Dandelions: An Inspiration

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For someone wanting to forage wild foods, dandelion greens aren’t a bad place to start.  For one, they’re everywhere.  Some might even call them invasive.  You don’t have to go far to find them and they’re easily identifiable.  You’re looking for the young, tender leaves, best picked before the plant flowers.

They’re super easy to prepare.  While some foraged foods require repeated soaking or boiling with multiple changes of water, dandelion greens cook just like any other green.   Although they taste totally different, they can be substituted for spinach in any recipe.  I’ve seen dandelion green salad, sauteed with bacon and red onions.  I’ve never made it, but dandelion green pesto seems intriguing.  And perhaps you’ll notice my dandelion green calzone in the attached image.  I made it with Italian sausage and feta. The crust was sourdough.  You can make dandelion wine from the flowers.   Just about ready to bottle, I have a batch aging in the cellar.  With some imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Making no absolute health claims myself, dandelions are also reputed to have some medicinal benefits.  Tonics made from dandelions and burdock are made by some in the spring and are said to aid in detoxifying and promoting healthy liver function.  Again, I make no health claims.  Nutritionally, they are full of vitamin A and hold a fair amount of vitamin C.  Respectively, one cup will give you 100% and 30% of your recommended daily allowance.  In his books on Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved,  Sandor Ellix Katz mentions dandelions a few times.  Living with AIDS, he holds food and diet as an important part in maintaining his health.  At the very least, they’re a fresh, green vegetable.  They’re something we’d all do well to eat more of.

As an Anarchist, dandelions can’t help but give you some inspiration.  People hate dandelions.  They want them gone.  They want them out of their yards.  Yet they persist.    A multitude of products have been created and marketed to try and eradicate them.  In some homeowner’s associations and in some municipalities, you will be in violation if dandelions aren’t kept in control on your property.  You will risk fines, sanctions, and could possibly lose your home.  The powers that be don’t want dandelions.  They want them gone, yet they’re still here.

It’s all because they’re so prolific.  You’ll probably remember blowing the white, puffy seeds when you were a kid, dispersing them all in one breath to obtain a wish.  You may furthermore recall how many there were, hundreds of them on each plant.  Actually blowing them all took a some lung capacity.  Now, think about it.  Each plant held the seeds for hundreds more just like it.  Their growth was literally exponential.  Hate them all you want.  Pass every law and ordinance you can think of.  Punish people as collaborators for letting them exist.  Use the full force of government to try and eradicate them.  But they’re still here.  They’re just too good at doing their thing.

Ben Stone, The Bad Quaker, talked a little about this.  He’s retired now, but some of his old podcasts are available on iTunes and on badquaker.com.  Talking about marijuana legalization, he once proposed that a strain of marijuana should be engineered that proliferated just like dandelions.  If we could accomplish that, if every pot plant put out hundreds of seeds that scattered with the wind, and if each plant in the next generation did likewise, there would be absolutely no way it could be effectively outlawed.  There just aren’t enough jails.  The drug war, already widely regarded as a failure, would effectively be done.  How can you stop something so widespread and common?

And the real value here is that this particular freedom would then be achieved completely independent of authority.  It’s not begging for freedom.  It’s achieving it.  You see, making no judgement about whether or not it’s wise to consume or smoke it, the fact that marijuana is illegal is an absolute affront to our self ownership.  If we don’t have autonomy in what we consume, we are not free.  Some do advocate going through the legal system to change this.  They say that we should be writing our congressmen and speaking up at town meetings.  We should be petitioning those in authority to reverse their unjust decision.  My lord, please reconsider.  The problem with that is that doing so acknowledges that authority.  It concedes that those in power have the right to make that decision.  People can rightly tell us what to do.  Hogwash.  Malarky.  Nuh uh.

And please don’t get hung up on pot.  How many other nonviolent and victimless crimes could this apply to?  In my state of Maine, switchblades have only recently been legalized.  In the 1950s, after seeing West Side Story and with apparent concern for the horrifying gang violence it depicted, legislators forbid possession of any knife that could be opened one handed.  The law was only repealed last year.  Really, most people didn’t even know it was a crime.  Any number of knives having knobs on the blade or other mechanisms facilitating quick opening were readily available at Walmart.  I had one and so did a lot of my friends.  Actual switchblades could occasionally be found at junk shops.  They were so widespread and innocuous that people just kinda forgot that they were illegal.  Police didn’t waste time on enforcement.  Formally legalizing them was an unnecessary afterthought.

The real way, the only ethical way, to bring about a peaceful and nonviolent society is to just live your life.  Be an example.  Demonstrate that your way is better and more fulfilling.  Be free, and maybe, just maybe, that will catch on.  Maybe others will start being free themselves.  Maybe they’ll inspire still more.  Soon enough, the people who choose violence will be powerless against this freedom.  There’ll just be too much of it.  Stamping it out just won’t be possible.  And maybe the people who fancy themselves in charge will change as well.  Maybe freedom will come, just like dandelion seeds in the wind.

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What Can John Frum Teach Us?

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If you’re not familiar with cargo cults, check out the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  In that film, children surviving a plane crash just after the apocalypse develop a religion.  Complete with the prediction of a messiah, it’s all based on the plane’s wreckage and the few remaining fragments of society that they’re left to ponder.  Old toys and bits of junk become holy relics.

Stuff like that’s happened in real life.  Lacking information and insight, primitive societies have sometimes interpreted technologically advanced cultures as higher powers, building religions on that foundation.  Simple and childlike on their face, some of them have evolved to some really complex doctrines.  A lot of thought has gone into explaining what was for them unexplainable.  It’s fascinating, worth a little study and examination.

Of the cargo cults, The John Frum Cult is probably the most famous.  While often written off as just savages worshipping airplanes, its history and origins are actually a little more profound.  The movement was born out of the colonial era around the turn of the last century in the South Pacific Islands.  Living under the missionaries, life was pretty horrible, to say the least.  Traditional ways of living were outlawed.  Natives were more or less forced to work for the colonial authorities, enduring low wages and horrible conditions.  Life was rotten.  If you want to make parallels to biblical Hebrews, feel free.

Fast forward though to World War II.  One day, out of the blue, Allied GIs suddenly appeared on the scene.   Waging their island hopping campaign and hoping to defeat the Japanese, they needed airfields and they needed them fast.  And they were willing to pay a ton of money for labor, better jobs than the missionaries had ever even considered.  They also had spam, coca-cola, cigarettes, and steel roofing to boot.  They didn’t care how the natives practiced their religion.  They voiced no opinion on what they did on their free time.  They just wanted help building airfields.  They were friendly, generous, technologically advanced men, performing wonders and bestowing great wealth where there had once only been despair.  For the natives of Vanuatu, it was deliverance.

From that came a Christ like figure, John Frum.  After the war, the GIs went home, leaving a lot of their stuff behind.  But according to the legend, a man named John, presumably from somewhere, told the natives that he would one day return.  He instructed them to stop being led by the missionaries and to return to their traditional ways of living.  He also told them that upon his return, he would bring with him planes and cargo filled with more spam and coke and everything that they could ever want in life.  Return to your native roots.  Some day he’d be back.  They just had to remain faithful.  Since then, followers have gathered every year on February 15th, maintaining the airfields and piously mimicking the soldiers in a religious ceremony.  They hold the hope of one day again greeting their savior.

On gods and religion, I have my own opinion.  In my everyday life, I’m pretty athiest and outspoken.  The natives here have clearly fallen for some non sequitur fallacies.  Just because you can’t explain or fully comprehend something doesn’t mean it’s the work of gods.  There are logical and rational explanations for everything they experienced.  Still, I like to get past that every now and then to see exactly what I should take from this.  After all, it’s a legend, and legends are meant to inspire.  So, what exactly should we take from the John Frum legend?

On the surface, it’s a pretty simplistic doctrine.  Believe in him and he’ll give you stuff.  It’s pretty straightforward.  And there are tons and tons of religions that are just as superficial.  People pray for rain and wealth all the time.  John Frum followers aren’t alone here.  And there is something to be said for simply holding hope toward a better tomorrow.  Some people want heaven and an end to suffering.  These guys just want aluminum roofing.  For a lot of people, just having faith that things will work out for the better is enough.  I don’t want to take that away.

But remember that John Frum had primarily told his followers to stop being led by the missionaries.  That was the real meat of his doctrine.  Stop being slaves and begging for scraps.  Go off and build your own life with your own hands.  Be responsible for yourselves.  For the time being at least, stop looking to the missionaries for deliverance.  They are false prophets.  Their promises are empty.  Living for them will not improve your life.  Cut it out.  Really, that’s what John Frum was all about.  That’s the good stuff.

And some scholars have even suggested that, were John Frum to return as promised, accepting his cargo would actually be an act of heresy.  His stuff was, after all, the white man’s stuff.  Coke and Spam are of the civilized world.  Accepting these as gifts, rather than earning them of their own labor as a free individual, would be absolutely antithetical to John Frum’s doctrine.  Anticipating his return from the sky, waiting for him to benevolently bestow gifts to all the faithful, seemingly misses the entire point of his teachings.  He’s meant to lead you from oppression, not bring you presents.  Holding out for the Spam totally misses the big picture.

It’s the difference between Santa Clause and The Sermon on the Mount.  Is your god simply to give gifts, or will he lead you to ultimate freedom and higher understanding?   To me, simplistic though it may be, fallacies and all, the John Frum cult absolutely accomplishes the latter.  If you’re doing what he taught, you’re that much closer to freedom.  Liberty and fulfillment, that’s the John Frum’s path.

Squirrels

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To anyone troubled by the image, relax.  They’re sleeping.  They’re laying there, perfectly content, and are going to wake up soon to do cute little squirrel things.  They’re fine.  It’d be best though if you could just click away, moving onto something else.

Squirrel hunting’s a blast.  With a little more action and much lower stakes, it’s a lot less stressful than big game.  Outside of a survival situation, if you blow a squirrel hunt, it’s no big deal.  But you still get that thrill of hearing the leaves rustle, that quick shot of alertness, and that charge knowing game is afoot.  Kids enjoy it, and it’s probably one of the best introductions to hunting.

I’m saying that with the knowledge that the skills needed for squirrel hunting are directly applicable to deer.  If you can hunt squirrels, deer are next up.  Still hunting works in both contexts, tiptoeing from cover to cover, all the while thoroughly examining your surroundings.  The only difference is that you won’t look for deer in a tree.  Stand hunting is also productive, sitting quiet and motionless in an opportune place, patiently waiting in ambush for quarry to amble along.  Oak groves, apple orchards, and the edges of corn fields are ideal, all good habitats for both.  Summing it up, squirrels make excellent practice animals.  They’re great for building up toward bigger and better things.

My weapon of choice is usually a shotgun, a pump action 20 gauge using #6 shot.  While you mostly read about people sniping them, using either a .22 or a .17HMR, they’re mostly looking for the challenge.  Popping a squirrel’s head at a distance takes skill.  But I just want the meat.  The only drawback is that I have to spend some time while cleaning picking out the pellets.  You’ll never get them all, so be careful when you eat.

Through a technique called barking, it’s even apparently possible to hunt them with a large caliber rifle.  I’ve heard about it, but admittedly never seen it done.  As the squirrel climbs, the trick is to hit a spot on the tree within four inches of it’s heart.  You want a bullet that will produce some shock, and I’ve heard common .30-’06 works.  That shock will supposedly stop the squirrel’s heart.  It will fall to the ground, dead, dead, dead.  The obvious advantage being that you don’t obliterate a small animal with a large bullet.  This seems very applicable to a survival situation.  Perhaps you’re stuck out and you only have your deer gun.  In any event, it’s a thing to try on a slow day in your deer stand.  Some day, tell me if it works.

You may see a bunch of them at your local town center or park.  Most of them are pretty fat too.  There are specific laws against hunting them in populated areas, but to an anarchist, that shouldn’t matter.  Since parks are government land, illegitimately obtained through extortion and theft, the animals in them are morally unowned and are therefore ripe for homesteading.  Just don’t get caught.  And be sure to practice good wildlife management.  I would however caution that a city squirrel has likely eaten garbage, perhaps not tasting the best  While a squirrel of the woods may have a hint of apples or acorns, it’s urban cousin will be more akin to rotten meat, coffee grounds, and cheeto dust.  Personally, I’d have to be pretty hard up to eat one.  But it’s all entirely all up to your judgement.

I hear different things on cooking them, and my experience seems different.  Commonly, I see people either breaking them down to bread and pan fry, like chicken, or roasting them whole over a campfire.  It looks delicious, but every squirrel I’ve ever cooked as such has been tough and chewy, coming out like rubber.  Squirrels didn’t live life crammed in a cage.  They’re wild animals, and have muscle tone.  I’m told that you can tenderize them. An acidic marinade does a lot.  But I’ve never even found that to work real well.  The best results I get involve a slow braise in a dutch oven with either red or white wine.  A mirpoix adds some depth.  I thicken the juices for gravy.  I’ve also made a simple soup along the lines of a Vietnamese pho.  That turned out okay, but the flavor seemed lost, indistinguishable from common chicken.  On recipes, I’m happy to hear more thoughts.  Pass them along, if you would.

When you hunt, you are keenly aware of your interconnectedness to the world.  You shot it yourself, you watched it die, and you turned it into a meal.  There’s no getting around that fact that you live at another’s expense.  I therefore know very few hunters unaware of life’s value.  Every living thing evolved to live and pass on its genes, and everything that lives takes that away from something else.  There’s no getting out of that web.  The trick then is to honor all life, knowing that some things must die so that you can carry on.

 

An Anarchist Ponders Meat Consumption

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Today, I’m going to talk a little bit about vegetarianism and veganism.  It’s a topic that I’ve frequently wrestled with, still wrestling with it from time to time.  On the one hand, I eat meat, and I don’t expect to stop soon.  Over the past few months, I’ve seen a big improvement in my health that I don’t think would be possible on a vegan diet.  But, some points are well made regarding the ethics and often make me stop a minute to think.  I believe in non aggression, yet live and thrive due to the expense of others.  It’s definitely a conundrum.  Not foreseeing any radical changes any time soon, here’s where I’m at right now.

As I said, my health lately has taken a radical change for the better.  I believe that diet is a huge part.  While I was pretty fit in my mid to late twenties, biking centuries and running five miles without thinking too hard, things turned bad in my early thirties.  Working at some stressful and sedentary jobs, raising a new kid, and going through some pretty bad depression, I quickly began putting on weight.  A few years ago, I ballooned out at 285 pounds, constantly plagued by fatigue, insomnia, and incessant heartburn.  Life wasn’t fun.  Luckily, I was able to change jobs, which helped a whole lot.  More importantly, going into fall, I started exercising, lifting weights and duking it out with a punching bag.  And with that, I’ve started eating better, mostly meat and lots of vegetables with just a smattering of carbs.  Dairy has never bothered me, so I also have a glass of milk with breakfast and a cup of cottage cheese just before bed.  Protein shakes help stave off hunger.  All told, I’ve been throwing off the fat, thirty pounds in just a few months, with hardly any loss in muscle tone, common in dieters.  Looking in the mirror, there’s a huge difference.  Feeling better than I can ever remember, I’m keeping it up.

Still, I have to pause for a moment.  Voluntarism is founded on a pretty basic principle, that interactions should be voluntary and free from force, fraud, and coercion.  We all have a right to be left alone, and nobody lives at another’s expense.  It’s not okay to make others do things that they don’t want to do.  But, is this where that concept breaks down?  I am accepting aggression in this instance on the virtue that it benefits my health?  Is that the exception?  And where does that end?  Roads and schools benefit us.  You could make that argument.  Is it now moral to collect taxes in support?  Do the ends justify the means after all?  Is Pandora’s box now open?  Coercion’s okay, if you can justify it?

Now, Murray Rothbard, one of the first to clearly articulate Voluntarism, made it pretty clear that his ethics only applied to humans.  Rights belong to moral agents, including anything that can come to understand morality and that is accountable for its actions.  That covers a pretty broad spectrum.  Unfortunately, animals just don’t qualify.  They can never fully understand rights, and won’t recognize yours.  Of an entirely different nature, they are a resource to be used wisely.

But, isn’t that distinction kind of arbitrary?  Sure, it is eloquently presented, but why is the limit there?  Why not somewhere else?  I could draw another line and be just as right.  Recognizing the value of non-aggression on at least some level, vegans extend their morality to animals.  At least on the surface, they believe that aggressing against another sentient being is wrong, period.  Consequently, they don’t eat meat or use animal products.  And they’re not even the extreme.  Gandhi, for a time, only ate fruit that had fallen from a tree.  He believed in non-aggression so much that he wouldn’t even harm a plant by plucking its leaves or harvesting its root.  To him, any talk of sentience or ability to feel pain was just another arbitrary categorization.  Plants were living things too and were deserving of respect.  Sure, it eventually landed him in the hospital.  But wasn’t he being more intellectually consistent?  Aggression is either wrong, or it isn’t, right?  It would appear then that arguing that it’s okay in some contexts, but not others, would take some mighty fine acrobatics.

This is all understanding though that the liberty movement contains definite degrees in belief.  Any philosophy claimed by Bill Maher, Glenn Beck, and Adam Kokesh clearly covers a broad spectrum.  Minarchists, for example, will allow for a certain amount of aggression.  While opposed to the system as it is, they still believe that fire departments and roads and defensive militaries are probably good things, holding their noses and accepting some coercion to make them happen.  Voluntarists, further down the spectrum, point out that inconsistency.  They believe that coercion is entirely evil and always to be avoided.  Now, I usually consider myself to be a pretty hard core anarchist.  Accepting aggression toward animals, could it be that I’m just not as radical as I’d thought?  Am I actually somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?  And am I okay with that?

When you take it to the absurd, any concept will break down.  But arguing that something applied a hundred times over will be bad doesn’t counter the actual point.  A classic logical fallacy, reducito ad absurdum doesn’t hold water.  As an anarchist, I value voluntary interactions.  But could holding that as true for just humans be enough, or is non-aggression so pure and so right that it must extend to all living things?  Do I want to go down that rabbit hole?  Do I want to drive off that cliff?   Must one who values liberty turn vegetarian?  I don’t know.  But, for dinner, I had roast pork.  It’ll be eggs and sausage for breakfast.  I’ll likely keep eating the way I’m eating.  Still, there’s no harm in pondering while I do.

 

 

Dutch Oven Pizza

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Switching gears from yesterday, a guy had posted not long ago to inquire about making my dutch oven pizza.  It’s featured prominently on the blog’s Facebook page and I count it as one of my highest achievements.  Cooking it is complicated.  It requires some forethought and planning.  But, if you give it a try, I swear that you won’t be disappointed.

I first got interested in trying it when I was going through my bread baking phase.  Toward the end, I had set out to make the process as primitive and as basic as possible, forsaking all modern conveniences, cooking it on a fire.  I did some research on building a cob oven, but found the project a little overwhelming.  It seemed a lot of work for something that might not turn out.  I also wasn’t sure about building something permanent in my back yard.  Seeing those drawbacks, I turned my attention to cooking it with a dutch oven.

While complicated, I swear that the results will be the best you’ve ever tasted.  My crust, made with sourdough, achieved an absolutely perfect, bubbly, crispy chewy brown.  It was akin to a fine french loaf, picked up at a decent bakery.  It’s something like you’d get at a good brick oven pizzeria, only better since it’s homemade.  I assure you, though managing the fire and the oven certainly take some doing, the results will be well worth it.

In general, the secret to a good pizza is high heat.  In my home oven, I usually cook mine at 500F.  Commercial pizza ovens are usually set to 600.  While there’s no way to accurately gauge a campfire’s exact temperature, a hand held over it for no more than three Mississippis is a good test.  You’ll want an armload of a hot, slow burning wood.  Oak works well.  You’ll also want your fire pit lined with rocks to retain heat.  Notice in the picture how my pit is surrounded with simple a ring of rocks, flat rocks forming the floor.  As a lot of heat is absorbed into the dirt walls, I plan on lining those come spring.

Using the oven itself can be tricky.  I doubt they had pizza in mind when they designed it.  You’ll first notice that the legs are only an inch or two long.  This being the case, your pizza may sit too close to the coals and be prone to scorching.  The fix for this is either to used fewer coals or to lift the oven a few more inches with a tripod.  The top is the real issue.  Filled itself with more coals, the idea is that your food will be heated as well from the top, effectively baking it.  It works great for a loaf of bread or some biscuits, but since a pizza lays flat on the oven’s floor, the heat is a little too far away to properly do its job.  The danger is that the top won’t quite be done, and I’ve admittedly never been able to brown my cheese and toppings as I’d like.  Someone with some ingenuity could rig up something so the pizza sits in the oven’s center.  I’ve never tried it.  Lodge also makes a very short and wide dutch oven, seemingly more appropriate for the task.  But, as a standard dutch oven is more versatile, I’ve just chosen to make due.  I view any imperfections as a simple quirk of the process.

Before you cook, you’ll want to properly arrange the fire and your oven.  You want it hot and even.  Rather than lapping flames, your fire should burn down to embers.  They give off a more even heat.  You’ll also want your oven hot the moment you start cooking, so let it warm right next to the fire as it becomes ready.  Once you get your coals, use a shovel to spread them in a thin later on the fire pit’s floor.  Then place more on the oven’s lid.  As that’s the weak point, you’ll want a lot.  But remember that too many will smother and go out.  Fire needs air.  The idea is that you want a certain amount of heat from the bottom, and as much heat from the top as you can get.

And remember that actually cooking the pizza is a hands on process.  It’s not something you can just put on the fire and leave.   Ballpark, your pizza will take about ten minutes to cook.  The challenge is that your coals will never burn evenly, creating some spots that are hotter than others.  To manage that, you’ll want to turn both your dutch oven and your lid a quarter turn every three minutes or so.  That way no one spot on the pizza is in one place for too long.  Even then, a few black spots are unavoidable.  I just figure it adds to the character.

And taking the pizza out definitely deserves some foresight and planning.  Being extremely hot and without a lot of room, you can’t just lift it out.  My process requires two people, some welding gloves, a spatula, and a pizza peel.  With one person slowly and gently tipping the oven, another wiggle and finesse the spatula underneath.  I always cook my pizza on parchment, making it slide just a little easier.  Achieving that, it’s just a matter of quickly lifting the pizza and tugging it onto the peel.  If someone finds an easier method, I’m happy to hear it.  From here though, you’re ready to serve.

Talking about food and cooking is so much more pleasant than arguing about what ails the world.  Considering himself an anarchist, JRR Tolkien once noted that the world would be a better place if more people valued food and song over hoarded gold.  This is a meal that you’ll want to share with others.  Have some beer available and play some Grateful Dead.  Life is too beautiful to spend arguing and bossing others around.  Good food and good people will solve all the world’s problems.

The Myth of Cultural Appropriation

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I came across this blog post just now.  It’s from Angry Asian Man at blog.angryasianman.com.  Being short, I’ll post it in it’s entirety.

People. Is this a real thing? This can’t be real.

White Girl Asian Food appears to be an actual food trailer operating in Austin, Texas. True to its branding and concept, the proprietor is a white girl serving “Asian food.” Also known as “Com Bun Yeu” (“Rice Noodle Love” in Vietnamese), they claim to “serve up deliciousness from all over Asia.”

You guys, I can’t do this today. The oblivious tone-deaf white privilege here is astounding.

Cultural appropriation is the idea that there is a certain injustice in people from one culture adopting aspects of another.  In this case, the perception is that the owner of this truck has unduly taken ideas belonging people of Asian descent and is wrongfully profiting off them.  That’s not her food.  It belongs to Asians, and she shouldn’t be serving it.

Malarky.

Like any bit of information, you can not own food as an abstract notion.  I’m sorry, but you just can’t.  Thoughts and information aren’t physical things.  And since knowledge can never be physically possessed, it can never qualify as real property.  It fails that crucial aspect of the definition.  Furthermore, since the concept of cultural appropriation relies on the notion of intellectual property, an absolutely illogical notion, cultural appropriation absolutely fails as a concept.  Ideas can’t be stolen.  They don’t belong to anyone.

And to collectivize this woman, as the author has, is an absolute act of prejudice.   This poor woman wasn’t a sailor on Commodore Perry’s fleet.  I’m sure she never fought in the Opium Wars.  I will go out on a limb and say that she, as an individual, is completely innocent of any wrongdoing in the operation of her business.  It is true that not every exchange is voluntary.  Rights can be violated in obtaining information.  But whatever was done years ago by others, she had no part in it.  She obtained her truck, her food, and all her recipes peacefully, either through her own labor or via voluntary and mutually beneficial exchange.  Yet, the author is holding her individually accountable for the actions of people like her.  That is wrong.

There’s all kinds of wrong here.  Really, what the author is calling for is censorship.  In her cooking, the truck owner is expressing some ideas.  The author has a problem with that and thinks that she shouldn’t be expressing them.  He’s also calling for a monopoly, believing that those ideas should only be expressed by an elite few.  That totally disregards our right to labor and to trade freely.  It’s all really ugly stuff.

And the woman is even saying flat out that she’s white.  You can’t even accuse her of fraud.  Her customers know exactly what they’re getting, Asian food cooked by a white girl.  If you want it cooked by an actual Asian person, go somewhere else.  She’s not misrepresenting herself in the slightest.  I’ll shout it from the rooftops, she is doing nothing wrong in operating her business.

If you really have a problem with her, the thing to do is to outcompete her.  If there are two Asian food trucks, side by side, the food is of equal quality, but one is run by an actual Asian person, I’ll go to the Asian guy every time.  That’s my preference.  I’ll even cut a little slack on the quality of the food.  And, if there are enough people like me, the white lady’s truck will eventually close.  No hard feelings.  That’s just how the market works.  But to flatly say no, you can’t sell your food, violates everything good and right.

Accusations of cultural appropriation are borne out of bigotry and seek to violate rights. You cannot morally halt expression.  You cannot morally hinder exchange.  Attempting to do either seeks to impose your will on others.  Other people are not yours to boss around.

Of Cooking Show Hosts and Great Man Fallacies.

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Straight up, I learned a lot of what I know about cooking from old Frugal Gourmet books.  The gumbo recipe I posted earlier was his.  It’s Backwoods Gumbo, taken from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American.  Likewise, my Lentils and Italian Sausage is out of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks With Wine.  Of course, as will happen in any exchange, I modified and tweaked some things.  My recipes are distinct and different from his.  They’re now my own.  But, credit where it’s due, that’s where I really got started.  Without knowing much about the phenomena that was The Frugal Gourmet or how it was all to end, his work was a really big influence.

Now, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, let me talk about The Great Man Theory.  Way, way back, people used to believe that the world as we know it is the result of the actions of Great Men.   The idea was that history and society as we know it are primarily shaped and molded in a large part by certain, influential people.  Examples might be Caesar, Jesus, Genghis Khan, Mohammad, Hitler, Roosevelt, Reagan. . .  You get the idea.  Maybe it was because they had a certain charisma.  Perhaps some were powerful military figures.  It could be anything.  But, by that theory, the world is what it is now because of certain individuals doing their thing.  Great Men made it all happen.  Consequently, looking at the world through that lens, the people who lead us become really, really important.

Of course, most serious historians today don’t subscribe to this.  They’d argue that leaders reflect the society, not the other way around.  Hitler, for example, was the result of a popular political movement.  If he hadn’t come to power, someone else just like him would have instead.  Likewise,  Jesus wasn’t preaching anything much different than others of his time.  Things happened though, and he’s the guy we remember.  The point is that it’s all so much bigger than just one individual.  Great Men are a pretty small factor.

Now, I was too young to remember, but The Frugal Gourmet ended in scandal and disgrace.  Jeff Smith had at one time hosted the number one cooking show on PBS.  He rivaled Julia Child and was on the air for over twenty years.  He was the very definition of an institution.  He was quickly pulled off the air though when he was accused by over twenty men of sexually abusing them as teenagers.  Before his civil suit went to trial, he settled out of court.  Two of his books had made the New York Times Bestseller list.  Now they can be found for a dollar apiece in a thrift store.  He used to be the cooking guy.  Now it’s all gone.

If you read his stuff though, you won’t find anything that’s radical or hateful or destructive.  He talked about simple and humble food.  He advocated sharing meals and dining with your loved ones.  He was constantly delving into anthropology, talking about the origins of different foods, where it all came from, and where we all came from.  You can’t really argue with any of that.  It’s all stuff that we’d all do well to listen to and take to heart.  Still, nobody wants to hear it from him.

I’m not trying to redeem or defend him, and whether or not he actually did it is completely irrelevant.  I won’t even get into that, either way.  The point I’m trying to make is that you had a certain ideology that was deeply based on an individual.  Once that individual was compromised, so then was the message.  Anything connected to him was forever tarnished.

And that’s the issue with putting stock in a leader.  Individuals, every one of them, are all fallible.  Somewhere, we all have some kind of weakness.  Nobody’s perfect.  That being the case, any thought or notion that’s completely founded on an individual will die with that individual.  Destroy the man and you’ve destroyed the movement.  Arguments based on authority can all be discredited.

By contrast, good ideas are as strong as the logic behind them.  Ad hominem can’t hurt them.  Sound notions hold their own.  There’s no need to appeal to authority because well founded arguments are powerful by themsleves.  Trying to give weight beyond that is superfluous, detrimental even.  When truth is present, Great Men are thoroughly unnecessary.

Skipping Sin Taxes

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Taxes are immoral.  They pay for evil things.  They are the very definition of extortion.  And even if they go toward something you like, perhaps you fancy your schools or fire stations, is the violence really necessary?  Do we need to point guns at people to educate kids?  Are we somehow unable to put out fires peacefully and cooperatively?  No.  Taxes are immoral, and good people try to avoid them.

And in using your vices against you, sin taxes are the worst.  My income tax, I can’t do much about.  They’ve got me.  They’ll find me eventually if I don’t pay it.  Likewise, sales tax is unavoidable to some extent.  On some level, I need stuff and I need to buy it.  The same goes for property taxes.  Really, if I want to participate in society, I’m more or less trapped on all those things.  But sin taxes, taxes on alcohol and cigarettes and the like, take advantage of your addictions.  When you see a police checkpoint, know that the beer you bought earlier funded that.  The same goes for prisons.  They’re attacking us through our weakness in character.  They’re using our flaws against us.

Right now, trying to get in shape, I haven’t been drinking.  But I see nothing inherently wrong with the mere act.  Some of the best experiences I’ve ever had happened when I was drunk.  It’s a social lubricant.  When done right, it makes gatherings merry.  Dammit, sometimes drinking is just downright fun.  Now, some abstain for a whole lot of good reasons, and I absolutely respect that.  But I submit that it is entirely possible to nonviolently enjoy a drink while minimizing your tax footprint.

To that end, I dabble in home brewing.  And it really is a fascinating hobby.  Some people like it because it cuts costs.  $100 worth of equipment will get you started, and ingredients let you make beer for about half the price of buying.  There’s also the science, every batch bringing you back to High School Biology.  I always liked the traditions and histories, learning about old monks and pouring over various recipes from different regions.  There really is something for everyone.

And at this stage of the game, I’m mostly into meads.  To me, while it can certainly be made complicated, mead has the advantage of simplicity.  Unlike beer, where you have to boil your wort for a time and stir and fuss, mead requires nothing done on a stovetop.  Just dump 15 pounds of honey into water to make 5 gallons, pitch your yeast, and just sit and wait.  And you do have to wait.  In about three years it’ll be just about right, bulk aged, racked, and then conditioned in a bottle for a while.  It requires some patience.  But when it’s done, it will be magic.  Most important to me though, Maine State Law requires no sales tax on honey.  Once finished, I can enjoy it with my conscience clear.

Once, at the height of my brewing, I even set out to make a completely nonviolent mead.  I wanted it produced with no government involvement or coercion whatsoever.  Forsaking the use of Federal Reserve Notes, I had planned on somehow bartering for the honey.  My water comes from my own well, so I had that going for me.  I even read up on recycling the yeast from one batch to the next.  Through it all, the big hitch was going to be the roads.  How would I avoid them?  I don’t have my own bees, so I would have had to travel for the honey.  Seemed a long trek, out of the way and through the woods.  The project was eventually abandoned, but it’s still worth taking up one day.  Maybe one day I’ll try it again.

But the point is to always be trying; separate yourself from the system.  You’re not a slave.  You’re not a serf.  Understanding that you are an individual and not a drone, you owe society nothing.  Evil men want to put you down.  They will rob and they will steal.  But even worse is to be cheated.  That beer in the cooler and wine on the shelf really do look good.  But they’re a trap.  Don’t be fooled.  Don’t be tricked.  Don’t be destroyed by your vices.

My Bread Baking Phase

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I used to be really into bread.  It was a big part of my life.  It was something I shared with others.  By the end, my bread baking took on an almost spiritual level.  It was part of my routine and a big part of who I was.  Past that now, it’s not a thing for me anymore.  Still, it was important for a long time, and I feel my experience is worthwhile sharing.

I started baking in my mid twenties.  I vaguely remember first seeing a recipe on the side of a King Arthur flour bag and becoming inspired to follow it.  And I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but it turned out pretty decent.  It was better than anything you could buy in the store, and it came together pretty easy too.  I was hooked.  I went on from there.

It wasn’t long then before I got into sourdough.  Now, that’s real bread.  It’s a man’s bread.  It’s the bread of the frontier, what gold miners and fur trappers baked.  Requiring expertise and knowledge, and often just a little luck, it’s bread made complicated.  A skill to master, an individual who can turn out a good loaf of sourdough is an individual with grit, knowledge and determination.  I wanted to be one of those individuals.

And it does require skill.  I talked before about how a lot of cooking is in the quality of the ingredients.  That’s not quite as true with bread.  At its most basic, its just flour, salt, and water, and the cheapest bread flour at Walmart will do.  Bread is all about how you put it together, how you work it, how you time it, and how you cook it.  It’s all in the skill of the baker.  And I sought long and hard to develop that skill.

Bread quickly became my weekly meditation.  Saturday mornings consisted of Tai Chi exercises, sifting flour, and kneading dough.  Buddhist temple music played in the background.  I didn’t use a recipe.  I went completely by feel.  It was a transcendental experience.  I was the bread.

And my friends oohed and aahhed, and it was awesome.  Post pictures of particularly good loaves always got tons of likes and comments.  The fact that I needed to open a bakery was a given.  The name Liberty Bread was thrown around, acknowledging my strong political alignment.  I was the guy you’d bring baking questions to.  I was the bread guy.

My pinnacle moment in baking came the day I baked the most magnificent boule in my dutch oven over a campfire.  It’d been a dream of mine for a while, taking the process to an almost primal level.  It was as complicated and as labor intensive as I could make it.  It was bread at its most primitive and basic.

You see, a lot of bread baking is about timing and control.  You wait until the bread has risen just the right amount, and then you let it proof, and then you heat up your oven. . .  In a kitchen, a more or less stable environment, that’s fine.  You can exercise that control.  On a campfire though, the coals are ready when they’re ready and they will only be ready for so long.  No matter what stage the bread is at, when the fire’s right, get it in the pot and get it cooking.  You can’t hope to control a situation like that.  It turns the baking experience into one of surrender and letting go.  The fire is the master.  You have to trust the bread.  I did, and it turned out beautifully.  I consider it one of my highest achievements.

And then I took up Paleo.  Now, I am not one to say that diet is the absolute direct and only cause of all of life’s suffering.  You lost your job and your dog died and now you feel depressed, so just stop eating grain? No.  That attitude belittles the real challenges and real struggles that people face.  Not everything has a quick and easy fix.  I will say though that I went a month without eating any grains, potatoes, legumes, or dairy, and I felt great.  My sleep was deeper and more restful.  I was overall in a better mood.  I was more sharp and alert in my thinking.  I lost 5 pounds, which isn’t real impressive.  But it’s still a step in the right direction.  On the whole, it was a very positive thing.

Now I don’t eat bread at all.  Anticipating society’s collapse and its unleashing the worst it can offer, I’ve been pretty dedicated to getting in shape.  Lifting weights and duking it out with a punching bag, protein is what I eat.  Bread just isn’t in the equation.  If it comes up that I eat a piece, say a friend has some that I just have to try, I actually get heartburn.  Bread today is painful for me to eat.  Otherwise, I’m fine.  I feel better than I ever have.  So,  guess it’s no bread then.

So yeah, in and out of my life.  That’s the story of me and bread.  Bittersweet?  Maybe.  But so it is with all things.  Don’t let my experience discourage you.  A good loaf of bread is still a thing of beauty.  But for me, it’s come and gone.  I bid it a heartfelt farewell.

My Thoughts on Jerky

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In this installment, I’m going to pass on everything I’ve learned with regards to making beef jerky.  I’m going to talk a little about my thoughts on preparation.  Then I’m going to move on to recipes for marinades and seasoning.  If you’re a hiker or backpacker, a hunter or other outdoor enthusiast, or maybe just looking for a tasty, low carb snack, you might find something here of value.  Beef jerky done well is a very special thing, indeed.

When you read most recipes for jerky, a whole lot seems to be sacrificed to food safety.  I get it.  It’s raw meat, and raw meat harbors bacteria.  With some research, you’ll see that E coli dies at 160F and salmonella dies at 150F.  That being the case, the recommendation across the board on every recipe I’ve seen is to crank the heat on whatever you’re using to at least 180F.  You might notice that that’s as high as most jerky makers and dehydrators go.  The thought is to kill the germs, all of them.  Die bugs, die.

Forgiving anyone who would err on the side of caution, to me, that advice brings up a few problem.  As it dries, high heat like that tends to cook the meat, turning it hard and brittle.  To my mind, jerky is better when it’s chewy and flexible.  Additionally, heat destroys nutrients.  Really, it’s not much different than when you’d cook normally, or even what would happen naturally as your food digests in your stomach.  But, since it’s a food that may be eaten in an extreme situation, common in backpacking trips or stored for survival situations, I’d think that any nutrients would be worth preserving.  Seeing those two drawbacks, alternate methods are at least worth looking at.

And while most recipes advocate for high heat, it’s important to remember that heat itself isn’t really necessary for the actual process of drying.  Some Tibetans dry yak meat.  All they do is cut their’s into strips and hang them out at night.  The cool, dry Himalayan air does the rest.  In my experience, it’s the circulation of air that really does the trick.  Cranking up the heat isn’t necessary for that purpose.

Which leaves the challenge of the bacteria.  The thing working in your favor here is that bacteria can’t penetrate beef past the surface.  It can’t get into the flesh.  That’s why it’s perfectly safe to eat a rare steak, the outside having been properly seared.  Knowing that, the solution when working with beef, not ground beef mind you, is to somehow sanitize the surface.  That’s all you need.  Do that, and your jerky is safe to eat.  I try to accomplish this with the marinade.

You’ll want to use something acidic, alcoholic, and or salty.  I routinely use a teriyaki lime marinade, consisting of equal amounts of tamari, lime juice, and sugar.  Fresh ginger and garlic round it out nicely.  Another hit in the household was simple kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, coriander, and apple cider vinegar.  For that, I simply wet the meat in the vinegar and then sprinkled on the spices, the undried end product coated similar to a pretzel.  Although it’s very different from jerky, some may recognize those as the same seasonings used in biltong, everything working in harmony to keep away flies and germs.  In Laos, they seem to often use fish sauce, sugar, lemongrass, garlic, and ginger.  It looks as though salt is their weapon of choice for germ killing.  Look up Laotian Dried Beef. It’s good.  I also used simple beer once, and that tasted excellent.  But, while I didn’t get sick, I’m not sure if the alcohol content was really high enough for sanitation.  Finally, memorable to my wife was the time I prepared some jerky with straight tabasco.  Go ahead and try to tell me that something may have lived through that.

A good sharp knife makes slicing the meat easy.  Usually starting with a bit of flank steak, I’ll first get rid of any visible fat.  Fat goes rancid in storage.  Then, to get some good, wide strips, I cut diagonally at perhaps a 75 or 80 degree angle.  I’m told that cutting it across the grain like that also makes it more tender.  I haven’t really noticed.  But you want your strips thin, absolutely no more than a quarter of an inch thick.  failing that, your jerky case hardens, producing a mummified outside, trapping a raw inside that will spoil.  It’s just a few simple things to keep in mind.

Having done that, you’re ready to go about drying, low and slow.  I turn my dehydrator all the way down with almost no heat.  Again, simple air circulation does the trick.  Overnight is usually long enough.  If I start it in the morning, it’ll be finished when I get home.  8 to 12 hours is adequate.  Again, you’re looking for something that’s just a little bendy, not brittle. Perhaps, picture a good, stiff shoe leather.

Your next task is storage, and many people think differently than me on this.  For some reason, glass mason jars seem to be popular.  If you’re going to be eating it and finishing it over the course of a month, that’s probably fine.  Remember though that mason jars trap air and moisture and allow in light, all of which are your enemy.  Historically, Pioneers stored their jerky in burlap bags, hung in a secure, dry places.  A simple brown paper bag would probably also work, keeping out light and allowing moisture to escape.  You want it some place dark , away from pests, where it won’t mold or rehydrate.  Anything accomplishing that is fine.

One big advantage here to all of all this is the cost.  In the store, a small bag of commercial jerky costs about six bucks.  I saw some earlier today.  Even a simple Slim Jim now costs over a dollar.  Regarding the quality of ingredients, I won’t even begin to speculate.  But the good sized flank steak I used to make the jerky shown above didn’t cost much more than seven.  I’d suspect that, using high quality grass fed beef, you’d still come out ahead.  This is one of the many cases where it really does pay to do it yourself.

And again, this is all useful.  It’s protein that doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking.  If society fails, it’s a meal you can have squirreled away.  It’s a low carb, high protein snack.  All told, it’s definitely something worth making.  Please give it a try.