Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pestos! Pestos! Pestos!

So with all the greens I've gotten from my CSA and my garden, I've had to think of ways to eat them. I mean, yes, you can steam or saute them or have them in salads but after a while you want something new. Or I want something new.

I had heard somewhere that you could make a decent pesto from them and I wanted to give it a whirl. And you know what? Greens make for a great pesto!

I did it first with spinach. I used spinach, garlic, a handful of chopped walnuts, and olive oil (and a little water since I used a mini blender). It was creamy and flavorful and a treat. I made it twice--once for me, and once for me and Garden Dude, my neighbor.

Then I got my CSA share. That included spinach and kale. Hmmmm, I thought. I know spinach makes for a nice pesto but what about kale. . .?

Well, here's the news: Kake makes a freaking fantastic pesto. Honestly, I don't know why people stick kale in soups. You can make a kimchi like thing with it. You can saute it. You can make it into chips. You can throw it into a smoothie if you have the right kind of blender. It's pretty darn good in salads. And in pesto it's sublime. The slight bitterness with the pungency of garlic and the floral notes of olive oil make it a wonderfully simple to make yet complex-tasting dish.

And here's the great thing about pestos: You don't have to eat them on pasta. They are good for sandwich spreads. They are nice on fish or beans (paired with more greens on the side because come on people, eat your greens). Pestos add some color and punch to skillet meals like pilafs. I'll bet you could put some in a soup (I haven't tried this yet but I will.) Put some on omelettes or scrambled eggs. They dress up a baked potato or a nice sauce for a casserole (I'm thinking of a recipe I saw for a potato casserole with pesto).

Monday, June 13, 2016

An open letter to the fundamentalist Christians who are screaming about ISIS after Orlando

Hi! You all have been posting up a storm about ISIS, and a mean, craptastic Imam who advocated death for gays. You all have been sounding the horns about the Islamic threat and offering thoughts, prayers, and moments of silence for the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and trans people who were murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL.

I have a request: Put the rock down and tend to your own glass house.

I do not want to hear any more people dragging Muslims. I have heard things about the guy who did it and I don't know what is true or how accurate it is. I have heard that he pledged his life to ISIS (a group that most Muslims despise). I have heard that he was as Muslim as I was Catholic-ostensibly so, by birth, but not particularly devout. I know this: the rhetoric he heard about LBGT people, the attitude he held towards them, was parroted and echoed among ostensible Christians.

But that's not fair! I have heard people (including relatives) cry out. We don't consider people like the Westboro Baptist Church real Christians. Yeah? Most Muslims don't consider ISIS to be real Muslims, yet there you were, loud and wrong, on social media, talking about how "they" like to throw "people" (or maybe "gays" if you're feeling like acknowledging that) off of buildings. In the areas ISIS took over.

What I don't hear is any acknowledgement of major figures in conservative Christian circles--respectable figures, figures who can count Senators and Representatives as friends--as helping to write the Kill The Gays law in Uganda. Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee (who has an unearned reputation for being a nice guy), and Bobby Jindal spoke at a conference headed by a pastor who advocated for the execution of LBGT people. They did this as Republican Presidential candidates. They were proud to be at a conference where the head of the conference openly advocated for this.

Think about that. Golly, I wonder where the idea that it was okay to kill people at a gay club came from? Maybe stop freaking out about Muslim imams who say these things and look at the other Christians who preach and support these same attitudes.

Motes, beams, and eyes.

And you'll protest. Oh, you say, I don't have a hateful bone in my body! I don't hate anyone! 

Right, but you're indifferent enough that you either don't know or don't care that well-known pastors, who are considered to be quite respectable in conservative Christian circles-advocate for this garbage.

Maybe you don't hate anyone but you want your gay teen sent to a camp to be reeducated as a straight person. Because you love the sinner but hate the sin. Except that your gay teen is learning that if they are not conforming to what you think they should be, you will not love them. You will reject them. You will hurt them.

Maybe you don't hate anyone but you think same sex couples shouldn't marry, that they are somehow a threat to your own marriage or marriage in general. And if that means they don't have the same legal protections that you have, well, that's just tough. It's only a piece of paper, you'll say, though you'd be outraged if you hadn't had the legal right to marry your spouse. Spouses have legal protections that common-law partners do not. Ask anyone who was kicked out of the house they lived in with their partner until their partner died. Ask anyone whose partner was in the hospital. 

Maybe you don't hate anyone but you think that same sex couples should not adopt children. You don't hate them but they are obviously sick and disordered and will hurt the children. You are filled with love! So much love that you'd keep a couple from adopting a child simply because they were both of the same gender.

Maybe you don't hate anyone but you think trans people should use the bathroom of the sex they were assigned at birth. After all, men will assault women in the women's room, right? Let's forget that actually, these are women who were born in the wrong body--yes, it's a thing, and yes, I believe them. Let's also forget that when women are sexually assaulted, many people will tell us we were asking for it by making bad choices, lecture us about dressing modestly, and assert that men are sex-crazed hosebeasts who cannot control their urges. And that makes me think men shouldn't be allowed out of the house if it's true but that's another post. 

You don't hate anybody but you are convinced that gays molest children (while shrugging off, covering up, and excusing actual child molesters). You don't hate anybody but you are convinced that gays are an abomination. You don't hate anybody but you nod along while the pastor in your church talks about the sins of homosexuality and how you have to fight against things like their right to marry. You don't hate anybody but you don't want that gay couple living in your neighborhood. You don't hate anybody but you think gays are sick and disordered.

A conservative fundamentalist imam says the same thing, and suddenly you all are outraged. Well, save your crocodile tears, you aren't fooling anyone. And might I remind you, that the majority of men who have done this have been white and have been ostensibly Christian. George Sodhini. Eric Rudolph. Dylan Roof. Charles Roberts IV. Adam Lanza. John Salvi.

I don't care about love or hate. I care about the fact that militant fundamentalist Christians in this country have been just fine with dragging LBGT people, working to erode their rights, and promoting horrific violence against them based on the Bible. You don't get to ignore that. You don't. And you don't get to ignore the other atrocities here, committed by mainly white men, mainly men who were Christian. Who called themselves Christians. 

I wasn't surprised by Orlando. We have had too many of these crimes for me to be surprised. I'm disgusted and I'm angry and I am really, really tired of the manufactured outrage some of you in my feeds, in my life, have ginned up against Muslims when your own are not any better.

Save your thoughts and prayers. Instead, just do better. 

Garden news

So, I tried some new things this year, and as per usual, have had some hits and some misses.

First, I planted spinach, mustard greens, and arugula. They did quite well but started to flower fairly soon (it was still cool outside and I was all OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME). Fear not, I managed to eat them all. Mustard is great sauted. Arugula is quite nice with scrambled eggs or thrown in with pasta. Spinach is also good that way, put into smoothies, or made into a pesto.

I planted poppy seeds in a space that my neighbor tilled for me. Nothing came up. Despairing, I bought some flowers to plant today and I saw some seedling. Huh. What to do?? I'm still thinking on it. I could leave that half alone and plant the flowers in the other half of the space.

I planted peas. Fun fact: You should plant them densely and trellis them early. Don't be a lazy jerk like yours truly.

I planted turnips. They're a little crowded, but I like them a little small since they're tender. Also, I'm pulling the greens and eating them (also quite tasty as a side with scrambled eggs. Yes, I've been eating a lot of eggs lately).

I planted beet seeds and they are doing. . .eh. Not great. I may have to put some beans in there instead.

I have planted beans in other parts of the garden. That's a pretty good all purpose, "What do I plant when the other stuff has gone by and I want to replenish the soil" plant. These are string beans. They are also known in my lexicon as "snacking as I work in the garden beans" since they do not make it back to the house.

I planted--or my neighbor planted--chard and collards. The chard's doing well, the collards are a little slow but doing okay. Time will tell.

My garlic keeps coming back, so yay?

Of course I planted tomatoes and hot peppers. I got a couple of heirloom tomatoes from my neighbor, and my father gave me early girl seedlings. I'm not bothering with romas since let's face it, I'm not going to make sauce this summer. Last summer was pretty crazy and I ate every tomato as soon as it was ripe (romas were made into instant quick sauce, so. . .)

I moved my rhubarb plant to my raised bed and it's not going gangbusters. The plants I had in my old community garden plot at my old job are taking over the earth. These? They're small. Maybe it needs to be fed. We'll see.

My New Zealand Spinach came back so if you ever want to plant that, keep in mind that you will have it forever. I don't mind as I like it.

My neighbor--who I will call Garden Dude from now on--gave me a raspberry plant (which I will keep in a large planter because HOLY HELL THOSE THINGS ARE INVASIVE), a couple of currant plants, a blueberry plant, and a strawberry plant. Garden Dude has chickens and gave me some slightly composted straw from the coop to mulch with. So far the plants like it.

I also have a makeshift bin for my grass clippings made from metal posts and chicken wire.

And because I am a realist, I rejoined my CSA. The farmer is a wiseacre. His note about this week's share was: "A bag of leaves. You pay money to join our CSA and you get a bag of leaves."

Monday, January 11, 2016

Don't work for free

Once, I submitted a query to write for an online comedy site. I asked about their pitching process. I got a reply from an intern, with my name misspelled, instructing me to send ten pitches, that maybe they would accept one, and that if they did I wouldn't get paid for the piece I'd be asked to write. But I'd get exposure!

Hey, you know where I can write for free and get exposure? And I don't have to pitch a blessed thing? Right here. On my blog. I can even set up another blog if I want to.

If someone's pitch is good enough to accept and someone's writing is good enough to publish, they should be good enough to pay. I get that sites don't have millions, especially those starting out, but even a token amount says you value what someone's doing.

And it's not just writing where I've run into this.

I have been approached several times by people I know about doing freelance work. But as it turns out, in many cases they thought I would work for free. The minute I mentioned a contract or my hourly rate they decided to skip it. (Yes, a contract. I learned the hard way that without one of those, you can get jerked around and have your time wasted.)

Now, that's their right. But here's the thing: I have hired friends to do work for me. I paid them because their time and their labor and their expertise has worth. If I didn't want to pay it, I wouldn't waste their time.

What I do in my full-time job requires either resources that cost money or, short of those things, a lot of time. If you want the job done quickly, you need resources. Either way, it will cost you. So if your organization needs someone who does what I do, be willing to pay. (I'm not willing to shoestring it because frankly, I don't have the time to do that. I'll use the resources that cost money and get it done in two hours as opposed to ten.)

So here's my advice.

Don't work for free. I'll admit, I'm sensitive about this, since women are often expected to go above and beyond for free. Don't do this. Do not volunteer in your field of expertise unless you're a billionaire and don't need the money. Do not do this if you are a college student or a new job seeker or a career changer and are looking to get a foot in the door. You will work for free and you will not necessarily get anything in return down the road. You still have expenses (what? Your parents are going to cover for you? Come on.). You may end up in debt. And for what? The chance to give an organization to save a few bucks at your expense? That's a ripoff. It also hurts a lot of people who truly cannot afford internships--maybe a college student from an affluent family can afford it (thanks to the family covering their expenses), but a lot of people can't. It essentially shuts them out.

While we're at it, doing what you're well-versed in on a volunteer basis is, in my opinion, a bad idea. First, if it's your full-time job, doing it part time for free on top of your work week is not going to help you and may burn you out. Second, if an organization needs your expertise so much, they can pay for it. Yes, it's cold and harsh. So is the idea that your time isn't worth anything.

I say this because our labor has value. Our time has worth. And if a person or an organization does not agree, they can bloody well do without.

I'm not saying don't volunteer. I'll volunteer (when I have time, which isn't a typical thing these days) but I do things that are not in my field of expertise. I'll help out at rummage sales or do a clean up or something like that. My friend Steve enjoys cooking and cooks at a soup kitchen; I wouldn't tell him to stop that because he loves what he does. But he's also not working in a restaurant full time on top of that. He's doing something else to pay the bills. I will not do my full time job for free for anyone. That isn't going to happen.

I do not work for good feelings, or a higher power. My time is limited and if you want my labor and expertise it will cost you. And frankly, you should value your labor and your expertise and your time. If someone doesn't think it's worth paying for, don't do it. Your time is precious, and you can spend it doing other things.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pleasure is important

Pleasure is important. Pleasure is worth fighting for.

We figure that it's most important to cover the necessities. That the important issues--be it security, wages, benefits, access to food, decent shelter, education, whatever--that those issues are the only ones worth fighting for. That fighting for pleasure is a distraction, something only the wealthy would do, that it's trivial and stupid. (Really? Take a look at the pictures to the left and tell me where you'd rather live.)

It is not trivial. It is not stupid.

This came out of a discussion I had online about Oberlin students' complaints about food (as it turns out, the portrayal of the students was a gross simplification, since they are pushing for better working conditions for food service workers, and that they also talked about the quality of the food, and some aspects of "ethnic" dishes that did not go over well with members of said ethnic groups). I've heard people dismiss this as a triviality and say that bad food is a fact of life, and the organizing for the food service workers was more important. Which is odd, since it's my impression that the food service workers are down with the students and would like to have jobs where they provide more than just barely palatable calories, but what do I know? I'm a meanie-butt PC commie harpy from hell. My impression of that whole thing is that the workers and the students are united, that to win they need to build a coalition, and to build a coalition they need to understand and accept the concerns of a diverse group of people. Which is how you get stuff done when you organize and build coalitions.

(And, a bit more of a derail here, but read this excerpt from this article and tell me that a bunch of black students who are complaining about food quality and tying it into better treatment of the workers are affluent and spoiled: While food quality and preparation were major concerns, students also called for better treatment of CDS staff, saying that they wanted “a guaranteed 40 hour work week, benefits for part-time workers, personal days, funding for job training and increased wages.” The students also want to maintain the house’s orientation toward the community and promote greater benevolence and humanity for CDS workers. “Bon Appétit is owned by Compass Group, which is a huge international organization that has received food violations in numerous countries,” [Kendra] Farrakhan wrote to the Review. “Until you’ve worked [ for] CDS, you don’t realize how rude, condescending and overbearing the managers are. And you don’t realize how much food gets thrown away. I would like to see Bon Appétit fired and replaced by something other than an international corporation. I would like to see the chefs have the respect and autonomy to cook the food they love.” She actually worked for food services and is hardly a poster child for spoiled, affluent college brats. Seriously, the people running with one aspect of this story and whining about The Kids Today need to take a seat.)

Now, call me silly, but a poor or working class student who is at university thanks to a boatload of loans and maybe some grants, has every right to be upset if the food is gross. If the campus was a visual trash-fire (it's not), they have every right to be upset about that. If their rooms are reminiscent of unfinished basements (I don't think they are), they have a right to be upset about that. They're going to be in hock for a long time, why is it so unreasonable to expect that the food taste good? That the environment be welcoming? That things be attractive?

I'm not saying that the food should be gourmet meals of say, coq au vin. But it should taste good. It should be prepared with care. It should have flavor. (And you're not going to have any of that if you treat your workers like garbage and don't give them the leeway to do that.)

However, this isn't something that you should only have a right to expect if you are paying for things (or taking out loans to pay for things.) I work in the city, in a neighborhood that some feel is still pretty rough. (I don't feel unsafe there, but then again, I don't live there.) There are housing projects there and there is mixed income housing. This neighborhood has some empty lots and crumbling buildings (some neighborhoods have some horrific brownfields). It also has community gardens. It has parks and is part of a corridor of parkland and trees and gardens that is lovely to walk through, lovely to sit in, and just lovely in general. It's great for me, but let's face it, I'm walking through all of what? Five minutes total a day going to and from the subway? Big whoop, right?

But ask yourself: If you lived there, would a community garden--even one that you didn't use--be nicer to look at than a brownfield? Be nicer to see than an empty lot with trash? What would it do to you to live among brownfields and empty lots? Among buildings that were featureless and perhaps crumbling? To live in a place that is dark, with peeling paint and and awkward layout?

I think that would be hell. It think it would take its toll on me psychologically. I think it would be very difficult for me to do well or to be happy if I was immersed in ugly.

It goes for all the things that touch our lives. If I only had access to beans and rice with no flavorings or spices, I could eat and stay alive, but would I want to? If I had housing but it was dark and small and awkward with thin walls where I could hear my neighbors and smell them every time they farted, I would be sheltered but I would not be at home. If my building was ugly and my neighborhood was ugly it would not do me great, immediate harm but it would wear at me, day in and day out to walk through and into places that embody despair and indifference.

And yet, we have to couch making things attractive or pleasurable in language that is grey and utilitarian. Community gardens encourage people to eat better and gives them access to fresh vegetables. Parks provide places for recreation and play! Good housing is a must for all people! We must all have access to nutritious food to function well. Expanding our horizons culturally by being able to go to free days at museums or go to free concerts is good for our minds and our souls.

And it's true! These things are all important for those very reasons and then some. I won't deny that.

They are also important because they provide pleasure and pleasure is important. Pleasure makes us happy. Pleasure feels good, and feeling good makes life worth living, damn it. Why not make the necessities pleasurable? Yes, I could eat oatmeal with nothing in it for breakfast. It would be nutritionally sound and it would fill me up and provide me with necessary calories. But why not add some fruit? Some sugar or honey? Why not add some flavor? Yes, the soggy pasta and overdone meat and limp, gray vegetables won't kill me. But day after day of that and I'll stop wanting to try. Honestly, I'll stop wanting to eat.

Why is expecting food to taste good considered to be a triviality? Why is expecting or wanting an attractive neighborhood seen as entitled? Why do we need to justify these things with "It is a form of Puritan gruel, it's not as if we feel it's okay for people to enjoy things" reasoning? Why is providing pleasure in even the little things seen as such a silly thing at best or a grave sin at worst?

I mean, look, I'm all about the practicality and frugality and all that. But I also think poor people, students (and there are many who are poor or struggling), workers, rich people, young people, old people, people in the city, people in the country, basically all people, have the right to eat good tasting food. To see reasonably attractive surroundings. To live in a place that is inviting. To breathe clean air. To a baseline of comfort. It's basic respect.

If pleasure didn't matter, then we would not use whatever means we have to get it. We wouldn't try to make our homes prettier. We wouldn't plant flowers. We wouldn't use spices or seasonings in cooking. We wouldn't buy or wear clothing that looked and felt good. We wouldn't buy or listen to music. We wouldn't read books. We wouldn't watch movies. We wouldn't do a lot of things. We would go to work and eat solyent green and go to bed and do that like the damn Borg.

But we are not the Borg. We do these things. Because beauty and flavor and comfort music and laughter and entertainment and quiet and pleasant aromas are important. They make life worth living. We do not wear gray jumpsuits day after day and live in unfinished basements. We do not live in a real life version of District 13 from the Hunger Games series. Having these things tells us that we are people, that we are people who count, that we are deserving of respect and dignity.

Flavor, good smells, comfortable and attractive clothes, beautiful places, light, quiet, art, music, books, TV (yes, TV), movies, laughter--they are all important. People who are denied pleasure by whatever outside forces, be it poverty or time or circumstance, will seek it out and maybe find it in unhealthy ways. Or they may just wither away inside. If someone has the bare necessities, but is beaten down because we act as if their senses don't matter, we have failed as a society. We have failed as people.

Many people--especially poor people--are sentenced to a life without pleasure, without flavor, without joy. To say that pleasure isn't important, we present progress as a paltry, shriveled thing. And in doing so, we fail everyone.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Friday blogaround

I was given to understand there are scritches and noms here.
A Georgia family found a coyote on their kitchen counter. (Unless it was the man of the house who is actually a secret werewolf. WHY DON'T YOU PEOPLE TAKE MY ADVICE?) Of course they took a photo of it with their smart phones. I would have. . .well, never mind what I would have been doing. It would have involved a lot of cleanup afterward.

Have you checked out Gay on a Budget? You absolutely should. Especially Jayson's latest piece, talking about the frustration (and hope) while freelancing.

Mutant Supermodel talks about motherhood, the diversity of mothers, and the stereotype of crazy moms.

Jenn wants to know why you cook from scratch. Well, I had popcorn for dinner tonight that I made on the stovetop, so I think that counts. HAHAHAHA JUST KIDDING, MOM, IF YOU'RE READING THIS I TOTALLY DIDN'T DO THAT.

Club Thrifty has advice for what to do if you're in trouble with the IRS. And it doesn't involve burning everything to the ground, assuming a new identity, and moving overseas.

Donna Freedman has an idea for a Mother's Day gift with meaning.

This week in social media trainwrecks, we have a wedding photographer who called a client ugly on his Facebook page. In retaliation for her complaint that he was late. Because there's nothing that shows your professionalism like insulting your clients publicly and calling them ugly, and then telling people who criticize you for it that they should go back into their trailers. I don't care how stressful the gig was, shut your mouth. I've had people scream and curse at me on the phone, but I doubt anyone would give me a pass for going off on them on social media.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Starting the garden

Bright Lights Chard
Yeah, it's a little early I admit but I wanted to get at least one of the beds planted with seeds and seedlings that are okay with cooler weather but can deal well with hot weather. So last weekend I spent the better part of an afternoon planting in one of the beds.

I put garlic at either end. I lost the garlic I planted in the fall but dang it I WILL HAVE GARLIC BY AUGUST OR I WILL HAVE DEATH. Or. . .um. . .store bought garlic. Okay.

I also planted beets (red and golden), carrots (orange and purple haze, which are purple on the outside and have an orange center), radishes, and bush beans, all from seed, and we'll see how those go. I'm a little nervous but I can always plant more seeds if these don't take.

New Zealand Spinach
I found bright lights chard seedlings and New Zealand spinach seedlings. I was especially excited about the New Zealand spinach; it's a plant that is not actually spinach, but tastes like it. It does well in the heat (unlike spinach, which bolts and goes to seed). You can pick leaves and leave the plant to keep growing, much like chard and unlike regular spinach. So this will be an adventure.

I'm hoping that they do okay over the next few weeks. I want to keep them from getting wilted and die from thirst but also want to be mindful of the temperature. It's colder here where I live as opposed to in Boston. There's a 10 degree difference in temperature. If they don't take I can more seedlings. By the end of the summer, the difference will still be there but it will have flipped and we'll be warmer. Weird, I know.

Chocolate mint. 
Other things I'm hoping to plant: tomatoes (of course), sweet and hot peppers, maybe some shallots, eggplant, butternut squash, zucchini, and summer squash. At the end of August I'll plant turnips. Fingers crossed, I'll have some decent crops.

My chocolate mint and my regular mint is coming back. And my thyme is back. I'll add basil, tarragon, rosemary, and possibly pineapple sage to the herb bed.

My walking onions are back and marching on my garden bed and spreading along the side of the house where I planted them. Yes, they make for good border plants but the do spread like wildfire. Or like weeds. They may be technically a weed but a delicious one.

Thyme and Walking Onions.
Then again, dandelions, which we consider weeds, were brought here by Europeans because every part of that indestructible plant is edible. Really, do you want to plant things that need lots of babying or do you want to grow things that can take some hard times and thrive? I know what I'd bet my money on. (No, I'm not planting dandelions, I have got plenty in the yard!)