Constantly Late and Begging for Applause

Kind of tired of watching big organizations (political parties, churches, etc, etc, etc) look for a standing ovation when they finally come around on an issue (doesn’t matter what it is, pick your favorite).

No, sorry, you don’t get credit for being a late follower. If you project an air of infallibility and want everyone to believe that you’re on the side of truth and justice and love and all that other good stuff you say you believe – YOU’D HAVE BEEN EARLY TO THE PARTY. You should have helped organize it.

You don’t get to show up at the last minute after people have spent decades fighting your lies and pretend that this is some great thing you’re doing. You’re LATE. You were on the wrong side the whole time and don’t even have the courage to admit it other than a couple of trite press releases written by your lawyers and a couple of donations to charities that helped all the people you hurt.

You get no credit. Screw you.

Welcome to the party, but we were just wrapping up. There might be a couple crackers left. Sorry, but all the dip’s been eaten and we’re out of wine. Feel free to make your own.

Southern Pork Ramen Broth

A photo of a stock pot full of stock.

I volunteered to make “meat and a lot of it” for the annual Savannah-Chatham Citizen Advocacy Covered Dish Supper, and decided I’d try my hand at smothered pork chops. My plan was to make pork stock, make gravy from it, then sous vide the pork chops (all 35 pounds of them), so I could do most of the prep the weekend before and then just throw it all together. It mostly worked. I could never get the gravy to thicken, I think because of all the fat in it. But, the stock was delicious and I should have just taken it and a bunch of spoons (the pork chops were delicious – sous vide and pork go really well together).

I used a 2 gallon stock pot, so scale this appropriately for the amount of liquid you’re going to use!

So, I’ll skip the gravy part that didn’t work, and instead just share my bonkers “Southern Ramen Broth a la Momofuku” recipe with you.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sliced pork belly
  • 1 pound jowl bacon (or bacon if you can’t find jowl bacon – something that’s lightly cured and not full of artificial flavor)
  • 2-3 pounds of country ribs (or shank or shoulder).
  • 3 giant onions (or 3lbs however you want to get there), quartered
  • 3 giant carrots (or 1lb)
  • 6 celery stalks
  • 1 bunch of green onions, with the root end taken off
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • Some thyme and rosemary
  • A quarter cup of soy sauce
  • A quarter cup of Worchestire Sauce
  • A bunch of salt (a couple tablespoons probably)
  • A quarter-cup-ish of black peppercorns, just leave ’em whole
  • I also threw in some onions I’d tried caramelizing in my pressure cooker. So, if you have 3 more giant onions and some time, throw ’em in your slow cooker on high for 2 hours and then throw them in the pot too.

And to assemble all this mess:

  • Put your biggest stock pot on the stove on medium heat.
  • Throw in the bacon and pork belly and let it render down some.
  • When it smells amazing, throw in the country ribs and onions, carrots and celery. Mix ’em up until you can smell the onions.
  • Throw in the salt and peppercorns and stir around a little.
  • Pour as much water as will fit in the stock pot.
  • Throw in the soy sauce and worchestire sauce and the herbs and stir a little.
  • Keep it on medium until it starts to bubble along gently, then turn the heat down to medium low.
  • Check on it every 30-45 minutes and give it a stir. There’s no need to skim it. This is ramen broth. It’s supposed to be ugly.
  • Let it bubble away for for 4-6 hours depending on your patience.
  • Taste and add salt or black pepper if it needs it.

After it’s reduced by about a quarter, you can take it off the heat, let it cool for 20-30 minutes, strain it, and then cover and refrigerate for 24 hours (you could eat it right away if you want). I like letting it get all solid and then taking a half to 2/3 of the fat off the top, and reheating just what I need.

If I was going to turn this into a bowl of ramen, I’d make some ramen noodles, a pork chop or two, caramelize some Vidalia onions, get some shredded carrots and thinly sliced green onions in a bowl and then pour the broth over the top.

Another idea would be to get some fresh shrimp, put them in the bowl raw and then pour piping hot broth over the top, which should cook the shrimp (like the beef in pho).

You probably can’t go wrong no matter what you add to it. The broth, especially if you let it go the full 6 hours, can stand up to anything you throw at it.

Another InstantPot Adventure: Taco Fried Rice!

My youngest and I invented a new thing in the Instant Pot last night (if it already exists, OK, but I didn’t know about it): taco fried rice! It was a “throw it all in and see what happens” dish, but here’s the basic recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, medium dice (a little smaller than a dime, like you’d find in real fried rice)
  • 1 can of corn kernels (I know, stick with me)
  • 1 cup long-grain rice, rinsed (could have used 2, but I was only feeding 2 of us last night)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1lb ground beef (cubed chicken breast would work too)
  • 2T vegetable oil
  • 1T minced garlic
  • salt
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • smoked paprika

Directions:

  1. Turn instant pot on sauté while you dice your onion.
  2. Once it’s hot, put in the 2 tablespoons of oil and wait till it’s all shimmery and hot
  3. Throw in the onions and stir ’em around until they’re just starting to brown on the edges
  4. Strain the corn and throw it in too. Seriously, it was good. Stir it around for a minute, just to get it coated with the oil and heat it up a smidge.
  5. Throw in the minced garlic and stir it around a little. You should have the stuff for the next step ready because you don’t want the garlic to burn. 30 seconds, tops.
  6. Shake in some salt, cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika. If I had to guess, there was probably a half a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon++ of chili powder and half a teaspoon of smoked paprika. Stir the spices in until the onions and corn are coated and you can really start the smell ’em.
  7. Put the rice in, stir it around until it’s fully coated in everything that starts to look less chalky white.
  8. Pour in the chicken stock, put on the lid, seal it up and hit the Rice button.
  9. While the rice is cooking, brown the ground beef. Spice how you would meat for tacos. If it’s not really lean, you’ll want to strain it before the next step. You’ll want to use your biggest sauté pan for this. You’ll see why in step 11!!
  10. When the rice is done, let it “release” for 5 minutes or so (if I rush it, my rice is always underdone, so I like giving it at least 5 minutes).
  11. Now… scoop the rice into the pan with the beef. Turn the heat up to medium-high-ish. If it’s dry, throw a little of your favorite salsa or picante sauce. Not a lot, maybe a teaspoon or two.
  12. Stir it all around until everything’s mixed and you start to get some rice kernels that are a little crunchy.
  13. Scoop it onto plates, or bowls and enjoy.
    We had it with a little cheese and refried beans on the top, and it was pretty darn good.

Stories from the March: Impressions from the Front Row

I had a front row seat for a miracle Sunday night. I went to the Trinity Methodist Church and heard from two dozen women of all ages, colors and backgrounds who marched in DC and Savannah the day after the inauguration. It was inspiring. I cried several times, laughed twice as many times, and came away feeling recharged and exhausted at the same time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The stories weren’t all focused on the march – they were as much about why these women marched, which ran the gamut and some of the stories are too sacred and personal to even attempt to restate here. If you can carve three hours out of your day, I highly recommend watching the video. I hope it captures some of the spirit of the event and what we felt in the room.

It felt like the beginning of something much larger than a trip to a protest. And to explain why, I think I need to take a step back and explain Savannah, at least my understanding of Savannah, a little bit. Savannah is a city of silos that have been built up over almost 300 years. They’re well guarded and imposing, but invisible to the casual observer. They keep us separated by race, class and industry without most of us even knowing they exist.

But, in and around those silos exist a lot of energetic, creative, passionate people doing good important work in the community… and until the march, I think a lot of them were unaware of each others’ presence or their common cause. The march brought them together and introduced a lot of them to each other for the first time, and then the energy grew.

Sunday night, all those powerful nasty women came together again to show us the power of those new connections and share that energy with all of us. I wish you could have been there. It was electric. It was positive and full of love. Even when an unplanned speaker said very unplanned things, the audience was respectful and quiet (and uncomfortable). And when it was clear she was unwell and something needed to be done, a woman near the rear of the chapel stood up and started singing Amazing Grace. We all joined in. She was gently led away from the podium and off the pulpit and then wrapped in loving embrace by some of the very people she’d just insulted.

It was something I’ll never forget, that energy of being around committed women of conviction and energy, surrounded by art and the sacred (and just enough of the profane to make it interesting).

But.

Sunday wasn’t the end of something. Sunday felt like the beginning of something larger than a single march. I sat next to a woman I’ve known for years, but had no idea she’s involved in an organization that works to get women elected to local and state office (and, fingers crossed, national). I sat in front of the first African American woman to be elected mayor of Savannah, and got to listen to her affirm what the speakers said with a simple “Alright” or “That’s right.” This is a woman who’s seen some things, who’s been through more than most of us will ever understand. The way she said it was so loving, so full of understanding. I’ve never heard anyone utter single word and have it feel more solid or understood.

Where do we, where do I, go from here? For a long time, I’ve felt what I can only call a calling to run for public office. After Sunday, I came to a realization – in order to make our representative democracy actually representative of all of its citizens, it needs to look more like America. White men make up 30% of the US, but make up over 60% of Congress. It doesn’t need another white guy, not even one as handsome as me. It needs more powerful women and people of color. So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to work with organizations like Georgia’s WIN List to get more women elected. I’m going to continue the work of breaking down, or at least infiltrating, Savannah’s silos and cause as much #goodtrouble as I can.

There’s good work being done. We don’t need to start something brand new, but join efforts led by women and people of color already in progress and lend a hand. We need to change our perceptions of leadership. Men, white men especially, don’t need to lead everything. There are more, and more effective, ways to lead an organization than the way we’ve done it in the past, and the way we’re watching our new President do it in the White House.

Last topic, and it feels unrelated, but it’s not. I talked to a wise friend yesterday about Sunday night and tried to make sense of my feelings and what to do next. He mentioned to me that the pastor of the church that hosted us put himself on the line. He asked if I’d be willing to join, and do more than just show up on Sunday, because those churches can’t survive to do good work if no one’s in the pews on Sunday or filling the collection plate.

I left my church in 2008 over California’s Prop 8 because they asked me to do something I felt went against the core tenets of our faith. I think a lot of people my age and younger have drifted away from religion as their churches became less about loving our neighbors and more about what our neighbors do behind closed doors. I never imagined I’d consider going back, but what if there’s a place for progressive worship? What does that look like?

My friend asked me to think about it, and I am. If the church can feel like it felt on Sunday night – a place of love, inclusion and action, then I could see actually putting on a tie and showing up.

Religion has done a lot of harm, and I don’t want to minimize the pain its caused, but it can also be a place of refuge. Throughout history, churches have sheltered the weak, weary and afraid from the angry mob. They’ve also been places communities have rallied around to change the world for the better.

I can’t think of a combination more needed today than that.

Savannah’s own First African Baptist was a stop on the Underground Railroad and a place where civil rights leaders and their allies could meet and plan: one of the first truly desegregated places in Savannah.

Parishioners like Bob and Philippa Paddison and many others at the local Unitarian Universalist congregation were pivotal in the early days of Savannah’s civil rights movement.

First Presbyterian Church on Washington Avenue has harbored and hosted refugees for decades. Their story is one of quiet steady persistence. The Catholic and Jewish communities of Savannah each have stories of welcoming people forced from their homelands by prejudice and injustice.

That effort isn’t free, and can only be undertaken with the consent and financial support of the congregation. It was risky dangerous work, undertaken with the full understanding of the potential consequences.

There are pastors willing to take those kinds of risks for justice today – but if their congregations aren’t on board, they can’t.

I’m not sure where my heart is right now on this, but it’s worth thinking about. If we can build a worship that’s more Beatitudes than brimstone, and more Samaritan than Pharisee? Is that worth giving up all my anger and joining? What can we accomplish working within the body of the church that we can’t working outside of it, or against it?

I know that’s a lot of questions. I don’t have the answers – but it feels like finding them is vital to making progress.

To wrap up, here’s a list of ideas of things to do to get some energy and make some progress. It’s not comprehensive. It’s just a start, but it’s better than nothing.

  • Get involved with organizations that are working to elect women and people of color to local, state and national office. The League of Women Voters is a great place to start. For me, I’m going to ship an email to the local head of Georgia’s WIN List as soon as I finish up here.
  • Pick one or two things you really care about and find an organization that works on those things. Join the fight. If we all pick one or two things and put in the work, we can collective work on all of the things. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the undertaking, but if we can all collectively make progress by each picking those one or two things, we make progress on everything.
  • Go be around passionate people. I’m an introvert, and even I felt completely energized by the event on Sunday.
  • Be kind to yourself. No one can do this alone, and no one expects you to. Bring a friend. Bring lots of friends.

I’ll leave the last word for Annie Dillard, who is more eloquent than I’ll ever be:

Make connections; let rip; and dance where you can.

Love and Reading

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

James Baldwin

It’s also my favorite thing about the internet – all of the people who thought they were alone and had no way to describe how they felt suddenly found they weren’t alone in the world.

The web’s not perfect, but for all of the bad stuff, there’s this. No matter what we’re going through, there’s someone out there who’s not only lived it, but written it down and shared it with the world, and we can go find it, and maybe a small bit of peace.

Instant Pot Chicken Stock Gone Wild

We got an Instant Pot after Thanksgiving, and it’s probably the single greatest kitchen purchase I’ve ever made. We make dinner in it at least three times a week now.

My latest Instant Pot adventure is an attempt to cure my cold with chicken stock. I took what I liked from the Hainanese Chicken (garlic, ginger and green onions) and combined with with a classic chicken stock recipe (onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves) and ended up with a delicious delicious monster.

This cold doesn’t stand a chance.

Here’s the approximate recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 small whole roaster, quartered (or you can just throw in some backs and thighs).
  • 2 large onions, quartered, also take the backbone out separately
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 4 celery ribs, sliced
  • 5-6 green onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3″ finger of ginger, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • a bunch of black pepper (6-7 turns of our big grinder or, I don’t know, a dozen whole peppercorns)
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped (I forgot about that… I had some, so I threw it in)

Directions

  1. Turn your Instant Pot on Saute
  2. Throw in the bacon and stir it around until it’s rendered out a bunch of oil. I also threw in the backbone here to render out some chicken fat just for fun.
  3. Throw in the garlic and ginger and stir until you can really smell them (you don’t want them to burn)
  4. Cancel the saute.
  5. Throw in all the veggies
  6. This is the tricky part… it took a little fiddling to fit all the chicken in, but you can do it! I laid the leg quarters next to each other and then the breast pieces fit in along the sides. You might need to squish the veggies down. Or, it might work better to put the chicken on the bottom and the veggies on top. I don’t know. Do whatever works for you.
  7. Pour in enough water to get to the Max line (but not over, seriously, the Instant Pot gods will be angry)
  8. Put the lid on, seal it up, hit the Soup button and then set the time to 60 minutes.
  9. Let it naturally release (don’t go in and flip the vent thingy as soon as it beeps). That full, it’ll take at least 20 minutes and mine took 40.
  10. Pull out the chicken and then strain everything else through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.

I served mine with just the shredded chicken and some rice noodles. The veggies from the pot were all pretty obliterated and mushy, so I didn’t want them. But, they were tasty, so that’s up to you.

I thought of it more like ramen broth where I’m adding it to pre-cooked noodles, meat and other veggies. And it was tasty, so I don’t think I was wrong.

Enjoy!

Of Safety Pins and Paperclips

I’m conflicted about the whole safety pin thing. It’s an easy gesture and I’m afraid that it will provide comfort only to the people who wear it, not to those actually in need of comfort. I’m afraid that the people who wear it will think their work is done because they put on their safety pin, when it should be just the beginning. I’m skeptical because we’ve made these gestures before and not followed through, not finished the work, and we’ve abandoned those in need because our attention spans are short, and there’s always a shiny new cause to support that makes us feel better about ourselves.

I wanted to find out more about its origins and found an article about the Norwegian version – the paperclip.

Like a safety pin, the paperclip works as a symbol because it binds things together. Like the safety pin in the Netherlands, wearing a paperclip became a crime; there was real risk in wearing one.

The thing that struck me from the story was in the “bonus facts” below. The paperclip was just the beginning. Ordered to teach Naziism in school, 12,000 Norwegian teachers went on strike. Many were sent to prison camps. The Nazis realized having kids out of school hurt more than the teachers not promoting their cause, so they relented.

The clergy was ordered to teach obedience to the “leader and the state”. When every bishop and 90% of the clergy in the country resigned, the Nazis again relented.

More than 1,000 Jews were smuggled into Sweden by the resistance.

The Dutch were no slouches either. They carried out repeated demonstrations and non-violent strikes against the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. No other country had as may strikes and protests as the Dutch – and they faced harsh reprisals from the Nazis each time.

The Dutch had a massive underground press with over 1,100 different titles, some of which are still around and are major papers in the country. They set up underground financing and had a massive social services network that provided financial, medical and other support to the Dutch people.

All of that is to say, they didn’t just wear safety pins and paperclips. They got to work and did what they could, under terrible conditions and at great personal risk.

I like the idea of the safety pin, because it’s meant to be temporary until you actually repair the damage.

I think donating, and setting up a recurring donation, to national non-profits is a great thing to do. The ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign and others will be kept really busy for the next four years, as we can expect the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department to be gutted like it was during the Bush years or worse (probably worse). But, while you’re donating, please look for a local non-profit to donate money and time to.

I’ll elaborate… This election came as a shock to a lot of us who thought we were farther along as a country than we really are. It was easy to call ourselves progressive and cheer on those doing the work from the sidelines, post to social media about the issue of the day, and feel like we’d done something of value. It turns out, no one was listening, and we didn’t change any minds.

Before anyone still reading this post and starts tutting… I accept the results of the election:

  • Two very unpopular people were the two major parties’ nominees for president.
  • One of them got over two million more votes and lost to a man who (this is a partial list) called immigrants racists, criminals and terrorists, called for the banning of an entire religion from the country, denied knowing anything about David Duke or the KKK, openly mocked a disabled reporter, called for protestors to be beaten, has said (and probably done) terrible things about women, and that almost seventy percent of the country feel is unfit to be President.
  • A lot of people stayed home because they couldn’t decide between two people they didn’t trust.

That result is real, and it’s not going to change. Me being sad about it will not change it. Me being angry will not change it. Me trying to decide who’s to blame for the result will not change it. All I can do is decide what I do about it after accepting that I can’t change it.

For me, this is a wake up call. If I sit on the sidelines now, and assume someone else will do the work, I won’t be able to look at myself in the mirror or call myself a progressive.

I could shake my tiny fist at the sky and lament what’s happening in Washington, but that won’t change anything. So, I’ll be watching them, but I’m going to act locally. My neighbors will be affected by the policies enacted in the next four years. Many of them are afraid and a lot of them are already being targeted by hate.

I wasn’t doing nothing before, but that no longer feels like enough.

There are already great non-profits in Savannah working on things I care about: poverty, education, technology literacy. There are probably great non-profits working in your community too. I’m trying to resist the urge to start something new – because that’s alway my first instinct. Starting things is exciting because I can design it from scratch, and I don’t have to understand an existing dynamic – but it’s a waste of time. Starting things is expensive, both in time and resources, and we don’t have enough of either. So, I’ll pick something (or a few things) with the biggest overlap in the Venn diagram of things I care about, things I can help with, and what will have the biggest impact.

Because we won’t make this country a better place by having another comment duel on Facebook, favoriting a tweet, posting a pithy meme, or by standing on the sidelines of democracy or of our communities and watching people do the work. The world has enough cheerleaders and more than enough pundits. The world needs more people to roll up their sleeves and serve; there’s a lot to do.

I don’t think I’ll wear a safety pin on my collar… I’m going to learn how to sew.

For Further Learning… Web Development Style

I sent this list out to yesterday’s RailsBridge students as next steps if the introductory class lit a fire and they want to learn more. And then I realized it’s a pretty good list, so I’ll share it here too!

Local Savannah Things

For Further Learning

Yesterday’s class was great. Lots of teachers in the room and lots of people who had no idea that web development was accessible to “normal” people. It was tons of fun and a great way to shake off a pretty terrible week.

Interest and Concern

I’m still processing what happened last night and how I got it so very very wrong (it’s really no consolation that almost everyone else also got it wrong). I was looking for something to cheer me up this morning, and I found this quote from FDR (emphasis mine).

But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens – a substantial part of its whole population – who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life… I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished. But, it is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope – because the nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, propose to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. Franklin Delanor Roosevelt

I don’t know how to fix any of this or how to help, but I think it starts with conversations: in person and across divides. If we can at least show “interest and concern” for each other in our communities, we can make some progress.

Running Unopposed

Looking at my sample ballot for November, and I’m depressed at how many people are running unopposed. Out of 14 races, 8 incumbents are running without competition. They don’t have to debate. They don’t have to defend their records. That’s now how democracy is supposed to work.

We need to figure out how to get more people involved at the local and state level so people can get the experience to effectively serve at the national level. I’ve done some research and it’s economically impossible for most people to run for local or state office, or serve in even “part time” elected positions because of the time requirements and lack of pay. That means that only those who can afford to serve get the opportunity, which then means our government doesn’t represent all of us.

This is how we get ineffective, unrepresentative, unstatesmanlike, and uncompromising behavior from our elected officials – we don’t hold them to account. We don’t run against them. We don’t do anything but complain on social media or claim a “rigged” system, when we don’t even involve ourselves in it beyond cheering on our favorite team.

How do we “fix” this? We all need to look at how we’re participating in government at all levels, and pay more attention. We need to encourage qualified people to run. We need to make sure that our elected officials know we’re paying attention. We need to respectfully (and with actual facts) call them to account when they’re wrong. We need to state our cases for the issues using persuasive language, and not threats of violence or intimidation.

We get the system we let develop. If you don’t pay attention, it will be built and run by the people that are. Want something else? You gotta work for it. You have to do more than complain. You have to build a coalition of people who agree with you and provide actual solutions.

Voting is literally the least we can do to change things. It’s time we all took a long hard look at how we got here, how we’ve behaved this election, and what we’re going to do about it.