Food Sunday: Kale Pie

Right out of the oven
For years, we grew kale in our Alaska garden.  It is hardy and nutritious. Somehow, it got eclipsed by some of my experiments – rutabaga, radicchio, parsnips, fava beans, soy beans and other plants.  This year, once again, I planted kale, from a pack of seeds including various kinds of “Siberian Kale.”

We used almost all of it.  I’ve made kale chips for the first time.  We’ve stir-fried it with elk, caribou and moose cuts.  Even after six or seven frosts, one as low as 23 degrees F, it is still growing.

Kale seems to be almost ubiquitous this year.  Every trendy restaurant we’ve been to, from San Francisco to Forestville (Backyard Restaurant!), to Seattle (Poppy) to Anchorage and Palmer, Alaska had at least one kale item on the menu.  Facebook is full of stale kale jokes.  Food writers discussing kale these days almost seem obliged to have to defend the vegetable:

Kale is a shorthand for all that’s tragically trendy, insufferably healthy, grassy and tasteless about the menu at your local hipster cafe. Somehow “kale” has become a four-letter word, like “tofu” was before it, symbolising the dietary quirks of a clueless, effete bourgeoisie. “The maid forgot to put kale in my royal jelly smoothie! Waaaah!”

Kale’s ubiquity on menus and foodie blogs is matched by clickbait headlines designed to prey upon our guilt about dietary shortcomings and our love-hate relationships with skinny stars who have glowing complexions. We read that Gwyneth Paltrow, the patron saint of white-people problems, ate nothing but kale to prepare for a role. We see Michelle Obama in an awkward Tonight Show sketch foisting kale chips on Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell. The New York Times hails kale’s “veggie chic”. A popular Ryan Gosling meme coos, “Hey girl, I grew this kale for you in my organic garden.” (Organic food – or, as your grandparents called it, “food” – goes in the same comedic box, of course.) We hear of National Kale Daya controversial T-shirt admonishes us to Eat More Kale; a cookbook called Fifty Shades of Kale – which I’m sorry to report includes a recipe for chocolate-chip kale cookies – is a bestseller. Kale was served at the Super Bowl, while last year 262 babies were named Kale in the US. Has asparagus ever gotten this much press?

Early in the summer, or in late spring, kale is very usable raw, in salads.  Not so much the first week of October.  It has to be cooked.  I decided to use some of the last of our crop in a kale pie recipe I had found in Rosalind Creasy’s book Cooking from the Garden, back in the 1990s.  In that book, chef Seppi Renggli adapted a recipe from the original Moosewood Cookbook, to make a vegetable-based pie crust that also featured kale in the pie filling.  I’ve adjusted it somewhat: (more…)

Alaska Election Update: Gov. Parnell Falls Behind and Don Young Wonders About “Ocean Assification”

Don Young claimed he had never heard of “ocean assification”
So much money is being spent on radio and television political ads in Alaska, especially in the U.S. Senate race, that some TV programs are starting five minutes behind, so the stations can rake in as much dough as possible.  Both Sen. Mark Begich, and his GOP opponent, former Alaska Attorney General and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan, are right around the $10,000,000.00 mark.*  But PAC’s and SuperPAC’s are spending millions more on this important race. This spending level is entirely unprecedented in Alaska – for any race.

Sen. Begich was leading by as much as 10 or more points, up to the late August primary.  Since then, PAC and SuperPAC spending on behalf of Sullivan skyrocketed, and he has pulled slightly ahead in most polls. is calling this race too close to call:

 Begich started out 2014 as one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. But he has run a smart campaign, while Republican nominee Dan Sullivan slogged through a tough primary and suffered some gaffes. Early polls show Begich up, but Alaska polling is notoriously inaccurate. We likely won’t have a good indication who will win this race until the morning after Election Day.

Wednesday night Begich and Sullivan faced off in the fishing community of Kodiak in a combination question-and-answer session from fisheries journalists, and debate.  In the only other important debate so far, in Anchorage last month, Sullivan was clearly bested by Begich.  In the Kodiak event, Sullivan seemed to be better prepared, but he was facing a hostile audience on issues he clearly knows little about, and doesn’t seem to care much about either:

In the two candidates’ first joint public appearance in more than a month, Sullivan, a former state attorney general and natural resources commissioner, faced probing questions from Begich and a panel of fisheries journalists on his position on the controversial Pebble mine project in Southwest Alaska, as well as on the potential for oil and gas extraction from the same area, which one panelist referred to as the nation’s “fish basket.”

Sullivan had initially said he’d miss the debate but changed his mind and appeared before the crowd of 150 in a high school auditorium after spending two days in Kodiak — one on the stump with Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski — focused on the fishing industry.

It’s an area where Sullivan has admitted lacking professional knowledge, setting up a tough showdown with Begich, who arrived Wednesday evening with a gold salmon pin on his blazer. Begich has chaired a key fisheries committee in the U.S. Senate for the last three years, and owns a long voting record that leaves fewer unknowns.

That made for a tough audience for Sullivan, too, in a port city of about 6,500 people that produced an estimated $400 million in seafood in 2011, which ranks it among the top commercial fishing ports nationwide.

In the past, Sullivan has made statements in favor of developing the gigantic Pebble Mine at the headwaters of the world’s richest salmon habitat.  He tried to come off as neutral on the project Wednesday.  The audience seemed skeptical. When it came to skepticism, Sullivan once again identified himself as a climate change skeptic:

Saturday Art – Sila: Breath of the World, by John Luther Adams

This year’s Pulitzer Prize for Musical Composition was awarded to my longtime friend and colleague, John Luther Adams.  The award was specifically for a spacious new orchestral work of his, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Become Ocean.  But the prize for Adams, as is the case with others so honored, also reflects upon the Alaska master’s record of unique achievement over the decades.  The composer has long, at least up until recently, suffered having his name in the shadow of San Francisco-based composer, John Adams, with John Luther Adams often being called “the OTHER John Adams.”  I’ve long referred to JLA as “the REAL John Adams.”

Become Ocean was first performed in Seattle in 2013.  The Seattle Symphony gave the work its New York City premiere on May 6th, 2014.  WQXR Radio in New York has archived the sound file of that performance at their web site.  It is a powerful, spacey and ultimately gripping wall of sounds.

In midsummer, Adams had a new work, commissioned by Lincoln Center for their Out of Doors Festival, receive its first full airing in the center’s Hearst Plaza, between the Metropolitan Opera and the Juilliard School of Music.  The new composition, Sila:  Breath of the World, is a new look at an idea he hit upon fully in the earlier outdoor masterpiece, Inuksuit.

Both Inuksuit and Sila are aleatoric, in that no two performances of either work will closely resemble any others.  A lot is left up to chance and to the environmental ambience of the outdoor performance space.

Anne Midgette, writing of Sila‘s premiere for the Washington Post, described the performance:

Brass players stood like sentinels along the edge of an upthrust triangle of grass against the backdrop of a New York cityscape gilded by the late sun. Below them, women in black gowns moved through a reflecting pool, barely rippling, like chips broken off the Henry Moore sculpture thrusting out of the water behind them. From the hum of the city emerged a barely audible rumbling of drums, growing louder. Then winds, and then the brass, began to unsheathe arpeggios, rising patterns of notes, growing gradually louder, like encroaching waves on sand, and the women in the pool raised megaphones and began to sing.

The world premiere of John Luther Adams’s “Sila: The Breath of the World” Friday night at New York’s Lincoln Center had the visual aesthetic of a music video, the vibe of a cultural Happening — some 2,500 people congregated on Hearst Plaza, between the Metropolitan Opera and 65th Street, to watch — and the sound of Richard Wagner as channeled by John Cage. 

Upon watching a video of that performance, I wrote: (more…)

Two Interviews With Max Blumenthal From Yafa-Tel Aviv and Ramallah

In the aftermath of the month-long Gaza slaughter, author and journalist Max Blumenthal is in Israel and Palestine.  Two videos have been posted on Youtube within the past few days which are important documents for at least a few reasons.

Longtime Firedoglake readers are probably aware that I have been following Blumenthal’s progress since he showed up at our door in September, 2008, looking for a Wasilla, Alaska base from which to investigate aspects of Sarah Palin’s Fundamentalist Christianist beliefs.

His two books, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, and Goliath:  Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel, were both covered here in our book salons.  Media reception of the two books could not have been more different than what occurred.

The first, a scathing look at racism, weird religious practices, intimidation and organizational modes among Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians within the framework of the GOP Right over the years, was warmly welcomed by the media.  The book, partially through media praise and coverage, became a New York Times bestseller.  It has turned out to be prophetic, and is widely regarded to be so.

His recent book, a scathing look at racism, weird religious practices, intimidation and organizational modes among Israeli and American Zionists within the context of Israeli history since the Nakba, was coldly, brutally treated by most of our American media.  Or ignored.  Soon after publication, with the events of this winter, spring and summer,  it has turned out to be profoundly prophetic.  But this resonance is largely being avoided, at least by our mainstream media outlets.

During the year-long bogus peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the late Spring cynical Israeli rampage through the West Bank, and Operation Protective Edge, Max has written a series of articles on these events, while touching upon many other subjects about which he has gained familiarity or authority.  During the past week, in the wake of the heavy-handed police presence in Ferguson, Missouri, numerous articles have cited Max’s seminal 2011 article, From Occupation to “Occupy”: The Israelification of American Domestic Security.

The following two interviews contain some common material.  Rather than post just one,  I feel it important to post both, as each touches unique material the other does not.  It is important to note that among the most strident criticisms of Blumenthal’s Goliath were those claiming the book exaggerated or over-emphasized the degree of racism in Israel, that it underrated the extent of influence liberals have in Israeli society, or that it simplified something that is very complicated and cannot be understood without some sort of Zio-centric “context.”  In both interviews Max ties in the content of Goliath and its prophetic aspects with powerful, sordid and tragic events that have occurred since its publication last year.

I.  The German webcasters, Jung & Naiv, interview Max Blumenthal on a hill overlooking the port of Yafa and the settler city of Tel Aviv:

The Upcoming Alaska Primary

Alaska U.S. Senate GOP Primary candidates prepare to debate in Anchorage in mid-August
On Tuesday, Alaskan super voters will go to the polls to decide a few important contests.  The two most important for the future of the state are the GOP three-way contest to oppose Sen. (D) Mark Begich’s US Senate seat in November, and a voters’ referendum on Alaska’s tax structure for the oil industry.

Unprecedented amounts of money are pouring into our state, which, after decades of GOP and Democratic Party neo-Liberal governance, may be about to enter a huge economic and financial tailspin.  Briefly, however, this summer and fall, Alaska TV and radio stations are seeing windfall profits in the millions of dollars in ads against incumbent Begich, against GOP candidate Dan Sullivan, and against repeal of Alaska Senate Bill 21.  This Outside level of spending, by Karl Rove’s PAC, by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by British Petroleum, Conoco-Phillips and Exxon-Mobil, is enormous, with over $10 million being spent to influence less than 125,000 voters.

The three-way GOP U.S. Senate primary has seen former Alaska Attorney General and Commissioner of Natural Resources, Dan Sullivan (not to be confused with current Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who is running in the GOP primary for the Lieutenant Governor slot) raising far more money than his two opponents combined.  They are former Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell and Tea Party favorite, Joe Miller.  Miller, who beat incumbent U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski in the GOP primary in 2010, only to lose to her in the general election, is trailing both Sullivan and Treadwell in the polls, but his followers are ardent, and are notoriously difficult to poll accurately.  Sen. Begich has no serious challengers in the Democratic primary.

The voters’ referendum on oil taxes pits the big oil companies against reformers who feel the tax system put in place by the 2013 Alaska Legislature gives far too much away to the giant corporations.  The referendum is on the primary ballot instead of the general election slate because the oil companies managed to co-opt legislators into extending their 2014 session in such a way as to force other ballot initiatives onto the November ticket.  As these initiatives (legalizing cannabis, raising the minimum wage, and protecting salmon stocks from mega mines such as Pebble) are popular with progressives, the oil companies wanted the vote on their taxes to be held in the primary, where voter turnout is more conservative, more hardened.

Here are two videos that focus on the GOP Senate primary, and on the oil tax referendum.

The first is one of the few debates when candidate Sullivan deigned to appear on stage with the other two.  The debate was held on August 12th in Anchorage: (more…)

Saturday Art: My Poem for Gaza

Google map of Gaza
Google map of Gaza

Almost 40 years ago, after showing my girlfriend (now my wife) my latest poem, she diplomatically told me that poetry was perhaps “the least of my many artistic talents.”  Since then, I haven’t written many verses, though I’ve set over 50 by others to song.

However, the ongoing Gaza butchery has shaken me to the core.  I am not alone.  This has been a pivotal event for many others.

How dare this shitty little country, run by audacious ingrates and uncouth boors, dictate a new paradigm for blowing up hospitals?  How dare their ambassadors and spokes-creeps drive more stakes into the heart of what little remains of 21st century ethics and humanitarianism?

On the way to the Anchorage airport Wednesday evening, my wife and I cried as we listened to Democracy Now.  Ms. ET is far less political than me, but the stories of this atrocity cannot pass one by.

My poem is partially derived from the King James Version of the Old Testament books of Lamentations and Hosea.  The quote from Albert Einstein is from an April 1938 speech he gave at the Commodore Hotel in New York City, and is based on my own re-transcription of a long-ago deleted article on it in the New York press.

The poem is for Siun.

Poem for Gaza


Gaza, ancient city by the azure sea,
“How doth this city sit so solitary?

“She that was full of people!
How is she become as a widow,
a mother of countless orphans
and parents with unburied children!”


The prophets warned the kings, the generals, the courtiers,
The scribes, the rabbis, the lesser soldiers and teachers.

Now, let these craven men come before the Lord:
“Let all their wickedness come before thee; and do unto them,
As thou hast done unto me for all my transgressions:
For my sighs are many, and my heart is faint.”

Her courtiers cry out: “Distant Brazil, you be a cultural giant,
A diplomatic dwarf, for daring to condemn our campaign
to make alien hospitals the newest baths of blood.”

Her generals cry out: “World, we demand one child per hour
to satisfy our replacement for YHWH – our Lockheed-HP-Motorola-
Caterpillar-SodaStream Moloch.”

Her rabbis call out: “Scalp their children’s foreskins,
make them trophies to your bravery,
rape their women, steal back their pride, for it is yours.”

Her soldiers call out: “Make your shots count.
Aim at the pregnant woman’s belly and you get two for one.”

Her teachers call out: “There is no Palestine, no Palestinians,
No people there, but rather our land waiting to be sanctified
By our return – when the other is no longer there.”

Her scribes write: “They are lesser beings than we,
Less deserving of life, happiness, health, pride or dignity,
for we are G*d’s chosen, they are scum between our toes.”

Yet G*d senses a flood of falsehoods from these flagrant proclamations:
“Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel:

“For the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land,
Because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.

“By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing rapine,They break out, and blood toucheth blood.

“Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein
Shall languish, with the beasts of the field,and with the fowls of heaven; Yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.”


The prophets of ancient times are to become united
With the prophets of our own. Einstein was the harbinger: (more…)

Metropolitan Opera Censors Masterpiece by Renowned Composer John Adams

An actor leaps through the air on stage as two others in robes watch
A look at a great operatic composer’s most controversial work.

Every serious list of America’s greatest living composers has neo-Romantic post-Minimalist composer John Adams at or near the top. His 2002 commemoration to victims of September 11th, 2001, On the Transmigration of Souls, won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for musical composition. He has won five Grammies for recordings of his work. His most important orchestral works, Short Ride on a Fast Machine,  Harmonielehre, The Chairman Dances and Tromba Lontana are performed on a weekly basis all around the planet by the world’s top orchestras. His three full-scale operas and four other opera-like works are regarded as the most significant contribution to that genre by any American.

His three operas, Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991) and Dr. Atomic (2005) are all held to be major masterpieces. His unique approach to opera, by basing them on real events and combination of real utterances by historic figures and fictional dialogue are all deep collaborations with poet and playwright Alice Goodman. Although all three are regarded as iconic in terms of the post-Minimalist music Adams created for them, one has stirred controversy because of its subject matter.

Since its premiere, The Death of Klinghoffer has had its detractors. The subject of the opera is the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the murder of one of its passengers, the disabled, wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer, who was Jewish. The hijackers were members of the Palestine Liberation Front. The Metropolitan Opera has a production of Klinghoffer scheduled for the upcoming season. However, on Tuesday, their management announced they will not broadcast the performances of it, because of “rising anti-Semitism in Europe.” You read that right:

The Met decided to cancel its planned Nov. 15 Live in HD transmission of Klinghoffer to movie theaters and a radio broadcast after discussions with the Anti-Defamation League. The league praised the Met’s decision, saying that ‘while the opera itself is not anti-Semitic, there is a concern the opera could be used in foreign countries to stir up anti-Israel sentiments or as a vehicle to promote anti-Semitism.’

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said that he remained a champion of the works of Mr. Adams, and that he does not believe the work is anti-Semitic. But he added that he was reacting to the concern among Jews that the live transmission to theaters around the world ‘would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.’

The composer is understandably upset: (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Doug Fine, Hemp Bound: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The Next Agricultural Evolution

Welcome Doug Fine ( (Twitter) and Host Philip Munger (ProgressiveAlaska) (Twitter)

Hemp Bound: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The Next Agricultural Evolution

Three of Doug Fine’s four books address aspects of agriculture. Farewell My Subaru introduces us to his Funky Butte Ranch in rural New Mexico, where he begins to learn to ranch and farm, to power his life with renewable energy, waste oil and homegrown food. Too High to Fail followed the odyssey of a cannabis plant to be used for a medical marijuana patient, from cloning to ingestion.

Hemp Bound introduces us to the renewed interest in industrial hemp agriculture, at the moment of its rebirth. In the author’s note at the beginning of the book, Fine celebrates recent passage of hemp-friendly legislation:

Hemp cultivation is about to become legal (and shortly thereafter, big) again in the United States. It started to happen while I was about halfway done with this book.

I’m just not used to winning big, important societal battles outright. It’s an astonishing no-brainer. And it directly affects my life.

The author looks at the many uses of this robust and important plant as a product for fabric, cordage, silage, edible seed and oil, fuel and even building material. Hemp was an important agricultural product in the American colonies and the USA before being banned in the 1930s, as the war on alcohol infrastructure morphed into the war on drugs bureaucracy that we remain shackled by. Briefly, during World War II, hemp agriculture was legalized and subsidized to further the American war efforts. Here is a WWII propaganda film on hemp cultivation: (more…)

Book Salon Preview: Doug Fine Discusses His Book, Hemp Bound, at The Booksmith, in Haight-Ashbury

Sunday afternoon, I will be hosting author Doug Fine here at the Firedoglake Book Salon. We will be asking him questions about the subject matter of Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution.  Last year, we had him here to discuss the paperback edition of his book on the medical cannabis growing scene in California, Too High to Fail.

His new book concentrates on non-medicinal and recreational uses of hemp, in a variety of industrial applications.  Having read all four of Doug’s books, I regard this as his most important.

Here is an hour-long presentation on the book he gave at The Booksmith, in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District, around April 23rd.  I shopped at The Booksmith on December 21st, while Christmas shopping on my first trip to that historic area since October, 1968.