Reading.

library4

Wrinkles in Spacetime: The Warped Astrophysics of Interstellar. Rogers, A., Wired (Oct. 2014). (“Most Interstellar viewers will see these images—the wormhole, the black hole, the weird light—and think, ‘Whoa. That’s beautiful.’ Thorne looks at them and thinks, ‘Whoa. That’s true.’”)

World’s Longest Snake Has Virgin Birth—First Recorded in Species: An 11-year-old reticulated python produced six babies without mating. Qui, L., National Geographic (Oct. 2014).

School Shooter Identified as Freshman Football Player. The Wall Street Journal via Associated Press (Oct. 2014).

GM’s hit and run: How a lawyer, mechanic, and engineer blew open the worst auto scandal in history. Penenberg, A.L., Pando Daily (Oct. 2014).

S4E7 – #GamerGate. Olson, D., Chez Apocalypse (Oct. 2014). (“A look at Base Assumptions as a critical tool as applied to the GamerGate movement.”) (VIDEO) (FIVE STARS. -Ed.)

Palestine2Ferguson Contingent Shows Power of Unity. US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (Oct. 2014).

There’s a surprisingly strong link between climate change and violence. Mooney, C., The Washington Post (Oct. 2014). (“Bottom line: In an ever warming world, expect more wars, civil unrest, and strife, and also more violent crime in general.”)

Easter Islanders also made voyages to the New World. Graham, K., Digital Journal (Oct. 2014). (“Rapa Nui people met with early South Americans, well before Europeans came visiting.”)

Entitlement Culture War. Thibeault, J., FreeThoughtBlogs (Oct. 2014).

You already have bed bugs. Now get ready to deal with rat mites. Holmes, D., Pando Daily (Oct. 2014). (Jeezus. -Ed.)

Which Foods are the Worst for the Environment? Berger, M., The Weather Channel (Oct. 2014).

20 Things New Yorkers Older Than 40 Did. And will never do again. It was a great time to be a New Yorker. copyranter, BuzzFeed (Jul. 2013). [h/t Josephine.]

Houston Man Charged with Raping Teen, Toddler, Both of Whom Now Have HIV. Edwards, B., The Root (Oct. 2014). [TRIGGER WARNING: rape, child sexual assault.]

Evo Morales: A Bolivian idol. Bolivia’s president talks about the country’s ongoing socio-economic transformation and his third term in officeAl Jazeera (Oct. 2014).

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For the Quote collection:

I have no regrets – in fact, I am pleased to have expelled the US ambassador, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and to have closed the US military base in Bolivia. Now, without a US ambassador, there is less conspiracy, and more political stability and social stability. Without the International Monetary Fund, we are better off economically. -Evo Morales, Bolivian President

When the United States was in control of counternarcotics, the US governments used drug trafficking for purely geopolitical purposes …. The US uses drug trafficking and terrorism for political control …. We have nationalised the fight against drug trafficking. -Evo Morales, Bolivian President

Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations

The issues are too important to be left for the voters. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations

Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings “The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.” … But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations

I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations (Meeting of the “40 Committee” on covert action in Chile 27 June 1970)

Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations

America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations

It is not a matter of what is true that counts, but a matter of what is perceived to be true. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations

The war is just when the intention that causes it to be undertaken is just. The will is therefore the principle element that must be considered, not the means… He who intends to kill the guilty sometimes faultlessly shed the blood of the innocents…In short, the end justifies the means. -Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under the Nixon and Ford administrations

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NOTE: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Recent reading.

library4Walmart heirs working to kill affordable rooftop solar power. Clawson, L., Daily Kos (Oct. 2014).

DHS raids investigative journalist; seizes confidential list of whistleblowers. Site Staff, Police State USA (Oct. 2014). (“I never in my wildest dreams thought something like that could happen in this country.”)

This Teacher Gives Money From His Own Pocket To Feed His Hungry First-Graders. Gregoire, C., Huffington Post (Sep. 2014).

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. 2014 Annual Report. (pdf)

Black teen in white foster home pepper-sprayed by police who mistook him for burglar. Kaufman, S., Raw Story (Oct. 2014).

Consensus: 97% of climate scientists agree. NASA. (“Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.” And the other 3% are either employed by the Koch brothers or work at Jeezus-y places. -Ed.]

Germany is killing its economy – and Europe’s, too. O’Brien, M., The Washington Post (Oct. 2014). [It’s the austerity, stupid. -Ed.]

The Homeless – 39 Questions For Your Reflection. O’Connor, M., Kindness Blog (Oct. 2014).

For the Palace Quote collection:

weirdosareyourtribeWhen you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of “Me, too!” be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe. -Sweatpants&Coffee (via)

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NOTÍCIA: Acquisition of links and/or bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

Recent reading + quips for the quote collection.

 

library4

How the War in Syria is About Oil, not ISIS. Gibson, C., The Anti-media (Sep. 2014).

Mentally ill NC inmate dies of thirst after water denied during 35-day solitary confinement. Gettys, T., Raw Story (Oct. 2014).

Study on reproductive rights and domestic violence: Being denied an abortion “tethered women to violent men”. McDonough, K., Salon (Sep. 2014). (“A groundbreaking study on the effects of unintended pregnancy on women’s lives reveals the dangers of denying care.”)

The big “middle class” rip-off: How a short sale taught me rich people’s ethics. Lyngar, E., Salon (Sep. 2014). (“So many of us are clueless about business and finance. Here’s why that’s just the way the investment class likes it.”)

Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It: Why Is This Widely Denied? Szalavitz, M., Alternet (Sep. 2014).

Scalia admits: Government can promote religion over non-religion. LtPowers, Daily Kos (Oct. 2014).

ACLU Sues To Stop Alabama From Putting Pregnant Teens Who Seek Abortions On Trial. Esselink, J.A., The New Civil Rights Movement (Oct. 2014).

Latest Scientific Evidence Should Be Death Blow to Artificial Sweeteners. LeVaux, A., Alternet (Sep. 2014).

Ancient Oregon Caves May Upend Understanding of Humans in America. Voice of America via Reuters (Oct. 2014).

13 things Cary Elwes revealed about ‘The Princess Bride’ in his Reddit AMA. Todd, C., Entertainment Weekly (Oct. 2014).

Inequality is killing American babies. Matthews, D., Vox (Oct. 2014). (“Higher postneonatal mortality in the US is due entirely, or almost entirely, to high mortality among less advantaged groups.”)

Mayors: Against the Wind. Pearson, G., The Parallel Parliament (Oct. 2014). (“One of the insights you discover in researching how successful mayors around the world operate is that virtually none of them claim to run their respective cities like a business.”)

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For the Quote Collection, let’s hear some wise words from Antonin Scalia, US Supreme Court Justice:

We do Him [God] honor in our pledge of allegiance, in all our public ceremonies. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is in the best of American traditions, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. I think we have to fight that tendency of the secularists to impose it on all of us through the Constitution. -Antonin Scalia

Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. -Antonin Scalia

The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state. -Antonin Scalia

Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their home. They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive. -Antonin Scalia

I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion. -Antonin Scalia

It’s a long, uphill fight to get back to original orthodoxy. We have two ‘originalists’ on the Supreme Court. That’s something. -Antonin Scalia

Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. -Antonin Scalia [This is a very brave man, indeed! -Ed.]

You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My god! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the devil! Most of mankind has believed in the devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil. -Antonin Scalia

What can they do to me? It’s even better than academic tenure — I get life tenure! Antonin Scalia

Ugh. Christ, what an asshole. Fucking gross. On a much brighter note, please enjoy these from Sean Carroll, cosmologist and physicist:

I wish to argue that religious belief necessarily entails certain statements about how the universe works, that these statements can be judged as scientific hypotheses, and that as such they should be rejected in favor of alternative ways of understanding the universe. -Sean Carroll, cosmologist and physicist

Consider a hypothetical world in which science had developed to something like its current state of progress, but nobody had yet thought of God. It seems unlikely that an imaginative thinker in this world, upon proposing God as a solution to various cosmological puzzles, would be met with enthusiasm. -Sean Carroll, cosmologist and physicist

We are looking for a complete, coherent, and simple understanding of reality. Given what we know about the universe, there seems to be no reason to invoke God as part of this description. -Sean Carroll, cosmologist and physicist

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IMPORTANT NOTICE: Acquisition of links and bon mots for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual. Especially not with that fascist shitweasel Scalia. Personally mooning him remains at the number 1 spot on our bucket list.

Recent reads, new quotes.

German universities scrap all tuition fees. Charter, D., The Times (Sep. 2014). [Christ, what a socialist nightmare. -Ed.]

White House exempts Syria airstrikes from tight standards on civilian deaths: Amid reports of women and children killed in U.S. air offensive, official says the ‘near certainty’ policy doesn’t apply. Isikoff, M., Yahoo News (Sep. 2014).

Police Chief Asked Medical Examiner to Change Autopsy Report To Match Officer Testimony, He Does. Vibes, J., The Free Thought Project (Sep. 2014).

US jobs that returned after 2008 recession pay 23 percent less. RT.com (Aug. 2014).

20 percent of American workers have lost their job during the last 5 years. RT.com (Sep. 2014).

World wildlife populations halved in 40 years – report. Harrabin, R., BBC (Sep. 2014). (“The society’s report, in conjunction with the pressure group WWF, says humans are cutting down trees more quickly than they can re-grow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can re-stock, pumping water from rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than oceans and forests can absorb.”)

US and Afghanistan sign security deal: Pact allows 10,000 American troops to remain in the country and raises hopes for improved US-Afghan relations. Rasmussen, S.E., The Guardian (Sep. 2014). [This has worked out so well in Iraq. -Ed.]

Reality TV star Jessa Duggar blames the Holocaust on the theory of evolution. Dolan, E.W., Raw Story (Sep. 2014). [WHAT. -Ed.]

Haredim refuse to sit next to women on El Al flight, causing ’11-hour-nightmare’. Blumenthal, I., Jewish World (Sep. 2014). [Does it make me a terrible person that I go out of my way to brush up against Haredim on crowded subways? Probably. And yet I have no intention of stopping. -Ed.]

Stop Interrupting Me: Gender, Conversation Dominance, and Listener Bias. Kirkpatrick, J., Women In Astronomy (Jul. 2014). (“Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice.”)

How a Black Gay Mormon Kid Lost His Faith. James, G., The Root (Sep. 2014). [TW: rape, homophobia.]

Woman working 4 jobs to make ends meet dies while napping in car between shifts. RT.com (Aug. 2014). [The American Dream! -Ed.]

The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater. Erica, Northwest Edible Life (Aug 2012). [OMFG LOL. -Ed.]

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For our world-renowned QUOTE collection, some words from Elie Wiesel [h/t SJ]:

Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.

War dehumanizes, war diminishes, war debases all those who wage it.

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.

None of us is in a position to eliminate war, but it is our obligation to denounce it and expose it in all its hideousness. War leaves no victors, only victims. [Not so: America’s Owners are the victors. -Ed.]

A destruction only man can provoke, only man can prevent.

No human being is illegal.

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NOTE PLZ: Acquisition of quotes and links for the Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization or individual.

MOAR reedz 4 Ur infotainment.

Coke and Pepsi concede that maybe soda is bad for you. Ferdman, R.A., The Washington Post (Sep. 2014).

Skeptical Spectacle: Mansplain in the membrane. Lubchansky, M., Medium.com The Nib (Sep. 2014). (Webcomic)

Andrew Cuomo wants to endorse a Republican, of course. kos, Daily Kos (Sep. 2014). (“Cuomo has worked hard to keep Republicans in power in the [New York State] Senate, from signing their aggressive gerrymander into law, to conspiring with corrupt rebel Democrats to keep Republicans in power.”)

Alaska reporter outs herself as pro-pot activist in epic on-air resignation: ‘F*ck it, I quit’. Gettys, T., Raw Story (Sep. 2014). [with VIDEO]

Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism). Myerson, J., Salon (Feb. 2014).

The Forsaken: A Rising Number of Homeless Gay Teens Are Being Cast Out by Religious Families. Morris, A., Rolling Stone (Sep. 2014).

So why does Cracked CONSTANTLY push Feminist propaganda so hard? Bowie, S., Cracked (tumblog).

@RichardDawkins…We Are Not Allies. Hevenstone, N., Atheism, Music, and More… (Sep. 2014). (“I’m no longer above working alongside religious people to achieve those goals. Malala Yousafzai is a Muslim. John Fugelsang believes in Jesus. Melissa Harris-Perry is a Unitarian Universalist. bell hooks is very spiritual. Kelly Barnhill is Catholic. Nelson Mandela was a Methodist. And yet I would rather fight alongside all of them for social justice than Michael Shermer and Penn Jillette and Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris for even just atheism.”)

I survived an illegal abortion. Moreland Johns, F., Boing Boing (Sep. 2014).

Rape trauma: Why cops may think victims are lying. Research » Reaction to trauma can account for fragmented, sketchy stories. Smart, C., The Salt Lake Tribune (Jun. 2014).

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NOTE: The acquisition of links for the Palace Library does not imply the Palace’s 100% agreement with or endorsement of any content, organization, source or individual.

Iris the Idiot’s Kitchen: Finger Sandwiches. From Hell.

fingersandwiches02Mothers Day brunch 2014.
Lovely and delicious and a HUGE fucking pain in the ass.

It has become family tradition on Mothers Day for Your Humble Monarch™ to make finger sandwiches for her mom, sister and nieces—and now, for her Amazing Lover™’s mom, too.

Don’t ask me how this shit got started. It’s not that I don’t know, it’s that I really don’t want to talk about it. Suffice it to say that rather than take everyone out to brunch one year on Mothers Day, I decided I’d try my hand at finger sandwiches this one time, and, well, everyone loooooved them and now it’s A Big Fucking Thing. Relatively speaking, though, I’ll take making finger sandwiches for the moms in my life once a year over, say, bearing and raising actual children. Jeezus.

Yes, they are quite delicious and truly lovely. But beyond that, there is absolutely nothing to recommend finger sandwiches whatsoever. The process of making them is ridiculously time consuming, and that’s to say nothing of the work of gathering the ingredients in advance. They are also expensive, particularly if you’re an unrepentant food snob like I am and just have to use only the best quality ingredients one can find. They are neither vegan nor vegetarian, nor gluten free, nor dairy free, nor salt free—in fact, anyone eating them is practically begging for an instantaneous cardiac arrest. Furthermore, making these little fuckers unleashes an ungodly mess, transforming your once-tidy kitchen into what looks like the scene of several simultaneous biblical plagues (plagues, by the way, which you will have neither the time nor the energy left over to clean up). But in my opinion, the very worst sin of the finger sandwich, by far, is the enormous amount of food wasted: we are talking waaaay beyond mere decadence here, and into the realm of unforgivable evil.* So let’s get started, shall we?

First, one must decide on the sandwiches. There are plenty of books and online resources for amazing finger sandwich recipes, and I definitely don’t want to discourage you from exploring them. But I’m really more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-hey-I-wonder-if-pepperoni-and-cream-cheese-would-make-a-good-finger-sandwich-OMG-yum! kinda gal, so I’ll just take you through this year’s menu:

  • pepperoni & cream cheese on semolina, roasted red pepper garnish
  • cranberry almond chicken salad on raisin pecan bread, cranberry garnish
  • egg salad on potato bread, parsley garnish
  • ham & brie with apples on rye, parsley garnish
  • pickled tuna salad on whole wheat, parsley garnish
  • cucumber & cream cheese on white, parsley garnish

CHOOSING BREADS

In general: consider different colors and especially textures of breads, and pair sandwich ingredients accordingly. For example, chicken salad is chunky and heavy so only a hearty and dense bread can stand up to it, whereas potato bread is very soft and delicate and can just about hold a thin layer of egg salad without collapsing. Likewise, multiple ingredients add up, so a stack of ham and brie and apples needs a much sturdier bread than a couple of thin slices of cucumber.

Advance prep tip: if you intend to trek all over your entire county procuring various breads from particular bake shops (see: “unrepentant food snob” above; see also: “idiot”), or worse, make these breads yourself (?!!! What.), you can freeze the loaves when they’re fresh and defrost them right before you’re ready to start assembling sandwiches. Do yourself a favor and request the loaves be machine-sliced if possible: that kind of slice uniformity is pretty much unattainable by hand slicing, and it will save you time.

CHOOSING SANDWICH INGREDIENTS

In general: Make sure to choose spreads, salads and sandwich fillings that you like, since you’re going to be eating most of it anyway out of the towering piles of scraps you will generate. You will require a metric fuckton of butter (I prefer unsalted but YMMV). For sandwiches that do not contain cream cheese, estimate about one stick (4 oz.) of butter per loaf of bread. You may also/instead find you need an equally absurd quantity of cream cheese; estimate about one package (8 oz.) per loaf of bread. In any event you will need a small amount of cream cheese in order to affix garnishes to your sandwiches. (Until, that is, you inevitably say fuck it and start “garnishing” your sandwiches with colorful cocktail toothpicks or whatever else you can scrounge up around your house. Candy corn? Wine corks? Origami paper? Get creative! Practically anything beats carefully selecting, cutting, dipping in cream cheese and perfectly applying fresh little parsley leaves to dozens of sandwiches. ffs.)

The magic key to this whole finger sandwich thing really is the butter and cream cheese. The critical property these substances share is their ability to create an impermeable barrier between the bread and the sandwich filling, such that no soggy bread shall mar your Mothers Day. Thus, the butter (or cream cheese) must be properly applied to your bread slices thusly:

breadyep^Yep.

Nope:

breadnopeAdvance prep tip: If you do nothing else in advance, set out your metric fuckton of butter and/or cream cheese to soften overnight. Unfortunately, most of these sandwich fillings cannot be prepared very far in advance. Most do not survive freezing very well (except for the pepperoni and cream cheese sandwiches, which seem to do just fine). But what you can do the day before you assemble the sandwiches are things like buy fresh parsley, hard boil and peel eggs for egg salad, cook and dice up chicken for chicken salad, wash and drain fruits, vegetables and fresh parsley—anything you can think of, really. Tomorrow’s gonna suck.

ASSEMBLY & CUTTING

In general: This part will take all fucking day, so clear your calendar, make room in your refrigerator, and open a nice bottle of wine before proceeding. Pour a glass, and repeat as necessary throughout the day.

pepperoni & cream cheese on semolina, roasted red pepper garnish

pepperonicrcheese

  • 2 loaves semolina bread (about 12 slices each)—I like LaBrea
  • 2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese
  • 1/2 pound slicing pepperoni (available at most supermarket deli counters), thinly sliced
  • roasted red peppers, sliced into small strips (for garnish)

yield: about 24-30 finger sandwiches, depending on size and shape of bread slices.

Spread a layer of cream cheese evenly onto each slice of bread. Completely cover every slice of bread with one layer of pepperoni. On half the slices, spread a thin layer of cream cheese, then press them together with the remaining slices, lining up the crusts as much as possible (the cream cheese in the center will hold the two layers of pepperoni together). Slice off the crust and discard, then slice into shapes as desired. Thoroughly blot small strips of roasted red pepper on paper towels, and apply one to the center of each finger sandwich with a dab of cream cheese.

HOW TO CUT A WONKY-SHAPED LOAF INTO PERFECT TRIANGLES:

cuttingtrianglesscraps? nom nom nom…

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cranberry almond chicken salad on raisin pecan bread, cranberry garnish.

cranberryalmondchicken

  • 2 small loaves raisin pecan bread (about 10 slices each)
  • about 1 ½ sticks (6 oz.) butter, softened
  • 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and diced
  • 3 cups (12 oz.) sliced almonds
  • 1 package (5 oz.) dried cranberries
  • mayonnaise (start with two heaping tablespoons, and gradually mix in more little by little as necessary until ingredients stick and hold together well)
  • salt to taste
  • tiny amount of cream cheese for attaching cranberry garnish

yield: about 18-20 finger sandwiches, depending on the size and shape of bread slices.

Set aside some dried cranberries for garnish; chop up the rest. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, almonds and chopped cranberries. Mix in mayo in small amounts until the mixture holds together well. Add salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

cranberryalmondchicken2Spread a thin layer of butter onto each slice of bread. Spread the chicken salad mixture evenly onto half the bread slices. (I find a fork to be helpful here.) Press the rest of the raisin bread slices onto the chicken salad, lining up the crusts as much as possible. With a sharp bread knife cut off the crusts and discard, then slice each remaining sandwich in half or thirds: I end up with diamond shapes, triangles and trapezoids. It doesn’t matter—they’re all pretty. Affix a cranberry to the top of each finger sandwich with a dab of cream cheese (NOTE: I use more cream cheese here than I normally would because I like the way the white sets off the color of the cranberry. I am weird.)

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egg salad on potato bread, fresh parsley garnish

eggsalad

  • one standard sized loaf of potato bread (about 14 slices)
  • one stick butter (4 oz.)
  • one dozen large eggs, hard boiled
  • mayonnaise (start with two tablespoons, and gradually add more little by little as necessary until texture is creamy)
  • salt to taste
  • parsley leaves (for garnish)
  • tiny amount of cream cheese to attach garnish

yield: about 14 finger sandwiches.

Chop the hard boiled eggs up into little pieces and put them in a mixing bowl. Add the mayo, and thoroughly mix it all up with a fork, adding more mayo gradually if necessary until the mixture is evenly creamy. Mix in salt to taste, cover and refrigerate.

Spread a thin layer of butter onto each slice of potato bread. Spread the egg salad evenly onto half the bread slices (I find a fork helpful here). Place the rest of the bread slices on top, and press gently. With a sharp bread knife cut off the crusts and discard, then slice the remaining square in half, either diagonally to make triangles or straight down the middle to make rectangles. Affix a leaf of parsley to the top of each finger sandwich with a dab of cream cheese.

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ham & brie with apples on rye, parsley garnish

hamapplebrie

  • 2 loaves seedless rye bread (about 12 slices each)
  • about 1½ sticks (6 oz.) butter, softened
  • 3 packages (7 oz. each) thin-sliced deli ham—I like Applegate Naturals Uncured Slow Cooked
  • 3 wedges of brie
  • 3 green apples: golden delicious if you like sweet, granny smith for more tart
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
  • tiny amount of cream cheese to affix garnish

yield: about 24 finger sandwiches.

Spread a thin layer of butter onto each slice of bread. Core and slice the apples into thin sections, and cover half the bread slices with a layer of apples. Remove the wax coating from the brie wedges, and slice/spread/press a layer of brie more or less evenly onto each apple layer. The goal here is to make sure the apple slices are sealed between the butter and brie (take that, American Heart Association!). Thoroughly blot the ham slices on paper towels, and layer them evenly onto the brie. Place the remaining bread slices onto the ham, and press gently. With a sharp bread knife cut off the crusts and discard, then slice the remaining square in half. Affix a leaf of parsley to the top of each finger sandwich with a dab of cream cheese.

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pickled tuna salad on whole wheat, parsley garnish

tuna

  • 2 loaves of whole wheat bread (about 12 slices each)
  • 2 sticks (4 oz. each) butter, softened
  • 2 large cans (12 oz. each) and 2 small cans (5 oz. each) of tuna, well drained—I like solid white albacore in water.
  • 3 Tbsp. sweet relish
  • mayonnaise (start with two large tablespoons, and gradually add more little by little as necessary until tuna/relish mixture holds together)
  • salt to taste
  • fresh parsley, for garnish (alternative: slice of baby gherkin pickle, thoroughly blotted on paper towel)
  • tiny amount of cream cheese to affix garnish.

yield: about 24 finger sandwiches.

In a mixing bowl, combine tuna, sweet relish and mayo. Mix well with a fork, breaking up larger chunks of tuna and adding mayo if necessary until the mixture holds together. Add salt to taste, cover and refrigerate.

Spread a thin layer of butter onto each slice of wheat bread. Spread the tuna salad evenly onto half the bread slices. (I find a fork helpful for forming an even layer.) Place the rest of the bread slices on top, and press gently. With a sharp bread knife cut off the crusts and discard, then slice the remaining square in half, either diagonally to make triangles or straight down the middle to make rectangles. Affix a leaf of parsley (or slice of baby gherkin pickle) to the top of each finger sandwich with a dab of cream cheese.

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cucumber & cream cheese on white, parsley garnish

cucumbercrcheese

  • 1 loaf white bread (about 12 slices)
  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese—at least.
  • 1 large cucumber (or 2 small)
  • salt to taste
  • fresh parsley for garnish
  • tiny amount of cream cheese to affix garnish.

yield: about 12 finger sandwiches.

Peel and slice the cucumber: slices should be just thick enough that they hold their form and are not floppy when you pick them up. Spread them out on paper towels, and press another layer of paper towels on top of them to blot thoroughly. Remove the top layer of paper towels and sprinkle the cucumber slices with a dusting of salt. Set aside.

Spread an even layer of cream cheese on each slice of bread. Completely cover every slice with a layer of cucumber. On half the slices, spread a thin layer of cream cheese, then press them together with the remaining slices, lining up the crusts as much as possible (the cream cheese in the center will hold the two layers of cucumber together). Slice off the crust, then slice into shapes as desired. Affix a leaf of parsley to the top of each finger sandwich with a dab of cream cheese.

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STORING

After you make each type of finger sandwich, cover them with plastic wrap, and store in sealed containers in the refrigerator until ready to plate and serve. I use plastic takeout food containers I’ve saved, and stack up the sturdier sandwiches in a cake storage container (with plastic wrap between layers). They will stay fresh for a few days.

PLATING

Place paper doilies on a serving platter—this helps keep the bottom layer of bread from getting soggy. Make a first layer in the center of the platter with your sturdiest finger sandwiches, and build a pyramid with the rest of the sandwiches from the center up and out from there. As much as possible, try to keep the most delicate ones out from under heavier sandwiches or multiple layers. Pick a pretty one for the very top. A few berries (strawberries or raspberries) add a nice splash of color.

BONUS TIP: I’ve picked up some really nice platters at my local thrift shop very inexpensively. They add to the presentation and make a nice Mothers Day gift. Along with the fucking sandwiches.

platters

Thrift shop platters: cheap, for realz.

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*One of the best ways I’ve found to mitigate the unconscionable wastefulness of this craptastic undertaking is to have friends, lovers or kids around to nosh on the mountains of crusty scraps and delicious fillings you will inevitably end up with. It’s best to plan such visits in shifts, because as I said this will take all fucking day. If anyone asks whether they can help or bring anything, say unhesitatingly “More wine.” Alternatively, you can just toss the leftover scraps into a big bowl rather than into the garbage, and keep them covered and refrigerated. They’ll be good for a few days, and kids apparently enjoy picking through your garbage and eating it.

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Eat Here the Standard Mega-Corporate Diet

Introduction

A program called “The 2014 Food Revolution Summit” began on April 26. The first day of the proceedings brought to mind, at one point, Dante’s 1814 Divine Comedy.

The Summit featured a series of 24 free lectures on the Internet, each lasting almost an hour, conducted over an eight-day period, with three talks per day. The range of topics dealt with the challenge of eating in ways that are good for the health of the individual, that respect and conserve the environment and that exhibit decent regard for other life forms. A lot of attention, as you might expect, was focused on the power of what one speaker called the “corporate kleptocracy” that transgresses mightily against the three interests noted—human health, the environment and other animals.

No doubt a major theme of this event was this: That food products created and promoted by major industries cause massive amounts of suffering all over the planet. Details concerning this proposition were offered depicting the degradation of the food supply, with stomach and brain churning data regarding the problems and hazards of our industrial food system. No wonder such an overwhelmingly large segment of society does not live and dine wisely. The Summit is simply another reminder of the fact that reality is not cheerful—“cantdoit” is the norm and it’s not going anywhere soon.

American Food ManufacturersOver 100,000 participants registered for this free Summit event. While the nature of the dreadful system described is unlikely to change anytime soon, awareness of the realities is unquestionably useful for the small number of informed people who can recognize how and why things are as they are.

The founder and leader of the Summit ia John Robbins, assisted by his son Ocean. Robins is an author, social activist and a  humanitarian. He is a recipient of many honors, including the Rachel Carson, Albert Schweitzer, Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience and the Green America Lifetime Achievement awards. The two men interviewed 24 highly engaged doctors and others well-known for their books, research, nutrition-reform initiatives and other involvements. All these speakers are, as usual, celebrated in some nutrition circles, loathed in others. That’s how it is when you make a mark in the world or, come to think of it, when you fail to make a mark in the world, as well. Not only can you not please all the people all the time; it seems you can’t avoid really pissing off a good number of them, either.

The goal of the Summit is to promote a movement for change in the American and other food systems that will enable greater opportunities for a future with healthier, more sustainable, more humanely derived and consciously enjoyed food for all.

Day One: The Big Three of a Plant-Based Diet Approach

I tuned in to the first day’s three lectures, featuring three of the biggest “guns” or “hardest hitters” or whatever phrase might be assigned to the renowned lead-off medical experts with rather nutrient-dense portfolios.

First up was Mark Hyman, a family physician, author and adviser for multiple media outlets, politicians, a charlatan or two and varied citizen groups active in large scale weight loss projects. Among them are Rick Warren’s mega-church, though it’s obvious that Dr. Hyman’s diet advice must be of little interest to the Reverend himself, a bloated bloviator of biblical babble.

The second speaker was Dean Ornish, founder of a noted research institute and author of six best-sellers. More than any other, the Ornish program is based on making lifestyle changes an alternative to drugs and other medical strategies. In addition to the usual diet, exercise and stress reduction emphases, Dr. Ornish advocates such REAL wellness qualities as love, enjoyment and meaning to extend and transform lives.

The third speaker was Caldwell Esselstyn, a former rancher, surgeon and successful author who runs a plant-based diet program at the Cleveland Clinic and from his own foundation that he claims will render adherents “bullet-proof” to heart disease. Needless to say, this makes him a lightening rod for powerful interests in the medical community whose careers, livelihood and reputations are founded on interventions to treat heart disease. Dr. Esselstyn is also the father of Rip Esselstyn, a former professional triathlete who himself is quite famous and successful for his books and programs about “Engine 2” whole-foods plant-based approaches to well being.

Highlights

The three opening day speakers provided sweeping overviews of the system—one noting that there are 600,000 food items available today—and you don’t benefit from most of them. Politics and disease drive the health, or rather medical care system, with our Federal government inadvertently subsidizing the obesity epidemic.

Common fallacies were addressed, such as the idea that all  calories are the same, that if you balance calories in and calories out you’ll do fine. This was termed absurd. It’s the nature of the calories taken in that matter more than number consumed. The extent of dysfunctional subsidies for unhealthy food that Congress steers to mega-farming industries was documented. Politically-driven priorities are, of course, guided by massive campaign donations. Surprisingly, such perfidy is not universal: Mexico is one of the few countries that subsidize and promote foods high in nutrient values.

The determinants of health were reviewed. Dr. Hyman said that “we inherit tendencies from our parents, but we don’t inherit destinies.” At present, the food industry, “which is the biggest drug ring on the planet,” profits by alienating us from our bodies. People can change, but under present conditions it’s unlikely—they can’t do it. The good doctors downplayed genetics from its all-controlling reputation to a 50/50 role with environments and chance. One identified an overlooked variable—the lifestyles of friends. (“You are more likely to be overweight if your friends are overweight than if your parents are overweight.”) Our connections are more controlling of the choices we’ll make than anything else. The advice: If you want to be fit and trim, hang out with healthy people who eat and otherwise live wisely. Good plan, and of course offered in the context of other considerations (e.g., being kind and helpful to those who don’t meet the healthy test).

One needed strategy for all who desire food system reforms is to decentralize; local actions are more likely to succeed. All speakers want us to “reclaim our taste buds,” dulled by sugar and other non-nutritive added ingredients. In mocking health claims on labels (with many examples, such as “vitamin water”), Dr. Hyman offered an ironic guideline, “If a product has a health claim on the label, it’s probably bad for you.” He agreed that milk, as the dairy industry ads proclaim, “is nature’s perfect food” but added, “if you’re a dairy cow.” All three first-day speakers in varied ways suggested that our food aid export programs inflict our bad eating habits and food production processes on other nations. One remarked that if another country wreaked as much havoc on the health of American children as we do just about everywhere, we would go to war over it.

The three speakers, especially Dr. Esselstyn, hold thoroughly to the premise that our food culture is toxic. Big companies contaminate food with pesticides, hormones, GMOs and chemicals, and create products attractive to kids that are in fact sugary junk. No wonder 18 percent of our GDP goes for medical expenditures—this will not change for the better if we remain locked into a chemical-laden, highly processed, sugar infested and pesticide-contaminated pseudo-food diet.

A considerable emphasis was placed on the wisdom of choosing foods that are organic, sustainable, subject to fair trade, guided by GMO-free policies and obtained in ways both humane and healthy.

Major campaigns are in underway in 30 states for GMO labeling, improved treatment of animals and policies that require factory farms to pay for the pollution they produce. In addition, efforts are widespread across the country to reform school lunch menus currently designed by and beneficial only to the dairy, cattle and other food industries—not school children or taxpayers.

Dean Ornish focused on making healthy choices, doing the right thing for your health based not on disease avoidance but on the payoffs of positive returns. His was a REAL wellness message, a quality that has always characterized his work. He reviewed the limits of medicine and the sad fact that we seem conditioned to look for a new drug, gizmo (e.g., laser), surgical intervention—all things high-tech and, unfortunately, as expensive as they are ineffective for health enrichment. According to Dr. Ornish, ”seventy-five percent of the $2.7 trillion in health care costs, which are really ‘sick care’ costs, are from chronic diseases that can be largely prevented, or even reversed, by changing diet and lifestyle.”

All promoted simple choices we can make every day—“what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke, how much we exercise and the quality of our relationships.” Dr. Ornish made the case for overcoming obstacles and barriers great and small on an individual basis, though in concert with others, whenever possible.

The three doctors addressed issues of science, the health insurance system, the role of behaviors on all the major diseases, needed medical reforms, the problems with fear-based motivation and the need to link good health with joy, love, meaning in life, fun, optimism, better bodies, good sensations (and vibrations, no doubt) and all of that.

Dr. Ornish said that the work he has done under the wellness banner is indeed a bit “touchy-feely” but it’s backed by science and it works.

Follow Up

If you want to listen to any or all of these freepresentations now, after the Summit has concluded, you will have to spend a little money to do so. However, it won’t cost much. You can buy one of the three optional packages on offer and you will have all the lectures and more. This small investment will surely be wildly profitable in terms of knowledge gained and, assuming you follow at least some of the advice, quality of life returns. (The lectures were free during the Summit; however, the three daily lectures were available at no cost online only for 24 hours during the week-long Summit.) Three Food Revolution Summit Empowerment Package options range in price from $97 to $227.

Many thousands of well-informed, highly conscious people have reaped the rewards of switching from the standard American diet to a whole foods, plant-based menu promoted by the Summit speakers. I expect that tens of thousands more will benefit from the work of John Robbins and the 24 truly exceptional speakers featured in the 2014 Food Revolution Summit, as well as from related efforts across the Western world. But, this aware segment of the planet’s population will remain a small portion of the six billion humans struggling to get by every day, many grateful to have anything at all to eat, and thus the poignant realities for most people will not be much affected in our lifetimes. There is no reason, save for the fortunate few, to expect a major change in the controlling reality that blocks the way to even a reasonable level of well being for most, let alone that resulting from a REAL wellness mentality and lifestyle.

C’est dommage.

Just the same, oh fortunate ones, continue to eat wisely, live well and enjoy your time. Though it is true, as Ingersoll observed, that “we are all children of the same Mother and the same fate awaits us all,” while we’re here our realities are more unalike than similar. Try to make the most of what you have but also consider doing what little you can for the well being of your fellow man.

 

Happy Zombie Jeezus Day!

The Atheist Camel notes:

Well, it’s that time of year again when the mythical man-god of the Christians who committed suicide by cop to save the world from his own retribution, is credited with rising from his tomb, seeing his shadow and thus condemning the planet to a few millennia of superstition, lies, rejection of science, and assorted mystical stupidity.

We plan to celebrate in the traditional way, by drinking Bloody Marys and eating chocolate Jeezus lollipops.

jesuslollipop

 

Chocolate Jeezus Lollipop.

Remember to observe the proper etiquette, people, so as not to offend: photos of cheap plastic Jesus submerged in pee = very bad!  Eating chocolate Jeezus lollipops and letting human digestion take its natural course = totally fine.

Back to IMPORTANT business: tardigrades.

Now that every single thing has been said on the subject of abortion rights, the shitweasel arguments in opposition thereto, and the Man Children who feel entitled to materially abandon their own offspring because waaaaaaaaah, we can finally get back to matters far more pressing than forced birth, child abandonment and all the dead and maimed women and impoverished families around the globe.*

I refer, of course, to the tardigrades.

Waterbear Tardigrade (water bear) Hypsibius dujardini
scanning electron micrograph by Bob Goldstein & Vicky Madden
UNC Chapel Hill

Immediately after the first episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos, I took to Facebook to complain bitterly about the inexcusable lack of attention paid to tardigrades. Tyson and the producers obviously saw my complaint, because they attempted to rectify this tragic oversight by briefly discussing tardigrades in the second episode. But still, there were not nearly enough tardigrades, because as visitors to the Tardigrade Wing at the Palace Zoo well know, tardigrades are the coolest creatures ever:

They are teeny, tiny, water-dwelling, eight-legged animals prevalent in moss and lichen. About 1 millimeter (0.039 in) in length when fully grown, they can be seen under a low-power microscope. Tardigrades are able to survive in extreme environments that would kill almost any other animal: they can withstand temperatures from just above absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, pressures about 6 times stronger than pressures found in the deepest ocean trenches, ionizing radiation at doses hundreds of times higher than would kill a human, and the vacuum of outer space. They can go without food or water for many years, drying out to the point where they are less than 3% water—then rehydrate, forage, and reproduce. Tardigrades have been found in hot springs, on top of the Himalayas, under layers of solid ice, in ocean sediments, in lakes, ponds, meadows, stone walls and roofs. Usually males and females are present, but some species are parthenogenetic.

Here is Professor Bob Goldstein at his lab at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill ‘splaining:

In other words, tardigrades are possibly space aliens, and in any event they are damn near…immortal.

I am sure you can see where this is going.

Yes, Loyal Readers™, the Palace lab will be testing the hypothesis that if I eat enough tardigrades, I will become a virtually immortal extremophile just as they are. To get started on this exciting and important research project, I sent an urgent missive to Professor Goldstein at his lab:

Dear Professor Goldstein:

I am a New York City-based columnist and blogger who usually writes about sex (I’m for it!) as well as politics and religion (I’m against ‘em!), and who finds herself weirdly enamored with tardigrades. I also write to promote science, skepticism, and the sheer transcendent joy to be found in discovering the wonders of the natural world. To that end I maintain a virtual zoo on my personal blog, in which I have a tardigrade specimen named Schnoot.

If I sound like a kook so far, well you’re probably right but I hope you will bear(!) with me.

____________

Professor Goldstein, have you ever eaten tardigrades?

If yes:
What do they taste like?
Do you have any good recipes?
What wine pairing would you recommend?
Are you now immortal?

If no:
Are they poisonous or otherwise dangerous to eat?
Would you recommend that I cook them (over 303 degrees F of course!) before I eat them, or do you think I have to eat them live in order to become immortal?

__________

With many thanks and kind regards,
-Iris Vander Pluym

I sent this over a week ago, and yet believe it or not as of this writing I have received no response from the good professor. WTF, Professor Goldstein. I have, however, made some important progress: a Loyal Subject™ is presently on a covert mission somewhere in the hinterlands of North Carolina collecting tardigrade specimens for me to eat. I shall report my progress once the next steps have been taken and/or Professor Goldstein responds to my inquiry. In the meantime, in order to remedy the appalling failure of Cosmos to provide us with enough tardigrades, please enjoy this slideshow, courtesy of Prof. Goldstein’s lab.

And this:

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*I am not really making light of or minimizing these things, of course. That was some heavy shit we’ve been dealing with around here, and, well, sometimes I crave a little dark humor in order to recharge, retrench and prepare to do battle with the shitweasels the next time. I make it a point to find some joy in my day, every day. Otherwise, the terrorists shitweasels win.

Iris the Idiot’s Kitchen: Frankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake.

ricottacheesecakeFrankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake.
Only at Gaetana’s…and the Palace Kitchen.

gaetanaslogoMy friend Frankie is the proprietor of Gaetana’s, a neighborhood bar and restaurant on Christopher Street. Frankie hails from Brooklyn, and is 100% Italian-American by heritage. Specifically, Sicilian-American, with everything that implies. For example, at least in Frankie’s case, it implies an enormous brick wall festooned with Frank Sinatra memorabilia, the sounds of Sirius XM’s Sinatra station, a prominently displayed Italian flag and, at least occasionally, patrons who look and sound like they came right out of central casting. If youse know whud I mean.

None of this is intended to be the least bit ironic; nor am I dissing Frankie’s culture (it is, after all, very similar to my own Southern Italian heritage). Frankie is one of the most gregarious, generous, genuine people I know. He flirts shamelessly and charmingly with customers of all ages, genders, races, sexual orientations and whatever other demographic identities you might envision wandering in off of Christopher Street. (Well, with the exception of the panhandlers, who sometimes sneak in to hassle diners and drinkers; they get quickly and quietly escorted out.) On my first visit to the bar at his fine establishment, some fucking priest(!) ate my fucking pizza(!). Frankie gave me another one and two glasses of Chianti. For free.

gaetana&frankiejr

Frank Jr. (Frankie’s dad) & Gaetana.

Frankie’s mother—the late, great, beautiful, and by all accounts much loved Gaetana—was a wonderful cook, and Frankie was an eager and gifted student. Originally, he envisioned this restaurant venture of his as your basic neighborhood bar and pizza joint, but the menu quickly expanded to include dozens of dishes from the kitchen of his childhood:

  • pastas with marinara, clam sauce, pesto, garlic & oil, vodka sauce, a wicked hot fra diavolo or a sweet bolognese. Pumpkin ravioli in brown butter & sage. Lasagna to die for.
  • homemade meatballs, enormous pork chops piled with hot cherry peppers, shell steaks, several fresh fish dishes, jumbo shrimp scampi, chicken (Marsala, Milanese, Piccata, Pomodoro, Valdestano…).
  • traditional soups: Pasta Fagioli, Lentil, Stracciatella. Sometimes, Italian wedding.
  • cold antipasto, mussels in white wine with garlic and oil, fried calamari (ask for that with Frankie’s cocktail sauce instead of the marinara), amazing stuffed artichokes (fergawdsake people, save some of the homemade focaccia for dipping).
  • Pizza. Frankie’s pizza is my all time New York favorite—and that is saying something, my friends. (I am not alone in that assessment, either.)

All of it is made to order, with really fresh ingredients. In fact, if he has the ingredients, he’ll make you anything you want. Mangia.

There are countless upscale Italian restaurants in this city, places where the decor is opulent, there are sommeliers and Executive Chefs, the cuisine is trendy and inventive, the Barolo runs $350 a bottle and watching the wait staff perform is like watching dinner theatre. Frankie’s place is nothing like that. I mean that as the highest compliment. Gaetana’s is unpretentious, welcoming, casual, inexpensive (relatively speaking) and fun, with a quirky clientele. Frankie’s sister is a waitress there, he’s got old friends on staff, and no matter their ages all the bartenders are strictly old-school. In the parlance of the food critic/foodie/food snob, Gaetana’s is what’s called a “red sauce joint,” often derisively. Done this well? There ain’t no shame in that.

But then, Dear Lard, there is the ricotta cheesecake.

If you’ve never had it, there is nothing quite like it, which makes it kind of hard to explain. It’s not as sweet as typical (“New York style”) cheesecake, and it has the subtle-but-distinct flavor of fresh citrus. But it’s the texture that really sets it apart: it’s slightly more granular than creamy, with a lightly caramelized golden-brown “crust” on top. Let me put it this way: if you enjoy savory dishes made with Italian ricotta—lasagna, manicotti, cheese ravioli—and you like cheesecake, you will freaking love this. And it turns out many people who do not care for traditional cheesecake (myself included) really love it too. Like, a lot.

Just as I do, Frankie comes from an Italian-American cooking tradition where family recipes are not written down anywhere and consist mainly of a string of helpful directives like, “Then add the chopped garlic.” How much garlic? “You know, enough.” In all likelihood this is why I had to beg him for the recipe for more than a year. One night, after the usual good-natured teasing and terribly insincere pouting on my part, he finally slammed his fist down on the bar and said, “That’s it! I’m giving you the recipe right now!” He tore a page out of a datebook, went into the kitchen and shortly thereafter handed me this:

frankierecipe I was so happy I nearly wept with joy. Naturally, I failed to notice that there were certain key pieces of information missing, things one typically thinks of when one hears the word “recipe.” Things I noticed the next day, like how (and how long) do you mix these ingredients? How long do you bake it? What’s the best way to cool it? And what on Earth does the cryptic scrawl “IN WATER” mean? I suddenly had a vision of Frankie in his kitchen going through the motions of making a ricotta cheesecake from memory, checking how much ricotta cheese comes in a commercial container and furiously jotting down approximations of everything else (“about, I dunno, a cuppa parmesan? what, maybe six ounces of orange juice? a couple, say, six eggs?”)

But it didn’t matter. It was indeed a recipe, Italian-style, a form of art in which I am fluent. I knew I would figure it out. And here it is.

__________

Frankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake

NON-FOOD ITEMS YOU WILL NEED

zester

  • an electric mixer (or a handheld whisk + something called “stamina”)
  • a zester* (or multi-function grater)
  • a loaf pan (for water)
  • a working oven
  • a refrigerator
  • a springform pan**

*<—This is a zester. Use it to scrape the brightly colored skin off of the orange and lemon, taking as little of the white pith underneath as possible.
IMPORTANT SAFETY WARNING: without advanced-level training the zester is not recommended for use in the Bedroom.

springformpan**This is a springform pan.
It’s a pretty nifty 2-part thingy that seals tightly
to enclose the filling. After baking, you release the latch
to remove the band around the sides. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs ricotta cheese (whole milk)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons vanilla extract***
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 6 oz. orange juice
  • zest of 1 orange
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • dusting of powdered sugar
  • fruit garnish (optional)

madagascarvanilla***Frankie wrote “2 Tbs” but he might have mean teaspoons here. Then again, maybe not. I keep forgetting to ask him. So I use about 1½ tablespoons of Nielsen-Massey Vanilla’s Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract. TRUE FACT: you really can’t go wrong here.

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Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Place a standard loaf pan filled halfway with water on the oven’s lower shelf. Lightly coat the inside of the springform pan with unsalted butter. If it’s not a non-stick pan give it a light coat of flour, too.

Zest the lemon and the orange, and combine the zest with all the other ingredients (except the powdered sugar and optional fruit) in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix on medium-high until well-blended (about 2 mins).

ricottacheesecake1

BEFORE…

Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan. Place the springform pan on the top shelf of the oven. (NOTE: it’s fairly heavy, almost full to the brim and highly liquid at this stage, so take your time and be careful. IOW, don’t be like me.)

coolingcheesecake

…AFTER.

Bake for about 1½ hours. Maybe more. Maybe less. I don’t know. What I’m saying is your mileage will vary because mine certainly does, depending on the temperature accuracy of the oven I’m using and how often I open the door to check it, the diameter of the springform pan (larger than 9″ means a shallower cheesecake that bakes in less time), the altitude of the kitchen, the liquid content of the particular ricotta brand (which also varies with the same brand), and probably a bunch of other stuff I don’t know anything about.

*sigh*

goldenbrownricottacheesecake

Mah done cake.

For me, the best way to determine when it is finished baking is to shake the oven rack a little bit and observe the consistency: it should appear firmer (and more golden brown) around the edges, and more jiggly in the center. Like jello. Mine bakes in a little more than an hour and a half, sometimes an hour and 45 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and set it on a cooling rack for twenty minutes. The cheesecake will flatten a little bit and begin to pull away from the sides. Carefully run a butter knife around the sides of the pan to keep it from sticking. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator to cool for 3 hours. Then cover the pan pan with a lid or foil and let it cool in the refrigerator overnight.

To serve: remove the springform band. Optional: transfer cheesecake to a cake stand or plate by first loosening the bottom with a knife or thin spatula and then sliding it carefully onto the desired surface. Good luck with that.

Slice into wedges, extract each wedge with a cake server and plate it.

Optional: add fruit garnish to the plate—berries and oranges work well, and provide a nice counterpoint. I would definitely try kiwi, peaches (raw or cooked), maybe pineapple.

Dust each plated slice with powdered sugar right before serving.

Taste Frankie’s Mom’s Ricotta Cheesecake.

Last—and this is important—try to remember that there is no god. Good luck with that too.

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Some notes from comparing other recipes.

Frankie’s recipe has no crust; other recipes I found have a crust, and I have tasted many delicious ricotta cheescakes that do. Frankie says that at least the traditional Sicilian recipe has no crust, and I have to say with this recipe I do not miss it. The texture of the top edge acts as a kind of crust, and of course without making crust the whole operation is simpler. One recipe I found said to coat the bottom of the pan with a mixture of sugar and breadcrumbs over the butter.

frankiewater

Spring Form Pan
IN
WATER
350°”
Wut.

 

Some recipes say to bake the springform pan in a larger pan filled with water to a level about halfway up the side of the springform pan. Maybe this is what Frankie may have meant by this.—> Maybe I’ll try it next time, but it really doesn’t seem to be necessary. (Some recipes don’t even mention water at all.)

There are recipes that call for half or less of the ricotta, and some that also add cream cheese. Some have less sugar. One recipe I found has rum in it (which seems more Caribbean than Italian, but is probably delicious regardless); another is made with honey.

Some require a food processor instead of a mixer; others require straining the ricotta beforehand.

I also came across one with a lower baking temperature (300 F/150 C).

Regarding bake time, one recipe suggested baking for one hour, and then turning the oven off but keeping the cheesecake in for another hour before removing it. This seems like a cool idea, but I’d have to test it.

I’ve seen directions to cool the cake in the refrigerator uncovered for one hour instead of three (and then keep it covered until it cools completely, “6-8 hours.”).

See the many recipes for yourself on the Google Machine.

And take look at these images for other variations and different serving suggestions.

My advice is to start with Frankie’s Mom’s recipe—it’s easy and delicious—and maybe then explore more challenging recipes. Lard knows I never will.

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