thanks to Ace of Spades for chart [http://ace.mu.nu]
This past week I only read a couple of books because one of them A History of the Jews by Abram Leon Sachar [Alfred A Knopf, 1968] was involved and sometimes dry. He was president of Brandeis University and the book is scholarly and inclusive. What can you say about such a comprehensive project? Lots of names in languages I don’t know with lots of dates I don’t remember. It’s a thoughtful book, and the 6th edition of a book first published in 1930. A couple of things stood out to me: the author’s assertion that the writers of the Torah were in effect extremists who were intolerant of other religions and incessantly wanted the Israelis to overthrow their oppressors or invade other areas, thus affecting the viewpoint of Old Testament parts. As an example he uses King Ahab, who was an excellent ruler but married the despised Jezebel and openly tolerated other religions, including her paganism. That was, of course, abhorrent to the leaders/prophets/scholars who kept alive the the oral histories. I guess that makes sense but I had never really thought of that perspective.
Sachar also discusses at some lengths the liquidation of Jews in Europe, especially during the Spanish Inquisition-Torquemada-Ferdinand and Isabella era. I knew that Jews were forced to renounce their religion or die from hideous torture or that some paid huge ransoms to leave the nation but I didn’t realize some Jewish children were sold as slaves and sent to Caribbean Islands. I haven’t had the chance yet but I’d like to do a little research and find out what happened to those children.
I also read Saving Italy [W. W. Norton & Company, 2013] by Robert Edsel. A couple of years ago I read his book The Monuments Men and liked it, so I took a chance and went to see if the Clooney/Damon/Hollywood bunch of liberals would ruin the current movie, The Monuments Men. I found it quite faithful to the book and essentially patriotic. Some groups had complaints about the movie, e.g., some Jewish bloggers thought it didn’t show enough of the WWII Jewish sacrifice or sufferings. I have to admit there’s validity to that argument, the Jewish massacres were subtly implied, which may not be enough. I’m not sure young people today would detect those subtle implications because they know so little WWII history.
Also, the question of ‘is art worth a human life’ is at first answered negatively, which is how I would answer, but then is equivocated toward the end. Ah, situational ethics by a bunch of Hollywood liberals, who would have thought? But it was quite easy to ignore that ambivalence. Edsel himself believes that the story of saving Europe’s art and priceless manuscripts is a true success story for the US Army and one that is often ignored.
I found the reading of Saving Italy a bit more stodgy than The Monuments Men, perhaps because keeping track of the Italian names of art, artists, places and people more difficult than the European artifacts of several nations. I’ve been to some of those European museums in Germany, France, Holland, and Belgium and seen some of the art mentioned in The Monuments Men but I’ve never been to Italy. The Nazis also stole important art from the Soviet Union, some of which tragically has never been found, and they had detailed plans of what they intended to steal from England but didn’t get the chance.
Some of The Monuments Men – actually a few were women - who primarily or exclusively worked in Italy but not during the later liberation of Europe seemed quite irritating – I found Fred Hartt particularly trying. Pope Pius XII is sometimes portrayed unsympathetically; his coziness with certain Nazi friends and his callousness toward the Jews have been documented elsewhere. It was difficult to stay calm when an Italian official or resident or the pope or a monuments man like Hartt would criticize the American bombing or battles. Wonder how upset they were when they supported Mussolini or when the Italian troops killed and bombed Ethiopians? Edsel recognizes that feeling and often makes that point.
Edsel, e.g., notes the Allied bombing that destroyed the famed and ancient Monte Cassino monastery was understandable even though it turned out that the Germans weren’t holed up inside. The Germans had fought with their firing lines pushed up against the outside walls of the monastery, making it impossible for the Allies to detect that the ferocious Germans weren’t inside. Later, Edsel notes that if you stand atop the partially-rebuilt monastery, your main view is the thousands of crosses on the graves of the Polish, British and Americans who died trying to liberate Italy but didn’t live to climb to the mountain top.
Both Edsel books are well worth the read, especially if you have an interest in art or WWII history. Both of his books on saving European art at the end of WWII are primarily positive and pro-American, as well as thoroughly researched.
I did less baking this past week, except yesterday I made some items for a church potluck.
A couple of tips from my efforts this week: I mentioned that I hate the taste of both baking powder and baking soda so I went to extraordinary efforts to completely blend any recipes that used either. I think it made a difference. Also, I used more caution checking the doneness of baked items because gluten-free items don’t brown the same way. It’s easy to overbake and I did a couple of times yesterday, as you’ll see in a minute.
This has been a favorite meal of mine since childhood: Sauerkraut and weiners, mashed potatoes, green beans, cornbread and blackberry cobbler. When I became a vegetarian I ate veggie wieners, which aren’t as good as Pamela Anderson and other PETA folks describe. When I recently became paleo/gluten free, I tried sausages but I wasn’t crazy about it. Here’s my current take: premium hot dog wieners that are gluten free and antibiotic free and all that good stuff. I sautéed onions with the wieners then added kraut and cooked for 20 minutes or so because I like the taste of browned kraut, my canned green beans, mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes to reduce the carb load, gluten free cornbread. and mini blueberry muffins because I haven’t found a really good cobbler yet. I’ll experiment soon on that because I have a few gallon frozen blackberries from a local source last year.
I used the Comfy Belly No-Corn Cornbread [http://comfybelly.com/] I mentioned here earlier but I made them in mini muffin pans, in fact I’m making a bunch of GF baked goods in mini pans because I like the crisper texture. Sometimes GF is a little limp. If you try the cauliflower to mash, be sure to steam them till completely tender and add lots of good grass-fed butter. I usually mash them in a food processor. The blueberry muffins were a recipe from Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo cookbook. Since I used the muffins as a dessert instead of breakfast dish, I followed her suggestion and reduced the lemon juice. Here’s the pics:
For most of the week’s main dishes, I made an excellent Greek Salad with homemade vinaigrette and a good Vegetable Beef Soup with grass-fed beef, for lunches I made my standby Canned Tuna in Olive Oil/boiled egg/avocado or egg salad. Also ate out several times, getting a little better at tolerating Chicken Caesar Salad and the like.
I made Paleo Chili for my church potluck last night, which got a good response and also made a medley of Paleo/GF desserts . The troublesome part for me is the question of sweeteners. As a diabetic, I’ve avoided adding sugar or honey to my baked goods for a couple of years now but I don’t like using the sugar alcohols for public events where sensitive people or kids might have a problem with GI upset. Some of the other substitutes, e.g. stevia can have a funny taste when used in quantities needed for a large recipe.
Yesterday I made William Davis’ recipe for Carrot Cupcakes - all my mini pans were dirty so I made regular sized cupcakes – and used a combo of liquid stevia and xylitol – which is irritating only in large quantities – and was quite pleased with the result. I also made Elana’s Pantry recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip cookies and this time I followed her recipe to the letter, using 1/2 cup of sugar-sweetened dark chocolate chips and 1/4 cup local honey. I found them fabulous, other people said they liked them. I don’t know the level of politeness there but I will say this: when you’ve eaten low/no sugar that are Paleo/GF, your taste buds begin to change and you’re satisfied with less sugar. That’s true of salt, too. I also made Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Lemon Curd and put it in her Honey Graham Piecrust, only I made the recipe into mini tartlets. I’m not fond of lemon desserts but my husband is and he loved these.
One thing I notice is that different authors/bloggers specialize in different food categories, e.g. I think Danielle Walker is a whiz at baking – some of her stuff is sweeter than other authors, though – and I think Diane Sanfilippo specializes in main dishes while Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo specializes in family favorites. IMHO. Here’s a pic of the tartlets, you can easily see that I overbaked the tart shells. I also overbaked the Carrot Cupcakes and since they just looked like a blah brown cupcake, I won’t bother with a pic.
Just a couple of minutes makes a big difference in Paleo/GF from pale underdone to overbaked. Next time…
Are there places our defense budget can be trimmed? Surely. The cuts require the touch of someone with military, foreign policy and budgetary expertise, someone who can be trusted with this complex yet sensitive subject, someone whose loyalty to our national defense and our military families is sacrosanct. That is not Obama or pretty much anyone who answers to Obama. It’s not Hagel, either.
As a Christian the ancient rite of ashes on Ash Wednesday represent my mortality and the beginning of Lent, which follows the ministry of Jesus Christ through his arrest, his crucifixtion and ultimately his resurrection, celebrated on Easter Sunday. Although there are small differences, Ash Wednesday is quite uniform across all Christian denominations. Like many Christian festivals and observances, there are opportunities for growth by non-believers as well. I expect to spend 40 days of reflection and meditation on my life, my sins and my mortality but meditation is valuable for everyone. Here’s one information source. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/ash-wednesday-practice-and-meaning/
BTW, the ashes of this day are traditionally the dried remainders from the previous year’s palms of Palm Sunday, then mixed with oil for easy application on Ash Wednesday. Here’s the cross on my forehead from tonight’s service: