Friday, March 23, 2012

A Cinematic Irony

The other night, we sat down to watch what Kirk thought was 'Wrath of Khan' ("Ricardo Montalban gets so mad! It's so great!") but instead, he had inadvertently chosen, 'My Name Is Khan", a Bollywood drama. Quite a difference.

It tells the story of Rizwan Khan, an Indian Muslim man with Asburger's Syndrome. He comes to the US and marries Mandira, an unspeakably beautiful Hindu hairdresser. Life is lovely until 9/11, then prejudice sets in. The family's surname causes Mandira's son, Sam, to be fatally victimized and Mandira blames her husband's surname for his death.

In a blind rage, she kicks him out. Rather innocently, he asks, "When should I return?" She screams that he should not return until she tells everyone, including the President of the United States, that his name is Khan and he is not a terrorist. He sets off to do just that.

Other than enduring some painfully exaggerated American stereotypes (including a big, black woman named "Mama Jenny" and a parade of mean, white guys in full redneck mode (in San Francisco, no less) and the notable exclusion of blonde woman) we enjoyed the film and appreciated the story it had to tell.

But I note it here because of two connections it has to recent events:

Speaking Openly to Our Elected OfficialsThe U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in a case involving the arrest of a Colorado man who was thrown in jail after telling Vice President Cheney in 2006 that the Bush administration's policies in Iraq were "disgusting." Though he had only tapped the VP on the shoulder, he was put in handcuffs (in front of his 10-year-old son) 10 minutes later and taken to jail. His wife had to bail him out and the district attorney opted not to press charges...because he hadn't done anything except express his views to an elected official.

Khan faced a similar challenge when he tried to approach the President. And while one is a dramatization of a socially-challenged individual and the other is a real life incident, I couldn't help but compare them. Yes, I understand the safety of these people is the job of the secret service, so why do they disagree on what happened? And why was this man not arrested immediately?

Hate Crimes in France
That morning, I listened as NPR described the horrific scene in Toulouse, France, a lovely town I've actually visited. A extremist Muslim killed four people at a school. One scene described how he grabbed a little girl's hair, put a gun straight to her head and pulled the trigger without remorse. He's dead now but we know now he was allegedly avenging the deaths of Palestinian children and trying to incite more hatred.)

Despite their differences, leaders of Muslim and Jewish communities organized a march together, said one, "It only makes sense if we do it together." Said another, "The gunman clearly is trying to make us hate one another. It will not work." 

All this stuff was roiling around in my head while watching these heartfelt (and somewhat cheesey) film. Funny how life issues can gel into a theme sometimes. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

3 Days of Veganism

There have been a number of factors leading up to this dietary experiment but in the end, it was a viewing of 'Forks Over Knives' that made me consider an all-plant-based diet for a few days. When I heard that a family member close to me (and not that much older) had cholesterol in the 300s and another friend (mid-50s) had a heart attack and not even realize it, I thought it was time to consider the benefits.

Since I've been mostly vegetarian for a couple of years now (solid exceptions: my mother's meatloaf, organic-grassfed-local beef and anything killed in a hunt), the idea of cutting out cheese, dairy, eggs, and even honey. sounded ludicrous. Man, I do loves my cheese, especially bleu, tossed in a spinach salad. Plus, I'm a cold cereal fan from way back and milk is a key part of that scenario.

But since I've taken to running almost every day, I'm looking to take my diet more seriously too. Thankfully, I'm without ailments or conditions and every doctor I speak to is always alarmed that I take no medications, only vitamin supplements (1-a-day, calcium w/D and fish oil). Why are they surprised?

Because in 2007, the average American had 12.6 prescriptions a year, up from 8.9 in 1997, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. We keep throwing drugs at all our health problems, meanwhile, we get sicker and sicker, fatter and fatter. 

To be clear, I don't think it is necessary the eating of any meat that is the issue, it's the heightened frequency of eating modern meat (bursting with anti-biotics and hormones) that is the real problem. 
"He found that people who consumed about one serving of red meat (beef, pork or lamb) per day had a 13 percent increased risk of mortality, compared with those who were eating very little meat. And processed meats raised the risk higher, to about a 20 percent increased risk of death from diseases including cancer and heart disease."
--'Death By Bacon? Study Finds Eating Meat Is Risky', NPR, 3/12/12

Anyway, I am carrying extra weight that I would not miss so we're giving the whole vegan thing a go and see what, if anything, my body has to say about it. If I can manage it, I may just be vegan M-F and go back to just being a standard food snob on the weekends.

Hoping to get some help from my very talented friend, Susan, who runs a wildly successful site and blog, Fat Free Vegan. She also lives in Mississippi, which makes me love her more.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Duck Dinner

It started back in April 2011 at TEDxMile High, when they gifted attendees with a free organic duck from Grant Family Farms. FREE CLEAN MEAT! Even as striving vegetarian, I could not pass it up such a deal.

Next thing I knew, we were CSA members with a working veggie share. The very next next thing we knew, we were hacking down thistles in Grant's garlic field in the sweltering summer sun.

At the end of that hardworking day (which was awesome), I chased some poor Grant FF intern around with my coupon for a free duck. We would not be leaving without it.

After about 40 minutes of visiting every nook and cranny of the operation, I finally noticed that the big white freezer I was sitting on was labeled: "DUCKS." And so, we carried home our frozen friend, put it in the freezer, where it stayed for many months.

Finally, I decided that the time had come and we should have our friend, Camille, over for a pre-Valentine's duck feast. And well, if we're going to serve a fancy meat, we should certainly think about some side dishes....a salad, of course...perhaps some appetizers too....a starter soup?...and what about sauce for the star bird?

From there, it got out of control. It turned into an absurd and totally unwarranted gourmet meal, the likes of which may never be repeated in my lifetime, which is why I must document it here.

At about 2 p.m. that afternoon, Kirk and I looked at each other and worried: "What if Camille cancels? We'll have to recruit guests from the village!" When she finally walked through the door at 6:30 p.m., she saw the menu written on the board and gasped:

The menu:
  • Fragrant Brown Rice & Mushroom Soup
  • Spinach Salad (with tomatoes, bleu cheese and sunflower seeds)
  • Green Bean Amandine
  • Wild Rice
  • Wheatberry Salad (using wheat from our NoDak farm)
  • Apple & Prune Dressing
  • Roasted Minighetti
  • Bread & Wine
  • Roast Duck with Dried Cherry Chutney
  • Flourless Chocolate Cake
  • Vanilla Bean Ice Cream 
All of it was made from scratch and by the time it was over, I swore I would not cook again for months, which lasted for about a week. Camille brought the bread and wine and gushed/moaned in all the right places (in person and on Facebook) - the perfect guest. And it only took us two days to get all the dishes washed!

My feet were absolutely killing me and we may have gotten duck on the walls but it was totally worth it.