Monthly Archives: February 2007

Lent Cuisine: Hispanic Countries

In Spanish, Lent is Cuaresma, and Holy Week is la Semana Santa.

This is a wonderful tourism site, with a large section on regional Spanish cuisine (with recipes). This looks good: Madrid-style garbanzo and vegetable stew (potaje de garbanzos y espinacas, a la madrilena).  The site also includes recipes for such delights as St. James’ tarts (tartas de Santiago). Mm, end of pilgrimage food….

Cuaresma recipes from the Univision cable viewers! (Pretty much all in Spanish, obviously.) Also in Spanish is this wonderful Valencian recipe for Lent cod (Bacalao de Cuaresma), the Euroresidentes page of Spanish Lent recipes, and this page of Nicarauguan Lent recipes, including one for cheese soup.

This blog from Panama has some wonderful Cuaresma-suitable recipes in English. It also reveals a traditional Panamanian Holy Week dish: cod with eggs and potatoes (bacalao con papas y huevos).

Garlic shrimp (camarones al ajo) from a grocery store, and some Lent suggestions from Goya Foods. Nopalitos (cactus bits) are a traditional Mexican Lent food. (First greens of Spring, probably.) Moros y Cristianos looks tastily incorrect and triumphalist.

People in the Dominican Republic reportedly like to eat sweet kidney beans (habichuela con dulce) during Lent (or at Easter; my sources differ). “Beach spaghetti” is also popular, always eaten cold on paper plates.

Of course, we have to have some medieval Spanish recipes. Alas, the big medieval Spanish food site is in Spanish. But the Manual de Mugeres, a 16th century cookbook, is available in translation here, with links to redactions elsewhere.

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Lent Cuisine: 14th Century Cairo

Dar Anahita provides us with a wonderful translation and redaction of recipes of what “monks, and Christians during Lent” ate.

As for Maghmuma
you fill a pot with a layer of onions, and a layer of carrots, and [a layer of] favas, and [a layer of] peeled eggplants cut in rounds, and in this fashion up to two-thirds of the pot. Sprinkle coriander and caraway on each layer. Throw on two parts good vinegar and one part murri (soy sauce), [enough] to cover, and boil until nearly done. Throw on a good amount of green olive oil and sesame oil, and cover with a thin flat bread and leave on the coals until it settles. This is the salty variety of it.

How to Flavor Cabbage
Take walnuts, blanched almonds, toasted hazelnuts. Pound everything, then take caraway, which you toast and pound fine, and with it a little thyme and garlic seed. Then you perfume the cabbage with good oil. Then you take a little bit of vinegar, dissolve the walnuts and ingredients with it. Then you throw on a sufficiency of tahineh and let there be a little Syrian cheese with it. Add the spices to them and arrange them and then [you throw the rest of the ingredients on the bowl. Then] throw in the first spice, enough to perfume their taste and aroma. It is not eaten until the next day.

The redactions (the tester’s recipes in modern form, with all the relevant instructions you’ll need) are a bit long, so I won’t quote any here. Go over and take a look!

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Lent Cuisine: Germany

In honor of the Holy Father, here’s a few recipe links!

First, what we could have had on Shrove Tuesday (Fastnacht): donuts called Fastnachts! There’s also potato donuts, known as Fastnacht krapfen. (Scroll down.)

Bock, Doppelbock, Starkbier, and Fastbier are the strong beers traditionally drunk during Lent. Like Guinness, it’s good for you. And liquids don’t break the fast, so a nice chewy beer kept those hardworking monks and farmers going.

Pretzels (bracellae) are a classic Lenten food.

Some yummy trout recipes. Mmmm, sauerkraut….

On Holy Thursday (Gründonnerstag), people eat Seven Herb Soup (Sieben Kräuter Suppe), made from spinach, parsley, leek, chives, chervil, dandelions, and sorrel. (The first edible spring greens to sprout.)

What? You want the recipe in English? Here you go!

There’s tons on German customs here, including a recipe (in English!) to use up all those hard-boiled eggs, come Easter.

23 medieval German recipes utilizing mushrooms. Apparently, the medieval Germans liked morels as much as folks around here do. This one sounds good, healthy, and Lenten:

Separate the biggest whole Morels from the small ones. Squeeze out and chop up the small ones.
Take eggs and beat well. Add finely chopped herbs (in German recipes these are often parsley and sage, although others are possible) to the beaten eggs, and the chopped small mushrooms to the beaten eggs.
Put butter in a pan, heat until melted, and add the mixed morels and eggs.
Cook as for scrambled eggs. Put on a sack [to drain out the liquid – since mushrooms are often rather moist].
Then chop well. Add pepper and saffron and salt to them and fill the large Morel caps with the herbed egg mix.
Put then in a tin-lined fish kettle with fresh butter and a little pepper
Pour in a little pea broth (but not enough to submerge the caps), salt, and green herbs that have been chopped finely.
Set on the fire and simmer until the moisture comes out of the mushroom caps and a concentrated broth remains. Thus it is good and well-tasting.
And Morels prepared this way one can also roast or bake in Pastry.
You can also cook them with Beef broth on a Flesh day
Thus are they also good and well-tasting.

Old Bavarian recipes from the Inn river valley, including medieval recipes for mock udder, boiled antler (no, really!), and crayfish pudding. Heh! The cheesy egg fritters, fish ball soup, and almond milk pudding sound pretty good. Pike sausages, too. The almond dish shaped like a hedgehog sounds yummy and showy, too. All in all, some very interesting subtleties (dishes that are shaped and decorated). But the deep fried cherries sound a bit much.

Fried eggs during Lent
Take blanched almonds, grind them up and pass through a cloth with water. Boil in a pan like a /mus/ [porridge, pudding, mousse] until it thickens. Take fat /Hausen/ [a freshwater fish of the sturgeon variety, now almost unobtainable], cut it into cubes and fry it in a pan like fat bacon, remove the fried bits and put the almond puree into the fat. Spread it out with a spoon and colour spots (lit. ‘eyes’) on it like yolks. Press the fried bits of fish into the white part between the yolks, sprinkle it with sugar, and keep it warm until you serve it.

Also, there’s a Teutonic Order cookbook. No wonder those fightin’ monks fell through the ice!

Stuffed pikes
Take /gefuge/ pikes and leave the skin on (?) up to the ears. Then take any kind of fish, whatever they are, boil them and leave the bones (out), chop them with sage, pepper, caraway, and saffron. Fill (?) the pike with this, salt it on the outside and place it on a griddle to roast it well and not too hot.

If you want to make halved apples
Take stirred (scrambled?) egg of four colours. Then cut an apple into quarters and remove the seeds and the shells that surround them from each part. Fill the hollow with each color and stick the apples back together with wooden splints.
[Toothpicks?] Dip them in a thin batter and and when you have baked them, cut them open and sprinkle them with sugar.

If you want to make a good /weyschen/ cake
[paralleled in Meister Eberhard as /meyschen/ (May) cake]
Take up to ten eggs, break them well, add parsley and stir it all together. And take a mortar and place it on the embers, and put therein a spoonful of lard and let it heat. Pour the eggs into it and let it coolly (gently) bake and serve it, not oversalted.

Redaction:

10-12 eggs
1 small bunch fresh parseley (or 3 tsp dried)
1 tsp lard or butter
salt and pepper to taste

Place lard in a metal or ceramic bowl. Put into in an oven heated to c. 150ƒC (350ƒF) until the lard has melted and the bowl is hot.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the parsley.
When the bowl is ready, open the oven door and our the egg batter into the hot bowl quickly.
Return to the oven immediately and bake 20-35 minutes (test doneness by inserting a stick or knifeblade).
Remove from oven, cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and turn out onto a plate.
Serve sliced for breakfast.

This is also a good way of providing pseudo-scrambled eggs for more people than you have pans or time to make.

If you want to make breaded sausages during Lent
Take good figs and blanch them, cut them small and grind them up. Place the mass on a board, add ground gingerbread (/Lebkuchen/) and roll it out as long as a breaded sausage. Make a thick batter with wine, dip the sausage in it and bake it. Serve with sugar.

If you wish to make large eggs
Boil the egg yolks soft, cut off the tip of each egg and pour out the yolk. Chop parsley, mix it with the yolks, throw it in lard and do not cook it too hard. Fill this back into the shells and boil them well, then shell them and make a good broth (to serve with it).

Sabrina Welserin wrote a cookbook way back when, and it’s wonderful. Cheese buns! Also, she’s got a colored chicken recipe which probably explains the colored egg/apple recipe above.

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If You Think Lent Is a Competition, You Lose.

Every year on St. Blog’s, I encounter what Jimmy Akin calls “the annual Lent fight”. For some reason, some people think it’s their duty to impress other parishioners with how spiritually hard and buff they are. Others love to tell other people that their Lenten practices are just not good enough.

Fish? Not penitential enough! Bread and cheese? Only for gourmands! Bread and water? You slacker! Water? Well, if you’re a weak and stomach-loving guzzler, I suppose….

That’s pride, not penitence.

I don’t want to discourage people who feel called to do something extra for the Lord. But if other people are following the Lenten rules (and heck, even if they’re not), how they do it is not your business. If they want to eat lobster and you don’t — why do you care? If they want to eat swordfish and you think sardines aren’t penitential enough — why do you care?

If you’ve got time to gossip about other people’s Lents, then you obviously aren’t working hard enough on your own.

(And if you’ve ever wondered why the Church has so many rules — well, it’s not just for the slitherer-outers. It’s for the auto-elected burden-binding buttinski bishops in the pew, too.)

So why do we fast? As penitential behavior, yes. But getting a penance doesn’t mean “I feel like crap”. It can, but that’s not the purpose. The purpose is to do something extra to help make up for past sins, to help repair things, and to help you get better. It’s medicine, not punishment or torture.

If you feel faint and sick and headachy all day, can’t be productive at work, your hands shake while you’re going home, and you’re not sure whether you’re going to faint on the road, how is that helpful? Does it fit in with Jesus’ advice to look cheerful and go about your business? Or are you endangering yourself and others out of spiritual pride, and damaging the mind and body God gave you in stewardship?

God gave you brains and judgment. Use them. Your Lenten duty is to fulfill the Lenten regulations safely and prudently, or cheerfully to admit that you physically can’t and submit to the Church’s discipline for medically unable people — ie, not fasting.

Furthermore, if you are raising kids or feeding other people, it is your duty under natural law to ensure that you provide them with a Lenten meal which is, to the best of your knowledge and ability, a healthy and dietetically complete one. I’m pretty sure this applies to yourself, too, unless you’ve gotten dispensed by some sort of spiritual superior to do really ascetic stuff. If you’re only going to eat one meal a day, feed your body something it can use all day.

There is no particular reason why you should worry about whether said food is “penitential enough”. All food is a good and tasty gift from God. There is no food, no matter how gourmet, that tastes better than something with calories when you’re really hungry, and no drink that tastes better than water when you’re parched. The point is not “eat crappy food”; the point is that you are being asked to stay out of one corner of the food world. That’s penitential enough — just ask Adam and Eve, or Jewish people keeping kosher.

So abstain from what you’re supposed to abstain from, do what you feel called to do, eat what’s on the menu, and don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.

Finally, a lot of us can only afford to eat fish frequently at this time of the year, or are glad to have a reason to make fish an occasion. I assure you, we don’t need any help designing a diet that is in solidarity with the poor. We eat and are thankful. So leave us alone.

We ate the lobster five Fridays ago and forgot about it; but you’re still looking at claws instead of the Cross.

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Ash Wednesday Events

Ash Wednesday morning started out in a rather rousing fashion for me. I had to get up and go in to work a bit early, at which point I discovered that we had “ice fog”. The melted snow had all frozen again, and condensation had settled on every surface as a thin sheet of ice. Slippery was not the word.

I was very glad that I walk to work. I could pick my way across the terrain in areas which maximized traction. The cars couldn’t, and I saw two of them glide helplessly into snowbanks during my short trip. Apparently the highways and most surface roads were a nightmare, and even the salt didn’t help much. Three of the men at work spent the early morning helping women to walk across the parking lot or climb our slippery steps. (You really didn’t want to use the ramp yesterday.)

Then it was time for our Black History Month event, which is always a lot of fun. (Yes, I know, you don’t usually associate “Black History Month” and fun, but then, you don’t work where I do. We all enjoy it because it is a break from the routine, and because the whole thing is arranged to promote true diversity, not just talk about it.) I was in our corporate choir, which magically comes into being every year for this event only. There’s a lady in HR who is also a very talented jazz and gospel singer, and she begs and borrows everybody she can get. I missed the last couple of years of the choir due to sickness or being too busy to breathe, so I was delighted to be in on it this year.

Here is part of the fun: we sing gospel songs. Oh, yes. We actually say ‘God’ and everything. This adds the outlaw joy of getting away with something to the normal amusements of corporate activity. I love it. This year, we sang one song about worshipping God, and another about the Communion of Saints and interceding for each other. Mwahaha!
This being the city it is, we also have the annual recitations of Paul Laurence Dunbar poetry. Our Toastmasters chapter handled the duty this year, and did a good job. The only weird moment was one lady’s recitation of “The Haunted Oak”. It’s a poem about a lynching by the Klan, told in a rather oblique style; and it wasn’t entirely clear from her vocal expression that the reciter understood everything that was going on. However, it was clear that the audience understood entirely. We have a lot of employees with Southern and Appalachian family backgrounds, and they seemed particularly impressed. You could have heard a pin drop.

(Of course, nothing can quite equal the time a few years back when our choir director sang “Strange Fruit”, the Billie Holliday song about lynching. But Dunbar’s obviously still got it.)

We also watched a video, which fit in with the Ash Wednesday theme because it was about “The Civil Rights Martyrs”. One weird moment — they kept referring to Viola Lee Liuzzo as a “white woman” and a housewife. Not a Catholic woman, which it was obvious she was from the picture of her at her daughter’s First Communion, and not a woman active in politics beyond the civil rights movement and married to a labor leader, which various online biographies mention. All the ministers had religious backgrounds, but “the only white woman killed in the civil rights movement” didn’t. (Also, you kept seeing priests and even sisters in the footage, but nobody mentioned priests. Just ministers. Odd.) Otherwise, it was a good video.

UPDATE: One of Mrs. Liuzzo’s daughters reports that her mother was a Unitarian convert from Catholicism. Please see the comments below for her story.

The best thing was that, this year, they finally realized beforehand that they’d scheduled the thing on a day of fasting and abstinence for a good chunk of the employee base. (There’s nothing like holding a barbecue potluck on a Friday in Lent.) So we had meatless breakfast sandwiches as well as the bacon, ham, and sausage kind, and yogurt cups with berries, too. It was all catered from Tim Horton’s. I went online afterward and figured out my calories, and it turned out that I’d pretty much taken care of the day’s calories with the one regular-sized Lenten meal. Well, that was hardly what I’d planned, but it worked out okay. I had a ton of work on my desk, and really didn’t have time to eat. I did listen to a Scott Hahn show about salvation history, but that was about it for Lenten thoughts.

After work, I finally figured out where the weird smell in my apartment was. My mom kept complaining to me on Monday that she’d smelled something bad, but I couldn’t smell anything odd. It turned out that one of my vacuum packs of red beans and rice had un-vacuumed. Not obviously — there must have been a pinprick-sized hole somewhere for me to be able to smell it, but I never found the hole. Anyway, I was keeping the vacuum packs inside a plastic bag. My mom had smelled this smell despite the layers of plastic; I didn’t smell it until I opened the bag. Then I saw that the rice was all moldy and nasty inside the vacuum pack.

I’ve never heard of that happening before, and I hope it never happens again. Yuck.

After that, I had to scurry to get ready for church for Ash Wednesday and go to choir practice after. The place was crammed, and most of the choir slid in a little late because of the difficulty in finding a parking space. We sounded a little ragged, but we lived.

It was a pretty full day. Honestly, I was glad that I’d done a lot of Ash Wednesday thinking yesterday while recording the podcast, because I was pretty distracted on the actual day.

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In Which the Banshee Sheepishly Admits a Weakness

After all that fussing about computers in the post below, you probably expected me to do huge amounts of comparison shopping, or just forget about the whole thing until my next session of complaining. Actually, my plan was to wait until my brother the techie could go shopping with me, thus guaranteeing a pretty long wait.

But no. Instead I went shopping during the President’s Day sales, happened to see a really good bargain on a  laptop, decided that the bargain laptop was also cute and usable, and ended up going home with the thing.

Yes, I have a sad weakness for bargains. And yes, my brother is going to speak severely to me about this bad habit of not consulting him — just like he did over my bargain offbrand stereo, my demo model offbrand VCR, my demo model first computer….

Fortunately, I actually did seem to have made a good purchase — at least for me. The Averatec is yet another offbrand nobody’s ever heard of. (I swear, I never mean to end up with them! But I really like the particular quirky things I pick, and they usually hold up for me, which drives a certain tech-loving relative crazy.) It’s very light, better designed for typing than the name brands, and even the finger mousepad is usable. (Though I plan to get a new mouse soon.) It’s also got loud yet nice-sounding speakers (the better to play music and DVDs with), and basically does a really good job with everything I’ve tried it out on. Tons faster graphics than my old computer, of course, and it has a LAN card, too.

As soon as I replace all the “trial software” with my own tried and tested freeware favorites, all will be well. Mine’s a lot better than the one we bought for my parents. (Really. You wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff they load on new computers these days. It had huge amounts of trial stuff that wouldn’t even start working without a connection to the Internet — and my parents have no interest in getting Internet. So all those trials were totally useless, even as ads.)

I will also be testing the recording qualities of the new critter. (It’s quieter than my desktop computer, of course, but at times that cooling vent seems pretty noticeable. Of course, that could be because I was up finishing “calibrating” the laptop battery — which is to say, waking up in the middle of the night to turn the thing off once it was done.)

And then, the USB devices! Mwahaha!

I guess this will also clear up most of my problems with downloading library audiobooks. (Other than the feeling of being put upon by the proprietary software, but I can grin and bear that.) Baja Fresh is in easy walking distance, and they have wireless. So I guess I could force myself (*brave look*) to eat some yummy fish tacos and download a few listenables.

So there you go. I don’t drink and dance the night away right before Lent, but I do buy bargains.

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In Which the Banshee Considers a New Computer.

Actually, I’m pretty happy with my current system. I’ve got huge amounts of storage space, and the processing power, while meager by today’s standards, has proved totally adequate to editing huge amounts of video and audio.

The only problem is USB. My motherboard and my BIOS are both notoriously unsociable with USB devices. They will accept them on the first date and work with them happily. Afterwards, however, said devices will never work again. The only exception to this rule is my Kodak digital camera, but that’s because Kodak’s software believes in holding the rest of your computer at gunpoint and hijacking processor time at random moments.  (Btw, the BIOS does have an update available online. But it’s only available to people using Internet Explorer, and I deleted Internet Explorer a long time ago, with a vast improvement to my piece of mind. Although it does mean that I can’t use my employer’s website, my insurance company’s website, my coupons for free stuff from Wal-Mart’s download service, my….)

So what I’d like is a slightly more recent computer which I could use for these sorts of things (USB printer, USB microphone, downloading audiobooks from the library and watching AOL and Cartoon Network video of shows not on TV), sacrificing it to the evils of DRM. Then I could do my real work on my old, trustworthy computer.

The flaw in this plan is that I really long for a good USB microphone, to alleviate noise while recording. Also, one admits that the old computer is having some latency problems on occasion, which is bad for recording, and that my reliable motherboard has a very loud cooling fan. Also, I don’t really want to submit any system I own to any evils of DRM — as DRM tends to make itself obnoxious with your own self-produced files, at just the wrong moment.

But Apple’s too expensive. Microsoft’s destructive and annoying.  Linux better have gotten a lot more user-friendly if I’m going to use it — and I still won’t be able to download from my public library or AOL or Cartoon Network. So one begins to wonder what the point is, and why one is even contemplating spending money for anything of such dubious utility.

I have the same problem with a lot of items. Obviously, if USB doesn’t work, it’s not a good plan to buy any USB mp3 player or iPod. I lose small items as regularly as the wind blows, so I don’t really want a palmtop, laptop, or cellphone that costs more than three bucks. I can never remember passwords, so I don’t want to do banking or most other stuff online.

Still, I have to say that the most annoying thing is the deliberate lack of compatibility which is built into so many online services and businesses. In most cases, they’re not doing anything terribly complicated, and yet they pretend like they need the latest, most expensive program or everything will collapse. Unless you’ve bought into that, too, they simply don’t want your business.

Oh, well. If Wal-Mart won’t honor my operating system and browser, somebody else will get my business. And they do.

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