Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
~Benjamin Franklin

My failure not to write here for a short while was not inadvertent. Over the last several months, I have been poring over texts, tomes, papers, memoirs, etc., while my fingers have been pecking feverishly on another project. So, a tad bleary eyed and a bit weary handed with little mention made of a littered mind & brain — time just did not permit work on both. My brief leave should not suggest that our kitchen went fallow, though. To the contrary, creative yet humble eats (sometimes at strange hours) have been the rule in this urban galley. My apologies to you readers. Enough said?

The ampersand emerged in the first century from the Latin word et meaning and, ultimately giving rise to the ampersand shape. Latin cursive scribes often connected the two letters “e” and “t” to form a ligature. In the more flowing New Roman cursive, ligatures became quite routine. However, with the development of Carolingian script in the 9th century the use of ligatures began to diminish even though the “e” + “t” continued to flourish, becoming even more stylized and less revealing of its origins.

Fanciful versions of the ampersand abound. For instance, the Frenchman Claude Garamond’s 16th century character depicted a clear indication of the form’s Latin origins. On the left side appeared the “e” and on the right the “t,” and the stray letters were linked by a cradle that begins weightily, then thins out, with inky globular endings at each end of the crossbar on the “t.” Comme ça:

garamond ampersand<

The actual term did not appear until the early 19th century when “&” became the 27th letter of the English alphabet. The mark concluded the alphabet with “X, Y, Z, and per se and” with “and per se” meaning and and by itself. This final phrase was slurred and reborn as ampersand.

E.g. Gilbert & Sullivan, Jules et Jim, Mumford & Sons, Flammen & Citronen, Abbott & Costello, De rouille et d’os, Ben & Jerry, Bouchard Père & Fils, This & That, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), & a slew of law firms. Its shape has evolved continuously since being introduced, and while some ampersands are still manifestly e/t ligatures, others merely hint at their past, sometimes in oblique ways. Now, the ampersand is often sadly about that inane word “branding” & seemingly apt logos that are given so much bland thought.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

1 C old-fashioned rolled oats
2 C all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t sea salt

2 sticks (16 T) nsalted butter, room temperature
1 C light brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs

1 t vanilla extract

2 C bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa) cut in 1″ pieces or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F

To the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add the rolled oats. Pulse the until most of the oats are somewhat ground, but they should not be ultra fine like flour. (In some respects, this is an optional move as many like the texture of full bore oats.) Add the pulsed oats to a large mixing bowl. Set a fine mesh sieve over the bowl, and add flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift the flour mixture over the oats. Whisk the dry ingredients together.

To the bowl of a electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Beat the mixture on medium low until combined. Then, increase the speed to medium high and beat until airy and pale in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium low again and add 2 eggs. Once the eggs are well incorporated, stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract, then turn the mixer back on to medium low briefly to assure a good mix.

Then, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour & oat mixture until mostly combined. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the chocolate chips and stir with a spoon until combined, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl throughout.

Use a large spoon to divide the cookie dough into pieces about the size of a rounded tablespoon, rolling the dough in your hands. Set the cookies about 2″ apart on a parchment paper lined, rimmed baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake until golden brown around the edges and still soft in the center, about 5-6 minutes longer. Many oven temperatures differ, so try not to overcook.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cookies cool there until set, about 5 minutes. Use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. Then serve these delectable morsels and savor — whatever time of day or night.

You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.
~Phineas T. Barnum

Dear Groupon,

I felt compelled to write about your troubling Superbowl XLV ad which used the plight of Tibetans to convince consumers to buy Groupon certificates. In case you missed the airing, actor Timothy Hutton ended his somber monologue about how Tibet’s “very culture is in jeopardy.” He then suddenly chirped in that Tibetans “still whip up an amazing fish curry,” touting how his friends and he thankfully saved money at a Chicago Himalayan restaurant via Groupon. As you may know, Tibet has been threatened with societal extinction at the hands of an oppressive Chinese government. So, peddling your product at the expense of tyrranized victims of a revered culture seemed, at best, perversely odd.

Your multimillion dollar half minute was undeniably directed at furthering Groupon’s brand and generating Groupon profits and not aimed at altruism. An attempt to garner marketing attention and revenue from a beleaguered people’s struggle seems exploitative—a disrespectful quip demeaning the gravity of Tibetan misery.

I embrace humour noir, but this was over the line. Genocide is no joke.

While it appears that empathy rarely emanates from your Chicago Ave boardroom, it has seemed reasonable to expect some remorse. But, no genuine apologies are in the offing. The only words uttered were a feckless, fork-tongued defense (a/k/a publicity statement). And nowhere to be found is a solitary “I’m sorry” from corporate. Just self-justifying tripe focused on quelling Groupon losses.

No matter how and when spun, making light of cultural, religious and ethnic persecution for gain is both chilling and disgraceful. Equally deplorable were Groupon’s lame, hastily organized post airing efforts to contort this crass “show me the money” profiteering into donating to a mission-driven cause. You padded a hasty retreat driven solely by the palpable fear of losing customers. Nice try, Andrew.

On to the culinary content of the Tibetan fish curry ad which was likewise thoughtless. FYI, Tibetans do not eat fish for the most part. To many locals, eating fish is as abhorrent as pork is to Muslims and beef is to Hindus. Besides the obvious fact that Tibet is a mountainous, landlocked country, the absence of fish on tables there exists for several reasons. Some Tibetans practice water burial in lakes, and so eating fish is considered synonymous with dining on the dead. Fish are also regarded as the incarnation of the revered god of water and thus remain sacred. Tibetans detest gossip, and as fish do not have noticeable tongues, they cannot gossip. So, fish are rewarded for their silence by not becoming part of the Tibetan diet.

The disdain for Groupon’s brand name that resulted from your ads seems predictable. The negative online aftermath urging a mass “unsubscription” also comes as no surprise. Who knows how conscientious shop owners may respond.

Sincerely,

A Lay Cook

P.S. Groupon’s after the fact public ploy to show social conscience through savethemoney.org has already ceased. That non-profit “humanistic” site has already closed and now simply redirects to Groupon’s profit making center. A vital effort to save Groupon’s most precious natural resource: money.

CALAMARI WITH RED CURRY & COCONUT MILK

3 T peanut oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 T peeled and grated fresh ginger
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 1/2 T red curry paste
2 t ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper

1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T light brown sugar
1 T fresh lime juice
Pinch of sea salt

2 lbs calamari, (bodies and tentacles), cleaned, bodies cut into 1″ slices

Freshly grated lime zest
Fresh mint leaves, chopped
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Heat peanut oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add jalapeño pepper, ginger, garlic, curry paste, coriander and pepper and cook over medium heat another 3-4 minutes. Then, add coconut milk, broth, brown sugar, lime juice, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

Add calamari to curry sauce, and cook over medium high heat until calamari is opaque, about 2 minutes. Plate and garnish with lime zest, mint and cilantro.