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Food bloggers, too, are in recovery-from-election mode. Skip down to recipe if need be.

In our difficult, name-calling, post-election country, our American world appears divided–though not shattered–by fear, unhappiness, anger,  and misunderstanding. (The entire world is divided not just by politics, but between those who have food and homes and those who don’t.) As we move toward our usually happy day of Thanksgiving, we feel left and right, liberal and conservative, blue and red, educated and unscholarly, open and closed, Fox and MSNBC, Rush Limbaugh and NPR…  I don’t feel as if we are split as much by religion (though some might not agree) if only because I drank the “justice for all and freedom of religion” kool-aid and do not want to believe any government of mine would pit one religion against another.  The issue of race is, it seems, more complicated.  A mix of cultures and religions is who we’ve always been and always will be, though; it’s the beauty and at times the ugliness of the United States.  Right now it’s ugly. The train left the station long ago about this being a Christian country. And, truthfully, while Dave and I remain firmly entrenched, working and worshiping within a progressive protestant Christian community, the majority of people we know don’t even worship. Anywhere.  (Though worshipers are still largely and sadly divided by race.) The believing who go to mosque, synagogue, or church regularly are, more and more, the faithful fewer–perhaps under 25% of our population. How could religion be key here? Hmm. When I hear, “The evangelicals are back in power,” I can’t help but wonder. 

I haven’t turned the tv back on since the election except to see Netflix or the Weather Channel; cable is being canceled in our house. (I think we’ll go to the movies once in a while and donate the rest of the cash to the food pantry.) At first I was just immobilized by lack of sleep.  But now not only am I convinced we were skewed this way and that way by our media choices, I am also sure we were further divided by them. The information flowing forth was mostly whatever you wanted to hear, depending on your viewpoint. Fake news outperformed real news.  You believed Hillary was a murderer and internet criminal if you listened to Fox News or conservative talk radio. Had you read the New York Times, the Washington Post, or seen MSNBC, you’d certainly have known she was exonerated from wrong-doing over and over as she was attacked repeatedly. Without a doubt, she was the most experienced and qualified and had devoted her entire life to public service. No matter where you were, you didn’t miss disgusting, mind-printing photographs and video of Donald Trump making fun of a disabled journalist or spouting any one of many terrifying, horrific, and or sordid, oft-repeated mottos legitimizing and normalizing sexual assault and violence.  My guess is, listening to the after-election fallout, that those to the right at least maybe heard things like, “He’s the lesser of the two evils.”

We’ll never change one another’s minds, but my hope is that we might be open to a greater understanding, if not acceptance of other viewpoints, all the while focusing on caring for instead of hating one another. Putting people of one religion on lists? Building walls that can’t work at what cost? Insisting you can shoot someone without repercussion?  Could this really be sounding any more like ’30s Nazis? This is the US?  I also pray we haven’t just messed up our country horribly and permanently by focusing and playing so very diligently on our hate and differences that we throw away all the advances made since the ’60s. It’s called fear-mongering. I often think of the Civil War these days. Families and friends torn apart over politics and freedom for all. Like now.

Here’s part of what the most recent Penzey’s (the fine spice company) email said:

 “The open embrace of racism by the Republican Party in this election is now unleashing a wave of ugliness unseen in this country for decades. The American people are taking notice. Let’s commit to giving the people a better choice. Our kindness really is our strength.”

Love wins; love rules, Alyce says. “Cooking trumps racism” is another Penzey’s quote. This is not all about political parties, rednecks, or crybaby liberals; this is a frightening movement in our country we thought we were on the road away from 60 years ago.

Ken Burns, on NPR last Wednesday said,

Denounce Hate.

I couldn’t agree more.  Read on from Burns’ All Things considered interview last May with Michel Martin..

But I think the last few years of murders of African-Americans across the country, often at the hands of figures of authority, remind us that this is out there. And you can retreat to the posturing of your particular political persuasion. But it’s not going to make it go away unless you talk about it. And I think what happens is that because we default to a kind of partisan politics, we always move to demonize the other. And I’d just like to get beyond that.

FEEDING THE HOMELESS IN COLORADO

So another reason I’ve been mia from tv is that I’ve been busy coordinating feeding homeless families in our community of Colorado Springs for the past week. While I for many years have been on homeless cooking teams several times a year, I’ve never before seen our homeless population in Colorado Springs at such a high point that there isn’t shelter or food for  this many. Shelters closed, another large one isn’t yet open, etc. Even when all the shelters are online, we’re told we’ll be short hundreds of beds per night this winter and there’s very little family shelter any time. (Most are for solo women or solo men.) It is also against the law to camp in the city itself. Our church, First Congregational Church of Colorado Springs (UCC),  along with several other local churches and synagogues, has long housed and fed needy families for a week at a go. This time, when our turn ended, there were more and more people with nowhere to go. So they have stayed in the space in which our youth typically meet and each night volunteers bring dinner for up to 18 people. We leave simple breakfast food and lunch-makings to go into bags they’ll carry throughout the day when they’re away from our temporary shelter. It’s snowing tonight.

We are unsure what happens next.  Our guests are fragile people–many of them are not truly well, though they may work and still maintain a car. They simply don’t make enough to pay for an apartment or for daycare for the children. They are praying for any home, not wondering if the weather will hold to put the lights out this weekend or what movie to download for the trip to grandma’s. To many Americans, homeless Americans are the other. The folks we fed this week know this only too well. Did I say how hungry they were?

WORKING TO HEAL THE CHASM SO THAT LOVE WINS…

I guess what I’m saying is this: Try getting out and help your local homeless and marginalized or struggling neighbors this week. Many elderly, too, are food insecure.  When you go to shop for the ingredients for this toothsome cauliflower dish, buy some canned goods or an extra turkey, and take your gift down to the local food pantry or shelter.  While you’re at it, pick up a few pairs of socks for women, men, and children. Maybe a toothbrush and toothpaste, too. Bring that jacket you no longer wear. No time? Make an on-line donation; you can use it an for easy, green holiday gift. (Hey! Look! I fed a family in your honor this year!) This is a positive step when we need one so badly.  It’s also one big step for wo – man kind that we can all do together.

Doesn’t resonate? Maybe instead you could help your local parks department build trails or be a reading buddy at the elementary school in town.  Positive steps will work and generate more positive steps; hating people will not work and will grow fear and suffering. We can’t advance as a world if we’re kicking a significant portion of our much-needed population under the bus.

Lift your head and your heart a little and, while the election will still be a reminder of our painfully divided and frightened national community, you’ll be working to heal part of the chasm–or at least toward eliminating hunger, illness, isolation, and abandonment. Being a healer is a good thing. A healer knows no sides.

Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.
– Desmond Tutu

Still, Thanksgiving is coming; the turkey is getting fat.  Pumpkins are ripe. The stores are full of canned green beans, mushroom soup, pre made pies, and packaged rolls.  Nooo!!

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Cook the real stuff. Try this cauliflower dish on for size. You can do it this weekend, freeze it, and put it in the fridge Wednesday night to unthaw. Bake it Thursday after the turkey comes out of the oven.  You’ll be glad you did. Maybe you’ll make two and save one for Christmas. Why not?

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CAULIFLOWER CASSEROLE WITH GRUYÈRE CHEESE–MAKE AND FREEZE AHEAD

12-14 servings

The ’70s cookbook, SILVER PALATE, was a life-changer for American cooks. The Gratinèe of Cauliflower, a famous recipe within (called “That cauliflower dish in the New York Times), has long been a part of my cooking repertoire–most often at Thanksgiving. Here is a much-less caloric, kicked up with better cheese, and healthier version of same, refigured so that it can be made up to a month ahead, unthawed, and baked after the turkey comes out of the oven. Of course you can make it at the last minute or the night before if that better suits. Read through before beginning and don’t cut this in half; the leftovers are crazy-good. This is also an excellent vegetarian main-course if served atop brown rice.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • ounces thinly sliced prosciutto or good-quality ham, cut into thin strips
  • Florets of 2 large heads cauliflower, cut into ¼ inch lengthwise slices
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • cups low-fat milk
  •  Generous pinch of ground cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  •  Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • cup (4 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese (can use the original regular or low-fat Swiss, but I wouldn’t)
  • Large handful chopped fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add olive oil to a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring, for about 1 minute. Stir in the prosciutto or ham and sauté, stirring, 3 minutes more or until the prosciutto is a bit crispy.
  2. Add the cauliflower and cook just until it begins to lose its crispness, 8-10 minutes. (To speed this process, cover and stir regularly.)+
  3. Sprinkle with flour and then pour in the milk. Blend well. Season with the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. (I begin with about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper.) Heat to boiling and take off the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings, remembering you’ll top this with cheese and cheese is salty.
  4. Pour the cauliflower into a lightly greased large shallow oven-safe, freezer-safe casserole dish. Cool completely.
  5. Cover tightly with casserole lid or aluminum foil and freeze* for up to a month. Unthaw, covered, in refrigerator overnight. Take out of the refrigerator an hour or two ahead to speed baking.
  6. Top with the cheese and parsley. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the top is lightly browned and bubbling, about 30 – 45 minutes. Serve immediately.  Ok, I won’t lie; this is good hot, warm, at room temperature, or cold right out of the refrigerator at midnight with a glass of Chardonnay.

+If you’d like to skip the sauce, cheese, and baking, the cauliflower is excellent at this point, too. Season well and serve hot. If you’ve made this with oil, you’re eating cauliflower-prosciutto stir fry.

*A. You can also make straight through and bake.  B. Alternately, make, refrigerate overnight, add the cheese and parsley the next day, and bake. Make sure and let the casserole warm up for for an hour or so before baking, if possible. C.  If you have freezer-to-oven-safe casserole dishes such as Emile Henry or Corning Ware, etc., you can go right from the freezer to the oven with no unthawing.  You’ll need additional baking time, of course, so it might not fit into your 30-40 minute  after the turkey’s out of the oven baking time.

COOK’S NOTE:  Depending on the size of your skillet or sauté pan, you may need to cook the cauliflower in batches.

{printable recipe}

Here’s the original, oh-so-sinful version of Gratinée of Cauliflower published in the New York Times.

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THANKSGIVING ADVICE

My best cooking advice for this week before Thanksgiving is… first:  buy a new peeler. Second: figure out how to sharpen your knives. Third: find your roasting pan and wash it.  It’s in the garage somewhere; you don’t have to buy that flimsy disposable pan from the store. Last, buy extras of the typical Thanksgiving sale items like broth, butter, ham, canned goods, baking items, and turkey. Please buy canned pumpkin for next year now. It’s much better a year later and, hopefully, won’t be out of date.

Last year I got two turkeys for 99cents apiece after Thanksgiving. I roasted one for a fun dinner party in December and Dave butchered the other for Turkey Noodle Soup and Turkey Salad later in the winter. I hope you’re that lucky. Keep your eyes peeled.

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(above:  Butternut Squash Lasagna–G-F and Vegan)

Need a Gluten Free and Vegan Thanksgiving Meal that might make any carnivore happy, as well? This meal, a buffet or potluck, featuring More Time favorites,  is studded by the Butternut Squash Lasagna above, fits the bill.

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Sing a song of peace, love, and understanding; draw your line in the sand about justice, and be the American we all want to be,

Alyce