Archive for July, 2021

If you’re married to a farmer like Bob, you must be knee deep in zucchini and tomatoes about now.

Or maybe you have the green thumb? My side of our city farmhouse has all the herbs and flowers; Bob’s in charge of the raised vegetable bed on the south corner. Every morning he deposits a montage of home-grown peppers, onions, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini on our kitchen island, and every afternoon I stand staring at the stove wondering, “What in God’s name can I do with all this bounty?”

So, like any good 21st Century farmwife, I boot up Pinterest!

After a major lull in my Pinterest activity, this pandemic has found me gazing at Pinterest boards full of building projects, hairstyles for women over 60 (I wonder how they know I’m over 60? (wink), vacations to faraway places, beach houses, and of course food!

I love following famous chefs like, Eric Ripert and Ina Garten, to see what they have cooking. In the spring, I discovered a very simple, summer vegetable dish called TIAN…how is that in all my years of semi-French cooking, I’d never actually made a Tian?

The name simply refers to an oval or round, deep earthenware pie dish that is filled with overlapping vegetables.

My first attempt was to slice tomatoes and zucchini of about the same size, and arrange them in concentric circles of green and red over a bed of onions. Here’s the trick, you must first caramelize the onions. This was new to me, cooking onions until they are brown, sugary and almost burnt. I was skeptical at first, but I added a dab of Irish butter at the end and they were delicious. This week, I broke out the madeleine and sliced up some zucchini, and potatoes to add to the tomatoes in my carousel of vegetables above onions and it was divine!

Here is Eric Ripert’s Zucchini Tian:


In my never-ending search for a recipe other than zucchini bread, I came across the TART. Not to be confused with the TARTINE – which is simply an open-faced sandwich – the tart is the queen of the bunch. Imagine a savory pie. If you believe that anything tastes better with cheese and a pie crust, you will love the tart. I’ve made my share of tarts in the past, and I must admit I usually cheat and buy the ready-made pie crusts, but if you need a pretty buffet dish to bring to a picnic this is it.

Here is Ina Garten’s Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart:


Last but not least we have the TORTE, from Italy. This is the more complicated recipe since all the vegetables are cooked or roasted before they are layered in your baking dish. I usually will make this in the winter with root vegetables, but I don’t see why we can’t use what’s coming up in the garden. I like to use a loaf pan, pressing every layer down flat, and then serve my vegetable torte sliced like big slabs of bread. I would poach the torte in a water bath in the oven to make it easily removable. This recipe uses zucchini, eggplant and mushrooms baked in a spring form pan to perfection.

Here is the NYTimes Cooking Torte:


Since it is supposed to reach 100 degrees this week in Nashville, you may want to try baking your vegetable casseroles in the morning; they can all be served at room temperature. Bon Appetit!

My tian with chopped fresh basil on top!

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It’s been a busy weekend.

Looking at houses we know we’ll never get, unless we promise our first-born child, and having the Grands sleepover! Bob measured the Love Bug on our wall and guess what? She’s tall enough to sit in a car without a child seat, but not quite old enough. It’s the age old story of being a pre-teen – wanting braces even though your teeth are straight. And the L’il Pumpkin told me he’ll be glad to be back in school so he can do harder math problems?!?!

Obviously, the red hair is the only thing he got from me.

But we’ve had a grand time grandparenting. The Bug helped me feed our ravenous birds and she also helped PopBob make ravioli! Her brother gave me a hand with the pesto, wanting to know exactly how a Cuisinart works. I mean I can barely work my vintage machine! Will he be an engineer or a chef? Only time will tell.

I’ve realized lately that my obsession with our sideyard birds is nothing new. We started our little family in the Berkshires on the edge of a wildlife sanctuary for birds called Canoe Meadows. We had Guinea Hens and Cardinals galore in our backyard. When we moved back to NJ, we had migrating waterfowl like Herons, Osprey and Egrets flying over our house on the Shrewsbury River. And of course when we built our small house in the Blue Ridge, it was alive with Woodpeckers!

Here in Nashville, in our city farmhouse, we have Mockingbirds, Cardinals, Wrens, lots of Mourning Doves, Finches, Bob Whites, and even a red-winged Blackbird. I’ve managed to also feed a few squirrels! In fact when we went glamping a few weeks ago, bird song was almost non-existent in the forest – it was too quiet. Here in the city, the symphony begins at 4 am, and never stops! It blends with construction noise and leaf blowers, it wiggles the leaves of our holly bushes.

Here we are already, mid-summer and six months into the Joe Biden Presidency. I’ve tried to extricate myself from the news cycle and read up on “what to do with a hundred zucchinis.” The Olympics have started, and we love to watch, but I’d rather just see the personal stories of the athletes. This one was homeless for two months, that one overcame depression. Today I watched the US women’s rowing crew team beat the Romanians. And I saw the small crowd at swimming cheer for “DR JILL BIDEN!”

I’m glad she is there in Tokyo, but maybe she could Zoom with Joe. She should tell him if we don’t pass the “For the People Act,” making it easier to register to vote, expanding mail-in voting, and making early voting the law of the land, we can say goodbye to our democracy. Should I repeat that, because it’s true.

“Should it become law, the legislation would effectively set a national floor on ballot access, requiring all federal elections to start with an identical set of rules. States and other federal jurisdictions could tweak them to provide more access, but not less. Some states like Colorado and Minnesota have rules that are more generous that the bill mandates; others, like Texas and Tennessee, make it much harder to register and vote than the bill envisions.”


Since many Republicans are still addicted to Mr T, and they are enjoying restricting voting rights in many southern state legislators, the time to act is NOW.

Because if we can’t make voting our constitutional right and duty, if we can’t assure voters that their vote was counted, nothing else matters. Nothing. The GOP will keep a stranglehold on any progressive agenda, like gun violence. Even LGBTQ rights and Women’s rights, HUMAN Rights will suffer. Our planet will suffer! Do you want to go back to the good old bigoted days?

Tonight I made the famous mid-summer Triple P – Pesto Pasta Primavera, with my basil and Bob’s bounty. Zucchini, peppers, onions and peas, plus some asparagus from the store. We’re heading over to a friend’s house because life is starting to feel normal again. If only this crazy housing market could slow down!

Building Boba Fett!

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No, I’m not talking about UFOs.

It’s time to discuss this anti-vaccination/misinformation trend, because it’s not just here in the US of A. I happened to notice this week on Twitter, that President Emmanuel Macron schooled the world on leadership. I will just say that he laid down the law on Covid 19 vaccines… those NOT vaccinated by a certain date in September will NOT be allowed to return to French schools, and will NOT receive a paycheck! And then he Tweeted:

“Bon 14 Juillet à toutes et à tous. Vive la République, vive la France!”

My first thought was, “We could never do that here.” But why, did I drink the Kool Aid?

Back in the 1950s, my Sacred Heart class had to line up and march upstairs to the auditorium – a place we would only visit for dance class. I remember learning to waltz with boys who kept us at a distance. But on this day, we had some pink liquid squirted down our throats. It was the first Polio vaccine and we were happy to get it. Our generation also has that weird smallpox spot on our arms. Our parents may not have been savvy scientists, but they listened to doctors. And there was no internet to spread lies and hate.

Maybe President Biden was right, Facebook IS killing people!

Vive la Difference! Today, about 40% of the French people are anti-vaxxers, as compared to 10 years ago when that number was 10%.

“France has seen several acts of violence and vandalism against lawmakers who supported the new vaccination rules.

Yet hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for the jabs after Mr Macron unveiled the plan last week.

His government is attempting to curb the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which is causing a surge in hospital admissions.

More than 111,000 people have died with Covid in France during the pandemic, which has severely damaged the country’s economy.

Last week, a panel of scientists who advise the French government warned of a fourth wave in the coming months. Only a little over half of the population has received a first dose and less than 40% have had two shots.”


And I thought only Americans could politicize a vaccine! You must understand, I am a complete Francophile. I love the French people, the French language, and of course the food. “Liberty Equality Fraternity” is the motto from the French Revolution. We Americans led the way for the French Revolution in 1789! France abolished their monarchy because they saw we Yanks could do just fine without one.

Still they skirt the line between freedom of expression and the broader community. The French people hate red tape and government interference, as we’ve seen by union members and farmers marching in Paris and closing down commerce. And they despise censorship, like the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist massacre. Their Muslim girls cannot wear a head scarf in school, nor can Jews wear a yarmulke. The French have drawn a line between religion and the state, a distinct red line. I must admit, I admire this differentiation.

So you may think I’m saying that nationalism in France is OK but not in America? No. Nationalism for any country can always lead to violence and unrest; the French have their own colonialism in Algeria and Vietnam to deal with, while we have our history of slavery and checkered immigration policy to consider.

How can we persuade or require social media companies to regulate their own misinformation campaigns? It’s easy. Just give Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg the go ahead… smart people can always fix the wayward tendencies of media moguls with rules and regulations and incentives. Go get ’em Pete!

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Ever want to just get away from it all? Our friends Yoko and Rick – who happen to be retired public health officials- picked us up last weekend for a little trip back to nature. Only this campsite was somewhere between a cabin in the woods and a fancy shipping container

Getaway is a great business model. Some enterprising folks bought land outside of major cities all over the US, and put up tiny boxes for city folk to rent. They provide everything you might need – a bed with a forest view, air conditioning, a range, a shower and throne room.

They even leave you wood by the combo grill/campfire! Oh and there’s no WiFi so you’re really off the grid.


Every time I leave home, for any reason, my anxiety level shoots up. Adding a pandemic transition to the mix only makes it worse. It was just about a two hour drive to our #getaway but we traveled together and Rick was our fearless driver.

We stopped for lunch overlooking a lake in Kentucky. We stopped at a fish hatchery where trout are raised to stock Tennessee rivers. We enjoyed each other’s company and our combined grilling skills, plus I tasted Japanese milk bread for the first time.

The off and on rain didn’t matter, I whipped up a ratatouille with Farmer Bob’s bounty! And then on the way home we met a woman hiking a waterfall trail who was collecting Turkey Tail Mushrooms! She complained about people calling her long-haired, young son “they.”

So we had a brilliant discussion in the car about pronouns. Did you know the Japanese language doesn’t use pronouns?

The good news is my anxiety eased and my hip survived all the glamping activities so my PT must be working! If only we didn’t live in a state that would fire a health official, a pediatrician, for telling health care providers that TN law allows children 15 years and older to be vaccinated without parental permission.

When our doctors are censored and fired for telling the truth, what’s next TN?

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I’m lucky if I can remember where I left my phone.

And I admit I sometimes have trouble finding my car in a bustling parking lot. Once I couldn’t understand why my hand didn’t immediately unlock my car, until I looked inside and realized it wasn’t mine… it was my make, color and model Subaru and it was parked right next to mine! I know, you are supposed to worry when you forget how a thing works, not what it is called, but I’m more worried about our collective memory, and what our children are taught about history in school.

All of a sudden school board meetings are ending in chaos in one of the toniest districts in Northern Virginia. So being an ex-school board member, I wanted to dig deeper into “Critical Race Theory” CRT, to understand the current climate. Is it just another rube from the GOP to get our heads turned that way, instead of noticing all their cute little voter suppression laws? Inquiring minds…

CRT is a graduate level thesis that originated with Columbia law School Professor Kimberly Crenshaw:

“Critical Race Theory asks why discrimination did not end with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and recommends critical scrutiny of laws focusing on their consequences rather than upon the avowed intentions of their authors.”

This sounds like a “Law 101” course – just because one didn’t intend to murder someone, doesn’t mean it’s not murder. Critical thinking skills are always part of a school’s curriculum, unless you went to Catholic school like I did – back then memorizing and repeating dogma was (and may still be) a good strategy.

The 1619 Project, first published in The New York Times just two years ago, helped to explain how racism was endemic from the very beginning in our country, and that angered certain Republicans. So they published their very own, white-washed, slavery-wasn’t-so-bad version of history called the 1776 Report:

“The 1776 Report fixates upon the related scourge of “identity politics” — a “creed” by which “supposed oppressors” must “atone and even be punished in perpetuity for their sins and those of their ancestors.” These ideas received more attention in the 1776 Report than slavery did.” Which actually has very little to do with critical race theory!

Hmmm, so the Right would rather teach about sins in public school! So far five states have passed laws trying to direct or restrict what is taught in the classroom – Idaho, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, and soon to be followed by Florida of course. And there are more states gearing up for this fight; it’s like a modern day Scopes Monkey Trial. The problem with government re-writing history to fit their own narrative is nothing new, the Soviet Union has been passing what are colloquially called “memory laws” since WWII.

A Revisionist in Russia is someone who openly criticizes Stalin; in America, Revisionism usually refers to race. Holocaust deniers are just as revisionist as Southern White “heritage” nationalists. Today, the General Robert E Lee statue was escorted out of a public park in Historic Downtown Charlottesville, VA and I’m proud to say I was there in 2016 when a whole bunch of White people at the Paramount Theatre were informed by Bryan Stevenson that Black people didn’t really like that General Lee statue! https://mountainmornings.net/2016/03/20/being-brave/

“But the most common feature among the laws, and the one most familiar to a student of repressive memory laws elsewhere in the world, is their attention to feelings. Four of five of them, in almost identical language, proscribe any curricular activities that would give rise to “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.”


As an ex-school board member, I hate to inform everyone but keeping our children pleasantly uninformed so that they feel good about themselves is not our job in a free democracy. Protecting children from thoughts they might find uncomfortable reminds me of Orwell’s 1984. Our schools need to continue to teach critical thinking skills along with reading, writing and math. I certainly learned nothing about our treatment of Native tribes in Sacred Heart School. And it wasn’t until college in the 60s that I was exposed to anyone of another race!

So yes, run for school board if you like. Print out posters and pins! But if our voting and civil rights are continually challenged, state by state incrementally, what kind of country will be left for our children? Here are a couple of future scientists.

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This pandemic may have changed the idea of “Work” entirely, and it raises a set of fundamental questions that so far don’t have any clear answers.

I’ve read that among Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) and GenZers (born from 1997 onward) almost 90% do not want to return to their offices. States that have ended their supplemental unemployment subsidies this summer have not seen an uptick in job numbers. Everyone has a theory about why this is happening; is it due to childcare difficulties? Are we turning into a country of lazy young people?

Looking at this from a psychological angle and not as a purely economic conundrum, I sent my brother Dr Jim this essay – “Hard Work is not Inherently Virtuous,” by Elizabeth Spiers…or why do we need to feel productive in the first place? It’s asking a question I first heard asked by a Duke student at the Bride’s graduation:

“Do you want to live to work or work to live?”

He was saying he didn’t feel the need to enjoy his work so much, as long as it afforded him the time to do the things he really liked, like fishing and off-road racing. I remember Bob’s struggle with this friend’s answer because, in so many ways, being a physician was an integral part of his identity. And he always said he loved his work, which is probably why our first Millennial ended up in Med School. ER work can be like piloting an aircraft; hours of sutures and runny noses interspersed with a multiple vehicle car crash.

Not everyone has the temperament for that kind of adrenaline rush.

Then there’s the soul-crushing commute to work. Bob always liked the 30 minute drive home because he could decompress for half an hour before walking back into family life. In fact, he’d often listen to Beethoven in the car. But what if your commute was longer? What if it was an hour or an hour and a half one way?

Working from home gave me two hours back a day, which I was thrilled about because to borrow from this excellent Ed Zitron column, I think of commuting as soft wage theft. I don’t recommend inducing a deadly global pandemic as a lifehack to get out of it, but when I got that extra time as a function of one, I made a point of not immediately using it to do even more work. Instead I used it to write more in the mornings (for my own benefit, not for work reasons), read more, and watch dumb cartoons I loathe with my kid while I drink my morning coffee and he explains Minecraft arcana to me. The irony is that it’s made me enjoy work more because I don’t feel like I’m giving all of my waking hours to other people. I get to hoard more for myself.”


This is why the Bride lives just ten minutes away from her hospital, and why the Rocker’s studio will be a part of his home. Aunt Kiki has been stuck working from home during the pandemic. She is a designer with a good sized firm, and she told me she misses the collaboration and creative stimulation of her office space. California is slowly opening back up as immunizations rise, so maybe by the time they move into their new house she’ll be able to return to her company. I was trying to imagine designing a hotel or whatever on a Zoom call, although I did “attend” a Bar Mitzvah remotely!

But what if you just don’t find your work very gratifying? What if you were for instance, pre-Pandemic sitting in a cubicle doing data entry? We’re talking about white collar jobs as opposed to factory work… or Amazon warehouse work. One of the Bride’s friends is a single mom and she works for a big insurance company, she had to juggle her child’s remote learning with her own deadlines. Will some of this work-home tension end when our little ones can be vaccinated and schools open next month?

“The lack of imagination is disheartening. The office may be an oasis when home is dreary and claustrophobic, (or vice versa) but when schools, cafes and co-working spaces open, the world will be different.” Younger people may be better prepared to handle a hybrid future encompassing WFH, after all they are digital natives.

It’s like the L’il Pumpkin said, “Why write a letter when you can make a Clip?” IF you love what you do, if your work brings you joy, then it’s never work right? That’s why I can’t fault these “TikTokers” and “Influencers” for starting trends and cashing in. The border between work and home is rapidly becoming more amorphous, and like most of my generation, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Here is Bob relaxing on vacation, and he’s not reading a medical journal!

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Baron de Coubertin was a French aristocrat born to a strict Catholic Jesuit family, who grew up in the world of the French Third Republic, when the purpose of an aristocrat was no longer clear. He was a man searching for a mission. In the emerging sport cultures of North America and Britain, he comes across the contribution of sport to the transformation of nations and humanity. Above all, what he finds there is the idea of the “gentleman sporting amateur aristocrat.” When he came up with the idea of reinventing the ancient games of Olympia in a modern guise, his vision was to create a display of manly virtue—an incredible phrase, but that’s how he described it [Laughs]—in which the moral, athletic, and physical brilliance of amateur sporting gentlemen would provide not only the esprit de corps and energy they required to go on and rule their various empires, but an elevating example to the rest of us.”


In 1894, de Coubertin used every bit of leverage and financing he could muster to reinvent the modern Olympic Games. Athens was the first site for the games in 1896, and the Baron became the second IOC President. It’s important to note that this was mostly a man’s playing field; it wasn’t until 1968 that women were allowed to compete in any Track and Field event longer than 200 meters. We were thought to be too delicate!

But this morning something smells rotten in Tokyo, and it’s not just so many volunteers quitting over Covid.

We women, who were supposed to politely clap for male athletes, now make up 45% of all the Olympic teams around the globe! And there was an orange-hair super star about to make track and field history who was suspended yesterday for failing a drug test.

Sha’Carrie Richardson, a 21 year old African American woman, was favored to bring back gold this summer. Unfortunately, she used marijuana back in the states – in a weed-legal state – to help her cope with the news of her biological mother’s death. Her time in the Olympic trials for the 100 meter sprint was 10.86 SECONDS.

Back before Title IX, I used to win the 50 yd dash at camp, which is about half that distance, high on Pepsi, followed by a whole pizza!

Still, I get it. Look at Michael Phelps. Phelps was suspended for a short time simply because a picture of him with a bong at a party surfaced. He never tested positive for THC. But his suspension came in between Olympic trials, so of course he went on to win a gazillion gold medals.

Would someone please explain to me how smoking weed would increase your desire to run or swim faster?

Let’s add some insult to another Olympic trial. The International Swimming Federation has ruled it illegal for Black athletes to wear “Soul Caps.” I’d never heard of these swim caps, specially designed by a Black-owned business to hold a lot of hair!

“The original swimming cap, designed by Speedo 50, was created to prevent Caucasian hair from flowing into the face when swimming. Danielle Obe (a member of the Black Swimming Association) said the caps did not work for afro hair, which “grows up and defies gravity… We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for. Inclusivity is realising that no one head shape is ‘normal.'”

Again, how would stuffing a lot of hair into a larger swim cap improve your performance? Don’t male swimmers shave their whole bodies just to cut milliseconds off of their times?

The days of the “gentleman amateur” athlete may be over, but the modern Olympics have survived bouts of corruption within the ranks and racially insensitive, weird “tribal games” in St Louis in 1904. The Berlin Games of 1936 proved a watershed moment for democracy and diversity. But today, more and more cities are reluctant to bid for the games because of its enormous cost; not just financial but also the social cost of displacing mostly poor, inner-city residents.

I’ll be staying home this Fourth of July weekend, playing Super Big Boggle with Bob, eating hot dogs with the Grands, watching fireworks from a parking lot, and trying to improve my time doing rehab exercises. A 50 yard dash in a pool may be doable?

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