Famed editorial cartoonist Herbert Lawrence Block’s classic criticism of the economic strategies of the Reagan administration, published on Feb. 2, 1984. The fact that such a stark cartoon remains poignant over 30 years later isn’t surprising in the least. But the immediate relevance of the scenario it depicts to current affairs is.

Diary

Choices?

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Diary

Polish Cheesecake

I grew up with cheesecake that was made without cream cheese. My grandparents were all Polish and what we called baker’s or farmer’s cheese was a dry cheese ingredient that was used by commercial bakers for various “danish pastries” and for cheesecakes alike. It was easy to make and seeing as it did not contain sugar in the manufacture of the cheese it was relatively good for you too. Unless of course you had a lactose intolerance (which no one in our family did).

For some years my paternal grandfather was partner in a bakery. Gramps baked at work, and at home. Many a time the whole family would be engaged in baking projects when he baked for church activities; preparing various fruits, grinding poppyseed for a filling, shelling nuts or grinding them. There were a good number of pleasant days spent with the whole family engaged in making sweet smelling things.

But somehow it’s the cheesecake that calls my name loudest. I’ve had recipes and lost them. I made batches like the one that follows and tried others with cream cheese to see whether I liked them better. It’s always to something like this that I return. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 ounces cold butter
  • 2 large egg yolks (at room temperature)
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream

Filling:

  • 5 ounces butter (at room temperature)
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 large eggs (at room temperature, separated)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 pounds farmers’ cheese or bakers’ cheese or in a pinch ricotta

INSTRUCTIONS:

Make the Crust

  • In a large bowl or food processor, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and baking powder. Cut in or pulse 5 ounces cold butter as for pie dough.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together 2 egg yolks and sour cream and add to the flour-butter mixture, combining or pulsing only until combined.
  • If the dough is too dry, add an extra whole egg. If the dough is too soft to roll, refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • Lightly grease a 13×9-inch pan with butter. Roll pastry dough large enough to line the pan and come up the sides. Fit into a pan, making a crimped or rolled edge.
  • Note: If you have leftover dough, roll it into pencil shapes to decorate the top of the filled cheesecake.

Make the Filling

  • Heat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream together 5 ounces room-temperature butter with 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in 4 large room-temperature egg yolks and vanilla until well incorporated. Thoroughly mix in the cheese.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the 4 large room-temperature egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold them into the cheese mixture.
  • Pour filling into pastry crust-lined pan. If you have leftover dough, roll into pencil shapes and lay them diagonally across the top of the cheesecake.
  • Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until the center is only slightly jiggly. Don’t let the top brown.
  • Let cool completely before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Diary

“Love is an illusion and conditional, but hatred is real.”

-Debdut

When I first read this quotation it really rankled me. How cynical I thought.

Then I thought some more and softened my opinion.

I accept that in the first place, “love” too often refers to what are really hormones and lust. Love seems most commonly used to refer to our biological mating paradigm. The idealistic love is only a distant second in terms of frequency of usage.

But…

And it’s a big but…

Hatred is used by many as a powerful motivator to negative action. Certainly the past four years of the Trump Administration go to show how a little encouragement of hatred gives rise to a bloom of manifestations. Hate acts and racist acts have taken a huge upswing in the U.S. and they seem untouchable by any appeal to love or compassion.

The thing is, a lot of humans seem to need to feel superior to someone or something. Rulers and manipulators for centuries have recognized that hatred is a powerful tool. Our military — here in the U.S. — rely upon hatred too. The military goes to lengths to teach personnel that others are the “enemy” and uses a variety of methods to dehumanize all who do not hold to the sacred trust they guard.

When the new Administration took office there was a lot of talk about unification and cooperation, but the thing is that one can only go so far in unifying unless all sides are willing to compromise equally. Compromise on only one side is capitulation. And hatred loves nothing better than capitulation. Hatred wants to win. Hatred wants to destroy opposition. Hatred doesn’t care about unity or compromise unless it puts itself in a better position to win in the end.

You cannot legislate an end to hatred. Hatred doesn’t live in rules, regulations or laws. Hatred lives in the human heart and unless you can teach the human heart to love, hatred will lie dormant there until it senses a clear shot to self-expression and then will burst forth like an angry animal intent on killing prey.

We have had racism laws in this country for well over a century and yet racism is still rampant, and whenever opposition to it settles down it reasserts itself again. It takes generations for racism to disappear. Campaigns of ethnic cleansing in various countries around the world have shown that racial hatred lasts generations so long as it has proponents to teach it’s ways and to inspire it in new generations. Not until parents and grand parents who have themselves learned to overcome hatred have died will there be a generation free from taught hatred. And then the only remaining hurdle will be the hatred that arises when those alive feel slighted, maligned, or mistreated. Clearly in a world in which any injustice lives there will always be such people — who feel slights, or who imagine slights and use them as an excuse to badger, bully, berate, or physically harm or kill others whom they feel have done them wrong.

It is a noble battle to fight against hatred. It is not a battle easily won. But unless we fight it hatred will only grow until it consumes us all.

Love is an illusion, but hatred is real

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Diary

Few there be who find it

I wonder how many people really want to go to heaven? I’m not going to turn this into a sermon, but from pure observation it seems that not a lot of folks — even those who call themselves Christians — care a lot about going to that place that Jesus talked about. Moreover, even Jesus himself seemed to indicate that the “stuff” he was talking about wasn’t for everyone.

“Strait is the gate,
and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life,
and few there be that find it”

–Matthew 7:14

That surely doesn’t seem like a carte blanche invitation to all and sundry. And for those who are doing well in the world as it is Jesus seemed to indicate that it would be even harder for those:

“It is as difficult for a rich man
to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven
as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle”.

–Matthew 19:23

There are a lot of wonderful people in this world. But when it comes right down to it, most of us are pretty happy with the world we are living in, and we aren’t overly keen on drastically changing our life, or our behavior to make it otherwise. Certainly, COVID is a point of proof. There have been clearly identified ways of staying safe from COVID and by the millions humans around the world have resisted following the safe way, and have protested and obstructed attempts to keep the population safe. How should anyone be surprised that humans aren’t in any big hurry to live lives that emulate in fact the principles that Jesus — or even other respected teachers have encouraged upon us.

We have this wonderful ability as humans to have great confidence in our own set of values. That ability has enabled us to modify the world as we know it to suit our needs and our wants. We have harnessed great powers producing electricity, we have manufactured all the devices we want or need to achieve safety and security, but those poor whom Jesus said would always be with us still scrabble around for food and shelter while the rich and even those barely scraping by ignore their plight as if they weren’t there.

It’s funny that I cannot recall a single place in the teachings of Jesus, or indeed in the teachings of any of the great thinkers and philosophers where they told us that doing the right thing was going to be easy. Jesus, and indeed all the other great teachers told us what they had to say and left the matter up to us from that point on.

I rather think that behaving in a Christian manner, or following any philosophy or religion boils down to the same thing: you have to want to do it. No matter what you know, unless you are willing to follow the ideals set out by your teacher the things you have heard are — essentially — meaningless. You have to try. You have to attempt. You may fail, you may not succeed, but unless you put your shoulder to the burden and push — nothing happens. You don’t move the challenge in front of you. You don’t over come. You don’t enter into the kingdom of heaven, or earth, or anywhere else.

As a Christian I know that Jesus promised his “followers” a lot of wonderful thing. But the kicker always was that there was the assumption that those who followed would do what he said. Today I see great big churches and fancy surroundings but I wonder where the teachers like Jesus are — the ones who follow his lifestyle, and do what he said. Instead I see a lot of people trying to be like everyone else, or better than everyone else. We still have the poor. We still have the downtrodden.

I wonder how many people really care about going to heaven? From what I see around me it sure doesn’t seem like there are very many. I can live my own life as best I can according to the standards I accept as important, and I know what changes I make in my own life to be a better person than I am just being myself. But around me I see a lot of unwillingness to engage, a lot of unwillingness to do better, a lot of “I don’t care about others.” It makes me sad because I know a lot of folks think they are doing what they should — and all the time they are just doing what they want to do.

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Diary

North Carolina Lemon Pie

I have always loved Key lime pie so, when I saw a recipe for North Carolina Lemon Pie on Ameria’s Test Kitchen, I had to make it.  Of course, I waited for my cheat day, so I could eat a piece of it guilt-free.  The simple recipe does take some time, but it is worth the wait.

North Carolina Lemon Pie

Crust

  • 53 saltines (6 ounces/1 1/2 sleeves)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

Filling

  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Topping

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

I set the oven to 350-degrees.  I put the crackers and salt in the food processor and pulse 15 times.  When they were coarse crumbs, I poured in the melted butter and corn syrup, pulsing another 15 times until the mixture became coarse oatmeal sized pieces.  I turned the dough into a greased 9-inch pie plate and used a one-cup measuring cup to work the crackers evenly across the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate.  I put the crust in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet and baked it for 19 minutes until it turned golden.

While the crust baked, I cleaned up and prepared the mise en place for the filling.  After I took the crust out of the oven, I whisked together the condensed milk, egg yolks, cream, lemon zest and salt until they were smooth.  Heavy cream can be challenging to find.  Harris Teeter is the only store in my area where I have found it.  If need be, you can use heavy whipping cream in place of the heavy cream.  I then added the lemon juice, whisking until it was well combined.

I poured the mixture into the pie crust (you do not need to let the crust cool down first), smoothed it out and baked it an additional 17 minutes.  When done, the inside should jiggle slightly while the outside edge is set.  I put the pie on the cooling rack to cool completely and then put it in the refrigerator for four hours.

When it was time to eat the pie, I whipped the cream, sugar and vanilla using the stand mixer, starting on medium-low for one minute and then turning it up to high for about three minutes.  I watched the consistency of the cream to make sure I didn’t over whip it.  When the cream was at stiff peaks, I spread it over the pie.

The filling is very sweet, so the saltiness from the cracker crust worked nicely. I don’t usually use sugar in the whipped cream when I make Key lime pie because of the sweetness. I think that would work for this pie as well. This delicious pie (even Chris ate the whole piece) was even better the next day. At 511 calories a slice, with 53 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber, 31 fat grams and 8 grams of protein, I will reserve this one as a special treat.

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Diary

Cooking by Weight

The best investment I have made in the kitchen — in a lot of years — has been a kitchen scale! It all started when I got out my bread machine a few years ago started baking bread regularly. In search of new recipes for fun I came across the “baker’s recipe” for bread, which is based on percentages. On a whim I picked up the cheapest home scale I could find for about $10.00 and I started using it first for bread, then for most everything.

I’m not advocating a huge expenditure, a perfectly usable scale can be had for +/-$10.00

As I said, it wasn’t a huge expense. For the cost of a couple Starbucks fancy coffees you can get a usable scale and aside from putting the periodic battery in them they seem to last and last and last. Look for one that changes between lbs and grams and aside from that all you have to do it turn it on, zero out the weight using the appropriate button, and off you go.

I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. Post WWII this country was booming and even though our family had some lean years it seemed as if my parents preferred giving up on other things and eating well. As a result I have struggled all my life with buying my clothes down the “husky” aisle. We never had the same selection of color or style — we had what was “practical” or serviceable. I suppose on some level that may be why I react negatively even to this day to the word “practical.” But on with the story.

When you watch cooking shows on TV you often hear that baking is scientific; you have to have the recipe just right and you have to follow the recipe. Following directions is something I’ve never been good at. I rarely make the same dish the same way twice and although I have owned a lot of cookbooks in my life they have all been “just for reference” as when the time came to put ingredients in a bowl I pretty much winged it. Until I started baking bread.

A few years ago I came across a bread baking site on the InterWebs and I was astounded. There was a “standard” bread formula that almost all commercial bakers used. It amounted to weighing out your flour and then adjusting the amount of water, yeast, salt and any other ingredients you were putting into it by percentages of the flour-weight. Most common for a handmade loaf is water is 70% of flour weight, yeast, salt, sugar, milk and other such items are each some smaller percentage — usually between 0.25% and 2%.

Some bread machines don’t like dough to be quite that wet. For my Zojirushi machine I have learned that I need to make a slightly dryer loaf otherwise the preset bake time doesn’t get the baked bread quite as dry as I would like so I use something closer to 65%. The Breadman machine that we have at our summer place seems to do just fine at 70%. Obviously, the same exact formula in 2 different machine will produce loaves with a slightly different weight as no two bread machine manufacturers use exactly the same timings or heat settings. And, to make matters even more interesting the Japanese Zojirushi machines are designed to favor a sweeter milk bread rather than a milkless European loaf.

For example, I regularly make a 1 pound loaf:

  • 170 grams water
  • 018 grams vegetable oil
  • 020 grams sugar
  • 180 grams bread flour
  • 080 grams AP or Whole Wheat flour
  • 020 grams powdered buttermilk
  • 020 grams malt
  • 080 grams salt
  • 010 grams yeast

When I weigh everything out accurately the bread comes out identically every single time. When I get sloppy all sorts of things can happen. This is only one of several recipes I use but for just the two of us, geezers as we are who don’t eat nearly as many carbs as we once did a 16 ounce loaf lasts long enough not to need to make a loaf everyday but we finish them before they dry out.

A true french bread would only use four ingredients, flour, water, salt, yeast and I have made very acceptable loaves using the percentages of only those 4 ingredients.

I wish the website I found 9 or 10 years ago was still active. I tried it a year or so ago and it seems that the site had been closed down but there was an interactive live spreadsheet that you could use to calculate almost any ingredient you imagined (with a suggested range of percentages to try) and upon deciding your final loaf weight the spreadsheet would calculate out all the weights you needed to add. I’m sure the computer savvy folks out there could produce their own spreadsheets but it was a lovely, easy tool to try. Now I just adjust my own formula as suits.

However, what I discovered is that once I started weighing out bread ingredients I started paying closer attention to how much of everything I have been eating and that single factor has made a significant impact on what I eat now and how much. It’s funny that there should be a knock-on effect but I found it true.

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Diary

Sundown

I have been enjoying the world of drone photography lately. While I appreciate that some folks get really freaked out by the idea of drones that can monitor their activities — and rightly so — I can’t help but admire the new viewpoint on our world that drones are giving us.

I’m not a huge fan of social media and I post very little on Instagram but I chanced upon some hashtags that have been giving me top-down looks at cities, at landscapes, and among other things at whales. The opportunity to see humans interacting with the largest creatures on the face of the planet in particular has been inspiring to me. We know so little about other species — really. For millennia we thought animals to be less than humans but in the last century we have learned so much — and continue to do — about their social skills and interactions and their languages. Truly, there are a few species that act more human than some of our own species, and certainly many are far more “humane” than humans too often reveal themselves to be.

Unfortunately the Instagram videos are not sharable on this platform; I wish I could share some of the examples. But alas.

Even if you don’t want to post, sometimes having access to some of the social media can give added insight into our society than we might get just from newspapers or tv.

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Diary

Slowly, Slowly

The world of late has seemed to creep along in first gear. I’m ready and waiting for something exciting, I have my helmet on and my goggles ready to shield my eyes from the fast rushing wind, but there’s been little to get excited about.

That said, we did get our authorization code from our healthcare provider making us eligible for our first jab of COVID vaccine and both of us make the journey tomorrow morning to get that taken care of. Hopefully at that time we’ll be able to schedule our re-jab so as to get the whole vaccination debacle out of the way, but time will tell.

A few of our contemporaries have already been jabbed — some younger than ourselves have also had their SECOND dose as well, but they are all employed by a healthcare organization (although NOT in frontline service and working from home rather than in patient care).

Fact of the matter is, I’ve been struggling with my own state of mind. As I write this we have been primarily sheltering-at-home for now 340 days. Yeah, sure…. we have made some short (1 day) driving trips where we visited our trailer, or went to a state park where we kept to ourselves, and we had a few at-distance-while-masked family meetings but it’s mostly been nearly a year of the two of us being together.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. All of my working life which had me traveling far more than I would have preferred I kept hoping we’d somehow find a way of working together so we didn’t have to be apart so much of the time, but that never happened. When we took the option of retiring early I was delighted, and continue to be delighted to be able to spend pretty much all of my time with the wonderful lady who has been my wife these 50+ years. We get along, and we get each other, and we’re best friends. I know some people have a hard time believing that but we are truly the lucky ones. What might be a miserable situation — being stuck in the house with a partner they don’t care for — is not the cross we bear.

Still, it’s been hard not having more interactions with others. The occasional Doctor’s visit, our trips our for curbside delivery of groceries when we shout to the back end of our vehicle while a nice lady named Becky loads groceries into the car, and a very few visits INTO a rare number of stores that offer no curbside delivery have been a far cry from the talk-to-anyone lifestyle we used to enjoy — and we know we are just two of 7+ billion people struggling along in the same mode.

We both are mostly optimistic and happy people — by nature. So it hasn’t been like we’ve felt imprisoned but even the strong are allowed their odd says of frustration and disheartenment. For myself that has been exacerbated recently by sadness over the careless attitudes of so many of our citizens. While I’m a Christian who believes God created the heavens and the earth there are times that I understand why darwinian evolution appeals to some because surely give the behavior of a great man of our citizens there has been some thinning of the herd and will continue to be based on their actions. When people used to use the expression “avoid them like the plague” I now realize that a great many people don’t seem to have the sense to do exactly that.

So, it’s been a quiet time here in “Whoville” — the characters are all in their places and doing what characters are supposed to do.

I see that March 1 the county Museum and Art Museum are scheduled to reopen to the public. Businesses around town are remodeling and trying to find COVID secure new models for themselves. I’m glad that people are looking at what has happened as worthy of changes to their business plans.

Also I have been noticing our local COVID stats:

The population has finally gotten the idea and between vaccinations and social distancing we have been lowering the incidence of COVID outbreaks. Good signs, for sure. But still it’s a dangerous time for many.

For myself I’m working on improving my attitude. I hope you are too.

Spring is on the horizon — I’ve been saying that since December 1 seeing as I am not a happy-winter-ite. But, we are legitimately 2/3 of the way through this winter and spring can’t come fast enough for me. Our membership park where our summer getaway is located opens April 15th and I’d say I’m already salivating but why mix metaphors, right?

Stay safe out there. ‘

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