Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
~Emma Lazarus’ words engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty

Ok, Mitt…that’s it. For the most part, I have remained indifferent to this presidential election on here. But, I can no longer sit idly by and suffer this cluelessness and ineptitude. Romney has cavorted from flip-flopper to keenly out of touch to disingenuous and back. So, excuse my words, but they are deserved.

Just think of the last few weeks alone.  First, Mitt carelessly branded Russia as America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” Then, he made his much ballyhooed jaunt to Britain, Israel and Poland, only to commit silly diplomatic gaffes upon gaffes. Later, Romney uttered the outrageous statement that it was “disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks” that savagely killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. Last week, when asked by George Stephanopolous whether $100,000 is considered middle income, he responded: “No, middle income is $200,000 to $250,000 and less.” Each time, the spin doctors emerged to try to quell the bleeding.

Now, at a $50,000-a-plate closeted fund raiser the former governor turned lifelong political candidate callously remarked that the 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes are people who are: “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

He droned on dismissively to his “have more” base: “(M)y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

It is crucial to remember this — Mitt’s lengthy rant was no brief blunder or momentary slip. No, we have all seen, heard, and maybe even done that. Instead, this was a premeditated discourse reflecting ingrained disdain for the common working man and woman. Romney was candidly sharing the wealthy elite’s long-held, shameful contempt for the unworthy masses. That is and was the overwhelming evidence. His speech alone, and the stream of GOP affirmations afterward are undeniable proof.

Those moochers, those serfs — real people like combat soldiers, college students, scholars, student athletes, public school teachers, seniors, farm workers, low rung researchers, child welfare and medicare recipients, social security beneficiaries, janitors, unpaid spouses, sale clerks, cooks, retirees, aides, mechanics, waiters, lower management, modestly paid workers, wounded veterans, laborers, welfare workers, low income families, the unemployed, the poor, the disabled, and so on — just deserve no place in the GOP’s political calculus. According to Mitt’s mythical math, these freeloaders take pains to avoid paying federal income taxes and wallow around feeling victimized. Those good folks are just another of Romney’s many write-offs — lowly peasants undeserving of his concern.

By the way, what is it about contemptuously calling others “you people” and “those people,” Ann and Mitt? I suspect we all know.

Well, it always does take one of you people to know one of those people, Ann and Willard. Romney has by his own admission been “unemployed” for years choosing instead to carp and complain about others while hiding behind the lectern on his endless campaign trail. Ann does not work and has never paid federal income taxes from a job. Using a host of accountants and lawyers, Romney has also openly benefited from similar federal tax deductions, write-offs, credits and breaks that allow many “entitled” working Americans to avoid paying federal income taxes that would otherwise be due. In 2010 alone, a jobless Romney had a federal adjusted gross income of $21.6 million yet paid only $3 million in income taxes, a measly 13.9% of his annual income. Without the preferential investor treatment offered him under our tax code, Romney avoided federal income taxes at the top marginal rate of 35%, or $7.56 million — affording Mitt a tidy government subsidy on his federal income taxes for that year alone in the amount of $4.56 million.

This makes no mention of Mitt’s mother Lenore Romney’s words: “[George Romney] was a refugee from Mexico (and) was on relief, welfare relief for the first years of his life. But this great country gave him opportunities.” His own father was a public aid recipient as a child — just another one of those victims whose family believed he was “entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it” — the part of society’s dregs that Romney so fervently disses.

Seems one Paul Ryan was even tossed in that rank pleb bag with the other deplorable 47%, as an unemployed, student social security survivor beneficiary as well as flipping ­­burgers at McDonald’s, steering the Oscar Mayer wienermobile, and slinging cheap margaritas. But for politics, a slacker most of his life according to his running mate. Perhaps it’s time to peer into the mirrors again, Guv’nor and Robin, before you arrogantly fabricate reality.

Now the Romney campaign is in damage containment mode, feverishly shaking the campaign etch-a-sketch pad (again). Meanwhile, Republican Senate candidates in tight races have rapidly distanced themselves from their presidential ticket. Of course, there was no hint of apology or repentance from the Romney camp. Contrition, however slight, is just not part of their vocabulary. Ann Romney said her hubby’s comments were “taken out of context” and the notably subterranean Paul Ryan mentioned that his boss’ words were “inarticulate.” Right wing pundits used words like “confused,” “messed up,” “inartful,” less than “ideal language,” then inexplicably twirled to “factually accurate,” “the truth,” and a “win for Romney.” For his part, Romney first grinned saying that his comments were “not elegantly stated,” and “off the cuff,” then clumsily pirouetted to an argument against the redistribution of wealth, now asserting he believed in an America where “government steps in to help those in need,” because “we’re a compassionate people.” Really? Remember, Mitt, you spouted that those people on the back side are not worthy of your attention.

No amount of truth spinning or word warping can make this right. It is flat wrong, even insulting, to directly pander to the underprivileged, unemployed, and middle/lower income earners and then treat them with utter disdain behind closed doors. Romney has shown a merciless lack of empathy for and now has openly denigrated nearly half of the citizens of this nation. Apparently, that is just another plank in his bewildering and bleak political ideology that he prays will span to the White House (built by the 47%).

Seems a long simmering stew is in order.

RAGOUT D’AGNEAU PROVENCAL (LAMB STEW PROVENCAL)

4 1/2 lbs lamb shoulder, cut into 2″ cubes, patted dry thoroughly
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T duck fat
1 T extra virgin olive oil

1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 onions, peeled, halved and sliced
3 medium heirloom tomatoes
1 1/2 C dry red wine
1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C beef stock
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 medium eggplant, stemmed, cut into chunks
2 red peppers, seeded, roasted and cut into strips
2-3 medium zucchini, cut into chunks

Heat oven to 300 F

Sprinkle the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Heat duck fat and olive oil in a large Dutch oven and brown the lamb nicely on both sides. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven and cook the onions until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. While the onions are browning, peel, quarter and seed the tomatoes over a sieve set over a bowl to catch the juices. Reserve the tomatoes and juice. Pour the tomato juice into a 2 cup glass and then add enough red wine to fill. Deglaze the onions with the combined stocks, stirring up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Then add the wine and tomato juice mixture. Add the browned lamb, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and garlic.  Cover and bake about 1 hour 30 minutes.

While the lamb cooks, salt the eggplant and set in a colander to drain, about 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.   Once the lamb has cooked as above, add the eggplant, tomatoes and peppers, cover and cook for another 1 hour.

Then,  remove the lid, add the zucchini and cook another 30 minutes uncovered.

 Remove from the oven and discard the herbs. Spoon the lamb stew onto plates over artisinal noodles.

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America is my country and Paris is my hometown.
~Gertrude Stein

It may seem obvious from past ramblings that I am an unabashed francophile. So, given that yesterday was Bastille Day, allow me to regale some. Every year this month we should remember and embrace the many bonds between both the republics of America and France. (America should now be more accurately deemed an oligarchy.) Founded upon principles of liberty and equality and violent revolutions launched by a deep resentment and distrust of monarchies, these countries do have kindred origins. Unfortunately, in our age of microwave memory, bumper sticker rhetoric and historical ignorance, the shared admiration which should infuse our relationship is so often discarded. Rational discourse sometimes devolves into jingoist rant. Even given the many errors of both countries’ ways and the diplomatic tensions that have arisen, some mutual respect and affection should bathe both sides of the pond.

To some, France and America may seem improbable partners. But, before you go there consider:

French fur traders and explorers blazed territories on the continent never before seen by whites.

The Revolutionary War which granted sovereignty and independence to the colonies would have likely been lost if not for French financial support, military backing, and naval superiority at Yorktown.

Marquis de La Fayette, who served as major general in the Continental Army and negotiated an increase in French patronage, was considered the adoptive son of George Washington.

The first comprehensive sociological study of the American people was written by a French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville.

The French language, which was the tongue of the English court and the civilized world, has lent so many words and phrases to American English.

The states more than doubled in size with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France.

The Statue of Liberty, other statues and urban design plans were courtesy of French artists and designers.

Millions of Americans are of French descent and many still embrace the culture and language.

Flocks of exuberant American writers, musicians, artists have studied and performed freely in France.

During both world wars, innumerable American and French soldiers and civilians perished side by side on French soil.

Each nation has brazenly borrowed, shared and mimicked the other’s cultures, cuisines, wines, music, art, architecture, styles, and clothing.

Far from a comprehensive list.

This is not to say that meaningful criticism is out of order. Face it—neither country has been beyond reproach. Over history, both France and America have engaged in rampant colonialism, have committed heinous judicial sins, have pursued political imperialism, and have displayed condescending and arrogant behavior. Both have invaded, dominated and subordinated, even enslaved, other peoples. Both have cruelly and shamefully imprisoned, tortured, maimed and killed in the vainglorious name of the state. Both have engaged in improvident, tragic wars. Neither have clean hands. France and America have shared in some disgraceful histories, and ordinary citizens have a duty to remind partisan politicians and biased press alike.

These are imperfect societies governed by imperfect, sometimes maladjusted, peoples. They are ongoing political and anthropological experiments. Our cultural similarities should be cherished and the dissimilarities should not just be accomodated, but nutured. Mutual respect and a sane, humble historical perspective should ever underly our differences…with ever vigilant eyes toward not repeating dark history.

Chauvinism under the guise of patrotism has no place at this table. Pots de crème, chilled champagne and good company do.

POTS DE CREME

3 ozs superior bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), cut into small pieces

2 C heavy cream
1/2 C whole milk

5 egg yolks
1/4 C granulated sugar
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 325 F

Melt the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over a heavy sauce pan with gently simmering water. When the chocolate is close to being melted, turn off the heat and let stand until completely melted.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan, scald the cream and milk.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until the sugar is completely dissolved. Very slowly whisk the hot cream mixture into the yolks so that the eggs do not cook.

Pour the hot cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer into the melted chocolate. Whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.

Divide chocolate custard among 6 small ramekins. Line the bottom of a baking pan with a folded kitchen towel and arrange filled ramekins on towel. Pour in hot water to the halfway level on the ramekins. Cover with foil and bake in the hot water bath (bain marie), until custards are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the bain marie, and allow to cool to room temperature. Then, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. Serve with a dollop of hazelnut whipped cream and a glass of bubbly.

Crème de Noisettes (Hazelnut Whipped Cream)

3 T hazelnuts
2 C heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean split, seeds scraped out
2 T sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F

Toast hazelnuts until brown, about 20 minutes. When the nuts are cool, rub them in your hands to release the papery skins. Chop them in a cook’s knife or pulse in the food processor fitted with the steel knife until finely ground.

In a small saucepan, bring cream just to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the nuts. Cover, and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and chill overnight.

The next day, pour the cream through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press on the nuts to push out the cream. Whip with vanilla and sugar until soft peaks form.