A Loaf for the Vegans

PeaNot “Meat” Loaf

Ingredients:

1/2 cup peanuts
2 TB olive oil
One onion, diced
One large garlic clove, minced
One cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup dry whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth, as needed
1/2 cup cooked oatmeal
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary
2 TB ketchup
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350º. Spray a loaf pan or 8×8 square baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside (an 8×8 pan makes a crisper loaf).

Grind the peanuts into a coarse meal using a food processor or spice/coffee grinder. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Sauté any vegetables you’ve chosen in the olive oil until soft. Add to the large mixing bowl along with all the remaining ingredients. Mix and mash together well, adding only as much liquid as needed to create a soft, moist loaf that holds together and is not runny (you may not need to add any liquid if the grains and protein are very moist). Add more binder/carbohydrate as needed if the loaf seems too wet.

Press mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cooked through.

Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a plate or platter and slice. Serve with potatoes, vegetables, and vegetarian gravy, if desired.

Cold leftover slices of PeaNot “Meat” Loaf make a great sandwich filling.

I generated this recipe courtesy of http://www.veganlunchbox.com/loaf_studio.html. I apologize for neglecting the vegetarians and vegans out there in not having a dinner loaf recipe as a meatloaf alternative. Feel free to use ingredients your family likes or can eat.

V.

Summer Gladness

Now that the first half of summer is over and done with, I now get to enjoy the second half of summer. I am now out of a cast and into a soft brace, I went to my county fair (and enjoyed the best butter-bathed, fire-roasted corn and some red birch beer), I just turned 37, and I’m enjoying a glass of beer to cool off in the summer’s heat. My two peach trees have given up scores of peaches to be enjoyed fresh and in a peach cobbler (which my two living stepsons and their best friend devoured – what is it about young men’s appetites that compels them to eat massive amounts of food? A young woman of similar age is encouraged to eat as daintily as possible; no such luck for the young man), I’ve picked a load of string beans, and the corn is just starting to become taller than me (I’m 5’7″, or 1.7 meters).

No, I didn’t get to spend the summer riding my bike or roller skating or even working a summer job so i could at least try to go back to college for the fall, but at least if I can start a temp job soon I’ll most likely be able to go to school come spring semester. I am happy, though, that my youngest stepson is going to college this fall as a criminal justice major. Yes, I spent the first half of summer indoors, going out only for doctor’s appointments; now I get to see how my chickens have grown (two of the seven, unfortunately, have passed away) and I get to gather their eggs. I also get to see how my garden has grown, both my external garden and the garden that is creative writing, as I also spent much of my indoor time writing a novel. Bear in mind it’s nowhere near finished, but at least I’m learning much about novel writing that a class may or may not teach me.

Summer doesn’t have to be shot to pieces just because you didn’t get the summer you always wanted. Not every summer is the one you want, but every summer is the one you need. I needed to learn to depend on others, to see what people with obvious physical disabilities live with daily, and to laugh at myself, plus I managed to make over 400 additional friends on MySpace. Now, go outside and play.

V.

Dependent Independence

Back in June I was riding my bike when my bike decided it didn’t want me to ride it any more: while I was turning a corner, it threw me off, causing me to bounce on concrete (which humans were probably never meant to do) and into someone else’s yard. Two nice men took my bike home and called 911; moments later, the ambulance came to take me to the hospital. From then until recently, it has been a journey of forced dependence for me.

From the time I went into triage until I left the hospital, the doctors and nurses were so kind and helpful to me. When I found out I had indeed broken my leg, many questions went through my mind: how do I deal with a broken leg for the next six to eight weeks? Will I be healed in time for me to go to the county fair (I so love to see the chickens and the cows at the fair)? How much will I be able to do by myself? Will I be able to eat my pseudohusband’s cooking?

Two fiberglass casts and an air cast later, I fixed myself a bowl of ramen noodles, the first ‘cooking’ I’ve done in nearly two months. Oh, how good it tasted! I shared some with my youngest stepson, who will be in college in the fall. If you have never broken a bone in your life, consider yourself blessed. If you have ever broken a bone in your life, consider yourself blessed, too; the blessings are different, but they still count.

Being used to doing for myself, I figured that I would get a temporary job for the summer so that I, too, could go back to college for the fall; breaking my leg prevented that, since my leg obviously needed to heal. I had to learn to trust my pseudohusband enough to let him wait on me hand and foot. Such subservience, however, got annoying when he fixed my food portions for me without regard for my appetite or my desire to lose weight so I could be kinder to a knee I sprained a few years earlier, or when he fixed me a batch of brownies and substituted baking mix for flour and molasses for vanilla (the brownies were a mile high, dreadful, and dry; I like my brownies moist and a touch creamy)! Occasionally, my stepson would help with the house chores or the cooking (such a sweet young man; I expect him to do what he can, unlike his mother, who expects him to do everything for her). Still, they mean well; I just found relying on someone else difficult.

As the weeks dragged on, I learned to ask for what I needed; I grew up in a home where I was not expected to ask for help and if I did ask for help I was chastised. I learned that we all need someone to lean on, a lesson many modern women in general and black American women in particular either were never taught or forgot. I also learned just how inconvenient society is for people with disabilities, even with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 and the adjustments to buildings that have resulted from this act. For example, I was at a chain department store shopping when the motorized scooter I was in conked out in the middle of the store; fortunately, a store employee pushed me and the scooter to the front to guest services. This store only had three scooters available, and the other two were being used. I had to use a manual wheelchair to get around the store, much less convenient since I had to carry a shopping basket in my lap and push the chair simultaneously, limiting what I could buy.

Yes, any reasonable person knows that people with disabilities deserve equal access and convenience that able-bodied people enjoy; when faced with a temporarily disability, the tune is very different as you wind up singing the song of the woman in the scooter who can’t reach her favorite magazine because the top shelf is too high to reach at the bookstore or of the man who has to either ask someone to tend his garden or learn to live with weeds because he can’t tend his own garden. There are many young men and women coming home from various military conflicts with both temporary and permanent disabilities; while you lobby your representative or senator for revisions to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, making all buildings fully accessible and convenient for the disabled and improving customer service for the disabled, help your young soldier/sailor/airman(woman)/Marine who has come home in more than one piece by getting that copy of his/her favorite magazine, or fix a meatloaf dinner with garden fresh vegetables for your granddad or grandma who is not as speedy as he or she used to be. Best of all, let your disabled loved one do at least something for himself or herself, to the best of that person’s ability.

I still have a few weeks left to heal my leg, but I am now allowed to bear half my weight on my air-casted leg. I still have a long road ahead, but I took that detour and it has made all the difference.

V.

Rebirth

Happy spring, all. Last week was Earth Week. Okay, technically April 22 was the official Earth Day, but in my city the celebration started that Sunday at my local zoo and continued throughout the week. My local PBS station aired a documentary on the rebirth of the Cuyahoga River.

Yes, I live in Cleveland, where apparently back in the ’60s the Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it actually caught fire. Seems to go against the laws of both physics and God for water to catch fire, but back then I guess people assumed that anything dumped in Nature would go away. The problem with such thought, however, is that ‘away’ eventually becomes ‘here’: did they seriously assume that ‘away’ was a magical place where garbage and pollutants disappear?

I was born in 1971, so messages about ecology and the environmental movement are pretty much second nature to me. Woodsy the Owl, Smokey the Bear, and the crying First Nations man were all reminders that we mustn’t pollute. I learned about nuclear power plants in the ’70s, recycling and recycled products in the ’80s and organic gardening and animal welfare in the ’90s along with the rest of my generation; still, I am saddened by people, particularly young people, who blindly believe that they can trash the Earth and whatever is in it without consequence.

Consider the increases in cancers and developmental disorders in children — I never heard of autism until a teacher discussed it briefly in junior high; now 1 out of every 150 children is diagnosed with disorders within the autism spectrum. Whether it’s because these disorders are more readily being tested for now or whether a child’s diet and environment is a contributing factor in the increase in diagnoses of childhood diseases as well as formerly adult diseases manifesting themselves in children is currently unclear. Still, it’s always a good idea to make sure that your child’s or grandchild’s personal environment is as toxin-free as possible.

I may not be able to put solar panels on my roof or install a greywater irrigation unit under my bathtub or kitchen sink, but I can grow my own vegetables using organic soil amendments (such as what my ducks and chickens leave behind after they eat, if you catch my drift) so my late stepson’s daughters can have healthy food to eat to augment the diet their mother feeds them. I may not be able to run all my errands by bicycle, but my pseudohusband has a fuel-efficient vehicle and we tend to combine errands so ‘Mr. Car’ won’t be overused for city traffic. I may not be able to buy a completely organic free-range diet, but with my vegetable garden, my chickens for eggs (and possibly meat, if push came to shove), and fruit trees and berry bushes, I can eat pretty nicely (if only for a few months in any given year). It’s almost never the big things that you try and maybe don’t complete that affect your eco-footprint on this planet, but all the seemingly little things you complete daily that impact the Earth and all within it.

If all you do is call your senators or congresspeople to urge them to pass bills that help the Earth or veto bills that harm the Earth, it is still more than what you would have done if you had done nothing. If all you can do is plant a window box full of lettuce seeds and a hanging basket with strawberry plants, you at least will have Strawberry-Lettuce salad and you know what went in it because you grew it yourself. If all you do is teach a child that throwing trash in lakes and rivers will harm the water or even kill animals that live there, you have at least planted a seed for the future. Do something to make the Earth a better place to live and you make your life here better.

Be reborn this spring; lobby for Earth Month.

V.

He Now Has His Wings

I just came back from my oldest stepson’s funeral: he passed away nearly three weeks ago at age 26.  One of the things that fascinated him was space (yes, the final frontier); another thing that he had hoped to do was to travel around the world.  He now has his wings and can now realize both passions.

I knew him as a quiet young man who only let people in when he felt he could trust them.  I also knew him as a man who was a bit of a practical joker and as a man would move Heaven and Earth to take care of his two young daughters.  I learned at the funeral service that he did volunteer work in Mexico, building homes for people who needed them.  I also learned that he was a role model for young people who used to do drugs in that he inspired them to get off drugs.  He was well-loved by his three brothers, his mother, his stepfather, his father, and me.

I sometimes wonder, If I had fixed one more meatloaf dinner or done his laundry one more time or let him know that his daughters occasionally were ill-behaved or urged him to go to rehab, would he still be here today?  I now know that he was a young man in chronic pain who used painkillers just to function daily.  One night he took too much, fell asleep, and never woke up; his younger brother and his children’s mother found him the next day.

I now grieve, not for the quiet young man in pain I knew, but for the vibrant young man I wish I knew.  More than that, I grieve because I wish I could have told him that he was a good young man and that though he and his father sometimes didn’t see eye-to-eye his father undeniably loved him.  Now I have to tell my two remaining stepsons that they are just as much a blessing to me as they are to their mother — I missed that chance with their big brother.  Don’t pass up opportunities to tell your loved ones how you really feel about them.  Tell them now before they get their wings.

V.

dedicated to

June 4, 1981   Jeremy Edward Bourke   February 12, 2008

 

I, Too, Have a Dream

Society as a whole and black Americans in particular seem to have lost their sense of purpose, their moral compass, their ‘home training’, as it were.  People love to play the blame game, especially when it comes to blaming their failure on factors that have little to nothing to do with their failure.  I’m sure my evil twin is all fired up about this, but she’s sleeping in today, so I’m kinda writing ‘her’ blog today.  On this day that we honor the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I, too, have a dream.  Although not as grand or as Earth-shaking as his dream, it can still make a difference.

I have a dream that the people in America will heal themselves from within and put the blame game to rest.  To the white man in Mississippi who claims he lost his place in the college of his choice to a less-qualified black man, I say to you: what makes the Brother less qualified than you to go to school, especially when he probably went to a high school with a high dropout rate and struggled to get straight A’s while working after school to help support his widowed father while you may have enjoyed a more pleasant adolescence?  Walk in his shoes, my European brother, before you judge.  To the Brother who uses the race card as an excuse for being angry and selling urban pharmaceuticals, I say to you: who taught you that selling drugs was the only option for the black man to get out of poverty?  Barack Obama, the late Thurgood Marshall, Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and every black mayor, governor, senator, congressman, lawyer, doctor, soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, astronaut, scientist, preacher, teacher, policeman, fireman, and judge is living proof that the dope man is not your role model.

To those who treat our Asian brothers and sisters with scorn and contempt for opening businesses in poor commuities, two points need to be made.  First, these Asians and their parents and grandparents came to America to escape death from their own governments for various reasons so they could breathe easier and breathe the free air we, as home-grown Americans, take for granted.  Second, what are we, as home-grown Americans, willing to do to build and own businesses in poor communities, to clean up those communities, and to lift people in these neighborhoods out of poverty and into the promised land?

As a matter of fact, what does the promised land look like to you?  If it looks like a spoiled wealthy person’s conspicuously consumptive playground, give it up: very few people live like that, and those that do rarely learn lessons of cooperation, moderation, temperance, or responsibilty.  If, however, it looks like a place with clean air, water, and food; where a child of any color can look up to both the beauty salon owner and the model as role models, where Grandma and Granddad can live peaceably and teach young people valuable lessons in life, where the doctor and the mail carrier replace the crack man and the lady of ill repute as role models, and where children can learn about the shared and individual history of the people of this land in a sane, objective, calm manner, then you’re on the right track.  That’s just my dream.

Let’s face it: if we were all skinless and hairless, how would we be able to treat each other with scorn, contempt, and hatred?  Wake up, children of Light, and live like you and others were skinless and hairless.

V.

Thank You, Dr. King

 This speech was given by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963 at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.:

“I HAVE A DREAM” (1963)

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today my friends – so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi – from every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring – when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics – will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”


Distribution statement: Accepted as part of the Douglass Archives of American Public Address (http://douglass.speech.nwu.edu) on May 26, 1999. Prepared by D. Oetting (http://nonce.com/oetting).

Thank you, Dr. King and countless others of all races, for making life sweeter for people who didn’t exist in your time, myself included.  Because of you I can ride anywhere on the bus I want (so long as I can find a seat 🙂 ), date whomever is pleasant regardless of race,  drink at whatever water fountain I want to, eat where I want to at a restaurant, and live where I choose.  Because of you and the soldiers of peace I can do things I wouldn’t have been able to do 100 years ago because of both my race and my gender and 50 years ago because of my race.  I can’t repay the debt my generation and I owe you; all I can do is spread the seeds of love and recruit soldiers of peace.

Happy birthday, Dr. King.

V.