Monday, May 19, 2008

Time to chill

It just started getting up into the 90s here in Texas -- my long walk home from work was a bit oppressive. And maybe this blog has gotten a bit dry and overheated with the whole death-penalty debate that's been threatening to take over my whole blog. (Don't worry -- I'd never let one issue take over -- that would cause even a great blog to atrophy.)

Actually, the comments over here have been very cool-headed and substantive, complete with scholarly citations! But some of the ones over on this other blog were venturing into typical internet territory.

One comment on my "Should liberals support the death penalty?" post began: "What a stupid argument." Gee, that really makes me want to take the time to keep reading and engage with your counterargument.

Another commenter: "Jac evidently thinks that conservatives are a breed of moral cretins, who routinely rely on empty formalism to justify inaction in the face of suffering or social problems. ... There is something about an election season that makes people want to see the world (and particularly the opposition) through a fun-house mirror. IMO, the observations about liberals/conservatives in Jac's blog reflect just that sort of distortion. The only antidote for that kind of thinking is to get out and about more, and above all, to get out of any university setting."

I pointed out, "I'm not in a 'university setting.' I graduated from law school last year." The commenter responded: "That's not nearly enough time to overcome the deleterious effects of an American university education."

Still another commenter said: "Seems to me that Jac's argument presents a classic caricature of liberals: Liberals believe that [just] because the government can do something, it should do something. ... Jac's mistake is in proposing a utilitarian argument for the death penalty as if it is a moral argument. It's not."

So I'm either a conservative who's unfairly caricaturing liberals, or I'm a liberal who's unfairly caricaturing conservatives. I was trying not to be ideological or caricature anyone, but it's fine with me if people think I didn't succeed in that (though I do think they might want to take another look at what I was really saying).

What's not fine is to say that my argument wasn't "moral" but just "utilitarian." Utilitarianism is a moral theory. You can agree or disagree with it. You can even think it's immoral. But don't say that any argument that factors in the pain or pleasure that might result from certain actions is amoral. (It would be closer to the truth to say that any argument that doesn't do this is amoral!) Disagree with utilitarians all you want, but don't say they don't have moral views.

But I don't want this post to be my official "response" to the response to my death penalty post. I'll have plenty to say in response to the comments later on. (It takes me a while.)

What I want to talk about now is ... cold soup!

And pasta primavera!

Those are how I intend to make it through the Texas summer: with as many differents kinds of cold soup and non-creamy pasta primavera as I can find or think of.

I've been teaching myself to cook in the last few months. I've gone back and forth on whether to blog any of that. On one hand, it's something I'm really interested in, but on the other hand, I'm not really at the point where I have much business telling other people how to cook. 

But I'll start small, with a very easy cold soup from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (which has changed my life):

Cucumber yogurt soup. You should probably get the biggest container of plain yogurt they have at the store for this one. Pour ... a lot of it ... into a big bowl that you can keep in the fridge. (Since this is pretty much the base of the soup, obviously use an amount that corresponds to how much soup you want to make.) Thin it out with a bit of milk. Chop up some fresh parsley, mint, and green onions (she uses garlic instead of green onions, but the latter seem more fitting to me), and mix them in. Peel 2 cucumbers (or just 1 if you're making a small portion), halve them horizontally and vertically, scrape out the seeds, dice them, and mix them into the soup. (She says to grate the cucumbers with a grater -- seems overly fussy to me, and I like some texture to my soup anyway.)

Top it off with those ingredients that are so dependable at freshening up a dish at the end: olive oil (not very much), a squeeze of lemon, and salt & pepper. I also like a splash of white-wine vinegar (I always like things a bit on the sour side). Then chill the whole thing in the fridge.

If you want to know the measurements, buy the book! I rarely use the measurements from recipes -- I usually just use whatever seems "about right" -- so I'm not especially interested in putting them on my blog.

One of the many great things about Deborah Madison's book is that she's constantly suggesting lots of little variations, add-ons, and contexts for her recipes -- unlike some recipe books, which seem to want each recipe to be a perfect, pristine island. In this case, she suggests adding almonds -- which, for me, makes the soup. I stir in a bunch of sliced almonds, and then garnish it at the end with more almonds as well as a few extra mint leaves. Adds some unexpected but unobtrusive flavor, plus protein.

I had some this evening to cool down from the walk back from work, with a big glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice with a twist of lime -- great combination.

The next cold soup on my list is gazpacho. I've taken a shot at it before, but this time I really want to perfect it, so that it becomes an old stand-by for me, and then explore some wild variations. Like watermelon! I got that from a Tastespotting search, which revealed lots of exotic gazpachos -- including a white one, which is certainly challenging my previously held notions of what gazpacho is.

I also found this complaint on one of the other gazpacho blog posts:

Chilled soups were a tough sell for Patrick (as they seem to be for many men).
I know she doesn't specify whether she believes men just naturally have different palates or whether it's a conscious desire to avoid associating oneself with anything as light and delicate as cold soup. But the latter possibility did get me thinking about the total sheer effort, throughout the population, that's put into trying to make sure people don't step outside their proper gender boundaries. I'd never even thought of cold soup as having any gender significance, but now I feel like I've been transgressive.

I feel sorry for people who waste a single minute of their day worrying about how to obey some imaginary set of gender rules. How incredibly unsexy to worry about how well you're following the rules, and what a staggering waste of time and energy that could instead be directed toward actually enjoying life.

UPDATE: The commenters over here are riffing on the gendered food theme.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

The last paragraph is so wise and well put. I've spent decades trying to overcome what you describe in it. I hope that your generation has an easier time.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Thanks! Partly inspired by your #7.

Ann Althouse said...

I'd just like to say: You can't see through any mirror, funhouse or no.

As for cold soup, there's vichyssoise, which is the food that made Anthony Bourdain interested in food, according to his great memoir "Kitchen Confidential."

Anonymous said...

JAC- if youwantto spice up the cucumber-yogurt soup, please add a small amount of cumin powder and coriander powder ( about 1/2 teaspoonful of each) as you are whisking the yogurt to thin it. Add a bit of cayenne pepper powder too, as well as a bit of salt. mix them in real good,and you will have a wonderful mildly spicy soup( kinda like an Indian raita, except us Indians put in a lot more spices).
-Sid from Ann Arbor