3-5-2001 Zoroastrian New Year

Happy Zoroastrian New Year:                       March 5, 2001
According to the radio this is going to be the biggest storm in 50
years. (what about the blizzard of `78?) So far I’m not impressed. All
week we’ve been getting just a new dusting during the night, or
occasionally a flurry in the day. It wasn’t enough to clog up the
driveway, but generally covered the tracks and such in the chicken yard,
and renewed the sparkle on the snow. I do love how the snow sparkles!
Right now the yard reminds me of boiled frosting with sugar sprinkled on
top. Of course, how many people these days even know what boiled
frosting is? Frosting comes out of those little plastic tubs or tubes,
right? (Ick!) More on that later.
I’m afraid AElfwine is still not doing too well. He still has to use
the antispasmotic drugs, although he’s figured out how to keep the dose
low enough that he can safely drive, yet not hurt. On the other hand,
his energy is so low, he might as well be laid up.
Anyway, the doctor said of COURSE Aelfwine wasn’t expected to take all
those pills for three months, that’s just the way they write
prescriptions. And that he should experiment with it to find out how he
gets the best relief- that may be practical, but I’d wish there were
more hard information. Of course, this contact was from work over the
phone, so I have no idea if Aelfwine asked the doctor about the possible
antibiotic connection.
Thank the Gods for the kids, they have been wonderful! Especially as
what I thought was just an ignorable accident (I seem to have pulled a
muscle in my foot) persists and seems to respond only to staying off my
feet. I try, but someone has to cook and milk and such. You can well
imagine how frustrating it is for us to WANT to get stuff done, to see
stuff that NEEDS to get done, that we should well be able to do- but
either it gets left undone, or we have to have the kids do it. It’s
maddening! Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of the week at the computer,
generating yet another issue of the Golden Key Guide to the SCA that I
put out for so many years. It’s a new members handbook, and the Barony
doesn’t seem to have anything like it just now.

I’ve also been e-mailing and making big plans on the phone which I am
assuming that we will be able to actually get too. There are several
people near enough to us that we feel we can start having SCA guild
meetings over here. (Recently, most of the during-the-week activities
have been on the Seacoast, which would be a two hour drive each way for
us. Not appropriate time commitment for an evening activity.) Minna (who
did the fur working workshop last weekend) is going to do a tanning
workshop soon, I’m going to do one on candles- since we have all that
wax and the Chandler’s Guild has never claimed it- and we’re talking
about alternating. I’m thinking (in a rather mercenary way) on doing a
workshop on jeweling your garb. Aren’t I naughty? At this point,
anything to stay off my feet. I may even get to updating the “who’s who”
for the letter. I’d like to sew, and I’d really like to get the
refrigerator cleaned (I can’t believe I’m saying that!) but both of
those activities include a lot of standing.

Sadly, my foot problem cut rather badly into any possible winter
vacation activities. The kids took out extra videos and watched them- I
avoided the kitchen while they were on. I suppose things like
Transformers movies, the Flintstones, McHale’s Navy, The Teacher Ate My
Homework, or Witch Board are just juvenile entertainment, and I
shouldn’t be so surprised that kids like them- or that I don’t. Of
course we also watched Goldfinger and Casino Royale for an amusing bit
of nostalgic flashback. We were ALL appalled by the overt sexism the
hero was allowed to display- and no one seemed to mind or notice!
Frankly, the Bond Movies seem somewhat hard to spoof since they were so
“over the top” by themselves. Also got Lady and the Tramp II, which I
found to be a real woofer. Perhaps if they still have VCRs when I have
grandkids they will like it, but apparently it’s too young for a
thirteen year old, much less anyone else in the house. Or perhaps it’s
that I didn’t care for the first Lady and the Tramp movie either. We did
see ONE funny movie: It was called Choice of Weapons, and was made back
in the early seventies. It figures an American who returns to England
when he inherits a title, and an order of semi-demented rich English
nobles who make themselves an SCA like order (better financed,
obviously) to promote chivalry in the modern world which goes vigilante
and starts killing off suspected criminals. There’s a detective, an
ex-head of Scotland Yard who has a magical effect on animals, and is
very amusing. I am guessing that it was originally a TV pilot, but we
thought it was very funny. I also watched The Shawshank Redemption,
which was simply an excellent drama. Big thumbs up, as they say.

Tuesday Raven and Jesse came up from Cauldron Farm for a “Cream
Separator 101” session with Aelfwine. (This is the thing you adjust,
remember to make sure it’s absolutely level, were your instructions as
incomprehensible as ours? etc.) Their separator is pretty much the same
as ours (that is, Russian), although they joked that ours was from the
Gadanzk Tractor and Tank factory and Raven’s was from the Minzk
Typewriter parts and munitions factory. Just small differences between
them. I hope our experience gives Raven a bit of an advantage- frankly,
we’ve never really gotten it to work too well. But they have their kids
already, and are so full of milk that they are making ice-cream every
other day, which they figure will be very welcome come mid-summer. (The
milk supply will be down, and the ice-cream ready to eat!)

Raven mentioned someone interviewing him and also writing an article
about “Culinary Illiteracy”; that kids these days not only don’t know
what real food is (looks like, tastes like, etc.), they wouldn’t even
know what to do with it if it were presented to them with the means to
cook it. I can believe that. I recently read that 90% of all food in our
groceries is processed. That sounds about right- what isn’t, the meat
and produce sections? I guess, SOME of the meat and produce sections.
I’ve been talking about it with everyone all week- but it was really
driven home this morning. In the letters section on NPR several people
had written in asking what a roux was- it had been mentioned as a
critical part of making gumbo. Or almost any other sauce, thickened
soup, gravy… I was appalled. Of course, neither of my girls recognized
the term either- although they both know HOW to make white sauce, so it
may be a terminology thing. But still, most people in American DON’T
know how to boil water- if you stop to think that way it’s done most
often (for making coffee, tea, soup, etc.) is in a microwave. Most
people don’t realize it effects the taste- and presumably can’t tell.
Heck, in High School Home Economics classes they don’t teach them how to
use real food- they teach them how to cook with mixes. Willow made pie
crust better than Ms. Clark, and I expect Kat will find the class
equally as frustrating as her older sisters did. (Heck, I still remember
surprising MY home-ec teacher when I made butter frosting from scratch
without looking anything up. What’s the big deal? You whip powdered
sugar into butter and add a splash of vanilla. This was apparently too
confusing for most of the other students, who stood and watched with
every appearance of awe.
If I were given the opportunity to teach home ec, I would do side by
side taste tests of butter and margarine, of cake mix and scratch cakes,
pudding mix and real custard- home made jam and commercially made jam.
Explain to them how fats go rancid in milk or whole wheat flour or salad
dressing. Try and get them to understand the potential dangers of
aspartame and olestra and other artificial foods. Teach them how to bake
and boil and fry and stew. Show them just what constitutes the “special
ingredients” in Hamburger Helper or other foods that they charge a
premium for the convenience and show them how little time difference and
how much extra cost is involved. I am perfectly willing to admit that
the chances are that given macaroni and cheese made by making a cheese
sauce and pouring it over macaroni, they might well choose the flavor of
Kraft Dinner, because it’s familiar and that’s the way they expect
macaroni and cheese to taste. I’d even be willing to show them the
difference between Coke and Pepsi and Generic (and explain to them how
to decide when to buy which). But still, maybe they’d be able to see
what they were being sold in commercials. Maybe I could teach them to
not just sew a kerchief, but to darn a sock. To point out to them that
“lather, rinse, repeat” wasn’t the best way to shampoo, but simply the
best way to sell more shampoo. Maybe if I couldn’t convince them that
their best way to good complexion was nutrition, I could show them how
to make cleansers out of oatmeal and eggs and other fairly safe stuff. I
could try to show them not just how to get coupons on line (for goodness
sakes!) but how to use the internet to find other places to check to
look for the truth is about everything from vaccines to raw milk. Maybe
I could teach them a little logic and how to compare sources.

I did read this week that the American Academy of Pediatricians and
Surgeons (if I remember right, I can’t find the magazine just now) has
come out AGAINST mandatory vaccinations, saying that since 20% of the
people who get them suffer serious adverse reactions, that the risks
don’t outweigh the benefits at this point. It was, of course, an article
about the stranglehold that the pharmaceutical industry seems to hold
over the American Legislature, but how long can that last when the
doctors are campaigning against them more and more? Their claim that
they need to charge so much so they can afford to do research does not
hold up in the face of the fact that they are the area with the greatest
profit for their stocks. That’s not their research arms getting more
funding- that’s their stock holders getting more income.

On the other side, seems to me that there ought to be some sort of
balance we could work out between the long term health risks of DDT and
the judicious use of it to control the malaria that is ravaging the
third world. No, we don’t want them to poison their environment- but
surely they don’t need to get malaria at the rate they are getting it

And as long as I’m on the subject of “news”, hasn’t the Hoof and Mouth
Epidemic been incredible this last week? Every day new cases in new
places. Annoyingly, while the radio has been reporting where it’s
spreading, and how it may effect economic situations and food supplies,
so far they haven’t said enough (in my opinion)about what the disease
actually is. It’s like the bubonic plague. Just say “Black Death” and
everyone assumes everyone dies. Even our animal care books just talk
about how much it would cost to start having to fight it if it ever got
to America, and how the US helped Mexico and Canada eliminate it. I have
managed to glean the information that affected animals get fevers, sore
mouths, can’t eat and their milk dries up. But is it bacterial? Viral? I
want to know some specifics. There is something a bit egotistical to
have information sources simply say “There, there, dears, it’s not
something you have to worry your pretty little heads about, the big bad
disease won’t come to our country because we are so freaking superior!”
If this disease is so deadly and contagious, once they have actually
wiped out every herd that has it- what do they do to sterilize the
place? Napalm the pasture? Kill every living thing in a two mile radius?
I can understand that if I were a farmer with the usual mortgages and
I’d just lost my whole stock, both the years income, plus the next years
breeding stock, the economic aspects would loom large. And for those
places where the meat in the markets is already running low, I can see
them wondering that if they spend twice as much to get it from twice as
far, will that meat also be contaminated. And will it carry the disease
further? We heard something about washing the animal’s (and people who
walked near them) feet- so does it enter the soil? Can birds be vectors
between the hoofed mammals? It seems to me that something similar
happened last year in China when a disease struck their chicken and duck
population just before New Years- so no one could have their traditional
good luck dinner. They burned birds in the millions, by the ton- but
have, apparently, recovered. I want to know just what this disease
actually does, and what they have to do about it!

I have been watching the news about the Afgan Buddas too. I have to say
it gives me a stomach ache to hear that the Taliban actually went
through with it, but hey, from their point of view, why not? The only
reason they told everyone what they were going to do last week is to
generate just the sort of reaction they are getting. They are like kids
spray painting statues in the park- “See what we can do, and YOU CAN’T
STOP US!” Well, shame on them! And shame on us for not stopping them. But
bigger shame on us because frankly these statues, as precious and as
ancient as they are/were are simply among the many works of art that
have been lost over the centuries because of stupid vandals. Why is
there not even greater outcry for the torture and repression they are
inflicting on their own people (especially the women) in the name of
their twisted version of religion? In theory, we are “allowing” this to
happen in the name of their countries right to self determination.In
practice, it’s more likely that we know that we just can’t do it-no one
has been able to over the centuries, that’s just the way Afganistan is.
So they can abuse and torture their women in the name of their right to
choose their own religion. “No, no, the Islamic armies weren’t  like
that!” (right, and the Holocaust didn’t happen. In fifty years will we
be asking ourselves why we let this happen?)

In case I didn’t tell you that story before- when Dan was in North
Eastern, she took a History of Islam course, and all the nice little
Islamic students sat on one side of the hall (you could tell by the
headcloths on the women) and all the kids like Dan who were taking it
for their course distribution sat on the other side. Dan could tell
right away that this teacher was doing big time revisionist history, but
she was very good at figuring out what teachers wanted and giving it to
them- thus getting good grades while safely keeping her observations
that they were nut cases to herself (something her mother was never able
to learn). But during one lecture, she couldn’t take it any more, and
stood up and asked the professor “Are you saying that the Islamic armies
managed to conquer this vast area covering many countries without (a)
hurting anyone, or (b) breaking anything?” This is of course, where one
would expect the professor to admit that in war accidents happen, but
that their policies were against such things- or some such. But no, this
professor actually told her: “No, no, the Islamic Armies weren’t like
that.” and when she glanced over to the other side of the lecture hall,
all the moslem students were nodding their agreement (THEY knew how
superior all moslems were) “No, no, the Islamic armies weren’t like
that.” So half the class went home secure and happy, and the vast
majority of the class went home presumably believing their professor,
and Dan sat down and planned how to write her future papers without
jeopardizing her grades- or indulging in ridiculous fantasies. Me? When
I heard, I wanted to call North Eastern about it and get the professor
chastised- but Dan wouldn’t tell me her name, so I didn’t ever work up
the ambition to look it up and pursue it. Self righteous indignation
will only go so far before practicality kicks in. Again, something that
Dan learned faster than her poor Aquarian mother.

We did have another set of guests this week. Steve and Allyn Raskind
came up, and brought with them Allyn’s girl friend, Amanda. She was
really great, and I don’t say that JUST because she’s convinced Allyn to
get around to applying for college, but she seems like all our other
friends. She was relaxed, and bright and friendly, and I fear we may
have teased them a bit more than was really required, but they took it
well. Apparently Allyn visited her down at Temple University for a week,
and she’s returning the visit for a week up here.

We made jelly doughnuts for Shrove Tuesday this year- differently
though. This time we used a food syringe to squirt the jelly into them.
It gets MUCH less jelly in the hot fat. I think I like it better. Dad
called- his calendar had said Rosenmontag- and he figured I’d know what
it was. I didn’t but I was able to find it- in a german cookbook.
Basically it means Rose Monday, and Shrove Tuesday is Rose Tuesday too-
having to do with the Rosary rather than the flower. Hmm. I never
thought about it before, but I thought Germany was heavily Protestant,
why do they still do fashing (Carnival)? Anyway, it’s the Monday before
Lent. You can’t live on them, but as an occasional treat- Yum! Of course
then Kat had to try making some wheat free funnel cakes. They weren’t
bad. As I said, the kids have been a blessing, and much more open than
previously to experimentation.
I tried several new recipes this week. Star is getting a lot less
resistant to trying things with alternate flours. I think the best one
was a chocolate walnut cookie with buckwheat flour. It wasn’t even in a
wheat alternatives book, but in a
how-to-slip-whole-grains-into-your-kids-without-their-noticing book. In
the same vein (having some leftover squash) I put some of that into
pancakes this morning and it gave them a lovely golden color, presumably
some of the nutrition that one gets from squash, and a lovely golden
color. I made that marvelous cabbage pie soup again, and am trying to
get hold of a special italian type of fat back that Megan says is
required to make the best leek and potato soup. (I noted that her recipe
has onions as well as the leeks, so I DO want to try it.) She is ALMOST
done with her book. I am practically expecting a call any day/minute
with her saying “I finished!”

If I have time, and we don’t lose power, I have a recipe I’ve been
wanting to try- well, actually, mostly I have a cookie cutter I’ve been
wanting to try. It’s shaped like a gnome, and is only one inch high, so
it should make adorable little cookies. Gee, I wonder if I deep fat
fried bread dough cut out with them, if they’d puff up and look like
little three dimensional gnomes?Well, I’ll spell check this, and go try.
If it works, I’ll let you know next week.


Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.