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Lyrics for summer’s end. August 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Frances of Faire Garden (http://fairegarden.wordpress.com/) inspired me to think of this post today when she mentioned Led Zeppelin in one of her always-marvelous posts. Jimmy Page is one of my guitar heroes. But for some reason, Frances’s post made me think of the end of summer, especially since this is the last day of August and, conventional wisdom bedamned, I always think the first of September is also the first day of autumn.

Thinking of Led Zeppelin made me wonder if any song captured the end of summer the way Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” captured its beginning. And yes, there is a perfect end-of-summer song, from Jimmy Buffett of all people. If you only know Jimmy from “Margaritaville,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” or “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” this poignant song will take you by surprise. It’s my all-time favorite Jimmy Buffett song, perhaps because it’s about Pensacola, the delightful North Florida area where I spent my family vacations every year as a child, and where I have such glorious memories of shelling and beach walking, riding the waves, and daring the Man-of-War jellyfish to sting me. Like Jimmy’s, my Pensacola was a quiet place, with beach houses, sand, and ocean. The “hot spots” were all farther down the coast. I guess, to hear this song, that’s not true any more! But still the memory lingers.

             When the Coast Is Clear

They’re closing down the hangouts

The air is turning cool

They’re shutting down the super slide

The kids are back in school. 

 

The tourist traps are empty

Vacancy abounds

Almost like it used to be

Before the circus came to town.

 

That’s when it always happens

The same time every year

I come down to talk to me

When the coast is clear.

 

Hello mister other me

It’s been a long, long time

We hardly get to have these chats

That in itself’s a crime.

 

So tell me all your troubles

I’ll surely tell you mine

We’ll laugh and smoke and cuss and joke

And have a glass of wine.

 

That’s when it always happens

The same place every year

I come down to talk to me

When the coast is clear. [repeat]

 

The music that accompanies these lyrics is great. If the early nights and late light at morning, the cool temperatures, the return to work and onset of winter are getting you down, check out this soulful song. Then maybe put on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” to take you far, far away from your troubles! (And don’t forget “Marrakesh Express.”)

           ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

Frugal living tip #35. August 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Mondays in 2009 here at Poor Richard’s Almanac have been set aside for Frugal Living Tips in recognition of the hard times so many of us are going through right now. So our friend Ben was astounded to see an article in our local paper focusing on how to get the frugal-minded among us to let loose with their hard-earned cash.

Say what?!! As a card-carrying spendthrift, our friend Ben can’t even conceive of someone who refuses to spend money out of fear. If it glitters or comes in book, movie, or CD form, our friend Ben is after it like a bulldog on a pork chop. If it weren’t for the ongoing efforts of Silence Dogood, I’d be out of meat and borrowing meal, as the old-time saying had it.

But apparently some people have the opposite problem: They’re so afraid of going broke that they can’t bring themselves to buy an extra pack of toilet paper to make sure they don’t run out. They predicate every treat on “What if I can’t do this later?” As in, “I shouldn’t take my spouse out to dinner now in case it means I can’t take him or her next month.” “We shouldn’t go to this movie, even though we all really want to see it, since if we wait to rent it we’ll save at least ten dollars.”

Well, obviously, if your bank account’s empty, you’re living on credit, and your paycheck’s not due for a week, it makes sense to postpone even small pleasures ’til later. (Our friend Ben encourages you to continue buying toilet paper, however.) But if you have the money and you actually want to do whatever it is, carpe diem. Tomorrow might never come. 

Getting back to those of us who’ve never seen a [your favorite here] we didn’t want, our friend Ben has come up with a three-point checklist to help us keep our collective hands out of our billfolds. It’s based on that old three-question restraint for gossips, that before saying something you should ask yourself: “Will saying this do harm?” “Is it kind?” “Does it need to be said at all?” If we actually used this exercise, most people would probably never talk at all. But I digress.

Next time you’re thinking about buying something, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Why do I want it?

2. Can I afford it?

3. Do I actually need it?

If the answer to the first question makes sense to you—whether it’s “I’ve been waiting to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie for a year!” or “My shoe has a hole in it and I need a new pair”—and the answer to the other two is yes, go for it. Otherwise, buyer beware. The money you save will be your own!

Soul food and other vegan delights. August 30, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I’ve been a vegetarian almost half my life, but have never been able to take the plunge and become a vegan. It’s not that I don’t approve; in fact, I’m convinced that it’s the right thing to do. And it’s not even that I love cheese, butter, yogurt, and other dairy products (though I certainly do).

It’s more that I don’t trust pseudofoods. I not only don’t trust them to taste like what they’re supposed to be imitating—surely no one in their right mind would actually claim that soy and dairy products are interchangeable, that carob tastes anything like chocolate, that anything at all tastes like butter, or that the unending pseudomeats taste like meat. You might as well say that roasted chicory root tastes like coffee. In the case of something like carob or tempeh, I’d rather see it treated as a food on its own than considered a “substitute for.” But beyond simple tastebud outrage, I’m concerned that by the time you transform these pseudofoods into a form, texture and flavor that nature never intended, you’ve added so many chemicals and steps to the process that you might as well just grab a bag of chemical fertilizer and eat that instead.

When I think about it, many of the foods I already enjoy would qualify as vegan: rice, pasta, whole-grain bread (oops, maybe vegans refuse to use yeast), tortillas and tortilla chips; fruits and veggies; herbs and spices; olive oil; tofu and miso; an almost endless array of condiments. (I can’t even imagine stepping into the raw-food world, but all of us eat “raw foods” daily when we enjoy salads, fresh fruit, crudites, or, say, lettuce and tomato on our sandwich.) But that final frontier, the absence of dairy, still looms like the Great Wall of China between me and veganism.

Oh, and did I mention that I’m offended by the holier-than-thou attitude vegan treatises often take? Yes, I’m a vegetarian for moral rather than health reasons. No, I don’t think that puts me above people who eat meat. Maybe those people volunteer to help the sick and elderly, work in a soup kitchen or animal shelter, visit prisoners and the mentally ill, foster orphans. Who the hell am I to set myself above these? We’re all doing what we can, and vegetarianism just happens to be something I can do.

However, I’ve discovered a way to narrow the gap, and that’s through ethnic cooking. Exotic dishes that are vegan might be easier to make (and take) than trying to veganize standard menu items like macaroni and cheese. I was reminded of this when I saw that chef Bryant Terry had written a cookbook of soul food called Vegan Soul Kitchen. Like his earlier collaborative effort with Frances Moore Lappe’s daughter Anna, Grub, Bryant’s soul food book feeds the soul with much more than food, offering songs, art, and reading recommendations to accompany each recipe. It’s pretty amazing. I’ll give you a recipe to try from Vegan Soul Kitchen in a mo, but first let me mention some other ethnic-inspired vegan and vegetarian cookbooks you might want to check out. (I’m not going into Indian, Mexican, Turkish, Greek, Moroccan, etc. cookbooks here, since I’ve covered them in earlier posts.)

I know I’ve recommended it before, but whenever I think of soul food I’m reminded of a favorite cookbook, The Ethnic Vegetarian by Angela Shelf Medearis (Rodale, 2004). Subtitled Traditional and Modern Recipes from Africa, America, and the Caribbean, this is a must-have book for any adventurous cook, or for that matter, for any Southern cook. Check out Angela’s Texas Caviar with Corn Cakes (black-eyed peas are the “caviar” base) as an introduction to her irresistible recipes!

Where else do vegan recipes lend themselves to a tropical holiday? There’s The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, with its Pineapple Five-Spice Dipping Sauce, Chilled Australian Curried Mango Soup, and Jamaican Cook-Up Rice. (No music recommendations with this book, but can’t you just hear Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley?) And there’s The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen, with recipes running the gamut from Baked Black Olives with Herbes de Provence and Anise, Tunisian Chickpea Soup, Moroccan Orange and Black Olive Salad, Braised Broccoli Rabe with Prunes, Golden Raisins, and Pine Nuts, and Polenta Pie with Wild Mushroom Filling. Both books are by Donna Klein and are published by Home/Penguin.

Finally, there’s Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes, by Robin Robertson, one of my favorite vegetarian cookbook authors (Vegan Heritage Press, 2008). From Jumpin’ Jambalaya to Avocado and Jicama Salad with Lime Dressing to Nigerian Peanut Soup to Kimchi and Cold Buckwheat Noodles with Jade Vegetables, Robin takes you on a globe-trotting investigation of hot and spicy recipes that happen to be vegan.     

Okay, about that recipe from Vegan Soul Kitchen. This one inspired Bryant Terry to write his wonderful cookbook, and it might inspire you to try more vegetarian or vegan or Southern or soul food in your own home. 

                      Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux

coarse sea salt    

2 large bunches collard greens, ribs removed, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Chiffonade the collards: Stack several collard leaves, stems cut out, roll them widthwise into a tight, cigarlike cylinder, then slice crosswise with a sharp knife, cutting the leaves into thin strips.

In a large pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the collards and cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water to cool the collards.

Remove the collards from the heat, drain, and plunge them into the ice water to stop cooking and set the color of the greens. Drain by gently pressing the greens against a colander.

In a medium-size saute pan, combine the olive oil and the garlic and raise the heat to medium. Saute for 1 minute. Add the collards, raisins, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add orange juice and cook for an additional 15 seconds. Do not overcook! Collards should be bright green. Season with additional salt to taste and serve immediately. (This also makes a tasty filling for quesadillas.) Serves 4.

My copy of Vegan Soul Kitchen just arrived yesterday afternoon, so I haven’t yet had a chance to make this dish. But there’s a photo of it in the book and it looks out of this world!  I can’t wait to try it and the other recipes in this and the other vegan cookbooks. I doubt I’ll ever give up dairy altogether, but it can’t hurt to come a little closer.

              ‘Til next time,

                         Silence

A cookbook with a past. August 29, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. No, I’m not talking about Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, now at #2 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list and still climbing. (Go Julia!!!) Not that I’m not even more thrilled than usual to have bought a first edition at my favorite used book store, The Saucony Book Shop in scenic Kutztown, PA, a couple of years ago.

Actually, I’m talking about a wonderful discovery I made at our local library last weekend. I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I asked our friend Ben to drop me off at the library while he took our black German shepherd puppy Shiloh for a walk at the nearby Kutztown Park. Of course I went to check out the cookbook shelves, and I saw a book that was old in spirit but new to me, The Lewis & Clark Cookbook: Historic Recipes from the Corps of Discovery & Jefferson’s America, by Leslie Mansfield (Celestial Arts, 2002, $17.95 softcover).

Well, if you’re like me, you’d have assumed that a corps of discoverers crossing uncharted America in the first decade of the 1800s would have been lucky to find a piece of venison jerky or a wormy hardtack biscuit to chew on. Not the stuff from which great cookbooks are made! But as I flipped through the pages, I was delighted to see a wide range of recipes that represented some of Thomas Jefferson’s favorites (and remember, he remains to this day the most famous American gourmet of all time), and to discover that Lewis, Clark and company actually enjoyed a wide range of dishes based on native foods during their travels. (Mind you, modern health-obsessed cooks who shudder at the thought of a quarter-pounder will be appalled to hear that, on average, every man in the Lewis and Clark expedition ate 9—count them, 9—pounds of meat a day.)

Corn on the cob is still in season here in Pennsylvania, and since OFB and I both love it, I’ve been trying to cook this Native American crop as often as I can. So in the spirit of Americana and seasonality, I’m going to share the Corn Chowder recipe from The Lewis & Clark Cookbook. Sort of. Being a vegetarian, I’ve given the recipe “the Silence treatment.” To restore it to its original form, add 2 ounces salt pork, finely chopped, and reduce the butter to 1 tablespoon; replace the veggie stock with chicken stock; add 1 teaspoon sugar and omit the curry powder; replace the 1 cup diced yellow summer squash with 1 cup chopped tomatoes; and replace the cup of light cream with half-and-half. Got that?

Want to be really adventurous? If you’re making the vegetarian version, add a tablespoon or two of pumpkin puree, stirring well to blend, when you add the cream and heat through. And/or add a splash of warming apple brandy or bourbon just before serving. Yum! (Don’t try this if you’re recreating the original version, since none of these additions would taste good with the tomato. But for either version, you could also add a cup of minced mushrooms, suateeing them with the onion.)

Ready for the recipe? Here goes:

              Corn Chowder

4 ounces salted butter (1/2 stick)

1 cup finely chopped sweet onions (Vidalia, WallaWalla, 1015, or Candy type)

4 cups veggie stock (any of the boxed stocks are fine)

2 cups corn kernels, preferably cut fresh off the cob

2 cups diced potatoes

1 cup diced yellow summer squash

1 teaspoon salt

1-2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup light cream

Melt the butter in a heavy Dutch oven or stock pot. Add onions, salt, curry powder, and pepper, and saute until onions clarify. Stir in the corn and potatoes, stirring briefly to coat with butter and spices, then add the veggie stock. Simmer, stirring often, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and heat through. Serves four as a meal and eight as a first course.

It’s traditional to serve some sort of crackers with chowder, be it plain old Saltines, Vermont common crackers, beaten biscuits, or table water crackers. Some might be broken into or tossed onto the chowder’s surface, others buttered and eaten alongside. I think the point of this was to add a little crunch, but it might also have been to make the soup more filling in the old hard times. Whatever the case, add or omit to suit yourself and your company.

I enthusiastically recommend The Lewis & Clark Cookbook to you, both for a fascinating glimpse into our past and for some great recipes (including Jefferson faves like Chocolate Pots de Creme, Macaroni and Cheese, Almond Blancmange with Strawberries, and—though not known by Jefferson by that name—Baked Alaska, as well as sturdier fare like Steamed Maple Pudding with Caramelized Maple Sauce, Bread and Butter Pudding with Cherries, Homemade Elk Mincemeat, Cornmeal and Blueberry Mush, Pawpaw Ice Cream, and Venison Shanks Braised with Fennel and Onions). Needless to say, I rushed home from the library, got online, and immediately ordered a copy of the book from Amazon (at discount, naturally). I suggest that, if you love history and cooking, you do the same!

           ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

Harvest Home: Pumpkins! August 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, gardening, homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was thrilled to see that this year’s compost squash vine has actually borne a monster crop of adorable orange pumpkins. Readers with far better memories than our friend Ben’s may recall that last year, an enormous mystery squash vine sprouted from one of our compost bins and turned out to produce an absolute boatload of beautiful Butternut squash. So when another huge squash vine materialized this year from the same bin, I stupidly assumed it was another Butternut.

Wrong! This morning I saw that the leaves had become mottled with tiny yellow dots, even though the plant was still blooming. Concerned, I went over to inspect the giant vine, only to see, nestled in the high grass that’s grown up around it as we skirted it with the mower, at least eight perfect orange pumpkins! Each pumpkin is about six inches tall and wide, and they are beautiful!

Every year, Silence Dogood and I try to assemble a colorful display of red, orange, yellow, pinkish-beige, and white pumpkins for the festive season that runs from Hallowe’en through Thanksgiving. We think of this season as Harvest Home, harking back to the old English harvest festivals. Silence makes beautiful piles of the pumpkins at each side of our front door, supplementing them with blue, grey, and green Hubbard squash and an assortment of colorful gourds. Then she hangs multicolored corn on the door and we enjoy the display for several months.

Since we typically buy pumpkins from farmers’ markets and farm stands throughout the area—our veggie bed space is limited and pumpkin vines take a tremendous amount of space—I’m afraid I have no idea what variety this year’s mystery pumpkin could be. But they sure are cute!

I’m trying to goad Silence into using at least one to make her famous Curried Pumpkin Soup (search for it in our search bar, it’s one of my favorites), rather than using canned pumpkin. But she points out that canned pumpkin is really winter squash, and that its flavor and texture is superior to that of actual pumpkins, so I have a feeling we’ll be enjoying these as decorations and then feeding them to the chickens. For a recipe that really does use homegrown pumpkin, check out Kim’s recipe for Chilled Pumpkin Pie Soup on her blog, The Inadvertent Farmer (http://sweetgrace.typepad.com/the_inadvertent_farmer/).

Meanwhile, of course, our friend Ben is already speculating about whether next year will produce a third mystery squash vine from our compost bin. If it does, I wonder what it will be? Some red, white or yellow pumpkins would certainly be nice…

Beating garlic breath. August 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Ugh, garlic breath, that bane of polite society. If you love hummus, baba ghannouj, aioli, garlic knots, or any other garlic-rich treat, you’ve probably come up against garlic breath many times, not to mention the reaction of your horrified friends, family and colleagues.

I was reminded of this recently when our neighbor Fran, in response to my passing along a container of my Carrot Cabbage Confetti Slaw, reciprocated with a tray of hot-from-the-oven beer bread and garlic dip. The dip was made from half mayo and half sour cream (Fran used low-fat for both) impregnated with about a dozen minced garlic cloves and a good spoonful of garlic salt to boot. Whew! It was super-tasty, but our friend Ben and I were left with terminal garlic breath after we’d enjoyed it.

What to do? I’ve tried eating parsley, chewing mints, brushing my teeth, eating plain yogurt, eating bread, eating rice. No dice. Garlic must be one of the most persistent scents on earth, second only to skunk. It’s enough to make a self-respecting person give up garlic altogether for the greater good of society.

But today I made a discovery. Our dog Shiloh was socializing with Fran and Bill’s dog Ollie when Fran emerged from the house with a carton of the luscious garlic dip. “Here, take this, I’ve made way too much,” she said. Well, yum, was I really going to say no to that? Not to mention that the only thing I’d eaten all day was some virtuous cottage cheese and tomato and, frankly, I was feeling a little hungry. But sadly, I didn’t have any dipping bread in the house. So I grabbed what I did have, plain tortilla chips, and ate a couple with the dipping sauce, then ate a couple more plain to wash them down.

Whoa… wait a minute… there’s no garlic breath! That can’t be, can it? I know there’s no lingering garlic taste, but I still must have killer breath after that teaspoon or two of garlic-saturated dip. So I put my hand in front of my mouth and blow into it to drive the breath up to my nose. Still not a single whiff of garlic. Could tortilla chips really, finally be the answer? The Garlic-Breath Terminator? Try it, and tell me what you (and your family) think. 

         ‘Til next time,

                       Silence

The greatest of them all. August 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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It’s me, Richard Saunders of Poor Richard’s Almanac fame, here today to ask who was the greatest Founding Father of them all. I was thinking about this in the wake of Senator Ted Kennedy’s death, contemplating the Kennedy dynasty in all their idealistic greatness and with all their human failings. This led me to wonder which of the Founding Fathers was the most moral of them all?

Sadly, my good friend Google couldn’t give me an answer to this question, but it did give me a list of the seven Founders who were considered greatest of all: Benjamin Franklin (our hero and blog mentor here at Poor Richard’s Almanac), George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Adams, and John Jay.

Ahem. I myself believe the triumvirate of Founders who actually effected the Revolution were George Washington, who led the fight and whose towering, regal figure became a rallying point; Ben Franklin, who negotiated support from the French at the critical moment and despite overwhelming odds against his success, and whose wit and wisdom were ever at the service of his country and helped to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution pass into law; and Thomas Paine, the disreputable Brit who had the common touch and won the common people in the Colonies to the cause of Revolution through his inspired writings, which explained the point of rebelling in terms any blacksmith or shoemaker could understand and support. (“These are the times that try men’s souls… “)

The absence of the disreputable Paine from that list of seven disturbs me. The absence of the early firebrands, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Paul Revere, those men who touched off the Revolution but never served in the federal government they brought into being, disturbs me. The absence of great patriots like George Mason and Gouverneur Morris disturbs me.

But one thing encourages me. The historian who compiled that list gave Benjamin Franklin pride of place. Not George Washington, the acknowledged first among equals, the universally recognized peerless one, the uncrowned king, in his day. He comes second on the list. Ben comes first.

Getting back to my original question, which Founding Father was the most moral, Washington certainly deserves a top two vote. Though he married for convenience rather than love and spent his entire life passionately pining for his best friend’s wife, he enjoyed a faithful and happy marriage to Martha, his partner in all things. But what gives him the high vote as far as morality is concerned was not just his lifelong attempts to live up to the highest possible moral standards, which he set for himself at an early age and strived to measure up to all his life, but what many consider his crowning achievement: walking away from an American kingship or, at the very least, an appointment as President-for-Life. By doing so, by retiring to Mount Vernon after two terms as President, Washington not only stunned his contemporaries and won the amazed admiration of monarchs and statesmen across the globe, including King George III; he set a precedent for politics in America that has endured to this day.

Okay, what of Ben? Much as I admire General Washington, I actually think that Benjamin Franklin deserves the title of most moral Founder. Why? Contemporaries like John Adams loved to portray Ben as a wastrel and womanizer, revelling in costly luxuries (this last was actually true of Thomas Jefferson, not Ben). Old Ben certainly knew how to flirt with the ladies, but there is not one shred of evidence that he carried his witticisms into the bedroom. And his good sense and love of frugality and good old American ingenuity have been preserved for all times in Poor Richard’s Almanack, his autobiography, and other writings. While Thomas Jefferson drove his family into poverty and debt through his extravagance—they were forced to sell Monticello and everything in it in an attempt to pay off his debts—Ben Franklin (and George Washington, for that matter) quietly established comfortable, sustainable fortunes for their own families, not to mention freeing their slaves, unlike Jefferson, whose slaves were ruthlessly sold off during his life and after his death.

But Ben went further, laying the groundwork for what we have come to know as American democracy. It was Ben who established communal societies that would benefit all citizens, from the lending library to the hospital, university, and firehouse. It was Ben who truly understood the saying “one for all, and all for one.” It was Ben who uttered the indelible, defining comment on independence, “Gentlemen, we must all hang together in this, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” It was Ben who founded the first Abolitionist society. It was Ben who stressed religious tolerance and respect for all religions to the extent that leaders of every faith in Philadelphia, including a rabbi, marched in his funeral procession. It was Ben who, finally, understood that there could be no independence without interdependence, that we were all in this together. It was he who recognized the need for a “Band of Brothers,” a band that stretched from sea to shining sea. It was he who first defined the concept that the more one had, the more one owed one’s fellow man.

Who was the most moral of the Founding Fathers? For my money, it was Benjamin Franklin. Who was the greatest of the Founding Fathers? Without question, it was Benjamin Franklin. Scientist, statesman, genius, writer, adventurer, wise man, composer, prophet, inventor, friend, fellow man: Ben was all that, and so much more. His entire life was one long effort to better society for everyone who would come after, and thanks to his efforts, he succeeded in establishing a foundation, in the truest sense, “of liberty and justice for all.” Second without question is George Washington, revered above all in his day and for a century thereafter, and justifiably so. Without Washington, there would be no America. But without Ben Franklin, there would be no reason for America. No wonder he ranked first in the list.

Tasty Thai curry. August 26, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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8 comments

Silence Dogood here. If you enjoy Thai cuisine as much as we do, but assume you could never, ever make a Thai dish yourself, I challenge you to try this super-easy curry. It’s so simple, and so flavorful, it’s really out of this world! Our friend Ben polished off his own plate, then blandly ate most of my plate too (“You don’t really want any more, right?”). Since I’m a vegetarian, this is a veggie-friendly version, but I think it would be every bit as yummy if you tossed in some boiled shrimp or diced cooked chicken.

            Basic Thai Curry

1 small carton button mushrooms, washed, ends removed, sliced

1 carton cubed extra-firm tofu, rinsed and drained

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, WallaWalla, Candy or 1015 type), peeled and diced

1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into dice or strips

large handful or more of fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 package frozen unsweetened shredded coconut

1 teaspoon salt (we like Real Salt)

1 teaspoon dried Thai seasoning

1 teaspoon dried Thai curry powder

1 teaspoon dried lemon curry powder

extra-virgin olive oil

rice

Heat olive oil in a deep, heavy Dutch oven or other pan (I love my LeCreuset). Add diced onion, salt, Thai red curry paste, and dried spices, and saute until onion clarifies, adding water or veggie stock as needed to prevent sticking. (As you can see, I’m a spice fanatic, but if you can’t find all these dried spices, just get a jar of red Thai curry paste from your local grocery and go with it. Your curry will still taste great!) Add mushrooms and cook until done, then add red bell pepper, coconut milk, frozen coconut, and basil. When basil wilts, add tofu cubes, and stir gently to mix well.

At this point, turn heat to low and cook plenty of rice in your rice cooker or on the stove. By the time the rice has cooked, your curry should be ready to serve. Make a big rice “nest” on each plate and spoon the curry into the nest. This should serve four, unless one of the four is OFB!

          ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

In like Ben? August 25, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Since our blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, acknowledges the great Benjamin Franklin as our hero and blog mentor, our blog contributor Richard Saunders is a Franklin historian, and our friend Ben not only shares Dr. F.’s first name but has famously had several visits from the great Doctor Franklin himself, you may be excused if, like our friend Amy, you think there’s some direct genealogical connection between at least one of us and Benjamin Franklin.

We were alerted to this misapprehension when Amy asked OFB if he was descended from Dr. Franklin. “No,” the bemused Ben responded, “I’m related to Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Martha Custis Washington, but not to Benjamin Franklin, more’s the pity.” “Oh. I was sure you were,” Amy announced. “After all, our [mutual] friend Sandra Franklin is a direct descendent of Benjamin Franklin.”

Well, no. Ben Franklin did and does have direct descendents, through his daughter Sarah (Sally) Franklin Bache. But as for the surname Franklin, Ben had only one son (William Franklin) who lived to father a son, and that son, Temple Franklin, had no sons. (Ben’s beloved younger son Francis Folger “Frankie” Franklin died of smallpox at age two.)

Okay, so no Franklins descended from Ben himself. But if your last name is Franklin, couldn’t you be descended from one of Ben’s many brothers, so Ben is a great-uncle of sorts? A little research shows that most people named Franklin who claim descent from a Ben Franklin family member believe that their ancestor is Ben’s brother, John. Unfortunately, this too is an error. John Franklin had one son, who was lost at sea before he could father offspring.

Ben had two other older brothers who lived to childbearing age, James (to whom he apprenticed to learn the printer’s trade), who appeared to have at least one son (also named James) who reached adulthood, and Peter, as well as older half-brothers Samuel and Josiah Jr.

Given all this, why do most Franklins claim descent from John, who could not have been their progenitor? Did James’s son(s) die before fathering sons? What of Peter and the half-brothers?

“Franklin” has never been a common name in the U.S. Today, fewer than 3,000 souls can claim descent from Ben Franklin’s daughter Sally Franklin Bache. I wish I could give you a solid number of how many U.S. citizens today bear the surname Franklin, but sadly, Google has failed me on this. If your last name is Franklin, or you’re descended from Ben Franklin, whatever your last name is, speak up! What an honor to have even one drop of old Ben’s blood flowing through your veins.

             ‘Til next time,

                              Silence

* Note: For us Southerners, “In like Ben” rhymes just like the famous line it’s punning on, “In like Flynn.”

Frugal living tip #34. August 24, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

Silence Dogood here. It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another Frugal Living Tip here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. I’ll share some really sensible advice in a minute. But first, in the “this is too much” category, check out this “On the Cheap” story from our local newspaper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call.

According to the paper, an Allentown woman is still reusing the same red plastic utensils she bought in 1989. She points out that she bought high-quality plastic utensils and washes them in the dishwasher to sterilize them after every use. The paper estimates that, by never buying another plastic knife, fork or spoon, she’s saved about $400 in the past 20 years.

Now, as faithful readers know, our friend Ben and I are very partial to the color red. I didn’t realize that plastic utensils could hold up to the temperatures in a dishwasher, but if you’re going to use them, I think it’s great to treat them as real dishware rather than disposables and take good care of them.

So what’s my problem? This: It appears from the article that this family uses their plastic dishware instead of silverware, rather than saving it for picnics and potlucks. Eeeewww!!! That strikes me as a bit extreme. You can buy perfectly good sets of silverware at Goodwill and Salvation Army for just a few dollars, and can even buy new sets at places like Linens’n’Things, Pier 1, Big Lots, and the like for about $20 for a four-place set. Your mother probably has at least one set she’d love to offload on you for free. Stainless steel is a lot more safe, durable, and sustainable than plastic. Kudos to this family for conserving otherwise disposable plastic, but save it for the annual picnic, please.

Fortunately, the paper redeemed itself with an article on the best months to buy various items if you’re trying to save money. I’ll just hit on some highlights here; for the complete list, check out “The best season to buy?” on www.themorningcall.com.

August: Outdoor toys like swing sets and beach toys, as much as 75% off.

September: Appliances, since you can get end-of-model-year deals, and get even bigger bargains on “scratch and dent” models.

October: Great month for a deal on grills.

November: Candy, as in deep discounts on all that leftover Hallowe’en booty.

December: This is apparently the best month to get a great deal on computers, scoring up to 50% off or free printers, anti-virus software, or wireless routers.

January: Whether you’re trying to save big on your wedding, take advantage of furniture turnover in showrooms, or just save a buck or two on wrapping paper for next Christmas, January’s a big month for bargains.

February: Get deep discounts on digital cameras.

March: This is a great month for deals on winterwear like coats, hats, and gloves, but if your kids are growing and you never know what size they’ll be next year, you’d be better off stocking up on frozen food, on sale this month for National Frozen Food Month.

April: The best month to buy a used car.

May: Need a new mattress? You can not only find mattresses at up to 50% off this month, you can cash in on a promotion for free delivery or disposal of your old mattress.

June: The paper skipped June for some reason, but if I can add an observation here, this is a great month to buy fresh, local fruits and veggies in season. Buy more than you need and can, freeze, pickle, jell, and dry the extras, and keep it up throughout the harvest months so you’ll have plenty when the prices shoot up in fall.

July: Patio furniture usually goes on sale—up to 50% off—July 4th weekend, when there’s still plenty of nice weather left to enjoy it.

As noted, the article has lots of other good ideas, so check it out. Meanwhile, if you buy seasonally to save, please share your tips with us!

           ‘Til next time,

                      Silence

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