I’m all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let’s start with typewriters.
~Frank Lloyd Wright

Just horrific, blatant madness. Enough has been enough — a churlish and cowardly National Rifle Association, a despicable and misleading Wayne La Pierre, a dysfunctional, pugnacious and pandering Congress and a meddling and fawning usual majority of the Supreme Court who all huddling together create this arrant bedlam. Irrational.  Each of you know without any doubt that our country is awash with guns, an absolute disgrace, a contagion of non-hunting firearms. Feckless thoughts and prayers forever from Congress? Do you not even comprehend that that those words are flat empty?  C’mon man.

Some 90 people die from gun violence each and every day in this self annointed pre-eminent (not really) of nations. This number does not even include that over 270 souls are maimed by gunshot wounds each day nor does it parse out the vast numbers of children that are crippled (20) or killed (9) by gun violence daily. A cowardly slaughter occurs followed by typically incoherent, often pathological, statements from asinine donors, imbecilic gun lobbyists, gullible politicians, naïve citizens and others. Do the right thing, at least sometimes.  This is not nuance, which would be more aptly defined as a “subtlety” or “tinge.”

Gun bloodshed has been rampant for years. The utter reality is that there are now over 300,000,000 guns in shaky and often mentally unstable civilian hands either kept openly or surreptitiously by a third of households across this country. This number does not even include the vast arsenals of ammunition, shells and massive clips which have now become prodigious. A recent study showed that many guns were sold without a single background check. Moreover, there is absolutely no support for the claim that owning more guns deters, drops or reduces violent crime. No studies have supported that fallacious and invalid reasoning. Instead the opposite has been proven — rampant gun ownership correlates with and causes more homicides and harm to others and selves. Actually, Congress has even capitulated to lobbyists by refusing to allow the CDC or others to amass evidence of gun injuries and deaths. We keep tabs on car wrecks, cancers, foods, drinks, the flu and not guns? Really?

Just so you know, some 42,500,000 American adults (or 18+% of the adult population) suffer from some documented mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia — for which little or no treatment is received in this country. This does not even take into account people whose metal illness is not documented or should simply not be brandishing firearms. Criminals, of course, go underground through straw purchases or unlicensed buys, for inherently dangerous demons of death.

In other developed nations in the western world, gun homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings pale in comparison.  For instance, in Japan, persons die from guns at rates far less than an American chances at death by a lightning strike.  In Scotland, the chances of dying from a storm are greater than that of the very rare gunshot wound.  And so on, for more advanced western democracies…

Remember the easily debunked myth that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” I call nonsense (expletive deleted) on that one. Is it much more cogent to assert that “mentally ill, insane or unstable people freely and easily armed with guns and abundant ammunition kill or mutilate their victims.”  One sad state of affairs.

This makes no mention of mass shootings which now occur more than once a day according to a recent compilation of news reports. Mass shootings are sadly defined as ones where at least four or more people are left dead or injured.  Just consider the recent horrific past — at a movie theater in Aurora, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a manufacturer in Minneapolis, a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, a Fort Hood army center, near the campus of UC Santa Barbara, at a movie theater in Louisiana, a military center in Chattanooga, at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, on the campus of Northern Arizona, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and now the carnage at a social services center in San Bernardino, California.

How long will it take for you to get off your bald headed, pale faced, nasty-tongued, flat keisters, Congress members,  while the victims’ blood palpably streams down your hands, arms, and sleeves?  Yet, you lick boots, cater to a lobbying body as daft and inane as the NRA?   It might be suggested that you get off your bums. Right now, or you will face the wrath of mothers, fathers, lovers and family members again and again.  In case you did not take note, this insanity is far beyond an epidemic stage — there is no counterpart anywhere for a supposed developed nation.

And please do not give me that Second Amendment absurdity. The Bill of Rights reads as follows: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Whatever happened to the first two provisos, and the days of single loading, tamped down powder one-shot muskets and before assault rifles and extended, high (almost immense) capacity magazines?  In Heller, a firearm unconnected with service in a militia was used for lawful purposes, such as self-defense within a home. An extremely narrow reading of Second Amendments rights at best, and of course authored by Justice Antonin Scalia in District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).

To quote Chief Justice Warren Burger, who was appointed as a conservative justice by President Richard Nixon, the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime,” and later proclaimed that “the Second Amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to have firearms at all.” In the last quarter or less century though, special interests (often paunchy members cloaked in SCOTUS black robes, with callous and scathing remarks, by slim majority votes) have sadly prevailed.

Speaking of, the same Richard Nixon, and later Ronald Reagan, proposed gutting the market of Saturday night specials, considered banning handguns altogether and simply refused to cater to gun owners who feign some inarticulate interest in assault and hand weapons. The NRA, of course, was opposed to these actions given its historically recent opposition to any gun control or restrictions.

Several previously Oval Office recordings and memos show a conservative who was often willing to feud with the NRA, even though “trusted” presidential aides fretted about political consequences.

“I don’t know why any individual should have a right to have a revolver in his house,” Nixon commented. He asked why “can’t we go after handguns, period?” He added, “I know the rifle association will be against it, the gun makers will be against it.” But, he implored “people should not have handguns.” Finally, Nixon flatly declared that “guns are an abomination.”

The lack of gun control has become a national shame. Despicable, deceptive stuff. Wall Street, Congressional hacks, the Supremes, et al. are allowed to strip those of their constitutional right to a jury trial (by arbitration) yet imagine if they these same dark folks in cloaks took away the same by barring gun ownership.

The failure of our elected few (hostages taken by the NRA), corrupt lobbyists (the NRA), and the Supreme Court to simply refuse to protect innocent victims from guns, ammunition and explosives is morally and ethically reprehensible.

Thankfully, grub overcomes guns.

FARFALLE WITH CHICKEN, SHALLOTS AND BLUE CHEESE

1/2 lb shallots, peeled and sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black and pepper
2 T extra virgin olive oil

1-2 lbs dark hued chicken (thighs)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 T dried thyme
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
Chicken stock
2-3 T cognac or brandy

1 lb dried farfalle
Sea salt and water

3/4 lbs blue cheese, such as bleu d’auvergne, in small chunks
A few dollops of crème fraîche and/or heavy whipping cream

Parsley leaves, chopped
Capers, drained
Parmigiano-reggiano, grated

Toss shallots in a deep, heavy skillet with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Then, add seasoned (salt, pepper, thyme) chicken thighs and brown. Add stock and finally some cognac or brandy. Toward the end, add crème fraîche or heavy whipping cream or both.

Remove and cut chicken into 2 1/2″ pieces.

While cooking farfalle according to instructions in a separate pot, add bleu d’auvergne and pasta al dente to skillet and cook until finished, adding chicken pieces.

Strew with parsley, capers and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano.

Yes, this is cherubic Carter pasta (sorry about the gun polemic, but it is vital).

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Las cosas claras y el chocolate espeso. (Ideas should be clear and chocolate thick.)
~Spanish proverb

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned discrimination in public accommodations, employment and federally funded activities like education, became law on July 2, 1964. On this fiftieth birthday, the Act should be celebrated for purportedly halting our version of apartheidism and for overtly outlawing Jim Crow laws in some parts. A “child of the storm,” as the Rev. Martin Luther King once noted. It would not have been enacted without the support of strange bedfellows — House and Senate Republicans who were vying for black votes. Passage of the Act took centuries of oppression and racism, murderous lynchings and shootings, pernicious shackles and floggings, Birmingham bombings, vile Klansmen, the assassination of a youthful president, fierce legislative battles, egregiously bigoted medical policies and care, vicious attack dogs unleashed and batons wielded on citizens, and a bloodied, sometimes slain, army of protesters filling our streets. In remembrance, we must remain vigilant about erosion or even quiet eradication of the Civil Rights Act.

Take, for instance, the 1965 Voting Rights Act which the Roberts’ Supreme Court gutted last year when federal enforcement was invalidated in many states with histories of discrimination against minority voters. Nine states, mostly in the South, were allowed to change their election laws without advance federal approval. The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion (5-4) authored by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., naively ruled that “(o)ur country has changed…(w)hile any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.” See Shelby County, Alabama vs. Holder, et al., 570 U.S. ____ (2013). This ruling effectively ended the use of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which required any changes to voting rules in covered jurisdictions be endorsed by the Justice Department in advance. So, voter identification laws that had been blocked would become effective promptly, redistricting (gerrymandering) maps would no longer require federal approval, and southern states will no longer have the burden of proof in showing that voting changes do not have a racially discriminatory effect.

Public apathy, misinformation, myopia, “legal” ploys, and a conservatively bent Supreme Court with justices ironically clad in black political robes have put our revered Civil Rights Act in jeopardy. How tacit empathy rules in that ivory tower acronymed SCOTUS.

Perhaps some vanilla ice cream cloaked in chocolate is apt, as some things have not changed.

VANILLA ICE CREAM

2 C heavy whipping cream
1 C whole milk
2/3 C granulated sugar
1 small pinch, fine sea salt
1-2 vanilla beans, sliced lengthwise or 1+ t vanilla extract

6 large egg yolks

In a small to medium heavy saucepan, simmer cream, milk, sugar, salt, scrapings and seeds from vanilla bean and add pod or add vanilla extract. Bring mixture just to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. If using vanilla bean, cover and let sit 30 minutes.

In a separate glass or metal bowl, whisk yolks until pale yellow. Whisking constantly, slowly whisk about a third of the hot cream into the yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pan with the cream. Return pan to medium low heat and gently cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2-3 minutes. Strain custard into a medium bowl set over a bowl of ice water and let cool, stirring occasionally, until it reaches room temperature.

Churn in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Serve directly from the machine for soft serve, or store tightly sealed in freezer until wanted.

GANACHE

14 ozs fine, bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into pieces
3 T espresso
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 C sugar (granulated + light brown)
3/4 C heavy whipping cream
1 pinch coarse sea salt

In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients and melt together over very low heat, stirring.

Just before all the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and stir until chocolate melts and mixture comes together. It may appear curdled, but keep whisking vigorously, as it will smooth. If too thick to pour, whisk in hot water a tablespoon at a time. Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning.

Liberally drizzle ganache over the ice cream. Swoon as you spoon.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.
~Sec. One of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constituition, ratified in 1868

More delectable fare from south of the border. I drool over Mexican cuisine, my fervor unflagging. It also is a sore reminder about another assault on ethnic minorities in this country’s ever so brief and curiously vainglorious history…following those historical precendents of demonizing Irish, Germans, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Native Americans, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, women and so on. Will we ever learn? Flag pins on every lapel will never cure our bigotry and will only further our chauvinism.

Recent disingenuous threats by GOP leaders to repeal the 14th Amendment as a means of denying citizenship to immigrant children—so called “anchor babies”—are disquieting at best. Trifling with one of the more singularly profound statements this country has ever offered the world about the meaning of equality is shameful even if it is purely political posturing. Some more wretched debris of hubris.

The authors of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed citizenship to all people “born or naturalized in the United States” for a reason. They wished to directly repudiate the abominable shackles of the Dred Scott decision, which held that no person of African descent, slave or free, could ever be a citizen of the United States nor could any of their descendants ever become a citizen. In the opinion, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney found that the original framers intended that blacks:

…had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it. Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856)

That racially motivated opinion was issued before the Civil War. Afterwards, Section One of the 14th was adopted which guaranteed citizenship to anyone and everyone born on our soil, including the children of parents here unlawfully. It was intended to make sure that a simple objective fact assured citizenship, and that those rights would not turn upon legislative whim or judicial caprice. This language is a unique part of our national identity and makes certain that each newborn child is not subject to a chain of title like a parcel of land or chattel.

The birthright clause assigned legal status to millions of slaves who had just been freed during the Civil War. Oh, as an aside: the House, the Senate and the Presidency were all in Republican hands at the time of the amendment’s passage.

Senators, please show some restraint and do not overburden your tacos with fillings.

LOBSTER TACOS AL CARBON WITH AVOCADO & CORN SALSA

Avocado & Corn Salsa
2 ripe avocados, diced
3-4 T fresh lime juice
2 ripe red tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
3 ears sweet corn, shucked, parboiled and cooled
1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2-3 jalapeño chile peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 C chopped fresh cilantro
Sea and freshly ground black pepper

Place the avocado and tomato in a large mixing bowl and gently toss with lime juice. Shear the kernels off the cobs and again gently toss in the bowl. Cover well and refrigerate.

Just before serving, add the jalapeños and cilantro and gently toss to mix. If necessary, add a little more lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Lobsters
2 – 2 lb pound lobsters, parboiled and split in 1/2 lengthwise
Canola oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Corn tortillas
Canola oil
Añejo cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add sea salt. Carefully lower lobsters into pot, and parboil just until just red, about 2 minutes each. Cooking time varies with lobster weight. Remove lobsters from pot with tongs and plunge into a large bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Remove and dry well. Split lobsters in half lengthwise along the back.

Heat charcoal grill to medium high.

Brush the lobster flesh with canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill, first flesh side up, turn and grill until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. The lobster meat should be firm, slightly charred and opaque when done. Extract the meat from the shells and coarsely chop.

Before filling the tacos, heat ever so briefly over the grill until they just become pliable. (Alternatively, place several wrapped in aluminum foil in an oven preheated to 400 F for about 8-10 minutes.)

Put a few spoons of salsa and lobster down the center of each tortilla with a sprinkling of añejo cheese over the top. Fold the tortillas over, brush with oil and grill, until slightly browned, about 1 minute. Brush with oil again, flip over and continue grilling until slightly browned again. Remove from the grill and serve.

(Cooking) is a form of flattery….a mischievous, deceitful, mean and ignoble activity, which cheats us by shapes and colors, by smoothing and draping…
~Plato

The etymology of the word tacos—tortillas rolled around food—was derived from the Mexican Spanish, “light lunch,” or more literally, “plug, wadding.” Taco is a broadly applied generic term much like the English word “sandwich.”

The word has multiple meanings, from the culinary to some nether worlds. For instance, there are over 50 references to the term “taco” in the online slang lexicon Urban Dictionary, some of which are undeviatingly anatomical and may offend a few readers’ sensibilities. So they will not bear repetition, as what some find humorous or titillating others deem crude. Then again, who am I to be the arbiter of the definition of obscene? Even Justice Potter Stewart vainly struggled with the lewdness issue once and was left with the enigmatic: “(b)ut, I know it when I see it.” Now, that is one concrete translation which only leaves you to ponder when he saw it, where he saw it, or what he saw. Somehow brings to mind the image of an elderly, yet scholarly looking man with styleless glasses, a starched collar, dark tie and flowing black robes peering into a poor quality video in a tawdry booth. A neon OPEN 24 HOURS spasmodically blinks outside. “I’ll know it when I see it,” he murmurs into the night.

The mainstay of the Mexican diet was, and still is, the ever versatile tortilla which is the “bread of life” for tacos. Eaten as an entrée or one of the world’s most supreme street snacks, tacos come in seemingly endless varieties according to geography, local ingredients, and the kitchen itself…folded, rolled, soft, fried…tacos de cazuela (with stew fillings), tacos de la plancha (griddle cooked), tacos al carbón (charcoal grilled meats), tacos a vapor (steamed beef head meat), tacos de canasta (tacos in a basket), tacos dorados (crisply fried), tacos de harina (soft flour, burrito-like).

As with pizzas, pastas and paninis, please do not overburden your tortilla with a spate of insipid fillings. And as a warning to those who fear the wrath of the taco gods, avoid those crisp bent tacos brimming with bland ground beef, iceberg lettuce and cheddar cheese. You know who you are.

To warm tortillas, tightly wrap 6-8 in aluminum foil and place in an oven at 375 F for 8-10 minutes.

TACOS DE CAMARONES (SHRIMP TACOS)

1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined (16-20 count)
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely diced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T brandy
Sea salt
2 T fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
1 tomato, cored, seeded and diced
6 radishes, trimmed and diced
1/2 C cabbage, finely shredded
2 T cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1-2 limes
3 T canola oil
3 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

Corn tortillas, warmed

In a heavy sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Do not burn. Remove and discard garlic, but retain oil.

Add the shrimp, serrano chiles, and black pepper. Stir well, then sauté, stirring briskly until the shrimp turn pink and curl, about 3 to 4 minutes total, turning once. Pour in the brandy and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add a pinch or two of salt, sprinkle lightly with cilantro and tossed. Slice shrimp into 1/2″ pieces and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the onion, tomato, radishes, cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, canola and olive oils, and sea salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat well. Serve in corn tortillas.

TACOS DE LENGUA (TONGUE TACOS)

1 fresh calf tongue (about 3 lbs)

8 C+ chicken broth
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
10 black peppercorns
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves

Warm corn tortillas
Cabbage, finely shredded
Yellow onion, peeled and diced
Cilantro leaves, chopped
Quartered lime wedges
Salsa verde*

Corn tortillas, warmed

Rinse tongue well. Cover the tongue and remaining ingredients with broth (or equal parts broth and water) in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Skim off the froth on the surface after a few minutes. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove tongue, and very briefly plunge into an ice and cold water bath to cease the cooking process. Drain and dry well, then begin skinning with fingers and a paring knife. The skin should come off easily. Trim away the small bones and gristle.

To carve, place the tongue on its side and, starting at the tip, cut slices thinly on the diagonal.

Serve in warmed corn tortillas with cabbage, onion, radishes, cilantro, lime juice. Drizzle with salsa verde.

TACOS DE PATO (DUCK TACOS)

Tomatillo Salsa
4 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed and cut into quarters
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled, and roughly chopped
1-2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
2/3 C cilantro leaves
1/4 C water
2 pinches sea salt

1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh removed and cut into 1/2″ chunks

Assembly
1/2 C soy sauce
1/4 C water
1/4 C mirin
3 T honey

2 T canola oil
2 C coarsely shredded roast duck, coarsely shredded

Warmed flour tortillas

Combine tomatillos, garlic, chile and cilantro in food processor or blender. Add 1⁄4 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend by pulses to a coarse purée. Pour into a medium bowl and stir in the avocado.

In a small saucepan, combine the soy, water, mirin and honey. Simmer over medium heat until it just begins to thicken, 15 to 20 minutes.

In a heavy skillet, heat the oil over high heat. Add the duck until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1⁄4 cup of the soy-mirin sauce and sauté a bit longer, until the duck meat glistens. Serve duck in warm flour tortillas with the tomatillo salsa and the remaining sweetened soy-mirin sauce.

*Salsa Verde

12 medium fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
3 jalapeño chilies, stemmed, not seeded
8 sprigs cilantro, stems discared and leaves roughly chopped
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 T canola oil
2 C chicken broth
Sea salt

Boil the tomatillos and chilies in salted water for 15 minutes; drain. Place the cooked tomatillos and chiles, cilantro, onion, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until roughly smooth, slightly textural.

Heat the oil in medium heavy skillet over moderately high heat. Pour the tomatillo mixture into the pan and stir for 5 minutes or so, until it thickens. Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until it reduces and thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Salt to your preference.