How I sort of left the Church, and why I came back

Here is a little story about how I left the church, sort of, and then came slouching back home, more or less.

The late, occasionally great Mad Magazine once published a bit that showed people’s secret thoughts. A scene looks one way from the outside but is very different and allegedly very funny on the inside. The one I remember showed the inside of a church. The congregation piously bows their heads, apparently engaged in placid worship. But on the inside, the well-to-do man is freaking out over gambling debt, the adolescent boy is slavering over a sexy fantasy and the teenage girl is desperately praying for a negative pregnancy test. It is just as well I don’t remember what the priest was thinking.

This was supposed to demonstrate that religious people are a bunch of hypocrites who pretend to be righteous and clean but are actually a mess on the inside. Har har, religious people! Look how they live.

The cartoonist was, of course, not making this up. When my parents had found Jesus but not yet the Catholic Church, my poor mother was perpetually humiliated when people visited our shabby, disorderly home. She was overworked, outnumbered and struggling with undiagnosed thyroid issues. And their allegedly Christian landlord thought laundry lines made the outside of the house look tacky, so whatever my mother did, she did it fighting her way past a line of damp diapers drying slowly over the hot air vent. A poor substitute for the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit that they sought.

But conversion happens stepwise. She knew her fellow Christians believed that outward disorder and chaos were caused by secret sin, so if anyone came to her door, she fell into the habit of making excuses. “Sorry about the mess,” she would say, and then explain that someone had been sick or they just got back from a trip. Here was always some temporary, mitigating factor that explained the general chaos.

Then one day, she didn’t. Someone came over and saw their typical chaos, and what came out of her mouth was: “Sorry it’s such a mess. This is just how we live.”

I don’t know how long after that moment she began to feel a pull toward the Catholic Church, but this moment in our family mythology feels like a very Catholic moment. This is literally what the church is for: So you can have a house to be a mess in. It is your house; you are a mess. Why try to deny it?

This is just how we live, and it’s not new. Chaucer, anyone? Dante’s “Inferno”? The Gospels? This is just how we live. If there were no mess, there would be no reason for the church to be built to house it. If there were no sin, there would be no need for baptism and confession and the Eucharist. If there were no human misery and wretchedness, there would have been no need for God to become man. I know this, or I thought I did. At home in the Catholic Church, we are a mess, and we cannot seem to help opening the door to show all comers our own weaknesses and sins and hypocrisies.

But as I write this paragraph, it feels a bit like I am distilling the faith down to an Etsy-worthy wall hanging for suburban moms: Bless this mess, Lord!

But the mess of the church is no adorable, kid-style mess, with couch cushion forts and colorful alphabet blocks strewn around the rug. It is the sex abuse scandal, which continues to break and break and break on the shore like a punishing, never-ending tide. It is the scandal of pastors and bishops pitting faith against science. It is the scandal of open disobedience and contempt for basic doctrine. It is the general crappiness and malaise and infighting of Catholic culture and Catholic social media. It is the disorder where culture, tradition, doctrine and lived experience all try to inhabit the same living space. This is how we live, and it is a mess, and the mess goes down deeper than I thought.

A number of personal experiences have widened some cracks in my life that used to be manageable. I used to think my personal faith-house was rock solid. It is not. It was shored up with 10,000 little pebbles, and some of them carried a bigger load than they should have. Many of them have been swept away, and when I look at what’s left, I don’t even know what to call it. “Mess” seems inadequate. It’s nothing comfortable or homelike, anyway.

Read the rest of my latest for America magazine

***
Image by Michael Garlick  (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 243: Teen Titans and other captivating compositions

Hi! Food! Here we go:

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

I did buy hot dog buns, but not nearly enough. I’m new here and have no way of knowing how to shop for food. But of course you can turn a mediocre meal into something very different, with the right presentation. 

I’m tempted to enter this in Eva Kosmas Flores#captivatingComposition challenge but she seems like a nice lady and I don’t want to upset her.

SUNDAY
Roast pork ribs, peas, pink risotto

Pretty good meal, but I ran out of white wine for the risotto and had to add some red, and I really just don’t prefer it that way. Can’t beat white wine, butter, and onions. Oh, I also used beef broth instead of chicken, because I couldn’t find my chicken bouillon cubes. Several years ago, I switched from using bouillon cubes to using a giant jar of powdered chicken bouillon. YEARS ago. But I hid this information from myself for some reason, and also somehow didn’t see the giant jar of powdered chicken bouillon I keep on the counter. So I was forced to use beef.

It’s a good recipe, when you follow it!

Jump to Recipe

 

The pork ribs, I just seasoned heavily with salt and pepper and shoved them under a hot broiler, turning once, and they always turn out juicy and nice. The hardest part is running over to turn off the smoke alarm when you turn the ribs over. The whole meal tasted better than it looks. We’re getting some more light these days, but still not enough to make food look good in the evening. 

MONDAY
Mexican beef bowls

Everybody’s favorite meal this week. I adore this meal. The marinade is only a few ingredients, and then you just have to roast the meat for 40 minutes or so, slice it up, and put in a little time prepping the other toppings — not really more work than prepping for tacos or something. 

 

Jump to Recipe

The only hitch was I only had three cups of rice; but I had picked up these silly taco shell boats (“Fiesta Flats“) on a whim, and was dubbed Mother Hero for my efforts. We had fried onions and sweet peppers, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, plenty of cilantro, black beans + tomatoes and chili (one can of each, drained and dumped together), and some sweet corn charred in a pan with olive oil. And lime wedges and corn chips. 

This meat is so good, so tangy and savory. My current favorite thing to do to beef when it goes on sale. Whenever we make this meal, I scoop up plenty of the gravy and pour it over the whole thing. I firmly believe this is good for my heart and will enable me to live forever, a Gravy-filled Hero Mother forever.

TUESDAY
Nobody knows what we ate on Tuesday. I don’t have any pictures, so it probably wasn’t very good. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, fries

A fine meal. I took some chicken breasts, drizzled them with olive oil, and heavily seasoned them with salt, garlic powder, and oregano and dried basil and rosemary, and roasted them, then sliced them thin. February tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, freshly ground sea salt and pepper. Toasted buns. Very nice.

We ate late because I had spent a good part of the day shopping for Corrie’s birthday party, putting her presents together, and baking a ridiculous cake, as you will see.

THURSDAY
Domino’s pizza

Corrie’s birthday! We’re still not having guests, so we made it as festive as possible with just us chickens, considering that several of us chickens had to work during the day.

She requested a Teen Titans cake, and drew this helpful diagram for me:

Sure, kid.
So I did what any loving mother would do: I begged one of my other kids to deal with it. I did bake a cake, and decorate it so it looked sort of like a sort of comic book city at night, sort of:

And then Clara made EXTRAORDINARY cookies of the Teen Titans. She printed pictures of the characters, cut them out, traced them in dough, cut the cookies out, and then I guess just freehanded in the design with icing.


Note, her decorating equipment consisted of plastic sandwich bags with a little hole cut in the corner.

The most amazing part was that she worked on them all day, and then when it was time to serve the cake, she didn’t even wince as we went ahead and ATE them. Two of them played wishbone with Beast Boy’s legs. 

So, Corrie loved her cake, loved her presents (well, except for the one she opened after waking up shortly after dawn, and it wasn’t exactly the way she expected, and she did not love that), loved the piñata Irene made for her, loved her Teen Titans decorations

and pretty much liked her party games. She had asked for a balloon shooting game with a stuffed animal for the big prize and then bad prizes for the rest of the prizes. It turns out that a combination of darkness and snow and a very old BB gun and balloons is . . . less than ideal.

The balloons wouldn’t pop! We had to bring the game inside and stab the balloons with a knife. Coincidentally, Corrie won the big prize, and everyone else got bad prizes, which included some seltzer and a can of tomato paste. 

Phew. That was some day. I honestly think it would have been easier and more relaxing to invite a bunch of kindergarteners over for a few hours. 

FRIDAY
Elijah’s mac and cheese

I had the brilliant idea to get the kids to pick a favorite meal and cook it for everyone during vacation week. But I didn’t shop until Tuesday, and then we had various things going on that confused me, and now vacation is just about over, and here it is Friday. So today, Elijah is going to make mac and cheese. 

I think we can squeeze some kid-made dinners out over the weekend, too. Irene is going to make stuffed shells, and Lucy is going to make breaded mozzarella sticks. Sophia earned some side eye by volunteering to make English muffin pizza, but dinner is dinner. Clara already earned her stripes with the Teen Titan cookies, and Lena was going to make the caprese chicken sandwiches but I forgot and made them myself by mistake.  Moe has been doing inventory at work and I didn’t have the heart to ask him to cook, too. 

Okay, that’s it for this week! Here’s some recipe cards for yez. And stay tuned, patrons, for a new podcast episode! This week Double Feature with the Fishers tackles Master and Commander and Appaloosa

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

 

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.

Doing nothing for Lent

I’ve been awfully busy lately. Even on a lazy day, I’m busy busy busy, accomplishing this, working hard at avoiding that, distracting myself with this, putting a lot of effort into putting off thinking about that, praying this devotion, avoiding that one. In between activities, I was scrolling through Facebook on my distraction machine, and came across a short essay that smacked me right between the eyes: A Not-So-Radical Proposal for Your Lenten Season: Do Nothing.

The author, Jake Braithwaite, SJ, describes how his life was jam packed with busyness. And he was busy doing good things: working, studying, spending time with friends. But, he says:

“When the rare slow moment came I would be overwhelmed by the range of emotions that might overtake me: wounds I’d let fester, exhaustion I’d ignored, difficult moments I’d refused to process.

“Where had all this been hiding? Had it been here all along?”

He says:

“When starting to discern becoming a Jesuit, I was forced to take more time outside of my routine to pray. For me, the revelation of silent prayer was that I wanted something different than the life that, on the surface, was quite satisfying. I realized that part of the reason I filled every waking moment with activity was that I didn’t want to listen to that voice that was calling me in a different direction.”

This isn’t exclusively the problem of a young man discerning his vocation. This is my problem. I know what my vocations are (mother, wife, writer), but it’s very possible to do all the right things according to your station in life, and still not feel entirely present in it, because you never stop doing what you do, and just be who you are. 

I hear how clichéd that sounds. It sounds like a poster in the waiting room of someone who smells like patchouli. But the danger of always doing, without ever just being, is very real. If you don’t believe me, then think how hard it is to stop doing the things you do, and just be the person you are, even for five minutes, in front of God. 

It’s hard, very hard to do. Even when we’ve turned off exterior distractions — internet, music, TV, podcasts, physical business — it’s hard to stop the mental wheel. I’ve spent entire hours literally, physically in front of Jesus at adoration, and I don’t even realize until the time is almost up that I’ve spent the whole time jabbering spiritually away, trying to phrase things right so I trap the Lord into giving me an answer or experience I can stuff in my pocket and take home with me. Or at least to fill up the time, because I feel like that’s what I’m here to do: To fill up time. To do something, rather than just to be something. 

He’s not mad at me, when I do this. He’s still glad I’m there. But I think He’s also patiently waiting for me to shut up for a minute so He can do His thing. So He can be His thing. So He can just be God, and I can be who I am, in front of God.

We resist this — or at least I do — because we are afraid. I’m afraid God will tell me that I’m not good enough, or that I need to change something radically. Or maybe I’m afraid there will be nothing, which means — what? That God doesn’t have anything to say. Or maybe He does, but not to me. At very least, I’m afraid that, when I settle and be still, the things I half-know about myself will stop flittering around my head and will land.

But I’ll tell you what, I’m also afraid of living the rest of my life disjointed from myself, with my body and soul out of synch, building my day out of layer upon layer of camouflage, always scampering around like a monkey in front of God and calling that a life. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of it. I’m so tired. 

Braithwaite describes spending time walking in a city alone. He says:

“With long days to walk and think, I was able to sort out the parts of my life where God was most active and the parts where it was hard to find God. As Ignatius puts it, I was able to name the consolations and the desolations.

“I noticed the parts of my life–even the challenging ones–that left me feeling energized and alive. On the other hand, I noticed the parts of my life–even the surface-level happy ones–that left me feeling empty and dry and used up.

“I didn’t solve everything in my strolling, but I started to notice some patterns. I was finally able to hear God’s voice because the noise was turned down. I couldn’t block it out with the distractions–parties and drinking and social media and to-do lists and podcasts and music and movies and shows and idle fretting about work—that were my preferred methods.

“Instead, I just had to be present to exactly what I was feeling at each moment. If I was sad, I just had to be sad for a bit. If I was excited, I just got to experience it rather than try to share it on an online profile. If I was worried, I lived through the worry instead of numbing it.”

Reading this, I thought to myself, “THAT PUNK!” Because he goes on to encourage us to take quiet walks through our own neighborhoods, to let the still, small voice of the Lord speak to us about who we are. Who has time for wandering around? Not me! I have kids! I have a job! I have dinner to a make and errands to run and emails to answer.

But. I do have time when I wake up in the morning. I have a few minutes where I’m coming into consciousness, and before looking at my calendar and checking all my various notifications, I can place myself in the presence of God.

I do have time in the car when, rather than turning on music, I can have some silence.

I have time when I’m cooking, when, rather than catching up on the news on my smart speaker, I can just do what I’m doing, make what I’m making.

I have time before bed, when I can lay down my novel and think through my day, with all its nonsense and joys and mistakes and frustrations and little triumphs, and, without even analyzing or summarizing or commenting on it, I can turn it all over to the Lord before I fall asleep.

For goodness sakes, I can go to the bathroom without bringing my phone with me. I don’t mean to alarm you, but if God can speak to Elijah on Mt. Horeb, he can speak to you on the toilet. 

I don’t have aimless hours where I can wander and meditate; but I do recall that, when I seek out and lean into smaller moments throughout the day, longer spans of time do tend to open up, once I’m more open to seeing them.  

Braithwaite says:

“Rather than optimize your Lent with a waistline-conscious fast or a bold test of your willpower, simply take time each day to do nothing. Sit before the Lord, let God marvel at you as you marvel at God. Maybe even while you’re eating french fries.”

Well, I’ve tried everything else, and I’m fresh out of ideas. I guess maybe it’s time to do nothing for Lent, and see how that goes.

***

[Portions of this essay first appeared in The Catholic Weekly in February of 2020.]

 
Image: Rembrandt, Sick Woman, National Gallery of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hate cancel culture? You should love The Muppet Show’s content warnings

Conservative media is concerned about the Muppets.

Kermit Cancelled? Disney slaps offensive content label on the Muppet Show,” Sunday’s headline on The Daily Wire read. The Daily Mail UK scoffs: “The Muppet Show appears to be the latest victim of political correctness with new warnings over its historic content.” Is Outrage! Snowflake libs are even ruining The Muppet Show! 

They’re upset because when Disney+ re-released The Muppet Show this weekend, sixteen of the episodes came with a content warning reading:

“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now. Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”

As a recovering Rush Limbaugh Conservative, I understand why people are upset. Libs can’t walk three feet without tripping over something that offends them. Things that just used to be good clean fun are now crimes, and everybody’s a victim.

These are things I used to say and think. Like most pernicious ideas, they’re not entirely untrue. You can find far-left activists who really are ridiculous, who really do get offended over nothing, and who really do long to see themselves as victims — and who really do want to squash joy, crush free speech, and silence anyone who disagrees with them. My kids had an English teacher who refused to teach Moby Dick because it didn’t have any female characters and was therefore sexist. That’s just a small example. There’s a push from much more powerful people to crush things that don’t deserve crushing (sometimes cynically shielding actual offenders in the process). 

But content warnings aren’t an example of this; they’re the remedy for it.

The Daily Wire and others have referred to the addition of content warnings as part of “cancel culture.” It’s literally the opposite: Rather than refusing to broadcast the show, they’re showing it. 

Cancel culture says, “This says or implies something I don’t agree with; therefore, it must be gone.” Content warnings say, “This says or implies something you might not agree with. Here it is anyway; you decide if you want to consume it or not.” This strikes me as manifestly conservative: We report, you decide. And they can’t be accused of insensitivity, because they did warn us! Their butts are covered.

Don’t get me wrong: Disney+ is doing this because broadcasting shows makes more money than not broadcasting them.  But in practice, it’s actually the perfect balance of free speech and personal responsibility. It may be the lifeline we need to drag us out of the quagmire of actual cancel culture, which really does make good things disappear. 

That being said, conservatives have made other objections to the inclusion of content warnings. But I think they’re equally bogus. 

The first is an objection to the very fact that there are warnings at all. This is disingenuous, especially coming from conservatives. 

When my kids want to watch a movie or show I’m not familiar with, and I don’t have the time or desire to watch it with them, what do I do? I look it up. I see if it includes nudity or violence or cussing or themes that may not be appropriate for their age. This is standard practice for responsible parents. Different parents are leery of different things, but there’s nothing new or outrageous about offering a content warning so we can make reasonable decisions. Heck, I remember chortling when a Batman movie warned me it would contain “menace.” I hope so!

It’s a core principle of American conservatism that Hollyweird is trying to pervert our youngsters, and we have the right and the duty as responsible parents to know what kind of media they’re consuming and to make independent choices about that. At least in theory, content warnings are an excellent tool to help us do just that. 

Also, memories are faulty, and standards change. Most adults, especially parents, have had the experience of watching a movie or show we haven’t seen in decades, and being shocked at how — something — it is. How sexist, how violent, how racy, how racist, how crude. There are even memes about this phenomenon: Showing a beloved movie to your kids and then leaping for the remote because OH NO I FORGOT THIS SCENE. I’m old and tired, and happy to get an assist, to avoid this kind of thing. 

The second objection has to do with what kinds of things earn a warning in 2021. And this is where conservatives will have a harder time; but if they’re Christians, they probably shouldn’t.

In theory, warnings are useful to parents, left and right, to have a heads-up about content. In practice, they’re are often a little less helpful. Saying “The following may be offensive to some viewers” is about as useful as saying “The sun may rise.” (I had a kid who found owls offensive, reasons unclear.) 

But the specific warnings on the Muppet Show episodes specify that they will “includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.” In other words, it’s going to include a bit that makes some group of human beings look stupid or crazy or subhuman, for laughs.

I don’t have a list of the specific scenes that earned warnings (Newsweek has a list of the episodes), but I’m guessing the group of human beings are not oligarchs or mean bosses or anyone else who has power and influence. It’s almost certainly groups of people who have less power and less influence: Certain ethnic groups, maybe victims of domestic violence, being treated as if they themselves are jokes.

And this is what is actually at the core of objections against content warnings: Conservatives who are angry about the warnings want to defend punching down. They want to defend the practice of making fun of people who can’t fight back, for the sake of a joke. And they want the practice to go utterly unchallenged, even fleetingly.

This is something I’ve been trying hard to grow out of — or at least to be more consistent about, because I am a Christian. Here’s an example: I once told a funny story that hinged on a Chinese accent, and I got swatted down. I asked why my story was hurtful, when a joke involving a French accent wouldn’t be. And the answer was: Because Chinese accents get treated as evidence of stupidity and backwardness in a way that French accents do not. And that was right. I learned something, and now I’m more careful, because I’m a Christian, and I don’t want to punch down.

Being a parent, and having to think hard about what it will do to a developing young heart to see certain scenes and hear certain phrases on TV, has made me think hard about . . . well, my own heart. I’ve had to change. We’re supposed to change. We’re supposed to take it seriously when we realize we’re wounding someone. At very least, we should think it over, and not dismiss it out of hand as liberal fragility. 

I do understand that, when Disney+ or some other corporation chooses to put a warning on something, they do it inconsistently. They will warn the audience if they’re going to show something that current cultural standards finds offensive, but they don’t bat an eye over something else that’s equally offensive, but not in a popular way. 

My friends, so what? If you know better than Disney+, then good for you. It doesn’t hurt you to see a brief warning. Nobody’s preventing you from watching, and nobody’s making your mind up for you. All they’re doing is saying, “Here’s an idea; take it or leave it.” If your kids see a warning and have questions, then talk to them about what you think, and defend your take, and listen. If you just shut the conversation down and refuse to entertain the possibility that you’re wrong . . . isn’t that  . . . cancel culture? 

 

***

Image by Josh Hallett via Flicker (Creative Commons)

Lent movie review #1: USHPIZIN

We launched this year’s Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party last week with the Israeli movie Ushpizin (2004).

Before I say anything else, I recommend this movie if you are cold. This is one of the sunniest films I have ever seen. There’s nothing flashy about the way the movie is filmed, but you absolutely feel like you’re in the blazing hot streets of old Jerusalem. You could warm your hands by the natural light emanating from the screen. 

It’s also very emotionally warming, and I was of two minds about that.

The basic plot: A married couple, Malli and Moshe, who fairly recently converted or reverted to their strict Orthodox Jewish faith, have no child and no money, which brings them great grief. They can’t pay the rent, and they also have no means to celebrate Sukkoth, the holiday commemorating the Jews’ exodus in the desert. You’re supposed to erect a booth outside your home and eat and sleep in it, and supply it with “four species,” including a citron, some sort of highly cultivated ceremonial citrus fruit.

I didn’t really understand why Moshe and his wife Malli doesn’t have any money (he works at the temple but hasn’t been there enough lately, so they don’t pay him?), and I was a little confused about who it was who was miraculously inspired to help him; but the upshot is that the couple’s prayers are answered immediately and spectacularly.

But there’s a hitch! Along with the bounty come some guests, one of whom knows Moshe from before his conversion. This puts a strain on everyone, and how they respond to the strain just about wrecks everything. 

One thing I loved is the intimate, friendly way the couple prayed to God. The motions and rituals of their faith felt very foreign, but listen to how Moshe, almost out of hope, talks to God as he sits on a park bench:

Malli has a similarly cozy and intimate prayer life, at one point calling God “a sweet guy,” if I remember correctly. 

But the way God responds to their prayer is the thing that left me feeling a trace bit uneasy about the movie. It was difficult to know how hard to try to analyze what was happening here, because I’m so ignorant about the culture depicted. I want to say what I think it meant that the guests cut the costly citron that was supposed to bring a blessing for a baby boy, but I’m not sure I understood enough of what it meant on the literal level to analyze it on a metaphorical level.  

In any case, it’s definitely a story about trusting God in the simplest way possible, and maybe not trying to over-analyze or comprehend all the twists and turns of providence, but accepting the whole will of God as-is, including the miraculous and the mundane. The couple explicitly references Sarah and Abraham, the faith-filled but childless couple, and also more obliquely Job, the suffering but bewildered servant who accepts that he can’t comprehend God’s ways. And they’re also Moshe and Malli, who have been married five years and buy their clothes second hand. 

This is a couple who love each other so dearly and love God so affectionately and trustingly, it’s lovely to see — and excruciating when those relationships are under stress. In their particular story, they want some things very desperately, and when they pray hard enough, God gives it to them. I have not noticed that this is how it works in real life! But this is a fairy tale or maybe a folk tale.

It’s also very much a beginning. The couple is fairly young in their faith and their life together. Maybe God is showering bounty on them to give them a good start, and it seems very likely that this couple will be up to the challenges the rest of their life together will surely bring, when prayers don’t get answered so directly.

There is also some gentle exploration of what it means to belong to a community, and whether or not it can be righteous to violate the norms. Moshe and Malli are willing to be a little transgressive because they think it’s the best way to serve God, but they also very much draw their strength from the mandates of the community, which is portrayed with utter respect even as its flaws are revealed. Interesting stuff. 

It’s also a very funny movie, with a kind of childlike goofiness that many people don’t realize is very typical of Jewish culture. The couple are married in real life (Moshe, played by Shuli Rand, wrote the screenplay, but neither had acted before), and the connection between them is authentic and familiar. Lots of wonderful, very human relationships in the movie, between friends, between people who don’t trust each other, between elders and the people they advise, between people who feel more or less comfortable in this tiny, intense community.      

We watched the movie on Amazon prime but it’s currently streaming on several different platforms for a few dollars [where to watch]. If nothing else, it will cure you of the idea that orthodox Jews, with all their elaborate rituals and whatnot, use ceremony or spiritual formulas to replace a relationship with God. It’s so tender, intimate, in turn agonizing and joyful — and, as I said, sunny.

Suitable for all ages, although it does have subtitles. Lots of smoking, so if you’re a quitter, watch out. 

Up next: Probably Song of Bernadette, which several people have noted supplies more than you’d expect from the Golden Age of Catholic Hollywood. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 242: Never never mind your meatloaf heart

Sorry, I know it’s Friday in Lent, sorry. Check out my meat anyway.

SATURDAY
Pizza

Lately I make four or five large, normal pizzas, and then with the last one I just go a little bit cuh-razy. This time we had two pepperoni, two olive, one cheese, and one with red onion, fresh garlic, anchovies, and pesto ricotta. 

GOOOOD stuff. I don’t even want to eat pizza unless is has anchovies on it anymore. Get outta here.

SUNDAY
Meatloaf, roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts

Terrifically romantic, I made two meatloaves, but Valentine. Here I demonstrate my method:

 

 

I don’t know how people even survived before silicone pans. Actually I remember there was a shop in town, Eaglewood Candies, that used to rent pans. For my eleventh birthday, my mother rented a Garfield pan and spent hours following the pattern of little bloops of frosting to make the design. I hope I said thank you! I do remember her saying, “Never again.” 

Speaking of never again, here is the Raw Meatloaf with Ketchup Glaze:

And here is how it turned out after cooking:

I’ve taken to adding Worcestershire sauce to my meatloaf, and using red wine rather than milk.

Jump to Recipe

To continue or fairy tale-style Valentine’s Day, I cut a bunch of potatoes into discs and roasted them with Brussels sprouts with olive oil, honey, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and it was pretty good.

I did cook this in two pans and then combine it in one to finish cooking while the meatloaf cooked. Sometimes I can’t believe someone like me has only one oven. 

The original plan was to make deep fried potato blossoms with my onion blossom machine, but an astute reader pointed out that onions turn into blossoms when cut because they are made of rings.

 

 

 

If you cut something that’s not made of rings, it will come out less of a blossom and more of an octopus. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; but I didn’t feel a strong need to make potato octopuses for Valentine’s Day. If I do want to make pork blossoms, I would have to cut the pork into thin slabs and roll them into a spiral and then blossom them. Which I may! But not in Lent. 

We didn’t really have dessert, because the house was full of fancy foods Clara had provided for the Valentine’s Day party earlier. 

The kids also had parties at school, so I consider them well-valentined this year. 

MONDAY
Vegetable lo mein, pork pot stickers, crunchy rice rolls

The plan was chicken nuggets and chips, but I had to run to the store, and I guess it was Chinese New Year. Chinese food at Aldi is actually –well, what’s several steps worse than a crap shoot? I guess just crap. But for some reason, I took a chance on their pork pot stickers, and they were excellent. And cheap! $3.99 for 20, so I got three bags.

I deep fried them and served them with some kind of ginger sauce I had. I also got a bunch of those sweet, crunchy rice rolls they sometimes sell, and I made a big pan of lo mein with sugar snap peas, green peppers, and fresh ginger. 

Jump to Recipe

I used spaghetti for the noodles, which is not ideal because it’s not wide enough to grab up much of the sauce. But it was a tasty and poplar meal overall. I don’t know why I never thought of this, but I finally bought one of those wire ladle skimming things for deep frying, and it’s made my life SO much easier, at least when I’m deep frying. I also got a nice deep and wide Calphalon pot at the dump, and that helps, too. 

TUESDAY
Shrimp cocktail, garlic steak, bread and butter, stray lettuce

Mardi gras! Damien was in charge of the menu, so he brought home a bunch of shrimp and steaks. One kid doesn’t like steak, so he made her a bacon cheeseburger. Then . . . he fried the steaks in bacon fat, with whole garlic cloves. 

Bad picture, great steak. 

WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti, garlic bread

Ash Wednesday. I’m already doing intermittent fasting for weight maintenance, so Ash Wednesday fasting wasn’t that difficult. But I did have to say to a kid who had just sat down with a plate of hot buttered toast heaped with scrambled eggs, “Oh, hey, aren’t you 18?” and that was rough. Then we planned to eat at 5:00 and then book it to 6:00 Mass, but supper was a little late, and then I uh forgot to call one kid, so he ended up having about four minutes to eat before the Communion fast kicked in. I guess I’m just helping sanctify the whole family this year.

Then I had to take a kid to the bathroom during Mass, and that’s how I discovered I had a largish piece of parmesan cheese stuck to my eyelid. I use a fork when I eat, I swear I do. 

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup, beer bread

Soup day! I know someone who just serves soup all through Lent. I would totally go for that, but my family would murder me. I thought it was a good soup, though. I made it in the Instant Pot and the beef got really tender.

Jump to Recipe

I also made two loaves of beer bread, which is so easy (one bowl!) to make and kind of fun. Here’s a quick video. (Next time I make a food video, I’ll turn off the washing machine first. And the radio. And I’ll take the marbles out of my mouth, and eat my spaghetti with a fork.)

 

Beer bread is spongy and tender inside, with a crisp, buckled crust outside.

Jump to Recipe

The secret ingredient (besides beer) is an entire stick of melted butter poured over the top before baking. I thought the sharp, sour taste of the beer went very well with the slightly sweet, tomatoey soup. 

Clara also made a few loaves of strawberry almond bread, which was heavenly. I’ll see if I can snag her recipe. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips and salsa

And here we are back at Friday again, what do you know about that?

How do you manage Lenten meals at your house? We generally just tone things down a bit, and I avoid any lavish, extravagant meals; but I don’t push lentils or anything, or avoid cloven-hoofed meats or whatever. I always feel bad about posting food posts on Fridays in Lent, but my brain pan is absolutely full and can’t deal with figuring out something that makes more sense. 

Oh, today we begin our Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party! I guess I’ll post reviews on Monday like I did last year. Leaning toward The Keys of the Kingdom for tonight’s pick. 

Also stay tuned for our new movie podcast episode later today! In this one, we review Rocky and Hard Times, filmed within a year of each other, Sylvester Stallone’s best and maybe Charles Bronson’s, too. Both movies about fighters, but vastly different in tone and otherwise. Podcasts are available to patrons who pledge as little as a dollar a month. If you’re a patron, you should receive a link to the podcast via Patreon every time a new episode goes up.

And here are the cards de recipe for the week. 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder or minced onions, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 6 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2 Tbsp mirin

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

 

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

Beer bread

A rich, buttery quick bread that tastes more bready and less cake-y than many quick breads. It's so easy (just one bowl!) but you really do want to sift the flour.

This recipe makes two large loaf pan loaves.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 12-oz cans beer, preferably something dark
  • 1 stick butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375

  2. Butter two large loaf pans. Melt the stick of butter.

  3. I'm sorry, but you really do want to sift the flour.

  4. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients, and stir in beer until it's all combined and nice and thick.

  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and pour the melted butter over the top.

  6. Bake for about 50 minutes until it's crusty and knobbly on top.

Friday Night Mandatory Lent Film Party, 2021 edition

During Lent this year, our family be doing the same thing we did last year: Going screen-free from 7-9 PM, except on Fridays, when we will come together to watch an edifying, well-made movie, preferably with some spiritual theme. The kids were not crazy about this idea, but they ended up liking some of the movies in spite of themselves, and we had some good conversations even about the ones they didn’t like. 

Our proposed watch list for this year includes some that we didn’t get around to last year, and a few new ideas:

Fátima (2020) I don’t think much of Barbara Nicolosi’s work in general, but Steve Greydanus found this movie an improvement over previous movies about Fatima, and it sounds like the didn’t go all oogy-boogy with special effects. 

 

Ushpizin (2004) My mother was always begging and pleading with everyone to watch this movie, and I never got around to it. It looks really worth while. 
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:

Moshe (Shuli Rand) and Malli (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand), an Orthodox Jewish couple in Jerusalem, are childless and without means to celebrate the weeklong holiday of Succoth. After much prayer, they receive unexpected money, and Moshe is told about an abandoned shack where he and Malli can properly deprive themselves and receive guests. However, they are visited by two ex-convicts with an unexpected link to Moshe’s past, and the celebration becomes a series of emotional trials.

 

The Keys To the Kingdom
Synopsis from imdb:

A young priest, Father Chisholm is sent to China to establish a Catholic parish among the non-Christian Chinese. While his boyhood friend, also a priest, flourishes in his calling as a priest in a more Christian area of the world, Father Chisholm struggles. He encounters hostility, isolation, disease, poverty and a variety of set backs which humble him, but make him more determined than ever to succeed. Over the span of many years he gains acceptance and a growing congregation among the Chinese, through his quiet determination, understanding and patience. 

 

 

Calvary Definitely just for the oldest kids.

Silence Also for the oldest kids.

Of Gods and Men. Somehow this completely passed me by when it came out in 2010. Synopsis:

“Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay… come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.”

The Passion of Joan of Arc, maybe?? This one looks pretty bonkers but gorgeous. One kid is taking a film class in high school and the other got a subscription to the Critereon Collection for Christmas, so there has been some Widening Of Horizons lately, and I think a silent movie might be well received. 

Fiddler on the Roof. This one doesn’t uhhh quite fit in with the others, but we haven’t seen it in ages and ages, and nobody’s ever in the mood to start it. I think the older kids remember it as mostly a tragedy, which is certainly is not. I like having a lot of options, so we can choose something that makes sense at the time. 

A Hidden Life (although, three hours, I dunno!)

The Young Messiah 

Paul, Apostle of Christ. Less excited about this one, but it’s supposed to be pretty solid. 

Millions. A bit of stretch. We saw this movie years ago and I remember thinking, “What the hell was that?” But it was interesting, probably worth another watch. Same director who did Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire.

Other possibilities:

Beckett or A Man For All Seasons, but probably not both. I actually bitterly disliked both these movies when I was young, but I should probably give them another viewing as an adult. 

Song of Bernadette I’ve still never seen this movie. I have less and less patience for Hollywood Catholicism, but I’m willing to be talked into it, especially since this list needs more movies that the younger kids can watch.

Well, that should be enough to keep us busy. 

Here’s my reviews for the movies we watched last year:

I Confess

The Robe

The Trouble With Angels

Babette’s Feast

Lilies of the Field

We also watched The Miracle Maker, but I don’t seem to have reviewed this one. We thought it was weird but powerful, and we overall gave a thumbs-up to the portrayal of Jesus. 

(The Passion of the Christ) We didn’t watch this one, but I did write a review of it a few years ago.

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 241: What gets blossomed next?

And a happy Friday to you, week who just about killed us. We’re very glad most of the kids are back in school in person, but YEESH. We Fishers do not excel at transitions; we certainly do not. It didn’t help that we had lots of Nighttime Diabetes Excitement, which is one of my least favorite kinds of excitement. 

Pretty good food, though. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Meatball subs

I always say “nothing to report” when I make meatballs, but guess what? I have something to report! I have been under seasoning them. I bumped up all the seasoning by maybe 20%, and then I added a healthy glug of red wine. So nice! Just a little more savory and rich. I didn’t take a photo, possibly because of being busy eating.

I used the leftover sauce from Friday’s spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s magical sauce. And that was a good meal. 

SUNDAY
Hot chicken wings, beer brats, bloomin’ onions, a vast assortment of crunchy snackeroos and dips

Super Bowl food! Damien made his easy peasy hot chicken wings with blue cheese dip, and lots of beer brats with onions three ways (cooked in beer with onions and served with sautéed onions and raw onions); and, fearing that wasn’t enough onions, I made three bloomin’ onions. 

The hot wings were fantastic, as usual. Damien used full wings, rather than wingettes (gosh I hate that word), which I actually prefer. 

The bloomin’ onions were probably more fun to make than they were to eat. People were obliging, but we only ended up eating about half. I guess I had it in my head that it was a party since it was the Super Bowl, so I made three giant onions. 

Here I am demonstrating the lovely job my little onion blossomer does:

I didn’t show this part, but because the onion sits on a little base that’s lower than the blades, the “petals” are still attached at the root end when you take it off the cutter, which is how you can fry the onion all in one piece.  Now I’m wondering what else I can use this device to cut. Definitely a cantaloupe. We will have melon blossoms come summer, let me tell you, with little berries here and there. And maybe . . . potatoes! I’m seriously considering making some deep fried potato blossoms for Valentine’s Day.

And I’m almost ashamed to tell you this, but what I really want to try is a pork blossom. I’ll get a nice piece of lean, boneless pork, maybe marinate it for a while, and then freeze it for an hour or two to firm it up, and then . . . VOOM. Pork blossom. I guess I could deep fry if after that.  THIS IS BIG BRAIN TIME, EVERYBODY. I feel like there is some disadvantage to my plan, or some wrinkle I’m not anticipating, but I also feel like it’s going to happen anyway. 

I took so many damn pictures of these onions at various stages, I might as well share them.

Onions in ice water, firming up:

Onions coated in seasoned flour:

Onions coated in seasoned flour, then dipped in egg batter, then seasoned flour again, waiting for the oil to heat up:

Onion merrily frying in oil:

You have to fry them upside down first, shoving them down pretty hard in the pot to force the petals open; then flip it over and finish cooking it right side up. Then you can pull it out . . . 

drain it, and set it on a plate with a little dish of sauce.

Then you pull the petals off and dip. 

I used the flour, batter, and sauce recipes on this page, but next time I make this, I’ll use more ketchup and less horseradish in the sauce, which tasted a bit harsh. A bloomin’ onion should be nothing but fun and delight, no harshness at all. 

MONDAY
Turkey bacon avocado wraps; leftovers

I figured there would be lots of leftovers, and I was very right. So we had what passed for a light meal (supplemented by wings and brats): Spinach wraps, deli turkey, bacon, avocado, and Swiss cheese, with honey mustard dressing.

I don’t know why wraps feel like more of a treat than sandwiches, but they do. Maybe because I always used to order one after giving birth, and I associate them with having room service (and that first meal you eat after you have a baby is just indescribably delicious). Now I just need my own chipped ice machine and I can live that swanky hospital life every day. 

TUESDAY
Golden rice with salmon; egg rolls

New recipe. Frozen salmon is actually fairly cheap if you’re not making a giant slab of salmon your main course. We didn’t have any furikake. I don’t even know what furikake is (okay, I looked it up, and it sounds neat), but I thought the rest of it sounded delicious enough that we could limp along without it. 

Alas, this dish was not a hit, despite lots of fresh ginger and garlic and both parts of the scallion. You cook the rice, then coat it with egg yolk before stir frying it.

Also you fry up the egg whites in the pan separately and then add them into the rice. This recipe has an awful lot of putting things into the pan and then taking them out again and then adding them back in, then making a little space in the middle of the thing you’re cooking and cooking something else in there, and then combining it with the other thing . . . to be honest, I was a little relieved that it wasn’t a popular dish, because it was too much work and I don’t want to do it again!

It wasn’t bad, just bland. Needed furikake, no doubt. I also crowded the pan when cooking the salmon, so the fish part was kind of soggy, rather than crisp and toasted, which is sad. We ended up adding soy sauce and/or hot sauce. I did like the egg-coated rice, and will probably adopt that for another recipe. It gave the rice a nice richness, plus of course a cheery yellow color. And I did like the addition of the fluffy egg whites in with the rice. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken shawarma

I was going to make this over the weekend, but it seemed like everyone needed cheering up mid-week, so I made shawarma, which everyone loves. 

We had these cute little mini pita breads, which aren’t really better than normal pita, but they are cute. Tons of various kinds of olive, feta, cucumbers and tomatoes, parsley, yogurt sauce. So much garlic in everything, my lips were fizzing. So good. 

I usually put the onions in with the chicken to marinate, but I just didn’t feel like dealing with onions first thing in the morning, so I just spread them over the chicken right before I cooked it, and it turned out fabulous.

Probably do it that way from now on. There is plenty of flavor in the meat, and I liked having the onions a bit more crisp. 

THURSDAY
Pork nachos

Another successful meal that I decided on at the last minute. I’ve made John Herreid’s carnitas many times, and everyone likes them, but I was going to be driving around all day, so I chunked a piece of fatty pork into the Instant Pot with a bottle of Mexican coke, some cinnamon sticks, a quartered orange, some bay leaves, a splash of canola oil, and tons of oregano, salt, and pepper, and pressed the “meat” button. This still cracks me up. YOU MAKE MEAT NOW. *boop*

It cooked it on high pressure for 35 minutes, and then I left it on warm for a few hours until dinner, when I took the meat out and shredded it, then spread it over tortilla chips and sprinkled it with shredded cheese, and broiled it.

My land, it was good. Really tasty and tender, middling spicy and warming but not too sweet, with no need to add additional seasoning. I had mine with scallions and sour cream.

FRIDAY

I think we are having migas. The kids are having their Valentine’s Parties at school, so I’m hoping they’ll be full of hygienic store-bought individually wrapped treats and won’t care very much that it’s migas for supper, which they don’t like because they are culinary fools. 

(Pictured: Past migas)
I may make some beans and rice, but then again, I may not. Maybe I’ll just have some Pixy Stix.

Hey, don’t forget to leave your suggestions for what gets blossomed next around here! Although we all know it’s going to be a potato. (And yes, I looked up “getting blossomed” on Urban Dictionary to make sure it’s not a kink of some kind. It is not.)

Here’s the recipe cards!

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

Hot chicken wings with blue cheese dip (after Deadspin)

Basic, tasty hot wings with blue cheese sauce

Ingredients

  • chicken wingettes
  • oil for frying

For the hot sauce:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup tabasco sauce
  • 1/8 cup sriracha sauce
  • salt
  • vinegar (optional)

Blue cheese sauce:

  • sour cream
  • blue cheese
  • optional: lemon juice, mayonnaise
  • celery sticks for serving

Instructions

  1. Fry the wingettes in several inches of oil until they are lightly browned. Do a few at a time so they don't stick together. Set them on paper towels to cool.

  2. Melt the butter and mix together wit the rest of the hot sauce ingredients. Toss the wings in the hot sauce.

  3. Mix together the sour cream and crumbled blue cheese. Use a food processor or whisk vigorously to break up the blue cheese. You can add lemon juice or a little mayonnaise to thin it.

  4. Serve with blue cheese dip and celery sticks.

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add sliced or quartered onions and chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken and onions out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan. Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

 

NH Judicial Vicar sues Michael Voris for “recklessly false statements”

According to NHReporter:

Judicial Vicar Rev. George de Laire filed a federal lawsuit against the far-right news outlet Church Militant this week, claiming the outlet published “recklessly false” statements about de Laire after a notorious radical sect was disciplined by the New Hampshire diocese.

Gary Michael Voris, who goes by Michael Voris in his internet videos, runs Church Militant, a website that reports on Catholic news and politics. The outlet published videos and articles calling de Laire “emotionally unstable,” stating de Laire is incompetent, and implying he’s corrupt, according to the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court in Concord on Friday.

Michael Voris and Church Militant have a long history of targeting Fr. de Laire after he began working with the diocese to try to bring the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary into compliance with Rome.

Damien Fisher broke the story with exclusive details and background at NHReporter.  Read the rest here

Disclosure: Damien Fisher is my husband. I did not work on this story with him.

Photo of Voris by Clarissa Swan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hell is paved with the skulls of online Catholics

“It’s not real life; it’s just online.”

This is something I’ve heard a lot over the last few years. People have said it derisively, claiming that online friends aren’t real friends, and online relationships aren’t real relationship; and they’ve said it soothingly, so alarmists like me would stop overreacting about the threat from silly, lame online gamers who chatted incessantly about revolution but never actually made it out of their mum’s basement.

Then came the assault on the capitol building, and I do believe that’s the last time I heard anyone say “it’s not real life; it’s just online”. Some of the people who made it into the building were truly silly, albeit also dangerous; but many had been grimly, purposefully planning an organised revolution, complete with public executions.

It was real as could be, and it could not have happened without first starting online — with far-flung people meeting each other online, normalising, amplifying, and escalating each other’s worst and craziest ideas, and then working together to put it into action in real life.

It started out virtual, but five real people are dead in real life, and dozens, maybe hundreds, are going to jail. Things that start online can become very real, and we don’t have the luxury of assuming that threats will stay in the realm of the potential.

I’d like to shift gears now and talk about another kind of threat, and another kind of potential revolution.

It would be hard to understate how much Americans cherish freedom of speech. It’s perhaps especially hard to see it right now, when there is so much disingenuousness and so much confusion about the limits of that freedom.

In the final days of the Trump presidency, Twitter and Facebook suspended the president’s accounts, because he was disseminating dangerous lies, and the courts have ruled that Apple has the legal right to refuse to host Parler, the social media platform that refused to regulate dangerous speech on its site.

As often happens in a crisis, there was lots of confusion about who actually has what rights. When platforms moved to cut off people fomenting violent dissent, a certain number of innocent people got caught up in the broad net — myself included. My best guess is that a bot misread some combination of words as incendiary. At the same time, lots more people claimed to be innocent and unjustly persecuted, when in truth they were simply facing the overdue consequences of their misuse of free speech.

It’s fair to say that there was a purge of conservative voices on social media, but this happened not because conservatism itself is suffering persecution, but because so many conservatives have become cozy with people whose words and ideas are dangerous and violent, and whose online life very demonstrably spills out into real life.

So that’s a real thing. Far right domestic terrorists are by far the most pressing violent threat to the nation, and for the last four years, our president has been their friend. Now we have a new, more liberal administration now; and while our new president is himself fairly moderate, much of his administration is more progressive, perhaps even radical.

So even though the explosive threat from the far right is far from diffused, and even though I applaud ongoing efforts to clamp down on platforms that help that threat emerge from online into real life, I am well aware that this is not the only danger we face. Sometimes, under the guise of saving the nation from exploding, we instead run the risk of imploding.

“Never let a good crisis go to waste” is a real thing, too. There have always been Americans who adore the idea of quashing free speech, and who will use the current crisis to prolong the clamp-down on speech, and make it permanent, and expand it. Do not think that Trump and Qanon are the only ones who drum up fear and paranoia to exploit the masses.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly