Archive for June, 2006

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lentils at the country house

June 30, 2006



Another food post…hhmm. My domestic urges seem to be getting the best of me these days. I hope to have a post with a bit more thought in it sometime soon. For now, here’s another recipe for another summer salad. It was made for a family weekend in the country where there will be much barbequing of meats and thus a vegetarian dish was requested. Hopefully the non-vegetarians will also enjoy.

This recipe is loosely based (and I mean *loosely*) on this recipe from Epicurious for a “Garden Lentil Salad.” I started with the lentils, kept the radishes, black olives, and parsley, and basically ran with it after that. This salad has a complicated flavor. I like two kinds of mild onions (red onions and scallions) and arugula is one of my favorite summer additions to grain/bean based salads. The co-op has the most delicious organic arugula right now (among many other greens I cannot identify but hope to experiment with in the coming weeks). The recipe, as I made it, is as follows:

1 1/4 cups French lentils* (about 8 ounces)
20-30 small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch of scallions and half a red onion
1/2 cup chopped trimmed radishes (see this post for radish tips)
1/3 cup chopped or halved pitted brine-cured black olive (such as Kalamata)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 bunch chopped arugula

olive oil (to taste)
juice of 2 lemons
salt and pepper

  1. Boil the lentils for about 20 minutes, drain, set aside. (you can add some salt and a bay leaf for extra flavor if you like).
  2. Prep your tomatoes, scallions, onion, radishes, and olives. Add to the lentils once they’ve cooled.
  3. Add parsley and arugula the day you plan to eat the salad – if you cook it in advance, wash and chop them and set aside until before you serve them. Otherwise, they may get soggy.
  4. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper just before serving. Don’t add too much salt because the olives are quite salty.

*French lentils are a brown, and a bit rounder than normal lentils (rather than flat). They’re great for salads because they keep their shape when you cook them.

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peachy keen

June 26, 2006

Today I baked a peach pie for an impromptu family dinner. It came out pretty fantastic (save for the burnt edges, but the family is very forgiving), which I think was a result of the combination of the humid air (adds a good amount of moisture to the dough) and the fact that I used a food processor to make the dough so the fat was still frozen when I mixed it with the flour. Also, the peaches they have at the co-op right now are delicious. Plus, the Joy of Cooking has once again proved itself to be the best cookbook on my shelf for all the standards. What other cookbook not only gives you a recipe for pie crust but also gives you instructions on how to make the crust in a food processor? Amazing. The only thing that I don’t like about peach pie is that when you thicken and then cook peaches, they have a taste and texture reminiscent of canned peaches, which is never a pleasant thing to taste in pie.

Because I like lists, here are a few things I remembered while baking today:

  • Pie is so easy to make. No one should be afraid to make their own pie crust.
  • In the tradition of my grandmother and then my mother, leftover pie dough should never be wasted. Roll out the dough, spread some jam on it and sprinkle on nuts and/or raisins. Roll it up, brush it with egg or milk and bake it. Slice it and voila, you have delicious strudel. Alternatively, strudel can be made on its own and does not need to be preceeded by pie making.
  • When baking in the summetime, have an air conditioner in your kitchen if you plan to turn the oven on to 425, especially if you have a friend keeping you company during the baking process.

I did, however, treat my sweaty friend to some iced decaffeinated green tea with dried jasmine that I had made the day before, which got rave reviews. Green tea with all kinds of dried flowers from the loose tea section at the co-op (above the spices) makes some tasty iced tea and gives a little variation to the monotony of iced lipton.

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Quinoa!

June 24, 2006

Lest you assume I am only capable of blogging self-righteously and wordily about serious issues, here is my first food post. Today is a rainy summer day, perfect for experimenting in the kitchen and making all kinds of iced tea.


It’s hot and sweaty summertime in
New York, which means it’s time for summer salads. I do enjoy a good grain-based main dish salad, in addition to variations on the lettuce/spinach based vegetable salad. This morning I put together a simple and fresh salad with a quinoa base. The quinoa can be made in advance and refrigerated. Warning: this salad is not for cilantro haters. Also: all vegetable amounts can be increased or decreased depending on how much you enjoy them. The only science in this recipe is the ratio of quinoa to water (1:2). And this salad comes out quite small, enough for maybe 2-4 people. Doubling may be necessary.

Quinoa salad with lime and cilantro

½ c. quinoa
1 c. water

3 scallions, chopped
4-5 medium radishes, sliced thin
1 medium zucchini, sliced ½ ich
2 c. water
2-3 limes, depending on juicy-ness
2 tbs. olive oil
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro (or more, depending on your taste)
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkles of chili powder

  1. Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve. Rinsing the quinoa is key, otherwise it will taste bitter. Place quinoa and water in a saucepan, bring water to a boil, lower, and simmer for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed and the edges of the grains are translucent. Transfer into a bowl and refrigerate while you prep the rest of the vegetables.
  2. Boil second round of water in the same pot that you used for the quinoa with some salt – drop in the sliced zucchini and cook for just a few minutes. Drain and put into the fridge with you quinoa.
  3. Chop/slice scallions, radishes*, and cilantro. Mix them in with the quinoa and zucchini, add lime juice**, olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili powder. If you want to get really serious, refrigerate the salad with all ingredients except for the lime juice and olive oil. Add those two ingredients immediately before serving***.

*If you hate the bitterness of radishes like I do, try the following trick: (courtesy of my dad!) put the chopped radishes in a small dish with about a tablespoon of kosher salt. Let stand for 5 minutes, then rinse a few times. The salt absorbs a lot of the bitterness.

**A citrus trick I learned from a certain glass lady, who learned it from her mom. To get a more intense flavor from a lime or a lemon, use everything but the peel: quarter it lengthwise (as if you were going to put it into a drink), then remove the peel from each quarter and chop the flesh. This is especially good in dips when you are using a food processor, as you can smooth the flesh of the lemon or lime into the rest of the dip. But in a salad, you can use the flesh of one of the lemons or limes and just the juice of the rest of them. In this particular salad, I used the flesh of 1 lime and the juice of the other.

***The main problem with grain-based salads is that the intense flavor you might taste when you cook it tends to fade in the refrigerator because the grains absorb it. This is why if you’re preparing this or any main dish salad in advance, make sure to add the dressing/lemon juice/olive oil just before you serve it.

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Recent Ruminations on Gay Marriage

June 19, 2006

I discovered something alarming last week. I happened upon the group blog jspot.org, “the spot for Jewish perspectives on contemporary issues of social and economic justice,” as the site proudly proclaims. My eye scans down the list of topics and I click the one called “LGBT.” I scrolled through the entries, dating back to March. Out of 25 entries, 22 were about one topic: gay marriage. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Aren’t there any other justice issues that affect LGBT people? How about the slew of pride month gay bashing incidents? How about the 25 year anniversary of the first documented cases of AIDS and about our current government’s problematic denial about what methods are actually successful in preventing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections?

Here are some assumptions I wish people would stop making about me and my fellow queers. Not all LGBT/queer people:

  • are gung ho about gay marriage and proclaim it as an issue to which they would like devote much time
  • want to commit to monogamous, life-long relationships
  • who are in monogamous relationships want to have their relationship approved by the state
  • have the same exact values as straight people and just happen to be attracted to people of the same gender
  • would benefit from marriage the way middle-class white gay people might

I should preface this by stating that I am not opposed to anyone, gay or straight, having ceremonies to recognize their commitments to one another publicly, within their community. I take issue, however, with a need to have that commitment recognized, policed, and otherwise controlled by the government.

Regarding spending time pushing gay marriage through the courts: I have other commitments and things to do with my time, and of course I should put it right out there – I consider myself way too young to even think about committing to another person for my whole life. Maybe I will at some point, and maybe I won’t. But I think that’s an aside, and I can say that because I’ve thought through many of these issues and I’m not just being the flippant young queer. I just want to set the record straight: gay marriage is not good for all gay people and the issues are so much larger than just “marriage equality.”

I just read an amazing article, Altar Ego, by Michael Bronski, written in 2004. A friend sent it to me when I expressed frustration at all the gay marriage talk and activity going on around me. It’s really fantastic and sums up a lot of what I have been thinking about in my head. If you think you have a handle on gay marriage (for or against or more complicated than that), check it out. He put a few things that had been floating around in my head into clear, concise words. He talks about one of the basic arguments that queer people have with the gay marriage movement, which is that what marriage does, among other things, is privilege monogamous, romantic relationships over everything else. It leaves no room for all the different family structures that exist in this country.

Bronski goes through a number of arguments, analyzing and complicating the tax and health insurance issues. He touches on the fact that the argument about health insurance being a major issue for the gay marriage movement is completely a middle- and upper-class issue, because having the opportunity to access one’s partner’s insurance assumes that at least one of two people *has* health insurance – something that cannot be said for millions of Americans who work hourly wages or in the service sector. Futhermore, not all gay people would benefit equally from the tax breaks marriage offers.

There are many, many rights that marriage offers that do not need, logically, to be attached to marriage: Why should we not be allowed to declare for ourselves who can visit us in the hospital if we are sick (1, 4, or 10 different people, not related to us by blood or marriage)? Why should the government decide who can adopt and be a parent? It is so ironic that we seem to be *inviting* the government into our bedroom, asking to for our lives and relationships to be policed, instead of demanding that those rights be made available without marriage.

Another ironic twist to this debate is gay marriage’s effect on unmarried straight people. Bronski also discusses the effects of having domestic partnership as an opportunity not just for gay people but for straight people, and the way that marriage will become compulsory in order to receive benefits. On marriage “equality” in the state of Massachusetts, Bronski states:

Because [domestic partnerships] were instituted out of a sense of fairness to gay men and lesbians, and not to promote viable economic and ethical alternatives to traditional marriage, it makes perfect sense (to some) that they will disappear as legal civil marriage becomes available across the country. The result is that marriage will not be simply a choice for some gay people, but compulsory if the couple needs any of these benefits, even if they are not inclined to marriage.

What’s especially amazing about the DP discussion is that it seems that beyond giving gays and lesbians the opportunity to recognize their partnerships and receive some benefits, it actually gives straight people an alternative to marriage that would give them some of the same benefits. Why do these rights have to be attached to marriage, if not for reinforcing monogamy and the traditional nuclear family? Why should who I sleep with have anything to do with what rights I have? And why do gay people want their relationships to be policed by the government? It seems to me that rather than “being realistic” and “working with the system already in place,” (both arguments that I have heard when I protest against pushing for gay marriage) we are just reinforcing all of the values and compulsory relationships that gay people were rebelling against in the first place, and even worse, we are doing so only with middle- and upper-class goals in mind (see Speak Now: Progressive Considerations on the Advent of Civil Marriage for Same-Sex Couples for more on this topic).

Bronski argues further:

There is nothing wrong with fighting for same-sex marriage as long as it is part of a larger package, a larger scheme in which all the myriad issues affecting GLBT families are addressed. Rather than working from the top down using a model that uncritically accepts the enshrinement of marriage as the gold standard of personal and romantic relationships, gay and lesbian legal advocates should have been looking at the specific needs of a wide variety of GLBT families and shaping and fighting for policies and law that will benefit everyone — not just those in the middle class or who choose to engage in the most traditional relationships. The sad reality is that the GLBT movement had a chance to address all these issues in a more systematic and comprehensive manner — and decided not to do so, focusing instead on simply gaining access to traditional marriage, even though that road to “equality” was hardly the most efficacious or sensible.

The bottom line seems to be that we need to keep the “face” of the gay movement as conservative as possible, displaying our lifelong commitments to only one person to the right-wing Christians who run this country in the hopes that they will see us as their allies in their fight to “save marriage” instead of their enemies. When we do this, we leave behind all the complicated definitions for “family” that gay people (and all people) have developed: lesbian mothers with an involved sperm donor dad; a straight couple living with and supporting one or many of their elderly parents; or maybe two or several single mothers who have found companionship and financial support together. What of all of these configurations of “family?” Why are we so afraid to admit that marriage and the nuclear family structure is not ideal for all or even most Americans, gay or straight? Certainly we can admit that it’s not an ideal structure on which to decide who gets health insurance and tax breaks.

I know that gay marriage is on its way. But I fear that it will become another way for conservative America to dictate how relationships should be and what rights one receives as a “reward” for good relationship behavior. This is not the “sexual liberation” that gay people fought for in the 1960’s and 70’s, and it’s certainly not what I am fighting for now.

Topics I didn’t get to touch on: the history of marriage, the connection between capitalism and gay identity (see D’Emilio, “Capitalism and Gay Identity,” – this article changed my life), the gross consumerism involved in weddings, my personal whining about not wanting to feel pressured to get married, and a more extensive foray into how marriage affects low-income and non-white Americans, among many other things. I am still getting used to the whole blogging thing and having to write in little bites of writing.

More questions? Here’s some interesting articles, and no, not all of their authors have the same position as I:

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Aswat Fundraiser

June 8, 2006

On Monday night, I attended a fundraiser for Aswat, a Palestinian queer women’s organization (Aswat means “voices” in Arabic). It was held in an art gallery attached to the offices of the Third Wave Foundation. It was co-sponsored by a load of organizations, notably the Audrey Lorde Project (ALP), Al-Fatiha Foundation, the Brecht Forum, CAAAV, the IGLHRC, Queers for Economic Justice, among many, many others. Rauda Morcos, the Aswat’s coordinator and co-founder, was the featured speaker at the event. They began with a conversation between Morcos and a woman who works at ALP. The two organizations seemed to have created a meaningful connection – Morcos and the woman from ALP appeared to know each other quite well and the “conversation” seemed organic. Morcos began with an introduction of the mission of the ALP and the part of that mission that seeks to create connections with groups and NGO’s outside of the US. Morcos then talked a bit about Aswat and its membership, how the group and organization (it is both) function and how the member see the group’s role in the Palestinian community.

Morcos was an eloquent speaker and managed to set Aswat in the larger contexts of the occupation, queer/LGBT groups in Israel, Palestinian culture, and the queer world at large. There were quite a few things that struck me, some of them because of my own assumptions and some because I am just plain impressed when I hear about groups or organization that set their goals and standards clearly, with which they then follow through.

Morcos was sensitive to the fact that any words that she was speaking on behalf of Aswat were approved by all of the members of the group. As young and as small a group as it is, they have one “internal” agenda, which is to provide support for Palestinian queer women, and an “external” agenda, which includes informing the Palestinian public at large about issues relating to queer people and women’s sexuality. A few of their activities: they hold social as well as organizational meetings, they have an email listserv (Aswat actually started with an email listserv), a web site and hotline, and in terms of external stuff, they’ve done a number of projects with Palestinian media (newspaper, radio). See their full mission here.

Another thing that struck me was Aswat’s resolve regarding politics and the occupation. As women who suffer from discrimination in three ways (as Palestinians, as women, and as queers), they refuse to compromise on any issues that they feel are central to their mission. One of those issues is whether to ally themselves with LGBT organizations in Israel. Morcos spoke at length about Aswat’s difficult decision regarding whether or not to participate in this summer’s International World Pride week, to be held in Jerusalem and hosted by the Jerusalem Open House (JOH). She said that they weighed the pros and cons of participation and boycotting, and while they were leaning towards participating (most members felt that boycotting would not be a productive tactic), one member could not fathom taking part in an event that would no doubt require closures, curfews, and extra checkpoints for Palestinians in the occupied territories. (high volume of people in one place in Israel usually equals tighter security and movement restrictions for Palestinians). In the end, they decided not to take part. Morcos concluded the World Pride discussion by reiterating that Aswat’s agenda is so completely unrelated to the goals of World Pride and of the mainstream LGBT groups, in addition to them finding a World Pride celebration completely inappropriate while the occupation is going on.

During the Q & A, I asked her to speak a bit about Aswat’s relationship with the JOH. She said that they work with the JOH on the latter’s Palestinian project, which consists mostly of men. The JOH is creating a project for GLBT Palestinians in the north of Israel proper, in which she said Aswat is interested in participating. They choose to generally not associate with the JOH, however, because the JOH refuses to take a political stance against the occupation. As previously stated, Aswat also feels that their goals are generally quite different than most Israeli LGBT organization. Morcos stressed that their work takes place among Palestinians and their external work is directed towards the Palestinian community. They would not find support with Israeli groups or organizations unless they decided to publicly oppose the occupation.

I find it fascinating that Palestinian gay/queer men’s stuff happens through the JOH, an Israeli LGBT organization based in West Jerusalem, while gay/queer women’s stuff happens through an independent Palestinian-run organization. What does this mean for the way that queer men and women choose to find communities? Are there parallels we can make for queer communities here in the US? I also started wondering how my own status as a white queer affects what spaces I feel comfortable in and what spaces I trust.

Apropos of forming queer communities, there was one question asked by a middle-aged white lesbian (my assumption, yes) that was particularly ridiculous but got such a well-put answer that I feel like I need to write it out here: “Let’s say I was a lesbian and lived in the West Bank and didn’t have a computer to access your listserv, and I wanted to find other lesbians. Is there a bar or neighborhood where I might go?” And Morcos answered the woman, looking at her straight in the face and not skipping a beat, “If you lived in the West Bank, you would never ask that question. Because we are under occupation, it’s a war zone! We don’t go to bars very often.” The woman said, “Well, where do *you* meet lesbians?” Morcos answered, “I met most of my friends at demonstrations, through my activism, or my writing group. There was one bar in Ramallah that LGBT people used to go to but it was bombed by the Israeli army. I don’t go to bars very often.” It was an incredible interaction to witness, because it summed up so many of the differences between mainstream LGBT issues and groups like Aswat and the ALP, who are trying to give voices to people so used to being suppressed from so many directions. I have an immense amount of respect for Morcos’ work and that of Aswat, especially in their need to never sacrifice any part of themselves and I hope they continue doing their work with the same resolve.

P.S. Rauda Marcos is in the US to receive the 2006 Felipa de Souza Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Other related media:
Interview with Morcos in The Advocate
Press release about Morcos’ award from the Jerusalem Open House