Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Robert Byrd and Me

In case you don't know who the late Robert Byrd was, he was a US Senator from West Virginia, who in the early part of his life was a segregationist and a high-ranking member of the Ku Klux Klan. In later life he renounced his racist views. (It is interesting to note that he was also pro-choice and opposed to same-sex marriage.)

He became known as someone who completely changed his views on race and was willing to admit that he had been wrong. I do not know why this is so noteworthy. Most of us have to admit we were wrong at one time or another, and if it is so very unusual for a racist to change his mind, then this country is in big trouble. But anyway. A few months ago, one of my favorite bloggers happened to write a piece in which he quoted Robert Byrd:
I am loyal to my country and know but reverence to her flag, BUT I shall never submit to fight beneath that banner with a negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory tramped in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throw back to the blackest specimen from the wilds.
 Believe it or not, this post is not about race. It's about bigotry. When I read that quote, something about it reminded me of the transphobic things I've heard people say. I think it's the desperation and the overblown rhetoric. It's the idea of this beautiful, sacred thing which is in danger of being polluted by creatures who aren't really human.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red Lentil Balls

I took these lentil balls to a potluck this weekend. Although they were prominently labeled "VEGAN," they were quickly devoured. I got the recipe from a Turkish food blog. The Turkish name for them is Kırmızı Mercimekli Köfte.They are good warm or cold.

If you want to make them spicy, the traditional ingredient to use is harissa, a chili paste from Morocco - but any hot sauce or chili paste will do. When I went to the Middle Eastern store they had a whole shelf of various chili sauces from around the world, including sriracha (which actually would probably not be good in this dish, because of the sugar.) But their harissa was much more expensive than the other chili pastes, so I went home and used the hot sauce I already had.


2 cups water
1 cup split red lentils (sometimes called Egyptian lentils or masoor dal.)
1/2 cup fine bulghur (look for it at Middle Eastern stores)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 teaspoon of tomato paste (optional) and/or chili paste
1 teaspoon cumin (whole or ground)
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup fresh, chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup green onions (scallions)
lettuce leaves (I prefer to use Boston lettuce, because it forms natural "cups." Endive might also be good.)


Bring two cups of water to boil in a pot, and add the lentils. Cook on low heat until the water is absorbed, and the lentils are mushy, about 20 minutes. Turn off the stove, and stir the bulghur into lentils. Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes to allow the bulghur to soften and expand.

In the meantime, fry the cumin seeds, finely chopped onion and minced garlic in olive oil until lightly browned. Add tomato paste at the last minute, stir and turn off the stove.

Stir the fried onion and garlic into the lentil mixture along with the spices and salt. Taste, and adjust salt and spices. Stir in the parsley and green onions. Oil your hands and shape the mixture into egg-shaped balls. Sprinkle with paprika, and place the balls in lettuce leaves. Pick up a lettuce leaf and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mythological Musings

I think I've mentioned before that I love mythology. It's fascinating to contemplate the fact that these ancient, stripped-down stories still have resonance for so many people today. What makes them eternal?

And although we have only the bare bones of each story, still it often happens that mythology contains concepts which our modern civilization has forgotten about.

The term "hermaphrodite" comes from a Greek myth in which the deities Hermes and Aphrodite had a child together, who, as they say, "combined the attributes of both genders." One encyclopedia of mythology describes this child as "a female boy," as if everyone knows what that is. According to another source, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Religion, Literature, and Art (available online):
The fable probably arose from the inclination, prevalent in the Eastern religions, towards confusing the attributes of both sexes. In Cyprus, for instance, a masculine Aphroditos, clad in female attire, was worshipped by the side of the goddess Aphrodite. Figures of hermaphrodites are common in art.