Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Anne Frank at 90

Anne Frank was born on this date in 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.  Had she lived she would have turned 90 years old.  But we will always remember her as a smiling 15 year old girl who dreamed of one day becoming a writer.

Most people think of her as a young Jewish Dutch girl living in Amsterdam, but she was actually born in Germany and immigrated to Holland with her family when she was four years old.  She retained her German citizenship.  They remained happy in their new homeland until 1940, just shy of Anne’s 11th birthday, when Holland was attacked and occupied by the armed forces of Nazi Germany which quickly enacted laws restricting the rights of Jews.  Anne's father tried to obtain asylum in the USA or Cuba but was unsuccessful.  Stripped of their German citizenship they managed to somehow survive in Amsterdam until the summer of 1942 when Anne’s older sister Margot was ordered deported to a labor camp.  The family and a few friends went into hiding in a secret room which Anne’s father had prepared at  Prinsengracht 263. 

Anne received a small diary on her 13th birthday, shortly before her family went into hiding, and over the next two years recorded her thoughts and feelings.  She dreamed of becoming a writer; writing and publishing stories, and even a novel.  Such dreams for a young girl hiding with her family in fear for their lives.

Their hiding place was discovered and stormed by the German Security Police on August 4, 1944.  Following their arrest and interrogation the family was sent to the Westerbork transit camp in northeastern Holland.  In late September they were  transported to Auschwitz, in Poland, arriving there three days later.  Miraculously Anne and Margot were spared from the gas chambers during the selections on arrival.   They remained at Auschwitz until late October or early November when they were transported with thousands of others to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany.  Both sisters died there during an outbreak of typhus in the spring of 1945. 

Only Anne’s father survived the war.  He returned to Amsterdam to discover that Anne’s diary has been saved by his secretary.  Upon reading it he knew what he had to do.  


   

I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!

The first copies of the now famous diary were published in June 1947.  It remains one of the most important reminders of the Nazi persecution of the Jews.  Today her diary is read in 70 different languages and warns the world of the dangers of anti-Semitism and racist discrimination . . . a valuable lesson in today’s world.  Thanks to her diary, Anne Frank continues to live in our memory today.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Full Confidence in Their Courage and Devotion - Remembering the D-Day Invasion of Europe

It's a hell of a war, but God willing, we'll do what we came here to do.”
                – John Wayne, in “The Longest Day”


Today we mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Overlord - the D-Day invasion of France.  On the morning of June 6, 1944, after months of planning and preparation, over 150,000 US and Allied soldiers made airborne landings into coastal France followed closely by landings on the beaches of Normandy.  An armada of several thousand ships of all sizes and descriptions had slipped out of English ports in the darkness and crossed the English Channel to the European mainland where four years before Britain had retrieved its  battle-worn troops from the beaches at Dunkirk [Dunkerque].




As the Allied soldiers once again stepped ashore, they were greeted by a murderous hail of machine-gun and mortar fire by deeply entrenched German positions along the Atlantic Wall.  Having fought in North Africa, across Sicily and up the boot of Italy, the Allies and Operation Overlord were finally taking the war back to Western Europe for the final push to defeat Hitler’s Germany. 


The expectations of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, were simply stated.  "You are about to embark on a great crusade. The eyes of the world are upon you and the hopes and prayers of all liberty-loving peoples go with you . . .  Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory."  Later that morning he would broadcast an announcement to the peoples of Western Europe, telling them of the landings and declaring, "all patriots, young and old, will have a part to play in the liberation." 



Today there are less than five thousand survivors of those who saw action during the initial stages of the Allied invasion.  We owe them, and all of those who died there or have passed on since then, a deep debt of gratitude.  These days we tend to throw the word “hero” around too carelessly.  But these men and women were all heroes in every sense of the word.

My father was part of that effort although he was not involved in D-Day or its immediate aftermath as the Allies attempted to move deeper into France.  He fought in Patton’s Third Army which landed in Cherbourg, west of the Normandy beaches, that July and  then began to move across France just after those who landed on D-Day and shortly thereafter finally achieved their breakout from Normandy.   I knew about that part of the conflict from what my father Hd told me as a young boy when I anxiously asked him “Dad,. What did you do during the war?”  It was not until a few years later that I began to fully understand the momentous importance of what those brave men and women accomplished on D-Day and the long days, weeks and months that followed.



I was thirteen years old when I finally saw “The Longest Day,” the 1962 Darryl Zanuck-20th Century film based on Cornelius Ryan’s 1959 book on the D-Day invasion of France (Ryan also wrote the screenplay).  It happened to be on the twentieth anniversary of that watershed event of the 20th century as well as my last day of 7th grade.  After our release from school I walked up to the theater on Pack Square, in Asheville, North Carolina, and sat through two complete showings of the three-hour film.  It was my first introduction to that historic struggle to turn the tide of war against Nazi Germany.  Over fifty years later this film, despite all of its Hollywood trappings, is still recognized, along with “Saving Private Ryan,” as perhaps the most complete effort to capture on film the scope and importance of that seminal historical event. For those involved in the invasion, it truly was “the longest day.”



So let us all take a moment today to remember those living and dead who were participants in that great struggle.  They all did what they came there to do and we are all thankful for their sacrifice.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Tiananmen Square - Thirty Years Later

Thirty years ago this week dozens of protestors, many of them young university students, were massacred in Beijing as they protested for democratic governmental reforms and greater personal freedoms.   As many as 10,000 were arrested during the imposition of martial law, and many of these disappeared without a trace.

What can one say about a country that will jail and murder dissenters in cold blood?  A country that cannot reconcile itself with its past is a country living in self-denial, a country that will fail learning from that past.  Even though the Chinese government has attempted to erase all memory of its crimes against its own people striving for basic human freedom and dignity, it is important that the rest of the world stand united in its condemnation of the cruel and unnecessary slaughter of a people brave enough to stand up for their beliefs in the face of their oppressors.

To commemorate this important historical benchmark I am sharing an earlier post:

http://lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/search?q=Tiananmen

“Who controls the past,” George Orwell warned, “controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Resistance is never futile.  Never forget the brave souls who spoke out and acted in June 1989.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

National Cheese Day 2019

Other foods are celebrated so why not cheese?  “Does America have a more versatile food?  Best of all, National Cheese Day happens on June 4. Time to officially celebrate the delightful dairy item we’ve eaten in one form or another since the Roman Empire.”

Unlike other foods, cheese is seldom found by itself on most menus, but it is a key ingredient in so many dishes . . . pasta, pizza, burgers, salads, soups, appetizers, sauces . . . . You get the point! 

I love cheese!  Hardly a day goes by when I don’t enjoy it in one form or another.  To celebrate let me reshare a couple posts from a decade ago.  You’ll get the idea:

http://lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/2009/05/confessions-of-cheesehead-part-1.html


http://lookingtowardportugal.blogspot.com/2009/05/confessions-of-cheesehead-part-2.html

Here are a couple National Cheese Day activities recommended by National Today - https://nationaltoday.com/national-cheese-day/

– Try Something Scary!
Find a cheese that scares you a little bit and give it a go — you'll likely be surprised how much you like it. Looking for a suggestion? Give Epoisses de Bourgogne a try, if you can find it. It's got such a pungent aroma that it's been banned from public transportation systems in France!

– Make Your Own!
Making cheese can be a pretty simple process — it just requires a bit of patience! It's always interesting to go "behind the scenes" of our favorite food items, but with cheese in particular, it's pretty incredible seeing all the hidden steps that take place.

– Perhaps a new pairing?
Cheese seems to go with everything! Well, almost. But things get truly magical when you find perfect pairings that bring out different flavors. Have you ever tried figs with brie? They're delicious separate, but they're simply irresistible when brought together.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, get out there today and eat some cheese!

 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Springtime . . . Spargelzeit!


Spring has come to Germany and that can mean only one thing in the hearts and taste buds of many Germans.   Spargelzeit . . . the season to harvest and consume the native weiße Gold - white asparagus.  I had been an afficionado of the more familiar green asparagus since I was a child; it was a perennial crop on my grandparent’s Michigan farmstead and freshly picked spears found their way to the dinner table daily throughout the spring growing season.

It was not until I was a young university student in Freiburg in Breisgau, in the Black Forest of southwestern Germany, that I was first introduced to the tasty springtime delicacy that is Spargel - white asparagus.  The different colored asparagus

are not fundamentally different varieties, they are only grown differently.  White asparagus is covered with soil because the plant must be protected from light in order to remain pale.  In addition, white asparagus requires a specific combination of soil, temperature and rain in order to develop the perfect taste.  Today much of the German crop can be found in Baden-Wuerttemberg and Hesse, or across the Rhine River in the Alsace region of France.  Although white asparagus is available in the United State throughout much of the year, it is grown primarily in California or Mexico, and I find that its taste, texture, and aroma are no match for Germany’s white gold.  Americans views it more as a kickshaw; a notable contrast to the German fanaticism for this springtime treat.

Spargelzeit last only for two or three months, beginning with the onset of spring in late March to mid-April, and lasting until “Johanni," the birthday of John the Baptist on June 24.  The rules in hand: “Stich den Spargel nie nach Johanni“ [never pick asparagus after Johanni] and “wenn die Kirschen sind rot, Spargel ist tot” [when the cherries are red, asparagus is dead’] . . . not literally dead as asparagus is a perennial vegetable.  It  requires sufficient time to regenerate for the next season.  Harvesting white asparagus is also very labor-intensive as each individual spear must be carefully exposed by hand as deeply as possible and then "pricked" just above the root crown.

When shopping during Spargelzeit, one should always look for the freshest spears.  The head of the spears should be tightly compressed and they should be moist yet firm and white
without any discoloration.  They should be prepared and consumed as soon as possible although they can be kept wrapped in a moist towel in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  Some people will freeze Spargel, but in my humble opinion it always tastes best when served fresh.

There is no muss or fuss in the proper preparation of Spargel.  Simply place the fresh spears in a pot of boiling water for 15 to 20 minutes (do not overcook), adding a little salt, sugar, and butter.  Some will add lemon juice to the stock to maintain the white color. This can be tricky, however, as too much lemon juice can overshadow the unique taste and aroma of Spargel.  Once plated, many Germans will eat it with melted butter and a light herbal garnish.  Others might pair it with new potatoes (boiled separately from the Spargel), some hollandaise sauce, and perhaps thin slices of cured ham.  Still others might serve it as a side dish with cutlets or sausages.  Many Germans favor a mild white wine while others will wash it all down with a glass of beer.   To each his own.  I prefer to eat my Spargel with a few small new potatoes so that I might enjoy its inimitable flavor.  Simplicity at its best.

Spargelzeit is a special time indeed.   What better way to celebrate the advent of Spring?



Saturday, May 4, 2019

Forgetting Ohio??

 Hear the past a callin', from Armageddon's side
When everyone's talkin' and noone is listenin',
how can we decide?
Find the cost of freedom, buried in the
ground
Mother Earth will swallow you, lay your body down.

             = Stephen Stills, “Find the Cost of Freedom”

So many friends today are reminding me that this is Star Wars Day - “May the 4th be with you.”   Today I find myself reflecting instead on a seminal event in this country reckoning with the Vietnam War era.  Another tragic event of that war; not a battle fought in some faraway patch of jungle, but one fought on a small college campus - Kent State University - on a tranquil spring day in Middle America.

It was at the end of my freshman year in college, a year when anti-war protests on campuses across the country were beginning to heat up. I was attending a small liberal arts college in Florida associated with the Methodist Church, and there was very little in the way of protest there.  In fact, freshman and sophomore men were required to participate in the Army ROTC program.  Don’t get me wrong; there was anti-war sentiment on campus, but it never really blossomed into full-scale dissent and protest against the war taking place on larger campuses across the country.

Many of my fellow students participated in the nation-wide Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, on October 15, 1969.  Called as a general strike, most colleges and universities refused to cancel classes that day although it was reported that class attendance was down as students participated in various protests.  It was a rather bizarre day at my college as it was a Wednesday and all the male students, including myself, were required to wear their ROTC uniforms throughout the day followed by a general drill in the afternoon.  Afterwards I dressed in my “civvies” for dinner and that evening about 300 students (approximately a quarter of the student body) gathered outside the ROTC building for a candlelight vigil.  We sang folk songs before marching to a nearby meditation garden for some more singing.  The next day several Florida newspapers ran stories about the various campus protests around the state.  One of our group was quoted: “There is nothing more beautiful than the American flag flying, but I believe there is nothing uglier than an American flag being lowered in a grave on top of a casket.”  Despite the faulty flag protocol for burial, the point was made. Pretty tame stuff, but we raised out voices against the war.

And who can forget Paul Filo's iconic photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling and crying beside the lifeless body of Jeffrey Miller?  The innocence of my generation came to an end that day.  On my way home from Florida to Wisconsin for summer break that day I Iistened and wondered where all of this was going to lead.   President Nixon said the anti-war protests would not affect his pursuit of an American victory in Vietnam.  How could it ever be a victory if the government was resigned to kill its own young to accomplish it?

A month after the killings at Kent State, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their single “Ohio,” a haunting three-minute protestimonial penned by Neil Young.  Many radio stations throughout the country refused to play it, but I went out and bought it and played it over and over until the record popped and skipped.   

What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?


I thought back to that quote by my fellow student on Moratorium Day, and to all the flagged-draped coffins coming home from that remote patch of jungle so very far away.

We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin'
Four dead in Ohio.


Today, 49 years later, I still remember.


Monday, April 22, 2019

A Moveable Feast - In Search of an Ultimate Yebeg Tibs

Yebeg Tibs served on injera
Back on September 14, 2018, I posted a short essay on my discovery of two excellent Eritrean restaurants in Portland, Maine.  It is a foodie city for sure, yet I was still surprised to find these traditional eateries in Portland and to discover the growing Eritrean community in northern New England.  Now I have decided to return to my exploration of Ethiopian and Eritrean cultures and their traditional cuisines.  If you have never sampled them, I suspect you might upon the conclusion of my story. You are in for a treat.

I first encountered Ethiopian history, culture, and cuisine some 35 years ago in the Washington, DC area  where I have resided and worked since the mid 1970s.  A former colleague of mine had spent a few years with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia back in the 1960s when Emperor Haile Selassie still traveled by jeep to rural villages scattering coins of the realm to poverty stricken subjects.  Emperor Selassie had been overthrown in 1974 and murdered by a ruthless Marxist-Leninist coup .  The new communist regime in Ethiopia instituted policies that led to massive famine and genocide among minority ethnic communities throughout the country.  Following the coup a civil war broke out in the country pitting the new Ethiopian regime against the breakaway coastal province of Eritrea, and a massive refugee exodus from both regions began to flee their homelands.

Immigration legislation passed by the US Congress and the so-called “Diversity Visa Program” in the early 1980s contributed to increased emigration from Ethiopia to the United States as a result of the ongoing Ethiopian Civil War which ended in 1991 with the overthrow of the Marxist-Leninist regime by the coalition forces of the  Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.  Additional Ethiopian and Eritrean immigrants arrived in the United States throughout the 1990s as a result of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea which became an independent state in 1994 following a plebiscite the previous year.  Many of these new immigrants greatly enlarged the existing Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in Washington.   The Ethiopian Embassy estimates that upwards of a quarter of a million of Ethiopian descent presently reside in the Washington Metropolitan area, the largest Ethiopian population outside of the country itself.

 Many of these refugees, for one reason or another, ended up in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, primarily centered around the Adams Morgan neighborhood, and immigrant entrepreneurs began opening food establishments, bodegas, taxi companies and other small businesses through the region during the late 1970s.  As my interest in Ethiopian history and culture expanded, I discovered more books to read, most recently The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) by Dinaw Mengestu. It tells the story of a young Ethiopian man who comes to DC during the diaspora to live and work and his introduction to life in his new American homeland. 


Washington abounds with a wide variety of eateries serving various traditional cuisines from around the world.  (Jonathan Gold, the food critic for the Los Angeles Times who recently passed away, was the first to prefer the term “traditional” over “ethnic” since these cuisines would hardly be considered ethnic among the cultures that created them.)  There are numerous Ethiopian restaurants, cafés and coffee bars of every size and description in Washington and its suburbs.  You can scarcely throw a large rock without hitting one, and everyone seems to have a special one they favor.

Early on my colleague and I preferred Lalibela, in a former row

house near Dupont Circle, and the Red Sea, on 18th Street, NW, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood which in the 1980s crowned itself “Little Ethiopia.”  I continued to frequent Lalibela while pursing my political economy studies at the nearby Institute for Policy Studies, and I remained a loyalist until it closed in the late 1980s.  

My sole allegiance soon passed to the Red Sea because it was where many local Ethiopian immigrants frequently gathered.  I figured the cuisine had to be authentic and good.  Rather spartan in its decor and furnishings, its variety of dishes from all regions of the country, including from what was then the breakaway province (and now the independent country) of Eritrea, were all excellent.  I favored the kitfo - very

lean raw ground beef mixed with niter kibbeh (clarified butter) and berbere (red chile mixed with cardamon) and mitmita spice and served with a dry cottage cheese on the side.  I frequently ordered the Eritrean dish zigni - beef cubes cooked in a rich tomato-based sauce flavored with berbere, cinnamon and cumin and garnished with hot peppers.  But our favorite offering was yebeg tibs - small and slightly charred cubes of lamb still tender and juicy in the middle served with chopped red onions and green pepper sautéed in niter kibbeh with berbere and other spices.  All of these wonderful dishes were, of course, washed down with imported Ethiopian beer.

A couple doors down the street from the Red Sea was Fasika which also had its own dedicated clientele.  And across the street was the Meskerem.  Opened in 1985, it was touted as the oldest Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, as well as America’s oldest Ethiopian restaurant operating at the same address.  It appeared more upscale than the Red Sea or Fasika and was, in my humble opinion, geared to non-Ethiopian afficionados and tourists; those who had little, if any, experience with the variety of Ethiopian cuisine.  Although there were at that time many traditional Ethiopian restaurants around town, and in the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, these three core restaurants in the Adams Morgan neighborhood anchored the “Little Ethiopia” colony in Washington in the 1980s and 1990s and offered many Washingtonians and visitors their first tastes of Ethiopian cooking with its variety of shiro (a stew made from chick peas and bean meal with onions, garlic, ginger, and chopped tomatoes); wat (a stew made from a mixtures of spices such as berbere blended with niter kibbeh, and prepared with chicken, beef, or lamb); and alicha (a mild stew of meat or vegetables made without berbere, but rather spiced with ginger or turmeric) served on injera (light) or sergegna injera (dark), a somewhat sour and spongy flatbread with teff (a gluten free grain) flour which is also torn in strips as a means of picking up food.  Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine is all about finger food.  

Unfortunately, civil war tensions were imported along with the refugees of the Ethiopian/Eritrean diaspora and these occasionally surfaced in one of the many traditional restaurants and cafes around Washington and one would occasionally read or hear about such incidents in the local new media.  I never witnessed any violence but I did observe some vociferous arguments more than likely arising from these political tensions or victories for one side or the other on a distant battlefield, especially in those restaurants like the Red Sea that served both traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean dishes.

In the late 1980s my office temporarily moved to the intersection of Connecticut and Florida Avenue, NW, and across the street from a then well-know Italian/Ethiopian restaurant (Ethiopia and Eritrea were both colonized as part of Italian East Africa).  In the basement was a small “Eritrean Café” – just a small bar and a very few tables.  Members of the local Ethiopian expat community would dine upstairs while the separatist Eritreans were only welcome in the café.  Both served from the same Italian menu, the one difference being that during the lunch hour the café downstairs would serve what it billed as “The Eritrean Special” which was nothing more than a generous portion of Zigni served with hot peppers over injera which had long been one of my favorite dishes a few blocks away at the Red Sea, in the Adams Morgan neighborhood..  I would frequently enjoy the Special when I did not have time to wander far from my office for lunch.  More often than not I was the only one there and I got to know the kind lady who worked there and always knew what I wanted when I walked in.

With this new influx of immigrants fleeing the civil war the universe of the Ethiopian community in Washington changed.  The Adams Morgan neighborhood and the 18th Street and Columbia Road, NW business corridors, the heart of the that community, experienced a gradual gentrification and many of the old establishments and traditional restaurants were replaced with upscale eateries, boutiques, galleries, bars and clubs.  A more hip and urbane diner sought out the area and the old places found it hard to compete.   More Ethiopian restaurants were opening around town and in the suburbs to draw in the expat and local afficionados.  With little warning the Red Sea, Fasika’s, and eventually Meskerem - the anchors of “Little Ethiopia” - were shuttered and out of business.   

Regulars had to search out new venues and counted themselves fortunate that there was plenty to choose from throughout the metropolitan area.  I first migrated down 18th Street to the Ababa, another modest joint favored by Ethiopian taxi drivers of which there are a great many in the area.  There was also the resurrected Lalibela in the revitalized 14th Street corridor.  All are good and I have enjoyed many meals at these and others traditional eateries.  The quality of their yebeg tibs remained the gold standard when rating a new or unfamiliar spot. 


Yet despite their diffusion throughout the region, it was clear that the nucleus of the so-called “Little Ethiopia” had shifted from Adams Morgan to the Shaw and Cardozo neighborhoods – an area once known as the “Black Broadway,” the cultural mecca of Washington’s established African American community – and the revitalized and hip U Street, NW business corridor.  This enclave now has twice as many Ethiopian restaurants as Adams Morgan.

I eventually migrated to Dukem, in the U Street corridor, because it had been around for quite awhile and it had a good reputation.  This one-time local take away bodega gradually developed into a first rate restaurant with the rise of fortunes along the U Street.  And their yebeg tibs and the kitfo are to die for.  That was good enough for me.  A nightclub featuring

traditional music followed and the place draws a big crowd in the evenings.  Dukem continues to operate a take away and grocery next door with a wide variety of special ingredients required during the fast period of the growing Ethiopian Orthodox community in Washington.  I love the kitfo sandwich, that delicious buttery raw beef served on a hoagie roll.  Not your traditional Ethiopian fare, but delightful just the same.

Whereas the Shaw and U Street neighborhood have claimed the title of Washington’s “Little Ethiopia,” and few will disagree that it has become the epicenter of Ethiopian culture and cuisine in the Nation’s Capitol, one cannot deny that there has been a second major local immigrant population shift, this time into both the Maryland  and the Northern Virginia suburbs.  Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland hosts at least a dozen fine Ethiopian restaurants and cafés.  For myself, a Marylander, as well as several of my fellow gourmands on the other side of the Potomac River, it is no longer necessary to commute into the city to enjoy genuine traditional Ethiopian/Eritrean fare.  In Virginia I have discovered Enat, a family-run Ethiopian

restaurant in the Lincolnia neighborhood on the west side of Alexandria.  Located in a small strip mall, it serves a wide variety of meat and vegetarian dishes.  I don’t get here often as it is quite a schlepp across town.  But the yebeg tibs and the kitfo meet the gold standard and I enjoy them here when I am in the neighborhood.

I am fortunate enough to have an excellent Ethiopian restaurant within five minutes of my home in the Maryland suburbs.  Shagga, in Riverdale Park, follows recipes that have been handed down for generations.   There is nothing fancy or ground breaking here.  Housed in a former Dunkin Donuts shop (which I also frequented in the day), it is honest to goodness Ethiopian cuisine at its finest and I probably eat here more often than any other traditional restaurant in the area.  I am drawn mainly to the fact that it is so close and it serves two distinct versions of yebeg tibs.  The regular version consists
of lean cubes pf lamb sautéed in onions, green peppers and herbed niter kibbeh.  The alternative version of yebeg tibs is fueled with the addition of tomatoes and herbed pepper awaze chile sauce.  Shagga also offers yebeg wat, a lamb stew simmered in berbere sauce along with onions, spices and niter kibbeh, and yebeg alicha which is lamb simmered in a mild herbed niter kibbeh sauce with onions, garlic and ginger.  And I never pass on the three versions of kitfo – the orthodox version as well as adaptations including homemade spiced cheeses or onion and jalapeños peppers.   They are all excellent.  To top it off, the folks who run Shagga are as friendly as they can be.   What more does one need?

Over three decades later I continue to enjoy Ethiopian cuisine with family and friends every chance I get.  And I will continue my quest for the ultimate yebeg tibs at every opportunity.  In fact, I am off to Shagga now to enjoy what just might fit that bill.

So many good Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurants . . . so little time!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

I'm Back - I’ve Been Gone But Hopefully Not Forgotten

I have posted nothing here for almost three months and some folks have asked whether I or Looking Toward Portugal have somehow fallen through the cracks.  Have I mysteriously disappeared into a monastery high in the Himalayas?   Perhaps I may have descended into amnesia and no longer know who or where I am?  Or maybe I am just suffering from writers block?  I guess all of these are feasible explanations for my silence yet none of them are true.  Although I have not been posting in recent months, I continue to write almost daily on one thing or another.  I have just not had much to say, or time to report, from the edge of America.  Actually, much of my time since the holidays has been spent working through the latest draft of my first novel and I have not wanted to interrupt my concentration.  As a result, I am pleased to report that I am making solid progress and I am happy with the results to date.  Still there are other matters to attend to and it is high time I give them more serious consideration.  So stay tuned . . . there is more to follow here in the coming weeks and months.  I’m back!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

American Apartheid: Wounded Knee Was an Atrocity, Not a Punch Line

In his continuing saga of cheap racist and misogynist comments and tweets disparaging Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as Pocohontas, Pejorative Donnie has sunk to a new low with his recent tweet making light of the December 29, 1890 massacre of hundreds of unarmed Lakotah Sioux by the US 7th Cavalry Regiment at Wounded Knee Creek [Èha kpé Ópi Wakpála], on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Responding to a photograph of Senator Warren and her husband posted on Instagram, PD tweet:

If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash! 
 
Once again PD has proven beyond doubt that he has no concept of history, American or otherwise, for if he did, he would have understood that making light of one of the most shameful chapters of that history is beyond the pale of decent and civilized discourse. But then again, this has never stopped him in the past. PD has invented a humanitarian crisis on America’s southern border while appearing painfully ignorant of the one of his own making in this country with his violation of basic human rights for immigrant and refugee families who have come to this country in search of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Add to this the humanitarian crisis that has long challenged the Native American First Nations in this country that have been marginalized, insulted and mistreated and forced to live squalor. I have been to Wounded Knee and I have seen nothing like it until I saw Soweto and Alexandra, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, or the Cape Flats, near Cape Town . . . surviving vestiges of the abhorrent practice of apartheid - apartness in Afrikaans - in South Africa. Had Pejorative Donnie ever visited Pine Ridge, or witnessed the squalor of Native American reservations and ICE detention camps in Trump’s America, perhaps he might not be so quick to fire off an ill-advised tweet. But probably not.

And this brings me to another related matter. This past Saturday (January 19) marked the third annual Women’s March in Washington, DC and in communities throughout the United States where women and men marched in solidarity against the unjust and inhumane policies of the Trump administration. Ironically, on the previous day an Indigenous Peoples March was held on the National Mall in Washington where America was once again reminded of the scope of Pejorative Donnie’s racist slander. As part of this event, Omaha tribal elder Nathan Phillips, a former Marine and a Vietnam War veteran, had conducted an annual sacred pipe ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery honoring Native America veterans . . . women and men who have served a country that continues to treat them unjustly. At the end of the day’s activities Mr. Phillips was beating his drum and quietly singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when he was accosted by a group of white students from Covington Catholic High School, an all-boys college preparatory school in northern Kentucky. Many of them were sporting PD’s signature red MAGA [Make America Great Again] caps while taunting, mocking and otherwise intimidating Mr. Phillips with chants including "Build the Wall." One of these students got right in Mr. Phillip’s face while being egged on by his noisy cohorts. This student rabble was part of a March for Life being held the same day in Washington and one wonders where the adult chaperones were and why they permitted this viscerally disgusting display that was captured on film from numerous angles and later posted on YouTube and other social media platforms. The ugly vocabulary of hate bred out of ignorance was voiced under the visage of an earlier president who tried to heal a divided nation with a promise of "malice toward none, with charity for all." It quickly went viral and was roundly condemned worldwide as it should be. US Representative Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico), one of the first two Native American women elected to the US Congress, tweeted: "The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency politics decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking." How soon we forget.

Over the past couple of days there have been offers of "alternative facts" by those involved concerning the "true" nature of this encounter. The students claim they were the victims, being called racists and "Trump babies." But there for all to see are those red MAGA hats that have become de rigeur symbols of the racism and intolerance advanced by PD and the crypto/neo-fascist minions throughout his administration. One has only to watch the video to figure out what actually happened. This is what occurs when ignorance reigns over truth. This is what occurs when the President of the United States, by his own words and deeds, gives currency to racism and the politics of hate and intolerance by setting apart and marginalizing peoples on the basis of nationality, place of birth, gender and gender identity, religion and political opinion.

A new American apartheid, something we had hoped was cast onto the ash heap of history long ago, is descending. How much longer are we going to allow this shameful behavior to continue?



Monday, January 21, 2019

We Are Bound Together

January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968
This year, as we celebrate what would have been his 90th birthday, 

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong
We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound


                       --- James Taylor, "Shed a Little Light"

https://www.facebook.com/JamesTaylor/videos/shed-a-little-light-james-taylor-and-lowcountry-voices/1842970492392417/

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Eye on a Hurricane

Like many Americans, especially those who call the Eastern Seaboard of the United States home, I have been following online and social media reports on Hurricane Florence and its steadfast onslaught into the Carolinas.  Those of us here in northern New England never had anything to fear from this storm save some rough surf and riptides in certain areas.  And this morning the outer most bands of the remnants of Florence pressed through southern Maine with nothing more that a few light rain showers.

During the storm’s initial approach toward the southeastern United States there was some very real concerns that, due to the fact that it was predicted to make landfall as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane - one of the largest hurricanes (and a “very wet” one according to President Trump) to strike the Eastern Seaboard in several decades.  The effects of the storm might be felt as far north as Maryland (including Washington, DC), as well as down into central Georgia.  As a result, I was concerned for our home and neighbors in the DC suburbs along with many friends in the eastern regions of the Carolinas, some of whom were under a mandatory evacuation order as the storm approached.  I can only hope they heeded the warning and left.  It makes no sense to ride out a storm of this predicted magnitude.  There is absolutely nothing one can do to keep it off its destructive path as reports have shown over the past few days.
 
Lucky for some, but not for others, the storm made a slight jog to the southwest and was downgraded to a Category 1 storm before it made landfall in the vicinity of Wilmington, North Carolina and the Cape Fear River.  Unfortunately those in the Carolinas withstood the full brunt of Florence’s fury with destructive winds, heavy rainfall, and massive storm surges along the coastline.  I spoke with friends at home in Maryland and northern Virginia and they reported only dreary skies and light rain as the outer bands of the storm skirted the region. 

Still, eyes remained on the Carolinas where some areas were inundated with 30+ inches of rain breaking a record almost two decades old when Hurricane Floyd drenched the region in 1999.  An additional three to six inches were still possible in some of the hardest hit areas in southeastern North Carolina and adjacent areas of South Carolina while and additional ten inches of rainfall were expected in the higher mountainous terrain of western North Carolina before the storm system finally shifted northward.

The storm’s fury may have abated in the Carolinas which now must contend with record flooding and several storm related deaths.  Interstates 95 and 40 have been closed due to flooding as many rivers in the Eastern Carolinas are cresting at near or above record flood levels further complicating efforts to restore the region’s vital infrastructure including power outages to several hundreds of thousands of customers.  
 
But no one was out of the woods yet as Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, turned northward yesterday with the promise of heavy rains expected in southwestern and western Virginia.   It was also predicted that the DC metro area could receive upwards of three inches.  Its power significantly diminished as it moved inland, Florence still packed a powerful punch, bringing strong thunderstorms and floods east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as spawning tornadoes in and around Richmond, Virginia.  The DC area also experienced strong thunderstorms and upwards of two inches of rain last night and widespread flooding continues.

Last night I watched the sun set over the lake here in Maine as it illuminated the outer bands of the rain that would arrive overnight.  We have lived through some hurricanes up here and so we were not going to take our eyes off this one until it was well past us.   After some light rain showers this morning, the final remnants of Florence began to  succumb to the colder waters of the North Atlantic.   Gone but not soon to be forgotten.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Little Eritrea on Casco Bay


For the past thirty summers I have vacationed on a small lake in rural Maine. From the outset I made peace with the fact that I would have to put my long affinity for traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine on a back burner until I returned home to Washington, DC in the autumn. A panoply of fresh seafood from the coast of Maine, including lobster, clams and oysters, would have to keep my taste buds occupied in the interim.
 
Then one day just a few summers ago, while walking along a side street in Portland’s Arts District near the Old Port, I was pleasantly surprised when I chanced upon Asmara, an Eritrean restaurant. As it turns out, in recent years Portland and Cumberland County have become home to roughly 5,000 immigrants from East Africa (Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania, and Ethiopia), including a fast growing number of Eritreans fleeing the brutal dictatorship in that country. So it should not be a surprise that restaurants and cafés sprang up catering to those seeking out the traditional cuisine of their homelands.

A meal at Asmara quickly reintroduced me to the basic similarities and differences between Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine I had learned from frequenting traditional restaurants in and around Washington. (Next month I will be posting more details on the evolution of traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean eateries in our Nation’s Capitol and my ongoing quest for the perfect yebeg tibs.) A popular traditional Eritrean dish is tsebhi, a meat stew which is served with taita, the Eritrean version of injera, a spongy bread made from tef and wheat or sorghum flour, and hilbet, a paste consisting of lentils and faba beans. It tends to be lighter in texture than the Ethiopian equivalent resulting from a sparing use of seasoned clarified butter. Owing to the country’s Italian colonial past, Eritrean dishes reflect the use of Italian and Ottoman Turkish ingredients such as pasta and a greater use of curries and cumin than are found in Ethiopian dishes (despite the fact that much of Ethiopia was briefly occupied by Italy in World War II). On my first visit to the Asmara I naturally chose zegente tibsi, which is quite similar to yebeg tibs (my favorite Ethiopian dish) accompanied with alitcha, a mixture of chopped potatoes, cabbage, and carrots slow cooked in mild spices, and the ubiquitous taita. I have returned to Asmara a few times and sampled some of the other fine traditional dishes is offers.

A couple months ago I drove my wife down to the Portland airport to catch a flight to Florida and I took the opportunity to visit the Red Sea (a popular name among traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean eateries), another popular Eritrean café situated in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood in the city’s East End which is now the epicenter of the local Eritrean population. I have been driving past it for several years and so I was happy to have a chance to finally try it out.

The Red Sea is almost a hole-in-the-wall operation. The
dining room is only large enough for six four-top tables and the kitchen measures approximately ten feet by ten feet. The owner waits tables while his wife cooks. The menu is in many ways quite similar to that of Asmara which I found rather impressive considering the size of the kitchen. I was curious to try its version of zegente tibsi but chose instead to go with an interesting variation - zegente fitfit tibsi – a dish made from minced lamb sautéed with berbere spice and finished up with breaking up and mixing in small pieces of taita; all of this served over a whole piece of taita along with an outstanding alitcha side dish.

I look forward to returning to the Red Sea before we head home at the beginning of October so that I might sample its version of zigni, one of the first of these wonderful traditional Eritrean dishes I first discovered at the old Red Sea restaurant in Adams Morgan neighborhood in Washington. It is not all that common at Ethiopian eateries at home in Washington. More on that later.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Martinis With My Mom


My Mom - September 2018 - Freeport, Maine
For the past several summers my now 93 year old mother has visited us here at the lake cottage in Maine. She flies from her home outside Columbus, Ohio (with a change of planes in Baltimore) and we pick her up at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire. She returned again this summer for another week of late summer New England weather when one can expect just about anything. Autumn is already arriving with fall colors, cold nights, and a morning fire in the woodstove to fend off the chill. 

Her visits always include some day trips through the Maine countryside and over to the coast for some lobsters and steamers. And there is always a trip to a favorite eatery and their amazing lobster rolls. Otherwise, there are quiet days at the cottage reading, working on jigsaw puzzles, and catching up on family news and other idle gossip.

At the end of the day . . . usually around 10pm . . . it is time to share a nightcap . . . a killer martini on the rocks with an olive troika (and I like mine slightly "dirty"). There is something to be said about a proper martini keeping one young, lively, and in good health. Mom is ample proof of that.

She heads back to Ohio tomorrow after another lovely visit. We are already planning her return next summer. There are still lobsters to eat and martini nightcaps to enjoy!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Who Can Ever Forget? September 11, 2001

Those still alive from my parents’ generation will remember where they were when they first learned that the Japanese had attacked the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor on the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941.

Those old enough of my generation remember where we were when we were told that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas on Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963. I was in 7th grade and the principal came on the squawk box and summoned the faculty to his office. A short time later our math instructor returned to tell us the sad news. School was dismissed and we were sent home to be with our families. I still recall like yesterday the spectacle of mourning in Washington, DC and the burial ceremony and the lighting of the Eternal Flame at Arlington Cemetery. I would visit his grave for the first time eight months later.

My son’s generation joins my own and survivors of his grandparents’ generation in remembering where he was when we all learned of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington, DC, and the ill-fated attempt of a second attack on Washington which ended in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania as the result of the actions of brave passengers who thwarted the terrorists’ plans at the cost of their own lives. It has been almost another generation . . . 17 years . . . since that tragic morning when we watched the attacks on our country being carried out live on television.

Who can ever forget what happened that day? Since then I have visited the memorials at each of the sites where almost 3000 lives were snuffed out in a few brief moments of insanity. Each one is sobering in the extreme and is difficult to find words that adequately express the impression they leave on one who remembers this fateful date so well. I was in central Washington, DC that morning, but strangely it is the monument in Shanksville – some think of it as the "forgotten part of 9/11" that touched me the deepest, and on a very personal level. I did not know any of the forty passengers and crew on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. Since the attacks there has been speculation and debate surrounding the intended target of the hijacked jet although surviving planners of the attack have suggested that the White House was the primary target, the secondary target being the US Capitol. On the morning of September 11, 2001, when the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon occurred, I was working in my Department of Justice office just three short blocks from the White House. How would my life have changed . . . would it have also been snuffed out had Flight 93 made it to its intended target?

I arrived at my office just about the time the first jet hit the World Trade Center. Those of us in the office quickly gathered around the television in our conference room where we followed the reports out of New York. And we were watching when the second jet struck the second tower. It was then we knew this was not an accident but a concerted attack on the United States. As we discussed how we should react or respond to this national security crisis there came the report that a third hijacked aircraft had struck the Pentagon just across the Potomac River. Soon sirens were wailing across downtown Washington as rumors of other attacks began to come in. All were, in fact, only rumors . . . except for one . . . that of a hijacked jet approaching Washington from the northwest; its intended target unknown. In the meantime we continued to follow as the events in New York unfolded and watched with horror as the two towers collapsed.

Once word had arrived that all of the hijacked aircraft were accounted for (Flight 93 had in the meantime crashed near Shanksville), we were instructed to evacuate our building and central Washington as quickly as possible. I joined a sea of people as we walked through the streets of the city as all public transportation had been suspended. We returned to our families and friends as all quickly realized that America and our lives in it would never be the same again. It seems we are reminded of that fact every day over the past 17 years. Who can ever forget?

In putting our best face before the world in the days and weeks following the attacks, the world watched and respected our courage in confronting naked terrorism. We showed the world what has always made America great; our ability to stand together when the chips are down; to put petty differences aside and work together for the common good. Yet somewhere along the way we also lost ourselves in our attempts to seek revenge rather than justice, to point our finger indiscriminately at any country or person who did not agree with us. And soon that came to include other Americans just because they look different, or speak a different language, or pray to a different god. In many ways it seems we have forgotten what happened that morning and how Americans responded to it. Consensus through diversity is what has made this country great.

Who can ever forget? September 11, 2001 was a day when everything changed. It is up to us how we make that change work to our common advantage and for the fate of our great nation. Seventeen years later it is time we finally put our best face forward again.
WE WILL NEVER FORGET
 


Monday, September 10, 2018

Going Off-the-Grid in Maine

Every once in a great while I find it immensely rewarding, even comforting, to go "off-the-grid" for a few days. Life at home in the Metro DC area is just too complicated and schedule oriented to attempt this with any regular success. I do find the ritual of morning and evening meditation a welcomed opportunity to focus my attention wherever it needs to be by means of mental and spiritual tranquility to reduce stress and anxiety and to induce relaxation. Yet this is more often than not only a temporary reparation of too many visual, auditory . . . even olfactory and tactile . . . intrusions into daily life. I appreciate whatever comes to me during these brief respites.

Going off-the-grid for longer periods of time does not require one to disappear deep into a primeval forest, or to wander far out beyond distant desert dunes to avoid constraints posed on one by work, family, or just the routine nature of daily existence. One need not avoid all human contact to be alone with one’s thoughts and inclinations. Most of the time it is as easy as turning off or avoiding the unnecessary interruptions and noises we allow into our lives.

I have found that genuine opportunities to go off-the-grid occur more frequently when we are here at the lake cottage in Maine where there is neither a land line phone nor television although there is Internet service when the local network and router are behaving themselves. Who needs them? There is the constant beauty of the lake outside our windows, and the forest beyond. More evenings than not we are also treated to a stunning sunset. No two of them are alike. But even if the Internet is cooperating and we are able to check our e-mails and stay in touch with family and friends through various social media options, it is nice to just chuck it all for a day or two (or longer, if possible) and, as they say, stop and smell the roses. Turn off the mobile phones and the laptops and listen to the loons’ mournful cries somewhere in the distance. Or just enjoy the fresh breezes off the lake, or the crackle of a fire in the woodstove on a chilly evening. I often sit out the deck and wonder about the strange sensation I am experiencing and I realize it’s nothing more than the silence. The complete absence of any sound. This does not happen very often so I like to soak it in, when it does.

Being off-the-grid does not mean to tune or zone out. Just like the ritual of meditation it is a time to refocus one’s attention on one’s place in the world with greater awareness and presence of mind . . . not just for one’s self but for other individuals and their particular conditions and circumstances. It can be a time to catch up on reading and writing projects free of interruptions which might otherwise compromise one’s goals and their benefits.

There is nothing wrong with being engaged with the world we live in, if for no other reason than to insure others do not infringe on our rights and protections that civilization as we wish it guarantee. Still, there should be time for occasional retreats from such involvements so that we might take stock of who and where we are and cultivate who and where we hope and want to be.

Nameste . . . .

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

From the Earth to the Moon (or Ten Times Around the World)

Our 2005 Subaru Legacy wagon crossed the quarter million mile mark over this past weekend as we drove from our Sabbathday Lake cottage to Pemaquid Point on Maine’s Midcoast. It is the most miles I have ever put on a car. That averages out to 20,000 mile a year. Our car is a war horse if ever there was one having now covered the distance from earth to the moon with about ten thousand miles to spare . . . or ten times around the world at the equator).
 
Purchased in early January 2005 when we drove it off the dealership lot in suburban northern Virginia, it is our fourth consecutive Subaru since we bought the first one - our first new car - in 1978. Now, over thirteen years later, it is still a smooth, enjoyable and dependable drive after numerous fully loaded trips to and from Florida and Maine, as well as the shorter road trips to hither and yon. And the old girl still gets incredibly good mileage.

Most of the miles are the routine daily local trips. Driving in and around the Washington, DC metropolitan area takes a heavy toll on any car. The streets are rough and full of potholes. Add to these conditions the cold and damp winters and the hot and steamy humid summers which also exact their heavy toll. The war horse goes where we point her and brings us back again. We take good care of her and she treats us well in return as we continue to explore the edges of America. I’ll never tire of the old gal.


I wonder where we will be when we reach 300,000?


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Poutine Does Not Have to be Hip to Be Good!

Je me souviens

Poutine is not hip . . . tragically or otherwise. I have spoken out here more than once on the subject of poutine, that often maligned traditional Québécois dish. The word "poutine" has just entered into the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary along with other food offerings such as "pho," "turducken," and "pepita." The dictionary defines poutine as "a dish of French fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds." That really says it all! I should note that editors indicated they found no evidence of the word poutine prior to 1982. Obviously none of them are from Québec where poutine has been a traditional offering since around the end of World War II.

Poutine has now spread beyond the border of Québec, to other areas of Canada and even to the USA. I have found it on the menu in diverse locales. I know of a few places at home in Washington, DC - all well-respected establishments, including one situated on Pennsylvania Avenue two blocks from the White House - that serve a decent, authentic poutine as does a local Wonky Truck found around town. I recently learned that a new poutinerie has opened in my old stomping grounds in Tucson, Arizona. You can even find them here and there in Florida where the Canadian snowbirds spend their winters. Yet for some reason some purveyors of poutine . . . even in Québec . . . have found it necessary to add other ingredients to the holy trinity in order to make poutine their own. Not hip necessarily, but their own. Montréal’s Martin Picard serves "poutine au fois gras" at his landmark restaurant Au Pied de Cochon. I will freely admit that I have tried it there . . . and it is wonderful! But I am not sure why this is all necessary. In my humble opinion it is not poutine the way God intended it.

A few years ago a good friend sent me a clipping from a recent "Adventure & Travel" section of The Wall Street Journal; an article by Adam Leith Gollner entitled "Quebec’s Baddest Poutine." Gollner, a native Quebecker, visited a poutine festival at which several chefs had gathered to demonstrate new ways to "enhance the dish’s fundamental triumvirate." Anyone who has ever had honest-to-God authentic poutine, or who is someone who reveres it like I do, knows that poutine is just about as simple as it gets. French fried potatoes, thick beef gravy [sauce brune] . . . the thicker the better . . . and melted cheese curds; no mozzarella or pepper jack or whatever cheese you prefer . . . it has to be fresh cheese curds. That’s it. Nothing else. It doesn’t get any simpler, or better, or tastier than that. You put other crap in it and it ain’t poutine! Why would anyone in their right mind want to "enhance" it?


Still, the wider its reach, the greater the propensity to make poutine something it is not, to make it "better" by adding more ingredients and coming up with more mind-numbing ways to serve it. Again I ask you why? Potatoes, beef gravy and squeaky cheese curds that "sound like a rusty door hinge swinging open between your teeth." That is all you need. Poutine does not have to be hip to be good. Finis! So when I read in Gollner’s article about a poutine festival dedicated to new and improved ways to make and serve poutine, I naturally figured it took place in some far-flung locale like Las Vegas, or Miami Beach, or New Orleans . . . or even Shanghai. But no. It took place in Montréal of all places! Within a few miles from the original’s humble and somewhat debatable birthplace! And the winner? "Poutine a la General Tso" courtesy of an establishment called Poutineville with three locations in the Montréal area. They offer an assortment of "poutines haut de gamme" [specialty poutine] which involve tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, and various meats prepared in various ways. And all topped off with a special poutine sauce. Le blasphème de l'ordre le plus élevé! I don’t even want to think about it. To quote Gollner: "The problem with aiming to make poutine fancy is that the dish is meant to be trashy." Amen to that.

 
But perhaps I am in the minority. USA Today recently reported on Banters, "one of the most interesting – and schizophrenic" of the of the new "hip" restaurants and boutiques along Detroit Avenue in the recently gentrified Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side. It’s menu is focused on fancy sausages and a dozen variations of "gourmet poutines" such as rabbit pot pie poutine, chicken paprikash poutine, spätzle poutine, crème fraiche poutine, apple gastrique poutine, and seared foie gras poutine! And how about poutine featuring braised Berkshire pork shoulder, butter poached wild mushrooms, almonds and scallions, or fried pork pate and sunny side up eggs? Really?? Is all of this really necessary. I will admit that I do like the idea of a "Vladimir Poutine" featuring Ohio-raised lamb stroganoff, mushrooms and borscht gravy. Well, I like the name anyway. The article summed up saying "For poutine lovers, this may be the nation’s best slate." Well, maybe, but they just ain’t poutine folks.

No thanks to faux poutine. Give me the genuine thing any day!