Between Brock Turner and Brett Kavanaugh, when do girls matter?

Did Brett Kavanaugh try to rape a 15-year-old girl when he was seventeen? Did he drag her into a bedroom, hold her down on a bed, grind on her, try to tear off her clothes, and hold his hand over her mouth when she tried to scream? I don’t know. I sure hope we find out.  We should delay the vote on his appointment while we investigate, because the stakes are pretty high, and we all agree we don’t want an attempted rapist on the Supreme Court. Right?

Ah, we don’t agree.  Well, dammit.

A large contingent of Americans on social media are openly saying they don’t care if he’s guilty. They are saying things like:

At seventeen, his brain was still developing, so his culpability is reduced.

Hey, he was drunk when he did it. We all do stupid things when we’re drunk. 

This is normal hetero hijinx. Boys will be boys. It’s not admirable, but it sure is common — shows the guy is normal, in fact. Heck, high five, Brett. Studly guys like us all have some notches on our belts, wink wink. 

And most of all:

But it happened so long ago. There’s no indication he’s still like that. We’re really going to hold him responsible for something that happened so long ago?

There is no sober, cautious examination of the facts, here, from his supporters. All of these arguments rush to the conclusion that he did do exactly what Christine Blasey Ford accuses him of doing. And they are okay with that. They’re willing to wave it away violent attempted rape of a 15-year-old girls as inconsequential. Why?

Because  . . . she was just a girl, and that’s what girls are for.

That’s the only answer I keep coming back to. Part of me wants to say that the GOP is so bristling with misogyny and the desperate need to appear macho that they’re always willing to throw women under the bus when power is at stake. Look how readily they nominated and elected a confessed abuser, and (to pick one example at random) look how quickly they toggled from “Stormy Daniels is a dirty liar” to “Hey, now, bribing a hooker isn’t an impeachable offense.”

But if that answered it, then the dems would be different, and they’re not. Handsy Uncle Joe Biden, anyone? You know he’s going to run next election. Bill Clinton, anyone? You know that man is a rapist. And yet he’s never once stopped being the progressives’ darling, because he’s also their sugar daddy and he gets them what they want. And if you have to wink at a few rapes, well, they’re just women. That’s what women are for.

Right now, it happens to be the GOP who wants to give a lifetime supreme court appointment to someone credibly accused of a serious sexual crime. Next time, or the time after that, it will be a progressive again, because some people — Al Franken springs to mind — are just too useful to be shucked away for a little thing like sexually abusing a little thing like a woman.

They’re just girls, and girls are here for men to use. Just like it was just a girl that Brock Turner violently raped behind a dumpster while she was unconscious. It was just a girl when those guys from Steubenville gang raped her and posted the video online. And they got a slap on the wrist and were allowed to get on with their lives, while their young victim is still used as shorthand, in Steubenville circles, for “lying whore.” Because she’s just a girl.

When a young man gets drunk and tries to rape a girl, there will always be someone to say he shouldn’t be punished too severely — shouldn’t lose his place on the team, shouldn’t be kicked out of school, certainly shouldn’t serve any jail time — because don’t you see, he has so much promise? This might damage his future!

And what about her future? What about her? Who is thinking about the actual human girl in Blasey’s account, who wept and screamed and fought back, while those normal, healthy, hetero boys turned up the music and pushed her back onto the bed?

It was so long ago. Well, If Blasey had gone to someone with her story that very night, what do you suppose they would have told her?

Now, Christine. Brett is a very bright young man with a promising future. Why, I bet he could be on the Supreme Court someday. 

Brock Turner got six months (a longer sentence would have had “a severe impact” on him) and served three, because he had so much promise.  Austin Wilkerson raped an unconscious girl (after pretending to help her, to throw off the scent of onlookers) and was punished by having to sleep in jail, but went to school and work as normal during the day. David Becker got two years probation after raping two unconscious girls. Because those boys had such a bright future ahead of them. They’re just being boys! This is what happens! This is what boys do! But the girls? Well . . . this is what girls get. This is what they are for.

This is what you are saying, when you want to give men a pass for something they did long ago. This is what you are conveying to millions of women who have been raped and abused, when you allow yourself to say “yes, yes, sure, sure, of course rape is bad, but this is the supreme court we’re talking about, here! This isn’t just the rape of a girl we’re talking about, this is serious!”

I know how hard it is to see this clearly, to keep this firmly in mind when there’s a political storm swirling around. I know you want to talk about how awful Dianne Feinstein is, and how biased the media is, and how suspicious the timing of it all is. Hell, I fell for that with Anita Hill. I let them convince me that Clarence Thomas was the savior we needed to put this country to rights, and that this trashy, unhinged woman was just sniffing around him looking for glory, probably paid off by some secret politics operatives to make up a story that didn’t even sound true.

But believe it or not, politics isn’t the most important thing. A supreme court nomination isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing, when stories like this are in the news, is the victim, and how we treat them, how we speak about them. The most important thing is that we don’t lose ourselves in the ideological storm, and allow ourselves to say anything that even sounds like “but it was just attempted rape” or “but he was just a teenager when he did it.” When you say that, you are telling victims that it doesn’t matter what happened to them, because they are just girls. Boys need their bright futures, but rape is what girls are for.

If we want to argue that the poor boy’s brain is still developing and we need to take that into account, then what about her developing brain? What about her sense of self worth that’s being so violently malformed, first by her assailant, and then by the crowds of people saying he’s normal and she’s a lying, scheming, whore?

Or the argument that boys are hormonal volcanoes just boiling over with sex, and this is how they learn, you see. They learn from their mistakes, and they get to move on, don’t you see. So I wonder how many girls they get to learn on. Do they get one rape freebie, and then after that, they’re responsible for knowing that rape is bad? Or do they get one attempted rape per year, as long as they learn a little bit more each time? I have eight daughters. How many of my daughters is it okay for a seventeen-year-old boy to try to rape, as long as it’s part of their learning process, and they have a bright future?

Girls . . . are human. Girls are not there for the benefit of helping boys to turn into men. They are not there to be soiled and then tossed on the heap while boys go out and buy themselves a whole new look, a whole new life.

If you don’t want men to be dragged down by decades-old accusations of rape, then you need to crack down on minutes-old accusations of rape as they happen. But that’s not how it goes. Still, even now, that’s not how it goes.

When a woman says, “This man raped me a long time ago,” we say, “But that was in the past. He can’t change the past.” When a girl says, “This boy raped me last night,” we say, “But his future! We can’t wreck his future.” And there she stands, suspended between his past and his future, with no value of her own except for how much she’s worth to whichever political party is feeling desperate today.

There are some acts which are so abhorrent, they cannot simply be forgotten. I have sons, as well as daughters. They’re not yet seventeen, and yet they know you’re not supposed to get drunk, and if you do get drunk, you’re still not supposed to rape anybody, not even a little bit. They know this. Seventeen is not a child. If, at that age, you have a son who’s still unclear on the whole “Don’t get drunk and sexually savage girls,” thing, then he should be involuntarily committed. There’s no grey area where he gets to sacrifice a few girls while he figgers it out. Because that’s not what girls are for. Girls are human.

But when grown men tell teenage boys that a smattering of attempted rape is normal, expected, excusable behavior; that all boys do something like this because they’re still developing; and that it’s not worth worrying about because it was so long ago, then this is what they’re doing: they’re educating a whole new generation in the uses and abuses of the bodies and psyches of girls and women, for the sake of men, who alone are real.

Think. Think about what you’re implying when you are willing to wave away accusations of attempted rape. Think about what you’re telling girls about what they’re for. Think about what you’re telling boys about what they’re for. Think about what you’re telling victims about what they’re worth. Think about how you’re talking about these things. Think about who is listening.

He says he didn’t do it. I hope his party has the integrity to at least try to find out, because if they say “it’s important” but then appoint him without an investigation, they don’t really think it’s important.

But that’s out of my hands. What I’m talking about here is how we talk about boys, and how we talk about girls, and how we talk about rape. What’s in our control is to guard ourselves, to change how we respond to stories of rape. To be consistent and humane whether it’s our guy on the witness stand or not. Because if it’s not our guy this time, it will be next time, depend on it.

Hell yes, an attempted rape accusation matters. Even a very old one. Even though it was just a girl.

I’ll say it again: I don’t know if Kavanaugh is guilty or not. I don’t know if Blasey is telling the truth or not. I’m saying it’s a big fucking deal when 17-year-old boys try to rape 15-year-old girls, whether their names are Brett and Christine or not.

 

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Image by bOred via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

What’s for supper? Vol. 143: Septemberbot

Ah, September, the time of year when you could easily replace me with a robot that does two things: Driving people places, and complaining about driving people places. The deluxe version of Simchabot also stares wistfully at the silvery, dry grasses at the side of the road and feels bad about everything dying. We did have food, but mainly the food of sadness, rabbit, mainly the food of sadness.

SATURDAY
BLTs

It seems like we would have had a special reason for making BLTs, which are generally classified as party or treat food, but hell if I can remember what was going on Saturday. The only bit of information I can offer is that we have sworn off Aldi bacon, which barely has a taste at all.

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas with lime crema; tortilla chips

Do you know, it’s hard to take interesting pictures of quesadillas? They are so flat.

All the pictures this week are pretty sub-par, as supper kept getting pushed back until after the sun was down, and I haven’t figure out how to take pretty food pics with artificial light. The quesadillas were tasty, though, if not photogenic.

I put the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot with some water on high pressure for eight minutes, then I shredded it and mixed in some chili lime powder. We had our quesadillas with your choice of cheddar cheese, chicken, chopped scallions, and jalapeno slices from a jar.

We also had lime crema, which is fine crema.

It’s just sour cream with some lime zest and juice, plus salt and garlic, but it elevates meals like you wouldn’t believe. (recipe card below) And yes, I reserved some lime zest for garnish, because I am a golden god.

MONDAY
Butter chicken, mashed potatoes, salad

This week’s installment from Kyra’s Bag o’ Peculiar Foods. I had three packets of butter chicken curry paste

and was determined to try butter chicken, which I’ve heard described as an Indian food entry meal. (Of course I like naan, but you can’t be human and not like naan, so that doesn’t count.)

So. I tried butter chicken. To be fair, I did mess up the recipe. I cooked the chicken in oil, and then added the butter later, after asking myself, “Well, if it’s called ‘butter chicken,’ then when does the butter –oh.” I threw it all together and then put it in the slow cooker all day, rather than simmering it. And it turned out we were out of rice, so I made some last-minute mashed potatoes for a side, instead.

Buttttt, despite all these deviations, I didn’t like it for completely other reasons — specifically, curry reasons. The seasoning came from the pouch, so whatever else I screwed up, the taste is the taste, and I guess I just don’t like curry? It tastes like a dessert taste to me, and I just can’t get it to make sense with meat dishes.  I feel guilty about this just in case an hour of the day should pass without me feeling guilty about something.

However, a couple friends recommended a recipe for quickie, yeastless naan, which I believe I will try. Because I (human) do like naan!

Oh, also, I was sure most of the kids wouldn’t like the curry, so I made up a batch of pan-fried chicken. I dredged it in flour and everything. I put it in the fridge and then, half an hour before dinner, I put it back in the oven to warm up. But, rabbit, I did not turn that oven on. Also, I hadn’t cooked the chicken all the way through, and Irene took a big bite of raw meat and promptly threw up. Can’t blame the Indians for that, I suppose.

TUESDAY
Fish tacos

Tortillas with sour cream (sadly, the lime crema had all been lapped up), finely shredded cabbage, avocado slices, fresh lime, cilantro, and of course fish sticks. I also got some lime chipotle salsa from Aldi, and it was pretty good, although a little mushier than I like.

Some day I will make this meal with fresh, pan fried fish, but not today, rabbit. Not today.

WEDNESDAY
Kielbasa, red potatoes, sweet peppers, and onions with mustard sauce

This meal was easy and attractive, but a little low on flavor, because I put all my effort into hacking things up and none into sprinkling things on. It was a bunch of kielbasa, red potatoes, onions, and sweet peppers, chunked them on a pan with olive oil, salt and pepper and whatnot. Then I put it under the broiler and forgot about it until it was almost too late.

At the last minute, I put together a dressing that saved it (or would have, if I had made enough). Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and minced garlic. It looked like tarry sludge, but had a good, zippy flavor.

THURSDAY
Chicken nuggets and that is seriously it.

One of the kids asked me why I didn’t make anything else, and I didn’t even know. I remember thinking, “. . . .eggs? . . . . ” at some point mid-morning, but that’s as far as it got. I assume they all eat vegetables at school or something, so that’s fine.

FRIDAY
Pasta primavera and fresh bread

I bought some frozen bread dough which is defrosting right now, because I told myself ninety-three times during the week that I was probably going to forget to defrost it. I have made pasta primavera before, but can’t seem to find the recipe. Basically you just want pasta with a light cream sauce, plenty of parmesan and garlic, and an assortment of fresh vegetables.  I have no intention of blanching things and then putting them in and out of ice water. Remember, yesterday it was too hard to bring hard boiled eggs from potentiality to actuality. We keeps the expectations low, precious.

5 from 1 vote
Print

Lime Crema

Keyword Budget Bytes, crema, lime, lime crema, sour cream, tacos

Ingredients

  • 16 oz sour cream
  • 3 limes zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. 

Recipe Notes

So good on tacos and tortilla chips Looking forward to having it on tortilla soup, enchiladas, MAYBE BAKED POTATOES, I DON'T EVEN KNOW.

TOPIC CHANGE: Remember the Pants Pass?

A long, long time ago, back when we were young and dewey, and ultra conservatives were still blackballing me for being a toxic radical castrating feminist, rather than friending me like crazy as the freshest incarnation of Catherine of Siena, I made a thing called a Pants Pass.

It’s weird. I know. Let me sum up: This mediumish name in the Catholic world put out a weird little message (“not a hard-and-fast directive!)” listing 14 reasons why women ought to wear skirts and dresses allatime. Oh yes, it’s still online. Bunch of Catholic women unanimously declared it bullshit, and to that chorus I added my Panstifesto.

There was a strenuous backlash among the Assholio Community, and so I felt compelled to fisk the not-a-directive in more detail. Here’s the salient part, which led to the creation of The Pants Pass. The sola skirtura guy had said:

[Wear skirts] for us, the minority of chaste men who merit the gift of enjoying your beauty in such a way as to be grateful to your creator without temptation. Make it so it is good for men to look upon you, rather than requiring us to look away (which is a tragedy).

“Merit?”  “Make it so it is good?”  I’ll translate this for you:

I don’t cheat on my wife, and that’s really hard, so I’m entitled to some compensation.  So line up, girls, and show me something special.  Neutrally modest isn’t good enough — I deserve something niiiiiiiice.

Oh, you sound just like Padre Pio; really you do!

Several other men in various comboxes expressed a similar idea of their right, as a virtuous man, to enjoy all women in a virtuous way.  They’re not satisfied with cracking down on their own wives — they feel that they’ve won the privilege of savoring and setting the standards for everyone else’s wife, too.

A few guys said that they could tell by the way I talk that I’m a disobedient wife.  How can they tell?  Because their wives wear skirts.  I usually don’t.  Therefore I must be disobeying my husband.

Never mind that my husband likes me in pants.  Which I mentioned.  So I guess they’re saying . . . that I should be obeying them?

Luckily for me, I have a husband who is just dying for someone to say something like that, so he can punch their lights out.  He recently quit smoking, and is looking for someone to punch.

But, ladies, what if your husband likes you in pants, but you happen to leave the house without him?  What if you’re doing some errands, you’re wearing pants, and some pigeon-toed guy with a scaly neck sidles up and confronts you for revealing the fact that you have legs — two of ‘em?

He scowls through his horrible beard and, once he gains control of the self-righteous quivering that shakes him from head to toe, he speaks:  “WHERE IS THY SKIRT, WOMAN?  WHY HAST THOU APPEARED AT WALMART IN THESE DETESTABLE PANTALOONS?  DOST THOU NOT RESPECT THY HUSBAND’S WISHES?”

Here’s what you do:  print out the following card, laminate it, and show it to the guy.

While he’s mentally translating it into Latin so it makes sense to him, you will be able to make a speedy getaway.  And since you’re wearing dem pants, you’ll do it without showing any skin!  Run, ladies, run!

Okay! So now we’re all caught up.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is because (a) aren’t we all looking for something, anything to talk about, other than The Thing? And more importantly, (b)  my dear friend Elisa of Door Number Nine has actually made and actually laminated some actual Pants Passes, which you can actually buy. $2.75 a pop, and worth every penny, I say.

And because she is who she is, she made up this little video, just to . . . well, I don’t know why.

You guys. That was eight years ago. Remember when the Catholic internet was torn apart by a battle over pants? I shall sigh forever.

Francis has a lot of buffers.

The Catholic sex abuse scandal has two parts. The first part is the abuse itself. The second part is the institutional efforts to cover it up.

And now we are in the process of slowly, painfully uncovering these decades and centuries of crime.

This process is not part of the scandal.

The uncovering is dreadful. It is agonizing. It is, to use one of Francis’ favored words, messy. It’s always horrifying to witness the uncovering of hidden sin. But the uncovering is not part of the scandal. It is the remedy for the scandal, if there can be a remedy.

And yet Pope Francis, in his homily addressed to bishops today, said:

“In these times, it seems like the ‘Great Accuser’ has been unchained and is attacking bishops. True, we are all sinners, we bishops. He tries to uncover the sins, so they are visible in order to scandalize the people. The ‘Great Accuser’, as he himself says to God in the first chapter of the Book of Job, ‘roams the earth looking for someone to accuse’. A bishop’s strength against the ‘Great Accuser’ is prayer, that of Jesus and his own, and the humility of being chosen and remaining close to the people of God, without seeking an aristocratic life that removes this unction. Let us pray, today, for our bishops: for me, for those who are here, and for all the bishops throughout the world.”

This was not plucked out of context by some uncharitable, click-farming rag. It was chosen for publication by the Vatican news service itself. It is the Pope’s message.

In the past week, it seemed that Francis was making an effort to preach in ways that could possibly be construed as general pious reflections on scripture. But in today’s homily, he’s clearly referring directly to the scandal — or, more accurately, to the investigation of the scandal. He does not speak of the need to be more transparent. He does not speak of the need to repent, nor for the need to reform the Church. He does not speak of the horror of sin. He does not speak of the victims. Instead, he casts the bishops themselves as the victims — and some of the nine who advise him are themselves accused of covering up abuse.

Has Pope Francis spoken out about the abuse? Sure. He was more than willing to agree that terrible things had been done, and that some people ought to be very sorry indeed — until those accusations were turned on him. Then we heard that silence was holy, and that those who uncover sin are Satan.

I’ll say it again: Francis sounds like an abuser.

I am praying for bishops, and I am praying for the Pope, as he asked us to do. I am praying especially for those bishops who have been struggling mightily to show their flock they, at least, understand the profound horror we’re uncovering day by day, and that they want it to be uncovered. There are some good bishops. Some have been doing public penance. Some have called for independent reviews of their dioceses’ past, opening up records to the public and to the law. Some have demanded that the magisterium stop acting like this is business as usual and treat this scandal like the emergency it is.

And some have accused him of being part of the cover-up.

Are Viganò’s claims credible? I have no idea. I hope to God he’s wrong. And if Viganò himself is guilty, then he, too, should be investigated and prosecuted. But I keep thinking back to the courtroom scene in The Godfather II, where Willie Chichi tells the investigative committee, “Yeah, the family had a lotta buffers.”  If Viganò was part of the crime family that fed so many children and seminarians into the furnace, then that means he’s the one who knows what went on and how it was hidden. That’s how you get these guys: You get them to turn each other in.

So don’t trust accusers blindly, but listen to them. Look at what they claim, and find out for yourself whether it’s true or not. Open yourself to investigation. Turn over files. Uncover sin. Let the light in. Maybe stop calling investigators “Satan,” I don’t know.

Instead, the family closes ranks, and we hear absurdly tone-deaf assurances that Francis’ nine Cardinal advisors are in “full solidarity” with the Pope. I bloody well bet they are. The man has a lot of buffers.

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Image by Long Thiên via Flicker (Public Domain)

What’s for supper? Vol. 142: In which I hit nobody with a baseball bat

No real new recipes this week, but no complaints, either. Except from me. I complained nonstop, and I’m still just warming up. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Caprese sandwiches with salami

I guess this is technically new, actually. And so much tastier than I expected, and easier than the chicken version. I toasted a bunch of ciabatta rolls, and set them out with sliced mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil, and genoa salami, plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simple and fabulous. Everyone loved them. A nice valediction for summer.

I recommend putting more than one layer of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in among the other ingredients.

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, zaatar pita and yogurt sauce

I forget why I planned a rather involved meal for the day before a big party. Probably because someone told me about zaatar paste, and I had to build a meal around it.

The oven chicken shawarma recipe, which I’ve simplified from the NYT recipe, is on a recipe card below. I put together the marinade the night before and cussingly skinned, trimmed, and boned about eight pounds of chicken thighs (worth it. We’ve had this dish with bone-in meat, and it’s good, but not scrumptious) and set it to marinate in a ziplock bag with a couple of sliced red onions.

That’s the hard part (and it’s not hard if you have boneless meat!). Before dinner, it’s quick enough to spread the chicken out in a shallow pan and broil it up. I like to chop it up a bit a few minutes before it’s quite done, so you get more crisp pieces.

While it’s cooking, you assemble the fixings. We had it with chopped cukes, parsley, green and black olives, plenty of pita, feta, and of course yogurt sauce (whole Greek yogurt with minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and a little fresh parsley). And grapes. You just put everything you like on your plate, and hop to it.

I planned to make zaatar bread by mixing zaatar with olive oil, spreading it on the pita, and heating it, but shortly before dinner, my will to do even one tiny speck more of work leaked out the back of my ankle

so I mopped that up with a baby wipe and just set out zaatar paste for dipping, and that was lovely, too.

We sometimes have this meal with tomatoes, many other kinds of olives, or something made of eggplant, or pomegranates. All good. So good. The zaatar was a welcome addition, too. Now that I think of it, it does taste like sumac smells, which is also very summery.

MONDAY
Cookout!

Back in July, our annual family reunion was sparsely attended; so we tried again for Labor Day. It was nice! Cousins galore, and such lovely ones.

Some of them needed to become acquainted with the lizard:

and some of them just needed to cool their heads with a little chess:

My father brought burgers and hot dogs, and Damien made his sugar rub chicken thighs and, well, all the mahogany clams in the world. Fine, just all the clams in the supermarket.

Look at that price! I’m not made of stone! I bought all 75. He scrubs them good, then sets them over the coals until they pop open (and they really do pop. I watched them this time. It was pretty cute), then put them in the sauce (white wine, melted butter, lemon juice, and chopped onion cooked in olive oil with red pepper), and mix ’em up, then row back to Spain like there’s no mañana!

Or, just suck down four or five helpings while your family politely averts their gaze. If you don’t have memories that include buttery clams in wine sauce with a reflection of the blue September sky in ’em, I feel bad for you, son. I got ninety nine clams, but I don’t actually know this song.

TUESDAY
Chicken berry walnut salad

Back to school. Back to school. (We started last Wednesday, but had Monday off.) In the morning, I put dem chicken breasts under the broiler with some olive oil and basic seasonings, and when they were cool, I cut them into cubes. Spread some walnuts in a pan and let them toast for a few minutes. (Yep, the microwave way is easier, and gives more even results. But someone broke our microwave, and now it cooks for three seconds and then it goes ZUUUUUUUUL. I haven’t thrown it out yet, in case it fixes itself, but it hasn’t yet.)

Mixed greens, crumbled feta, dried berries (cranberries, blueberries, and cherries, but to be honest, they tasted all the same), and diced red onion. And some broccoli we happened to have, which went along with the rest better than I expected.

A little balsamic vinegar, and it’s a nice, filling meal. Everything was set up ahead of time, which makes me feel so smart.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza ala furry bastard

Now you’ll see how smart I really am. I had twenty minutes before it was time to go, so I buttered and floured five pans and stretched out the pizza dough, and left them on the counter to finish up when I got back. And when I got back, here is what I found:

So I took a baseball bat, and I . . . no I didn’t. I threw out the dough and complained about the cat for the next 48 hours. This is also the day that we went for a run and got a dramatic flat tire on the way back, and then the tire wouldn’t come off, so while we were waiting for AAA to come and hit it with a stick, we saw we had missed a phone call from the kid at home, who wanted to know how much to worry about the smoke that was coming out of the dryer. I blame the cat. He did catch a mouse the other day, though. I came pretty close to emitting an “eek,” let me tell you.

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus

I called one of my teenagers to make this meal while I was teaching one of my other teenagers to drive. She did fine. They did fine. We all did fine. We needed new tires anyway.

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

I must have been feeling guilty about something to agree to this. I bought them all new shoes! What the hell do I have to feel guilty about? Do I go stomping around on vulnerable pizza dough? No! Do I buy up all the clams? Well yes I do, but it was for a good cause. Do I hit anyone with baseball bats? Not at all. And yet here I am feeling bad and squeezing the juice out of six cans of tune. Line-caught tuna, because I feel guilty about the frickin’ dolphins, too. What a world.

Well, here’s your recipe cards.

Caprese sandwiches

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta, baguettes, sourdough, or other dense bread
  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced mozzarella
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • prosciutto, genoa salami, or sliced grilled chicken (optional)
  • pesto sauce or pesto mayo (optional)

Instructions

  1. You know how to make a sandwich. 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add sliced or quartered onions and chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.



  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken and onions out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan. Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

 

 

 

Yogurt sauce (tzatziki)

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Chicken berry nut salad

Any number of variations. Use whatever fruit is in season and whatever nuts are on sale. Dried fruit is also fine. 

Ingredients

  • chicken breast, seasoned, cooked, diced
  • salad greens
  • blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, fresh or dried
  • toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.
  • feta or blue cheese, crumbled
  • diced red onions
  • balsamic vinegar or other light dressing

Instructions

  1. To toast the nuts: Spread them in a single layer on a plate and microwaving them on high for three minutes. This is the easiest, most reliable way to toast nuts, which improves the flavor and texture immensely for salad. 

    You can also toast them in the oven in a single layer on a pan in a 350 oven for 6-7 minutes, but watch carefully, as they burn quickly. 

Does Francis know he sounds like an abuser?

Shall I tell you the most charitable, least rash explanation I can muster for Pope Francis’ recent words and behavior? It’s that he’s surrounded himself with yes men who are shielding him from understanding the depth and breadth of institutional sex abuse and its cover-up in the Church.

He’s appointed, or left in office, no one but men who tell him that the world is chock full of false accusations, that the whole scandal thing is overblown, that it’s all in our past — oh, and that right now would be a good time to talk about litter in the ocean. The few who will tell him the truth, like Cardinal O’Malley, are so outnumbered that even their dire warnings can be dismissed as local problems.

That’s the charitable answer, and it’s not great. If he’s in a bubble that protects him from seeing the true state of the Church, it’s a comfortable bubble of his own making. The servant of the servants of God is not supposed to be in a bubble.

But the other explanation is worse. Here it is:

I have a number of friends who have escaped abusive marriages. They tell me that Pope Francis is sounding more and more like the men who abused them. He’s sounding like the men who hid that abuse from the world, who taught their victims to blame themselves, who used spiritual pressure to persuade them and their families that it would actually be wrong, sinful, to defend themselves.

Just listen to him. After responding to a question about Vigano’s very serious accusations, he said point blank, “I will not say a single word on this.” Several of the faithful speculated that he may have had this or that logistical reason for putting off responding to that specific question; fine. But for the rest of the week and more, he kept up an unmistakable theme of calling for silence, equating silence with holiness, and painting himself as a Christlike victim in his silence. Then he says it’s “ugly” to accuse others of sinning.Then he suggests that healing and reconciliation will only come if we take a hard look at our own flaws.

These statements are all true. They all reflect Christian thought. They would be reasonable at any other time in recent history. But coming right in the middle of our ongoing agony, they land as heavily as a fist on a bruise.

To the victims of the Church, and to those who love them, it sounds like he is saying, “Who do you think you are? I don’t have to explain myself to you. You’re the guilty one. You brought this on yourself. If you want to be loved, then know your place. I’m the victim, here, not you. If you know what’s good for you, keep your mouth shut.”

This is how abusers talk. They’re not content with power; they have to keep their victims doubting and blaming themselves constantly, so they don’t become a threat. Whether Francis knows it or not, this is how he sounds.

I know that we hear what gets reported, which isn’t necessarily everything he says. I know that the pope isn’t required to say everything we want him to say. I know that whatever is going on in our own diocese or our own country isn’t the whole of what goes on in the Church. I know that there are eternal truths that need to be told no matter what is going on in the current moment.

But even keeping all these things in mind, it beggars the imagination why the pope keeps talking the way he does. It’s clear he intends to keep on talking, despite his exhortations to be silent. This is what he chooses to say. The very best possible explanation is that his context is pure bubble, and he simply doesn’t realize that much of the Catholic world is transfixed with horror over the sins of the clergy. He simply isn’t aware that, with his words and with his silence, he’s turning his back on so many suffering priests and bishops, including my own, who tell their flock that they have not been abandoned — only to hear their spiritual father override their efforts with a huge, unmistakable message of “NOBODY CARES.”

Maybe he simply doesn’t realize that his cozy little aphorisms are coming off as a passive aggressive threat, as chilling as an abuser who smiles warmly at the world while secretly showing an open blade to the victim who stands faithfully at his side.

I do remember his gentleness, his compassion, his direct and sincere kindness in the past. I don’t believe that was false. You all know I’m not a reflexive Francis-hater. I don’t have any ideological reason to want to bring him down. I have defended him as long as I could, up until the Chile debacle.

And so I am working as hard as I can not to assume the worst, not to believe that this man who promised so much fresh air is really so intent on slamming doors shut before we find out even worse things hidden inside. But he is not making it easy. I am not saying he is an abuser. But he sounds like one.

You’re on the inside? Do your job or GTFO

There are a lot of reasons to hate the anonymous NYT op ed piece yesterday. As another NYT reporter points out, it now puts the rest of the staff in the position of trying to investigate a writer whose identity their own newspaper is protecting. It absolutely gives Trump and his paranoid minions more reason to believe the press is the enemy, which makes life more dangerous for reporters like my husband. And it’s just . . . squicky. It’s not how newspapers operate. Anonymity is for when the writer’s safety is at risk, not for when he wants to play Secret Squirrel and we’re all supposed to play along.

But the thing that bugged me the most was the craven abdication of responsibility. Whoever this “senior” person is, he’s inside the White House, he sees that our president is entirely unfit for the job, and even though he somehow persuades himself that it’s worth letting ourselves be drowned in a flood of dreck because a few specks of tax reform –– tax reform — might go swishing by, he acknowledges that “senior officials” are daily “working to insulate their operations from [Trump’s] whims.” In other words, he has a front row seat to the burning of Rome.

And his response to all this is to . . . stick around. To keep the status quo, because robust military! Less regulation! Hey, he’s not personally fanning the flames, so it’s not his fault! He’s doing his absolute best to pass little thimbles of water along to keep it from spreading even faster. God forbid we should do something drastic, that might precipitate a crisis of some sort.

He says he doesn’t want to pursue impeachment, because that would be a constitutional crisis. But what he is describing is the constitutional crisis. People scurrying around scrambling signals, stealing documents, and playing shell games with the leader of the free world like Bugs Bunny sticking it to Elmer Fudd? That’s your constitutional crisis, right there.

I’ve kind of washed my hands of politics. I did my best to warn people away from Trump, and it didn’t work, and I lost my job for my troubles; so I have mostly tuned out. But I got pretty upset when I read the NYT piece, and I know exactly why:

It’s the same stupid, self-congratulatory, ineffectual, grandstanding, self-immolating shell game we got from the USCCB. In case you haven’t noticed, the Church is in flames. In flames, and we faithful were begging our leaders to do something, or at least say something. Let us know you see how we are suffering. And for the love of Jesus, use the strength of your arm to put out the fire. Do something about the career arsonists who call themselves our fathers. Use your power and influence to do the right thing. You’re on the inside, so do something. 

Instead, they issued a couple of statements saying, “Don’t worry, everybuggy. We took a good look and we know things are super bad and that is super bad, but don’t worry, because we are implementing procedures! Procedures are being implemented. A-OK. World Youth, yay! Now you write check now.”

Same. Damn. Thing. They are in a position to put out the fire, and instead, they choose to sit with it and paint portraits of it and pat themselves on the back for how well they’re managing it. Well, we’re still engulfed in flames, and they still haven’t even hooked up a hose. And this is our house. We’re the ones who have to live here, and we’re supposed to play along and pretend this is how it’s supposed to be. And we’re still engulfed in flames. It’s crisis time, folks. We’re past the point where we can avoid the crisis by being “silent.” It’s here. No, keeping quiet doesn’t make you look like Jesus. It makes you look like this is your fire, and that’s how you like it.

We’re going to get four more years of Trump because nobody wants to put their neck on the line and push for impeachment; and we’re going to get who knows how many more years, decades, centuries of the same old same old slow motion conflagration in our Church, while generation after generation of Catholics figure out how to live our lives, raise our children, keep our parishes stumbling along, while everything around us is on fire.

Nobody wants to put it out. It’s just easier, and more lucrative, to pretend you’re taking it seriously and somehow protecting the institution from the inside out by letting it burn. Crazy keeps the checks rolling in. Corruption makes the money and power and influence flow, and everybody gets their share. Same damn thing.

I’m praying, by God. I’m doing stupid little sacrifices. I’m not leaving my Lord just because He’s surrounded by perverts, and God help me, I still love my stupid fucking country, even though we apparently want to burn the whole thing down. And I love my Church. Even though we apparently want to burn the whole thing down.

You people on the inside. You who have influence. You leaders with front row seats. I’m telling you that you need to do your job or GTFO.

***
Image: The Fire of Rome by Hubert Robert [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What do we Catholics do now?

By the time I’m done writing this, there will be a new crop of sad or enraging or just plain bizarre headlines about who did what, who knew what, who claims he never knew, who didn’t act and why that was someone else’s fault, and why we should all just relax and trust the hierarchy to do the right thing, starting any minute now.

And of course more and more of our fellow Catholics will burrow even more deeply into their comforting narratives of blame, to shelter them. When we’re confronted with calamity, the easiest thing in the world is to cry, “This is all their fault!” — “they” being the ones whose fault it always is and always has been. This response is worse than useless, but it’s understandable. We want coherence and intelligibility, but right now, it’s so hard to see, in this dim light of calamity. What to do?

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

Napoleon at the baptismal font

There’s really no sense in saying, “I’m interested in Christ, but only a little bit, please.” You gotta go all in.

So where do Napoleon and his crown-grabbing ways fit it? Well, I have seen a good number of Catholics who strongly identify with Catholicism and are heavily involved with other Catholics. The drive and hunger is there. But as soon as it comes time to kneel and accept something good and meaningful from God, they don’t just gleefully, joyfully go for it. Instead, they grab it out of his hands and bestow it on themselves.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: Marie-Victoire Jaquotot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

All the foods za’atar fit to eat

Some week. Some week. I haven’t been writing much, because I just don’t know what to say about The Thing, but it feels weird to write about anything else when there’s The Thing. Also, I skipped What’s For Supper last week, because I was away, so I’ll do a quick rundown before I get to this week’s food.

LAST SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese

Nothing to report.

LAST SUNDAY
Canobie Lake Park again!

We had to leave early last time we went because of the storm, so they gave everyone free evening passes, and when you give a family of twelve free passes, they come back. We had Walmart subs in the parking lot and then spent the rest of the evening doing this sort of thing:

and some of this:

LAST MONDAY
Lemon za’atar chicken, pita and yogurt sauce, blueberries

Kyra gave me another of her patented cornucopias o’ weird foods, including a large jar of za’atar, which is a traditional middle eastern seasoning mixture. Ours is an “Aleppo blend,” and is made of thyme, wheat (?), sesame seeds, spices (?), sumac, and salt. The internet tells me it’s the sumac that’s really important in za’atar.

I followed this recipe, using leg quarters, which always make me feel like Henry XIII. Just gimme a dog to wipe my hands on. Sadly, I roasted the chicken in the oven, rather than grilling it outside (or making my kitchen wench turn it on the spit or whatever).

It was a very pretty meal, but the flavor was much quieter than I was expecting, given all that zesting and whatnot.

I also wasn’t really sure what to do with those lemons. I warned the kids that they were just hot lemons, and they ate them anyway, and then were surprised at how hot they were, and sour.

Anyway, I did like the za’atar flavor, which was sort of musky and piney, and need some more recipes that use za’atar. Whatcha got?

For the yogurt sauce, I used full fat Greek yogurt, minced garlic, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.

LAST TUESDAY
Beef pepperoncini sandwiches

A tasty, very easy meal. Take a hunk of beef and put it in the slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and the juice, and let it cook on low all day. Shred the meat, shred a few peppers if you like, and serve it on toasted rolls with horseradish sauce and provolone.

You can see my provolone tragically slid off the sandwich while I was toasting it, but I just flipped it right back onto the meat. You can use the juice from the slow cooker to dip your sandwich in. Mmmmm.

LAST WEDNESDAY
Pork banh mi

Scrumptious as always. I started the meat marinating the night before, and set one of the kids to pickle the carrots in the morning. We left the cucumbers unpickled so there would be something cool and refreshing, as there are so many sharp and pungent parts of this sandwich.

I had mine with Sriracha mayo and plenty of cilantro on a toasted baguette. Banh me has become one of my absolute favorite meals, and most of the work is prep work, not cooking.

LAST THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice

A quick and satisfying meal. You just brown up the meat, throw in the rest of the ingredients, heat it through, and that’s it! I made it early in the day and then kept it warm in the slow cooker, then cooked some rice in the Instant Pot before dinner and served it up with sesame seeds on top.

Chopped scallions are the best, but we ate them all with the chicken, so we had cilantro. It was okay.

LAST FRIDAY
Giant chocolate pancake for people at home, some kind of luxurious fish dish that almost killed me for me

I went off to the Year of the Family conference in Montpelier, VT, where I was supposed to give a speech and lead a breakout session. So I drove up, checked into a lovely hotel, had a wonderful meal, went back to my room, practiced my speeches one last time, and promptly got violently (and I do mean violently) ill, and stayed violently (and I do mean violently) ill all night long. As soon as I could stand up again the next day, I dragged myself into the car and slunk back home. Boo.

LAST SATURDAY
I think Damien made beer brats.

I’m sure they were delicious. I was working my way up to toast.

SUNDAY
Smoked beef sandwiches

Not sure how Damien made this. He sent me this pic, which, now that I’m human again, looks absolutely delicious.

He sliced the meat and served it on toasted sourdough bread with provolone. I had toast and applesauce.

MONDAY
Fancy ramen

On Monday, we did the back-to-school shopping. It took five-and-a-half hours. A good day to rush home and make some pork ramen, which is fast and which almost everyone likes at least some part of. Even the bearded dragon, who has a thing for pea shoots.

I sauteed (or, from Payless, directed a kid to sautee) some boneless pork ribs in oil, then doused them in soy sauce and sliced them thin. So we had chicken ramen with your choice of pork, frozen stir fry vegetables, chopped scallions, sesame seeds, soy sauce, wasabi sauce, crunchy noodles, pea shoots, and Sriracha sauce. Sometimes we also have pickled carrots and cucumbers with this meal. I meant to soft boil some eggs, but I forgot.

TUESDAY
Spaghetti carbonara

Last day of vacation, so we went to the beach. I had been promising Irene spaghetti carbonara, and the very last few days of summer vacation is definitely the time to cash in on things your mother promised you could have.

It’s such a simple, spectacular dish. You cook the bacon crisp and cut it into bits and then cook the spaghetti (I like to add bacon grease to the pot). Drain the pasta and add the bacon and an insane amount of butter, parmesan cheese, and pepper. Then throw in some beaten eggs and mix it all up until it all wants to cling together. Perfection. I quadrupled the recipe, except for the pasta, which I only tripled, thus making the entire dish CARBONARA SUPREME.

WEDNESDAY
Crock pot chicken enchiladas

First day of school. I saw this intriguing recipe for slow cooker enchiladas that had ground beef cooked with peppers and onions. It looked tasty, but I thought chicken would be even better. Out of sheer honesty, I must admit that I had a feeling of foreboding about this dish from the very beginning, even before I went off-recipe.

So I put three chicken breasts in the Instant Pot with some water and a bunch of chili lime powder and set it to high pressure for eight minutes, then did a quick release. When the chicken was cool, I shredded it.

Then I mixed the shredded chicken with a diced red onion, a few cans of drained tomatoes and chilis, and a can of green enchilada sauce. Then I found a bunch of tortillas the same diameter as my Instant Pot, and made a stack out of tortillas, chicken mixture, and shredded cheddar cheese. It was about fifteen tortillas deep.Then I set it to “slow cook,” still shouting down the foreboding.

Here is how it looked when I opened the top:

Well, I hope you’re not looking forward to some kind of amusing, outlandish catastrophe at the end, here. The only thing that happened was it turned out exactly like you’d expect.

Okay flavors, but damp and sloppy and just, well, as you see. If I decreased the sauce and if people had been shoveling heavy, wet snow all day before dinner, it might seem like a different dish.

THURSDAY
Stuffed shells, salad

This meal was Benny’s heart’s desire.

I made it in the morning and warmed it up in the afternoon. My goodness, the compliments! It wasn’t anything special, but I guess it hit the spot. I put together 64 oz of ricotta cheese with a ton of parmesan and shredded mozzarella, salt and pepper, oregano, and lots of garlic powder, and stuffed the shells with that; then I put more sauce on top and more parmesan and mozzarella.

I guess once you get up to three kids of cheese, that’s true love. The sauce was just Aldi’s marinara sauce from a jar, which is not bad.

FRIDAY

I guess salad and bread and whatnot. We have walnuts and feta cheese and broccoli, and I boiled a bunch of eggs, and there is corn we never got around to eating, plus I got a few raisin challahs from Aldi to try. Yes, raisin challah is an abomination. Don’t care. We got through the first week of school (and work and cross country and everything) and there was food on the table every single day.

You guys, I’m so tired. I’ll write up the recipe cards later!

Beef pepperoncini sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 hunk beef
  • 1 jar pepperoncini
  • rolls
  • sliced provolone

Instructions

  1. Put the beef in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and the juice. If you like, cut the stems off the pepperoncini. If there isn't enough juice, add some beer. 

  2. Cover, set to low, and let it cook for several hours until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. 

  3. Shred the meat. If you like, chop up a few of the pepperoncini. 

  4. Serve meat on rolls with mayo if you like. Lay sliced provolone over the meat and slide it under the broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Serve the juice on the side for dipping.