Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some Things That Don't Make Sense, But ONE Thing That Does

This store is down the street from me:

The modifier confuses me. Mini pets? Or mini market? If it is a mini mart that caters to pets, shouldn't there be a comma? Or does it only sell items geared towards fish, gerbils, rats, chihuahuas and kittens?

But even more than the sign, it is the posters (too small to read from this picture) in the window that are the true enigma. They are all for tobacco products. Yes, that's right, folks, this CHAIN store sells gourmet cigarettes to tiny pets. And maybe chewing tobacco. Haven't pet owners read any of the studies regarding lab rats and cancer? Where is PETA when they might do some good?

And another thing that makes no sense is the spelling of chihuahua.

But local problems aside, I've also found other things to give me true pause this week and break my heart. It is prophesied that in the last days, "men's hearts should fail them." While I'm not sure entirely what this phrase means, I think I felt it last night. The incidence, once again, was Ms. Albright's biography. Her experience, and Robert Woodward's writing express it best. I will quote liberally from her Africa section. She acknowledges the horror of this situation (and others), while also admitting that solutions are hard. If we had intervened too much, there is danger of repeating the lessons of Somalia. If we do too little, it is Rwanda's fate that we might regret. In this section she talks about the horrible events of the late 90's in Sierra Leone.

"[In Sierra Leone], a group known as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) waged a brutal struggle for power against a democratically elected government. The rebels showed their contempt for the electoral process by slicing off the hands and arms of those thought to have voted 'wrong' (that is, for the government) as well as the limbs of the voter's children. Since ballots in Sierra Leone are marked by thumbprints, the tactic had a perverse, sadistic rationale.

"In 1999, I saw the horrifying results firsthand during a visit to the Murray Town Amputee Camp. . . [I] was showed where the prosthetics were made and how children were trained to use them . . . these were not wounds that could be made whole, but if there was self-pity in that sun-baked camp, I did not sense it--just sadness and courage. I saw a baby with no arms being held by a mother with one arm. I hugged a three year-old girl named Mamuna who was wearing a red jumper and happily playing with a toy car using the only arm she had. How could any human being have taken a machete to this girl? According to UN officials, much of the maiming was done by child soldiers forcibly recruited and given drugs. To discourage these 'soldiers' from escaping, some were forced to kill members of their own families so they could never return home."

I won't touch the stories of rape found in this section.

Just this week I read a story of two women locally who started a foundation to help a girls' orphanage in Ethiopia. Before starting the foundation, the one woman said, "I was one of those people going, 'You can't save everybody . . . why not just hang out in your own community and not think about everybody on the other side of the world.' " Sound familiar?

These women set out to prove that even two housewives from an obscure hamlet in Oregon can make a difference. Maybe our sphere or influence can be as large as we choose to make it?

Which brings me around to Haiti. As opportunities arise to give aid in the coming weeks and months, I hope I don't forget that we are all on this planet together. That it is our faith and charity that can make sense of horrible tragedies. Instead of losing faith or casting blame on God for such things, I hope I can look inside and recognize an opportunity to do the right thing for those I need to take greater care to view as brothers and sisters.

With the whole world feeling like a maelstrom of impossible situations today, here is the ONE thing I've done in the last 24 hours that was straightforward, wonderful and a service to my whole family. I made dinner. My new favorite dinner. Here is the method and good luck to you:

Asian Sticky Rice Bowls (the latest variation of the recipe found on this post.)

In a large bowl, you layer rice, meat, vegetables, toppings and sauce. This can be modified a hundred different ways, but I'll give you some details about what we've tried here:

Rice--I've found a specialty Asian market that carries short, sticky rice that is also called Sushi Rice. This rice is easy to make, but you have to plan ahead. Soak the rice anywhere between three and six hours before cooking it. It can then either be boiled at a 2:1 water to rice ratio or steamed until it is cooked. Steaming it makes it extra sticky, but takes a little bit longer. This sticky rice is also slightly sweet and gluey. It helps hold everything together. Excellent for those of you brave enough for chopsticks.

Meat--I've used both slow cooked pork for this, but last night we used grilled, diced chicken. Both superb. My kids love it especially when I bread and fry the chicken. (Dip chunks in egg and then a mixture of cornstarch, salt and pepper. When the chicken is well-coated, fry immediately in hot oil until golden brown. Yumm-o.)

Vegetables--Just use whatever! Stir-fry vegetables in hot oil (keep your burner close to high and stir continuously) starting with hard veggies like carrots and celery and working your way through to green beans, red pepper, broccoli, sweet yellow onion and/or water chesnuts, and lastly bean sprouts, green onion, cabbage or bok choy. I don't salt the stir-fried veggies (it makes them limpy) but for another layer of flavor you can mix in some teriyaki or soy sauce. I had some sesame seeds hanging around last night and threw those in too--beautiful!

Toppings--Red pepper flakes, coconut, mandarin oranges, green onion, chow mein noodles, cashews, basil and slivered almonds

Sauce--This is my favorite part. Kikoman now makes a really delicious, thick teriyaki sauce that we used on everything for a while, but we have since found something new. Costco sells the spicy orange sauce that Panda Express uses on their "famous" orange chicken. It is slightly spicy and sweet and probably my new favorite condiment. With this dinner I also put a can of coconut milk (low-fat) on the table. It is a perfect compliment to the orange sauce and adds a creamy mellowness to the whole dinner that makes my tongue do flips.

This meal is great on so many levels. Besides being delicious (duh), everybody gets exactly what they want. Plantboy layers everything into the biggest bowl he can find in the house without embarrassing himself. My kids want the blandest of choices kept separate on their plates. Because, you know, when you are a kid, you think that if the food groups touch each other they might start a rumble. This meal, stripped down to the bare essentials, is quite easy to prepare, but if you present it with all the choices, you have a meal fancy enough for company, or a buffet-style party. Get Chinese take-out cartons to send home leftovers with your guests and they will call tomorrow to thank you again for the lovely evening.

Did I mention that it is beautiful? We ate too fast for pictures. Maybe next time.

The last wonderful thing about this meal is the built in dessert. Stir a teaspoon or two of sugar into your leftover coconut milk and drizzle it into the (now cold) remaining sticky rice. Serve with mandarin oranges and a fortune cookie. Die happy.

If it seems weird to post about such cooking frivolity at the same time I posted about children hacking their neighbors, perhaps it is. But it might just be bright moments of creativity, beauty, and delicious delight that keep us sane. Go out and do something beautiful today to remind yourself that God is still in charge. There is beauty in this place in equal measure with the horror.


Janssen said...

Wow. I will make this next week. It sounds amazing. Good thing I just ate dinner, or my stomach would be eating itself at these descriptions.

Jenny said...

beauty in equal measure.
LOVE this.

JennyMac said...

The recipe sounds fantastic.

And I read a memoir from a former RUF child soldier. Chilling and frightening do not begin to explain.

emandtrev said...

My heart weeps every time I read an account like the one you shared from Madeleine Albright's book. It is horrifying. I agree that I hope I can do something nice, albeit probably in my own small way, for those impacted by the earthquake in Haiti. A woman (nurse by occupation) that lives across the street and down a bit is there right now. She arrived the Sunday before the quake to help in an orphanage and is still there now...very scary times.

Last but not least, that recipe sounds divine. Thanks for sharing!

CaLM RAPIDS said...

Thanks for the reminder to look for the beauty. It is there, all around us. Even in a can of coconut milk.