Saturday, August 1, 2020

A review of the book “Trouble I’ve Seen” by Drew G.I. Hart

A Common Household book review

Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, by Drew G.I. Hart.  © 2016.

I recommend this book to white American Christians. 

Dr. Hart points out the inability (or unwillingness) of white Christians in this country to be able to see life from the perspective of people of color. This inability supports prolonged systemic racism, both in the church and in the country.  In white American churches, racism is often only addressed every now and then, in a sermon here or there, based on some national event.   Hey, we mentioned racism on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so now we can move on.

This book has tough words for white Christians to hear.  Will we have the heart and energy to persevere in looking at our role in the continuation of racism, in the face of such condemning words? I found it worthwhile to continue reading, and hope that you do, too.

This book makes the point, also seen in other recent books on racism, that racism goes much deeper than individual acts, such as “saying the ‘n-word’.  The perspective of white Americans, when it comes to racism, is shallow and short-termed, whereas the perspective of black Americans is more comprehensive and takes a long view of history.  Are we white Christians willing to try to change our perspective?

Dr. Hart shows how a “whitened” Jesus supports American empire and racism.  At the time of Jesus’ birth, “Rome was the ruling empire over the Jews, and consequently all of Israel understood what it meant to be oppressed – what it meant to live life with someone’s foot against your neck.”  (p. 59)  Throughout American history, white Christians have used a false understanding of Jesus to support oppression, rather than to free the oppressed.

But Jesus is a subversive. “In his life and ministry, Jesus found solidarity with the poor, with the oppressed, with vulnerable women, with the socially rejected and marginalized, with ethnic Samaritan outcasts, with the demon-possessed, and with the blind or physically sick.”  (p. 61)  Jesus stands against Caesar and against the existing social order.  We should consider that Jesus wants us to take a stand against the oppressive aspects of our existing social order, which includes systemic racism.

When trying to start a conversation with white Americans about racism, the author usually gets these kinds of reactions:  defensiveness, antagonism, color-blindness (“I don’t see color” is essentially an inability to recognize racism).  White people discount his experiences.  Sometimes he experiences someone who has good intentions, but who questions the author’s perspective on what racism is.   I think this intense emotional discomfort renders white Americans unlikely to persevere in addressing racism. 

Hart writes, “Dominant cultures have a way of disguising their own oppressive practices from themselves with strong proclamations of innocence and benevolence and universal principles of equality.”  This is amply described in another book I read this year - Mistakes were made (but not by me): Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts , by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson , © 2007, 2015.  Humans have a basic psychological need to justify their own actions and to view themselves as worthy and innocent.  It is partly this basic human need and partly the socialization of the dominant white culture that prevents us white people from seeing racism.  It’s very hard for the dominant portion of society to see oppression.

The last chapter, “Where Do We Go From Here?” proposes seven “Jesus-shaped practices for the anti-racist church”.  I urge you to read all the way through to the end.

There is one criticism I have of this book.  There are a few pages in Chapter 3, “Leaving Behind the Whitened Jesus”, where I see anti-Judaism on display.  Hart espouses the theology that basically sets up all Jews in the earthly time of Jesus as idiotic bad guys because they failed to recognize Jesus as Messiah. 

Jesus [says] “You will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’ (Luke 13:35).  Most of his listeners would have been anticipating a visitation from God as Jeremiah prophesied, and many would have also expected a messiah who would come and deliver them from their unrighteous oppressors.  This would happen in Jerusalem.  Yet when the time came, they did not recognize God in the flesh.
            Isn’t that something?  They could not recognize that it was God manifested in Jesus. They attended synagogue and served the torah their whole lives.  Yet when God took on human flesh, somehow Jesus looked nothing like many people’s projections of the divine one.  (p. 70)

I don’t like this theology, nor its mocking tone.  I think it is a dangerous and wrong theology (a view I probably got from reading Jewish New Testament scholar Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, and from being married to a Jew).  I believe that Hart is trying to make the point that the Jews (“God’s people”) in that time could not recognize their own complicity in living counter to God, just as today’s white American Christians cannot recognize their complicity in racism.  But I think that Hart’s condemnation of all Jews in first century Palestine is condescending and wrong.   Is it even true that “all Jews” in that time did not recognize their role in society’s ills?  Is it even true that “all Jews” were living “counter to what God was doing on earth as manifested in Jesus Christ.”?  The gospels tell us that many Jews did believe that Jesus was the messiah.  Most of the first Christians were Jews. 

And the Jews who didn’t believe that – who can fault them?  The Christian claim that a man is God is completely anathema to Jewish theology.  In many ways, Jesus did not fulfill the traditional qualities of messiah.  Can we give first-century Jews some credit for actually sticking to their principles?  Also, let’s recognize that the gospels are polemic documents which portray the enemies of early Christians in the worst possible light.  Given the anti-Semitic history of the Christian church, I really wish Hart had not put this damaging theology in his otherwise excellent book.

Maybe Hart’s theology here just shows that the gospel of Luke is anti-Jewish, but these pages left a bad taste in my mouth, and I thought that making first-century Jews the bad guys is not necessary for Hart to make his larger point that we white Americans need to recognize how we contribute to racism – either intentionally or unintentionally.

Again, I recommend that white Christians read this book – it’s time for us to do this incredibly hard work (just don’t adopt the theology on pages 69-70).

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A review of today

"Surprised Egg" - art by
Common Household
Younger Daughter

July 30.  Day 212 of the year 2020.

Let’s review.  Today these things are going on:

GDP declined 9.5% this quarter (32.9% annualized).  Basically, GDP fell back to about the 2015 level.  This is a record decline.

We have had 19 straight weeks of unemployment claims over 1 million each week.

The Senate today failed to pass legislation to continue unemployment compensation.  They were quite willing to put $1.75 billion in their bill for a new FBI building, a gift to Trump's business.  But they couldn’t bring themselves to give $600 to out of work Americans.  The Senate bill did have some kind of scheme in it to give graduated payments ($200 or less? – I didn’t read the bill.  That’s the Senators’ job, not mine) which would probably cost more to administer than that difference of $400. 

The Trump Administration is still working to dismantle the ACA, trying to take health coverage away from millions of Americans, during a global pandemic.

The funeral of John Lewis, a true patriot, a “good, kind, and gentle man,” took place in Atlanta, with a eulogy delivered by President Obama.

Citizens all over the country continue to demand racial equity, an end to police brutality, and the dismantling of systemic racism.  The simpler changes, symbolic changes to help us move on from our racist past, such as changing the names of military bases named after Confederate traitor generals, ought to be easier.  (An aside: at a Black Lives Matter solidarity rally, local to me last weekend, protesters claiming to be “backing the ‘blue’” chanted a list of which types of people they would like to kill, right after they shouted “all lives matter”.)

The Governor of Oregon announced that she has reached an agreement that federal agents will leave Portland.    The Trump Admin disputes that.

More than 150,000 Americans have now died of the covid-19 illness.  (For comparison, annual deaths due to influenza average in the range of 12,000 to 61,000).  Herman Cain died of covid-19.  Note that Cain attended the Trump rally in Tulsa, and did not wear a mask.  Trump's national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, tested positive for Covid-19.    It has been five months since I have seen my aging mother, because her nursing home is on lockdown.  I wonder if I will be able to see her in person before her memory and cognitive functions decline irreparably.

That is today.

Is it any wonder that Trump tweeted his intent to postpone the election?  Never mind the fact that he hasn’t read nor understood the Constitution, which says that it is not in the President’s power to postpone an election.  We’ll likely hear feeble peeps from his enablers, but they won’t be courageous enough to confront Trump directly on this.  I've waited all day to hear something from my Republican Senator.  They are not willing to say their beloved emperor has no clothes. 

This very day, Trump can’t stand that the nation’s heroes, Rep. John Lewis, and Dr. Fauci, are more admired than Trump.  And oh, President Obama will get attention for making a speech with full sentences.  Trump is beside himself with self-pity.  Maybe if he tweets something outrageous about the election, he can draw attention away from Lewis, Fauci and Obama.  Did no one in this man’s family ever see that he needed help for this problem?  His untreated mental state is now our nation’s sorrow.  But the enablers will refuse to say that their emperor has no clothes.

Is it any wonder that Trump and his enablers are committed to putting federal agents in cities, to do a trial run of martial law?  The President asks you to please keep your attention on the unrest in Portland. Those moms in bike helmets and dads with leaf blowers – they are all socialist revolutionaries.  So scary!  He’s made it nakedly obvious that this is an election tactic – he openly declared he is sending agents to cities run by Democrats.  The emperor has no clothes, but dresses his mercenaries in camouflage – rather odd, since they are in an urban warfare zone.  For purposes of intimidation, perhaps?

Is it any wonder that Trump is grasping at straws to draw our attention away from the disastrous economic situation?  In March and April he and his enablers could have chosen to do the right thing, and use the power of the Presidency to ramp up production of testing capacity and protective equipment.  Instead, they did nothing but drum up a culture war over face masks.  We ordinary citizens still can’t get a covid test unless we have dire symptoms.  Imagine if we had enough tests to get everyone tested every week?  We could much more easily return to school, work, shopping.  But the enablers hide the fact that their emperor gets tested every day while we wait weeks for test results. If we can get a test.

Is it any wonder that Trump tweeted racist dog-whistles aimed at white suburban women, in order to foment fear and anger in his base of supporters?   But the enablers will refuse to say that their emperor has no clothes.

When he ran for office, Trump said, “I alone can fix it.”  A few months ago, Trump said, “I take no responsibility.”

It looks like it’s up to us to take responsibility.  What will we do?

Broken egg on driveway - science experiment by
Common Household Son

Saturday, July 11, 2020

What We Will Eat During The Anarchy

Back in May, we were a household of three.  We engaged in quite a bit of cooking from scratch, making sure to use all of our groceries.  No wasting food! was my motto.  That motto has since been slightly relaxed, but it was in full force in May.

One day our Younger Daughter volunteered to make dinner.  I instructed her to make zucchini pie, because we had fresh zucchinis and a spare pie crust that needed to be used up.  And I told her that we had to have the leftover roasted butternut squash and sweet peppers. 

After YD put the zucchini pie in the oven to cook, she exclaimed, “This dinner is full of food I don’t like!”  

Me: We’ll be having that sweet potato bread that I made.  And there is cheese in the zucchini pie.

YD:  The bread is the only part of this meal that I like.

Me: But you can learn to love zucchini.  It’s part of adulting.


I believe she found the zucchini pie was not too awful.  Good thing, because No Wasting Food!

* * * * * * * *

Sometimes adulting takes other forms during a pandemic.

Me, reviewing recipes: Oh, look!  Cranberry and Rosemary Sangria!  We could use some of that right now.

YD: Would you like me to set up a distillery in the back?

* * * * * * * *

I have yet to tell you about our family’s Pandemic Dessert Baking Series.  That will have to wait for another time.   The Dessert Series has ended because Younger Daughter moved out.   But our series led us to discuss desserts many times in the past few months.  Here are the Common Household Husband’s deep thoughts about blueberry pie.

Husband:  Let me tell you my issues with blueberry pie.   One: usually the person preparing it doesn’t take the time to take off the little stems.  Two: Then, you don’t know if they are using those tiny blueberries or normal ones.  So blueberry pie is very hit-or-miss.
A pre-pandemic set of blueberry pies, using normal blueberries.

* * * * * * * *

A few nights ago, I was reading the news.  It was completely depressing. And that was before the UFTOO-POTUS* allowed his pusillanimous convicted guilty crony The Penguin to escape justice.  In this country, laws are for the little people to follow.

Me: America is not going to make it.  It’s going to be anarchy.

Common Household Husband: But that can’t last long.

Me: You're right. Some power will take over.  Probably private militias.

Husband:  If the French take over that wouldn't be too bad.   We could have baguettes, and French pastries .  Wine would be easy to get.  Especially those pastries with the chocolate inside.  Very excellent.  But if the British take over, it would be bangers and mash, kippers and herring.  Breakfast would be excellent, but dinner might not be as good.   And tea all the time.  Lots of tea.

Me: That wouldn’t be so bad.

*Unfit For The Office Of President Of The United States
Tea Time, as depicted on a quilt.
Maybe anarchy could be like this!
* * * * * * * *

In the past few months, our use of paper towels has diminished, but lately we had been running low and found them difficult to find.  Toilet paper, on the other hand, has returned to the grocery stores, although in limited amounts.

Today I went down to the basement to check on the laundry.  My husband was there, already folding the clean laundry. 
Husband: I got you a present. 

Me:  !

Husband:  It’s there in those grocery bags.

Me, looking in one of the bags:  Toilet paper!   And paper towels!!!! Thank you so much!

Husband:  Actually, the present is in the other bag.

Me:  Skinny Pop Popcorn!  Yay!  Oooh - it's kettlecorn flavor!

 * * * * * * * *

As The Anarchy approaches, we must learn to appreciate the simple things.

Friday, June 12, 2020

First Lines: May 2020 edition

Five books finished during May.   Except one of them was a short paper, not a book.

Book 1
Chapter One: The Other Minister
It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.

Book 2
There’s no prize at Mesa Grande High School for being first to finish eating.

Book 3
Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.

Book 4
The possibility of a worldwide influenza pandemic in the near future is of growing concern for many countries around the globe. Many predictions of the economic and social costs of a modern-day influenza pandemic are based on the effects of the influenza pandemic of 1918. This report begins by providing a brief historical background on the 1918 influenza pandemic, a short-lived, but tragic event that has all but escaped the public’s consciousness today.

Book 5
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

And the titles revealed:

Book 1
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling © 2005
A good yarn, but I have to warn you, the ending is depressing.

Book 2
Other People's Crazy by Gregory Fletcher  (Young Adult lit).  © 2020
I read this at the suggestion of a friend, who knows the author.  She suggested it as a good YA book, without too much angst, and she was right.  This is a book about the largest kid in the high school being bullied by the smallest.  There is some angst, as there should be in literature, but I enjoyed the book a great deal.   Lots of calming philosophy here.

Book 3
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo.  © 2006.
This is the story of a toy china rabbit who has absolutely no agency – can only observe and eventually feel emotions, but cannot take any action on behalf of himself or others.  It is bold of the author to make such a character the main character, but it works.  It gives the reader some idea of how it must be to be a person with little agency in the world.  Quite relevant for these times.  This is presented as a children's book; despite the satisfying ending it felt quite heavy to me.

Book 4
Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic:  Implications for a Modern-day Pandemic, by Thomas A. Garrett, Assistant Vice President and Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, November 2007.
This paper may be a good place to start, on the topic of the economic effects of a pandemic.  It’s a short read.  I felt it glossed over huge concerns about income inequality and the inadequacy of the US health care system, and how those things would affect the outcome of a pandemic.  But it does show that some people in power were thinking about the economic impact of a pandemic, when the rest of us weren’t. This report is 25 pages.  You can find it here:

Book 5
The Gospel of Matthew, written ~85 CE.
A speed reading to try to see real quick what Jesus would do.  What would Jesus do about reopening the church building during a covid pandemic?  My main takeaways:
-       Jesus had compassion for the sick and he did a lot of healing, over and over. 
-       Jesus kept trying to social-distance from crowds, but was not very successful at it. 
-       He acknowledged that what comes out of your mouth is what makes you nasty. 
-       On the other hand, Jesus was particularly grumpy and cantankerous with religious leaders.  He constantly challenged the authorities of that day.
-       Jesus said he desires mercy, not sacrifice.  The greatest commandments are to love God and love others as yourself.  Be humble. 
-       He told the Pharisees (who, in my view, unfairly get a bad rap in the gospels) that the truly important things are justice, mercy, and faith. 
-       He told a famous parable, in which the king praises those who gave to the needy food, drink, clothing, healing, and visits while in prison.
No firm answers there on how often to disinfect the pews, or whether brand-name wipes (if you can find ’em) are more effective than generic ones.  No instructions on which room of the church to take a sick person to.  No bolt from heaven on how to do contact tracing.  But a clear image of an itinerant preacher who provided healing for the sick, without charging a co-pay.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Challah for a Congregation of Three

Last week I received in the mail a special package, containing a rare item not seen in these parts since late February.  My dealer, who is my sister-in-law, sent me a small pouch of yeast, enough for baking several loaves of bread.  She came upon this yeast because a co-op in her neighborhood bought a gigantic package of yeast (the only volume that can be bought these days) and then divvied it up into reasonable family-sized amounts.  I am grateful to benefit from their resourcefulness.

The challah recipe I have made in the past is for a "congregation-sized" loaf, or 24 minyan-sized loaves.  But our congregation of three people can't and shouldn't eat that much challah in a short period of time. The freezer is still chock full of stuff, so there's no room for freezing extra bread.

The recipe for congregation-sized challah calls for 6 cups of flour.  The recipe below calls for 4 cups.  So this is what I made today.

I do not have bread flour.  I used all-purpose flour.  I used honey instead of sugar.  I kneaded the dough by hand, a very satisfying activity.

Challah Bread
(medium-sized loaf)

MAKES 1 loaf (about 20 slices)

1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
1/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil, such as canola (or ¼ cup melted butter)

1.    Dissolve the yeast. Place the water in a small bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and a healthy pinch of sugar, and stir to combine. Let stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top, 5 to 10 minutes. This means that the yeast is active and ready to use. (If you do not see this or if your yeast won't dissolve, it has likely expired and you'll need to purchase new yeast.)

(The original recipe had steps 2 and 3 reversed.  It seems better and easier to me to add the flour last.)

2. Add the eggs, yolk, and oil. Stir the yeast-water mixture.  Add the sugar, salt, eggs, egg yolk, and oil. 

3. Add the flour. Add 4 cups of the flour.

4. Mix to form a shaggy dough.  Mix everything with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms.

5. Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes. Fit the mixer with the hook attachment and knead on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.) If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.

6. Let the dough rise until doubled. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place somewhere warm. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

7. Divide the dough and roll into ropes. Divide the dough into equal pieces (3 or 4 or 6), depending on the type of braid you'd like to do. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and then try again.

I did a 4-strand braid.  The main thing to remember is 4 over 2, then 1 over 3, then 2 over 3.  Watch this video for details on a 4-strand braid. 

8. Braid the dough. Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. If making a 3-stranded challah, braid the ropes together like braiding hair or yarn and squeeze the other ends together when complete. 

9. Let the challah rise. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top and sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place away from drafts until puffed and pillowy, about 1 hour.

10. Brush the challah with egg white. About 20 minutes before baking, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.

11. Bake the challah 30 to 35 minutes. Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the challah is deeply browned and registers 190°F in the very middle with an instant-read thermometer, 30 to 35 minutes total.

12. Cool the challah. Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Slice and eat.

The original recipe is from here:

Thursday, May 14, 2020

First lines: Feb-Mar-Apr 2020 edition

This photo was taken at a place that I am very fond of.
Alas, it is closed right now, until further notice.

Let’s face it.  For some of us, it’s been hard to concentrate during the past three months.  In January I finished reading six books.  In Feb-Mar-Apr I finished reading six books, and that was a struggle.

Here are the first lines of those six books.

Book 1
1: Trigger Warning
I’m not mad.
            Look, everybody is called a traitor once or twice in their lives, right?  Everybody gets falsely accused and wrongly investigated by the FBI and has to testify in front of Congress for over thirty hours, answering the same stupid politically motivated questions over and over again, don’t they?

Book 2
This is a love story. In 1916, during the First World War, two young
Americans met by chance on a mysterious and now-forgotten estate near Chicago.

Book 3
Willa Drake and Sonya Bailey were selling candy bars door-to-door. This was for the Herbert Malone Elementary School Orchestra.

Book 4
Valentine’s Day
As always, Martha Storm was primed for action. Chin jutted, teeth gritted, and a firm grip on the handle of her trusty shopping trolley.

Book 5
Joshua Poldark died in March 1783. In February of that year, feeling that his tenure was becoming short, he sent for his brother from Trenwith.

Book 6
June 1988
“Hi, Caller, You’re on the air with Garden Talk.”
Mona Butterfield leaned forward in her seat and took a deep breath to calm her nerves.

And the titles revealed:

Book 1
Triggered:  How the left thrives on hate and wants to silence us , by Donald Trump Jr. , © 2019. 
How horrible that this was the only book I finished reading in February.  I was reading lots of news articles and knocking on doors to get primary election petition signatures, and following primary elections.  All the while, the coronavirus outbreak was growing. 

Looking back at the "first lines" quote above, it seems highly ironic.  Which political figure testified for hours and hours, answering politically motivated questions?  Hmm?  Benghazi hearings, anyone?

I read this in the hardback version.  Because the library is now closed, this book is still sitting in our house.  

* * * * * * *

In March I was able to finish two books.

Book 2
The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies, by Jason Fagone. © 2017
A fascinating look at the lives of code breakers.  And also a love story.  Read for book club, with a virtual discussion via video meeting, while in coronavirus soft lockdown.  This library book is also still in our house. 

Book 3
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler © 2018
The library system had a list (back in March) for those who want to read about pandemics, and another list for those who don’t. These were on the latter list.   It was great to read an Anne Tyler novel.  She always takes me back to my hometown.  Read on kindle, borrowed from the library.

* * * * * * *

In April I found enough concentration to finish three books.

Book 4
The Library of Lost and Found, by Phaedra Patrick © 2019
Borrowed from the library on kindle.  Also on library's list for calming down.   It fit the bill nicely.

Book 5
Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 (The Poldark Saga Book 1)
by Winston Graham © 1945
Having seen the first three seasons of the TV series on disk from the library, and having been prevented by coronavirus from borrowing the next seasons from the library, I decided to read the series.   

Reading a book which you already know the plot line of may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed this reading, and not only because it does include the occasional cup of tea.  The diatribes of Jud Paynter, the servant, while drunk, I found highly amusing.  His inebriated speeches appear in the TV series only in an abbreviated fashion.  Reading this book was somewhat like re-reading the Harry Potter books (I have re-read books 1-5).  It is comforting to re-enter the lives of the characters I know, and I am less anxious about the lot.   (kindle version borrowed from library)

Book 6
Through the Channel, by Melissa Westemeier (third in the Bassville Stories series).  © 2020
What a pleasure to read this book.  I loved meeting these characters again and spending some time in this town – nothing like my town or our current times, which makes it a perfect book for right now.   Mona is endearing, and Maw is hilarious.  And in Chapter 25 I found a special surprise.  Manure features prominently in some scenes, but so do raspberries (the fruit).   This book is still in our house because I bought it and it is a copy with a personal inscription to me, signed by the author. 

The Bassville Stories series consists of these three volumes:

I also finished most of this book, but can’t claim to have read all of it.
Howard Thurman: Essential Writings, Selected with an Introduction by Luther E. Smith, Jr.  © 2006.

These photos were taken outside our public library.
Our dear public library! 
I look forward to returning there sometime, maybe next year!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Anecdotal Evidence: The Miracle of the Secret Sauce

Part of an occasional series on "statistics."  A good statistician will tell you that those two words – anecdotal and evidence – never belong next to each other.  But I am only a mediocre statistician so I proceed without fear to present some anecdotal evidence on random topics.

* * * * * * * *

If I put my secret sauce on food they hate, the family will eat it, and like it.

Evidence, with n=2 foods hated and n=2 food haters.

Evidence for n = tofu
For a long time, I have been trying to cook tofu that is palatable to the rest of the family, with the goal of eating less meat-based protein. I like tofu, simply pan-fried, but the other two don’t. 

I asked a pastor friend of mine the best way to cook tofu, and he said, “You have to season the hell out of it.”  Which seems like reasonable advice from a pastor.  I’ve tried a number of different recipes over the past few years, but nothing appealed to my clientele.

Saturday April 18, 2020, Day 34 of stay-at-home.
I decided that dinner would be tofu in honey-garlic sauce, the family’s dislike of tofu be damned (I feel my pastor friend would agree with that sentiment).

A miracle!  All members of the Common Household liked the tofu! The key was not the honey-garlic sauce, but my secret sauce.  Here’s how I made it:

I cut the tofu in pieces about ½ inch thick, and marinated it in a mixture of honey, soy sauce, and minced garlic.  Dipped it in flour, and then fried it (almost burned it, but not quite).

I transferred the tofu to a serving bowl. I put about ¼ cup of plum sauce (from a jar) in the hot pan, plus a dollop of ginger paste (from the tube) and also added the remainder of the honey-garlic sauce from the marinating step.  I heated it briefly, and then poured it over the tofu.  Then, like Mikey in the Life Cereal® commercials of my childhood, the tofu-haters ate it, and declared that it was actually tasty.  Success! 

Evidence for n = broccoli
Saturday April 25, 2020, Day 41 of stay-at-home
At 6 PM it became clear to me that no one else was going to make dinner.  I yanked some tilapia out of the freezer.  I also realized we had fresh broccoli, bought on Monday, that needed to be cooked immediately.  As I hauled the broccoli out of the fridge, the other Common Household residents made faces and declared they would not eat it. 

We'll see about that, I thought.  I sliced some onions and then threw the fresh broccoli in the frying pan.  After the broccoli was cooked I took it out of the frying pan, and I made my secret sauce:  some minced garlic in the pan, fry for 1 minute.  Then add 1/4 cup of plum sauce and a dollop (about a tsp) of ginger paste.  Stir for another minute to heat, then pour over the broccoli w/onions.  Everyone ate the broccoli, despite their declared hatred for it.  Secret sauce for the win!

God help me if the family decides that I must eat mayonnaise during stay-at-home.  I will refuse, because mayonnaise is a sauce from hell.

More anecdotal evidence:

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Here is the original recipe for Honey-Garlic sauce, which is more involved than what I did for the tofu.

Honey-Garlic  Sauce

1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp. sriracha
1/4 c. water
2 tsp. corn starch
1/4 c. sliced scallions (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and water, until the cornstarch dissolves completely. Set aside.

Combine soy sauce, honey, garlic, lime juice and Sriracha in a small saucepan over medium heat.

When the mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat and add the cornstarch mixture. Bring to simmer again and cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.

How to use:
Use on broiled fish (apply in the last few minutes of cooking).  Or on baked or stir-fried vegetables.  Or on tofu.