Monday, October 31, 2011

Aiden and I and Sweet Potato Pie

I was running late picking him up from kindergarten. I knew I only had 15 minutes to spare. Impulsively, I ran into a new grocery store, Green Something, to pick up bread and milk and added more items, you know how it is. Then I went to check out and it’s all self-checkout which I hate. The machine started screeching when I put the chicken in the plastic bag. I was running late and knew that Aiden, my little 6 year old grandson, the worrier, would think I had abandoned him. I drove a too fast down the street, shame on me, and slid into position in the pick-up kid queue at Indian Grove Elementary School. It was 11:35 am and thank God, I was safe. Aiden told me later, “Well, you know Grandma, when you are the last kid waiting they put you in the office and call your parents.” Subtle little stab in the heart.

We unloaded the groceries in my little cottage, “Grandma’s Tree House.” Milk, bread, eggs, root beer, a whole chicken, large eggs, lemons, rosemary, and bananas. Aiden and I settled down into working on a book we made together. It’s called, “Love.” I’d been noticing that his imagination was getting wild and wooly, stretching the bridge between truth and well, untruth.

We wrote the book the weekend before, and then we finished the illustrations. Aiden is really adept at computer stuff, learned how to scan the artwork into the computer in about 10 minutes. He also figured out how to take pictures and download them into the picture file, and then I showed him how to insert it into a document. Sometimes I think he would be perfectly happy having his own apartment with a computer, scanner and printer as long as he had an income stream from somewhere.

So he had dictated his self-description to me, “He is 100 feet tall” and “he has 10 fingers on each hand” and “his grandmother is the baddest Grandma in town.” When I asked how that was possible, he said, “Well, she tries to help people.” Geesh, that’s what made me bad? Anyway the book is hilarious, I did most of the illustrations, and he wrote all the words. He wants to send it to a publisher so we put it in an envelope and sent it to Scholastic, Inc. So it’s on its way to New York. While we wait for glory to come find us, I asked what he wanted to do.

“Let’s cook, Grandma.” Hmmmm. Ah, I remembered the sweet potatoes I had baked the night before. Perfect. I went into Food Network for a recipe and pulled up Emeril’s Sweet Potato Pie. I gave him my “Grandma’s Warning About Electric Mixer’s Talk” and then we began to gather the ingredients. Basically my scary talk is this, “If a child puts his fingers in the beaters he will lose his little fingers.” He’s very careful.

Aiden used the mixer to smooth out the sweet potatoes with the cup of cream, he beat up 4 eggs into the bowl, dumping in the pumpkin pie mix, cloves, salt, ginger, while I scrapped the sides with a wooden spoon. We poured it all into the cooked pie shell, and voila! Around 45 minutes later, it looked like a yummy soufflĂ©. Aiden, sitting in his little wooden chair said, “Oh, Grandma, so delicious!” I’d never had sweet potato pie, but I think we both love it more than pumpkin. Try to make it with someone you love. The love makes it taste better.


•1 egg white, lightly beaten

•1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes

•1 tablespoon vegetable oil

•1/2 cup light brown sugar

•1/2 cup maple syrup

•2 teaspoons ground ginger

•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

•1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

•1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

•1/2 teaspoon salt

•1 cup heavy cream

•4 large eggs

DirectionsPreheat oven to 375 degrees F.I used a pre-made pie shell in the refrigerated section and it worked perfectly.Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch deep pie pan and ease the pastry into the bottom and sides of the pan. Press the dough into the shell and crimp the edges in a decorative pattern. Using the tines of a fork, lightly dock the base of the shell. Place the shell into the oven and bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the bottom with the egg white. Set aside until ready to use.Rub the sweet potatoes with the vegetable oil and roast in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes, until very tender. Remove and set aside to cool. Peel the potatoes and pass the flesh through a fine mesh sieve using a rubber spatula. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of smooth sweet potato puree.In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sweet potato puree with the sugar, maple syrup, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the heavy cream with the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the cream and egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir to blend. Pour the batter into the prepared pie shell and place the pie on a sheet pan. Bake until the center is set and the tart is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting. We made whipped cream out of the leftover cream.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Berkeley

Ten years ago, I was one of maybe 50 people who demonstrated on Shattuck Ave. right in front of the Berkeley downtown Bart. We were railing against the first attacks on Afghanistan; we were a small tentative group, a little fearful of others’ reactions. The bombings were Bush’s response to the 9-11 attacks in New York, so if anyone was firmly against it, then their patriotism was also in question.

Mostly people kept their mouths shut and refused to talk about it. Even my anti-war buddies bit their lips, and then changed the subject. The demonstrations eventually got bigger, and then stopped altogether when Obama was elected. We thought everything would be okay.

Driving down the hill from the tunnels, I drove into town, not positive what time the demonstration would start. I found 2 different times on websites. It began at either 12pm or 1 pm. so I figured other people had trouble with the times as well and were late. I circled MLK Park and saw nothing except the crowded weekly Farmer’s Market.

It was a gorgeous October Saturday afternoon in front of me. Trees the color of fire and copper spread out on Shattuck Avenue. Tons of students everywhere, couples strolling hand in hand, knots of kids circling outdoor tables drinking coffee at cafes, or just basking in the soft sun. And still, no demonstration to be seen or heard so far. Finally after my third go around of the park and Farmer’s Market, I heard something. I saw a few cops on motorcycles and a couple of them on bicycles wearing shorts. Looking up the street I saw them and heard them, “The citizens united Can NOT be divided.”

Being generous, I would say there were about 200 people of all ages, not too many student types, carrying sounds, and chanting. It's never a good sign when you find open parking places across from a demonstration. I drove around the block to find not one, but two parking places across the street from the large park in front of city hall. Apparently the crowd had marched on the banks in a few tight little blocks and circled back to MLK.
It was a small, but determined group. I am a big supporter of the occupy movement, but my back has me in fits lately, unable to stand very long. I parked, but decided not to cross the street. I watched for awhile, took photos, listened to the chant and wished that more people had shown up. Oakland had a great turnout so they pulled people from Berkeley.

People keep asking what they want, telling them to define themselves, and to make a list of demands. There is no shortage of advice from my generation to theirs. I made a comment to one webpage: They are not asking for our permission or advice. Quit telling them what they have to do. They’ve done more in a month than we’ve done in years. Good on them. They’ve scared Wall Street a little. Hurray!

I know what they want for all of us: true democracy and fairness, a sense of fairness and justice, good, meaningful jobs, affordable housing, competent medical care, and inexpensive excellent education, and a clean environment. No, it’s not too much to ask. It’s what we all deserve for a happy life. I’m so proud of them and all they are doing!

We don’t know how this will end, but we need not be so attached to the results for a first effort. I personally haven’t felt this hopeful in years. As noted author and essayist Chris Hedges said, this is the best antidote for despair we've seen. And that's saying a lot because I think we've been full of fear, worry, doubt, sadness, and anger for far too long.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We the People! Stand Up! Wall Street and D.C.

Lafayette California Gulf War Memorial Oct. 3, 2011

I grew up believing God kept his eye on us all, He leaned on me as I pledged allegiance to the wall.”

Paul Simon

I grew up believing we were a moral country, one with a vision of fairness, of exploration and brilliant ingenuity, when something was wrong or unjust, we tried to fix it, we knew we could. We took on slavery, civil rights, women’s rights, the Vietnam War, polio, and poverty. I thought people in the Congress cared about us. When I was a kid I thought they were statesmen.

No longer. I no longer look to any of them to take good care of us, the people who put them in office. I never would have believed that in my lifetime the Supreme Court would decide that corporations have the rights of citizens to give unlimited funds to influence politicians in Citizens United. Wall Street and politicians are one in the same. Maybe some are honest, but not many.

Their voices now put me to sleep. They talk; my brain goes dull like I’ve been drugged. We no longer have any influence on them. Do you remember how many of us wrote, called, emailed, and showed up in Washington D.C. telling them and Obama not to give Wall Street the bailout money? Did they listen? Did Obama listen?I'm sick of lies and disingenuous talk aimed at keeping us under control.

We've had sustained war for 10 years and adding more deaths each day so that our treasury has been gutted and we are told we have to cut services to children, sick, and elderly people. On Christmas Eve, I took a picture of the Lafayette California Gulf War Memorial. The number of deaths on 12/24/10 was 5822. Now there are 466 more soldiers who have died in this bloody war and all those families whose lives are changed forever. How many mothers and fathers in the U.S., Iraq, and Afghanistan have watched their beloved children being buried? What is wrong with us that we go along with this merciless slaughter? We know in our hearts that it’s so wrong.

This is what people need: good jobs, safe housing, competent health care, a stimulating and profound education, and a government free from the corruption of corporations. We need corporations and rich people to pay their fair share. I don’t care what Wall Street wants. I want a free press, not a corporate press. The wars are not for our benefit or some lofty goal. Who do they serve? Oil Companies? Arms dealers? It is not for the American people. We used to have trials, now we assassinate.

I no longer want to hear what the Democrats or Republicans have to say. They want their good jobs and their influence and power. How did this happen? Ask Congress why we can't go to a doctor? Have you seen those images on TV of doctors and nurses traveling around in our country en mass to provide health care like they were visiting a banana republic, but it turned out to be Oakland? Why can't we have green and good paying jobs? Healthy food without poisons? Medicines that don’t harm? A really clean and healthy environment? Why can't we have good education? Peace?

We can have every bit of those life giving and spirit saving elements in our country and more if we all paid taxes and our representatives served OUR interests. It’s not rocket science. It just takes political will.

Starting tomorrow, Oct. 6th, gatherings will begin, the largest will be in D.C. and New York. Occupy Wall Street is the brightest beacon of hope I’ve seen in years. I’ve read a lot of criticism of the people involved in Occupy Wall Street. I say they’ve got the best cure for despair I’ve seen in 20 years. We don’t know what will happen, but we’ve got to forget about being attached to results. It’s vital to retaining our democracy to be there or support them.I grew up believing we were a moral country. I think we can be that way again, but if we let despair sink any further into our bones we won’t be able to pull ourselves out. Let’s support all who stand up and say, “No More.”

Call to Action - Oct. 6, 2011 and onward-Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed-Statement about Oct. 6th

October 2011 is the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan and the beginning of the 2012 federal austerity budget. It is time to light the spark that sets off a true democratic, nonviolent transition to a world in which people are freed to create just and sustainable solutions.We call on people of conscience and courage—all who seek peace, economic justice, human rights and a healthy environment—to join together in Washington, D.C., beginning on Oct. 6, 2011, in nonviolent resistance similar to the Arab Spring and the Midwest awakening. www.october2011.org Chris Hedges Why I’ll be There