My father, Phillip Prever, 1942-2020

My father died shortly before midnight on Thursday. His heart was so worn out. A few hours before, he had been packing up books to send out for delivery. After that, my brother heard him praying, and decided to check on him later, not wanting to interrupt. Then my father lay down in his recliner, and then that was it. Or maybe I’ve gotten the details wrong. It’s been a long day. We are glad he didn’t have to die in a hospital, hooked up to the beeping machines he hated so much.

I used to call him on Wednesday evenings. Most of the time, I would say, “Hey, it’s Simmy.” He would say, “Hey, Sim. How’s it going?” and I would say, “Oh, fine. Are you in the middle of anything?” and he would say, “Nahhh, I’m just listening to some music.” The same conversation almost every time, but always different music.

The time before last when I called, it was Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy he was listening to. He had gotten his hands on a huge collection of LPs, and was listing them for sale one by one in his online store. For each record, he had to visually inspect it, and then listen to a few samples of both sides, to make sure it was playable. Then he could list them. But when he sampled the Bach, he didn’t pick the needle up, but let it play. 

We talked about Bach for a while, how he was a god. My father used to play that fantasy himself, at a snail’s pace, the pace of an amateur, amateur, “one who loves.” I do remember hearing him play parts of it, the halting notes filtering up through the wooden floorboards as we fell asleep. I imagined parts of it were corduroy, parts were wood, parts were curling gold. I told him he should keep the record for himself. He protested that it was a rare recording, and worth a considerable amount of money. But keep it! I insisted. Well, he said, maybe he would. 

Last time I called, the day before he died, he sounded worn out. He didn’t have much banter in him, and he didn’t want to talk much about the kids, which was unusual. He had seen my mother at the nursing home twice this week. Because of the virus, he couldn’t be in a room with her or feed her jellybeans every day like he used to, but the aides bundled her up and wheeled her onto the patio, and he talked to her six feet away, through a chain link fence. He said that he told her he loved her, and that she said “I love you” back to him, and that made him happy. He told me he loved everybody, and told me to send his love to everybody. I told him I loved him. He said he loved me, too. And then that was it. I still can’t believe that was it.

I looked for the Bach record online, and I can’t find it listed. I hope that’s because he decided to keep it, and I hope he listened one more time. 

 

 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 207: The Wurst-Käse scenario

Everybody okay? We’ve been lucky so far here and don’t have a lot of food shortages, so we’re eating normally. In fact we may be eating somewhat lavishly, almost as if that is the one thing I can do. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, snap peas, grapes

Old faithful. It’s such an easy recipe with just a few ingredients, and has so much flavor.

I used fresh garlic and ginger, but it’s also good with powdered. You can fiddle with the amount of sugar, too.

Jump to Recipe

 

SUNDAY
Grilled cheese with bacon and tomatoes, banana cream pie

I was looking for something more interesting than regular old grilled cheese. The first idea I found turned out to be grilled cheese with caramelized onions, which I mistook for bacon. So I says to myself, I says, BACON INDEED. I fried the sandwiches in bacon fat and put them in the oven for a bit to make sure the cheese was melted. You can almost see it leering at you. 

My daughter informed me that this is no longer a grilled cheese with bacon sandwich; this is a bacon melt. She does live down the street from a diner, so she should know. 

The banana cream pie was a tremendous pain in the neck. I decided to make homemade vanilla custard using this recipe, and it was delicious, but I think we ended up stirring it for about three hours. I had the foresight to make it the night before. Right before dessert, I put some sliced bananas in a graham cracker crust, spread the custard on top of that, added some more bananas, and piled fresh whipped cream on top. It was really good. There are few things better than homemade vanilla custard. Just get ready for a lot of stirring. 

Believe it or not, my slice, pictured here, was the only one that fell apart when I dished it up.  

MONDAY
Pork banh mi, pineapple

Still the greatest sandwich known to mankind. 

Jump to Recipe

I made the marinade and sliced up the meat in the morning, and Clara started some carrots pickling in rice vinegar and water.

 

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A little prep work, and then at dinner time you just spread it in a pan and broil it up

and you have yourself a wonderful meal. 

Toast up some bread, spread it with sriracha mayo, get your meat and your carrots in there, add some cucumbers and cilantro and sliced jalapeños.

So good. I hear you can make this all different ways with all different meats, but I can’t imagine improving on this combination.

Oh, and fresh pineapple and cilantro is a wonderful combination, it turns out. I also bought a papaya, but it turns out they’re not really ripe until they turn yellow, which we’re still waiting for. 

TUESDAY
Cheese-stuffed sausages on farfalle

For you, my pets, I made a short video of myself stuffing cheese sticks into sausages. Please use in a way that will not bring shame onto your ancestors. (Sorry I forgot to turn the phone sideways.)

VIDEO

So as you can see, this is an easy if unseemly process. Then you just cook up the sausages in some sauce in the oven until they look truly monstrous

and serve it over pasta. I think I overcooked it a bit, and the cheese got kind of clotted.

I suppose I cooked the moisture out of it or something. Still a tasty dish.

WEDNESDAY
Zuppa toscana, mashed butternut squash

On Wednesday I planned to try my hand at focaccia, possibly focaccia adorned with a beautiful floral motif made of chives and bits of pepper and red onion. Instead, I had a little come-apart, and had to sternly tell myself that I could try a new bread recipe on some other day, when I wasn’t having a little come-apart. 

I did make soup, though, and an easy soup it is.

 

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You cook the sausage, you add in the onion and garlic, then sliced potatoes, then some flour. Then chicken broth and half and half, and at the end, kale and pepper. Don’t tell my doctor, but my favorite part is when you pour in the half and half and the orange bubbles well up from underneath the sausage. Bloop!

For the squash, I chopped off the ends, microwaved it for four minutes to make it easier to slice, sliced it in half, and baked it for an hour or so. Then scooped out the seeds, scooped out the flesh, and mashed it up with butter, maple syrup, salt, and cinnamon. We seem to be out of chili powder. 

THURSDAY
Calzones, birthday cake

It is the birthday of Irene! Here are some calzones of ages past, since I forgot to take a picture:

 

Jump to Recipe

 

She finally decided against a Cutthroat Kitchen birthday party, and instead we went with a general theme of “wow, that is noisy.” Among her gifts were a battery operated Nerf machine gun, and a megaphone. The plan was to have a fire and roast marshmallows, make steel wool fireworks, and shake up some Coke and Mentos. It turned out to be windy and rainy, though, so we just did the Coke and Mentos. She absolutely loved it. I think the photos are currently on Damien’s phone, but she was one happy kid. 

Her cake was a Full Metal Alchemist Somethingorother Symbol. I did a buttercream transfer, which means you print out the design, put something transparent or translucent over the paper, and use that as a guide to make the design in icing or melted chocolate or whatever. Then you freeze it, and when it’s solid, you flip it over onto your frosted cake. I won’t even bother sharing the photo, because there is no technique that compensates for migraine shaky-hand! But she liked it anyway. 

FRIDAY

Tuna noodle

So let it be written, so let it be done. 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can improve the flavor by using fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but powdered works fine, too. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (you can skip this, really, or use olive oil, but it adds flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame or other oil in a skillet. Lightly cook then garlic, then add the ground beef and cook, breaking into bits, until the meat is all browned. Drain most of the fat. 

  2. Mix together the brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper flakes, and add to the ground beef. Or you can actually just chuck everything in the pan and stir it up right there. Cook a little longer until everything is combined and hot. 

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

Pork banh mi


Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 12 Tbs sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 4 Tbs minced garlic
  • 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. 

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 sale, preferably kosher

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.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.

  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale (and sliced mushrooms, optional) and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

  2. To peel the squash: Cut the ends off the squash and poke it several times with a fork. Microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into manageable pieces and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

  4. In a bowl, toss the squash with honey and olive oil. You can use whatever proportions you like, depending on how sweet you want it.

  5. Spread the squash in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  6. Broil for 15 minutes until the squash is slightly charred.

 

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

Cheese-stuffed sausages in sauce

A completely degenerate dish. Serve over pasta.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce over the bottom of a baking dish.

  3. Carefully insert one cheese stick inside each sausage. If the end is already open, you can just thread it in. If not, cut a slit. Go slowly so as not to break the skin.

  4. Lay the stuffed sausages on the sauced pan and pour the rest of the sauce over them.

  5. Cover the pan with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes or so, until the sausages are cooked through. You can take the tinfoil off toward the end if you want the sausages to brown up a little.

  6. Cook some pasta while the sausages are cooking. Heat up some additional sauce if desired. Serve the sausages on top of the pasta with more sauce if desired.

Helpless

Lent hit before the pandemic did, remember? It seems like so long ago, but I do remember how Ash Wednesday brought about the traditional pious squabbles about how best to observe it — or, more accurately, about how poorly everyone else was observing it. Traditionalists sneered at the soft and feeble neo-Caths whining over the few penances modern Catholics are still obligated to perform; and left-leaners rolled their eyes at the performative masochism inherent in extravagant fasts and self-deprivations. Remember when that what we wrestled with? 

Also according to tradition, I struck a healthy spiritual balance by being annoyed with everyone.

I have scant patience for people who loudly and self-righteously announce they are exempting themselves from fasting because it makes them feel tired, and therefore it must not be healthy, and their God is a God of love who isn’t into that kind of thing, and anyway their Fitbit doesn’t have a way to track “dying to self.”

I also have zero sympathy for Catholics who are passionately in love with their faith as long as it’s gory and dramatic and self-aggrandizing (but when it has to do with loving their fellow man, not so much). Scratch a Twitter Catholic who’s really enthusiastic about old school penance, and you’re pretty likely to find an old school fetishist. (On second thought, don’t scratch him, unless you want him to think you’re asking for some amateur photography in your DM’s.)

So anyway, yeah, I recall heading into Ash Wednesday Mass with a heart full of dust. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s almost like I need a savior. 

One of the conversations around these topics did yield something fruitful, something I somehow never understood before. It is this: Fasting isn’t just an exercise in self-control, and it isn’t just something we do in solidarity with the poor, who have fasting imposed on them.

Fasting is also, maybe even primarily, a way of revealing to ourselves just how helpless we are.

It’s a way of reminding us something about ourselves which is always true, but gets masked by a razor thin veneer of strength, an illusion of control. We fast not to work our way up to crushing sin with our new spiritual muscles, but because we forget so easily how close we always are to being just plain dead. We fast because we need to be reminded that we are helpless.

Well, just in case you didn’t catch that lesson when Ash Wednesday came around, the virus followed up. And now every single one of us has had a penance, a fast, imposed on us from the outside. Want some food? There isn’t any. Think you’re in charge? Here’s an invisible enemy that can attack you through your mouth, your nose, your eyes. Forgot about death? Here are the bodybags. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. 

It’s up to us whether or not we learn from these privations and revelations of the pandemic. We do have free will, and even when our exterior circumstances are out of our control, we still have interior options. 

The same is true with fasting. It’s entirely possible to follow the Church’s guidelines on fasting — to voluntarily undertake this discipline —  but to still do it the wrong way. We can fill ourselves full of beef broth and milk and carbonated beverages and feel as full as possible without actually eating, and thereby miss the full experience of emptiness and want. And we can masochistically revel in the perverse pleasure of our meal-deprived agonies, and end up feeling proud and accomplished at our strength the end of the day. We can waste the opportunity the Church offers us, and make it useless or even harmful. We can miss the point, which is that we are helpless, in need of a savior. 

And the same is true with the privations imposed on us by this pandemic, including the temporary loss of the sacraments.

The last few weeks have been a study in how to get through a pandemic wrong. We can trample each other, steal, hoard, and lie. We can be imprudent and reckless and cruel. We can call each other either communists or fascists based on whether we’re more comfortable with risking the lives of the vulnerable or risking the livelihoods of the poor. We can use our suffering as a chance to tell other Catholics that they, too, would disobey their bishops if they just wanted Jesus badly enough. 

But the only real answer is the same as it was on Ash Wednesday, when the statues were covered, the alleluias were taken away, and the angel descended to tell us we are dust. The answer is: We are helpless. We need a savior. We cannot save ourselves. 

There is no system that will bring about only good things for all people. Someone always gets broken. Someone always gets infected. What we are, what we always have been is helpless, helpless. In need of a savior. 

So now we’re rounding the corner toward Holy Week, and I still have a heart full of dust. I have stuck to my penances, more or less. I have fasted. I have prayed. I have bleated out my confession to a priest six feet away. I have done my best to be prudent. And I have still been infected with rage and disdain for my fellow man, still allowed fear to colonize my heart. I have still scrambled to mask myself with a thin veneer of control as I watch everyone I know wrestle with this angel, and watched them receive what I know will be a permanent limp.

It says in the Torah: Accustom your tongue to say: I do not know, lest you become entangled in a web of deceit.

I do not know how to do this right, any of it. The sanitizing, the fasting, the sacraments, the seclusion, the shopping, any of it. I do not know. Because I am helpless. It’s almost as if I need a savior. 

***

 

Image: Detail of Jacob Wrestling With an Angel from The Ridpath Library of Universal Literature via wikipedia

How to sew your own mask at home, it’s so easy

If you have a sewing machine and minimal sewing skills, you can make functional masks to help mitigate the danger of COVID-19 to you, your family, and the rest of the community. Some medical professionals are even using donated homemade cloth masks over their N95 respirators to prolong their lifespan. So let’s get sewing! It’s so easy.

First, cut out two 9×6-inch rectangles of 100% cotton fabric and place them together with the right side facing in. Add a few pins to hold them in place. 

Starting in the middle of one of the long sides, begin sewing, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance. No, starting in the middle. That’s okay, just keep going until you get to the edgeSTOPSTOPSTOP! That’s okay.

Next, take one of your elastic strips and place it inside the two layers at an angle in the corner, and continue sewing over it to affix it to the fabric, then continue sewing down the short end, stopping before you get to the next 

It’s okay, sewing machines do that sometimes. Just open the bobbin case and see if you can . . . okay, wow, that’s really interesting. We’ve never seen that before. Do you, do you have any other bobbins? That’s great! So just dig out that sort of tassel effect you have going on there. And those . . . tufts. Now load in the new bobbin, and

Dude, it literally has instructions printed directly on the machine. Yes, call your kid over to help. 

A tension problem, ha ha, you don’t say! That happens. Now rethread your machine and let’s continue. It’s so easy. If your two rectangles have come out of alignment, don’t worry. It definitely shouldn’t make you think about your responsibility in the fabric of society coming apart. Just add a few more pins. We’re in too deep to stop now. 

Now you’re going to reach in and grasp the other end of the elastic and angle it in to the next corner, forming a loop. No, the other end. Well, it has to be in there somewhere.

All right, so you’ve somehow sewed the elastic to your . . . pants? That’s all right. Normal people do this all the time. They usually notice before they go back and reinforce it twice, but you were just being thorough, so kudos. It probably wasn’t necessary to use the buttonhole stitch setting, but hey, let’s see a virus get through that! Kudos to you. It’s so good to know that people like you own sewing machines.

The beauty of this project is that it’s so adaptable. It’s really so easy. So what we’re going to do is change gears a little bit. We’ll just forget about the elastic thing and instead make a mask with ties. It’s so easy! Well, many people find it so easy. 

Reach in and turn your mask right side out. Reach in through the little hole you left. You did leave– never mind, it looks fine the way it is. It’s not a beauty contest. Is your kid still there? See if she can get those pins out before you sew anything else. No, we really are going to insist you need to get those pins out. Do what you need to do; we won’t watch.

Now for the ties. If you don’t have a large stash of bias tape or twill ribbon, you can easily make ties by using extra fabric from your large fabric stash using a serger. That’s okay, lots of people don’t have sergers. You can cut a 36-inch strip and iron it down the edge . . . That’s okay, lots of people don’t have irons. Simply cut your fabric

I’m sorry, how can you not have scissors?

Wait, if you don’t have scissors, how did you cut the original fabric? 

You scored it with a beer cap and then pulled it apart with your teeth.

Okay. 

So, at this point we are currently experiencing some shortness of breath. No, we already tested negative. The shortness of breath may be related to . . . other things. We strongly feel the need to isolate ourselves from you indefinitely. We applaud your efforts and would like to remind you that it would be a sad world indeed if we all had the exact same set of skills. Your particular skill might be just sitting there with your thumb up your ass until other people fix things. And look, you already opened a beer. Bottoms up, Miss Domesticity! It’s so easy.

 

Lent movie review Vol. 5: LILIES OF THE FIELD

I knew next to nothing about Lilies of the Field (1963), and had never seen Sidney Poitier act. I was unexpectedly delighted on both counts. You more or less know the whole plot from the first moments, but how it plays out is a pleasure to see. It’s a sort of “stone soup” story, but it’s populated with real people, all more or less decent, but each with their individual character kinks to work out. 

The plot: A cheerful, unattached fellow (Poitier) is driving through the Arizona desert and stops at a tiny, austere convent to fill up his radiator. The overbearing mother superior (Lilia Skala) persuades him to do a little work, and he quickly becomes unable to extricate himself from her grand plan to build a chapel despite having no money or materials. The five German nuns and the rest of ragged congregation need some place better than the back of a truck to celebrate Mass, and Mother Maria thinks Homer Smith, a black baptist, was sent by God to make it happen.

Mother Maria has a rock solid faith in God, but her life of struggle (only fleetingly alluded to) has made her hard as a rock, as well, and she doesn’t bend even when she should. When Homer, slowly resigning himself to see the project through, kindly turns up with cartons of groceries to feed the near-starving sisters, she goes through some kind of brief emotional difficulty and then shouts at him to wash his hands and face. As he leaves the room, she thanks God for the food. 

“How about thanking me, too, eh?” asks Homer. She answers, “No. I thank Him. You, you couldn’t help yourself.”

Which is apparently true! And we’ve all met women like this, who somehow make people do things, good things, almost entirely against their will. I so appreciated seeing on screen that people who get things done are not always people you enjoy hanging around with. But she, too, gets a small but powerful moment of comeuppance before the end, and it comes about so slyly and so naturally, it made us laugh out loud. 

Homer himself clearly has some things to work out with God, mixed up with his ambitions and his pride. In the end, he writes his name where only God can see it, and you can see that some interior need has been satisfied.

The trailer makes the movie look slapstick-y and even minstrel-y, which is misleading. It is a comedy, but in context, Poitier is a very subtle actor, and you can see his character deliberately sliding in and out of different personas depending on what’s called for. And there is a lot of complexity to manage, for a guy who tries to keep things simple and above-board. He’s a black baptist trying to hold his own with a German mother superior, a condescending white boss, and a crew of Mexican laborers. It’s a comedy, as I say, but I was surprised at how many real notes it struck along the way as it showed the interactions between people who don’t share a race, a religion, a social class, or even a language. In this way, it fully earned the hijinks and broadly joyful tone.

One funny point: In the last movie we watched, Babette’s Feast, the Catholic world is presented as being incarnational and alarmingly, joyfully fleshly.  In this one, the “Baptist breakfast” is lavish and satisfying, but a “Catholic breakfast” is a single egg. It just goes to show, I guess. 

I also loved the character of the faithful but disenchanted traveling priest in his sloppy RV, standing before the altar in his vestments and sunglasses. Very real.

My tiny quibbles: they should have picked someone else to dub Poitier’s singing. The voice (Jester Hairston, who wrote the song) doesn’t really match his speaking voice. But Poitier (who apparently was totally tone deaf) does a pretty good job of making it look like it’s coming out of his mouth. A counterpoint is that the sisters singing (which was apparently also overdubbed, but in this case to make them sound worse, not better) sound like normal women singing, not like an etherial choir, which I appreciated. 

I also giggled to myself as the Mexican lapsed Catholic diner cook speaks (Stanley Adams). Most of the time, his Mexican accent won the day, but his undeniable Brooklyn accent got the upper hand a few times. 

At one point, Poitier, in a sort of cultural exchange, teaches the sisters the song “Amen” and they instantly begin singing back to him in harmony, which injects a tiny false note; but the scene is still completely charming and effective. They use the device of Smith singing out the entire life of Jesus to the backdrop of the sisters repeating, “Amen, amen” to great effect throughout the movie (and now I’m hearing my kids singing it to themselves, which is great!).

All in all, highly recommended for the whole family, and genuinely funny. I plan to seek out more Poitier movies, too. 

Next up: Probably we’ll do a double header, and have the little guys watch The Miracle Maker and then send them to bed so the older kids and adults can watch something rougher. I’d like to watch Silence or Calvary, but we shall see.

What’s for supper? Vol. 206: Thank God for canned tomatoes.

Let’s talk about food! Hope you have plenty at your house. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Brats, chips, strawberries

Damien boils the brats in beer and onions, then browns them up with more onions. Some of the kids eat theirs with still further, raw onions, but I feel that is too many onions. 

SUNDAY
Braised Pork All’arrabbiata, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, salad, grapes

Someone mentioned this recipe on Twitter, and I happened to have two hunks of panic pork picnic in the fridge, aging rapidly. So I hacked it up and cooked it, and MAN IT WAS GOOD. 

You brown the hunks of pork with salt and pepper, then cook up some onions, tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes, red wine, and diced tomatoes on the stovetop, then put it all in the oven for a few hours until the pork is tender. 

Jump to Recipe

This is one of those recipes where you could really subsist on the smell alone. Fabulous. Nice and easy, too, and cheap if you can get pork cheap. The red pepper gives it a little dazzle up front, but it’s not super spicy, just very rich and warming. Of course you could adjust it to make it hotter.

I went with parmesan garlic mashed potatoes, which I somehow have never made before. They were a big hit. I put smashed garlic cloves right in with the water to boil the potatoes, and then mashed them along. 

Jump to Recipe

Check it out: I says to myself, I say, HOW WOULD IT BE if we were to put a layer of pork all’arrabbiata in a casserole dish, sprrrrread some garlic parmesan mashed potatoes on that, sprinkle it with a bit more cheese, and slide the whole thing into a medium oven to think about what’s it’s done until the top is nicely browned? I think it would be wonderful. 

I know people use pork arrabbiata as a sauce for pasta, but that just doesn’t appeal to me. I think it would be great with egg noodles, though. Or on toast!

MONDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, steamed broccoli

I just love these tasty little meatballs. I had plenty of scallions and fresh garlic, which I chopped pretty coarsely, and I added some extra soy sauce. The only other ingredients are crushed Ritz crackers, kosher salt, and pepper. And ground beef, yes. 

An easy, quick meal that just about everyone likes. I make a nice little dipping sauce, half soy sauce and half mirin, to give it a little extra zing. Damien prefers his with sriracha. These are flavorful enough that you could use ground turkey, if you really needed to, what with the war on and all, and they would still be good. 

We had it with white rice and some broccoli which I’ll call “steamed,” but it was really drowned. I am not used to cooking frozen veg!

TUESDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I actually skipped the chicken for mine and just had cheddar and jalapeños. Not my finest frying effort; whatcha gonna do. 

I made the chicken by sprinkling it lavishly with chili lime powder and cooking it very slowly in oil, then slicing it up. I know I bought tortilla chips at some point, but they had disappeared off the face of the earth. I said I would slice up some sweet peppers, but I did not. 

WEDNESDAY
Omelettes and challah

I offered the choice of sausage, pepper jack cheese, or both. Then someone leaked the news that we also had cheddar, and there was a panic. I guess there has to be a panic about something. 

The challah turned out great!

Jump to Recipe

 

I made a double recipe, enough for two huge loaves, and my poor old mixer is getting so old and wobbly, I was afraid I would break it, so I pulled the dough out to knead by hand. Man, I am weak. That was exhausting. I eventually gave up long before it reached the required “feels like a boob” stage, cut the dough in half, and threw it back into the mixer a batch at a time, but I still rushed it a bit, and set the dough to rise when it was still pretty knobbly. 

But like I said, it turned out great! I was most pleased.

It looks flat in this picture, but in real life, it was most pneumatic. 

Look at the sheen on that crust. 

I made exactly two nice, tidy omelettes, and the next ten looked like they were the best I could offer with my broken arm (I do not have a broken arm).

THURSDAY
Pizza

Two pepperoni, two olive, one plain. And them’s the facts. I used the leftover sauce Damien made last week. 

FRIDAY

Pasta again, I believe. This pandemic is taking on a distinct canned tomato flavor. 

 

braised pork all'arrabbiata

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs pork, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • more salt and pepper if needed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Salt and pepper the pork chunks. In a heavy pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the pork on all sides. Do it in shifts if necessary, to make sure all the pork gets browned.

  3. Remove the pork from the oil and set it aside. Add the diced onions to the oil and cook a few minutes until soft.

  4. Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, a few minutes more.

  5. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes thick.

  6. Add the diced tomatoes with juice and combine with the sauce. Put the pork back in and stir so it's all coated with sauce.

  7. Put a lid on, or cover tightly with tinfoil, and put the pot in the oven for at least two hours, until the pork is very tender and stew-like.

  8. When the pork is done, the sauce should be thick, not liquidy. If necessary, simmer on the stovetop to cook off the excess liquid.

  9. If the pork is very fatty, shove the pork to one side of the pot, let the fat collect on one end, and drain it out with a spoon.

  10. Serve with parmesan mashed potatoes.

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

Challah (breaded bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

Lent movie review Vol. 4: BABETTE’S FEAST

Last week’s Lent film party pick was a change of pace from . . . pretty much everything else we ever watch, especially the kids. It’s the 1987 Danish film Babette’s Feast.

Heres the trailer:

Here’s a synopsis, which I lifted from Google:

Beautiful but pious sisters Martine (Birgitte Federspiel) and Philippa (Bodil Kjer) grow to spinsterhood under the wrathful eye of their strict pastor father on the forbidding and desolate coast of Jutland, until one day, Philippa’s former suitor sends a Parisian refugee named Babette (Stéphane Audran) to serve as the family cook. Babette’s lavish celebratory banquet tempts the family’s dwindling congregation, who abjure such fleshly pleasures as fine foods and wines. 

One would-be suitor would have made one sister a diva; the other would have abandoned his own wealth and status and lived a simple life. Both end up wondering if their chosen path was right. But the sisters’ pious lives are also lacking, it turns out. Simply abjuring their tiny, puritan congregation to love one another isn’t working, and even in their old age, the people are full of spite, wrath, jealousy, and regret. But they think the real danger is exterior, in the wine, rich sauces, and strange meats offered to them by Babette in the feast she insists on cooking to celebrate their father’s anniversary. Despite their misgivings, they accept it out of an unwillingness to hurt Babette, who, she points out, has never asked anything of them in all the years she’s lived among them.

The food and especially the wine opens their hearts in spite of them, and there’s a wonderfully sweet scene where the white-haired flock, newly reconciled, join hands and dance and sing around the well under the light of the stars. Notably, the song they sing is the same song they have always sung, longing for Jerusalem. 

Many reviewers have compared Babette’s transformative and sacrificial feast to a Eucharistic meal, with Babette as a sort of servant-God who gives everything she has, trading her wealth and near-divine culinary genius for voluntary exile among sinners, and saving them from their error and woe. But it’s a mistake to see the story as a condemnation of asceticism and praise of Catholic sensuous excess, and it’s definitely a mistake to see it as some kind of allegory or lesson. It is a very Catholic story, but it’s a story about the bewilderment of free will, and the forthright, uncomplicated graciousness of love.

“We get back even what we have rejected,” says the aging general. He is the only one who has tasted these fine foods and wines before and recognizes what they are, but even though Babette remembers that she used to make people happy for a short time when she fed them back in Paris, it’s hard to imagine her brilliance would have had the transcendent, transformative effect on the Parisian elite as it did on the stolid, fearful Danes. Even the fearsome patriarch, who imposed the congregation’s austerity and selfishly kept his daughters from blossoming, is clearly not simply a villain, but actually walked across the water to bring the word of God to his people, at least as he saw it. Everyone in the movie has rejected something, even Babette — some for good reasons, some for bad reasons, some for only a faint ghost of a reason. Everyone has erred; and God is good to everyone, according to their need.

The general stands up and makes a speech with the final glass of wine:

“Man in his weakness and short-sightedness believes he must make choices in this life. He trembles at the risks he takes. We do know fear. But no, our choice is of no importance. There comes a time when your eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude. Mercy imposes no conditions. And lo! Everything we have chosen has been granted to us and everything we have rejected has also been granted. Yes, we get back even what we have rejected. For mercy and truth have met together and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.”

It stands out as an oddly specific and articulate monologue in a story that’s told mostly through long shots of people walking, working with their hands, singing, spooning out soup. It’s hard to resist pouncing on this passage and analyzing it to pieces; but really all he’s saying is that goodness is real, and we’ll receive it when we’re ready. (I love the fact that many of the people at the feast don’t even know the wine is wine, but it works its magic anyway.) That’s the best way to watch the movie: Just sit and receive it. 

The whole family watched it, and the only one who didn’t enjoy it to some degree was the five-year-old, who couldn’t read the subtitles. It’s quiet and slow, but not dull. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at, strange, gentle, and very funny, too, and the individual characters are drawn so deftly. So many wonderful faces. Just a joy to receive. 

We streamed this movie through Amazon for $3.99. Other movie reviews in this series:
I Confess
The Robe
The Trouble With Angels
Next up: probably The Keys of the Kingdom or Lilies of the Field

 

Must be nice!

I’m reprinting this old article today because, even with all the stress and anxiety that come with the pandemic, I’m enjoying myself. My kids are all home, spring is on its way, I don’t have to spend hours every day driving, we’re drawing and reading together daily, and the family is spending more time in prayer. I’m getting a chance to teach again, and we get to set the alarm a full two hours later than normal. A lot of things are pleasant for me right now. And I feel bad about it!

This morning went poorly. I was afraid I’d sleep through the alarm, so I kept waking up; but then when the alarm did go off, I went right back to sleep, and so we were running late.

The kids’ hair was unbrushed, I forgot to pay the aftercare check again, my stomach was being weird, and the world was just generally grim, gritty, and disappointing. The last thing I wanted to do was head to my therapy appointment after the school commute, but it was on the schedule, so I dragged myself in.

It turned out to be a really good, fruitful session, and I left smiling. I checked in at home, then took myself over to the adoration chapel and made a short visit; and that was lovely, too.

The radiators hissed, the kneelers creaked, and Jesus sat quietly and watched me watching Him. I thought, a few times, that I ought to be praying better and using my time more wisely, but then I wisely just sat quietly and watched Him.

Feeling better and better, I remembered that I had set aside some extra cash to replace my torn and stained winter jacket, so I headed over to my favorite thrift stores, where I scored not only a new jacket, but a stained glass window (well, glass with a giant sticker stuck to it) of the Madonna and Child, which is possibly on the tacky side, but it’s also guaranteed to thrill my seven-year-old to the core. AND, I got a sweater, and a shirt! And a pair of earrings! And, um, some silicone cupcake holders with feet! Which we definitely need!

The cashier gave me my receipt and wished me a good day, which I was ALREADY HAVING! I felt almost guilty as I swung my loaded shopping bags into the car and headed for home, where, to my amazement, one of my teenage kids was giving the toddler a bath and patiently unsnarling her curly hair, and another was moving forward with her plans to make enchiladas for supper. Better and better and better.

Even the mail was great: A check and a wonderful book I forgot I had ordered for the kids. I couldn’t wait to read it to them when they got home.

It wasn’t until I was halfway through my lunch, which was an absolutely heavenly dish of black beans, fresh lime juice, salt, and chili powder, that I felt a shadow of unease that didn’t flit away. “Well, well, look who’s having such a nice, nice day,” said a little voice. And so I began to chide myself for how much I was enjoying this randomly wonderful Thursday.

Who was I to be sitting there in a shaft of sunlight, eating one of my favorite meals, basking in the good will of my family, not producing anything, and just reaping the fruits of all this care and attention that are showered on me?

Why did I deserve to be so happy, when other, much more virtuous and deserving people in the world are cold and unloved and running headlong into one bit of bad luck after the other?

Must be nice!” the voice sneered.  “Must be nice to have such a great life, but what makes you think you deserve it? And how long do you think it’s going to last? Beans, wow. A used shirt, gosh. You really know how to live. And you know very well that as soon as the kids come home and the bickering and rushing begins, it will all fall apart, like it always does. But sure, have another forkful of happiness. Must be nice.”

I looked down at my plate. It was just beans. It was just a shirt. Just a jacket. Just a cheap sticker on a piece of glass from the thrift store. Just a . . .

Wait. I had heard that phrase before, “must be nice.” My friend Leticia Adams, who has had ten times her share of troubles in life, said this on social media the other day:

“Today a co-worker said it must be nice to be able to take a week off work for Christmas break and instead of doing the usual thing where I act like it sucked somehow or I apologize, instead I said “yep, it is nice.” And walked away. I don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for my life. Welcome to 2019!”

And there it is. It is nice. My life, as of that moment, was nice, lovely, happy, joyful, full. My happiness doesn’t detract from anyone else’s. The fact that it would pass didn’t make the moment any less real.

There’s not some finite bin of pleasure in the world, and there’s no reason to feel guilty for enjoying whatever measure of it comes our way for as long as it lasts. On the contrary, when I’m happy, I’m much more apt to be generous and patient; and one cheerful person can lift the mood of an entire household. And even if my happiness didn’t do anyone else any good: I matter, too! It’s a good thing to be happy. Why wouldn’t it be?

What an insidious thought it is — a true temptation to sin — to believe that we should tamp down, moderate, or even reject our enjoyment of gifts that come into our lives. That it’s somehow holier, more mature, more responsible to try and keep a lid on joy. It isn’t. Happiness comes from God, period.

Like any other good thing, happiness can be misused. We shouldn’t cling to transient enjoyments, and we shouldn’t give ourselves permission to act badly once they’ve passed us by (as they eventually will).

We shouldn’t let our good cheer blind us to the suffering and struggles of other people; and we absolutely shouldn’t smugly believe we’re feeling good because God loves us more than He loves people who are feeling bad. All of that is dangerous nonsense.

But when things are going well for us, that is a gift from God. When God gives you something good, it would be rude to talk yourself out of receiving it with happiness, and that’s the case whether it’s a plate of beans or a quiet 20 minutes with the Lord. It IS nice. So smile, thank Him, and enjoy.

This article was originally published at The Catholic Weekly in 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 205: We put the “us” in virus

Just kidding, we’re not actually sick. Damien and I are used to working from home. We’re used to having ten kids crawling all over each other in a small space. I’m even kinda sorta used to teaching kids how to do basic math (a three digit number is like a big meal, like a Passover seder. You can’t eat it all at once; you have to have it in separate courses, in order. The first course is chicken soup with matzoh balls. But you can only fit nine matzoh balls in a bowl, so you have to carry . . . ). We’re fine. This is fine. How are you?

Here’s what we had to eat this week, with a menu somewhat based on what was left on the shelves after the locusts passed through:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken on salad

I know I often say on Friday that Saturday seems far away, but this time it feels like about forty-three years. Good heavens. I was actually thinking about what was going to be the defining “Look how innocent we were back then, just before the big bad thing happened” moment. I think it has to be this, from March 11, 2020:

So anyway, if you were wondering what America did to deserve COVID-19, wonder no more.

SO ANYWAY, on Saturday we had mixed greens with sliced buffalo chicken (from frozen) with blue cheese, crunchy fried onions from a can, and blue cheese dressing.

It’s as close as you can get to fast food while still being a salad. I know that sentence didn’t work out and I don’t care. 

SUNDAY
English muffin pizzas

Benny asked for this dinner. Benny was happy. 

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips

The Fishers begin to feel the privations of the pandemic. They didn’t have regular ground beef, only “chubs” packed up in opaque three-pound tubes with a photo of meat printed on the wrapper. We planned hamburgers, so I thought it would be easiest to slice the meat into burgers while it was still in chub form.

It worked, but I deemed it unnecessarily squalid. Next time I’ll take the wrapper off first. 

TUESDAY
Boiled Dinner, cookies

Speaking of squalid, it’s our annual boiled dinner for St. Patrick’s whatever. I’ve tried various, more authentic Irish food over the years, and, you know, there’s a reason the phrase “Irish cuisine” sounds so off. So we just had our same oil Irish American boiled dinner: Corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and carrots, with plenty of mustard. 

We also made cookies, I forget why. I guess because we were nervous. I couldn’t find the chocolate chips, mostly because somebody ate them, but we did inexplicably have butterscotch and white chocolate chips in the house. We also ran out of brown sugar, so I used mostly white. The combination of these three things made for some blindingly sweet cookies. I could have mitigated the screamingness of the sugar by adding some walnuts, but I thought to myself, “If they wanted walnuts, they should have left the chocolate chips alone!” This is virus thinking and I know it; but nevertheless, I didn’t put any nuts in.

Also, I forgot to combine the dry ingredients before I added the flour, so I put the rest in the mixer and mixed the hell out of it so it would be well blended. Of course this meant the dough was quite warm when it went into the oven, resulting in these unfortunate puddleform cookies:

But I just bulked up the rest of the dough with more flour and put it in the fridge for a bit before baking, and the rest of the cookies improved considerably

People have also advised me that using half shortening and half butter, rather than all butter, will result in puffier cookies. Noted!

I just used a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe you can find anywhere, so I won’t bother making up a card.

WEDNESDAY
Reubens

We had tons of corned beef left over, so I sliced it as thin as I could.

I forgot you are supposed to grill Reubens, though. I toasted my bread and then laid the meat and cheese on and slid it in the oven, then added sauerkraut and dressing. They were fine, not amazing. There’s still quite a pile of meat, much to the kids’ chagrin, so I may throw it in the freezer and take it out again next week if they make me angry. WHO’S EATING WALNUTS NOW, EH, KIDS????

THURSDAY
Tacos

I mean, I made tacos in the sense that there was meat in the house, and Damien went to the convirus store, I mean convenience store, for tortillas and cheese. Listen. I taught four kids math, and it was STRANGE DIFFERENT math, too. I don’t know what a module is. I don’t know what a place value disk is. All I know is matzoh balls. 

We also had fried dough

 

Jump to Recipe

 

because it was St. Joseph’s day, but I zero percent felt like making puff pastries. Which aren’t even really that hard; I just didn’t want to. I had been promising the kids I’d recreate the fried dough we had at the ocean last August, though, so it was finally the day for that. Super easy recipe, just flour, salt, baking powder, butter, and water, let it rest, flatten and fry, then dust with powdered sugar.

Some of them got exciting bubbles in them when they fried. 

My mother used to make fried dough, long before I ever ate it at a fair or on a boardwalk. She called it “rubber bread” and we loved it. Today I found out she called it that because if you don’t roll it out thin enough, and you don’t let the oil heat up enough before cooking, it sure does taste like rubber. I love my mother very much, but she only had about two dishes that weren’t completely terrible. This was because she didn’t care what she ate. She liked good food, but she also liked terrible food. For lunch, she would take literally any leftover dinner food, heat it up in a double boiler, and douse with with salsa from one of those comically huge salsa jugs. I mean, at least it’s an ethos. And she never had to share her lunch.

FRIDAY
Pasta with Marcella Hazan’s sauce

There wasn’t much sauce left in the stores last time I shopped, but there were plenty of canned tomatoes. I bought . . .many canned tomatoes. This sauce is stupid easy, and it tastes miraculously savory.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

Just three ingredients! Tomatoes, onions, butter! Maybe a little salt! I know everyone is always calling recipes “amazing,” but this will truly fully ignite all your buttons of amazement! 

And that’s about it. I guess we have to watch Bill Nye now or something. 

Oh, don’t forget about the withDraw2020 daily art challenge! We’re getting more and more people joining in every day. Very simple rules here, with the daily prompts. Today’s prompt is “patient.” Be sure to tag your work #withDraw2020 when you share it.

Some people are using the prompts to write poetry or take photos, too, and some people are doing whatever they want each day. I love it. It’s just something to keep us creative and in touch with each other. 

 

Fried dough

Makes about 15 slabs of fried dough the size of a small plate

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp (half a stick) cold butter
  • 1-1/2 cups lurkworm water
  • 2 cups oil for frying
  • confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
  • cinnamon for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

  2. Cut the cold butter into bits and work it gently into the dough.

  3. Add the water and stir until the dough is all combined.

  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for 15 minutes

  5. Separate the dough into pieces and flatten each piece into a thin disk with your fingers. If it's sticky, put a little confectioner's sugar on your work surface.

  6. Heat the oil in a pan. You can deep fry it or use less oil and fry it in a small amount of oil; your choice. The oil is ready when you put a wooden spoon in and little bubbles form around it.

  7. Carefully lay the disc of dough in the hot oil. Let it cook a few minutes, just barely getting brown, and then turn it and cook the other side.

  8. Remove the dough, let the excess oil drain off, and sprinkle it immediately with sugar and cinnamon if you like.

  9. You can keep these hot in the oven for a bit, but they're best when they're very hot.

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!

Divine Social Distancing: Medjugorje apparitions cease as pilgrim stream dries up

After an unbroken 33-year run, the Virgin Mary will cease her punctual monthly visits to Medjugorje visionary Mirjana Dragičević, according to the Italian non-profit La Luce De Maria. The source said:

Our Lady on March 18, 2020 in Medjugorje, announced to the visionary Mirjana that the apparition of the 2nd of each month has ended.  

The news began to circulate after 14:30 today, at the end of the extraordinary apparition to Mirjana, which took place exceptionally in her home, given the absence of pilgrims due to the blockade of the borders due to the Coronavirus.  

According to some estimates, 30 million pilgrims have come to Medjugorje since the alleged apparitions began in 1981, and the once-sleepy town has been transformed into a bustling and profitable mecca.  But the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Bosnia on March 5, and travel is now tightly restricted. The news that the visions will cease came a day after the state of emergency was called on March 17. 

It’s not the first time the Gospa (“Lady”) has changed her schedule to accommodate the convenience of human crowds. One eyewitness to Marijana allegedly receiving a scheduled vision describes how the Virgin apparently kept her visit short enough to fit within the time allotted to the Joyce athletic center at Notre Dame:

Near the middle of the basketball court a dais was set up; on the right side was a crucifix, on the left side was a podium, and in the middle was a large statue of Our Lady.  To the left side of the dais was a piano which someone played in order to lead the people in singing hymns.  In front of the dais, in the center, was a prie-dieu set up for Marija to kneel during her vision.

The organizer of the event greeted us by letting us know that we would pray a rosary, and then Marija would talk a bit, lead us in a few prayers, and then go into her vision.  He also noted that there was going to be another event in the Joyce Center around 8 or so, and that they had promised the Joyce Center people that the crowd would depart by 7:45.

The eyewitness also notes that, after the Gospa apparently departed,

“organizers were wondering if people would be willing to ‘donate’ money to Marija to cover the costs of her flight out.  Not for any of the churches over in Medjugorje, not for some charitable organization, but to cover her flight.  A couple hundred check books came out.”

Mirjana, who claims to have seen the Mother of God on the second of every month as well as on her birthday since 1987, divides her time between Italy and Medjugorje, where she owns several hotels. One, a four-star hotel named “Magnificat,” has 54 rooms. According to the hotel’s website, “It was born as the home of the Queen of Peace, so that every guest can feel His maternal benevolence both spiritually and materially.” A travel brochure for the hotel promises, “Marija Pavlovic … will be often present in the center to give her testimony.”

Marjana and her husband live on an island in a seaside villa with a pool, which the couple rents to tourists. Vicka and Ivan, two of the other seers, have also invested heavily in real estate and hotels. Vicka still gets daily visions; Ivanka, the fourth, had daily visions for several years, but now only sees the Mother of God once a year. In total, the alleged seers have logged close to 50,000 visits. 

In 1983, the Virgin Mary allegedly told Mirjana:

“Assemble about twenty young people who are ready to follow Jesus without reservation. Bring them together within a month’s notice. I will initiate them into the spiritual life. There can even be more than twenty.”

But in 2020, a crowd of merely twenty may not be large enough to make it worthwhile for the Mother of God to appear.

She will, however, continue to visit Marijana on her birthday every year. It’s not yet clear whether, as with past apparitions, pilgrims will be allowed to live stream Marijana receiving her scheduled vision. 

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More reading: “The Lady of Medjugorje is not your mother” explores the alleged good fruits and the copious red flags surrounding these alleged apparitions.

Image: “Apparition Hill” in Medjugorje, photo by Michał Maksymilian Gwozdek / CC0