Mamma Mia! / Peach Ginger Lime Pie

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This week’s recipe: Double-Crust Peach Pie with Honey, Ginger, and Lime

It’s July, which means the countdown has officially begun. The countdown to my wedding? No, dummies, something much more important: the release of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! The original Mamma Mia! is one of my favorite movies, the sort of movie that can put me in a good mood no matter what is going on in the world, and heaven knows we all need some cheering up these days. It’s so unabashedly terrible, in the most fun way possible. It seems like everyone involved in the making of the movie was incredibly wasted and just having a grand old time, so in that spirit, I recommend watching with a glass or five of your favorite alcohol. 

The movie stars Meryl Streep as Donna, who owns an inn on a scenic Greek island, and Amanda Seyfried as her daughter Sophie, who is about to get married to a fella named Skye who is not all that into the whole big wedding concept. Sophie doesn’t know who her father is and, having discovered that Mom was screwing around with three guys around the time of her conception, invites all three of them to her wedding.

Once we’ve finished the montage that establishes that Sophie’s three possible dads are a Swedish adventurer, a British businessman, and another British businessman (but this one lives in America), it’s time for some girlish screaming to set the tone for the rest of the movie. Sophie. In the grand tradition of movie heroines everywhere, only has two friends (or at least only two friends who the producers wanted to pay to speak). Now, Sophie grew up in Greece and has an American accent, and her friends have English and Scottish accents and it’s never explained how they know each other. They giggle about Donna’s diary about her raging slut days and say “Oh my God” a lot. Amanda Seyfried has a perfectly pleasant voice for singing pop music but I’m glad that Hollywood discovered Anna Kendrick. Also, I don’t know where they filmed this but it’s an incredible ad for…wherever it is. I want to have a halo of blond hair and run a decrepit inn there, for sure.

Anyway, turns out all three potential dads readily made an international trip to a remote Greek island to attend the wedding of the daughter of someone they each fucked for a couple of weeks two decades ago. Donna’s best (and, via movie logic, only) friends, Christine Baranski and Molly Weasley, are also on their way. Molly Weasley is a chef, which we learn because one of the guys on their boat over to the island asks her through sign language to sign his cookbook. Yes, he just happens to be toting around a cookbook in a language he doesn’t understand as he makes his commute. Christine Baranski is a plastic surgery devotee and by far the best thing about this movie. They reunite with Donna, and at this point, it becomes clear for the first time just how incredibly drunk everyone was during filming. It’s delightful.

Donna almost murders some Greek peasants with a loose shutter but then they provide backup as she sings about how she wants to find a sugar daddy, so I guess all is forgiven. Meryl Streep also has a perfectly pleasant voice but an old pro like Christine Baranski really puts her to shame. The weirdest part about the hotel subplot is that they all act like the Internet is some huge innovation that could only possibly be understood by teenagers, even though this movie is ostensibly set in the present of 2008.

The dads arrive and, believe it or not, Sophie does NOT immediately know which one is her actual father! None of them have enormous blue bug eyes like Amanda Seyfried, which would definitely be the giveaway. Sophie brings them to the hotel, and after they made this huge trip, SURPRISE they’re staying in the old goathouse! What kind of hospitality establishment is this anyway? Sophie makes them promise that they won’t tell Donna why they’re there, which seems to rely heavily on Donna being a credulous moron. While Donna sings the title song and tries to not-very-subtly spy on her exes in the old goathouse, one of the Greek peasants opens a trapdoor into their room – maybe as revenge for Donna almost killing him with the shutter? – and she falls through. It’s okay, because Donna is most definitely drunk. It’s evident from the beginning that Donna is supposed to end up with Pierce Brosnan’s Sam, because his excuse for why he’s on a random Greek island is “I just wanted to say hello,” which, what? I guess we’re supposed to find that romantic but in reality, it’s nuts.

Even though Donna seemed happily drunk when she dropped in from the roof of the old goathouse, she now has to be upset so that her friends can sing “Chiquitita.” Fortunately, that’s over soon enough, and then we’re on to “Dancing Queen”! It is, to quote 30 Rock, it’s “a madcap musical romp…fun…good!” But seriously, this number is the height of the delightful, drunk, grrrrrl power spirit of Mamma Mia. It’s got multiple-Oscar winner Meryl Streep jumping on a bed, sliding down a banister, shimmying with a boa, and cannon-balling off a dock into the blue waters of the Aegean. Even the judgmental Greek peasants get into it.

Meanwhile, Sophie’s dads are about to leave, but then Sophie yells “Wait!” and takes off her shirt. Sadly for all you pervs out there, she’s wearing a chaste one-piece, and she swims up to her dads’ boat so Colin Firth can sing “Our Last Summer” in a voice that is, once again, pleasant enough. As is so often the case with jukebox musicals, there are a few inconsistencies between the plot and the lyrics. For instance, the whole song is about how they spent their “last summer” with Donna in Paris, when they were supposed to have spent it here on this Greek island, and also Bill says he and Donna were dating during “the time of flower power,” which would make Sophie close to 40. Sadly, this is the first time we get exposed to Pierce Brosnan’s singing voice, which is significantly less than pleasant. Anyway, after this boat ride, she has snookered her dads enough to convince them to stay, hooray! Then there’s a useless number between Skye and Sophie which is only significant because Sophie reveals some deep-seated abandonment issues just before they break into song, saying to Skye, “You’ll never leave me, will you?” Still, I can’t say I mind Dominic Cooper in a swimsuit, and it’s fun to watch all of his friends dance on the dock in their flippers. Cut to Sophie’s bachelorette party—she suddenly has more than two friends, though none of them will ever do anything other than scream deliriously while Donna, CB, and MW perform “Super Trooper” and eagerly molest Sophie’s dads. Meanwhile, the menfolk literally swing in to perform a choreographed dance with the womenfolk as Sophie freaks out because her dads have all suddenly realized that they’re her dad. How do they all discover this all at the same time? Well, “OH MY GOD, I’M YOUR FATHER” is literally the extent of Harry’s thought process. Oh, also, Harry is gay. LOL.

Sophie’s being a real angsty bitch about not knowing who her father is, and it’s rubbing off on Donna. “I see you kept my bagpipes,” says Sam. “They’re supposed to ward off unwanted visitors,” retorts Donna. Finally, someone who understands my hatred of bagpipes. “Why didn’t you tell me it was Sophie getting married?” says Sam, as if he had any idea who Sophie was before yesterday. He complains to Donna that Sophie shouldn’t be getting married so young, and that she should be going out and having adventures, to which I say again YOU JUST MET HER YESTERDAY. This is, of course, all a lead-in to “S.O.S.”, about which the less said the better. Pierce Brosnan, you are NOT a good singer. And do you think the Greek peasants ever get tired of being backup singers in Donna’s life?

Okay, now it is time for the greatest number of all, Christine Baranski and Hot Young Shirtless Guy singing “Does Your Mother Know.” This song can be considered pretty creepy when it’s a man singing it to a (presumably very young) woman, but CB makes it charming and sexy. Seriously, if you have never seen this, do yourself a favor and look it up, it’s great fun, and CB is so so good at what she does. 

Time for Sophie to tell her fiancé about the dad situation. He’s all like, “This is why you wanted to have this sodding white wedding! I put everything on bloody hold for you! I’m British!” Needless to say, this fight has no long-term impact whatsoever.

Now it’s “Slipping Through My Fingers,” and I have nothing to say about this song except that it makes me cry every time I watch it, no matter what state of drunkenness or sobriety I’m in. I play this song and cry right before every friend’s wedding, because I am a big sap. The most touching part is when Sophie realizes that she doesn’t need her dad to give her away, and instead asks her mom, which is clearly what she should have done all along, but of course, it still makes me cry.

Then Sam comes by and is all, “WHAT ABOUT HER FATHER? HER FATHER SHOULD GIVE HER AWAY, NEVER MIND THAT NO ONE KNOWS WHO HE IS AND THAT YOU’VE SPENT HER WHOLE LIFE RAISING HER, WHAT REALLY MATTERS IS THAT I PROVIDED THE SPERM.” I know we are supposed to root for Sam and Donna but this aspect of the movie has not aged well at all. Donna sings “The Winner Takes It All” for reasons that are entirely unclear, but Meryl puts in a deeply felt performance, as she always does, with her red shawl is an important supporting player. We can only assume the backup singers are some Greek peasants hiding behind the cliffs.

Donna arrives late for the wedding due to all her dramatic cliffside singing, and then she interrupts the ceremony to “welcome Sophie’s dad,” which as you might imagine causes some real awkwardness with the priest. Well, this is a wedding where the bride walks down the aisle to a winds version of “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” which was in the musical but got cut from the movie, so it’s not exactly traditional. Still, Sam reveals that he is divorced, which he probably should have said upfront. Meanwhile, Harry reveals that he’s gay, and Bill…keeps on bein’ Bill. Sophie decides to call off the wedding so she and Skye can travel and enjoy their youth, which is the only genuinely surprising and interesting part of the movie, but then Sam does the classic “Why waste a good wedding?” line, and he and Donna get married after Pierce Brosnan sings again, ugh. And then someone was like, we should really give Pierce Brosnan another song that wasn’t in the musical, and UGH, why. I know you were all drunk while making this movie, but you’d have to be REAL drunk to think this was a good idea. Then Molly Weasley starts hitting on Bill, which is beyond random because she’s spent the whole movie talking about how she don’t need no man and all of a sudden she’s hanging on his leg and begging him to “Take a Chance on Me.” It’s bizarre.

Then Sophie hugs her dads and the movie ends, other than the principals dressing in disco outfits and singing “Dancing Queen.” They are clearly incredibly wasted at this point as they giggle, “Do you want another one?” and launch into “Waterloo.”  No, no we do not want another one. And yet…we do? TUNE IN JULY 20 FOR MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN.

So anyway, here’s a pie. I have been posting a lot of desserts here lately, because I am #breadingforthewedding, but this one is so delicious. Rather like Mamma Mia!, it’s pure summer, especially when hot out of the oven and paired with some vanilla ice cream! Mmmm I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

Double-Crust Peach Pie with Honey, Ginger, and Lime
From Dining In

Ingredients

For the piecrust:

2.5 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2.5 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and chilled
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup ice water

For the pie

1 large egg, beaten
4 pound ripe peaches, unpeeled, pitted, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (optional)
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup of Demerara sugar

Instructions

For the piecrust 

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and toss to coat in the flour mixture. Using your hands, smash the butter between your palms and fingertips, mixing it into the flour. Once most of the butter is incorporated and there are no large chunks remaining, dump the flour mixture onto a work surface.
  2. Combine the vinegar and ice water and drizzle it over the flour-butter mixture. Run your fingers through the mixture just to evenly distribute the water through the flour until the dough starts coming together.
  3. Knead the dough a few more times, just to gather up any dry bits from the bottom and place them on the top to be incorporated. Once you’ve got a shaggy mass of dough, knead it once or twice more and divide it in half. Pat each piece into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

For the pie

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. One a lightly floured surface, roll out one disk of pie dough into a round about 14 inches in diameter. Transfer it to the parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining disk of dough, separating the two rounds with a piece of parchment paper. Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  3. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water to create egg wash and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, toss the peaches, honey, granulated sugar, lime zest and juice, cornstarch, ginger, vanilla bean seeds (if using), and salt together.
  5. Transfer one round of pie dough to a 9-inch pie plate, using your fingers to set the crust against the side of the dish. Add the filling and brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Place the remaining round of dough over the peaches and crimp around the edges to seal. Wash the top with egg wash, cut three slits in the top, and sprinkle with Demarara sugar.
  6. Place in the oven for 90 minutes. If it’s insufficiently brown (it should look like it’s almost about to burn), add another 15 minutes.
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Female Friendship / Cheesecake Ice Cream

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This week’s recipe: Cheesecake Ice Cream

Oh look, it’s the last day of June and I’ve forgotten to blog all month. Oh well.

Three things happened this month that have made me think a lot about the nature of female friendship. First, my friends threw me an absolutely perfect bachelorette party that left me feeling so warm and fuzzy. The following week, I watched the cast of Mean Girls perform at the Tonys. And the week after that, I finally got my hands on the Hey Ladies book, which I finished in two days.

Let’s work backwards. Hey Ladies started as a series by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss on the late lamented feminist website The Toast. It revolves around eight girlfriends, all of them different flavors of basic bitch, as they plan various parties and hangouts via emails that inevitably begin with “Hey ladies!” There’s Ali, the calculating Machiavelli whose signature move is to unilaterally book an expensive activity for the group and then demand that everyone Venmo her their share of the cost; the perpetually broke Nicole, who is constantly launching half-baked entrepreneurial schemes; Katie, who takes both her inconsequential media job and her lopsided romantic relationships way too seriously; Jen, whose very being revolves around her fiancé/husband; and Gracie, the sane one who acts as a straight woman (mostly—I won’t spoil the end of the book but it was genuinely chilling). The other three ladies, Ashley, Morgan, and Caitlin, were neglected in the series but are given personalities for the book (well, sort of personalities; respectively, lives in Connecticut, lives in Brooklyn, aspiring lifestyle guru). So if you are looking for nuanced characters and deeply felt writing, this is probably not the book for you—although I didn’t know how much I needed the cold war between Ali and Jen’s passive-aggressive WASP mother until this book.  But despite the broadness of their characterization, you’ve probably known one or more of these girls if you’re a 20-something in New York. And if you’re a 20-something woman almost anywhere in America, you’ve been part of “Hey ladies!” e-mail chain.

Markowitz and Moss have insisted, in the book’s foreword and in press interviews, that their goal here is not to make fun of women, and that the book’s message is actually about the power of female friendship. I don’t buy it. Other than a few intragroup relationships here and there, I don’t even buy that these girls like each other. Which makes sense—there’s not much to like in either self-absorbed urban millennials or the wedding industry, which are this book’s two main targets—but I was curious as to why the authors felt the need to defend the Hey Ladies ladies, when most people enjoy them as a hate-read. Does feminism mean having to stick up for any expression of femininity, no matter how toxic? It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t, but I think that Markowitz and Moss’ impulse comes from a genuine desire to avoid denigrating women. After all, everything about femininity is policed: the way women talk, the way we dress, whether or not we wear makeup, whether or not we “lean in” at work, how we raise children, the books we read and the movies and TV we watch. Making fun of the way we plan parties—and by extension, how we conduct our friendships—is just the latest pile-on, and could easily be seen as a cheap shot, since there are so few positive portrayals of female friendships in popular media as it is.

See: Mean Girls. Fourteen years after the movie came out it’s as culturally prominent as ever, its deathless jokes and references now strewn throughout a hit musical on Broadway. I was interested in seeing the show until I saw the Tonys performance, which was…underwhelming, but from what I’ve heard, it’s very similar to the movie but modernized for the age of social media. If you’ve never seen it (and if so, what’s wrong with you???), it follows a formerly homeschooled wide-eyed innocent named Cady as she goes to high school for the first time and becomes part of a popular clique known as the Plastics. It was based on a book, Queen Bees and Wannabes, which tells parents about how to help their daughters navigate “Girl World” throughout adolescence.

What is Girl World? Cady, who spent her childhood in Africa, frequently contrasts it with the blunt brutality of the animal kingdom; while Girl World is just as vicious, its methods are much sneakier. Girls communicate through manipulation, undermining, and passive-aggression instead of speaking directly. The violence they do to each other is psychological, not physical. The closer someone is to you, the deeper they can wound you. I can’t think of a single example of a healthy female friendship in the entire movie—not between any of the Plastics, not between Cady and her “art freak” friend Janice, not between any of the other minor characters who constantly tear each other down.

This matters because Mean Girls is such a powerful and enduring representation of how girls socialize and are socialized. It wasn’t the first or last movie about how terrible girls can be to each other, but it’s the one that’s stayed most firmly in the cultural zeitgeist. Ali from Hey Ladies is definitely a spiritual descendent of Regina George. The Plastics launched four-way call phone call attacks; the Hey Ladies ladies send each other misleadingly cropped screen shots and say one thing on the group e-mail while privately texting each other their true feelings. Mean Girls has become the archetypical depiction of female “friendship,” and while it takes place in high school, its tropes—that women are catty, jealous, gossipy, underhandedly competitive, quick to fight over boys, etc.—have long characterized society’s views of female relationships generally, regardless of age.

There are exceptions, of course. My personal favorite is Leslie and Ann’s friendship in Parks and Recreation. They’re two very different women with different personalities and different priorities. Sometimes they fight and sometimes they disappoint each other and, yes, sometimes they even go after the same guy. But they’re always loving, loyal, and supportive. They bring out each other’s best qualities. They make each other’s lives better.

These are the kinds of female friendships that I want, and I’m so fortunate that these are the kind of female friendships that I have. You would be amazed at the amount of drama that can spring up around a bachelorette party—not for nothing was the very first Hey Ladies entry an attempt to plan such an event— and it warmed my cold cynical heart to have friends who were able to make me feel so special. And moreover, they did so in a way that was unique to me, not just the typical social media performance with matching tank tops and its #squadgoals. And now I’m policing the way women use social media, natch. It’s a hard urge to resist, and Mean Girls and Hey Ladies are a lot of fun, but let’s all try to give the real power of real female friendships the credit it deserves.

So anyway, here’s some ice cream. Last September, Mark and I went to Carmel, California. It’s a beautiful area with amazing food and wine, and the best dinner we had there was at a restaurant called The Bench, which overlooks the 18th hole of the Pebble Beach golf course. It was so memorably delicious that, in honor of Mark’s and my negative-three-month wedding anniversary, I decided to try to recreate it: the flatbread appetizers, the halibut and forbidden rice entree, the bottle of excellent white wine, and most of all, the dessert. Although it had been five months at that point since Mark and I had gotten engaged, we were riding that train hard, and when we told The Bench that we were “recently” engaged, they gave us a free dessert of strawberry cobbler and cheesecake ice cream. I never would have chosen that dessert to order but I’m so glad they gave chose it for us, because it was incredible, especially the cheesecake ice cream. Cheesecake ice cream is definitely a once-a-year type treat, but what a treat! You can’t go wrong with a David Lebovitz recipe, so that’s what I picked for our special dinner. Was it as good as the one we had at The Bench? Honestly, who cares, it’s cheesecake ice cream!

Cheesecake Ice Cream

From The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients
8 ounces cream cheese
1 lemon, preferably unsprayed
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Instructions
Cut the cream cheese into small pieces. Zest the lemon directly into a blender or food processor, then add the cream cheese, sour cream, half-and-half, sugar, and salt, and puree until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Meghan Markle / Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

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This week’s recipe: Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

So, there was a wedding this morning. I was blissfully asleep for most of it but it was mostly exciting for me because the bride, Meghan Markle, has appeared in two original Hallmark Channel movies! Don’t think that Hallmark is missing this opportunity, because they are not. Not only are they showing a full day of royal wedding-related programming, which is totally my jam because I will watch any movie that involves an American falling in love with a secret (or even a not-secret) prince, but they are actually showing one of MM’s original movies, called The Dater’s Handbook. (Not even Hallmark was shameless enough to show her other, Fourth-of-July-themed movie.) I watched it for you and wrote a review. Behold:

The Dater’s Handbook

Meghan Markle, aka Cassandra, aka Cass, looks out over the Rocky Mountains with her dog, proud that they have just completed a 5K run. She goes home and watches the news, which is featuring a relationship advice lady called Dr. Susie. “Ladies, the problem is not the men in your life. It’s you!” says Dr. Susie. Cass is largely unimpressed with this advice but her assistant is getting married and it just reinforces how un-married she is. She hangs out with her sister, who weirdly enough is white, brother-in-law, and a lug named Peter who she is dating, though clearly won’t be for long. Peter works at a sports bar and hates weddings, refusing to even accompany her to her assistant’s wedding. (As someone who is planning a wedding right now, I want to know whether or not Cass RSVP’d for one or two guests. You have to plan these things in advance, guys!)

At the wedding, they seat poor single Cass at the kids’ table, which is kind of a dick move, but never fear, there’s another adult man there, Robert, who quickly ingratiates himself with the children by getting them a round of Shirley Temples, and it’s not at all creepy. I think I am predisposed not to like him because he looks like Donald Trump Jr. at his wedding. And guys, it’s a Jewish wedding! You can tell because they dance the hora, the guys in the background are wearing kippot, and the chuppah is in the reception hall, which is totally normal. Much fun is made of the fact that the groom’s last name is Shmointz so I should have guessed.

The groundwork is laid for Robert and Cass to have a romance, but Cass’ sister and mom (who is also white) manage to convince her that she is picking the wrong sort of man to date–they too have been watching Dr. Susie! (By the way, I only note that Markle is clearly being coded as white because Mark and I have a running bet as to which will appear as the leads in a Hallmark movie first, a gay couple or a biracial couple.) It’s crazy that Cass hasn’t realized that Peter is a dud before now, considering that his idea of a romantic date night is him hittin’ balls at the batting cages while she looks on from the other side of the fence, and wouldn’t you know it–Dr. Susie is giving a lecture on The Dater’s Handbook this very night! Cass decides, with a significant nudge from her sister, that she will start following the Dater’s Handbook for all her future romantic decisions.

One morning while out on her run, listening to The Dater’s Handbook audiobook, she runs into Robert, who has bought a dog and asks her out on a date. They go miniature golfing and there is much flirting but no conflict Then they play pool and there is more flirting and equally little conflict. Seriously, you could fast forward through this whole section, from him asking her out to them kissing on her doorstep, and miss not a single plot development. But her sister is all IS HE RELIABLE, which how on earth are you supposed to know that after two dates?

One of Cass’ most important clients, George, asks her out on a date, which is totally normal and appropriate, and he takes her to a schmancy restaurant and orders in French, so you know he’s classy. “I just learned in an Indian restaurant last week that ‘naan’ does not mean ‘no!’ They kept bringing me bread,” says Cass, who is apparently very very stupid. George is clearly the reliable option favored by the sister, and it’s weird because the plot is obviously setting up a contrast between George and Robert where Cass will have to choose between following the Dater’s Handbook and following her heart, but it doesn’t seem like Robert is this wild free spirit who would clearly be an unsuitable longterm partner? He’s nice to Cass, he has a steady job, and if he got a haircut, he’d look a lot less like Donald Trump Jr. circa 2006.

For their third date, Cass and Robert go to the gym and run on the treadmill while sharing a clickwheel iPod. I’m not joking. They split headphones and listen to “I Wanna Keep on Loving You,” which is hilarious because Mark and I have definitely seen another Hallmark movie involving a prince and a commoner where the love theme was that very same song. Does Hallmark have some sort of deal with REO Speedwagon? He falls off the treadmill, accidentally breaking her iPod, and they bond and she reveals that her dad died…ON CHRISTMAS???

George continues to woo Cass by doing the tried-and-true classy date of taking her to an art gallery, but turns out Cass appreciates art about as much as she appreciates Indian cuisine. Meanwhile, Robert invites Cass’ mom along to an “invitation only” REO Speedwagon concert, cause that’s a thing. Now it’s Cass’ birthday and she’s conveniently listening to the section of the Dater’s Handbook audiobook on gift-giving. George brings her a bouquet of lilies but Robert arrives at the same time, awkward! He buys her an iPod, which is actually pretty sweet. But the sister shits all over Robert’s gift and insists that Cass has to choose between the two of them in the next week, using Dr. Susie’s checklist. George takes her to a string quartet concert with champagne n’ shit; Robert takes her to a diner with beer. The mom is all in favor of Robert, the sister is all in favor of George, especially once she learns that Cass ate some chicken wings off of Robert’s plate and had an allergic reaction to the honey. This is pretty unfair of the sister since, in the third scene of the whole movie, Cass rejected Peter’s chicken wings because they contained honey, and Cass really should have known to ask about the ingredients before she ate off of Robert’s plate. But worse, George hugged her goodnight, whereas Robert steamily fucked her tried to be all smooth and was all like, “You had to go to the hospital, let me stay over!” Her sister is being a real Handbook Nazi, and her mom is like, stop paying attention to this dumb handbook, and then the sister is like, I HAVEN’T HAD SEX IN 18 MONTHS. Well, that’s the subtext, anyway.

Cass calls one of her suitors to break up–it’s a mystery which one it is, because putting that right before a commercial break is a tried-and-true cliffhanger–and then her brother-in-law is out grilling in the snow, as one does, and it’s revealed that she’s still with George. Bummer. Will she ever get with the man she’s clearly meant to be with? But George’s deep boringness soon begins to wear on Cass, and when she runs into Robert at the auto mechanic’s, she’s all, “It’s not you, it’s me. You have long-ish hair and a dog and you work for the Parks Department, you’re exactly the sort of bad boy I always go for but I need to try something new.” Then they go bowling and make out.

George proves his ultimate boringness by describing his job, calling Facebook an uninteresting timekiller, and limiting everyone to a single slice of cake. The mom is like, “Cass, your boyfriend is boring,” and Cass makes a horrified face. Cass takes George to the miniature golf place where she and Robert went on their first date, and George, unsurprisingly, is not into it, because he is BORING. Then Cass is all YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ME and that’s the end of that.

Dr. Susie is back on the air because she’s getting divorced and writing a book about it. “Ladies, it’s not you, it’s the man,” she says. Cass realizes that Dr. Susie is a fraud and rushes to the lantern festival, which definitely features the largest number of Asian people ever assembled for a Hallmark movie. Wouldn’t you know it, Robert is there, and as vaguely Chinese-sounding music plays, she rushes into his arms and apologizes for being way too into the Dater’s Handbook. Then “I Wanna Keep on Loving You” plays and they kiss. The last lines are “Cheesy?” “So cheesy”, which is a fairly accurate summary of the film.

So anyway, here are some scones. I made them in honor of Britishness, and also in honor of the fact that I had some buttermilk in my fridge I had to use up. Enjoy them with clotted cream n’ shit!

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

From Huckleberry

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/4 C of flour
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 plus 2 tbsp cold buttermilk
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 C blueberries frozen
  • For egg wash: 1 egg yolk, 1 tbs milk or cream, pinch of salt, whisked together

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder and soda and salt. Add butter and work in with your fingers until pieces are pea size. Add lemon zest and buttermilk, mix lightly to distribute.
  2. Dump everything onto a large surface. Flatten out the dough using the palm of your hand. Gather dough back together and flatten out once more. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times. Do not overwork dough, there should still be pieces of butter within.
  3. Pat down dough to about a 9X12 inch slab and spread frozen blueberries on top.
  4. Roll the long side of dough into a long, 12 inch roll and lightly flatten top.
  5. Cut out 9 to 10 triangles.
  6. Transfer onto baking sheet, tightly wrap,and freeze for at least 2 hours, maximun 1 month.
  7. Preheat oven to 350.
  8. Remove scones from freezer, lay on ungreased baking sheet with plenty of room between. Top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes or until the scones are nicely browned and cooked through

Complicity / Lemon Bundt Cake

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This week’s recipe: Lemon Bundt Cake with Almond Glaze

A recent This American Life episode tells the story of a campus controversy in Nebraska. A sophomore named Katie Mullen had gotten involved with Turning Point USA, a rightwing organization that trains college students to become conservative activists on campus. Katie sets up a table to try to get fellow students involved in Turning Point and attracts the attention of a PhD student/English instructor named Courtney Lawton, who starts protesting Katie’s table and calling her a neo-fascist Becky, by which she means a white woman who weaponizes her white womanhood to oppress others. (Can we take a moment, by the way, to feel for girls who are named Becky? Between the social justice left and the incels, they are getting a lot of crap that they never asked for.) Katie was filming the whole thing, which enraged Courtney further. She started flipping Katie off and cursing at her, which caused Katie to cry. With an assist from Turning Point, the video went viral. There was tremendous backlash against the university, and Courtney was no longer allowed to teach.

What Courtney did was immature, impulsive, and strategically unwise, and I’m inclined to think that, like many college students getting involved in politics for the first time, Katie was more ignorant than malicious. But she publicly allied herself with a malicious organization whose ideology posed a genuine threat to the people around her, and then when she was called out on it, she cried. Now, you’ll never meet a bigger crier than me. Friends, boyfriends, teachers, bosses, kindly friends of my parents’ who have taken me out for coffee and an informational interview—I’ve cried in front of them all. But as someone intimately familiar with the act, I know that being made to cry doesn’t turn a person into an automatic victim. In this case, I think that Courtney’s definition of “Becky” is instructive. Whether or not Katie knew it, tears were her weapon. The politicians and activists and angry radio callers saw her crying and had to leap to her defense, because how could you not? What’s more innocent than a white teenage girl from the Midwest? And what’s a more wholesome, sympathetic face for a group funded by some of the most regressive political elements in America, a group that has been accused of racism, unethical practices, and campaign finance violations, than a young woman bullied to tears by a hateful SJW? I swear, this story taught me more about the destructive power of white female tears than a thousand lefty essays ever could.

Thinking about this reminded me of the reaction to the now-infamous Michelle Wolf routine at the White House Correspondents Dinner. For those of you who were blessed enough to be unaware of this controversy, it involved Wolf making jokes that compared Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale and complimenting her on her perfect smoky eye, which was applied from the burnt ashes of the truth. Sanders is, of course, a charter member of the can-dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it insult comedy club known as the Trump Administration, and anyone who was paying attention knows that the joke was about her lying, not her looks, but that didn’t stop certain political reporters from leaping to her defense. How dare anyone publicly censure her as a liar, just because she’s a public figure who gets up every day and lies to the American people? Don’t you know she’s a wife and mother? Yes, that was seriously Mika Brzezinski’s take. All wives and mothers are now above criticism so I guess we’ll never hear a bad word about Hillary Clinton ever again.

It was a pathetic spectacle. It didn’t matter to the journalists who defended Sanders that she disdains and disrespects them; that she insults their intelligence and that of the American people; that she willingly signed on to be the public face of the lying-est administration in history six months in, when everyone knew exactly who they were. She’s a wife and mother, and God forbid anyone make a joke that might offend her delicate white lady feelings, even though the comedian’s speech at the WHCD is and always has been a goddamned roast!

At what point do we expect people to take responsibility for being complicit, even at the expense of hurting their feelings? Of course, what I call “complicity,” Katie Mullen or Sarah Huckabee Sanders might call “standing up for what you believe in” or “making America great again.” But whether you’re stopping fellow students on campus and asking them their thoughts on capitalism or you’re trying to convince the press corps that Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, you have willingly placed yourself in the ring and you can’t get upset when people hit back.

Which brings me to…me. This past Saturday at kids’ services at my synagogue, I used the Torah reading to talk to the children about when and how it’s appropriate to “rebuke” somebody. We discussed why it’s better to rebuke in private than in public; better to rebuke gently than harshly; better to rebuke in a constructive rather than an ad hominem way; and better not to rebuke at all if there’s nothing the person on the receiving end can do to change things. We also agreed that there are certain situations where it’s necessary to break all of those rules, i.e. when a person’s actions are putting himself and/or others in imminent danger. A good lesson all around, but one made distinctly weird by the presence of a certain guest at the service. He is a nationally known neoconservative pundit, anti-Trump but pro-every war imaginable; he was an extremely visible cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq in particular. He lives in the DC area but was at my synagogue for his granddaughter’s baby naming, after which he and the rest of the family took the kids down to my service.

Now, I’m sure this person is a nice guy in his personal life and a loving grandpa and all that, but I think that he is indirectly responsible for the death of many, many people in the Middle East, and that given his druthers, we’d be involved in even more wars than we already are. It felt strange and wrong to be teaching that you shouldn’t let harmful actions go by without a word when he was sitting ten feet away from me. I wasn’t going to point to him and say, “That guy has the blood of Iraqis on his hands, everyone shun him!” But should I have at least gone up to him afterwards and told him privately that he should be ashamed of what he’s done? It would be overstating the case to say that I was in a position of moral authority over him, but at that moment, I was giving everyone in the room–including him and his grandchildren–moral instruction, filling a role analogous to a rabbi. If I had confronted him, I’m sure it would have been nothing he hadn’t heard before; his views have been attacked in the national press hundreds of times before, no way this guy gives a shit about what I think. And of course there is a time and place for things; one could easily argue that accosting a guest in your community when he’s there celebrating his granddaughter’s baby naming is, uh, inappropriate. But if the last two years have taught me anything, it’s that there need to be actual repercussions for people who hurt others, or who champion policies that hurt others. I don’t mean that they need to be thrown in jail (and they won’t be), but shouldn’t cheerleading for endless war earn you even the slight social penalty of being made to feel momentarily uncomfortable at synagogue? And by not speaking out for fear of…feeling momentarily uncomfortable, do I in turn become complicit?

So anyway, here’s a cake. I made an amazing, decadent chocolate caramel cake for Mother’s Day brunch, since my mom is a chocolate lover, but we have several chocolate haters in the family as well (I know! So shameful!) so I had to provide an option for them too. I flipped through my cookbooks and, lo and behold, here was this yummy-looking bundt cake in Baked Occasions. And what was the occasion at which they suggested it be served? Mother’s Day! Clearly, it was fate. Mother’s Day was gloomy and rainy but this delicious and beautiful cake was a ray of sunshine.

Lemon Bundt Cake with Almond Glaze

From Baked Occasions 

INGREDIENTS

For the Lemon Bundt Cake

  • 1½ cups (170 g) cake flour
  • 1½ cups (170 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2¾ cups (550 g) granulated sugar
  • Zest of 10 lemons (approximately 10 tablespoons/60 g)
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks/225 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ½ cup (120 ml) canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 tablespoons pure lemon extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large yolks
  • ¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream

For the Lemon Syrup

  • 1⁄3 cup (65 g) granulated sugar
  • 1⁄3 cup (75 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum, or more to taste

For the Almond Glaze

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 2½ to 3 cups (250 to 300 g) sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ cup (25 g) slivered almonds, toasted (see page 19)

INSTRUCTIONS
Make the Lemon Bundt Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Generously spray the inside of a 10-cup (2.4-L) Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray, dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.
  3. Alternatively, you can butter and flour the pan.
  4. Either way, make sure the pan’s nooks and crannies are all thoroughly coated.
  5. Sift both flours, the baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  6. Set aside.
  7. Place the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  8. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the sugar and use the tips of your fingers to rub the zest in until the mixture is uniformly pale yellow.
  9. Pour the melted butter and canola oil into the bowl of lemon sugar and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  10. Add the rum, lemon extract, eggs, and egg yolks and beat again on medium speed until just combined.
  11. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  12. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
  13. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  14. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  15. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes.
  16. Place the wire rack over a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
Make the Lemon Syrup
  1. In a small saucepan over very low heat, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, and rum until the sugar starts to melt.
  2. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
  3. Then reduce the heat to a simmer for a minute or two, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  4. Gently loosen the sides of the somewhat cooled cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.
  5. Poke the cake with several holes (on the crown and sides) in preparation for the syrup.
  6. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the top and sides of the cake with the syrup.
  7. Allow the syrup to soak into the cake.
  8. Brush at least two more times. (You might have some syrup left over.)
  9. Continue to let the cake cool completely.
Make the Almond Glaze
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and the almond extract.
  2. Add 2½ cups (250 g) of the confectioners’ sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is pourable.
  3. A fairly sturdy, thick glaze will give you the best visual result.
  4. If the mixture is too thick, add more lemon juice, a tablespoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
  5. If the mixture is too thin, keep adding confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup (25 g) at a time, until the desired consistency is reached; this will make the glaze sweeter, of course.
  6. Pour the glaze in large thick ribbons over the crown of the Bundt, allowing the glaze to spread
  7. and drip down the sides of the cake.
  8. Sprinkle the almonds over the glaze and allow the glaze to set (for about 20 minutes) before serving.

Atlas Shrugged / Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

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This week’s recipe: Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

My favorite piece of news, and yours, this week has been the retirement of Paul Ryan. Yes, the zombie-eyed granny starver (© Charlie Pierce) is slinking back to Janesville to spend more time with his owners family. Don’t worry, he’s young; after a few years at a lobbying or think tank gig, he’ll come back to the Washington he so hates to ever-so-reluctantly take up the mantle of leadership. After all, once the enormous debt bomb he planted last year goes off, we’ll need someone to do the hard but necessary work of destroying the social safety net.

I hate Paul Ryan. I think I hate him even more than I hate Mitch McConnell. At least everyone, McConnell included, knows that he’s a cynical bastard who cares about nothing but power. But Ryan managed to fool a lot of people for a long time. He was a policy wonk who didn’t care about the details of policy. He was a deficit hawk who gave the nation’s least needy citizens an enormous unfunded tax cut. He was a devout Catholic who ignored everything Jesus ever said about the poor. He was a Washington outsider who’d been working in Washington since he was 22. He was a family man who was fine being a “weekend dad” when his kids were young and needed him most, but feels compelled to spend more time with them now that his political future looks dim. But to me, his worst crime will always be that bizarre devotion to Ayn Rand that all but our most sociopathic citizens outgrow by their early 20s.

Yes, dear readers, I have read Atlas Shrugged. All of it! Do you know how long the audiobook of Atlas Shrugged is?  63 HOURS! Do you know how long John Galt’s famous speech is when it’s read aloud? THREE HOURS AND 38 MINUTES! This would be offensive enough, but it’s even more distressing to know that there are so many people high up in our government whose life philosophy was heavily influenced by this crap.

An entirely Objective summary for those of you who have never read it: Atlas Shrugged takes place in an alternative version of America, which is now a socialist hellhole that also has free elections and open trials, one where rich assholes are allowed to make lengthy speeches comparing themselves to victims of human sacrifice and the worst that happens is that their enemies sputter at them impotently. It’s a world where the government simultaneously oppresses supercapitalists to the point where they feel the need to withdraw from society, and where that same government is incapable of preventing those same supercapitalists from building transcontinental railroads. In this world, there are only a few dozen people on earth who are capable of running entire industries; without those people, precious natural resources like copper, oil, and coal simply stay in the ground. Weirdly, it is a world where none of these genius industrialists who are great at everything have managed to invent commercial air travel, so everyone gets everywhere by train. The vast majority of people appear to have stopped breeding shortly after our heroine Dagny Taggart was born (children being the ultimate moochers); not that it matters, because children in this world are just miniature adults. Any time there’s a flashback to one of the heroes’ childhood, we find that he or she speaks, thinks, and acts like an adult, and probably works in a copper mine as well. (Yes, in this world, all of these millionaire heirs are so eager to continue the family tradition of productive achievement that they can’t wait to start at the very bottom when they’re in their early teens and work their way up through grit and hard work alone. Just like in real life!)

The novel’s heroes–railroad tycoon Dagny and the various male industrial tycoons who want to fuck her–can go several nights in a row without sleeping, regard the human need to eat as an inconvenience, and never exercise other than deliberately striding across their offices, throwing their shoulders back, and/or energetically raping each other, yet they are the healthiest, most attractive people in America. The government wants them to share their toys so they follow John Galt, a junior-level engineer at a now-bankrupt auto company and a nondescript track worker at a railroad and a 38-year-old virgin, and withdraw from society. Only they don’t really withdraw; they go away for one month out of the year and spend the rest of the time actively sabotaging the nation’s industry. It’s the difference between going on strike and burning down your place of work. But whatever. They all go live in a valley where powerful businessmen, skilled artisans, brilliant composers, eminent professors, renowned surgeons and the like happily do menial labor all day, and without their brilliant efforts, society collapses and millions die. You know, a happy ending.

Sounds like an enjoyable enough potboiler, if you’re a sociopath or an asshole. So what makes it crap? Let me count the ways. For starters, there’s the physiognomy-is-destiny characterizations that prevail in both fairy tales and Atlas Shrugged. Just as beautiful princesses are kind and virtuous and ugly crones are wicked witches or jealous stepmothers, you can immediately tell the ideological orientation of a Rand character from his or her first description. If someone is tall and angular, with a shapely body, ice-like eyes, and a smile of pure contempt curling on their lip, they are one of the good guys. If someone is shapeless and doughy with thinning hair and piggy little eyes, they are a moocher. Thank goodness for that, we wouldn’t want to have to deal in complexity!

Speaking of which, another way in which it resembles a fairy tale is the absolute delineation between good and evil. There are two characters—count ‘em—who are neither ubermentsch industrialists nor wicked looters (not coincidentally, they are the only two characters who are described as neither entirely angular nor entirely doughy). Otherwise, they are strictly divided into heroes, who are incapable of doing anything wrong, and villains, who are incapable of doing anything right. The heroes are the best at everything they do, up to and including flipping burgers, even if they’ve never done it before. Rand will have a good character and a bad character do literally the exact same thing but with wildly different outcomes. Without consulting anyone, Dagny unilaterally decides to build the Rio Norte line using a new metal alloy that has never been used to make anything more important than a bracelet, and it’s a brilliant business decision. Without consulting anyone, her brother James unilaterally decides to invest in some copper mines, and it’s a huge debacle. Dagny is late for a business meeting and demands that the train she’s on run through a red signal even though the engineer tells her it’s too dangerous, and she gets to the meeting on time. Politician Kip Chalmers is late for a rally and demands the train he’s on run through a tunnel even though the engineer tells him it’s too dangerous, and 300 people get asphyxiated. Et cetera, et cetera. In the world of Atlas Shrugged, you either got it or you ain’t, “it” being the author’s thumb pressed heavily on the scales in your favor. We’re supposed to admire the heroes’ bold, decisive natures, but who wouldn’t be bold and decisive if their risks paid off 100% of the time?

Then there’s the fact that no one is likable. This is obvious with the villains, all of whom say things that no one would ever say and who are motivated by things that no one would ever be motivated by. Plus, of course, they’re ugly. But the heroes are not any better. Each of the male heroes of the book did one of the following:

a) Cheated on his wife and then, when his wife confronted the mistress, demanded that she apologize to said mistress
b) Smacked his girlfriend so hard that she bled because she made a joke he didn’t like
c) Sank ships full of food aid for starving people
d) Intentionally causes civilizational collapse and the death of millions, all because he felt underappreciated at work

And these are the heroes!

There’s so much dumb, poorly thought out, clearly hypocritical nonsense in these books, nonsense that could understandably appeal to teenage boys with no life experience and an inflated sense of their own worth and abilities, but no one else. If Ayn Rand likes smoking cigarettes, then smoking cigarettes must be objectively good (a particularly striking example because, in reality, cigarettes are as close to an objectively bad consumer good as exists). As capitalists and free marketeers, Rand’s heroes believe that the best way to conduct business is to refuse to serve anyone who doesn’t fit into extremely narrow ideological parameters, reject government contracts, and generally vandalize your own property in order to make a point. They claim to abhor the use of physical force to get their way–except when one throws a man down the stairs for offering him a government loan, or when Galt’s speech inspires a man to fracture a woman’s jaw when he overhears her telling her kid to share his toys (both actions presented approvingly to the reader). Most ironically of all, any character who publishes a book to push a political agenda is met with the most sneering authorial disdain, because using the freedom of the press for ideological means is for me, not for thee.

But the worst part of the book is the overall malice and lack of charity that Rand shows any character she deems unworthy. I understand she grew up in the Soviet Union and that much of Objectivism is formed by intellectual and emotional backlash to Communism, but as manifested in Atlas Shrugged, it reproduces some of the latter’s worst tendencies. This is most evident in the famous scene in which an entire train full of passengers gets gassed in a tunnel, right after Rand lists what every person on the train had done to (it is heavily implied) deserve their fate. This includes a businessman who got a government loan; a playwright who wrote negative things about businessmen; a housewife who exercises her democratic right to vote (I’m not exaggerating); and even some sleeping kids who no doubt carried out heinous thought crimes of their own. This mode of thought—that anyone who is ideologically impure or even ideologically impure-adjacent deserves to die—sure sounds like it was cribbed from the USSR of Rand’s youth. Rand constantly uses “contempt” or “contemptuous” as positive descriptors–constantly, try to turn it into a drinking game if you want to get messed up–and venomous contempt for those she views as lesser beings drips off every page. It’s extremely ugly, and made worse by Rand’s certainty that she has a monopoly on the meaning of existence and love of life. But hers is a worldview that has no room in it for children, the elderly, the infirm, discrimination, rent-seeking, subsidies, America’s history of slavery and dispossession, physical force, human error, not entirely informed decision making, etc etc etc. In other words, it has some pretty big holes, and it is simply maddening to try to talk to anyone who thinks that it’s a guide for living life in the real world.

Finally I will say that Rand badly needed an editor, and so even though I could probably rant about how much I hate Atlas Shrugged for several more pages, I will do what she never could, and restrain myself.

So anyway, here’s some soup. This soup is so creamy, you won’t believe it’s vegan! Mark and I FINALLY got a Vitamix, courtesy of a neighbor who was moving to the UK and selling hers for half off, and this was the first thing I made in it. It made short work of a whole head of cauliflower, I was quite impressed. I know I am behind the times but the idea that blended cauliflower and cashews can taste so similar to cream is a revelation to me, one that will hopefully result in many delicious and healthy soups in the future.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

From Vitamin Sunshine

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cauliflower roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup cashews soaked overnight and drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic fresh, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot peeled, chopped
  • 2 15-ounce diced tomatoes cans
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable boullion
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves chopped
  • sea salt & black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Soak cashews in water overnight. Drain when ready to use. If there isn’t time for this step, soak cashews in boiling water for 1 hour and drain to use.

  2. Add cauliflower to a steamer, and steam over medium high heat for 15 minutes.

  3. In a blender, add steamed cauliflower, soaked cashews, and 3/4 cup water. Process until a very smooth cream is formed. Set aside.

  4. In a saucepot, add olive oil and onion and garlic, and saute for 5 minutes until lightly browned.

  5. Add chopped carrots and celery, and saute another few minutes, then add diced tomatoes, water, and vegetable bouillon . Bring back to a boil, and then simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes.

  6. Reserve 1/2 cup of the “cream, then add tomato soup to the blender, and process until very smooth.

  7. Return soup to pot, mix in fresh basil, and season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

  8. Garnish soup with “cream”, and then add extra fresh basil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese if desired.

 

Passover Traditions / Miso Braised Short Ribs with Pear

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This week’s recipe: Miso Braised Short Ribs with Pear

It’s the leeeeeeast wonderful time of the yeeeeear: Passover! Non-Jews always be like, “I love matzah, OMG!” And I be like, shut up, no one likes that shit. Still, it’s a meaningful holiday full of family and traditions…some of which are quite weird. For instance:

-Selling Passover candy: It’s actually a fairly American typical custom for schools or religious organizations to send children off to sell things to strangers in order to raise money, which is weird enough on its own, but at least those things are usually chocolate bars or wrapping paper or magazine subscriptions, which a broad audience of people might conceivably use. In our case, we went door-to-door in our apartment building to ask our neighbors if they wanted to pay $15 a piece for a box of kosher-for-Passover chocolate lollipops or Almond Kisses or, God forbid, fruit slice jellies. A surprising amount of them did, and it was actually a fun way to get know various people in the building, like the super-sweet old lady in the G line with the Jack Russell terrier who was always good for at least 50 dollars’ worth of candy. It also taught you who was to be avoided; for instance, it may not surprise you to hear that John McEnroe and Patty Smyth did not even allow me past their intercom system, those dickheads. Since my building was full of Hebrew school-aged children, though, you had to try to get to the residents before anyone else did, because everyone was selling candy even people who were charmed enough by cute kids to buy some wouldn’t necessarily be interested in buying, say, four or five times. One of these competitors was inevitably my sister, who was the best salesperson in the Hebrew school for several years running, thus winning the grand prize. The grand prize was typically something like a stereo that retailed for approximately 60 dollars at Radioshack, even though she had sold many hundreds of dollars worth of candy. It was a scam, is what I’m saying. When I have kids, I will tell them that I will buy them the stereo equivalent if it means I don’t have to buy a dozen boxes of chocolate covered mints every year.

-Bedikat Chametz: Passover is a great holiday for anyone with obsessive-compulsive tendencies. (Well, not great; I actually read today that Passover cleaning can exacerbate symptoms of OCD. As if we needed another reason to hate this holiday.) You are supposed to clean every inch of your house to make sure that there’s no chametz (bread) residue anywhere. But let’s face it, there can always be tiny crumbs hiding where you’d least expect them. So we symbolically rid ourselves of chametz through a ceremony called Bedikat Chametz, where we hide bread all over the house, then turn off the lights and go look for it. (This works a lot better when you have small children who can actually enjoy hunting for the bread, instead of pretending that you can’t find bread that you yourself hid ten minutes ago.) You do this with the aid of a candle that lights the way as you search; a feather that you use to sweep the chametz; and a spoon to catch it and put in a brown paper bag. Why you don’t just sweep it into the bag is a mystery, but this is the closest we Jews get to voodoo (Jewdoo?) and it’s pretty fun.

-The Hillel Sandwich: We are told that in the time of the Temple in Jerusalem, when people would bring a lamb as a Passover sacrifice, Rabbi Hillel would eat the lamb with matzah and maror (bitter herbs). This basically meant eating lamb shawarma and horseradish on a laffa, which sounds delicious! But today, because we sadly lack the Temple and its attendant animal sacrifice, we just eat the matzah (which has morphed into a gross, constipation-inducing cracker over the centuries) and the maror plain. You can put charoset (a yummy fruit-and-nut mixture) on it to cut the taste of the maror but my dad will call you a wimp. I do it anyway.

There’s so much else that’s weird about Passover. It’s a holiday that’s ostensibly about freedom, but the preparations for it feel more like slavery. It’s been noted before how paradoxical it is that Jews who are otherwise very lax in their observance tend to get maniacal about Yom Kippur and Passover, arguably the two hardest holidays to observe. People who were eating a bacon and cheese sandwich yesterday will now eat bacon and cheese…on matzah, because bread is of course forbidden. My point is, Passover is weird because Jews are weird. Chag sameach to all who are celebrating!

So anyway, here are some ribs. They’re not kosher for Passover (kitniyot, grrrr!) but they are tender and tasty! The pear is such an unexpected delight and the miso adds a delicious note of umami. Am I doing this right? I dunno, I’m just trying to get in all my yummies before this dumb holiday starts.

Miso Braised Short Ribs with Pear

From My Lavender Blues

Ingredients 

  • 2 tbsp ghee (Note: to keep it kosher I used coconut oil)
  • 2 tbsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tbsp Coarse black pepper
  • 3 lb bone in short ribs
  • 2 heads of garlic (about 10-12 garlic cloves, whole)
  • 6 shallots, quartered
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 24 oz beef stock (lower sodium)
  • 3 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 4 fresh Marjoram Sprigs
  • 2 pears, sliced into ¼” slices
Instructions
  1. Remove short ribs from fridge and generously sprinkle kosher salt & black pepper over every side, pat with hand and then allow to rest for about 15 minutes.
  2. In a large oven proof dutch or heavy bottom pot add your ghee and bring heat up to medium high over stove top.
  3. Next once ghee is melted and has begun to heat up (give it about 2 minutes) add your short ribs and brown on every side, about 45 seconds/side.
  4. Remove short ribs and set aside.
  5. Next add your shallots and garlic, saute for about 2 minutes.
  6. Next add your wine and after about 20 seconds, using a wooden spoon, scrape bottom of pan (this will help remove any browning that was left from short ribs and help bring more flavor into broth).
  7. Add your stock and bring to a low boil
  8. Add miso paste, garlic powder, white pepper, cinnamon and ground ginger. Stir.
  9. Add your short ribs and fresh marjoram sprigs.
  10. Turn off heat and place covered into oven for about 2.5 hours, turning ribs halfway through.
  11. When ribs are basically done, add your pear slices 20 minutes before you are ready to serve.
  12. Continue to cook for about 20 minutes, remove from oven and serve over arugula, potatoes, polenta, with a pasta, however you desire.
Notes
Short ribs are ready when you can slide the meat up and down the bone using a fork.

 

Parkland / White Chocolate Chunk Brownies

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This week’s recipe: Brownies with Flaky Salt and White Chocolate Chunks

Each year on Passover, we read in the Haggadah that God only began to set the Israelites’ redemption in motion when they “cried out.” At this point, the Israelites had already been enslaved for nearly 200 years. There was a change in circumstances—a new pharaoh who presumably made their bitter slavery even worse—but considering that the old pharaoh decreed that all of their sons had to be thrown in the Nile, life had doubtless been no picnic. Why didn’t they cry out earlier? One suggestion is that the Israelites were not only physically but also psychologically enslaved. They were permanently defeated, in thrall to a mentality that nothing would ever change. It took a major event, the ascension of the new pharaoh, to inspire them to finally cry out and therefore take the first step in their redemption.

It’s been a week now. Parkland has joined Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Mother Emanuel, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, Aurora, San Bernadino, and Columbine in a terrible litany. And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. It’s been hard to hold onto hope. Five years ago felt like a tipping point, yet all that the deaths of 20 first graders led to was looser gun laws and more massacres. But it’s been a week now, and this story is still on the front page. And it’s all down to a bunch of high schoolers. Last night, one of those high schoolers got his US senator to admit, live on TV, that he is more interested in his donor’s priorities than his constituent’s lives. And they’re not alone. An entire generation is being raised with the knowledge that a gunman could come into their school at any time and take their lives and the lives of their friends. When the 9/11 attacks happened, enlistment in the military surged. These kids are being attacked in their own schools, by their own country; you don’t think they want to fight back?

You can tell from the way that the right is going after these kids that they’re a real threat. The usual deflections aren’t working this time. People are realizing that it will always be “too soon” to talk about school shootings, which have become a twice-weekly affair in our country—before an “appropriate” interval has elapsed, there will have been another shooting. It’s hard to accuse victims of exploiting themselves, though Wayne LaPierre will surely try. The purity and morality of their cause has revealed how absolutely hollow, nihilistic, and ghoulish the arguments against them are. There was that awful David Brooks column that claimed that the real problem here is that liberals keep hurting gun nuts’ feelings by looking down on their “culture.” Uh, yeah, I am going to keep looking down on any culture that has led to more American deaths in the last 50 years than all of our wars, sorry not sorry. There was a typically dickish piece from Ben Shapiro saying that we shouldn’t listen to teenagers because they act out of emotion instead of rationality. As if it’s irrational, after seeing your friends and your teachers gunned down, to want to take steps to prevent it from happening again! (I mean, God knows the NRA never makes appeals to emotion. It is perfectly logical to argue that you need multiple military-grade semi-automatic weapons to protect your home from intruders; that your arsenal of guns will successfully defeat the US military’s drones, tanks, and nukes; and that gun control is ineffective even though literally every other country that’s tried it has seen a decline in gun deaths. But I digress.) There’s the usual bullshit about how the real solution is more guns, more armed guards, more metal detectors, more and more profits flowing the gun industry’s way and who cares if the entire country turns into goddamned 1980s Beirut. And worst of all are all those accusing the students of being puppets of George Soros or crisis actors or whatever. Those people really make me feel that we are lost as a country. But the continued determination of the kids, in the face of setbacks, of lies, of character assassination, even of death threats, makes me feel hope again.

The Israelites who were redeemed from Egypt all died before they reached the Promised Land. They couldn’t believe that things would get better, and they wouldn’t work for it. Conquering the Promised Land required a new generation, one that had never known what it was to be enslaved. I hope that this is a sign that this new generation will do what we all thought was impossible. They’ve already learned the terrible lesson that nothing ever changes until you cry out.

So anyway, here are some brownies. My sister got married two weeks ago and I made these for her Shabbat Kallah, which is when your friends get together the Shabbat before the wedding and talk about how awesome you are. Obviously, such a girly event requires chocolate, and boy howdy do these brownies fit the bill. They are intensely rich and fudgy, sprinkled with sea salt to cut the sweetness and add an elegant touch.

Brownies with Flaky Salt and White Chocolate Chunks

From Downtime by Nadine Levy Redzepi

Ingredients

  • 7 oz/200g dark chocolate (minimum 60 per cent cacao, see above)
  • 1/2 cup/110g salted butter
  • 1 cup/200g sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla pod (I used vanilla extract, sue me)
  • 1/2 cup/75g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 3.5 oz/100g white chocolate
  • ¼ – ½ tsp flaky sea salt

Instructions

1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a 9 × 16 inch strip of baking paper and use it to line the bottom and two sides of a 9 inch square tin, letting the excess paper hang over the ends. (Tip: don’t trim the paper to fit the bottom of the tin. You will need the overhang to lift the brownies out of the tin once they cool).

2 Bring about 1 inch depth of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Turn the heat to low so the water is barely simmering. Place a glass or metal bowl over the pan. (Note: the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the simmering water. If the chocolate gets too hot, it can become grainy.

3 Coarsely chop the chocolate and put it in the bowl. As it starts to melt, cut the butter into chunks and add them to the bowl. Let them melt together, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate mixture cool for about 5 minutes. (Note: if the chocolate mixture is too hot, it will scramble the beaten eggs in the next step).

4 Combine the sugar and eggs in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until pale and light in texture, about 2 minutes. Use the tip of a small knife to split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the egg mixture, saving the pod for another use.

5 Add the chocolate mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly incorporated. Sift the flour, baking powder and sea salt onto the chocolate mixture and mix by hand just until combined. Coarsely chop the white chocolate into small bits and fold them into the batter. (Tip: you don’t want to overmix the batter after adding the dry ingredients or the brownies will be tough; mix just until it is a uniform dark brown).

6 Spread the batter in the prepared tin. Sprinkle with flaky salt to taste. Bake the brownies until a wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t overbake! Place the tin on a wire rack to cool completely.

7 Run a knife around the inside of the tin and lift up on the paper flaps to remove the brownie from the tin in one piece. Let the brownies cool completely before cutting into bars, and store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Food Bloggers / Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini

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This week’s recipe: Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini

  • I was born in America but moved to Europe and immediately started incorporating British spelling and usage into my writing. I live in a sprawling mansion, but like, the old, tasteful kind. I have a large brood of remarkably well-behaved children who never reject my cooking or refuse to pose for my beautifully composed photographs. But I am the real star of these photos, with my slender figure and cute sundresses and perfectly-done makeup, selecting a ripe peach from a pile at the farmers’ market. I enjoy gathering my friends, many of whom own castles, around my rustic-looking wooden table and sharing meals where we eat freshly prepared seasonal food and drink moderate amounts of wine and laugh about how fat and cultureless Americans are.
  • Everything is AMAZING! Every recipe I make is the BEST RECIPE EVER and will CHANGE your LIFE! I have lived in the Midwest all my life, and I root for all the local sports teams. I have a husband, who is the best husband in the world, and a puppy, who is the cutest puppy in the world, and a baby, who is so silly and sweet and adorable and just makes my life complete. The About Me photo on my blog is of me jumping in the air in front of the ocean as the sun rises on the horizon. My recipes are heavy on melted cheese and desserts, except when I get on temporary health kicks and am suddenly all about green smoothies and kale salads, which by the way are DELICIOUS! Many of my posts are sponsored by Birdseye. Also, I LOVE the Instant Pot.
  • I’m a downhome country gal who loooooooves butter, golly gee! My husband and sons are just simple, rugged men who like meat and potatoes, and who like having a wife/mom who will make sure that dinner’s on the table for them when they come home from ropin’ steers! My recipes are all generically familiar to anyone with the remotest amount of cooking experience, yet their intense obviousness is rivaled only by their enormous popularity. Things might be hard but I know that Jesus and my many best-selling cookbooks and endorsement deals will see me through. And if not, there’s the fact that our giant ranch comprises 8 percent of the economy of the rural state in which I live. I am truly #blessed.
  • I’m all about clean, natural living. I used to eat things like white potatoes and non-pasture raised eggs but I was always feeling bloated and sluggish. So I tried cutting out gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, corn, legumes, grains, animal products, nightshades, FODMAPs, and anything processed or non-organic. I felt so much better and though I’ve reintroduced a few of those food groups as time has gone on, I’ve learned that I can’t digest any food that might cause me to gain weight. I live in a large, light-filled apartment in a major American city with my businessman husband, but we also have a farm property where I am photographed wearing flannel amid my free-range chickens. I make my own yogurt because the store-bought stuff is packed with harmful GMOs and artificial sweeteners. Here’s twenty photo of tonight’s dinner, artfully arranged mustard greens topped with purified oxygen.

So anyway, here’s some pasta. As soon as I saw the photo of this recipe in Dining In, I was like, damn, I need to make that. So I did, because I always follow through on my goals, as long as they involve eating pasta. (Side note: Dining In is a great cookbook that you should buy if you haven’t already. I was put off by the hipster Instagram-y photography at first, but I’ve never bookmarked so many recipes that I want to make in a single cookbook. So far I’ve made about a dozen recipes and they’ve all been excellent.) This was seriously so good, especially when paired with red wine and a viewing of Blazing Saddles. Plus, it’s just darn fun to say the word “Bucatini!” in an exaggerated Italian accent. I highly recommend it.

Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Bucatini

From Dining In

Ingredients
Kosher salt
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
½ small red onion, very thinly sliced
Crushed red pepper flakes
4 anchovy fillets
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
12 ounces bucatini or spaghetti
Lots of grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onion and season with salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is totally cooked through but not browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the anchovies and stir until they’ve melted into the pan, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook until it turns a brick-red color and sticks a bit to the bottom of the pan, about 90 seconds.

3. Add the tomatoes, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the skillet. Season with salt and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, swirling the skillet occasionally, until the sauce thickens and it tastes so good you can hardly stand it. Add more salt and red pepper flakes if you want. Keep warm and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in the boiling water. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

5. Add the pasta along with ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to the skillet and toss to coat. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the pasta is really well coated, the sauce sticking to each individual noodle in a way that can only be described as perfect.

Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the pasta to a large bowl, or divide it among four smaller bowls. Top with lots of Parmesan cheese.

Bonfire of the Vanities / Miso Rosemary Beans on Toast

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This week’s recipe: Miso Rosemary Beans on Toast

I recently finished reading The Bonfire of the Vanities, which was published a little over 30 years ago. I had read some of Tom Wolfe’s non-fiction and was familiar with his unique style, but I was still blown away by this novel. I think part of it was that I listened to it in audio–serious props to narrator Joe Barrett, who did an amazing job–which both brought the characters to life and allowed me to ignore some of Wolfe’s more annoying stylistic tics.

The plot is relatively simple. Our (anti)hero is Sherman McCoy, a bond trader and self-styled “Master of the Universe.” He has a palatial apartment on Park Avenue, a wife and daughter, and a mistress named Maria. One day, he picks Maria up from the airport and accidentally makes a wrong turn, ending up in the South Bronx. They’re stopped on a ramp by two black teenagers and, assuming that they’re about to be mugged, they skirmish with them and then drive away, hitting one of the boys in the process. The boy, Henry Lamb, falls into a coma, and his case becomes a cause célèbre in the black community–an innocent boy at death’s door because of a hit-and-run from a white couple in an expensive Mercedes. Other characters include Larry Kramer, the vain and bitter assistant district attorney assigned to prosecute the case; Peter Fallow, the alcoholic English tabloid journalist who reports on it; Reverend Bacon, the Al Sharpton-esque race hustler who capitalizes on it; Myron Kovitsky, the fierce, short-tempered judge who decides it; and the various other lawyers, criminals, activists, bleeding hearts, Wall Street traders, and denizens of high society that made up 1980s New York City.

Black, white, Jewish, WASPy, Irish, Italian–nobody escapes Wolfe’s satirical eye, no one is sacred. (Oh, the think pieces and hot takes and righteous Twitter rage this book would generate if it were published today.) No one comes out of this book looking good, except maybe Judge Kovitsky (I suppose Sherman’s six-year-old daughter is fine too). In a different book, Kramer might have been the heroic prosecutor who seeks justice for the disenfranchised. Fallow might have been a dogged pursuer of the truth in the mold of Woodward and Bernstein, trying to get to the bottom of a story that the broader society thinks is unimportant. Even the unlikable Sherman might have been more of a tragic figure, a victim of fate and circumstance whose punishment outweighed his crime. All of these characterizations are, in a way, accurate, but we don’t see them this way because they don’t even see themselves that way. As the book goes on, Sherman comes to realize how his life of privilege and entitlement leads him to make spectacularly self-destructive decisions out in the real world. Kramer finds his job depressing and only puts effort into it when he’s trying to impress a pretty juror. Fallow keeps lucking into scoops despite his laziness and manifest disdain for the story. Wolfe is unsparing in unearthing each character’s foibles and hypocrisies, and much as I loved the book, it does leave a sour taste in your mouth. But that’s a small price to pay for such an honest, well-written, and gosh-darned entertaining book.

In some ways, the story resonates very strongly in an age of extreme wealth inequality and Black Lives Matter. (A character literally says that the Lamb case is going to revolve around whether or not a black life matters to society.) But it’s also an interesting historical portrait of New York at a very different time. I understand in an academic sense that New York in the 70s and 80s was a cauldron of drugs, crime, and racial anxiety. My parents moved here in the mid-70s and everyone thought they were insane. My mom talks about how, when my sister was born in 1981, she was the only baby on the Upper West Side, and all the prostitutes and junkies would coo over her stroller as my parents wheeled her down Amsterdam Avenue. But of course, from the vantage point of today, they had incredible foresight. Today, you can’t walk down a street on the Upper West Side without getting bumped off the sidewalk by strollers. People pay top dollar to live in neighborhoods that their parents and grandparents worked hard to escape, and many more are being squeezed out of neighborhoods where their families lived for generations. The great dark hordes didn’t rise up and overrun Park Avenue; instead, Whole Foods has colonized Harlem. I don’t know if the great novel of post-Giuliani/post-Bloomberg New York is being written right now, but I hope that it’s half as astute, insightful, and sharp as Bonfire of the Vanities.

So anyway, here’s some beans on toast. This is such a pretty dish, one that makes me feel like I’m some slender French lady entertaining guests in my sun-dappled Provence kitchen. Why it makes me feel like that, I don’t know, but I’m going to chase the feeling. It’s also super-easy to throw together and makes for delicious leftovers.

Miso Rosemary Beans on Toast

From Tending the Table

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cloves roasted garlic
2 tablespoons miso
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked navy beans
2 slices sourdough toast
Red pepper flakes

INSTRUCTIONS 

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the rosemary and fry for a minute or so, until bright green and crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the roasted garlic, miso, apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard and salt in a blender and puree on high until completely smooth. Pour the mixture into the pan with the rosemary infused oil and simmer, whisking constantly, until thickened and reduced slightly.  Add the beans and toss to coat.

To serve, top each slice of toast with a generous serving of beans, some crispy rosemary and red pepper flakes.

Aziz Ansari / Dad’s Magic Soup

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This week’s recipe: Dad’s Magic Soup

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman in possession of a blog must have a hot take on the Aziz Ansari story. In this case, it’s not such a hot take, since the story broke on Saturday, a veritable eternity in Internet time. Really, all of the takes have been took. I come down firmly on the side that says that this was nothing worse than classic bad sex; that Ansari was undoubtedly sleazy and aggressive but didn’t do anything that warranted having embarrassing details of his personal life put out there for all to see; and that we need to encourage women to be more vocal about what they want (or don’t want) and teach men to be more aware of their partners’ body language.

Even though I think it was wrong to publish this piece, I appreciate the conversations that it’s generated and the way it’s made me challenge my own thinking. I was talking about it with a friend, and we both agreed that the author laid on the naiveté a little thick. I said that any woman in her 20s with some dating/sexual experience who pursued a celebrity, went on a date with him, went back to his house for drinks, got naked with him, and gave and received oral sex (twice!) should have seen what was coming next.

But isn’t that blaming the victim? We’ve all heard, and abhorred, victim blaming. She wore a short skirt, what did she think would happen? She had a drink, what did she think would happen? She was out alone late at night, what did she think would happen? It’s the oldest trope in the book, literally. Commentators on the biblical story of Dinah blame her for getting raped because, the text says, she “went out among the women of the land.” She left the house, the commentators say, what did she think would happen?

Now, I don’t think that Grace was a victim of anything worse than a bad date. Ansari is famous, of course, but he’s not her boss and has no authority over her career. Dude also weighs about 90 pounds so I don’t think physical intimidation was a likely issue. There was nothing keeping her there except the social pressure that women feel to please men (this clip sure hasn’t aged well). When she finally verbalized her unhappiness, Ansari called her a cab and later apologized to her without any hint of defensiveness. It really does seem like a miscommunication.

My empathy is limited here because I’ve been in scenarios where I’ve hooked up with a guy and very clearly and firmly told him that I’m not interested in having sex that night. None of them reacted at all badly, and I just can’t see why Grace couldn’t do the same. But I’m not her and I don’t want to judge someone whose situation I only know from a badly written article. So I wonder if the only way out of the “what did she expect?” trap is to change the expectation. As somewhat of a prude, I’ve often commented to more adventurous friends how crazy it is that, in modern heterosexual dating, first you exchange bodily fluids in an incredibly intimate act that could possibly result in a child that would bond you two together for the rest of your lives…and then you get to know each other! What if the expectation was that a modern city gal like Grace wouldn’t have sex on the first date? I don’t want to go back to the days where a woman’s virtue was considered lost if she had sex before marriage, but I wonder if it’s a good idea to pump the brakes on first- or second-date sex until we have, as a society, a better handle on what constitutes consent. Maybe that’s controversial or sex-negative, but I don’t think it’s controversial or sex-negative to say that sex with someone that you care about or love or at least respect is better than the alternative, and can help you avoid unfortunate incidents like the one between Grace and Ansari. I don’t know how you’d finesse it so that people who genuinely wanted to have sex on the first date wouldn’t be considered loose but I’m not the empress of the universe so I have no way to implement this idea anyway. It’s just a thought!

So anyway, here’s some soup. This is my absolute favorite soup in the world. I call this Dad’s magic soup because a) my dad makes it all the time and b) it is magic. What is magic about it? A) the taste, which is rich and creamy and amazing, and b) the fact that you can put pretty much any combination of veggies in it and it still turns out tasting the same, i.e. delicious. It’s the perfect soup to make when you have a bunch of veggies in your crisper that are about to turn, and while I never make the croutons because I am lazy, I can tell you that they taste utterly heavenly.

Dad’s Magic Soup, aka Vegetable Cream Soup

Adapted (slightly) from The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews

Ingredients

The vegetables that go into the soup vary according to season and taste, but two
ingredients, in addition to the onion and herbs, remain constant. These are potatoes
and cooked dried beans, which give the soup body and that wonderful, creamy texture.
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion
2 pounds of a variety of vegetables such as green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, celery, turnip, potatoes, leek, spinach, green peas, all trimmed and coarsely chopped
2 large sprigs Italian parsley
2 tablespoons shredded fresh or 1½ teaspoons dried basil leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red
pepper
2 cups cooked dried beans (see below)
5 cups cold water
2 cups fried or toasted croutons
(see below)
Instructions

In a large pot, heat oil and lightly brown garlic in it. Discard garlic and add onion. Lightly brown onion; add all the remaining vegetables and herbs but not the cooked dried beans. Add salt and red pepper and cook, stirring, 5 or 6 minutes, to allow all of the seasonings to blend with the vegetables. Add cooked dried beans and 5 cups of cold water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Strain through a sieve, or blend in a blender or processor or with an immersion blender. Serve hot or cold according to the season, with fried or toasted croutons.

Cooked dried beans: To make 2 cups of cooked dried beans, start with 1 cup of dried Great Northern beans (about ½ pound). Spread on a plate and pick out any stones and very small or cracked beans. Rinse twice in warm water. Place in a large pot and add 1 quart of hot water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to lowest point and simmer, covered, for ½ hour. Add 1 fresh sage leaf (or ¼ teaspoon of dried sage leaves – not powder) and ½ clove garlic, husk on, and simmer for ½ to 1 hour longer. When cooked, drain. The beans can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.
Croutons: Dice four slices of hearty white bread into cubes (Dad uses Healthy Delites Organic French Country bread from Fairway). For fried croutons, heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a large skillet until quite hot but not smoky. Drop diced bread into it and fry quickly, stirring, until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel to drain. For toasted croutons, placed diced bread with no oil on a baking sheet. Toast under the broiler for approximately 2 minutes, shaking the baking sheet frequently. Remove from heat and let cool thoroughly, stirring from time to time.