Potato-Leek Soup

You will need:
Potatoes (russet or Yukon Gold), about five pounds for a lot of soup, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes

Butter, olive oil, bacon fat
Leeks (usually sold in bundles of three at our local store)

Bell Peppers
Stock (at least one carton), chicken or vegetable

White Pepper (or black if you don’t mind the color)
Green onions or chives

As a fungible recipe, you can increase the amounts of the vegetables you desire in order to change the flavor profile to your own taste.

In a large pot, heat a significant amount—at least 1/4 cup—of butter, olive oil, bacon fat, or some combination over medium heat. Chop up the leeks, then the carrots and celery, where the amounts of the carrot and the celery are about half that of the leek. Drop into the pot and salt; cook, stirring gently, until the vegetables start to soften. Add the peppers and cook for a couple of minutes; add the mushrooms and cook briefly.

Pour the entire contents of the carton of stock into the pot and blend. (We use an immersion blender; it is possible to use a tabletop blender if you do it in rounds.) Add the potatoes and enough water to just cover them. Simmer, partially covered, for at least 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Use a slotted spoon to remove a couple of cups of potato cubes; set aside. Blend the rest, adding milk until desired consistency is reached. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Stir potato chunks back into the soup; serve with green onions or chives on top.

Leftovers can be stored for several days in the refrigerator.


History and Prophecy

For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’

These are the prophecies to inspire dread
Speaking to yesterdays and tomorrows
One generation to blessed are the dead,
Blessed are the ones not born to sorrows.

Blessed are the ones who have no need
to watch the ones they cherish torn away.
Better to not have that pain.
better to

In the old myths,
the tales of yesterdays and tomorrows,
it is always the woman
who is the agent of chaos. The man is steadfast
and somehow, the woman bumbles in
and screws it all up. Eve
precipitates the Fall.

How could she not? it is women
who bring change into the world,
one child at a time. That is chaos
when perfection is found in stagnation.

Perfection, spinning in an empty mirrored hall.

Barren is a state of mind, not of body.
The agents of stagnation,
who abhor any hint of change
in the yesterdays and tomorrows
dismiss children, the idea of children,
ideas, the children of the mind.
Blessed are the barren, whose minds have never born fruit.

One cannot get far in life
without loss. A friend
cut down by cancer,
losing the long battle.
The suddenness of the car accident,
the shock of sudden violence.

Fear of loss, of no more sharing
of yesterdays and tomorrows,
drives too many to mourn prematurely,
to shun change

“With the world as it is,
how can you bear to have children?”
“I could never bring a child into this world.”
The agents of stagnation
and fear
speaking to yesterdays
and tomorrows
say, “Blessed are the barren.”
I say, blessed are the ones
who understand
Pandora’s gift
(that agent of chaos)
the small, the quiet, the last light.

May 12, 2010

Cranberry-Apple Pancakes

You will need:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 tart apple, peeled and finely chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1/2 cup cranberries*

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, butter, and milk; mix well. Stir in the apple and cranberries, then add to the flour mixture until just combined—the batter will be lumpy. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat; it is ready when drops of water “dance” over the surface. Pour batter in three-inch rounds; cook until the tops start looking waxy (instead of liquid), about three minutes. Flip and cook the other sides, another minute or two, then repeat with remaining batter. Serves about four.

The real beauty of this recipe is its durability: you can stick leftover pancakes in the fridge or freezer and simply pop them in the toaster to heat them up. Yes, they don’t flop over like buttermilk pancakes.

*The cranberries can be very tart; if that’s not to your liking, cut them in half and dust them with sugar or honey prior to using. It’s time-consuming but takes the bite off.

Little Red Riding Hood II

At the Door

What big teeth you have, Grandmother.
The better to tear your heart out, my dear.

Bitch, she calls her, and Slut
This is one of the good days,
when she does not recognize her at all,
but rails at this stranger who has come into her house.
Far worse are the days when the girl is mistaken
for her mother, or her aunt,
as she holds the hand of the woman with mad bright eyes,
eyes that somehow still hold flashes of gold.
Her hands tremble as she doses out the medications
(she has to hide them, these days,
lock them away in secret cupboards and hide the keys.
The mind is dimmed but the body is still agile.)
The lack of sleep is constant these days. Every night
up to put the woman back to bed
tell her the dog is fed
(Mischa died many years ago)
the furniture is where it needs to be
it is not dawn, it is not dawn
the cows do not need to be milked.
In return she gets the accusations,
the insinuations that she is a thief, a whore,
a stranger keeping the woman away from those who love her.
In vain she tries to remember the friendly voice,
the soft hands, the scent of cookies,
the laughing days at the house with the butter-yellow walls.

When the doorbell rings, she starts;
her friends, so few, rarely bother to come by any more.
Suddenly frightened, the woman proclaims,
“Don’t open the door, not the door,
There are wolves out there.
The wolves are at the door.”
As she signs for the delivery, those medications she will have to hide,
she looks over and sees in those fear-filled eyes the flash of gold and thinks, No,
the wolves are not at the door.

The wolves got you long ago.

January 27, 2010

Slaughter at the Bridge

In 1996, an amateur archaeologist found a single upper arm bone sticking out of the steep riverbank—the first clue that the Tollense Valley, about 120 kilometers north of Berlin, concealed a gruesome secret. A flint arrowhead was firmly embedded in one end of the bone, prompting archaeologists to dig a small test excavation that yielded more bones, a bashed-in skull, and a 73-centimeter club resembling a baseball bat. The artifacts all were radiocarbon-dated to about 1250 B.C.E., suggesting they stemmed from a single episode during Europe’s Bronze Age.

Now, after a series of excavations between 2009 and 2015, researchers have begun to understand the battle and its startling implications for Bronze Age society. Along a 3-kilometer stretch of the Tollense River, archaeologists from the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Department of Historic Preservation (MVDHP) and the University of Greifswald (UG) have unearthed wooden clubs, bronze spearheads, and flint and bronze arrowheads. They have also found bones in extraordinary numbers: the remains of at least five horses and more than 100 men. Bones from hundreds more may remain unexcavated, and thousands of others may have fought but survived.

“If our hypothesis is correct that all of the finds belong to the same event, we’re dealing with a conflict of a scale hitherto completely unknown north of the Alps,” says dig co-director Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage in Hannover. “There’s nothing to compare it to.” It may even be the earliest direct evidence—with weapons and warriors together—of a battle this size anywhere in the ancient world.

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Glazed Apple Tart

You will need:
1 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (about 40 small cookies, crushed)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp melted butter or margarine
1 tbsp water

2 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into narrow wedges
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup orange marmalade, melted and strained*

*I would probably leave the bits of orange peel in, but that’s me.

Preheat oven to 375º. In medium bowl, combine wafer crumbs, sugar, margarine, and water. Press into bottom and sides of greased 10-inch springform pan. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the sugar, egg, and vanilla until fluffy. (For an electric mixer, use medium speed.) Pour the mixture into the crust; arrange apples on top. Mix remaining sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the apples. Bake until apples are tender, about 1 hour. Cool on wire rack. Spoon or brush marmalade over the top just before serving. Makes a lot.