Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cor Tuum Enim Bono

*credit for the following bean recipe goes to The Pioneer Woman.

About a week ago, I looked in my freezer and saw a large pork tenderloin that desperately needed to be cooked. So the other day I thawed it out and thought, What the hell, and decided to brine the pork.

Brining is a cooking technique similar to marinating, where you soak your meat (or vegetables) for a long period of time in a salt solution. The solution seeps into the meat, locking in fluids, which makes the meat extra tender when eating. A good brine can make a pork chop fall right off the bone.

Brining also flavors the meat. For my brine, I mixed 1-ish cup each of salt and brown sugar in 2 cups of boiling water. After the granules are dissolved into the water, I removed the brine from the heat and mixed in about 1/3 cup of peppercorns and 1/3 cup of an Italian seasoning blend. I didn't have any bay leaves or else I would've tossed a few in as well.
Then I stirred in 4-ish more cups of cold water. You want the brine to cool off so when you soak the meat the liquid doesn't start cooking it.  Find a large, preferably air-tight container (or freezer bag) and soak the meat in the liquid for a long time. I soaked the tenderloin for around 12 hours. (*note to self, try brining a turkey with this mixture for Thanksgiving)

Then I made a dry-rub of brown sugar, paprika, and pepper to put on the meat when it was done. I woulda added mustard (the spice, not the condiment) but I didn't have any on hand.

Anyway, as it got closer towards removing the pork from the brine, I decided the best side dish to go with pork would be beans. Duh. But I didn't want to buy cans of baked beans from the store, since all manner of weird ingredients (mostly corn derivations) are contained therein. So I did a little research and made baked beans from scratch.

Take a pack of thick-cut bacon and cook it in a large skillet (or pot) just long enough to start rendering the fat. Don't overcook the bacon. Pull it from the skillet after the fat starts liquifying.
Why the bacon is cooking dice some onion (amount will vary depending on how much you want to make, I diced half an onion for two cans of beans) and a bell pepper (I used half of that as well).

Once the bacon has been pulled from the skillet (let them drain on some paper towels), throw in the diced onion and bell pepper and let it cook in all that bacon grease. Your kitchen is going to smell amazing right about now. Now would be a good time to preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

After the onion starts to soften and clarify, thrown in your beans. I used a can of organic black beans and a can of pinto beans. Then add brown sugar (1/3 cup), barbecue sauce (I found a nonfat organic sauce at Trader Joes that is delicious, use about 1/2 cup for two cans), Dijon mustard (A heaping tablespoon), and a bit of apple-cider vinegar (around 2 teaspoons).

Stir everything together until it starts simmering. Remove from heat and pour into a baking dish (greased, if you like). Take the strips of bacon and place them on top of the beans.
Cook in the oven uncovered for around 2 hours. The sauce will thicken and the beans will soften and the bacon will blacken.

The timing is tricky, because you want your pork to be about 145 degrees in the center, if you want to try to time when to start baking the meat. Or you can pull the beans and cover them (a casserole dish works perfectly for this) and cook the meat at 350 degrees for about a half hour.

Once the pork is done, serve and enjoy the hell out of it. I know I did.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Amoris Medicum: Bibunt Biberunt Bibebant

Oh dear... is an online news source that generally puts out really good, interesting articles. But today on their splash page was a link to this article with the tagline: "Being Drunk Puts Women At Higher Risk of Rape. Why Will No One Tell Them To Stop Getting Wasted?"
The article, by Emily Yoffe, seems at first glance to offer good counsel.
We are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them...when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart.
I'm a big fan of personal responsibility. I try to live my life by making good choices and encouraging others to make good choices. The difficulty in trying to teach people to make better choices, is that in the case of this article, it's difficult to avoid victim-blaming when talking about bad choices. And unfortunately, this article fails to avoid victim-blaming, essentially saying that drunk women who are sexually assaulted are at fault, because they were drunk. There are a few moments in the article where the author or people she quotes, write a version of "I'm not literally saying women are to blame, but I'm certainly implying it."
That "but" always takes your first defensive statement and negates it. "I'm not a racist, but...I'm about to say something racist."

And you know what's (figuratively) funny? I wouldn't have as many problems with the article at all if the point was to teach people, specifically in this case women, to be more careful about drinking alcohol. But the point of the article was rape. And there's a big difference (albeit on a fine line) between teaching people the dangers of making poor choices and implying it's your own fault if it happens to you.

Women don't rape themselves. Period.
Could some women have made better choices, or placed themselves in positions where their chances of being raped were lower? Perhaps. But articles like this one imply that rape prevention begins by telling women not to wear big signs around their neck that say "rape me", even though that isn't what is really happening at all.
Women don't think, "I'm gonna wear skimpy clothes, go to a party of strangers, and then drink myself into oblivion. I sure hope somebody rapes me." They don't even think "I sure hope nobody rapes me."

What made the article even more disappointing was there was no mention of the email sent out to members of Georgia Tech's Phi Kappa Tau fraternity titled "Luring Your Rapebait", which included helpful suggestions like "If anything ever fails, go get more alcohol."

But don't worry, frat boys, if you succeed, it's the woman's fault.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Nullam Infernus

Oh my goodness, have there been things to rant about! The government shutdown is the big one, obviously. I try to follow the developments (such as they are) as best I can, and nearly every day I think, Oh, I should blog about that.  I've been feeling guilty about not updating as much as I should, and I got stuff I'd like to write about. Part of the blame can be laid on my schedule. I've stuck a lot of pots on the fire, and while it means I got some good stuff cooking (to be announced soon!) it also means my attention is going elsewhere.
But also, my frustration with the system has risen to the level where I've been asking myself "What's the point?"
We could talk about who's to blame, or what the Affordable Care Act (which people mistakenly call Obamacare, since it was thought up by conservative group The Heritage Foundation in the late 80s and enacted by Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney in 2006) really does and what the pros (and there are some) and cons (way more than there are pros) are. We could talk about the effect of the shutdown on America, or what will happen if America defaults (hint: it would be globally catastrophic).

That's all important discussion, but I think it's not nearly as important as discussing the system that made all this possible in the first place.
The dictionary gives it a fancy name like gerrymandering, but what all of our Representatives have done is consolidate their power. They restructure the borders of the district they represent so they will have the most supporters. Sound strange? It is a little. It's also horribly disingenuous.

Let's say you are a House Representative of the Democratic Party for California. The state of California has 53 members of the House, each Representative covering a district of the state. So let's say that while you garnered enough votes in your district to be elected, there was a sizeable section of your district that didn't vote for you and typically never votes Democrat. What gerrymandering does is redraw the lines of your district so that the section that never votes for you is cut out of your district and now included in the neighboring district, one that mostly votes Republican. With the majority of voters who don't or won't vote Democrat moved out of your district, you've made your seat in the House election-proof. You don't have to fear your constituency becoming so dissatisfied that they'll replace you.

I know a lot of champions of free-market capitalism who moan that without stiff job competition in the marketplace there's no impetus to excel in the marketplace. While I don't 100% agree with that statement I will admit that the House of Representatives provides a perfect example of that idea in action.
In our current situation, a bunch of hard-line ideologues, who are so confident their way is the right way they refuse to compromise right past the point of disaster, made extortionist demands of the government, and when the government refused to capitulate to their demands they followed through on their threats. I could only wish I was talking about al Qaeda here. For once, the Obama administration and Senate Democrats showed they actually had a spine and told these House terrorists to go to hell --unlike when they caved to extend the Bush-era tax cuts through to 2012, caved to offer spending cuts and a "super committee" and a sequester to lift the debt ceiling in 2011, caved to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 to avoid the fiscal cliff, and then caved to offer "chained CPI" and Medicare cuts in 2013 (credit to Robert Reich for the list).
Any candidate running against these moronic assholes is doomed to fail in the election because of the gerrymandered districts, so they have little need to change their tune.

The only way out of this mess (because it goes both ways) is for the voters to change. We need to raise the common denominator to expect and demand more of our elected leaders. The only way to do that is by learning. Yes, the l-word. We need to stop relying on the media to tell us how to vote. We need to research our candidates, stop voting down the party line if the candidate at the bottom is broken, learn about the bills and laws that affect our districts, learn how an economy works, how the banking system (the real enemy) works, how taxes work. And then we need to come together as a community and tell these bastards that even if we disagree on the liberal or conservative details, we won't let our elected representatives sell off our personal, social, financial, and political security to the highest bidder.

As Dr. Timothy Leary said: "Think for yourself. Question authority."