DOTHAN, AL, November 10, 2012 — I often put the nightly television news on in the kitchen while making dinner. It’s the best way to catch the news because the noise from cooking tends to drown out much of the audio portion of the program, and that in turn lessens the impact of bad news.
However, some words and phrases do come through the din, and the other night while making a creamy mustard sauce I overheard George Stephanopoulos of ABC News predict a civil war.
As a Yankee transplanted to the deep south this caught my immediate attention and, startled, I accidentally ruined the sauce by squeezing too much mustard into the pot. Mustard sauce can be very tricky so I should have turned off the TV before starting. Also, it’s best not to use squeeze bottles.
I quickly regained my composure and realized he was just talking about politics and not reporting an actual event. There would be no blue-clad troops invading my neighborhood any time soon.
The reason I was so alarmed is because just a few days earlier I received a mass email from a New York group calling itself the “Citizens of the Enlightened States of America.” The letter itself was a call to divide the country by red and blue states, the modern equivalent of north and south I suppose, and of course they claimed all the major resources for themselves.
Apparently this group wants to keep Harvard (they can have that), Hollywood (oh please do take that) and whatever areas produce wine, cheese, lettuce and pineapple, redwood trees and high-tech companies. They didn’t specify if that includes all the failed hi-tech green companies of the past few years.
There was also a special mention that they want all marijuana producing blue regions while the red states can keep all the low grade stuff from Mexico. From the tone of the letter I got the impression they had probably done extensive research into where the best weed comes from and sampled it before sitting down to write.
The rest of the letter was basic venom and vitriol about religion and weather, and it specifically mentioned they don’t want hurricanes. With shifting weather patterns that probably means they would have to give over New Jersey, New York and much of New England as red states, which of course would make retaining Harvard and MIT as blue institutions highly problematic.
As I restarted the mustard sauce and prepared some fresh brussel sprouts, I wondered if the south, or red states, would get an influx of vegetarians if the red-blue divide were to actually happen. The letter omitted any mention of wanting green vegetables, which made me suspect it was written by a spoiled child who got into daddy’s computer. I know quite a few vegetarians and have to admit that they make a lot of sense and have some pretty good recipes.
So come on down, we have three growing seasons and lots of land for organics. Take that blue states.
Economics played a big role in the real Civil War. The northern blue states made things and the southern red states grew things. The south still grows things, including brussel sprouts, but the north sent most of its factories overseas so they can’t easily manufacture weapons anymore. Oops. It might be really embarrassing in a modern civil war to show up at a battle with nothing but cell phones, video games and iPads, especially against red state gun owners with very little compunction about using them for self-defense.
For fun, I checked later that evening and saw Fox News trying to suggest that Stephanopoulos was predicting a real civil war, when in fact he was talking about Republicans and how the latest election will cause rifts and changes inside the party. Well hallelujah for that. They need some change, like jettisoning the far right, embracing Libertarians and shifting focus back to the basics — civic responsibility, quality of life, respect for others and the constitution.
Democrats would be wise to stop feeling smug and do the same. That includes encouraging followers to stop mocking others who are not like them, whether on TV, by email or in social media. Divisive behavior and commentary, even as a joke, is not needed at a time when the country desperately needs healing. Perhaps schools need to reinstate civics classes and teach the facts about how long it took for America to become united again after the Civil War, or after Vietnam for that matter.
I had to turn off the news to avoid getting more distracted and ruining the second batch of mustard sauce, which was intended to go with chicken cutlets wrapped around havarti cheese and thyme, sautéed in a light flour-and-egg coating and served with roasted brussel sprouts, a fresh salad and a very cold pinot grigio. As a side note, you need utensils and food ingredients from both red and blue states to prepare that meal (and others like it), so it would be a real shame if we all start fighting with each other.
It’s about time — to start the healing, and stop using the word “divisive” as a verb since it’s an adjective.
It’s also about time for dinner and this meal is a great way to bring together people from red states and from blue states. Just be sure to have plenty of wine on hand to go with it, and no discussing politics at the dinner table.
Recipe for “It’s About Time” chicken and mustard sauce:
You will need 1 ½ lb. chicken breasts to make about 4 cutlets with pockets, 4 slices havarti cheese, 4 tsp. chopped thyme, ½ cup chicken stock, ¼ cup heavy cream (we didn’t promise this was for dieters), 1-2 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 2 large eggs, 2-3 tbsp. grated Parmigiano cheese, all purpose flour, extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper.
Preheat oven to 350°. Insert cheese slice into chicken pockets along with 1 tsp. thyme, close with a toothpick if needed and season with salt and pepper.
Use small saucepan to boil chicken stock and cream until reduced to ½ cup (about 4-5 minutes). Whisk in mustard and bring back to a boil, remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Caution – it is best not to leave the sauce unattended while preparing it.
Beat eggs in a bowl, add Parmigiano cheese. Prepare another bowl with the flour for dredging.
Use a large skillet to heat ¼ inch of olive oil. Test if ready with a few drops of water to see if it sizzles. Dredge the cutlets in the flour then coat with egg and fry until golden, about 2-3 minutes (no more) per side. Transfer cutlets to a baking sheet or use single-serving oval gratin dishes (1-2 cutlets per dish).
Bake chicken at 350° for 12-15 minutes or until fully cooked through but be careful not to overcook and dry them out. Reheat the mustard sauce and serve over the chicken – in the gratin dish if you have them – or on separate plates – serves 4.
Serve with a fresh salad of your choice and a fresh green vegetable such as brussel sprouts or broccoli prepared as you like. For a more hearty meal, double the amount of mustard sauce and serve the chicken with rice or noodles on the side.
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