Some years, we would go to my uncle’s father from the old country. He used to do a seder. He did it all in Hebrew. That’s the only time I ever went to a real seder. Other than that, on Passover, we’d have a special meal with Passover foods, but no seder. I went to Hebrew school until I was bar mitzvah’d, to read and write Hebrew to an elementary level. Then once I was bar mitzvah’d, that was all over with. 
 
My mother used to light yarhzeit candles on the anniversary of someone’s death, which I still do. That’s about it. And a lot of Jewish food. 
 
My father with his parents
 
All the people we knew were like us. None of my friends were observant. I didn’t know any Catholics or Christians when I was growing up. I never saw anyone who wasn’t Jewish until I was in sixth grade. There was an Italian girl in my class from a couple of blocks away. 
 
How did your parents respond when you converted? 

My mother was distressed. Ima’s mother was, too, even though they were less observant than my family.
 
My father’s father, my mother, my father, and my mother’s father at a party
 
But what happened was, they saw we started to live differently. We had lived a crazy life before, with drugs and hippie craziness. We were leading a disordered kind of life, and they saw we cleaned up our lives and stopped messing around so much, so they were impressed by that. That made a difference. My mother softened over the years. She wasn’t actively hostile. She got over it. She came to live with us, so it couldn’t have been too uncomfortable for her. 
 
 
My grandmother with my younger brother, Jacob
 
Early on, when we were protestants, Ima’s mother and my mother came to visit. They drove up. At that time, we thought it was our duty to preach the Gospel to everybody we met, so we started working on our mothers. They weren’t having any of it. We tried to explain to them why they needed to be saved. They didn’t want to hear it. I said something like, “You know, driving home, you could be in an accident and die, and where would you be then?” That was the wrong thing to say. That was the approach that was favored at the Community Bible Chapel: Hit ’em between the eyes. They were horrified, probably rightly so. We never did that again. 
 
Does anyone respond negatively to your explanation of who you are?
 
Early on, Ima and I ran into some Catholics who didn’t understand why we, as Jews, wanted to become Catholics. They had been taught the idea that there were two covenants, and that Jews belonged to one covenant and Christians to another, and there was no necessity for Jews to become Christians to be saved. There was a time in the Church when that was the going explanation of the relationship between Jews and Catholics. It’s kind of passé now. That was in the early ’80’s. Ima converted in ’78 and I converted in ’79.
 
My parents with my three older sisters and me
 
I know some christians have a kind of fascination with Jews. Did you run into that?
 
People were interested in us because of that. The priest at St. Mary’s where we first started going said, “You know, people are watching you.” Really? What do they expect to see? They wondered how a Jew would deal with all this Catholic stuff. But nobody said anything to me.
 
My father with me and my sister Sarah
 
When we were protestants, we had a special status as Jews who had become Christians. It was kind of a special prize, because here we were, members of the chosen people, and we had converted, when so many Jews were against Christianity. 
 
We were kind of minor celebrities when we were protestants. Once Ima and I were up in front of some protestant congregation explaining Judaism, which we didn’t know all that much about. I remember explaining about the mezuzah on the door post, and the pastor said, “That has the blood of a lamb in it, right?” And I said, “No! It has the scroll that has the Sh’ma in it.” “Oh!” he says.
 
People expected us to be well versed in the Old Testament, which I was not. I became well versed in it when I became a Christian. Certain things in my background that I didn’t quite understand the significance of became clearer to me when I became a Christian.
 
a print my parents made for a card shortly after their conversion
 
Like what?
 
I’m trying to think of an example. I had a cousin, quite a bit older than me, more of my mother’s generation. When there would be a funeral and the whole family would be there, he would stand outside the fence and not go in the cemetery ground, and I never knew why, until I read somewhere in the Old Testament that because he was called a Cohen, born in some kind of priestly line, he was forbidden to set foot in a cemetery. Some kind of taboo against dealing with the dead, somewhere in Leviticus, no doubt. A light went on over my head: Oh! That’s why Seymour Katz never went into the cemetery. 
 
Why is it important to you to preserve your Jewish identity?
 
There’s a feeling among the Jewish people that Jew who becomes a Christian is kind of a traitor to his people I don’t believe that. Because I think Jesus is God, you know? And I believe in God! I don’t feel that I’m betraying the Jewish people. I feel like I’m accepting the Jewish messiah. But maintaining my Jewish identity is important to me because I want to assure myself that I’m not a traitor, I guess. I’ve never reasoned it out on such an explicit level, but I think that’s how I feel.
 
It’s a wonderful thing to be a Jew. It’s special. The Jewish people are like no other. I’m glad some of you kids have maintained that. Some of you haven’t. We let you go your own way on that, presented it as something that was meaningful to us. I feel a deep bond with the state of Israel and the fate of the Jewish people around the world, wherever they are. I feel connected, and I don’t want to lose that.
 
Do you also feel connected to Catholics around the world, or is it a different kind of thing?
 
I feel like I’d like to, but it’s not on the same emotional level. I do feel some connectedness, but it’s not the same. 
 

How do you express your Jewishness now? 

I go to my parents’ graves once a year. I say the kaddish prayers over their graves, and put a stone on the gravestone. One other thing: I’m a lector at church. There’s a three-year cycle of readings. Once every three years comes the passage from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear, o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Before I read it, I say the Sh’ma in Hebrew in front of the congregation, and no one has ever asked me about it. Once or twice I even chanted it, just for the hell of it. I don’t know why I do it. It seems like it should be said in Hebrew. 
 
 
You’re pretty conservative. Does it bother you that many American Jews are liberal?
 
It bothers me. I wish they’d open their eyes a little and see who the friends of the Jewish people are. The left in America is getting really anti-Israel. On the other hand, who knows if the Christians in America are really friends of the Jews when push comes to shove. I always think of The Sopranos, with the Jewish character Hesh. He and his daughter go to visit Tony in the hospital, and this evangelical preacher comes in to visit. He wants to pray with Tony. Hesh is rolling his eyes around, but his daughter says Evangelical Christians are great friends of the Jews. And Hesh says, “Just wait.”
 
Catholics, Catholics are all over the place. Although it seems like, among Catholic theologians, there’s been an awakening to the connection between the Catholic religion and how it grew out of the Jewish religions. 
 
 

Have you encountered antisemitism in your lifetime? 

Believe it or not, I have hardly any experience with antisemitism in my life, that I’m aware of. Growing up, I never ran into it because I was surrounded by Jews. 

I remember once, when I must have been a Christian already, and I was at a gas station in New York. I must have gone down to visit family. This guy also filling up gas was talking to me, and I could tell by his accent he’s from down south. He looks at the price on the gas pump, which was much higher than what he was used to, and said, “Aw, G-ddamn Jews.” Blaming the Jews for high gas prices. It was insane. I was shocked. I had never run across that kind of overt antisemitism. Afterwards, I thought of a thousand things I could have said, but I didn’t say anything. It was a moment of realizing what’s out there, so many people who feel that way. 
 
Didn’t you once have a customer for your book business who made some antisemitic remarks?
 
Oh, this guy was a nut. He turned out to be Pope Pius XIII. Fr. Pulvermacher, was his name. He ordered a traditional Catholic book. I started out selling pre-Vatican II books, before I understood what a trad was. Now I look back and I realize I was getting a lot of orders from trads. They assumed I was one, too. Little did they know I was a Novus Ordo Jew!
 
Some of them found out we were Jewish and were thrilled, but not all of them. This Pulvermacher passed some kind of remark. Ima wrote back to him, had some kind of back and forth with him, and he backed off.
 
My. mother
 
He didn’t want to kill us or anything. He’s the one who said, “If you disagree with me, you’re a heretic.” Later years, we found out he became Pope Pius XIII.
 
Why do you think antisemitism is such a perennial thing?
 
Historically, I think antisemitism was basically a kind of hatred of God. That’s not the basis of all antisemitism; but in Europe, some of the pogroms was done trying to get at God through the Jews in some weird kind of way. And it sure has lasted a long time, huh? Three, four thousand years. Come on, enough already. 
 
 
My father was born in America in 1900, so his family came over in the 1880s or 90’s. The pogroms has something to do with it. Being a Jew in Eastern Europe was not a comfortable thing. My mother’s father, at one point, they were trying to get him to come into the Russian army, and he didn’t want to go. It’s a good thing; he would have been slaughtered in World War I. Living under the Czar was not a comfortable thing. You were on the razor’s edge all the time. There were pogroms, and no one knew when they were going to start up again. By the time he left, there was a lot of communist agitation or socialist agitation. They got out a year before the 1917 revolution.
 
My father’s maternal grandfather, Phillip (Feivel) Olshansky, shortly before the family fled Russia
My grandfather would not have done well. He was a capitalist, so that was part of it.
 
A visa photo of my great grandparents Zelda (Jenny) and Feivel (Phillip), my grandmother Hana (Anne), and two of my great-uncles, Gosel and Schloima.
 
Other than that, I don’t really know why they left, other than that they figured they would be better off in America, and they were. 

 

My grandfather in his pharmacy

There’s nobody to ask anymore. There’s a lot of things I wish I knew, but now there’s nobody to ask. 

My father with his mother’s sister, Mickey (Miriam)
 
How did you come to do the seder that you do today?
 
When we first started doing it, I had a Haggadah which was a Christian seder, and it was put out by protestants. It was completely Christian prayers all throughout, always drawing out parallels. After a couple of years, I said, “I don’t feel comfortable doing this.” It didn’t sit right. I went back to using the traditional Haggadah and adding onto it, and I feel more comfortable with that. I’ve never done a seder in a Christian setting, for a church group or anything. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that, but I know I reacted against over-Christianizing it. 
 
My parents at a seder in 2016
 
If your Jewishness were somehow taken away, what would it do to your faith, or to your relationship with God?

Why would such a thing be necessary? I would feel less like myself. I would feel I had lost something, and I was less of the person I had been all these years. I don’t think I would feel like I had less of a relationship with God, but it’s hard to say what that loss would consist of. 
 
Do you pray as a Jew?

Sometimes.What does that mean?
Sometimes I think of Abraham praying for Lot. Sometimes I fall into that mode of praying. I speak to God in a kind of overfamiliar way, and I say, “Hey, you know, what’s the deal here?” I’ve been in that frame of mind while praying. Sometimes I find myself davening unconsciously [Note: “Davening” means “praying.” I believe my father was referring specifically to shuckling while praying.] It wasn’t something I grew up with. I used to see the men in synagogue doing it, but I never did. 
 
my father in Brooklyn
 
Have you heard much about a Hebrew Catholic Rite? Would you get involved with it if it came about in your lifetime? 
 
I would be very interested in seeing that come to fruition, but I don’t think I could help, because I don’t know enough. I can sound out Hebrew, but I don’t understand it except a phrase here and there. I don’t have any experience of praying in a synagogue or different Jewish holidays. I just don’t know enough. I would definitely like to see it happen.  
 
You say you don’t have experience, but you spent a whole year living in Israel!
 
We did absolutely zero religious observation when we were in Israel. When we were in Israel, we were Buddhists. I can’t explain how such stupidity can happen, but it did. 
 
What meant a lot to me, living in Israel: At that time, before the Six Day War, we lived in Western Jerusalem. Jerusalem was like a peninsula into Arab territory. It came about during the war of Independence in 1948. They fought so hard to get at least a piece of Jerusalem. They never conquered the historical Jerusalem. It’s mountainous, and when you come up from the farther western part of Israel, you go uphill, and the road winds on these different hills. All along the hill, you see these rusted out military vehicles, relics of the war of ’48. It made a tremendous impression on me. You could see how hard these Jews had fought to get to Jerusalem, at least to get a piece of it. 
 
 
Would you go back if you could?

I’d love to go back. I think about it a lot, but I don’t think I’ll ever do it. It would mean more to me now. We were there for [a year, which extended into] a few weeks after the war in ’67, and we went into the Old City after the war. We were looking at the Via Dolorosa, and I saw lots of ancient sites, and then came up into some kind of building. We looked out a window, and there was the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. It’s a relic of the temple, all that’s left of the wall that supported what the temple was built on. All these people praying, and I never went down to it. People make pilgrimages from the ends of the earth to get to it. I was there, and I didn’t even take five minutes to go downstairs and go to the wall. It just didn’t mean that much to me. I’ve always been ashamed that I never did. 
 
Do you think Jews have some kind of special mission or place or obligation in the Church or in the world?
 
If you go back to Romans 10, Paul talks about the mission of the Jews. He says the conversion of the Jews will be the resurrection of the dead. I don’t know what that means, exactly, but it’s a big thing, something very important. He says the gift and the calling of God are irrevocable. There’s these gifts that have been given to the Jews, and when they come into the Church, it’s going to be apocalyptic. I don’t know, I don’t know what it’s going to be. 
 
 
What do you want people to know about Hebrew Catholics?
 
There’s the idea that Jews in the Catholic Church will somehow subvert the Church. That’s crazy. I don’t know any Hebrew Catholic who would want to subvert the Church in any way. If you go far enough onto the fringe, they think the great sin of the Church was then the Church said the Jews didn’t kill Christ. 
 
There’s this idea I run into with some Catholics that Catholics are Catholics and Jews are Jews, and Jews don’t need Christ. That bothers me that anyone should think that: That there’s anyone who doesn’t need Christ. Although I think the Jews are special in many ways, they’re not so special that they don’t need Christ. Everyone does. 
 
***
 

My father died just about a year ago on April 3. We had been planning to celebrate Passover with him via Zoom, and instead ended up live streaming his funeral. This year, I was bracing myself for the first anniversary of his death, and then my mother died on March 12. I know what my father would say: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. 

 
 

[Double] Feature With the Fishers, Episode 4: CALVARY

Podcast returns! Just one movie review this time: The insanely excellent 2014 drama Calvary. Damien and I both loved it but had slightly different takes on what it meant. Here’s the trailer for this movie we recommend highly for Holy Week (but not for kids):

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Image is screenshot from trailer, above. 

Señor Secondthoughts

Who wants to hear about a parenting victory? This one comes with a mascot, and his name is Señor Secondthoughts. 

Our youngest got a much-desired present for her sixth birthday: A stuffed Owlette and and a stuffed Gecko, of PJ Masks. She’s had Catboy for a while, but she really wanted the other two. I discovered it was cheaper to buy a set of three, so when the new stuffies arrived, I tossed the extra Catboy in my closet and wrapped up the other two, and she was absolutely thrilled.

A few weeks later, she barged into my room and stumbled across the extra Catboy. So we explained what happened and said she could keep the extra toy if she wanted to. My husband suggested that she could give him a mustache and turn him into Catboy’s evil twin. She thought that was amusing, and went on her way.

Half an hour later, she barged in again, this time in tears. She explained that she “actually took Daddy seriously” and went ahead and gave Catboy a mustache, and now she changed her mind, but it was too late, because she used permanent marker. She then dissolved into sobs of real, terrible sorrow and regret.

 My first struggle was not to burst out laughing, because Catboy looks hilarious with a mustache. The one she gave him has a little twirl and looks very evil indeed. 

My second struggle was to resist doing any of the things I would have done in the past, if a child had come to me with a problem like this.

In the past, if I had been feeling cranky, I would have told her that it wasn’t so bad, and it wasn’t worth crying over, because it was just a toy and she does have another toy, and some kids would be happy to have two Catboys.

If I had been feeling sympathetic, I would have said I don’t want her to feel sad about a birthday present, and I would have ordered a replacement on the spot (for a grand total of three Catboys) to make her stop crying.

Or if I had been in a hurry, I might have just tried to distract her, make it into a joke, or change the subject, so she would forget her problem and be cheerful again.

Behold: I have been in therapy for several years, so here is what I did instead.

I held her and rubbed her back while she cried, and said I could see how sad she was and how bad it felt, and how I know she wishes she hadn’t done it. And we just stayed with that for a while, and were sad together, until he started to calm down a little. In pop psychology terms, this is called letting her “feel her feelings.”

Then I said there is a name for what she’s feeling, and that name is “regret.” I told her regret is when something seems like a really good idea, so you do it, but then you suddenly realize it wasn’t a good idea. I said that everybody does things and then feels regret sometimes. She is a kid who loves words and loves to understand how human beings act, so giving her a name for what she was feeling was important; and it was important to let her know that it was a common human feeling, and she wasn’t uniquely foolish or uniquely suffering. This also gave her something intellectual to focus on, and broke up the storm of feelings somewhat.

Then I told her that sometimes, we feel a lot of regret over something, and it feels really bad, but sometimes, after a while, we figure out a way to make it work, and then it stops feeling so bad, and might even start feeling good. I said that it was okay to feel bad right now, but that she probably wouldn’t feel this bad forever. I said that everybody knows she’s really good at figuring stuff out and finding ways to have fun with things, so she could probably someday figure out a way to have fun with Evil Catboy — or, as I was by now calling him in my head, Señor Secondthoughts. I wanted to build her up a little, and remind her that she’s capable of rising above this. And I wanted her to know that this was going to be something she herself would be dealing with. 
 
She was quite a bit calmer by this time, but I know she has a habit of suddenly reminding herself of what she was upset about and getting worked up all over again; so I seized the moment and distracted her with some other topic entirely. She took the bait, got excited about the new thing (some snack or something, I forget what), and off she went, leaving Señor Secondthoughts behind.  
 
She has since re-discovered this mustachio’d villain, and it doesn’t seem to bother her at all. 
 
Here’s the important part: This is not a formula for making everything better. That did happen in this case, with this particular kid, for this particular problem she had. But even if she hadn’t responded so well, I would have been happy with how I handled it, because it’s not about the problem right now. It’s about the kid and her future.
 
More and more, I’m realizing that my job as parent is not to fix my kid’s problems, and it’s definitely not my job to make them stop feeling bad and start feeling good as quickly as possible. You can do that with babies, but once a kid is old enough to have a conversation, they’re old enough to start talking about feelings, and learning what to do with them. 
 
When a kid is upset, my first impulse is usually to try to push past the bad feelings, either with sternness or with sympathy. But even if it does quiet the kid down quickly, this is just papering over an emotional mess. The mess will still be there, and the kid will not have learned any skills for how to clean it up when it inevitably happens again. 
 
I had a big revelation: Part of the reason I want to fix things as quickly as possible is because my kid’s strong feelings elicit strong feelings in me; and sometimes, that’s actually what I’m trying to manage: My own feelings, not my kid’s. It’s very normal to feel impatience or disgust or distress or pity when a kid comes to you sobbing. But it’s not fair to make the kid to change her behavior so that my feelings about it are more manageable. This doesn’t help the child at all. It doesn’t equip her for the future, and may even teach her awful mental habits of inappropriate shame and nameless resentment that will emerge in various unpleasant ways for the rest of her life (not that I would know anything about that, twitch twitch). 
 
My job isn’t to make her shush. My job is to teach her how to be a human being who will inevitably make mistakes, feel bad about them, and live to tell the tale.
 
So this is how we do it: We let kids feel their feelings. We name the feeling, and we call it normal, and let them know it’s okay to feel this way. Then we talk about what might happen next, and remind them that they do have the power to move on and be awesome. And then we do something else. You can actually do this with kids of all ages, using age-appropriate terms. 
 
Important: Sometimes, you just don’t have time for this, and that’s okay, too. Sometimes a little kid is melting down and you absolutely need to be somewhere, so your only choice is to scoop them up and deal with it later. This, too, is normal. But if at all possible, it is a good idea to deal with it later, and not just chalk it up to a kid being bad. 
And sometimes you just blow it. Sometimes you’re not the ideal parent, and you handle things wrong. And what is this called? This is called having regrets. It feels bad, but etc. etc. etc. See?  You can do this for yourself, too. 
 
When you do have time to go through all the steps, though, remember that it won’t always result in a calm, happy kid, but that’s not really the goal. The goal is having a kid who has emotions, knows it’s okay to have emotions, and has some clue about what to do with her emotions.
 
That’s my goal for myself, as well. We can do it! Señor Secondthoughts is here to cheer us on.  
 
 

What’s for supper? Vol. 246: Comfort food

It’s been quite a couple of weeks. If you are thinking to yourself, “They are not eating like it’s Lent!” you are right. We are eating like a family who are being very nice to a grieving person who went a little bit crackerdog after the funeral, and whose comfort food is food.  Damien and the kids have done so much of the cooking. (For those who don’t know, my mom died two weeks ago.)

These are the food highlights of the last 2.5 weeks or so:

Khachapuri and asparagus

I shared the recipe for this on the morning before I made it, and all I had to report at the time were high hopes. Well, they were absolutely delicious. This is a Georgian (as in the country) dish, a cheese-filled bread boat with an egg cooked into the middle. I made a triple recipe of this recipe. FABULOUS. 

I didn’t end up using much more than half of the filling, though, and they still overflowed.

The kids immediately started suggesting variations of various meats and sauces that could be added, which I am not opposed to, but there’s also something to be said for not turning everything into pizza. 

Anyway, will definitely make again. I may use ready-made dough next time to speed things along. You can see that you add and cook the egg just briefly toward the end, and then you can break up the yolk and stir it into the hot cheese. I also threw some hot pepper flakes on top.

I also pan-cooked a bunch of asparagus in olive oil and squeezed fresh lemon juice on top. The lemon juice seeped into the khapachuri on my plate, and that was not a problem at all. 

Comfort-your-wife sandwiches

One night Damien made a big platter of sandwiches with all kinds of lovely salamis and other cured meats, cheeses, tomatoes, and lots of basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and freshly-ground salat and pepper

and another night he made Reubens with kosher dills and jalapeño kettle chips, which isn’t necessarily a photogenic meal, but oh man.

The deli a special sale on sliced corned beef (which either is or isn’t the same thing as pastrami, I forget) and Swiss cheese together, so he got a bunch and made grilled sandwiches with Russian dressing and sauerkraut. Heavenly.

St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone having finally acknowledged no one is really crazy about the corned beef boiled dinner, Damien made a full Irish breakfast instead. Completely delicious, and an insane amount of food. 

Irish bangers, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, roast potatoes and mushrooms, sourdough toast, and fried eggs on top, and everything cooked in lots of butter and bacon grease. Here’s a better view of those wonderful mushroom and potatoes:

I wasn’t a big fan of the Irish bangers — they were kind of mealy — but other than that, I think we’ll have this for St. Patrick’s Day every year from now on. 

St. Joseph’s Day

We moved our annual Italian feast from Columbus Day to St. Joseph’s day. Works for me. Clara put together a giant antipasto plate, which she replenished several times as it was ravaged 

and Damien made his lovely pork and veal ragu with fettucine (you can’t see the lovely savory gravyish part here, but there was lots of it) 

and I made a stab at making suppli, but I forgot you have to chill the risotto really well to form it into balls. So I just put it back in the fridge (and everyone was already pretty stuffed anyway}. We had Italian ices for dessert, just as St. Joseph would have wanted. 

Then on Sunday, Clara made the risotto into suppli while I took the kids to the farm, and then I fried them up for dinner, and even the stove was happy

I had to throw some of the suppli back in the oven for a while to make sure the cheese inside was completely melted. Worth the wait.

We also had the leftover ragu, and I made cannoli, which was also supposed to be on Friday.

I made the filling with just ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and a little almond extract. The taste was perfect, but I wish it was a little thicker and less runny. Other than letting it sit in the colander longer, any tips on that? 

Ham and biscuits

Only worth mentioning because one of the biscuits, the one formed out of all the leftover scraps crammed together, kinda looked like a turkey.

It is a good recipe. A little weird, as it calls for cream of tartar and eggs, but they always come out light inside, with a nice fragile buttery crust.

Jump to Recipe

Pizza

We’re basically empty-nesters, with only nine children at home, and I’m finally ready to face the fact that we don’t need six extra large pizzas anymore. That is too much pizza. But the final Pizza No. 6 was a doozy: Olives, red onions, artichoke hearts, fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and little blobs of pesto. 

We usually use Portland Pie frozen pizza dough,  which comes in generous portions and is easy to handle, especially the beer one. This time we tried their Everything dough (with “everything bagel” seasoning mixed it). I’m not a fan. It tore very easily and didn’t rise well, and I guess I just don’t want poppy seeds in my pizza dough after all.

Here’s a pro tip for you: While you’re sitting in the kitchen for forty minutes cooking two pizzas at a time, it’s okay to pass the time by snacking on a few sun-dried tomatoes, but it’s not a great idea to mindlessly scarf down about a cubic foot of them, unless you are angry at your stomach and wish to punish it. And everyone watching TV with you that evening when it’s too chilly to open a window. Wooooo-eeeeee. I sure do like them sun-dried tomaters. 

Tonight Damien is going to teach Irene how to make Marcella Hazan’s magic sauce, since she is its biggest fan.

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

moron biscuits

Because I've been trying all my life to make nice biscuits and I was too much of a moron, until I discovered this recipe. It has egg and cream of tartar, which is weird, but they come out great every time. Flaky little crust, lovely, lofty insides, rich, buttery taste.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, chilled
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450.

  2. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and cream of tartar.

  3. Grate the chilled butter with a box grater into the dry ingredients.

  4. Stir in the milk and egg and mix until just combined. Don't overwork it. It's fine to see little bits of butter.

  5. On a floured surface, knead the dough 10-15 times. If it's very sticky, add a little flour.

  6. With your hands, press the dough out until it's about an inch thick. Cut biscuits. Depending on the size, you can probably get 20 medium-sized biscuits with this recipe.

  7. Grease a pan and bake for 10-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown.