Saturday, September 06, 2008

Huckabee Blows His Dogwhistle

So Mike Huckabee is still using the cockamamie story about the high school teacher who tells her students that they don't have to "earn" the desks in their classroom, because military vets already did it for them. You might recall I wrote about that weird, nonsensical story last year. Now it has resurfaced, thanks to Huckabee trotting it out again at last week's Republican convention.

One of my favorite journalists (and bloggers), James Fallows, has now done a follow-up story, linking to an account that he says "solves the mystery" of the Huckabee story. According to Fallows, "the story makes perfect sense once you assume that its real subject is eternal salvation through the grace and sacrifice of Jesus."

Well, I suppose, in a way, that does "make sense"--if you're willing to overlook the illogic of claiming that having American soldiers fighting overseas is somehow a necessary prerequisite to operating classrooms here at home; and even more egregious, if you're willing to equate soldiers (whose job is to kill as many of the enemy as possible) to the martyred Jesus, who not only did not kill his enemies but actually paused, in the very moment of being betrayed, to miraculously heal one of them (Luke 22:47-51).

I have no doubt that Fallows is right about the "dogwhistle" message that Huckabee is trying to send to his fundamentalist followers--a message that equates US soldiers, and John McCain in particular, to Jesus Christ. But as a Christian myself, I find it awfully depressing that both Huckabee and Fallows seem to share an assumption that might be summarized like this: "Hey, it's a Christian parable! It doesn't have to make any sense!"

Thanks to people like Mike Huckabee, millions of Americans naturally assume that "Christian" is a synonym for "stupid." Can't say I blame them.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Simon and Garfunkel Sang About It So You Know It's Good


Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The Fantastic Four of the herb garden. Today, we pay homage to rosemary, which looks like prickly pine needles but tastes oh so good.

Here's an herb rub that you can slap on a piece of meat right before cooking so you can enjoy a low fuss dinner that doesn't involve a lot of planning. You can also use this rub as a seasoning to enliven a ho-hum recipe that needs a flash of brilliance. Rosemary, the superstar of this herb rub, is an excellent flavoring for beef and lamb, not mention chicken and turkey. Its woody fragrance pairs especially well with the succulence of a juicy steak or lamb chop.

Rosemary also has a reputation for improving memory. Shakespeare buffs might remember Ophelia's line from Hamlet: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." So toss aside the ginkgo biloba pills and instead bite into a big, fat steak seasoned with this rub. Even if your brain doesn't respond, your taste buds will.


4 tablespoons dried rosemary
3 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

Gently crush the rosemary with a mortar and pestle. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, crush the rosemary against the side of a bowl using the back of a heavy spoon.

Thoroughly mix together the rosemary and the remaining herbs and spices.

Put the rosemary rub into a container with an air tight lid. Store in a cool, dark place up to one year.

Makes almost 2/3 cup of rub, enough for several uses.


1. MEAT: Massage a spoonful onto both sides of a steak or lamb chop before cooking. If you have time, let the meat rest in the fridge for an hour or two before cooking to allow the oils of the herbs to penetrate the meat.
2. GRAVY: Stir a big spoonful into your favorite homemade gravy recipe. Or, buy a can of plain gravy and spiff it up with this rub.
3. MEATBALL SANDWICH: Add 2 teaspoons to an 8 ounce can of plain tomato sauce. Heat over medium heat and serve with good quality frozen meatballs, prepared according to the package, on crusty buns.
4. QUICK FOCACCIA: Use your favorite prepared pizza dough (look for it in the dairy aisle or in the freezer section of the supermarket) to make a quick snack or appetizer. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Press out the dough into the desired shape until it is one inch thick. Score the top and brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of Rosemary Rub and 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese across the surface. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
5. EASY ROAST CHICKEN: Drizzle a whole chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the chicken. Stuff the lemon halves into the chicken's cavity. Rub 1 tablespoon of rosemary rub into the skin. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, eighteen to twenty minutes per pound.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A New Way To Feed The World? Slow Food Nation Says Yes

Mary-Jo and I just got back from an extraordinary weekend in San Francisco attending the first Slow Food Nation conference. (The picture above shows the "Victory Garden" created on the grounds of the city's civic center as part of the conference.)

After spending four days joining an estimated 50,000 participants in sampling many of the activities offered--including food tastings and sales, panel discussions, film screenings, educational exhibits, and (of course) some amazing dinners--I came away feeling as though I'd witnessed one stage in the emergence of a new social, political, and economic movement.

As you may know, Slow Food is an international organization founded by the Italian cultural critic Carlo Petrini. Its original intention was, as the name implies, to combat the spread of American-style fast food and to defend more traditional forms of agriculture and food preparation. It has spread to the United States (as well as around the world) and has now become--as I witnessed this past weekend--a popular movement that strives to address and link an array of economic, cultural, and political issues related to the production, sale, and use of food.

Thus, the people and organizations loosely affiliated with Slow Food come from many varied backgrounds and bring a wide range of interests and values to the table. Some are food lovers for whom the pleasure of fresh, local, well-prepared farm products is the chief motivating factor. Others are economists focused on issues like global hunger and the exploitation of farm workers. And still others are scientists and activists concerned with nutrition, food safety, pollution, and global climate change. In a vague way, most of the people I met and heard from this weekend could probably be described as "leftist" or "progressive," but it's not at all obvious that their disparate interests add up to a single coherent "food agenda."

Nonetheless, it seems clear that something big is happening here, represented not just by the thousands of people who attended Slow Food Nation in San Francisco but also by millions of other people around the country who are engaged in activities like shopping at organic food stores, at local farmers' markets, or through community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs); asking their kids' schools to get junk food out of the cafeterias; planting community gardens; writing their representatives to call for changes in farm subsidies, better regulation of meat production, and clearer food labeling standards; and ordering fair trade coffee when they get their morning caffeine fix.

The overall tone of the weekend was best captured, I think, by the standing-room-only panel I attended on Saturday at the Herbst Theater. The avid audience listened enthralled--and frequently broke in with applause--as a who's who of food celebrities discussed the meaning and significance of the conference.

Essayist, poet, short-story writer, and farmer Wendell Berry, who has been writing about the need to reform the U.S. agricultural system since the 1970s, spoke about how industrial farming damages communities, destroys ecosystems, and squanders resources.

Restaurateur Alice Waters (who launched the Slow Food movement in the U.S.) shared her dream that the next U.S. president will plant a garden and harvest vegetables to be served at state dinners at the White House.

The movement's Italian founder Carlo Petrini explained (through a translator) that Slow Food is not merely about the pleasures of good eating--though these are important--but also about community, family, and the creation of a truly humane and sustainable way of life.

Activist Vandana Shiva gave a fiery talk about how corporations like Monsanto and ADM are driving a new enclosure movement that is driving millions of farmers in developing nations off the land and impoverishing entire societies.

And journalists Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma) talked about the political prospects for reforming the U.S. food production system so as to better protect workers' rights while producing abundant, nutritious, safe, and healthful food for all.

Where is the Slow Food movement heading? Is its dream of a reformed food supply system attainable? That remains to be seen. It's obvious that food-related issues--hunger, childhood obesity, rising food prices, water shortages, soil depletion, and many others--are on the radar screens of plenty of individuals and organizations. But nothing that adds up to a global "food issue" is on the agenda at a national political level--for example, in the platform of the Obama or McCain campaign.

Still, events like the Slow Food Nation conference may play an important catalytic role by bringing together thousands of people and getting them to draw lines connecting seemingly unrelated economic, political, and social issues. Someday, food activists may look back on Labor Day weekend of 2008 as the coming-out party for their movement--one that may end up having a vast impact on the national and world economy.

Cross-posted on The Triple Bottom Line blog.

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