Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Banana Republic Bread

We must always take time from our vigilant war against Fascism to remind ourselves of what it is we are fighting for. "Banana Bread?" you say. "The demonic culinary legacy of United Fruit????" Well, one important way to combat the American Malaise is discerning the Good from the Bad; and recognizing that sometimes, there is Good within the Bad, and Bad within the Good. Good = Initially, United Fruit salaries and working conditions represented a significant step up for Central Americans who were fortunate enough to find employment with it, and bananas are an excellent addition to the produce section of our grocer's. Bad = Continuous, many times violent, meddling in various governments, and our own government's conflation of the National Interest with the interests of United Fruit - something that has resulted in the continued (and well-founded) suspicion with which we are regarded by our neighbors to the south. Some day, hopefully, the lovely folks who allegedy represent our interests in Washington will re-think the notion that our Government and Armed Forces are a kind of Chamber of Commerce on steroids, to be deployed any time our multi-national masters deem it desirable.

In the meantime, banana bread is delicious, satisfying and not-too-difficult to make - especially if you have a stand mixer. After decades of immersion mixers (many times one in each hand) I finally broke down and bought a Kitchenaid stand mixer, which, while it is expensive, is made here, in Ohio and is on the UAW's "do buy" list. It's heavy as a late-model Buick - almost as big, and should last me a really long time.

While I would love to take credit for this recipe, it is actually from the Epicurious.com website. Was originally printed in Gourmet Magazine and is credited to a bakeshop called Flour, in Boston. The only change I've made is that I use sour cream instead of creme fraiche, because well, you try and get creme fraiche in near-East L.A. But whatever kind of fermented dairy product you choose, this banana bread kicks ass, and it does so twice, as it renders two loaves. Guaranteed to be a hit at your next subversive get-together, except with that one person who can always be counted on to take you to task for everything from your ingredients to the fact that the electricity to bake your bread came from a coal-fired electricity plant.

But then, we all have blood on our hands, don't we?


3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
1/4 cup crème fraîche
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups walnuts (4 oz), toasted and chopped

Special equipment: a standing electric mixer


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and walnuts gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Cooks' note:
• Banana bread keeps, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature 2 days or frozen 1 month.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sarah Palin - High School Confidential

Okay, so now the news comes that Wetbrain McCain is enjoying an enormous surge in popularity with women thanks to his selection of Caribou Barbie as running mate. Which leads me to conclude that a lot of women really ARE as stupid as sexist men make them out to be.

Or maybe it's this: Back in High School I figured out there were two kind of popular girls - the kind who were popular because they were pretty, came from rich families (they could afford to dress well) were reasonably bright and turned out to be, once I put aside my deeply ingrained mistrust of, and general loathing for anything that typified "all-American values" genuinely nice people - decent, wittier than you'd expect, kinder than you'd expect and more than a little savvy about the Game that is American life. Then, you had the other "popular" girl - the pretty one who was popular because despite the fact that she wasn't that smart, wasn't that savvy, wasn't that nice and wasn't that witty. What Popular Girl Number 2 had, however, was that visceral, animal instinct for tapping into that part of her adolescent cronies that is a roiling pit of insecurity desperate for validation. Popular Girl Number 2 was, in short, a scary bitch who had perfected a subtle form of terrorism and set herself up for life as Arbiter of All Things Cool and Not, at least for spineless, lame girls who saw self-worth only in the approval of others - other men, other women, their pastor, whatever.

Sarah Palin strikes me as that kind of gal. Mediocre in every respect and damn proud of it, she's the kind of person who makes you feel like her best friend as long as you don't step out of line. Stepping out of line would include: questioning her opinions, assuming that you're in a relationship of equals, excelling or doing something to draw attention to yourself, or holding a different opinion from hers. I can't imagine what kind of hell it must be to be part of her family or social group - always knowing that one false move can send you to Siberia, which, as she reminds us, is really closeby to her state.

The kind of American women who are excited by Sarah Palin are the kind of American women who, as American teens, would put up with anything for approval and wouldn't dream of questioning the established order. Or they're Camille Paglia, who seems to have this unbridled admiration for women who get places by sucking up to men and trading on their sexuality. Maybe women like that just make Camille hot, sort of like when you get liberal guys to admit that well, okay, maybe Ann Coulter is kind of disgusting, but they'd really like to screw her. I understand: I had the hots for Charlton Heston when I was kid...

Just remember one thing, Ladies, this broad hunts wolves from a helicopter and hunts moose with a machine gun...If that doesn't tell you anything, then go ahead and vote for her and decide how you want your hair done when your empty head is mounted on a plaque hanging above a fireplace in some hunting lodge.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Letter from Alaska...

This came to me via a friend in Mississippi via a friend of his in Alaska. I thought it was interesting...If you find the use of the expression "red neck" offensive, try substituting the phrase "poorly-educated narcissist," which is essentially what a redneck is...I've deleted the author's name in the interest of her personal safety...

As an Alaskan, I am writing to give all of you some information on Sarah Palin, Senator McCain's choice for VP. As an Alaska voter, I know more than most of you about her and, frankly, I am horrified that he picked her.

The most accurate description of her is red neck. Her husband works in the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay and races snow mobiles. She is a life time member of the NRA and has worked tirelessly to allow indiscriminate hunting of wildlife in Alaska, particularly wolves and bears. She has spent millions of Alaska state dollars on aerial hunting of these predators from helicopters and airplanes, dollars that should have been spent, for example, on Alaska's failing school system.We have the lowest rate of high school graduation in the country. Not all of you may think aerial predator hunting is so bad, but how anyone (other than Alaska wolf-haters, of which there are many, most without teeth), could think this use of funds is appropriate is beyond me.

She has been a strong supporter of increased use of fossil fuels, yet the McCain campaign has the nerve to say she has "green" policies. The only thing green about Sarah Palin is her lack of experience. She has consistently supported drilling in ANWR, use of coal-burning power plants (as I write this, a new coal plant is being built in her home town of Wasilla), strip mining, and almost anything else that will unnecessarily exploit the diminishing resources of Alaska and destroy its environment.

Prior to her one year as governor of Alaska, she was mayor of Wasilla, a small red neck town outside Anchorage. The average maximum education level of parents of junior high school kids in Wasilla is 10th grade. Unfortunately, I have to go to Wasilla every week to get groceries and other supplies, so I have continual contact with the people who put Palin in office in the first place. I know what I'm talking about. These people don't have a concept of the world around them or of the serious issues facing the US. Furthermore, they don't care. So long as they can go out and hunt their moose every fall, kill wolves and bears and drive their snow mobiles and ATVs through every corner of the wilderness, they're happy. I wish I were exaggerating.

Sarah Palin is currently involved in a political corruption scandal. She fired an individual in law enforcement here because she didn't like how he treated one of her relatives during a divorce. The man's performance and ability weren't considered; it was a totally personal firing and is currently under investigation. While the issue isn't close to the scandal of Ted Steven's corruption, it shows that Palin isn't "squeaky clean" and causes me to think there may be more issues that could come to light. Clearly McCain doesn't care.

When you line Palin up with Biden, the comparison would be laughable if it weren't so serious. Sarah Palin knows nothing of economics (admittedly a weak area for McCain), or of international affairs, knows nothing of national government, Social Security, unemployment, health care systems - you name it. The idea of her meeting with heads of foreign governments around the world truly frightens me.

In an increasingly dangerous world, with the economy in shambles in the US, Sarah Palin is uniquely UNqualified to be vice president. John McCain is not a young man. Should something happen to him such that the vice president had to step in, it would destroy our country and possibly the world to have someone as inexperienced and inappropriate as Sarah Palin. The choice of Palin is a cheap shot by McCain to try to get Hillary supporters to vote for him. when McCain introduced her today, Palin had the nerve to compare herself with Hillary and Geraldine Ferraro. Sarah Palin, you are no Hillary Clinton.

To those of you who, like me, supported Hilary and were upset that she did not get the nomination, please don't think that Sarah Palin is a worthy substitute. If you supported Hillary, regardless of what you think the media and the democratic party may have done to undermine her campaign, the person to support now is Obama, not Sarah Palin. To those of you who are independent or undecided, don't let the choice of Palin sway you in favor of McCain. Choosing her shows how unqualified McCain is to be president. To those of you who are conservative, I guess you have no choice for president.

But please try to see how the poor choice of Palin tells us a great deal about McCain's judgment. While the political posturing inherent in the choice of Palin is obvious, the more serious issue is the fact that the VP is, literally, a heartbeat away from the presidency. Sarah Palin is totally and unequivocally unqualified to be vice president, let alone president. I know this is a lengthy and emotional email, but the stakes are high. I thought it might help for all of you, regardless of political affiliation, to know something about Palin from someone who has to live with her administration in Alaska on a daily basis.