Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Luddites Dot Com

As someone who is fairly conscientious about being regularly en blogge, as well as normally cranking out 20-25 emails a day, plus missives to assorted online groups, computer-drafted reports and epistles, etc., I have an inordinate fondness for stationery and fountain pens.

[I have also just mangled my shoulder trying to prop up my pillows. Ouch.]

Anyway, because I'm bored and because I'm (among other things) an anachronism of sorts, I just spent a delightful and instructive spell rearranging my stationery and doing a little maintenance work on the fountain pens.

The stationery thing started ages ago, when I was a callow youth. Maybe 18 or so. I spied (through the shop window) a rather comely lass working in a (duh) shop just on the shadow of the Venetian winged lion. Bristling with the bravado that only youth (when flush with a reasonable dose of wine) can possibly have, I stepped through the doorway, the better to afford this young lady an opportunity to avail herself of the manly bounty that was Young Me. It was my every intention, you see, to dazzle her in every respect, to intoxicate her with charm. I don't know exactly how much Valpolicella I had occupying space otherwise earmarked for hæmoglobin, but I was fairly confident that within 20 minutes I'd have her stridently demanding to carry my child. (In contrast, these days my wife loudly demands I carry my child.)

What I had not counted upon was that she'd bedazzle me, and 20 minutes later I had transferred enough currency to her store's coffers to provide me with a small satchel of exquisite papers, cards, envelopes, and the like. All of which she had wrapped up expertly in a semi-glossy purple-pink paper, as if this were all one great Christmas gift. When I had immaturely envisioned her taking advantage of me, this walletectomy was not exactly among the highlights of my teenaged thought process.

But I, being the resilient optimist I am, took the whole episode in stride. I sauntered (as much as someone who has blown an shockingly high percentage of his funds can saunter) to a small bar-type place and ordered a carafe of what two honeymooner-types were having. I produced a cheap pen and started to muse upon what I might write on these excellent papers. My thinking was that I ought send lovely missives from this lovely spot to young ladies back home upon whom I had, er, designs. It struck me as a capital notion, when I was interrupted by my waiter.

Y'see, in Italy, people do not eat by themselves, let alone drink by themselves. Most of my tour (if you want to glorify it with such a term) had consisted of looking up at pretty buildings, occasionally peering inside, and more frequently, stopping at these bar-type counters where locals were loitering amiably and having a tipple of some local-ish wine or another. This was sociable and therefore acceptable.

So a guy with a stack of very expensive paper having a carafe of wine one late afternoon all by his lonesome, y'know, stuck out. The waiter, what with Italians being Italians, surmised that I was writing to Someone Special Back Home and before he deigned give me my carafe -- for which I was paying a 50% premium given that I was seated at an outdoor table -- he told me I couldn't possibly jot down anything on paper such as that with a cheap-o-matic pen. He was taken aback that I was perplexed. I was partly perplexed because he spoke in rapid-fire Italian and it toom me a while to process his Italian through my lingusitic filters. At any rate, he claimed he had an uncle in the business and he took (!) me through a warren, along diminutive alleys, to a small shop which gave the impression of being The Smallest And Best Hidden Colored Pencil Museum In The World.

I was too stunned and cowed to ask what was happening to my carafe of wine. At any rate, Elio (the waiter) engaged Sandro (the colored pencil maven) in animated speech. As they discussed my predicament, Sandro nodded sagely. It was as if a general practitioner and a specialist were conferring. Looking around I saw all manner of inks, quills, pencils, etc. Sandro asked me, the way one would ask a lost and frightened toddler, what I liked. This was good because I could answer something and not feel utterly useless. I rattled off my hobbies and likes. I kept my more prurient interests to myself, although given the fact I was among Italian males they may have taken my silence to mean I had some sort of glandular deficiency.

Sandro nodded sympathetically, much like when a patient says "it hurts when I do this." Sandro looked at Elio.

Gravely -- but sweating self-assurance -- he uttered: "Omas."

I thought he had diagnosed me as heterophobic, but he produced a small box with a brushed aluminum pen, with a pleasantly discreet automotive motif. "This is the best thing for you," I understood him as saying. He then wrapped it up like a Christmas gift (along with an ink bottle, the color of which he chose and didn't bother to let me see), helped himself to my funds and bid me good evening.

Elio, looking as if he had saved me from ravenous marmots, led me back to our starting point, chattering effusively. Another, slightly older, waiter-type guy (Virgilio, I think) came up to us and handed me my stuff. My paper, my misfolded map which he had taken great care to fold properly, assorted brochures, etc. Elio then poured me a glass of wine and took his leave of me, returning to refill my glass with what must have exceeded the contents of my carafe and dropping off -- gratis! -- tiny plates of generally unrecognizable edibles.

That evening, dear reader, I started writing down for all the young ladies of my acquaintance some of the most frightful bilge imaginable. A young man on the cusp between high school and university, with his blood volume amplified by wine is capable of truly appalling stuff* in the quest to be Romeo-like.

But the pleasure of feeling ink glide smoothly from a sleek fountain pen to the surface of a creamy off-white sheet has always stayed with me.

Unlike those poor girls to whom I wrote.

-J.

*That nobody struck me repeatedly about the head and neck is a small miracle.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankfulness

This being Thanksgiving, I thought wise and proper to issue public thanks to God for some things. I mean, yeah, sure, there are the usual things...my wife, my kids, a roof over my head and food on the table. We all know THAT.

So, here are some other things, sort of (but not exactly) in order, for which I am grateful:

• My pal Karen, who usually rants on my behalf so that my family history of hypertension doesn't get nudged awake too often and whom I love to bits. She has, in spades, our Celtic capacity for pathological loyalty and darkness of humor and outlook without being gloomy. She also helps me understand girls better. (Although my limitations in that area are insurmountable.) Finally, she understands me eerily well. I forgive her off-kilter views on college football and motorsports. I'm working on a compare-and-contrast post, so stay tuned.

• My pal MJ, who in the prayer-warrior department is like a paratrooper, SeAL and Force Recon rolled into one.

• The Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, who in the prayer-warrior dept. are like the 6th Fleet, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the 8th Bomber Wing rolled into one.

• The Society of Jesus, for forming me the way I am. (Credit or blame goes to them.) I'm even grateful for the wayward ones, because they keep me praying at VO2Max.

• The individual Jesuits whom I have met -- some of whom now have causes for sainthood (!) -- who also exemplify holiness and the Church Militant and perseverance under circumstances I cannot even begin to fathom.

• My cyber-sphere of acquaintance who also afford me colossal amounts of e-fellowship.

• All those unnamed gazillions of people who pray for me -- which I need, more than I often realize --and for Davy and his autism. You are always in my prayers.

• Those people who fight the good fight with dignity, grace, and inexhaustible good cheer.

For these and all the others I am -- embarrassedly -- blanking on, I thank you, Lord.

AMDG,

-J.


    Thanksgivingness

    This is last year's Thanksgiving post. I thought it worthwhile to repost.

    AMDG,

    -J.

    While Thanksgiving is a holiday quite dear to Americans, as well as being something rather uniquely American also, most Americans (particularly, but not exclusively, those educated at gummint schools) have only the dimmest idea of what the history of the day has been. So here are a few tidbits. (All emphases mine.)

    A particularly apt place to start is George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving proclamation:

    Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

    Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks -- for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.

    And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

    Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

    George Washington

    Since it was, of course, Abe Lincoln who made Thanksgiving the yearly holiday it is now, we ought groove mightily with what he wrote on the subj.:
    The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

    No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

    It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

    In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United
    States the eighty-eighth.

    A. Lincoln
    Finally, it bears noting that most people have a very, er, abridged version of the Thanksgiving narrative. Usually i9t goes something like this: The Pilgrims' ship, The Mayflower, finally alighting on Plymouth Rock, the local tribes show up and feed then and they are grateful and have a feast.

    [What people never hear or read about is how miserable a voyage it was. The trip was long, arduous and, frankly, nauseatingly stench-ridden. Once the ship had landed, fires were set throughout the ship to smoke out the stench of 102 people crammed in there for months on end with no plumbing facilities. Then it got worse.] The place was barren and desolate (even the indigenous types knew to give it a mighty wide berth) and during the first winter, half of the Pilgrims died of starvation, sickness or exposure.

    Finally, Spring sprang and the local tribes showed the Pilgrims how to plant corn, fish for cod and trap beavers for fur. And pretty much this is where the story stops, and we all skip ahead to Pilgrims eating turkey. The fact is the Pilgrims were managing to scrape out a survival existence, but not being much more of a hit than that.

    Here's the part you didn't know: The Pilgrims didn't actually have the coin needed to swing the cruise from Europe to Plymouth Rock. So, they made a contract with some investors in London (the system was called mercantilism) and agreed to pay them back with whatever their community could produce. Being a starry-eyed bunch of Neo-Utopians, they had agreed to produce things in common and everyone was given an equal share of the total.

    Of course, they didn't ask me and were therefore were quite surprised -- much like certain benighted theologians of today would have been -- when this centralized system of collective production and allocation, frankly, er, sucked dead wombats. Gov. Bradford, desperate for a new system that would generate serious production, not only for survival but to cover their debts to the merchants in London, changed the scheme. He assigned individual parcels of land to each family to farm and control as they best saw fit.

    About this whole matter, Bradford wrote:
    The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God.

    For this community [arrangement] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense...that was thought injustice.
    Then came the changeover from common to individual property. Gov. Bradford wrote

    This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was [harvested] than otherwise would have been.
    By the late summer, the Pilgrims realized they had much more crops than could be eaten by their settlement. They set up a trading system whereby they exchanged goods with the local tribes. They experience such profits they were able to pay off the the merchants in London. They were so grateful to God for this turnabout in their fortune they held a feast of Thanksgiving.

    Now you know the whole story of Thanksgiving.

    Feel better?

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    Bein' Mean to Karen


    MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

    Thanksgiving: The Pie

    OK, OK, OK. Alright already, sheesh.

    Maple-Pecan Pie

    Shell:
    1¼ cups all-purpose flour, and some for dusting (I like King Arthur, but Pillsbury Unbleached is good also)
    2 generous Tbsp. sugar
    2 fat pinches of salt
    1¼ sticks of butter (8+2 Tbsp.) sliced into as many pats as your patience allows. If you are REALLY hardcore, you can replace the ¼ stick w. 2 Tbsp. lard. Either way after cutting the fats small, chill again.
    1 egg, separated (beat the white lightly w. enough ice water to make ¼cup; beat the yolk with ¼tsp. of water to make an egg wash)

    Put sugar and salt into food processor and whiz until powdered. Add flour and pulse. Add butter (and lard...but avoid anything hydrogenated) and pulse until it looks like a coarse cornmeal, about 10-15 seconds. Mix in egg white (be VERY careful if you use the food processor, you can end up w. some tough crust...if you are unsure, dump everything into a bowl and use a spatula) until you get a dough. Flatten dough into a rough disk, dust with flour and chill at least an hour.

    Roll out dough on a floured surface until you end up with a 13" circle. CAREFULLY drape over a 9" pie plate (I like those glass Pyrex ones), but a nonstick tart pan works also. Trim the edges even and then flute the edges as you see fit (forks, your kids' fingerprints...whatever). Freeze the raw shell for an hour. Take out enough foil to cover the shell completely and poke it (the shell) all over with a fork. Take out shell and poke THAT also. Wrap and put back in freezer while you preheat oven to 400F. Take out shell and put pie weights over the foil (I use large steel BBs). Bake in the center rack for about 15 minutes, remove foil bake an additional ten, glaze with the egg wash and bake off for one more minute until it's all golden and pretty. Keep warm.

    Filling

    ½ stick of butter cut into 1" chunks
    ½ cup sugar (superfine is ideal, but regular works fine)
    ¼ tsp. salt (if you use a coarse salt, make sure you get it down to a fine grain)
    3 eggs (large)
    1 cup maple syrup (I like the Grade B from Vermont Sugarworks, but you can use Grade A amber...make sure you are using 100% pure maple syrup, not some "pancake syrup" dreck.)
    6 oz (about a cup-and-a-half) pecans, crushed coarsely

    Preheat oven to 275F. Over a double boiler melt butter; remove the top vessel and then stir in sugar and salt. Beat in eggs fully and THEN beat in syrup. Return to double boiler configuration and stir briskly until the whole thing is nice and glossy. Remove again and stir in pecan bits. Pour into shell and bake about 55 minutes, until the center jiggles S-L-I-G-H-T-L-Y. Remove and cool completely.

    This pie is the perfect balance between firm and lush with a yielding -- but not squishy -- texture. Above all else, there is none of that vile corn syrup.

    -J.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Thanksgiving: The Stuffing/Dressing

    The post immediately below is the one for the mashed potatoes. If your starch choices run to the more substantial, go there.

    OK, here it is. This will stuff one turkey, so get your calculators out if'n you need to stuff 2 or 3.

    Pecan-Sausage Stuffing

    1 lb stale sourdough or cornbread cut into ½" cubes (I like cornbread)
    1 lb. bulk breakfast sausage, hot, medium or mild (I like hot, but everyone yells at me. If your butcher makes this fresh, so much the better)
    1 large Spanish onion, diced
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    ½ lb. button mushrooms sliced ¼" thick
    ¼ lb. pecan halves
    1 cup half-and-half (whole milk or evaporated skim milk will work also)
    1½ cups chicken or turkey stock (if you use store bought get the kind that packed aseptically AND is low sodium, but even at "low sodium" you will probably not need to salt the stuffing.)
    Coarse (sea/Kosher) salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

    In a large pot over medium heat, brown the sausage and then pour off about half the drippings. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat browns and is cooked through and the onions are translucent, say 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and fold in the bread cubes, pecans and half-and-half. Stir in the stock until the mixture is moistened to your liking. Season with salt and pepper. DO NOT let cool before stuffing into the cavity of the turkey, unless you have a thing for pathogens.

    You may also put this in a casserole and bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes. If you like a crisp top layer don't cover it with foil, if you like it moist, cover it. If you like it in-between, cover it for the first 10-15 minutes, then unwrap.

    Figure this serves 8 to 10.

    Thanksgiving: The (Heretical) Mashed Potatoes

    Come Thanksgiving, there are, at the average table, enough starches to make Dr. Atkins spin like a lathe in his grave. Biscuits, corn, cornbread, sweet potatoes (and/or yams) and rolls are just a partial list of the starched attendees. But here is my starch of choice.

    WARNING: CULINARY HERESIES FOLLOW

    Whipped Yukon Gold Potatoes

    4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, UNpeeled
    1 cup buttermilk
    ½ cup sour cream or sour half-and-half (sometimes sold as "Light Sour Cream")
    8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
    1½ - 2 cups cream (you can use evaporated skim milk, it will still be pretty good)
    ¼ tsp. baking powder
    1-2 scallions or 8-10 chives (green parts only, sliced t-h-i-n-l-y on the diagonal)
    Salt and freshly ground (ideally white) pepper, to taste

    Bring a large pot two-thirds full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. (You can pre-zap 'em in the microwave) Drain the potatoes in a colander and let them steam dry about 5 minutes.

    Normally, the pedestrian step at this point is to cut them in equatorial halves and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Put we are going to do something VERY heretical. You have to take me on faith at this point, so if you're the tiniest bit cowardly, bail out NOW. OK, let the potatoes cool a bit and then peel and cut*.

    Throw the potatoes (you may have to do this in batches, so watch your proportions!!) into a food processor. EVERY cookbook on God's green earth will tell you this way lies madness. They will tell you this is heretical and they will tell you you will wind up with spackle. Ignore them. Add the sour cream, butter**, baking powder, salt and white pepper, and process the potatoes until smooth. This will be VERY dense and exactly what you do not wish to serve. Here comes the master stroke, ready?

    With the processor running, slowly dribble in the cream (fine, the evaporated milk) and then the buttermilk*** until you get the consistency you like. The potatoes will have miraculously turned into the fluffiest damned things you have ever seen...you'd think it was a soufflé or a mousse of some sort. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, garnish with scallion or chive bits. Serve immediately. If you will keep these warm for a bit in, say, an oven, you may want them a TEENY bit runnier than you'd like, since the warming process will dry and firm them to your desired standards.

    -J.

    P.S. The reasons why the food processor turns potatoes to spackle are twofold: a) The blades action shears open a great many starch cells (which tend to bind when they cool) and b) most people use russet/Idaho potatoes which are extra-starchy to begin with. The idea for this is a riff on Joel Robuchon -- who has more Michelin stars than anyone, and HE ought to know -- who used to do this same thing, only his dairy component was straight butter, cut into bits (it eventually worked out to something like 1 lb. butter for every 2 lb. of potato). Yes, caloric.

    * If you cut the potatoes before cooking, the water will gelatinize the starch in the potatoes and you WILL wind up with spackle.
    ** The fat in these dairy ingredients will help isolate a number of starch cells in the potatoes, to minimize the spackle effect.
    *** The buttermilk's acid will react with the baking powder to provide "fluff".

    Another bishop who knows his bishing

    Love this guy.

    -J.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    What have I been telling you?

    An interesting perspective, although I'd pick a bone or two. Still. Look.

    -J.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Tea and No Tea

    (H/t InsightScoop)

    Maria Shriver, a Malibu Kennedy, engages in a glaring repetition of the wholly expected. Check this countercultural shot across the bow:

    “I don’t believe that if someone’s divorced they shouldn’t get Communion; I don’t believe that people who are gay shouldn’t be accepted into the Church… I’m pro-choice, I believe women should have that right.” She also said “women should have a larger role in the Catholic Church.”

    The title of this entry is a reference to Douglas Adams and his "interactive fiction" version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, wherein the lead character finally achieves the knowledge and enlightnement he needs when he can hold two completely contradictory things (i.e., having "tea" and having "no tea") simultaneously. In order for him to arrive at this point, he must remove the part of his brain that controls common sense.

    This is what La Shriver is implicitly doing and asking us to do.

    Please note her fellow travelers aren't reacting to any news from the Vatican, any new dictum from the Holy Father or any new development on anything. They are bent outa shape because the Holy See hasn't issued anything. It's still holding on to the fusty-musty ol' doctrine it always has.

    So why call yourself Catholic? The current Mrs. Governator famously contributed to a work with the title Why I'm Still A Catholic. (We'll set aside the issue of why remaining a Catholic is so bizarre a phenomenon that it requires lengthy explanation.) This leads me to worry about her catechetical background, because if it's not the problem here, then her logic circuits must be emitting wisps of smoke and making "fzzt! fzzt!" sounds.

    What distinguishes the Catholic Church from all other faiths is the tenet that it is infallible*; that it cannot teach error. Even if it wanted to. But if the Church were to say that bigamy, now that we think about it, is not sinful...then it either taught error when it said it was, or is teaching error when it now says it ain't. Something is wrong always and everywhere, or it isn't.

    Now, if the Church's claim to infallibility is wrong -- why trust it to be right about anything? Put another way, if it's wrong on something, it can be wrong on anything. If it can be wrong on anything, then all its doctrines are nothing but carefully forged links joined up and hanging on a hook firmly screwed into...thin air.

    Sadly, Shriveresque Catholics are still Catholic hoping the Church will reverse a coupla millennia of doctrine on X and somehow remain infallible. They want to have "tea" and "no tea." What their broadsides mean to those who adhere to the view the Church is right whether we like it or not, is that they put up with us in the hope we'll stop thinking that what the Church holds to be true is, in fact, true.

    The difference is that we put up with them because we want them to see the light and recognize that "it is what it is" and that God's dictates are His ordained will and not the current bylaws of a theological condo association. It's not a matter of us being hardhearted, or cruel, or reactionary...it's just that we recognize that contradiction and revelation are incompatible.

    Whether we like it or not.

    -J.

    * I paraphrase Flannery O'Connor: If it's not infallible, then to Hell with it.

    Think back.

    Remember this?

    DO NOT STOP. IT'S WORKING.

    As you were,

    -J.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Thanksgiving: The Turkey

    For most people, through most of our lives, the turkey is a perennial letdown. The dark meat is gamy and liver-ish, the white meat is moisture-free to the extent Dr. Heimlich would be alarmed, the skin is flabby and greasy and the flavor is non-existent.

    But no more.

    I'm going to steer you through this. It's gonna be OK. Come in off the ledge.

    Herb-Roasted Turkey.

    First, you're gonna need to get the right turkey. Do NOT get any turkey injected with any bizarro ingredients. Do NOT get any ::cough, cough:: self-basting turkey. Do NOT get a turkey that's has spent its nasty, brutish and short life jacked on hormones and antibiotics. These are wrong. Get yourself a free-range, all-natural, etc., etc. turkey. I swear by Bell & Evans; Plainfield Farms and Empire Kosher are also quite good, but get whatever your supermarket/butcher carries (you may have to order ahead).

    It is not necessary (but it IS nice) to get an heirloom turkey or one of those $150 boutique turkeys. Just make sure it's all natural and free range and EITHER frozen (not bad, actually) or NEVER frozen. Those frozen-then-thawed suckers are beyond flavorless.

    Next -- unless you get a Kosher bird -- brine the turkey. This is the voodoo part of the equation, so go slow here, OK? First you'll need to make an herb infusion. Get dried (BUT NOT GROUND) thyme, marjoram and sage, in decreasing order at a 3:2:1 ratio. A lot will depend on the time you have available to brine (all day or overnight?), the size of the bird (12lb or 20lb?) and the vessel to contain it (a bucket or a big-arse cooler?) and whether you are starting with a fresh or frozen bird.

    To get a rough idea, put the still-wrapped turkey in the vessel and fill with plain tap water. Remove bird and measure water. If you're doing a short brine you will need more salt, possibly sugar, and herb flavoring than if you're letting the beast soak a full day. The rule of thumb is 1 cup salt (if you use kosher or sea salt, get the SMALL crystal not the big honkin' flake variety) per gallon for a 4 hour brining for a 12-14lb. turkey. The longer the brining, the less salt you need and conversely, the bigger the bird the more salt you will need...so an overnight brining will use half the salt and a 22 lb. behemoth will use twice the salt. You get the idea. The dried herbs--in the case of a one gallon brine-- should be 3 teaspoons thyme, 2 teaspoons marjoram and 1 teaspoon sage. Add these to a cup of simmering water and steep for 3-5 minutes. Dissolve the salt in the gallon(s) minus one cup and add the herb infusion slowly. Depending on how strong and/or fresh your herbs are you may not need to add all the infusion to the brine...if you go overboard, it may start tasting like you're pickling the turkey, so watch it.

    That done, remove the giblet-y bits and put the turkey and brine in your vessel (ideally a cooler) and let it soak. If you cannot fit this into a fridge (and most people can't), drop in those blue gel freezer packs to keep the temperature around 40F. If you are using a frozen turkey, you can skip the gel packs, but give it an extra hour in the brine.

    Now, take the turkey out of the brine and pat it dry.

    [OPTIONAL] Put it on the roasting rack, and that in the roasting pan. (If you have room, you can put this as is for 8-24 hours to air dry in the fridge. The longer the better, for an shatteringly crisp, mahogany skin.) Dump brine down the drain, and rinse. Fill bottom 1/3 of cooler with ice and nestle the laden roasting pan in the ice. Let it air dry for the aforementioned 8-24 hours. If you feel vaguely heroic, use a blow dryer on the skin.[/OPTIONAL]

    OK, show time.

    Take out a stick of butter. Remove your turkey from its fridge/cooler rest, letting it come up to room temperature. Preheat oven to 425F. Remove your rings and all that. Take 3 yellow onions (trim off the extreme ends, peel, and cut into rough half-wedges), a head of garlic (loosen the cloves and then smack 'em with the flat of a knife to peel them and crush them slighly) and three lemons (quarter one and THICKLY slice the other two). Smush in another 3 teaspoons thyme, 2 teaspoons marjoram and 1 teaspoon sage and 1 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper into the butter. Run your hands CAREFULLY between the skin and the flesh of the turkey, to loosen.

    Smear a third of your herb-butter goop inside the skin, another third inside the cavity and the last third on the outside. Make sure the coverage is even. Stuff the cavity with the quartered lemon, 3-4 chunks of onion and 6-7 smacked garlic cloves. Scatter the remaining garlic/onion/lemon debris around the turkey in the roasting pan and add about 1" of water. If you have it (and you really should), stick in one of those probe thermometers into the thickest part of the breast, making sure you do not touch the bone. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TRUSS THE BIRD. Agents of Satan will try to thwart you, but keep them at bay with a bulb baster. I'm serious.*

    Put the whole rack into your oven. Roast for 30 minutes until the breast skin just starts to get all golden**. Drop the oven temperature to 325F. If the breast meat is browned by this point you may want to cover it with foil at this stage. When the breast meat registers 165F (this should be 2.5, maybe 3, hours after you dropped the temperature. Your oven could be a bit off, or your room temperature colder or warmer, so don't get all hung up on this...of course, if you have a larger turkey--18lb or so--this could mean an extra 90 minuts of roasting) turn off your oven and leave it shut for 30-45 minutes as you go about your business and the turkey rests.

    Remove turkey and unstuff; set it aside on the cutting board. Put roasting rack astride two burners on medium. Add about a cup of water or chicken or turkey stock and deglaze (pick out any lemon skin -- roasted lemon pulp is lovely here -- which will definitely be bitter) . Put all the roasted vegetables and juices and drippings into your blender and puree, adding chicken stock as needed until you get a gravy with the thickness you prefer. I like it the viscosity of a milkshake, but you do whatever. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.

    Carve turkey and bask in the slavish fawning of your loved ones.

    -J.

    * The problem with trussing is that it makes the discrepancy between leg/breast cooking times even worse. That is, the dark meat is done at 180F while the white meat is ready at 170F. Trussing only makes the dark meat take longer to come to temperature, by which point the breast is turkey flavored, moisture-free particle board. Or, the breast meat is perfect and the legs are still kicking. So, no trussing. Ever.

    ** Some people like put the temperature at an even 325F and start roasting the bird face down and then flip about halfway. Me? I don't like an oven open while all this is going on (and the built-up heat taking a hike to the ceiling) and it's a total PITA to open the thing, pull the rack somewhere heat-safe, manage to get a grip on the bird, flip the turkey without sending searing-hot metal items and vegetable matter flying every which-a-way, etc.) If you notice--and you have to be vigilant here--the breast skin getting too golden too fast, cover it in a LOOSE double layer of aluminum foil and leave it there until the last hour of roasting. But that shouldn't happen if your oven is close to accurate.

    It might go something like this...

    I'm visualizing the scene between a fictitious Wayward Catholic Politician (we'll call him Mayor Quimby) and his fictitious local ordinary, who also happens to be a friend of the WCP as well as a bit wobbly on doctrine his own self.

    [phone rings]

    Mayor: Hello, this is the Mayor.

    Bishop: Mayor Quimby, these fundamentalist loons are driving me mental.

    Mayor: Me too. Thought we had driven them all out.

    Bishop: Me too. Anyway, they have their skivvies in a knot over your remarks at the "Swingers Have Rights, Too!" rally.

    Mayor: Oh, for crying out loud! What now?

    Bishop: Among other things they think it's inappropriate for a Catholic public figure to be at a rally where people were chanting "Yes We Can! If we take Cialis!"

    Mayor: Well, *I* didn't chant that! And it wasn't MY idea to paint the Goodyear blimp in that fleshtone...

    Bishop: Still, they object to you, as a Catholic and elected official saying that marriage shouldn't exclude a man and a woman and another woman "especially if..." wait, I need my glasses... "if she's, like, smokin' hot."

    Mayor: But, see, this is where these Falwell Catholics fall apart...most of them are NOT smoking hot. They're just frumpy ol' house...

    Bishop: Still, they're breathing down my collar. One day someone in Rome might take a glance this way and, y'know, get the, er, wrong idea.

    Mayor: So?

    Bishop: So, as your bishop, they say I'm supposed to do something.

    Mayor: Like?

    Bishop: Wait. I had the manual right here. Criminy it's dusty [coughing fit]. Okay. I'm supposed to make sure you have fitness to receive Communion.

    Mayor: I did that when I was seven.

    Bishop: I mean when you attend Mass.

    Mayor: Oh! No big. I mean, when do I attend Mass?

    Bishop: Good point, but I don't think that will calm down these Almost Evangelicals. I have to make sure you are fit for Communion.

    Mayor: And if I'm not?

    Bishop: That's what we're here to explore.

    Mayor: How?

    Bishop: Well, first I have to make really, totally double-dog sure you fully understand the Church's teaching on wife-swapping parties. Then if you still say things these guys say are wrong, I have to admonish you, and then after THAT I have to warn you that you are not in position to receive Communion.

    Mayor: So you're admonishing me?

    Bishop: Heavens, no! [to someone in the office] Thanks, that's lovely...Muriel, could I get more sugar? Thanks. [back] Sorry.

    Mayor: So if you're not admonishing me...

    Bishop: Oh, we're not anywhere near that yet. I'm calling to set up an appointment to explain to you, fully, the Church's teaching on orgies.

    Mayor: Um, 'kay. When is good for you?

    Bishop: Let's see...[mumbles to someone in the office] okay...how's the 22nd?

    Mayor: No can do. I'm going to ask for a federal bailout on the 22nd. The 24th?

    Bishop: I have a "Quench The Thristy!" rally and Mass at the Stadium. I tell you, I found these chrome-y looking plastic pitchers and wineglasses, so when these guys see this on YouTube they'll never notice...

    Mayor: How about the 25th?

    Bishop: That's Christmas. [longish pause] The Holiday, Larry...work with me here.

    Mayor: Oh. Sorry.

    Bishop: It is my busiest workday. Lunch on the 26th?

    Mayor: OK, but a late lunch.

    Bishop: Fine, good. Y'know my Anglican friend, Bishop Jefferts-Schori calls the 26th Boxing Day.

    Mayor: [distractedly talking to someone off-phone] Pardon me, Bishop?

    Bishop: "God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." [chuckles paternally] You see, Larry, sometimes the Spirit DOES guide us!

    Mayor: That was easy!

    Bishop: See you Sunday.

    Sunday, November 16, 2008

    Thanksgiving: The Salad

    Here is the next episode in a stress-free Thanksgiving.

    Watercress/Bacon/Granny Smith salad

    As usual, do not obsess over exact measurements and times unless otherwise directed.

    4-6 strips really good bacon (as usual, I like Nueske's)
    4 large bunches watercress, about 2 lb. total, stemmed and separated
    ½ tsp. salt, plus more as needed
    3 Tbs. apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice
    ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more as needed
    3 small, ripe but firm Granny Smith apples

    1- Julienne the bacon. In a small saucepan cook over low heat until VERY crisp but not burned. Remove to drain and reserve 5 tbsp. of the bacon drippings (if you need to augment, you should use peanut oil) and allow them to cool somewhat; you want the drippings to be "warm to the touch."

    2- Peel and core apples. Dice or julienne (big or small, depending how rustic or frou-frou you want this to be) them and put in a bowl with a bit of extra lemon juice or vinegar and JUST enough water to cover (this will prevent discoloration).

    3- In a large bowl, place the watercress and drizzle with the bacon drippings and toss. Sprinkle the ½ tsp. salt over the watercress and toss again. Add the bacon and vinegar/lemon and the ½ tsp. pepper and toss well. Add apple bits and toss again. Taste and correct the salt and pepper.

    OPTIONAL: Sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese (I like Maytag blue) and/or crushed nut (walnut/hazelnut/almond, etc.) bits.

    You may also substitute frisee or mache for the watercress.

    -J.

    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    Shedding further light.

    If you saw this, you may be interested in the following...

    (This was translated by me, as I found it. The only thing I did "extra" was to put certain things in [brackets] for a more equivalent translation. That's it.)

    Diario Rio Negro [Rio Negro Daily] Aug. 19/08

    NEUQUÉN (AN).-

    "I am the bishop, do you understand? If you want to pray, go inside. You are the ones picking a fight. Here in Neuquén this is not done. You are the ones responsible."

    - Responsible for what?

    - For picking a fight.

    - We don't want to have a fight with anyone, we want to defend...

    - What are you defending now, if there's nobody here?

    - What do you mean there is nobody? We are defending the monument [i.e. the Cathedral].

    - In Neuquén the monument is defended in other ways.

    This was the level of tension of the dialogue on Sunday afternoon between Bishop Marcelo Melani and a group of Catholic youth which had assembled in front of the Cathedral to pray, waiting for a massive march of [feminists] expected to pass by.

    The conversation, which was held [with raised voices], ended when the youth further raised their voice to pray an Our Father and drowned out the bishop, who opted to withdraw.

    Just a few moments later the incidents began: some of the women who participated in the march seized the banner held by the youth, which was inscribed with the phrase "Neuquén chooses life." [The youth] did not stop praying.

    Yesterday Melani tried to downplay the importance of these events. "One hopes an encounter would be just that, a place where ideas can be confronted, but with respect, in a [spirit of] democracy that is most complete, most total, with respect for the person who might manifest opposite ideas," he said on radio station LU5.

    He added that "in general these massive encounters always have some possibility of disorder on the part of someone, there is always some little group drawing all the attention."

    He recalled an instance "in front, [at the head of things] were all the media waiting for something to pass to record it; yesterday (Sunday) the same thing was happening in front of the Cathedral: people remained in front [of the Cathedral], waiting to see what might happen there, and the media did as well."

    "There is no need to give [an exaggerated] importance to the actual event," said Melani. "What all have to seek is a capacity for coexistence, of mutual acceptance, even when we have ideological differences."

    AMDG,

    -J.

    Thanksgiving: The Soup

    This here is the world-famous "Endless Carrot Soup." I mentioned it a while back under its "endless" moniker because it has nearly limitless possibilities for variation, but this will likely be the variation--of the endless variations, hence the name--possible with this soup. As you pore over the measurements and times keep in mind this is pretty freehand, measure-by-eyeballing stuff, so don't get all hung up on the exact thing written.

    1 large onion or two medium leeks (white & pale green parts only)
    2T butter or rendered bacon drippings (or a combination)
    2t smoked paprika
    2 cloves garlic
    1 lb. carrots
    2 c. chicken stock

    Sauté the (roughly diced) onion or leeks (cleaned well) in the butter or bacon drippings. Cook for a long time (15 minutes at least) over medium heat, just to "sweat" then slightly caramelize. Add paprika and garlic and cook for a couple minutes longer. Add carrots, peeled and sliced. Continue to saute for another 5 minutes (ideally, you want to caramelize a bit of the carrot). Add stock to cover by an inch, and cook for 20 minutes at a steady simmer, until carrots are tender.

    Here is the tricky bit! This soup tastes better made a 2-3 days before so you should stop here, and allow it to cool. Cool soup will be much easier to puree in a regular blender (pureeing hot soups in blenders will be slow or explosive or both) until the soup is smooth. You can, of course, use a food mill, food processor, or a hand blender but nothing beats the regular blender for smoothness. After pureeing, which can be a couple of days before, bring back to a simmer and season with salt--be careful if you used commercial chicken stock!!!--and pepper to taste.

    Ladle into bowls or tureen and finish soup with some creme fraiche (or cream or sour cream) swirled all pretty-like to the tune of about 1T per bowl and a sprinkling of crumbled bits of bacon and/or minced leek tops (the medium green parts, the "ashy" green parts are mostly useless) or chives.

    There ya go. Stress-free, make-ahead and stunningly delicious. Good for ya, too.

    -J.

    P.S. You can use scallions or shallots in place of the onions and SHARPLY seasoned, homemade croutons are also good. (Croutons in the box -- shudder! -- are best left there.)

    Friday, November 14, 2008

    Someone who should NOT be a priest

    This guy should be a bishop, instead.

    -J.

    Thanksgiving's preamble.

    OK.

    To get my mind off this #$%& election thing, I hereby begin my series on Thanksgiving -- my absolute fave holiday, in case you missed it -- by running down my tentative menu.

    Be warned.

    This is a foodie menu.

    It's for foodies, by as inveterate a foodie as can be found.

    There will be no tolerance for stuffing from boxes, broth from cans, condiments from cartons or vegetables from the freezer. If your idyllic, mind's-eye Thanksgiving calls for Tater-Tots®, cranberry jelly still holding the shape of the can in which you purchased it, or some indifferent, particleboard, factory-raised turkey riddled with hormones and phosphates...if that's what you prefer, then go on to the next blog.

    You have been warned.

    The Menu this year is:

    1- "Endless carrot" soup
    2- Watercress/bacon/Granny Smith salad
    3- Herbed roast turkey
    4- Whipped "heretical" Yukon Gold potatoes
    5- For Real (i.e. roast turkey drippings-based) roast garlic gravy
    6- Sausage & cornbread dressing/stuffing (I prefer it as dressing, you salmonella harlots do whatever you want)
    7- Cranberry-orange chutney
    8- Sauteed pearl onions with green beans
    9- Pecan-maple (i.e. "Appomatox") pie
    10- Pumpkin creme brulee

    Yes. I cook from scratch. For 56 people. (I'm a frustrated chef. Karen, please feel free to add that to the list of things I should have been, instead of a Strategic Consulant who taunts his family history of hypertension. on the plus side, think of the fringe benefits of passing by the lunch room when I'm there, along with my margarita and espresso Mad Skillz.)

    To drink: Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic and/or 2006 Ravenswood Winery "Old Vine Lodi" Zinfandel (red, not that unspeakably vile and saccharine pink stuff).

    Everything, save for the turkey, can be made completely (or substantially) ahead, so there will also be little drama here. I might even dredge up pictures to show you how and what.

    As you were.

    -J.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    Karen, stay tuned.

    For my post on the importance of coffee, how to make the CORRECT cappuccino (and caffé latte, if you must) and how deeply involved Jesuits are in all of the above.

    -J.

    How to win friends, and influence people.

    The horror!

    Dancers at a gay disco in Lansing, Mich., were stunned Saturday when members of a pro-Christian, pro-law & order organization named Bible Thump interrupted their revels to fling propaganda and Rosaries around the dance floor, drape a banner with a Bible verse from the balcony and feature two nuns preaching from the DJ stand.

    According to a blog posting by Lisa De Leeuw on Little Dutch Boy, the Bible Thump organization orchestrated a protest in front of Fire and Glitter disco to draw the club's security staff away from the dance floor.

    Then Bible Thumpers who had dressed up in leather and seat-less chaps and mixed in with dancers took action.

    According to De Leeuw, "'It's Rainin' Men, Hallelujah!' had just finished when men and women stood up in pockets across the bar, on the main floor and in the balcony.

    "'Jesus died for you,' they shouted among other hate speech and derogatory statements as they rushed the stage. Some forced their way through rows of women and men to try to hang a felt banner from the balcony while others began tossing fliers into the air. Two women made their way to the DJ stand and began to sing 'Ave Maria'," he wrote.

    He cited the Bible Thump organization's own announcement of other items members brought into the church, including "a megaphone, blessed salt, chrism, Holy Water by the bucket load, Holy Oil in SuperSoakers, prayer cloths ..."

    According to the religious Lansing City Calvary newspaper – which reported it was notified of the protest ahead of time and sent a reporter along instead of warning the club – the protesters also screamed at dancers and pulled the club's fire alarm. Printed material protesters distributed said, "We specialize in confronting Christophobia, Judeophobia and every and all other forms of oppression."

    For further developments go here, as I may have gotten a few tiny details wrong.

    -J.

    It's almost that time of the year!

    I think people should start getting in the mood for the season by listening to festive music.

    Classics such as:

    Away In A Kenyan
    Don We Now Our Gay Apparel
    A Child This Day Is Born And Put In The Janitor's Closet
    All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Full Terms
    ACORN, We Have Gotten By
    Biden Will Be Ringing
    VERY Blue Christmas
    Christians Roasting On An Open Fire
    Deck The Halls According To New Federal Safe-Decking Mandates
    Do You Hear What I Hear? Then Maybe You Should Stop Watching MSNBC
    Frosty The Weatherman
    Go Tell It On The Mountain, Chased by BATF Agents
    God Rest Ye Rev. Wright
    Grandma Got Euthanized By A Reindeer
    Change! The Herald Angels Sing
    Holly Jolly Biden
    I Heard CNN On Christmas Day
    I Saw Daddy Exchanging Vows With Santa Claus
    I Saw Three Solar Powered Ships
    I Want an Olbermann for Christmas
    I'll Be Home For Christmas On Furlough From That Community Service Thing
    It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Chris Matthews
    It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (likely moved to April 15)
    Jingle Bell, Jingle Bell, Jingle Barack
    Jolly Birth Certificate
    Joy To The One
    You're A Mean One, Mr. Gingrich
    O Come, All Ye Faithful, Where We Can Get You All At Once
    O Little Town Of Bethlehem, In PLO Control
    O Rahm, O Rahm Emanuel!
    O Tannenbaum, Meet O Khalidi
    Barackin' Around The Christmas Tree
    Rudolph The Red Star Reindeer
    Santa Claus Is Coming To Get Amnesty
    Silent Night For Talk Radio
    Silver And Gold To Hedge Against Inflation
    The Last Noel
    The Little Drummer Biden
    Up On The House Rezko Bought
    We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Good Luck Getting Gifts
    What Unwanted Child Is This?
    While Shepherds Pretended To Watch Their Flocks

    -J.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Our friends on the left were 100% correct.

    Voting "the wrong way" will lead to blacklisting

    Look.

    -J.

    Prayers gone to waste?

    Over at the lovely and gracious Karen's there is a rather effervescent discussion on prayers seemingly unanswered. The Cliffs NotesTM of the thing run something like this:

    1- God, it is Your will that X is right and Y is wrong
    2- We prayed -- super-hard! -- for X and against Y. We had novenas, Rosaries, we fasted, etc.
    3- Instead, Y and not X will come to pass.
    4- Huh?

    And I was thinking (since I spend a colossal amount of time in my own head anyway) about prayer.

    What I came away with is that while God hears all sincere prayers -- especially prayers related to His will being done, which will be done -- we have to trust Him on the timing of His will being done. Which is not easy, because we are fallen creatures and He is an unfallen Creator. The result of this fallen-creature thing is that it "darkened our understanding, weakened our will, and left us a strong inclination to evil."

    So we don't understand what God is got in mind and since we can't respond to His doings with comprehension, we have to respond with faith. (This reminds me of all those times when I tell Joey "Oh, will you just TRUST me?")

    Now, prayer will sometimes change circumstances when and how God sees fit. (Which is not exactly according to our plan, which frustrates the @#$% out of us, don't think I am unaware of this. God's not unaware, either.) But prayer ALWAYS changes our ability to react and cope and adjust. Put another way, prayer will not necessarily change the shape and weight of the cross you must bear if you are to follow Him, but it will give you the ability to bear it better.

    So don't quit praying.

    -J.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    No, seriously

    This is nothing more than voting against Born Alive legislation taken to its logical, if grisly, extremes.

    What IS holding up Judgment Day?

    -J.

    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Some suggestions.

    Since it looks like maybe we'll have to celebrate this new holiday, I came up with some guidance as to how to best do so.

    HAGGADAH FOR The One Day

    This is the fruitcake of our affliction, which our ancestors bought from a coop bakery managed by a bald guy with a ponytail.

    All who are in need, come and celebrate The One with us.
    All who are hungry, come and partake of this fruitcake, as The One's tenure pretty much implies, "Let them eat cake."
    This year we watch The One coming to power and ruling, next year may our 401(k) not be cast into the janitor's closet.

    Some have the custom to place the gift-wrapped presents under the tree so that they will pique the curiosity of the children so that they will ask the Four essential questions:

    1- How come I have presents and The One didn't visit us yet?
    2- Did Tony Rezko bring gold, Rev. Wright frankincense and Bill Ayers myrrh? Or am I getting all those guys mixed up?
    3- What is this tingling in my leg?
    4- Why is Keith Olbermann off his meds?

    We were slaves to the Republicans, working eleven days a week with no benefits, and then the Democrats took Congress, and allowed us a four-day workweek and many holidays. Now if the Democrats had not gotten their act together, then we, and our sons, and even our grandsons, would still have to wait for The One, waiting to be delivered from acceptable tax rates and judges who narrowly go by the written word. Of course, our daughters and granddaughters still await their salvation.

    There are four types of children who ask questions on The One Day: the wise one, the bad one, the unintelligent one, and the one who does not know to ask.
    - What does the wise one ask? I don't know. He managed to flee to the Cayman Islands.
    - What does the bad one ask? He says, "What is UP with this holiday?" Since he absents himself from the bosom of the family, you must shun him from the table, and he will go to the Cayman Islands with his brother to be left the Hell alone.
    - What does the unintelligent one ask? He asks, "What's this?" You answer him, "This is government cheese."
    - To the one who does not even know to ask, you must tell him, "At least you voted like the man who gave you the bottle in the paper bag told you."

    If we would have a puff piece from CNN, but not have an endorsement from The Washington Post, it would have been enough.
    If we would have an endorsement from The Washington Post, but not get an injunction from a Clinton-appointed judge, it would have been enough.
    If we would get an injunction from a Clinton-appointed judge, and not get a community organizer, it would have been enough.
    If we would get a community organizer, but not get a Democrat legislature, it would have been enough.
    If we would get a Democrat legislature, but not a Democrat Governor, it would have been enough.
    If we would have a Democrat Governor and not gotten rid of George Bush, it would have been enough.
    If we would have gotten rid of George Bush, but not see Democrats win the House of Representatives, it would have been enough.
    If we would Democrats win the House of Representatives, but not see Democrats win the Senate, it would have been enough.
    If we would see the Democrats win the Senate, and not have The One ruling us, it would have been enough.

    (Pick up the Kool-AidTM and say:) But we do have a puff piece from CNN, and we have an endorsement from The Washington Post, and we got an injunction from a Clinton-appointed judge, and we got a community organizer, and we got a Democrat legislature, a Democrat Governor, and rid of George Bush, and we watched the Democrats win the House of Representatives, and saw the Democrats win the Senate, and so we will now toast The One, and pray that we do not get voter's remorse in the morning: "Yay One!!"

    Next year in what's left of Jerusalem.



    -J.

    Sunday, November 09, 2008

    This is just cool.

    The wine website to which I contribute -- stay tuned for some Thanksgiving selections -- has just gotten a bit of a nice write up.

    That is all.

    -J.

    Saturday, November 08, 2008

    Run, don't walk.

    OK.

    Let me slap on my Official Catechist Hat.

    As an Official Catechist, I am aghast that children are being subjected to books like these.

    For those of you unwilling to engage in the click-and-read necessary to get the whole panorama, let me offer you some tidbits. (The more robustly Traditional among you, please brace yourselves.) All emphasis is mine.

    Kindergarten: "This is what Saint Francis did. He blessed all the animals."
    1st Grade: "Jesus did not want his followers to be afraid. He said to them, “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36) Jesus promised his followers that he would send them a helper."
    3rd Grade: "Leader: Be still and quiet. Place your hands on your knees with your palms up..." and "At other times we pray with hands folded or with arms open wide. Sometimes people even pray by dancing!"
    6th Grade: "As the Book of Genesis continues, we learn that God is greatly displeased with human beings. They were not being faithful stewards of the world."

    Not everything in the books is raving heterodoxy, natch. But much of it is wildly vapid (I mean, c'mon, having kids draw even into 4th grade?) and, as my oldest boy would say, "all bongos and kumbaya." The tone is, to me, real-l-l-l-l-ly dumbed-down. The inclusive language is sometimes (not always) jarring and artificial.

    This series also has, in my view, a decided list to port. If your parish uses this series my advice is: Constant vigilance!

    Oy.

    -J.

    Friday, November 07, 2008

    Ribbed for your pleasure

    Since the blogosphere, as the lovely and gracious Karen (in honor of whose bizarro sensibilities I offer the title above) has aptly decreed, is now on a foodie kick; and since we managed to get to the market; and since this has been a relatively cool (for us, anyway) autumn, I decided to make one of the very first Real Grown Up edibles I ever made* only I'd try some flavor variations.

    So, I bring you

    Chipotle Braised Short Ribs of Beef with Tropical Gremolata

    (Serves two, but it doubles or triples very nicely if you have the hardware and/or patience for this sort of thing. Well worth it.)

    Sea salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Peanut oil (or whatever you are not allergic to)
    1 lime
    4 cups beef stock
    7-8 short ribs, bone in, about 1¾ lbs (cut into individual ribs, not across)
    1 small yellow onion (sweet onions are fine, but avoid the "supersweets")
    4 cloves garlic
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander leaf)
    2 chipotle chiles (the kind packed in "adobo" which you'll also need)

    Preheat oven to 300F/150C.

    Dice the onion, smash three cloves garlic to a paste, and also mince two chipotle peppers and leave them on standby.

    Heat oil in a Dutch oven (or stockpot of equivalent size) over medium-high heat. Pat the ribs dry then season both sides of ribs with salt and pepper. When the oil shimmers (but is NOT smoking!) add half the ribs and brown on all sides until you get a good sear. Repeat this with the other half of the ribs. (You don't want to cover more than 1/2 of the pot's bottom. So, if you end up doing this in 3 batches or only in one, don't panic.)

    Once the ribs have seared, add the onions and saute about 1 minute to caramelize lightly. Add garlic and cook until JUST fragrant. Stir in the chipotles, and 4 tbsp of adobo. Add the stock to just cover ribs (figure 4 cups, but use the least amount you can get away with). Make sure to stir along the bottom of the pot to bring up and dissolve the caramelized bits. This is key. Bring to a gentle simmer, then put in the oven for about 3 hours. Check back frequently to make sure the liquid does not boil. You want some moderate bubbling along the edges of the liquid, but no more. Any hotter and your ribs will become too tough. A Crock-PotTMslow cooker would be ideal.

    Mince the remaining clove of garlic as finely as your patience will allow. Grate the zest off the lime. Toss these with the cilantro. That's your gremolata. (The traditional Italian gremolata is garlic/lemon zest/parsley) I just came up with this variation after the whole arugula/rocket thing.

    When the ribs are done, c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y take them out (tongs are ideal) and set aside on a warmed platter. Grab a ladle and skim the prodigious amount of fat floating (most of the fat in this dish will render into the liquid) atop the now-sauce. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Puree the remaining braising liquid with (ideally) an immersion blender** and dump into a small pot. Put this saucepan over medium heat and reduce to about the consistency of heavy ("double") cream. Adjust salt and pepper and add a spritz of lime juice. Take your ribs and ladle with sauce. Top the ribs with your gremolata and serve. (Or, do what I used to do, just sprinkle cilantro leaves.)

    I suggest serving atop/along some rice with scallions and/or almonds. Polenta (cheeseless) or plain tamales wouldn't be bad, either. Pretty much anything in the corn family would be good, when you think about it.

    So there,

    -J.

    * Astute readers will recall this was the first unqualified praise I'd ever gotten from my dad.
    ** Or CAREFULLY, in small batches, in a blender. If you do it in large batches you'll end up wearing a lot of it and scrubbing your walls of the rest.

    Some quick math.

    1 - Click on this.

    2- Notice that it says "Ninety-one percent (91%) of Republicans have a favorable view of Palin, including 65% who say their view is Very Favorable."

    3- Let's say that McCain-Palin received +/- 57M votes. That translates, by my rough math, into 52,010,877 likely votes and 37,150,627 very likely votes, as of today.

    4- Note: "When asked to choose among some of the GOP’s top names for their choice for the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, 64% say Palin. The next closest contenders are two former governors and unsuccessful challengers for the presidential nomination this year -- Mike Huckabee of Arkansas with 12% support and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts with 11%."

    And, to preempt some premature scoffing, remember how in 1976 Ronald Reagan was seen my the moderates and independents.

    That is all.

    -J.

    Thursday, November 06, 2008

    One more thing...

    I demand -- OK, "politely request" -- your clickery!

    Back to the salt mines,

    -J.

    One of the more serious and worrisome problems with a Messianic Delusion is...

    ...that it leads to an Apostle Complex.

    -J.

    Read this carefully.

    This from Mark Brumley over at InsightScoop (all emphasis mine):
    We need to make the most of this situation and do what we can to change things. Bishops will have to step up the plate. Priests will, too. And religious. And lay leaders. It is going to take an honest appraisal of the problem. No more happy talk about the Church in the U.S. Yes, we have a priest shortage. You want to know why? Because we have a Christian shortage and a Catholic shortage among Catholics. That's the unvarnished truth. The baptized pagans who occupy so much pew space in our churches have to be converted to Christianity. The liberal-Protestantish Catholicism-lite that substitutes for Catholicism has to be converted to real Catholicism. The bishops have to stop kidding themselves. And they have to be willing to take on their brother bishops when they're part of the problem and they have to be willing to confront their clergy when they are part of the problem.
    AMDG,

    -J.

    Wednesday, November 05, 2008

    Stop and listen around the 0:25 mark.

    And so it begins anew.

    We take today to prayerfully reflect on what has transpired. In a way, it is a rest. We rest from the labor and toil and struggle we have just undergone, exacerbated by the pain of not succeeding.

    We can look back and dissect another day. Something we must do, incidentally, else we risk squandering our blessings and our advantage and the public trust again.

    But all that can keep.
    First, we must thank God for giving us this nation which is so worthy of fighting for. Then, we lick our wounds as it were.
    In time, we will think of where we have failed in adhering to our principles, and renew our committment to them. We will ponder where we faltered in expressing our vision cogently and redouble our focus. We will consider where we placed our trust and strengthen our call to consistency and accountability.
    But today? We pray and we rest, because this is nothing but a battle in a war that won't end in our lifetime or even our children's lifetimes.
    So pray and rest up, for the journey is long.
    -J.

    Lord...

    ...to what times hast Thou spared me, that I should endure these things?"

    Tuesday, November 04, 2008

    Crazy, silly favor.

    This comes from my beloved wife, who asked me to spread the word.

    PLEASE VOTE FOR "ARIAS" AS YOUR FAVORITE ARTIST ON THE FOLLOWING LINK:

    http://www.mega949.com/pages/megaEpoll.html

    WE NEED AS MANY VOTES AS WE CAN GET! WITH YOUR HELP WE CAN MAKE IT TO THE TOP!

    PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!

    In this case, voting often is not an ethical minefield.

    -J.

    Sunday, November 02, 2008

    Don't stop praying.

    Whatever you do, don't stop.

    Look*.

    -J.

    * I'd highly recommend that whole site.