Monthly Archives: November 2011

windmill and scrap overgrown with bindweed

The remains of my grandfather’s garden and orchard, once locally famous for it’s tomatoes, strawberries, sweet corn and apples.

Milkweed pods split open with exposed silk

Milkweeds are the sole source of food for Monarch butterfly larvae and one of my favorite native Midwestern plants.

Branches of spreading oak tree

Autumn trees

My grandfather fished, grew a mighty garden, and fed many people. He was an old school, Victory Garden, organic from before the hippies were born.

Catholics practice birth control

I attended a Catholic parochial school through the tenth grade. I remember a discussion led by the religious studies teacher in that final year. The topic was the potential for conflict between conscience and catechism. He began by asking us to raise our hand if we had a brother or a sister. Nearly everyone did so. He then asked those who only had one to put down their hand. More then a third did so. Next he asked everyone who had only two brothers or sisters to put down their hands. An even larger number did so. Once those who had three brothers and sisters dropped out, only a single student was left with her hand raised. She had seven brothers and sisters. It was obvious to all of us that a significant number of our parents, good Catholics who paid good money to educate their children in the Catholic school system, practiced birth control.

The hierarchy of the Church is in stark disagreement with the practice and conscience of its members on the issue of contraception. A cave to the bishops on expanding exemptions to the requirement for insurance to include birth control coverage is undemocratic. It places the power of a religious hierarchy over the will of not just a majority of the American people, but also of American Catholics. Sign the petition asking the President to stand strong with us.

The Food of my People

Despite the unfortunate cultural overtones, Thanksgiving remains one of my favorite holidays. This is probably because it does not require any non-grocery shopping, a holiday for which one is not expected to bring or receive gifts, nor to dress in costumes, but only to enjoy preparing, serving and eating delicious food. Sharing favorite recipes and memories helps me feel a spirit of kinship with everyone at the table; young and old, progressive and conservative, old friends and new additions.

Cheesy potato casserole is a classic of the genre, designed to be assembled quickly and satisfy a crowd. The only fresh ingredients are dairy-based and no potato peeling or slicing is required due to the secret ingredient: frozen country-style hash browns. I picked up the recipe at my cousin’s wedding back home. Family members chipped in together to provide the reception buffet dinner. My mother made a huge roast beef, the groom’s father made chicken salad croissant sandwiches, and my aunt made tray after tray of this sour cream dream. There are many variations of the basic Cheesy Potatoes recipe. I made mine vegetarian with cream of mushroom soup and mixed Emmentaler cheese in with the cheddar. Of course, these tweaks likely mean it’s less authentically midwestern, but then so am I.

Roasted squashEvery school child should know that the Pilgrims did not live on packaged carbohydrates and dairy fats alone. This bountiful continent they invaded also provided a wealth of delicious, even nutritious vegetables, some of them not known as maize. I’ve been eating a lot of autumn curries lately at Thai restaurants and enjoying the silken sweetness of squash. I added acorn squash to Caramelized Butternut Squash and was pleased with how scrumptious it tasted and how pretty it looked in the serving bowl. Thank you to the recipe reviews for reminding me to wear gloves when preparing the raw squash. I can be such a delicate flower sometimes.