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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Zookeeper's Wife (2017)

Yes, this is another Holocaust movie.  So up front you know that it will be difficult.  The setting is occupied Poland, which is a different story than other parts of Europe for a couple of reasons.  The first is that they fought like crazy when the Germans invaded.  Warsaw was reduced to rubble.  They never stood a chance, but they fought bravely.  Poland at the time was 1/3 Jewish, and there were quite a few non-Jews who hid Jews throughout the long five-year war at great peril to themselves because they were saving neighbors and friends.  That is what this retelling of a true story is about.  A couple who had a zoo that was bombed in the early days of the war used their underground system of cages and pens to house Jews that they smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto before it was burned.  The logistics of successfully doing this involved not just the risk of hiding them, but having controlled interactions with the Nazis.  The thing that the movie does not demonstrate is how were they able to feed them all when food was increasingly scarce, but they did raise livestock for the German Army, so perhaps that was part of it.  In any case, this is emotionally intense, and at least in part, historically accurate. Well worth watching.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ethan's Mac and Cheese

Slowly but surely son number four is dipping his toe into the realm of cooking, and this version of a classic dish was really very good.

  • 1 lb. dried elbow pasta
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 4 cups grated medium sharp cheddar cheese divided
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese divided
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 3 qt baking dish (9x13").  Set aside.
    2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  When boiling, add dried pasta and cook about 1/2 time the package directs.  Drain and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil to keep from sticking.
    3. While water is coming up to a boil, grate cheeses and divide into three sections.  Approximately 3 cups for the sauce, 1 1/2 cups for the layer, and 1 1/2 cups for the topping.
    4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over MED heat.  Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine.  Mixture will look like very wet sand.  Cook for approximately 1 minute, whisking often.  Slowly pour in about 2 cups or so of the milk/half and half, while whisking constantly, until smooth.  Slowly pour in the remaining milk/half and half, while whisking constantly, until combined and smooth.
    5. Continue to heat over MED heat, whisking very often, until thickened to a very thick consistency.  It should almost be the consistency of a semi thinned out condensed soup.
    6. Stir in spices and half the reserved cheese sauce grated cheese, stirring to melt and combine.  Stir in remaining cheese sauce grated cheese, and stir until completely melted and smooth.
    7. In a large mixing bowl, combine drained pasta with cheese sauce, stirring to combine fully.  Pour half of the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Top with reserved layer grated cheese, then top that with the remaining pasta mixture.
    8. Sprinkle the top with the topping grated cheese and bake for 20+ minutes, until cheesy is bubbly and lightly golden brown.  

    Thursday, October 19, 2017

    Big Grove Brewery, Iowa City, Iowa

    I can't believe it has taken me this long to write a review of the brew pub, because it is a really nice place.  We recently has an out of town guest visit and we went not once but twice.
    The first thing is that this place is huge, and it has something for everyone.  There are bar games, there is an area to sit and chat, there are tables, there are booths, there is a stage and live music on occasion, there is a great outdoor space, and there is a nice transition zone between these different environments.  The renovation of a big unattractive warehouse space is nothing short of spectacular.  Then there is the beer.  Which is very good, both in quality and selection.  The food, which you order at a counter and pick up, is modeled on street food, and while variable, there are excellent choices to be had.  The salad is terrific, as are the fries and the chicken sandwich.  The wings are top notch.  And when we went to Sunday Brunch, which they currently only do after home football games, was both delicious and a bargain.  Highly recommended.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2017

    Dance in a Subterranean Roundhouse at Clear Lake, 1878

    Trained in Paris, Jules Tavernier immigrated to the United States in 1871 where he devoted his skills to portraying Plains Indians in the American West before settling in San Francisco. In 1876, Tavernier went to Clear Lake, where he was able to obtain entry to witness the dance ritual, and was asked to commemorate this event in a major painting.
    The artist spent two years creating his masterwork, developing a composition of nearly 100 figures, including the two young Pomo male dancers, who enact a coming-of-age ritual. The dancers are surrounded by the tribe and their white visitors, including Parrott and Rothschild. Thus, Tavernier captures the very moment when the white settlers laid claim to the tribal lands. With brilliant technical finesse, he renders the dimly lit interior using highly controlled tonal variation and flashes of color to enliven the scene. Upon its completion, Parrott presented the painting to Rothschild, where it remained in his family until its arrival at the Met. With the addition of this work, a new narrative is introduced—the ancient presence of the Native American on the land is disrupted by the settlers' belief in their right to ownership of that land.

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Pork belly Burnt Ends

    It does not take a genius to figure out why these taste so delicious.  Pork fat and butter, mixed with an intense smokiness.  Yum.  But I usually do not care for pork belly, it is just too fatty for me, but this method renders a lot of the fat in the course of smoking and it is melt in your mouth delicious and slightly addictive to eat.

    8lb Pork Belly skin removed
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 ½ sticks Butter sliced
  • ½ cup Brown Sugar
  • ¼ cup Honey
    • Pork Belly Burnt End Glaze
    • 1 cup BBQ sauce
    • ¼ cup Apple Juice
    • ¼ cup Apple Jelly
    • 1 Tablespoon Frank’s Hot Sauce
    1. Prepare charcoal smoker for indirect cooking at 250-275⁰. Add 2 chunks of Cherry Wood for smoke.
    2. Remove pork belly from packaging and cube into 1 ½” x 1 ½” pieces.
    3. Season all sides of the pork belly cubes with The BBQ Rub.
    4. Arrange cubes onto a full size cooling rack and place on smoking grate.
    5. Smoke pork belly for 2 – 2 ½ hours.
    6. Place each Pork Belly Burnt End into an aluminum pan and cover with brown sugar and honey. Arrange butter in between the pork belly pieces.
    7. Cover pan with aluminum foil and return to smoker for 1 ½ hours or until the pieces are tender.
    8. Drain the liquid from the pan and add the Pork Belly Glaze to the burnt ends. Toss gently to coat each piece and return to the smoker to set the glaze for 5-10 minutes and serve.

    Monday, October 16, 2017

    Earthquake in Chiapas

     When a deadly magnitude-8.2 earthquake struck the coast of Mexico's Chiapas state on 7 September, the handful of scientists that study the region were stunned, but not altogether surprised. For more than a century, there had been little activity to study—precisely why they thought the area could be due for a big one. The epicenter of the quake, which struck just before midnight local time, was just southeast of the Tehuantepec gap, a 125-kilometer-long stretch of Mexico's Pacific coast that has been seismically silent since record-keeping began more than a century ago. Their first priority now is to figure out how much, if any, of the Tehuantepec gap slipped in last week's quake, which killed more than 90 people and destroyed or severely damaged the homes of 2.3 million more.

    The region where the earthquake struck is one of the most active seismic zones in the country: this is where the Cocos Plate dives, or subducts, under the North American plate. “Earthquakes of this size are not uncommon at subduction zone boundaries,” notes Jascha Polet, a seismologist at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona.
    But this quake was different: it occurred within the Cocos plate as it warped or bent, not at the boundary with the North American plate.

    Mexico’s seismology agency has registered at least 337 aftershocks, with the strongest reaching a magnitude of 6.1.

    Sunday, October 15, 2017

    The Diving Elk, Sioux City, Iowa

    I am not much for bars in general, beer specifically, and the food that generally goes with all of that, but this is an exception to that general rule.  The atmosphere is pretty standard, with a big central bar that dominates the room, with tables and benches around the room's perimeter.  The beer selection is excellent, and they have a sampler that is a lot of fun.  Any four beers of your choice, 5 oz. pour of each.  If a couple people get it, there is an opportunity to try a lot of options.  The food is really surprisingly good.  We had brisket nachos, which had good smoked brisket, and well distributed toppings.  The fried chicken sandwich is top notch, as was the elk burger.  I wouldn't go for dinner if I wasn't going to have beer, but it is an excellent choice if you want both.

    Saturday, October 14, 2017

    Local Involvement

    I injected myself (probably unwanted and foolishly) into a debate about the value of local involvement at a family event not long ago, and at the time I was largely not supportive of it, feeling that being involved at a higher level was more important when things are as bad as they are right now.  I am not widely known for being this way, but I have come to change my mind.
    A few things have happened.  One is that I see that while a measure that is widely unpopular, like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, is driven not so much by what constituents want but what big donors want, and that means that I can have very little influence with my Congressional representatives.  They are all very much driven by things that are not in my control, even the one that I voted for.  So that is important to do, but it isn't going to bring about change in my lifetime.
    The second thing is that I have noticed a big difference in how involved people are locally, and it can definitely make a difference.  We had a school election and bond measure that was hotly contested and I was for sure going to make it into the voting booth.  But I missed the couple of days of early voting, so I had to go the day of, and I was shocked by how crowded it was.  I had to park a block away, and then wait in a real line to vote.  And I went in the middle of the afternoon!  It was the largest turnout ever for a school board election, and one of the candidates got more votes than any previous candidate had ever gotten.  Amazing.  And the right things happened.  So we do have to energize our base, get people more involved, and that really helped me to see that it could make a difference.

    Friday, October 13, 2017

    Green Lentil Curry with Kale

    While this is traditionally made with kale and green beans, I recently added a few peppers, just because they were in season, and a few carrots that were getting a bit unattractive.  It is a stew with kale as the backbone vegetable, but it can hold up other vegetables well.
    • 1 1/3 cups green lentils
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • some green beans cut into 3/4-inch segments
    •  kale, thick stems and veins discarded, finely chopped
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
    • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    For the curry paste
    • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated ginger
    • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
    • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    • 1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped shallots
    • tomatoes chopped
    1. Put the lentils, turmeric, and 2 pints water into a medium pan and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the cayenne, beans, kale, coriander, carrots, and salt. Stir and bring to a boil again. Cover partially and cook gently for another 20 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, make the curry paste: combine the ginger, garlic, ground cumin, and coriander in a small bowl, then mix in 2 fl oz water.
    3. Pour the oil into a medium frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, add the whole cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 5 seconds, then add the shallots. Stir and fry until lightly browned. Add the curry paste and fry until you can see the oil along the edges, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and fry for about another minute, until you see the oil along the edges.
    4. When the lentils have finished cooking, add the contents of the frying pan. Stir and cook gently for another 5 minutes.

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Emotional Words and Cancer

    The challenge (well, one of the challenges) of having a very visible bout with cancer is that amidst all of this, I feel like I am being judged. I don;t mean that people are being unkind.  Quiet the contrary, other than having a boss who actively tried to remove me from office while I was in the ICU with a bout of sepsis, people were uniformly fabulous to me.  Strangers were kind to me.  I had a very rocky road for a while but at no time did I feel uncared for.  Being sick is lonely business but I did not have people close to me shy away from me (for the most part).
    What I mean is that the words around illness in general and cancer in particular have to do with implying you have control over things that you really have almost no control over at all.  Cancer is neither a battle nor a journey.  It is life, on a different path than you might choose.  It may begin at Point A, but there really is no end to it, so long as you are alive to live it.  It is just different, that is all.