Sunday, March 20, 2011

No Laughing Matter

Mimi Sheraton, the former food critic for the New York Times came to mind this morning as I was reading the Sunday newspapers - online, of course.  Thank you, Al Gore for inventing the internet, because I surely don't miss newsprint.  About 25 years ago I developed a sensitivity to the ink on newspapers, and if I wanted to read the Times, the New York Daily News, Newsday, or the Orlando Sentinel, I had to turn the pages while holding a piece of paper towel.

I had just finished making breakfast for my boys.  Boudin, paprika onions and peppers, sunnyside up eggs, and artisinal roasted garlic bread, handsliced and toasted.  The boudin was a new experience, part of my food haul from Walmart, and the boys pronounced it "different, but very good." 

Back at the computer to read the Times, I was saddened beyond words by the headlines, especially these two:

"U.S. and Allies Strike Libya - Qaddafi Pledges ‘Long War’ as Allies Pursue Air Assault on Libya"

"Japan Finds Tainted Food Up to 90 Miles From Nuclear Sites"

I am a child of the sixties, when the war in Vietnam dominated our thoughts and our headlines.  Since September 11, I have watched in horror as our children were sent overseas to fight and to die.  Don't get me started about Iraq.  And as far as Afghanistan, it seems we did not learn from the lessons the Russians had painfully discovered.  I apologize if this offends anyone, but on September 12, 2001, we should have carpet-bombed Afghanistan.  End of Osama bin Ladin, end of Al Qaeda.  End of discussion.

But, in a deja vu dance I'd rather not watch, our country has dragged on fighting in Afghanistan, fighting in Iraq, and poking our nose into other places around the world.  I fear we have been spoiling for a fight the last month or so, since civil wars have broken out in Middle Eastern countries with whom we have a less-than-cordial relationship.  My fear became reality with this morning's headline.  And my concern, my only concern, is for our children, our young men and women who have been and will continue to be deployed to foreign countries to fight and die.

So Mimi Sheraton came to mind when I momentarily flashed back to something she had written in her book "From My Mother's Kitchen", about growing up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn in the 1930's, and how the newspapers were delivered to the door - "and what a pile of newspapers it was, for on Sunday, to get all the comics, we had the Brooklyn Eagle, the Herald Tribune, the Sunday News, the Journal-American, and the Sunday Mirror."  But here is the part of the article that popped up in my head as I read those electronic headlines: "we also had the New York Times, but in those days that was a paper strictly for adults and no laughing matter."

No laughing matter, indeed.  It seems that we have not learned from the past, and that is a tragedy because we are destroying the lives of our best and brightest without good reason or rhyme.  In my line of work, I meet many families that have been torn apart because of a parent's mental illness or drug addiction.  For too many of those parents, the roots of their illness go back to their participation in a war, or time spent in the military.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is no joke.  Losing a limb, or one's eyesight, spending life in a wheelchair or in a burn unit ... why do we let this happen to our children?  Forty years after Richard Nixon brought our troops home from Vietnam, we are still sending them back out.  Why?

This has gotten much too serious ... let me lighten things up a bit.  Today is baking day at Casa de Rothfeld.  I'm not sure how much I'll get done, but I can assure you I will take pictures and post recipes on our companion blog.  Almost forgot to take a picture of the boudin breakfast platter, and was all ready to serve it up to the boys, and Rob says, "aren't you going to take a picture of it?"  Ack!  I had really forgotten.  Great food blogger, eh?  And speaking of food bloggers, I just added the BA (Bon Appetit) Foodist Blog to my blog list (look at the right column of this page for my food blog list, a couple of foodie polls, and other useful gadgets).  All I can say is that Andrew Knowlton does a lot better in print than in his much-too-frequent appearances on Food Network.

Back to Mimi Sheraton - thinking of her book, which is half cookbook and half family reminiscences, reminded me that many of the cookbooks I still love dearly, and from which I learned so much, are out of print!  And not, I might add, available electronically.  I guess that makes my cookbook library, which has somehow expanded to occupy almost every room in this house, a very valuable collection.  Who woulda thunk it?  My very first cookbook was The Joy of Cooking, an engagement present from an adult cousin.  I was thrilled; my mother was miffed as she considered anything other than a tidy check or a complete set of Farberware pots to be "cheap."  Mom was a mercenary.

Betty Crocker's Chinese CookbookFrom My Mother's Kitchen: Recipes and ReminiscencesMaida Heatter's Book of Great CookiesEat This...It'll Make You Feel Better!: Mamma's Italian Home Cooking and Other Favorites of Family and Friends

I realize that celebrity chefs have taken over the cookbook market, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  On the contrary, I am very happy to place Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, and Ina Garten on the shelves next to my old favorites.  But I'm happier still to keep those oldies safe and sound, because those memories are special.  Emeril's crawfish etouffee' and Bobby's unique tamales are outrageously good, but Mimi Sheraton's mother's recipe for chicken fricassee with meatballs evokes memories of those unscheduled Sunday visits to my Uncle Abby (pronounced "Ah-bee", short for Abraham) and Aunt Rose's apartment in Brooklyn.  We always ate out on the weekend, but afterwards my parents liked to drop in on relatives.    No one called ahead in those days.  My Aunt Rose always had food on the stove, because we were not the only ones to stop by. And she always offered her chicken fricassee, which, I am sorry to say, I never got to taste because we always ate ahead of time.   I can only imagine that Mimi Sheraton's recipe comes close to Aunt Rose's.  Which means it must have been simply wonderful.

Cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.

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