Tag Archives: family

The “Simple” Joy of Vegan Pancakes

26 Jan

Pancakes are one of the all time great comfort foods–it’s main limitation is time. It takes a significant amount of time to prepare and cook, and you may or may not have enough batter, but it’s so worth it. Now remove normal ingredients…

Preparing food in my house is never easy. Anything that requires eggs is out. We avoid meat in the house. Also, onions and garlic, with tomatoes to a lesser degree. That makes cooking a meal rather difficult, even a vegetarian one, because onions and garlic (which I love) are the base of so many of things. Cheese, the basis of all American cuisine, is also out the window and the vegan substitutes never quite have the right attributes to make it work in most dishes.

What does this have to do with pancakes? Eggs are an essential part of any batter, but unlike most substitutes, this is the easiest. Chia “eggs” work just fine; this is chia seeds ground up and mixed with water. Milk is honestly just liquid in most recipes; it doesn’t add anything. So I use a minimum amount of hemp milk (which is only good for cooking) and then use water for the rest.

Because maple syrup isn’t sweet enough for my kids, I have to throw in chocolate chips, otherwise they’ll barely eat anything. Frankly, I think that ruins the aesthetic, but I’m outvoted.

For the dry ingredients, I mix in mostly einkorn flour, which before the gluten free movement, was mostly used for animal feed. (To quote Samuel Johnson: “Oats… in England, a food for horses. In Scotland, food for men.”) Mix in a portion of garbanzo bean flour (for protein, used in Italy during WWII when they were starving and couldn’t get wheat) and brown rice flour (for lift), and of course, a little baking soda and cream of tartar (because baking powder has corn starch), and you’re good!

Of course, the work is never done, because my wife cooked fish on my cast iron skillet two days before and never cleaned it off. So scraping off fish scuz was joyful, and then oiling, then scraping some more, then oiling again. I was willing to throw away the first pancake. But apparently my scraping did enough to clear off the fish scuz and it turned out all right.

So we eat our pancakes with fake butter (Earth Balance Soy Free), maple syrup, and (because we got it as a gift), wild chokecherry syrup. The last was interesting, because it’s one of those Native American things that sounds good. The problem is that there’s so much sugar in it that you can’t taste anything beyond a vague fruit taste. But it still tasted good… but man, that was a long way to go for something simple.

What is Legitimacy?

12 Dec

Bastards, Blood relations, Half-Brothers, Step-brothers, In-Laws. We have lots of terms in the English language for various levels of legitimate relations with people. Yet I wonder how many of those terms are really useful anymore?

I’m working with a professor talking about divorce law, which as you can imagine, goes into great detail on such issues. However, my initial thought was… I get this from a legal perspective, but how much does such relations actually impact our lives?

I guess it depends how close you are to the people in question. I used to joke that I started off as an only child and ended up the middle of ten. How does that work? My parents only had me, then divorced. Then my mom remarried and I gained three stepbrothers and a stepsister. My dad remarried and had a half-brother and a half-sister. Then my mom died, my stepdad remarried, and I gained three half-stepbrothers.

Stop me if you’re getting confused–I sure was! Then my stepsister married my half-stepbrother, which sounds icky, except there’s no blood relation and their parents only married after they were 20. But that pales in comparison to the fact that my aunt is also my second cousin (my parents met at their wedding). 🙂

To add to confusion, there is also relations of mine who are not married to their partner, so they’re my… what? Not-stepbrother-in-law?! Rebecca’s boyfriend? I guess if I know them well, I just call him Steve, but the further away I am from that person, the more I have to define them in these obsolete terms.

The real point of “legitimate, step, in-law, whatever” is a legal definition. How close is the person to inheriting the wealth of another person? Back in medieval times, you might get Don John the Bastard, but as much as that term has a negative context, by calling them a bastard actually meant you legitimized them. This is my son! They get a portion of my wealth! However, that took something away from the regular kids, so they’ve always been demonized… unless they weren’t.

Take the Tudors–they were descended from the bastard child of the wife of Henry V. No one claimed they weren’t really royalty… well, maybe during Henry VII’s reign, but that’s why it was important for him to marry one of the more direct bloodlines so that his kids were legitimate… and why Henry VIII was so crazy about marrying all those women, because memories of the War of the Roses was VERY clear in the survivors, and he wanted to avoid wars of succession. It didn’t… quite work, but he did prevent more than just a couple coups… oh, and the Spanish Armada. 🙂

But before I go down that road, what do you think? Is legitimacy useful outside the legal world? Do you consider someone a “brother from another mother?” Let me know in the comments below!

Fresh Air Obsession

3 Dec

Living in Arizona means I live opposite the seasonal flow of the rest of the United States. This is our “summer,” when you can open the windows, and kids play outside. However, my family has a fresh air obsession all year round, which makes opening windows… a problem.

Technically, we’re in winter, and just to make you jealous, we have highs in the 70’s and lows in the 40’s… which is very cold for us. (All temperatures in Fahrenheit–sorry, world). However, in the summer, it gets up to 120 with lows of 90’s, so as I explain, it’s five months of terrible weather in exchange for seven months of gorgeous weather–it’s a good trade-off.

[NOTE: Here is where I exaggerate to express my frustration.] My family–let’s be honest, it’s my wife–MUST HAVE FRESH AIR! It’s hot as hell at 6 am, no matter, I have to crack the door… “for the cats.” The fact that we have a cat door and they can get out on their own doesn’t matter. It’s 50 degrees and freezing for folks who accept 120 degrees outside… nope, windows have to be open!

Is it better for us? Sure. It gets rid of stale air, makes the house smell better, maybe does better for us on a respiratory model. I’m perfectly willing to accept it when it’s ten degrees above or below comfort level. It’s the problem when they all leave the house, the windows are all open, the heater/AC is struggling to keep up with a losing battle, and I’m either freezing/sweating because they have to have fresh air. *sigh*

I’ll admit, I’m cheap. We keep the thermostat set six degrees above or below the comfort zone. So when I see lights left on, or windows left open with the heater blaring, or computers left on when they’ve been gone… it really irks me.

Is it a serious concern? No–but it’s something to complain about. 🙂 What does your family do that irks you? Let me know in the comments below!

Weekly Cutoff

24 Nov

Once a week, my family cuts off from everything–no TV, no phones, no electronics of any kind–for 25 hours. It’s frustrating and glorious, annoying and refreshing at the same time. It’s not a vacation–it’s a deliberate effort to remember what it is to be human.

The religious observance of Shabbat (Sabbath) is to completely do no work. But how do you define work? Thankfully, the sages came up with 39 types of work, so you can avoid making a spark… so no light switches (lights have to be on or off for all of Saturday. You can’t carry anything outside your house. You can’t play a musical instrument. You can’t dig, or plant, or draw, or do anything creative. You simply have to be there… and there is nothing more terrifying then that in the modern world.

So maybe you don’t go to the same extreme as I do–most Jews don’t. In fact, with this whole COVID #@*$(%, our synagogue still doesn’t meet in person, so we’re forced to turn on our computers for services. So for two hours, we use the “travel to shul” exception that we normally use for driving the car to get to services to see Zoom. I hate it, but it’s what I got. Once services are done, the computer goes away again, and we’re back to doing what we normally do on Shabbat.

Which is… what? Mostly reading. My wife–bereft of her normal reading material–has been forced to read young adult fiction which she does NOT like. By about 2 in the afternoon, she get do another… questionable activity, which is organizing something. She’s not cleaning, just… organizing. And it brings her joy, so that’s good. The kids run out to play with their friends, and when they have to go do something else, they’re forced to play with us. So this week, out came the chess and the Risk board. Me and the kids finally got exhausted playing basketball before the sun finally set.

It’s not a vacation–you’re still you, you’re still in the same ol’ place, but you can’t do the same old, same old. The book I want to read is on the Kindle. My kids really want to watch TV. The movie night after sunset on Saturday is sacrosanct to my son and he spends more than he should thinking about what we’re going to watch as a family… because he’s been deprived so long! 🙂

I both enjoy it and hate it. I don’t look forward to it. To be fair, I don’t look forward to Sunday either, because the wife thinks this is the time to work on the house… but that’s another story. The lesson I take away from Shabbat is that you spend too much time running during the week that you have to remember what it is to be human. That you have a family. That you come together with them and with God. Stop running and be still.

It is both glorious and painful. What traditions do you keep to check out from the modern world? When was the last time you put your phone down? Let me know in the comments below!

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