Just

I can’t wrap my head around it yet. It’s been ages—a month?—dear God, a month last Saturday. Justin died, that bright proud peacock of a man. His pride killed him. His addiction killed him. Very possibly fentanyl-laced heroin killed him, as it’s killed dozens of others on the east coast this year.

And I miss him. I miss that disagreeable, infuriating, stubborn man. You know, someone told him she was worried about him, only a few months before he died, after two others had overdosed. He told her he was outraged that she’d think he was like other people.

I made it to his funeral, wearing an outrageous feathered hat and platform heels he would have worn better. Or rather, to his visitation. There wasn’t any funeral. I wish there had been. I wish to God he’d pulled a Tom Sawyer and showed up at it, sheepish and pleased with himself, apologetic but slyly proud he got away with it. I wish I could have seen his face, because it doesn’t seem real yet. I thought I saw him at Vespers last week—high cheekbones, dark hair, that half-grin. It was someone else, someone unfamiliar. Just an echo.

A friend liked a link on Facebook, and the wizards behind the curtain immediately shot it to the top of my screen. Russell Brand on Heroin, Abstinence, and Addiction, written days after J died. “I cannot accurately convey the efficacy of heroin in neutralizing pain,” Brand wrote. “…Drugs and alcohol are not my problem — reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution.”

Justin’s death, Dylan’s death, Mattie’s death—different causes each, but every one unnecessary. What can I do? What can I say? How can I protect the ones still living, still struggling, masking their losing battles under a film of bad poetry, rock songs, and snarky bravado. This makes three this year. How many next year? The year after? Of my sons?

Justin would have had a song to recommend, and something trite and poetic to say. When Mattie died he told me, “Don’t be sad. Pure souls are never long for this world.” Horseshit. My heart hurts.

What a damnable shame.

Poor Bastard Soup

Some days you just need food that’s quick, hot, cheap, and not going to send you into an early grave. This is that soup. It’s done in five minutes, it tastes good, and it’s endlessly customizable. Don’t have an ingredient? Leave it out. Feeling fancy? Boil some thinly-sliced carrots, celery, and onion in the broth before you add the noodles. So ill you can’t stand up? Skip the noodles, nuke the broth, and eat it on the couch while watching Sleepless in Seattle through a foggy-headed haze. Too irritable to cook and too hungry to wait, but too broke to get curry delivered? This is your soup. The more you swear at the pot, the better it tastes.

If you’ve got broth, heat the broth on the stovetop and cook one serving of glass noodles in that. Bone broth is magnificent, but let’s not get picky here.
What do you mean, you want measurements? Pour the broth into your soup bowl til it looks like enough to fill you up, and then pour it into the pot to heat. If you don’t have glass noodles (ie the clear Chinese noodles that cook almost instantly), use what you’ve got but boil them in a separate pot, then add them to the broth.photo

If you don’t have broth, heat some water and cook the noodles, then stir in a spoonful of Better than Bouillon. If you don’t have broth or Better than Bouillon or bouillon cubes or a dusty packet of powdered soup mix in the back of the cabinet, maybe rethink trying to make this soup. I mean, you can try, but I make no promises.

If you didn’t use bone broth (for shame) and you’re sick, consider stirring in a packet of gelatin. Nonflavored, of course. What kind of soup do you think we’re making?

Stir in some garlic and ginger. If you’re feeling all fancy go for freshly-minced, but jars of pre-minced are cheap at international groceries, and let’s be realistic here. If you were feeling spiffy you wouldn’t be making a recipe called Poor Bastard Soup. Even dried ground ginger and garlic salt will do in a pinch. Don’t skimp on the garlic, either. It’s Lent, who do you think you’re going to be kissing? Dose it up.

Add some lemon juice. I keep a bottle of lemon juice in the fridge at all times because a quick dash is the fastest way to convince my dinner guests that I know what I’m doing. “Is this lemon juice on roasted broccoli?” “Yes, I read it in Cook’s Illustrated, it elevates the flavors.” Goes with everything.
Or, if you’re feeling guilty because that pathetic-looking lemon is about to go moldy because you never cook and your grandmother would be ashamed of you, toss a couple slices of fresh lemon straight into the pot. No need to squeeze ‘em, this is lazy man’s soup here. I went for fresh lemon, but without the guilt trip. My grandmother couldn’t cook boxed Mac n Cheese.

Stir in some green curry. It comes in tiny glass jars in the international section for about three bucks. Start with a quarter teaspoon if you’re wimpy. If you’re foolhardy or so sick you can’t taste anything anyway, go for a full teaspoon. I wish you godspeed. It’ll cure you or kill you.

Lastly, stir in a little oil–just a teaspoon or so. Coconut oil sounds weird but it tastes great in this, and it’s immune-boosting. Toasted sesame oil is heavenly but I’ve perpetually just run out. Olive oil is an acceptable option too.

Pour it into a bowl, add salt if it needs some, and drink up. If you’re ill, grumpy, or in dire need of food STAT so you don’t defenestrate someone, this is your soup. Poor bastard. It’s almost enough to make you start counting your blessings.

Poor Bastard Soup
Serves one. What? You don’t actually want to share.

Bowlful of broth, or bowlful of water, 2t Better than Bouillon, and 1t gelatin
1 serving glass noodles, or a handful of regular noodles cooked separately and drained
1t minced garlic
1/2t grated ginger
1t lemon juice, or 1 slice of lemon
1/4t green curry paste
1t oil (coconut, sesame, olive)
Salt to taste

Heat broth (or water + bouillon) til boiling and add the glass noodles. Turn it down to a simmer. Stir in spoonfuls of garlic, ginger, green curry, and oil in no particular order. Add lemon juice or lemon slices. Kvetch vehemently about whatever caused you to be making this soup. Salt and enjoy, more or less.

Favorite Recipes

A friend and I are planning Skype cooking sessions for this January, so I thought I’d write down my favorite, mildly-impressive go-to dishes.

Roast chicken and root veggies

Savory sabayon sauce from Aroma, especially on fish, chicken, or steamed artichoke

Fresh-tomato pasta sauce — this is really good for lunch over gf pasta
I don’t peel my tomatoes, and I’ll use any type of tomato. I usually don’t use parm, my herbs are dried, and I can never find our red pepper flakes.  And it still turns out amazing.

Roasted brussels sprouts with grapes and walnuts — sounds nuts, tastes amazing

This apple cake is one of my favorite things.  I keep messing with the gf-ifying of it, though.

Shortbread, which goes quite well with lemon curd

What are some of your favorites?

Canned Responses: Minimum Wage

I’ve decided I need canned responses I can copy-and-paste whenever someone’s being an idiot in the same old way on Facebook, a comment thread, or some forum.  I’m tired of trying to eloquently restate reality each time.

When they say:
Why should cracked-out burger flippers get paid $15 an hour?  They should show some initiative and get a real job.

I’ll copy-and-paste:
If a corporation hires a worker at a salary so low that the worker is eligible for public assistance (food stamps, welfare, etc), then that corporation is essentially offloading part of the cost of having an employee onto the taxpayers. That’s not acceptable.

McDonald’s does this all the time: http://consumerist.com/2013/10/23/mcdonalds-mcresources-help-line-tells-worker-how-to-get-welfare-benefits/

As the video there says: “McD’s doesn’t want to pay its workers more. It wants YOU to pay its workers more.” 
McDonald’s is essentially receiving the welfare, by having the government pay its employees for it.

- – -

I wish this weren’t necessary.  I expect I’ll be posting similar canned responses on things like abortion, marriage, and other simple, charming issues.

Frustration in Dialogue

In both real life and on the internet, I’ve lately found myself standing up for or explaining the nuances of beliefs I don’t hold, largely because the opposition is being unkind, factually incorrect, unhelpful, or dismissive.  Often the topic at hand involves gay rights, mental health, abortion, or poverty.  And you can’t tell by looking whether a person’s life has been affected by sexual orientation, mental illness or non-neurotypical brains, abortion, or poverty—theirs or others’.

I’m a fairly conservative person, I value being forthright, and I believe we have to be honest in saying sin is sin—iff we’re close enough to a person that it’s our business to say anything at all.  It’s not useful to tell someone their out-of-control diabetes or alcoholism is fine, and it’s not useful to tell someone someone their anger or greed or other sin is fine either.  But I also don’t walk up to random people and start lecturing them on their life choices.  I wouldn’t listen to a spiritual or medical lecture from a stranger—why would I trust them on a subject that important?

I do understand where other views are coming from (e.g. pro-choice views), and I really dislike when people heap hatred on the other side, especially on straw-man caricatures, especially in lazy, rude, throwaway comments. Especially when the real people involved are in a lot of pain with no easy way out. These things I hear often seem less like speaking up for truth and more like an excuse to be nasty towards some group of Others.

My own views don’t fall tidily into one category, and while my personal beliefs are certain my political beliefs are mostly just heartbroken.  I don’t want to mislead people into thinking I’m gung-ho for abortion (for instance) just because I don’t put up with people being cruel towards people who have had or who defend them. But I don’t want to let already-alienated and hurting people be further stomped on by the same old lies and cruelty, especially not from people calling themselves Christian. That won’t heal any wounds or bridge any gaps.

And I do want to contribute towards an environment in which people can actually have a dialogue about the issue, without everyone being so cautious nobody can talk OR so harsh nobody can listen.

I can stay quiet and save my energy, and let the person sitting next to me suffer, thinking they’re friendless and alone.
I can speak up, angering others, exhausting myself, and not necessarily accomplishing anything.
I can speak up only when I feel there’s some hope of something being accomplished, and fume quietly or leave the rest of the time.
I can try to distinguish between how XYZ was said and the idea behind it, and note why they may have just shot themselves in the foot discussion-wise, and end up droning on so long nobody listens anyway.

I tend to just sigh and speak up, because frankly it seems somebody has to.  But it’s always a question—what’s the Christlike thing to do?  To be loving, to have humility, to have courage, sure.  But in what way?

Jolly Old St Nicholas

I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the modern American concept of Santa Claus.
Give me St Nicholas any day.

St Nicholas was the epitome of loving-kindness. He was generous to the point of self-sacrifice, and he helped those who truly needed him. People would have died, been sold into slavery or turned to prostitution had he not helped them. He created a better world through his actions. I am wholeheartedly in favor of commemorating him, including leaving out shoes or stockings and doing acts of kindness in his memory/name. (Though I prefer to celebrate him on his actual feast Day, December 6th, rather than on Nativity.)

In a world where 25,000 kids under the age of 5 die from hunger every day, it seems sick to encourage Western kids to crawl onto a stranger’s lap and teach them to demand a long list of plastic toys they’ll either break or outgrow almost instantly.
Gift-giving is a wonderful expression of love, but when it becomes about the receiving instead of the giving it has been perverted. I object to creating a sense of entitlement.

And I am so very creeped out by the guilt trip that goes along with it. “If you’re not good, he’ll know. He sees you all the time. He knows you’re secretly bad. So you better try really hard. Listen to Mommy or you won’t get presents.”

Okay, so for one thing obedience is an expression of love and respect. And it provides the structure kids need to thrive. It mustn’t be about bribery.
And linking the concept of goodness to material rewards is very much not what Christ teaches.
And for another, this “he’s watching you” thing is just scary.

Originally written at this time last year.

Headcovering at Halloween

An acquaintance covers her head full time, and she’s been asked to show up to work in a costume this Thursday.  So she asked our group what we’d recommend—she requested cheap, modest, and easy to DIY.  I thought it might be handy for others, so here are the suggestions so far:

Fortune teller, with long swirly skirts and layered headscarves

Queen Amidala (less easy to DIY, but that’s what costume megastores are for)

Raggedy Ann with a mobcap and yarn braids sticking out

Medieval princess with the storybook-style hat and veil

Piratess with a tichel, lace, and tricorner hat

Many national folk costumes have headcoverings and skirts

Colonial dress with a mob cap

Mrs Claus with a mob cap

A butterfly with a black scarf or hijab, black shirt, and black maxi-skirt so the wings and antennae stand out

Little Bo Peep with her bonnet

Merida in her fancy dress with the white headcovering and circlet

A cupcake: brown dress, white/pink poncho with “sprinkles” and a scalloped edge, and a red hat for a cherry on top

A mouse, fox, bear, etc: dress in all grey/brown/black with a hat that has ears on it, then paint on whiskers and a little pink nose

Cruella deVil or something with a wig

Rosie the Riveter with a scarf; she traditionally wears pants, but oh well

A chef, with your hair tucked into the tall white cap and a little mouse Ratatouille on your shoulder

1920s long dropped-waist dress with knotted pearls and a cloche (because the knee-length flapper skirts weren’t the only option)

So there’s that!

Apple-Cheddar Halfmoon Pies

These are the best things I’ve ever made.  

apple-cheddar pieI adapted them to sans gluten by using 1c white rice flour, 1/2c cornstarch, 1 c brown rice flour, and 1t xanthan gum in place of the all-purpose flour.  Other than that (and using yellow cheddar instead of white) I followed the directions closely.  I grated frozen butter into the flour mixture and kept tossing things back into the fridge and freezer if I wasn’t using them that exact moment, and the crust turned out golden and flaky and marvelous.  I do think sharp-as-hell white cheddar would be even better.  I have a ridiculous amount of filling left over, so I reckon I may have to try that next go-round.  There will be a next go-round.  And probably several after that.  

My roommate’s apple peeler-corer-slicer was the hero of the day, and I’m currently turning the scraps into jelly.  I made applesauce and then apple butter a few days ago.  Fall, clearly, is for apples.

So, my costume this fall is Fairy Godmother.

I need to be more magic than I am to fit the requisite number of hours into the possible number of days. That, or use the same magic to fit the tasks into the hours, but something’s gotta squish and it’s looking like my sanity.

I’ve been home only half the time since September, and right now it feels like the only thing I’ve done right is cleaned the house.  I know this is false (I’ve done a lot of things well lately, and yesterday it even felt like it) but today is an explosion of have-to-do-XYZ-right-nows with a side of ARGH, and I’m not liking it.

What are costumes for, if not wishful thinking?