Thoughts on antisemitism

I wasn’t paying attention. Usually, I read the news about the US because what happens there has repercussions everywhere – and Trump is such a doofus. He is fixated on a wall between the US and its mortal enemy, Mexico, which is sending in thousands of terrorists to kill and maim Americans, or at least get them hooked on drugs. Personally, I don’t think Americans need any help doing that to themselves. But Trump, that reptilian-brained snake-oil salesman, has a fast-dwindling group of zombie supporters to whom he is beholden – and probably his campaign was financed by people who have already invested heavily in a wall and want their money back. Five billion $$$ to people who helped elect a prehistoric ape-man to presidency – so you see why I don’t pay attention to news in France.

So imagine my consternation when I spoke to a friend who said that antisemitism was on the rise in France. I live in a town in France that is largely made up of immigrants.  I hadn’t noticed anything around town, and worried, I asked if she felt threatened here. But my friend said no, she lived and worked here, and everything was fine. It was Paris! The antisemitism was coming from French people – not immigrants.

“The Arabs and the Jews get along fine – we always have. It’s the French people; the ones who vote LePen.” She shook her head. “The problem is not the Arabs,” she insisted. “And the ones doing the damage are not young people, they not terrorists. They are the far right, and they are feeling enpowered again.”  She lives and works in my town, and we are, like I said, unusual in that we have a large Muslim population. But we are also a largely peaceful town, with no gilets jaunes (yellow jackets), no riots, and a fairly steady rate of 3% less crime than most cities of its size (40,000 people).

What I’ve discovered it that in Europe on the whole, antisemitism is rising, and what accompanies the writing on the walls (so far, it’s mostly defacing posters of Simone Viel and bagal boutiques) are swasticas – which are the sign of skinheads, nazis, and Trump supporters everywhere. Of course, some people blame the immigrants – but it’s like the gay priests in the Vatican – the more they howl that the gays are evil, the gayer they are. So the more people complain about immigrants, the more cans of paint and swastica signs they have hidden in their cellars.

I read articles linking the rise of the far right to acts of racism in the US – so why aren’t people linking acts of antisemitism to the far right here in Europe? The press has been unusually coy about it – but I think it’s something we all better talk about before the Europeans vote for their parliament. I do not want to give any voice to these haters. It would be a good time talk about what is happening, instead of whispering. Scrape off the dirt these people are hiding under and expose them for what they are: the far right, (or the far left – the two extremes are similar), flsuh them out, pull their teeth, castrate them, show them for what they are: narrow-minded bullies who want an all white, all “Christian”, all zombie apocalypse.

Not me – I don’t care for the apocalypse. I want everyone to just get along – like in my little town.  So, I’m going to call it out when I see it or hear about it. We can only beat this disease if we all work together.

 

 

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Persephone the Terrible

When they find out I wrote a book, the first thing people ask me is, “What’s it about?”  When I tell them it’s about a modern woman who goes back in time to interview Alexander the Great and gets kidnapped by him thus stranded in 333 BC, they then want to know what gave me the idea. When I was 7 years old, my father gave me a book on Greek Myths. (This was before my Sunday schooling and first communion*.) He didn’t tell me it was fiction, so I started reading about the beginning of the world, the darkness, the light, Zeus, Hera, and all the gods and goddesses, and thought to myself “Cool!” My first gods were the Greek gods – and one of my favorite stories was the rapt of Persephone by the god of the Underworld, Hades.

When Ashley, a modern woman from the future, travels back in time and meets Alexander the Great, she has no idea what will happen. Alexander mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and wrenches her from the blue light of the tractor-beam. It doesn’t help her that the beam had been set up under a pomegrenate tree, and that she had been kneeling on the ground crying a minute before because her interview had been such a dismal failure. Alexander sees her, realizes who she is, and decides to “save” her, thus condemning her to live in the past.  She must learn to survive in a time with no decent shampoo, no teleport station, floating vid screen….she’s stuck in the past and she’s terrified – but she’s tough. Alexxander has pledged to protect her, but she has to contend with his other wives, his insane mother, his army generals – and someone who does not want her around.

The Road to Alexander is book I in the series (it has 7 books in it – all are written and the last one is slated for March 2019).  The books can be read as stand alone, although the story is continuous. In books I – IV, Ashley follows Alexander’s army (cue about a year’s worth of research), then in book V, history as we know it become speculative – Ashley saves Alexander from death, they leave Babylon and strike out on their own. But now, druids have gotten wind of Ashley’s son, Paul, who should never have been born. According to their oracles, he can change the world, so they’ve sworn to capture him. (Cue lots of adventure!) At any rate, I had a wonderful time writing the series, and I hope readers have as much fun reading it.  Thank you for having me on your blog – herewith is a recipe for lentil soup – the perfect Greek for Alexander’s army dish – & don’t forget the garlic! (Sprinkle with parsely or chives when done, and serve with fresh bread.)

Ancient Greek Lentil Soup
1 lb lentils
8 cups broth (you can use vegetable broth if you prefer – otherwise use chicken broth)
1 large minced leek
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 small onion, slived
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
olive oil
salt and pepper
12 coriander seeds**

Rinse the lentils thoroughly, then put them into a pot with the broth to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender (about 45 min – 1 hr). Skim the top, add the vegetables, and simmer until cooked through. If the soup seems too watery, seive some of the water out (or add cornstarch, although that didn’t exist back then!) Now add the vinegar and honey. Pour into serving bowls and add a good dollop of olive oil (about 2 tbsp per serving), sprinkling on coriander seeds and salt and pepper to taste. And don’t forget to count out exactly 12 coriander seeds!

(*We were one of the only Catholic families in a very Protestant upstate New York town, so I was eventually enrolled in Sunday school, where my confusion about hearing God was not named ‘Zeus’, and that Jesus was not one of Zeus’s many offspring, was immense!)

** Recipe from Meals and recipes from ancient Greece by Eugenia Salza Prina Ricotti ; translated by Ruth Anne Lotero, J. Paul Getty Museum, cop. 2007. Original title: L’ arte del convito nella grecia antica. – Rome : Erma di Bretschneider, 2005

 

 

 

Teneman’s Mafé!

I’m giving English lessons to Teneman, one of my neighbors. He’s from Mali, and we started talking about food (of course – we live in France, food is all important!) and he mentioned his favorite dish – Mafé. I had never tried it, but I’d heard about it. He offered to bring the peanut butter (his mom sends it to him from Mali – it’s pure peanuts – no oils, salt, or sugar added!) and I said I’d get the rest of the ingredients. We had our English lesson while we cooked dinner, and after we had a fabulous meal!

Here is the recipe – it is very easy, and very good! But I think you really have to get pure peanut butter or even make your own by processing peanuts in a food processor until they make a thick paste.

Note: Teneman was disappointed that the oil didn’t separate and float to the top, but I think I had the heat on too high and not enough water. Also, we were hungry and probably didn’t wait the full 40 minutes! The sauce was delicious anyhow, and I had leftovers the next day, and they were even better! Also, Teneman likes lots of pepper sprinkled on, but it’s a matter of taste! He also says sometimes he adds a hot pepper to the sauce.

  • Oil — 2 tablespoons
  • Stewing beef, or chicken cut into cubes — 2 pounds
  • Onion, minced — 1
  • Garlic, minced — 3 to 6 cloves
  • Ginger (optional), minced — 1 tablespoon (Note, I didn’t have ghe ginger and according to Teneman, he never uses it)
  • Tomato paste — 2 tablespoons
  • Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped — 2 cups
  • Water or stock — 1 to 2 cups
  • Natural, unsalted peanut butter — 1 cup
  • Salt and pepper — to taste

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Add the meat and saute until lightly browned on all sides, 5 or 6 minutes. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the onion to the oil in the pot and saute until translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger and saute another 1 or 2 minutes.
  3. Return the beef to the pot, stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes to reduce the volume of the tomatoes somewhat.
  4. Add enough water or stock to loosen the dish to a stewlike consistency. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in the peanut butter and salt and pepper to taste. Cover loosely with a lid and simmer for another 40 minutes, or until the beef is tender and oil rises to the surface of the dish. Add water as necessary to keep the dish stewlike.
  6. Adjust seasoning and serve with rice or couscous.

MAFÉ VARIATIONS

  • Meats: Use goat instead of beef. Or use chicken cut into serving pieces.
  • Vegetables: Make mafé a full meal by adding vegetables. When you stir in the water or stock, add vegetables like cabbage, yams, squash, okra, eggplant, potatoes, peppers or carrots. For vegetarian Mafé, eliminate the meat and use only vegetables.
  • Some recipes call for cooking the peanut butter with the tomato paste, before adding the chopped tomatoes. This will caramelize the sugars a bit, giving additional depth to the sauces flavor.

Image result for mafé poulet

Was it worth it?

Instead of sitting at my computer, writing, I could have been outside, playing with my kids. I could have been walking my dogs. I could have been baking a cake. I could have been talking to my dad. I could have been swimming at the pool. I could have been riding my bike.

Instead, I wrote my books. And I love them. But was it worth it?

I don’t know.  Time goes so fast – I think I would have loved to do all that – playing, riding, walking, baking –  but I loved writing my books more, I think. I loved living in a world I created. I was always a day dreamer. My teachers used to tell me all the time “Jennifer, stop daydreaming! Come back down off your clouds!”

I loved playing with my kids and walking my dogs. I wonder if they would have liked me to pay more attention to them? I’m afraid to ask.

Was it worth it? Financially, no, of course not. I didn’t write a best seller (well, it was a best seller for a short while, but nothing to write home about – to tell the truth, I didn’t even realize it was a best seller until my publisher told me – I know – hopeless.) I made pocket money, as they say. A little “butter on the spinach”, as the French say.

Is anything worth it? If I didn’t write my books, I would never have met some amazing people. Amazing writers and wonderful friends. I would have done something else, perhaps. I would have painted, and the house would be full of unsold paintings (it is already, actually, full of unsold paintings. Luckily they look nice on my walls).

And then I read an article about how the insects are dying, and how in fifty years, there will be half the number of insects there are today, and in a hundred years, they will be gone – but so will everything else. The article was as good as saying that we have fifty years and then it will all start to vanish. The insects, the frogs, the birds, the fish, the animals, and the humans. All gone. Unless we start doing something now. So I ask myself, will the human race be able to actually do something? What can we do?

Not eat so much meat, or dairy. Plant trees. Stop spraying insect spray over everything. Deal with the wormy apple. Celebrate bees. Court the ants. Encourage the dragonfly. In the end, if we do all that, perhaps it will be worth it.

In the end, I won’t be remembered for being the author of the Alexander series, or the painter, or the walker, the baker, the day dreamer. In the end, it won’t matter.  In the end, no one will be remembered for anything, because the insects are all dying and so the world ends – like in The Hollow Men, the first poem I loved, and read over and over – not with a bang, but a whimper. And then, no one will be around to wonder, “Was it worth it?”

 

 

 

Old love letters

PHOTO PROMPT © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

Thanks to Rochelle for her Friday fictioneers!

Old Love Letters

In the beginning, he called her every day.

The first time they made love was in the shed on an old mattress full of dust and cobwebs. She closed her eyes and pretended they were at the Ritz. She’d heard it was fabulous.

Work, the weather, the ball games = the excuses. She read all his old love letters and waited for romance to return.

When she scrimped and saved, & suggested a weekend at the Ritz to rekindle romance, his excuse was work-weather-the-ballgame. But she found out it was really his secretary.

She burnt: letters, mattress, shed.

 

 

 

 

 

Truth and consequences

February – I’m starting to think we may have spring yet. Of course, since Trump took the US out of the arms  treaty with Russia that’s now become an option rather than a certainty. If I sound disillusioned, pessimistic, downhearted – it’s because I am. I really have to start avoiding Facebook. So many of my own friends and family think that deranged maniac is doing a good job. Luckily, the ones that do think so are not readers, so won’t come over and peer at my blog. No, Trump supporters are all about tweets and memes. Big pictures with flashy words that catch the attention. What I’ve learned is that facts can be ignored as long as one’s wishes are being catered to. For example, one wishes that America can be great again, but does not know how that can be accomplished. The easy solution seems to be keeping all non Americans out of the country and giving jobs to everyone. Now, did they think that (1) unemployment is already at such a low that the immigrants are not taking jobs away from Americans. And (2) the jobs are not paying living wages, so that most people are still working full time but are struggling and can’t afford good education, housing, or healthcare.

So, you’d think that people who want America to be great again would deduce that (1) immigrants are not the problem, and that (2) low pay is the problem. But they do not deduce this, because Foxx news and memes on Facebook say that immigrants are coming in droves and taking jobs away and bringing diseases, crime, and drugs.

You can quote the facts that come straight from studies made by sociologists, universities, even the government itself that immigrants do not bring diseases, and that diseases are mostly due to anti-vaxxers in the USA, that crime is mostly commited by Americans, not immigrants (the statistics are very clear on that), and that drugs come in through the airports and ports quite legally, and not with illegal immigrants who barely have clothes on their backs. Pew research has some interesting facts that Trump supporters choose to ignore.

Why do Trump supporters ignore facts? Because they don’t want to hear them. They don’t want their soap-bubble ideas of how to make America great again, burst. The famous monkey meme “Hear no evil, See no evil, Speak no evil”, is now :”Hear no Facts, See no Facts, Speak no Facts.”  Welcome to the idiot’s world of Trump. 

Oh, and enjoy the new arms race, folks. I hope you have good bunkers.Image result for see no evil hear no evil

The commission

PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath

“We’ve got the opal sky and a peaceful desert with the blue mountains in the distance,” says Hayers. “Beezy, can you do something in the background? A minute later she squawks, “What the hell is that teepee doing there?”

“I wanted horses,” says Beezy – sulky.

“Well you can’t have horses. And as long as you’re doing teepees, you might as well do a tribal gathering around a fire. Make it authentic. Our client was firm about that. An authentic but relaxing western scene. Don’t fuck it up.”

Thanks to Rochelle for her Friday Fictioneers

 

 

 

The Spa

I went to Weisbaden, Germany for a conference and went to the most amazing spa. The conference had nothing to do with the spa, actually. It was a romance novel conference but I’d been in contact with a woman from Wiesbaden and when she found out I was coming to Germany, she told me to save a day for her. She took me to the most incredible spa – the Kaiser Friedrich thermal baths. It’s based on the Roman thermae of ancient times, and I wish I lived next door – I think I’d be there every day!

If you’ve never been to a Roman bath, it’s a huge complex with many different rooms with names like tepidarium, frigidarium – many different saunas (dry, wet, steam, Swedish, even saunas with different scented steams such as lavander and pine. The building is built on the site of natural hot springs and there is a large “hot pool”. There are different pools for hot and cold (a cold pool is called a plunge-bath), and showers of different temperatures as well, including one so cold it has chips of ice in it!

The idea is to go from one temperature to the other, relaxing in between in a tepid room (there is one room with glittery stars on the ceiling to look at as you relax), and to generally spend a few hours to rest your body and mind. It really was wonderful. I was back the next day to try a treatment with different types of clay for my skin, then to a “light” room, where I lay on a lounge chair to experience the sunrise, noonday sun, and sunset all in the space of ten minutes!

I would deinitely recommend going to the spa – but there is one thing – everyone is naked, clothes not really allowed, so you can’t be too prudish.

http://www.wiesbaden.de/microsite/mattiaqua/kaiser-friedrich-therme/content/bildergalerie.php

Pain au chocolat

Someone (Actually, it was Debbie!) asked me what thing I’d miss the most if I had to leave France. Right away I thought, “Pain au chocolat!”  What’s that? you ask. Well, it’s a flaky, buttery, puff pastery wrapped around two bars of dark chocolat, baked to golden perfection. The first time I had one, I was at work and someone brought in a tray of what looked like rectagular bread rolls. I grabbed one, bit into it, and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Pure bliss.

pain_au_chocolatThe secret to a good pain au chocolat is using puff pastery, (or laminated dough, I think it’s also called) and good quality chocolate, so that when you bit into it, the pastry is meltingly light and soft, with a slight crunch as your teeth sink into the crisp outer layer  – and the chocolate is firm and consistant, not as hard as a real chocolate bar, but not soft and crumbly either.

The best way to eat them is right after you buy them at the boulangerie, fresh from the oven but not too fresh – the chocolat has to have time to cool. But you have to eat them while the puff pastery is still fresh – a day later, and it’s not as good. You can, of course, heat them up in the over to make them taste nearly fresh, which is why I like having a few in my freezer. The really do heat up well. I think this gal looks like she does a good job with them (though I’d use a thinner chocolat – you don’t want to use the thick chocolat chunks, actually!)

After our flight from Florida, we arrived in France on a gray, rainy morning.

Our first stop was in a small village where we spotted a bistro – inside, we ordered coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and pain au chocolats. Even though it was cold and rainy outside, this made everything just fine. This is what I missed most!