Category Archives: Food for Thought

A Satisfying Sunday

Sunday was one of those happy days where everything just chugged along in a quiet but satisfying way. In the morning, we Zoomed with “the kids.” It’s always wonderful to see their faces, especially since we won’t be seeing them in person until next summer at the earliest.

After Zoom and lunch, I made a lentil soup for our supper. My blogging friend Mr. Tootlepedal frequently makes lentil soup, and I vowed that as soon as the weather was cool enough, I would make some, too. Well, it’s October in Maine, and the weather is certainly cool enough now for lentil soup.

I follow a recipe from a Moosewood cookbook. I make modifications—that’s the kind of cook I am—but the results are always good. This soup that will be on a regular rotation for our supper until it gets too hot in the summer. Best yet, a serving size has a reasonable amount of carbs. It’s a hearty and filling soup with lots of spices. Perfect for a cool, fall evening.

Back before I lost weight—about 30 pounds ago—making soup would have pretty much done my knees in, and I would have had to rest before doing anything else. But losing that weight has put a new spring in my step, and after cleaning the kitchen, I was ready to head outside for a fall chore.

What to do? How about rake the driveway? Because we live in the woods, this must be done regularly when fall comes.

Before:

And afterward:

When I was done, I went out back to sit on the patio—something I won’t be able to do much longer. Naturally, I took my camera with me, and I was able to snap a picture of this fine fellow.

I think it is a purple finch, but I know house finches look similar. Any thoughts, blogging friends?

For the past week, this finch and his mate have been coming with a gaggle of fledglings, and how I love to watch those youngsters flutter and beg for food from the adults. I always have tender feelings for fledglings who look full size but are still immature and uncertain.

Right now, their parents feed them, but the day will soon come when the parents decided that it is time for the fledglings to feed themselves and make their own way in this wild, beautiful, dangerous world.

It is the way of things. But nonetheless it makes me teary eyed to think about it.

 

Favorites in Fraught Times?

In these fraught times, it is sometimes difficult to focus on the small joys of life that I feature in my Friday Favorites series. In brief: Worldwide, there is climate change and the pandemic, which continue to grind everyone down. In the U.S. we have the most odious and incompetent leadership that I have ever had the misfortune to see. The pandemic is minimized to the point where it is more or less allowed to rampage at will. Over 200,000 people in the U.S. have died because of Covid-19, and the numbers continue to rise. Mask wearing has become a political issue, and a few months ago, elders were encouraged to face death to keep the economy going.

As if this all weren’t bad enough, the U.S. seems to be on the brink of a dictatorship as President Trump makes plans to do whatever it takes to stay in charge, regardless of the results of the upcoming November election. (For a cogent description of Trump’s plans, read the excellent Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American: September 23, 2020.)

Finally, the cherry on this toxic sundae is that once again the Republicans are on the rampage against the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Never mind that millions of people, including me, depend on it for their health insurance. The Republicans want to abolish it, and hope that the Supreme Court will soon rule in their favor. I try not to think too much about what will happen if, at last, the Republicans are successful in demolishing the ACA.

We live on a tight budget, and there is no way we can afford to buy health insurance at market-place rates. Plus, I have had breast cancer, which qualifies as a pre-existing condition. So if the Republicans succeed in their mission, I am out of luck.

Sorry that this is such a pessimistic Friday post, but the bad news Just. Keeps. Coming.

Somehow, it seems frivolous to post pictures of, say, ice cream or omelets or a favorite music video while the country is literally and figuratively on fire. On the other hand, with all that’s going on, it seems like an act of defiance to enjoy the small things in life.

Drinks outside on a warm autumn evening,

a bright leaf that has fallen on the patio,

and chickadees that come to drink from the ant moats above the hummingbird feeders.

Heather Cox Richardson ends her September 23 piece with this small note of hope: “[T]he future remains unwritten.”

Yes, it is, a tiny ray of light in an otherwise dark landscape.

 

 

A Time for Mourning

By now I’m sure all of you have heard about the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman who looked like a dove but had the heart of a lioness. She fought tirelessly for women’s rights, which, in the end are human rights.

Heather Cox Richardson, in her Letter from an American, writes, “Justice Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933, in an era when laws, as well as the customs they protected, treated women differently than men. Ginsburg would grow up to challenge the laws that barred women from jobs and denied them rights, eventually setting the country on a path to extend equal justice under law to women and LGBTQ Americans.”

Richardson goes on to quote Ginsburg, who in turn quoted from the abolitionist Sarah Grimke: “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

I’ll stop here. Much will be written and said about Ginsburg over the next week, and I don’t have anything new to add. But I wanted to take time to honor this remarkable woman.

Rest in power, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many, many thanks for all that you did.  You rose to the top and made the world a better place. Alas, the same cannot be said of all who achieve great power, and your shining example will not be forgotten.

 

Some Thoughts on Labor Day 2020

This morning the sky was a bright overcast, a perfect time for poking around the yard and taking pictures of small things. The flowers are definitely past their best, but there are a few bright spots here and there.

Perky Black-eyed Susans,

Asters, those stars of fall,

and bright wands of Goldenrod.

In the United States, today is Labor Day, which Wikipedia defines as “a federal holiday in the United States celebrated on the first Monday in September to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States.”

I think of my Franco-American ancestors—potato farmers and factory workers—mocked and derided for being “dumb Frenchman.” In truth, these “dumb Frenchman” did much of the hard, back-breaking labor that kept Maine going. Why weren’t they respected for the work they did? Even today, the contributions of Franco-Americans are seldom acknowledged.

If we cast the circle wider to encompass other ethnic groups and workers—the ones who pick our crops, the ones who work in stores, the ones who bravely go forth during this pandemic so that we can eat and have the necessities of life—we see that the same sort of disrespect is extended to them. Somehow these workers are so lowly that they do not deserve a decent wage, health care, or affordable housing and transportation.

To borrow from my blogging friends across the pond, rubbish! Covid-19 has revealed exactly who is essential and who is not.

So on this Labor Day, and indeed on every other day, let’s honor the men and women who work so hard and get so little. And, maybe, just maybe, we can think about what we, as a society, can do to make their lives a little more comfortable.

And then put those thoughts into actions.

 

 

 

Sounds of Late Summer and Other Things

At our home in the woods in mid-August, crickets have begun their late summer song that will continue until a hard frost nips their sweet, high voices.

On Sunday, I sat on the patio, and two hummingbirds whirred by, chasing each other as they tried to defend the feeders. The fountain bubbled and flowed—a comforting sound. A male cardinal sang its trilling song. In the dense green of the late summer woods, the red flash of his feathers eluded me.

Next door, the rooster crowed, a high pitched warning to any roosters that might be nearby. (There were none.) The hens clucked softly as they pecked and scratched at the lawn, looking for tasty tidbits. Get those ticks, hens!

Cars went by. Even though we live in the woods, the road is nearby.  On this hot afternoon, there were no walkers.

Little Miss Watson meowed and trilled hello as she came onto the patio for a visit. I admired those little white whiskers.

The garden is nearly past its best, but I still enjoyed looking at it.

Sunday on the Narrows Pond Road.  I could almost pretend it was just another lazy afternoon in August, that a silent invisible enemy was not out there doing its worst.

At the same time, it’s hard to envision returning to the free and easy life we once had. Will we, even when a vaccine comes out?

That is to be determined.

 

 

 

Five Months into the Pandemic

Here we are, five months into a pandemic that is ripping this country to shreds. It feels as though the Trump Administration is following advice from a book called 101 Bad Ways to Deal with a Pandemic.  Seems as though they’ve pretty much worked through the list.  Deny science. Check. Inadequate testing. Check. Encourage people to not wear a mask. Check, check, check.

Nevertheless, despite the disastrous leadership, Clif and I, like many others, have adapted. We’ve figured out how to order most everything we need online. (Thank  you, Instacart.) We’ve only gone to a store once since March, and when I hear tales about how too many people have decided that masks are for sissies, I’m not eager to go back.

In truth, I really enjoy having my groceries and other goods delivered, and I’m wondering if I’ll ever go back to in-store shopping. We shall see.

Because of our age and our health issues, Clif and I haven’t strayed too far from home. Every few weeks, he takes rubbish to the Transfer Station. I’ve delivered cards to a friend. We’ve talked about having people over for a socially-distanced cocktail hour on the patio, but we haven’t done it yet, and I’m not sure if we ever will.

Because as it turns out, Clif and I are doing just fine at home by ourselves. We each have our various projects, and we are busy and engaged every single day. We are two introverted elders who think home is best, and this makes it much easier for us to self-isolate. And, we have each other. I really do feel for those who are alone and for extroverts whose joy comes from being around other people.

We are also lucky to have technology. While I know it has its dark side, for us technology has made staying at home not only bearable but also fulfilling and creative.

Because of technology, every day I start out the morning traveling around the world as I check out what my blogging friends are doing. I go to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, France, and to many places in the United States. Always, I am inspired and moved by what these wonderful friends write.

Clif and I belong to a virtual film club sponsored by our library, and every other week we get together to talk about a movie.  What great discussions we have.

Our library also sponsors a virtual trivia night and book group. Clif and I are terrible at trivia, and last week we came in last. No matter. We still had fun. And book group is just as thought provoking as film club.

Once a month, I Zoom with friends from a media group I used to belong to.

Once a week, we Zoom with “the kids.”

Streaming services provide us with plenty of good entertainment—movies, docs, and television series.

NPR offers so many excellent Tiny Desk Concerts that I could listen for quite a while and not hear a repeat.

Naturally, if I were granted a magic wish, I would use it to dispel Covid-19, which has torn lives and economies apart.  I might be a homebody, but I would rather not have to be compelled to stay home because of a killer virus.

Plus I miss my kids like crazy.

But I don’t have this power so all I can do is adjust to the situation.

I hope you all are adjusting, too.

 

An Odd but Fruitful Fourth

Saturday was the Fourth of July. As Wikipedia puts it, the Fourth is a day, “commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States, on July 4, 1776.” As I’m sure most of you know, it is a national holiday.

For Clif and Me, it was the oddest Fourth of July we have ever had. Usually, we host a gathering of family and friends on our patio, and Clif makes his legendary grilled bread. But thanks to Covid-19, no family and friends this year and no grilled bread.

Unfortunately, for the past ten years, the weather has been beastly on the Fourth, very hot and very humid. This year, of course, the weather was absolutely perfect—sunny but not too hot and low humidity.

At around 2:00, Clif and I took to the patio and had grilled Beyond Burgers, a tasty vegetarian substitute for hamburgers. The weather was so fine that we stayed on the patio for the rest of the afternoon.

We talked at great length about food, and how we can eat better to enhance our health. Ever since the pandemic started, both Clif and I have been aware that not only are we at risk because of age but also because of health issues. Clif has type 2 diabetes, and I am overweight.

I have been working diligently at losing weight and am having success. I’ve also been riding my exercise bike five mornings a week, and I’m happy to report that my creaky knees are not as creaky.

On the Fourth, Clif decided it was time to get serious  about controlling his carbohydrate (carb) intake. A friend of ours who has struggled with type 2 diabetes for years is now facing the prospect of going on dialysis. Sobering, to say the least. And this really made Clif think about his own health, not just in this time of Covid-19 but afterward as well.

For the past year and a half, Clif and I have been vegetarians. This might be coming to an end as we add chicken and fish to our diet as we change to a low-carb regimen.  But strangely enough, being vegetarian has given us the courage and confidence to tackle low-carb eating. Giving up meat was not easy for us, but we did it,  and we radically changed the way we eat. Because of this, we know we can change the way we eat again.

Now, Clif is a computer guy, a geek, if you will. Because Clif couldn’t find an online tool for keeping track of carbs that worked the way he thought it should, his response was to create his own carb data base on his computer. The data base allows him to create his own list with net carb numbers and serving size. This makes it easy for Clif to keep track of his daily carb intake. He is aiming for 50 to 60 carbs a day, and yesterday Clif was able to do this and still have beer and nuts on the patio.

So onward, ho, to a new way of eating. One, we hope, that leads to better health.

 

 

 

 

Six for a Blue Monday

As I just wrote to a blogging friend,  although blue is my favorite color, I am feeling blue in the sad sense. It seems as though our country is far, far away from getting covid-19 under control. And yet out everyone goes.

Not coincidentally, cases of covid-19 are rising around the country. To me, feeling safe seems like a distant dream, and the same is true for getting together with family and friends.

To cheer myself up and to remind myself, yet again, how lucky I am to live here, I am sharing six recent pictures that I took around the yard.

A visit from Mrs. Cardinal is always welcome. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a picture of her being fed by her devoted husband, as she often is. When I am on the patio, I’ll keep my camera at the ready. Maybe I’ll be able to capture this sweet exchange.

Shannon and Mike sent me these flowers for Mother’s Day. I had to keep them inside for a while as the beginning of May was decidedly chilly.  However, the weather improved, and into a pot these impatiens went. Perky and bright, they make me smile whenever I go out onto the porch.

In the front garden, I find the colors and textures of the hosta and fern pleasing and soothing.

Unfortunately my irises did poorly this winter. Some pulled through, but there are few blooms.  But here is one for me to marvel over. I certainly hope that 2021 is a better year for my irises. (And for many other things as well.)

Wild daisies have sprung up in various places in my garden. Blown in, perhaps, or dropped by birds. Whatever the case, I leave them where they come up. It seems to me that it would be churlish to pull them just because they are not exactly in the right spot.

For the last one, back to hostas, to Frances Williams, a plant with leaves so large it looks as though it belongs in the Jurassic period. This close-up shows the textures and patterns on this giant of a hosta.

Onward we go. I hope you find at least six things to make you happy this week.

 

Friday Reading

For love of domination we must substitute equality; for love of victory we must substitute justice; for brutality we must substitute intelligence; for competition we must substitute cooperation. We must learn to think of the human race as one family.  —Bertrand Russell

As is my way, I have been reading a lot of pieces and articles in various publications to try to make sense of what is going on. Reading is no substitution for acting, but for me, anyway, it is an important first step. I might never succeed, but I at least want to attempt to figure out why things are happening the way they are. And what might be done to make our society a better, fairer place.

Below are some samples of what I have been reading.

From Vox, here is Terry Nguyen’s  nuanced take on looting: There Isn’t a Simple Story about Looting.

Civil disobedience is frenzied and chaotic by nature. People who take to the streets might not all share the same beliefs: Some protesters are looting out of the same anger that drives the protests, and other looters are not protesters at all. But because it’s impossible to untangle every person’s motivations and intent, it’s much easier to lump them all into a group to create a narrative of the event that fits our understanding.

Not surprisingly, President Obama writes clearly and beautifully about protest and change.  From Medium here is an excerpt from his piece How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change.

The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Finally, from my blogging friend, the inimitable Cynthia Reyes, who has put together an excellent list of suggestions and reading for those who want to go beyond expressing sorrow over all that has happened. (Full disclosure: One of my blog posts is featured.) The title of her post is 8 Specific Actions We Can Take. I’ve been making  my way through her suggestions and links.

I started this piece with a quotation by Bertrand Russell.  On the face of it, his words seem a little woo-woo, nice to read but not exactly a stern call to action. If it had a flavor, you might call it vanilla.

But think, for a moment, what kind of world we would have if leaders all over followed Russell’s advice.

Not perfect, which is impossible, but oh so much better than what we have now.

And despite the  seemingly bland flavor, very, very difficult to achieve.

 

Cracking Open

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.   —Desmond Tutu

The first six months of 2020 have been a doozy. Just when we think it can’t get any worse, it does. After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, I felt something inside me crack open.

I might be old, I might not have much influence or money, but I can’t sit back while our country careens out of control from one horror to another.

I have decided to become involved with the Poor People’s Campaign, an organization dedicated to “Building a movement to overcome systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy.”

A friend of mine has volunteered with the Poor People’s Campaign for a couple of years and has told me about the good work they do. She has heard Reverend William Barber, the organization’s  founder, speak in Portland. (Awhile back, I read a profile of Reverend Barber in the New Yorker, and I was impressed by his devotion to civil rights.)

Change doesn’t happen by itself. It takes hard work. It takes organization. It takes many voices.

I have decided to be one of those voices, however small.

I have had enough.