Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paula Deen's Diabetes

Good Morning America, from ABC, gave an update on television cook Paula Deen's diabetes, by "catching" her eating a cheeseburger while on a cruise, at a party she was hosting. It seems that news reporting has become trivial and invasive. While diabetes is a serious condition, and Deen has appeared several times on television to talk about how it is going with her, this hardly is worth reporting on national television.

The amusing part of this version of Deen's ABC appearance is the comments on the Good Morning America website. As of right now, the news story has 2778 comments -- not bad for non-news. The comments are better than the story. They also confirm my view that news about Deen eating a cheeseburger is not news, although it appears that a lot of people find Deen interesting. I give a sample.

Whoever felt the need to "report" this news needs to be chased around the room being slapped on the back of the head with a fried pork chop. Silly article.

Dear GOD!!! The horror of it all!!! Eating a cheeseburger? I am truly appalled!!! 

Wars, deaths, economic ruin, and we're hung up on what Paula is eating? Get a grip people!

Seriously? This is news? People with diabetes can eat a cheeseburger. Get back to us when she starts mainlining pure cane sugar.

And on and on. Paula Deen may be shortening her life, but it's her business.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jack Kennedy -- Book Review

Jack Kennedy – Book Review

Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero is a fascinating book. Television commentator and author Christ Matthews said his 2011 book addresses the question of what President John F. Kennedy was like.  It’s energetic, absorbing, fast moving, and easy to read. The book is 90% Jack Kennedy the politician, and 10% Jack Kennedy living the rest of his life. Just as Kennedy compartmentalized his life (according to Matthews), Matthews compartmentalized the parts of Kennedy in his book. The book reads like Chris Matthews telling about it with his energetic television speaking style.

Most of the book is about Jack Kennedy campaigning, first for congress, then senate, and finally President. Some of it is the life that led up to campaigning, and some of it is the life of the President. Matthews describes Kennedy’s well-known heroic acts, such as saving the men he commanded as a young man in the navy, which is chronicled in Kennedy’s best-selling book PT-109. Matthews points out that Kennedy lived his life with constant pain from his bad back and Addison’s disease. Matthews tells how Kennedy hated war and as President saved us from nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He writes about Kennedy’s thinking that brought about the Peace Corps.  He says that Kennedy wanted to be a hero like the men he read about as a child. He wanted to make a difference.

Matthews clearly liked and admired Kennedy. Maybe that’s why so much of the book is about Kennedy the politician while it tells less about Kennedy the person. Kennedy’s early life is there, but it seems to me that Matthews gives little treatment to the legendary Kennedy family. Kennedy’s reputation as a charmer and womanizer is shown almost as an afterthought. Events that led up to his marriage to Jackie Bouvier are almost absent. The births of his children appear almost insignificant, including a stillborn daughter who was born while he was on one of his travels. The death of his son Patrick at two days of age gets more emphasis. The birth of John Jr. is mentioned sometime after the event.  Deaths in the family, his older brother Joe Jr. and a sister, clearly had an impact on him, although Matthews says relatively little about them. Brother Bobby was assassinated several years after Jack’s death. The assassination of Jack Kennedy is not there at all, except in comments by Jackie after the fact. I think it was too much for Matthews the Kennedy admirer to contemplate.

Kennedy’s life is shown through many interviews, books and comments from the people around him. These people told of a man who couldn’t stand to be alone, a man who would do almost anything to achieve his political goals, a Catholic who went to confession even while president.

 Does all this answer the question of what Jack Kennedy was really like? I find myself asking why he and Jackie stayed married while he was repeatedly unfaithful to her. I find myself asking why Jack needed to carve time out of all his political activity to have sexual encounters with many women. Perhaps that is the elusive part of Jack Kennedy. Maybe that is how national politicians live. Where were the Senate and House of Representatives while Kennedy was making important decisions with the men who were always with him?

I liked the book very much, but questions remain.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Books I have Known

A difference exists between reading and knowing a book. I read many books, but I know cookbooks. Cookbooks are life’s little instruction books of the culinary type.

Every January my mind fixes itself on food. After indulging in holiday foods during December, I once again focus on everyday kinds of foods.  I return to books about cooking.

I enjoy cookbooks, especially old ones. The old ones tell us how to prepare foods. In recent years of cookbookery, some beautiful, pictorial books have arrived, but the old ones are the basic how-to manuals.  They don’t specialize like today’s volumes. The pictures are black and white, with some line drawings.

The cookbooks I know best are two: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1953 edition, and The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 8th edition, completely revised by Wilma Lord Perkins, 1948. I read others, but I know these.

The BH&G book is my first cookbook. I bought it when I was twelve years old, when my junior high school home economics class did a class purchase. The cover has fallen off. The title page is missing. Many pages are frayed and becoming brown. This book, and Mrs. Robertson, my teacher, taught me how to cook. Here is where I learned to make pie. Here is where I went when I was forgetting Mrs. Robertson’s lessons about making applesauce, biscuits and muffins.  Here is where I learned to make pancakes from real ingredients.

The Fannie Farmer book is another treasure. My mother gave it to me in 1962 when I married Rick. My copy is very worn, with the cover detached. It is in better condition than the BH&G book only because it has more traditional binding; the other book is spiral bound. In this book Fannie Farmer taught me how to make bread after my new husband wanted me to make bread like the bread his mother made. Fortunately, I had eaten his mother’s wonderful bread.  The book taught me how to make brownies and sugar cookies, which my children and grandchildren still like.  The page about sugar cookies is brown and stained with dropped ingredients. The book taught me about soup from bones and vegetables rather than cans.

The worst book in my hall of fame, according to my husband and children, is the book that showed me how to make the all-time worst entrĂ©e they ever had to eat. Oats, Tomatoes and Cheese casserole is a legend among them. (I like it.) This little vegetarian cookbook is called Cooking With Conscience: a Book for People Concerned About World Hunger, by Alice Benjamin and Harriett Corrigan (Vineyard Books, 1975). It has some other equally strange concoctions, and overall I would rate it about average. Today the stores have many vegetarian cookbooks that would rate higher. This is a book that I read but don’t know as a friend of my kitchen. However, it is part of my history.

Long live the cookbook.