February 17, 2015

Ratzinger on Mardi Gras

Fasching—Mardi gras—is certainly not a Church festival. Yet on the other hand, it is unthinkable apart from the Church’s calendar. Thus if we reflect on its origin and significance, it can contribute to our understanding of faith. Fasching has many roots, Jewish, pagan and Christian, and all three point to something common to men of all times and places.

But behind this exuberant, worldly feast, there is also an awareness of that temporal rhythm which was given classical expression in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted; …a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance”. Not everything is appropriate at all times, man needs a rhythm, and the year gives him this rhythm, both through creation and through the history that faith sets forth in the yearly cycle.

This brings us to the Church’s year, which enables man to go through the whole history of salvation in step with the rhythm of creation, simultaneously ordering and purifying the chaotic multiplicity of our nature. Nothing human is omitted from this cycle of creation and history, and only in this way can all human reality, its dark side and its light side, the world of sense and the world of spirit, be saved.

Let us go back to think about the roots of Fasching. As well as the Jewish, there is the pagan prehistory whose fierce and menacing stare at us in the masks worn in Alpine, Swabian, and Alemannic parts of Germany.

At this point we can observe something of great significance: in the Christian world the demonic mask becomes a light-hearted masquerade, the life-and-death struggle with the demons becomes fun and merriment prior to the seriousness of Lent. This masquerade shows us something we can often see in the psalms and in the prophets: it becomes a mocking of the gods, who no longer need to be feared by those who know the true God. To that extent, Fasching actually does contain elements of Christian liberation, the freedom of the One God, perfecting that freedom commemorated in the Jewish feast of Purim.

In the end, however, we are faced with a question: Do we still enjoy this freedom? Or is it not a fact that, ultimately, we would like to free ourselves from God, from creation and from faith, in order to be totally free? And is not the consequence of this that we are once again handed over to the gods, to commercial forces, to greed, to public opinion? God is not the enemy of our freedom but its ground. That is something we ought to relearn in these days. Only love that is almighty can ground a joy that is free from anxiety.

—Joseph Ratzinger

All the same, dear Pope Benedict, I'm going to have a Sazerac tonight and several bowls full of beignets! HT: John Herreid

January 22, 2015

Who I'm fighting for

One third of my generation was killed by abortion. May the same not be true of these,
my friends' children. May they know a world of joy and peace, a world where every life is cherished.
Angelica, Zita, Julia, and Ronia, Edmund and James, Lucy, Alice, and Robert, Montsy and Cecily, Gretta, Knox, and Simone, Maximilian, Abigail, and Charles, Xavier, Markos and Mirabelle, 
Alexander and Adaryn, Madeleine and Penelope, Augustine and Maximilian, Noémie and Cordelia, Hugh, Gregory, Margaret, Edith, William, and Alexander, Timmy, Henry, and Zachary, and Lucy, Isaac and William, Gianna and Dominic, William, Hugh, Mattias, and Raphael, Sophia, Timothy, Genivieve and Violette, Kathleen, Emily, John Paul, and Monica, Owen, Emma, Johnny, Bella, Dominic, and Samuel, Alexandra and Isaac, Gabriel and Dominic, Ava, Avila, and Maxon, Frederick and John, Olivia, Gianna, and Maria, Adelaide, Clarence, and Eloise, Dairinne, Sarah, Grace, Emma, and Danny, Victor, Karl, Henry, Vincent, and Frederick, Hannah, Natalia, and Lucia, Emma and Corinne, Marianne, Anne, Clare, Maxwell, Cordelia, Raphael, Benedict, Simeon, and Felicity, Macie, Magnus, Aerland, and Hilja, Bertie, Edith, and Vincent, Abigail, Cordelia, Felicity, and Anastasia, Maria and Aurelia, Joseph, Gemma, Paul, and Dominic, Kolbe, Lucia, and Blaise, Sebastian, Evelyn, and Cecilia, Anna, Philip, and Mary, Nick, Patrick, Bailey, Maddy, Grant, and Grace, Caroline, James, Alexander, Kristiana, Anne, and Lucy, Claire, Eve, Luke, Liam, Ignatius, Lucy and Margaret, Gerard, Philip, Sotera, Mary Margaret and Lillian, Tessa and Daniel, Anne, Joseph, Julian, Francis Xavier and Isaac, Alex, Michael, Caitlin, and Joshua, Chloe, Hannah, Alastair and Aibhilin, Joseph, Ambrose, and Gussie, Nate, William Augustine, Stella and Max, Ambrose, Augustine and Peter, Jack and Ana, Savannah and Langdon, Dorothy, Inez, Claire and Adam, Ava, Dominic, Paul, Mark, David, Gabriel, Gerard, Matthew, Frederick and John, Evangelina, Sylvia, Timothy, Ambrose, Miriam, Cecelia, Jude, Hanna, Gabriel, Dorothy, Maria Stella, Adelaide, Victoria, Becket, Charlie, Rafael, Lillian, Charles, George, Rosalie, Abhilin and Cillian, Vincent, Esther, Catherine, Luisa, Miriam, Isaac, Julia Marie, Evelyn, Jackson, Lucy and Magdalena, Frederick, Esther, Grace Lynn, and many more!

Thus says the LORD: 
"A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are not." 

Thus says the LORD:
"Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears;
for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.

There is hope for your future, says the LORD,
and your children shall come back to their own country.
- Jeremiah, 31:15-17  

November 12, 2014

Winter is icumin in - Ezra Pound

Winter is icumin in
Lhude sing Goddamn,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing; Goddamn.

Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham
Damn you, Sing, Goddamn.

Goddamn, Goddamn, 'tis why I am,
So 'gainst the winter's balm.
Sing goddamn, damn, sing goddamn,
Sing goddamn, sing goddamn, DAMN!

- Ezra Pound
(via Mr. F.)

October 30, 2014

Clippings: Orange October!

Another Orange October! Giants win the World Series, and (here's the real headline), my mother emails me a play-by-play of the last inning. Thank you, Giants, for finally converting my mother into a baseball fan, after 30 years of resistance. Full coverage in the Chronicle.

During a strike in 1978, some clever folks produced Not the New York Times. How delightful! (The Paris Review)

"Love of God and love of neighbour, then, are presented to the Christian as a coherent single object of faith." Fr. James on last Sunday's Gospel and the Synod (Thine Own Service)

A simple and delightful fall cocktail (Joy the Baker)

First Listen: Bob Dylan Bootleg Series 11 (NPR)

37 Best Restaurants in Washington woot! woot! (WaPo)

"I asked how he was feeling. 'I’m well rested now,' he said, and waited a beat. 'But I miss being tired.'" -- from a review of the new James Brown documentaryMr. Dynamite (NYT)

One of these days I'll get around to writing out my thoughts on Andy Warhol. (I do love him, you know.) But till then, more fodder for the discussion: The Faith of Andy Warhol (Real Clear Politics)

Tim Stanley is in town, and writing about all our crazies in next week's election. (The Telegraph)

The macabre doodles of William Mackpeace Thackery (The Paris Review)

All 71 costumes in the opening credits of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (Buzzfeed Life)


FRIDAY: All Saint's Vigil at the Dominican House of Studies. Best event every year, and it breaks my heart to miss it this year. Insider tip: go early & sit upstairs in the loft. 

SATURDAY: Solemn High Mass for All Saints at Holy Comforter / St. Cyprian

SUNDAY: Requiem Mass in the Ordinariate Use (music: Fauré's Requiem) at St. Luke's Ordinariate, in Immaculate Conception Church, 8th & N Streets, NW, Washington DC. And St. Stephen Martyr Parish is doing Fauré's Requiem Mass as well at their 11 o'clock high-Mass.

(It's pretty awesome to have All Souls on a Sunday so we get to have requiem masses!)

And, last but not least: If you don't have plans this Saturday, why not venture out to rural Virginia for this River Valley Festival? It sounds wonderful! (Wish I could go, myself!)

October 17, 2014

A Meme!

Yesterday I was thinking I should post something personal, but goodness knows there is not enough time to reflect, let alone write something lucid and entertaining and engaging. But then Ann kindly tagged me in a 10 random questions thingy, and I bit.

1. What’s the most recent book you’ve read that you would actually recommend?
Gaudy Night, and really the whole Lord Peter Wimsey/Harriet Vane series from start to finish. She does something incredible with these. The first (Strong Poison) is a classic Wimsey mystery, but there is something stirring way down deep inside the character of Wimsey, that Sayers may not quite be able to contain. The second, Have his Carcase is fun and slightly frivolous. The third, Gaudy Night, stands on it's own as a profound mystery -- dealing with graver issues -- not that murder isn't grave, but English murder mysteries are almost quaint at times, whereas this is dealing with psychosis and social issues. It does so deftly and thrillingly; and by the end of it, we've seen the depth of Harriet Vane, and love her as Peter does. The Fourth, Busman's Holiday, we see a new side of Peter -- the side we always suspected was there but didn't have quite clear enough vision. As one of my commenters said, it is one of the most romantic books I've ever read.

2. What’s up next on you Netflix cue?
Hmmm. Been re-watching Parks and Recreation on Hulu. Netflix no longer has a true queue, but here's a good sampling: 20 Feet from Stardom (which is supposed to be incredible, it's a about the women who sang back-up for rock stars in the 60s and 70s), The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, every Marx Brothers film available, and most classic British mysteries and comedies, most of which I've seen, but I always want to see again.

3. Favorite season and why?
Let me quote the Green Lady in Perelandra: "The fruit we are eating is always best of all." -- I love all the seasons, when I am in the midst of them. I will say though: I don't love the transition. When summer is leaving, but there are none of the pleasures of fall (color, crispness in the air, clear days and cool nights) I yearn for sunshine and (yes, even) humidity. The only exception is spring, where the transition IS the season, and I love every moment of it (so I guess Spring is my true favorite).

4. If there was one professional sport you could banish from all the land, what would it be? Elaborate.
Football. As George Will says "Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings." (Plus the worst aspects of modern American culture: loud and unsubstantial television commentary and aggressive advertisements.)

5. You go to your mom’s house. She says she’ll make you anything for dinner. What do you ask for?
Steak Candy. It's grilled skirt steak with a really marvelous BBQ sauce. But she cannot make it anymore because our back yard is too windy for a grill to work. I've never been able to recreate it.

6. What game did you play the most as a child (this could be an imaginary play game, board or card game, or outside game).
Hmmmm. Mom and Dad love strategic and long games like Risk, so we couldn't really play till we were older. There was this one farm-game that was sort of like Monopoly, only way more complicated, and we would bring it out play for a few hours, and then write down meticulously what all we had and put it away, and take it out again a few months (or a year) later, and continue. I'm pretty sure we never finished that first game. My personal favorite game is Taboo. And the only pretend game that my siblings and I could play for any period of time without arguing was lego village, where we'd each play with our own legos, creating a village of sorts (the sort of village that had spaceships alongside pizza parlors along side beach houses alongside pirate ships alongside ski resorts alongside medieval castles, of course).

7. What’s your worst Internet habit?
Watching Parks and Recreation when I get home LATE from work, instead of going straight to bed.

8. Chore that you would happily pass along to someone else given the chance?
Mambo said about me once: "Laundry is your albatros."

9. Fall is the season of the scary movie. Are you for scary-scary or not?

10. You have a Saturday available to you with no responsibilities (work, children, etc.) and all to yourself. What do you do?
Goodness, it's been so so so so so so so long since I've had a Saturday off... Assuming I didn't got to bed at 2 am the night before (because of work), I'd: get up early, make coffee, and read for a bit in the morning. Go to the Farmer's market by 9 (so the good stuff is still there), and pick up a croissant on the way. Come home and cook something with the market goodies. I'd go out for the afternoon: museum, hiking, to the river, book in hand, stop in a coffee shop. Dinner with friends (out or at home), and a nightcap at home, which usually means staying up and talking for hours.

October 07, 2014

Gaudy Night (2)

The prospect seemed discouraging for Miss Schuster-Slatt's matrimonial campaign, since the rull seemed to be that a great woman must either die unwed, to Miss Schuster-Slatt's distress, or find a still greater man to marry her. And that limited the great woman's choice considerably, since, though the world of course abounded in great men, it contained a very much larger number of middling and common-place men. The great man, on the other hand, could marry where he liked, not being restricted to great women; indeed, it was often found sweet and commendable in him to choose a woman of no sort of greatness at all. 

— Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
(And dammit if it isn't also true about DC.) 

October 02, 2014

Gaudy Night (1)

"What hampered her was this sense of being in the middle of things, too close to thing, pressed upon and bullied by reality. If she could succeed in standing aside from herself she would achieve self-confidence and better control. That was the great possession in which -- with all his limitations -- the scholar could account himself blessed: the single eye, directed to the object, not dimmed, nor distracted by private motes and beams."
-- Gaudy Night (chapter 4), by Dorothy Sayers

After a very full, very tiring summer, and a year full of changes: this is exactly how I feel. In the middle of things, and still wholly unable to get my bearings straight, know if what I am doing and how I am growing and what I am giving up will pay off in the end. (It would help if Lord Peter was waiting at the other end of the decision, I am sure.)

July 29, 2014

Plant No Tree Before the Sacred Vine

Just last night I was staring at the label of a Barolo we carry, and it had the motto "Nullam Sacra Vite Prius Severis Arborem" on the winemakers crest. Dying of curiosity, I searched for a translation. It is, of course, from Horace, one of wine's great chroniclers and Rome's great poets:

Nullam, Vare, sacra vite prius severis arborem
circa mite solum Tibruis et moenia Catili;
siccis omnia nam dura deus proposiuit neque
mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitundines.
Quis post vina gravem militiam aut pauperiem crepat?
Quis non te potius, Bacche pater, teque decens Venus?
Ac ne quis modici transiliat munera Liberi,
Centaurea monet cum Lapithis rixa super mero
debellata, menet Sithoniis non levis Euhius,
cum fas atque nefas exiguo fine libidinum
discernunt avidi. Non ego te, candide Bassareu,
invitum quatiam nec variis obsita frondibus
sub divum rapiam. Saeva tene cum Berecyntio
cornu tympana, quae subsequitur caecus Amor sui
et tollens vacuam plus nimio Gloria verticem
arcanique Fides prodiga, perlucidior vitro.

Plant no tree, Varus, before the sacred vine
around the soft ground of the Tibur and walls of Catilus;
a god has ordained everything difficult for dry people and
biting anxieties don't flee in any other way.
Who rattles on about serious military service or poverty after wine?
Who does not rattle on more about you, father Bacchus, and you, comely Venus?
And yet anyone abuses the gifts of moderate Bacchus,
the battle fought to the bitter end of the Centaurs over their wine with the
Lapiths warns, Bacchus not light with the Thracians warns,
when those greedy of desire discern lawful from sin
with a small limit. I do not shake you, white Bacchus,
unwilling, nor do I snatch by the light of day your
sacred things covered with various leaves. Hold savage
drums and the horn from Berecyntus, which blind self-love follows
and Glory raising an empty crown too high and
Faith wasteful of secrets, more transparent than glass.

- Horace, Ode 1.18

June 06, 2014

My Goodness That's a Lot of Clippings

Did you know there are flamingos at the National Zoo? I was so excited. So was the four year old I was with. But that's fair: I am basically a four year old when it comes to the zoo. Also the Zoo App is super handy. (FONZ)

First listen to First Aid Kit's new album on NPR. (See what I did there?!) This is perfect early morning, ohmygosh I have so much laundry to do before my vacation summertime music. (NPR)

Been absolutely fascinating to read about a Brooklyn Restaurant Empire, and their many off-shoots, and, shall we say, family interests, in this Bon Appetit series: Out of the Kitchen

Why do I always forget about the witty, humble, entertaining, and profound Joseph Epstein? He is such a marvelous essayist, and this is a jewel. (Commentary)

Handwriting for the win - though, sadly, it is disappearing! - Is this a problem? YES! (New York Times)

You know I'm a sucker for a good map story. But what does "GIS" stand for, anyway? Because I read the whole article and still am not sure. (Smithsonian)

So you know how in P. G. Wodehouse, some obscure Uncle is always threatening to die, and leave you with nothing but his obscure collection -- if you're lucky! Reform my friends: You want to inherit from this uncle! (Garden & Gun)

"Scruffy Hospitality" is the name of my game, for sure. Come one, come all. Never mind about the dishes in the sink. No you can't help me clean the dishes in the sink. Sit down. Have a glass of wine. Let's talk. (Knox Priest)

Oh, my Dominicans were ordained last week. Love them so much. (Catholic News Services)

Oral history of MST3K. I didn't really know what an oral history was until I read this. Also: Miles O'Keefe!!!!! (Wired)

"How I Evolved on Gay Marriage" from the always thought provoking Matthew Scmitz (First Things)

This girl is fabulous. I wish I felt that comfortable in my skin, ever. (The Sartorialist)

This Medieval song about summer is charming! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!  (Medivalists)

Um. 6 frozen beer desserts, of course. The Creamsicle Pie made with Berliner-Weiss is brilliant! (Draft)

The Best Places to Be Alone in Washington DC - other than your car, sitting in traffic. Still need to go to that Planetarium in Ballston. (Washingtonian)

Verily rounds up some cute shirt dresses. I will die a thousand closet deaths when shirt dresses and chambray stop being popular (Verily)

The best article Simcha Fisher has ever written. (I Have to Sit Down)

This is the best bit of news I have ever read (or ever will read) from the Facebook "Trending" column: Ghostbusters gets Theatrical Release in celebration of 30th Anniversary! (Variety)

And, in anticipation of Sunday: 7 saints for Pentecost. As I said on FB -- I really ought to have better devotion to the Holy Spirit given how many of my favorites are on this list. (Catholic Exchange)

May 19, 2014

The Pixie and the Scout Buildout!

Look. I work in food. I routinely have a really fabulous chef making me my daily dinner (hurrah family meal). I get to sample incredible dishes, great cheeses, lots of wine and beer, of course. What I'm saying is, I know a good meal, and I enjoy them often.

But: I've never had a meal like the pop-up dinner I had last year cooked by The Pixie and the Scout.

We sat down, filled out a funny little questionnaire designed to gauge our knowledge, appetites, (allergies, of course), and adventurousness. (Eg. "Name as many members of the Onion family" and "Draw a picture of something you can forage on a roadside.") And then Katy and Jonathan created a menu of 6 courses entirely for our table (and another one for the table next to ours, and on, and on). There were flavor combinations I had never thought of (savory strawberries), ingredients I'd never heard of (I can't even remember but there was some sort of edible succulent thing that just blew my mind), and the juiciest roast chicken I've ever eaten (and honey, I love roast chicken)! It was one of the best meals of my life.

Now The Pixie and the Scout have leased a huge space in Brooklyn, and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the renovation of this space. They are close to meeting their goal, but if you're interested in helping a great young couple do incredible things with food, pop on over to Kickstarter, and lend them a hand, won't you?

April 30, 2014

Recipe: Lazy Risotto

So, lazy is the best word for this recipe, but that doesn't mean it's quick. Or for everyone. It is only for people with long days at home. There is an economy here, but it is not an economy for everyone. In fact, I'll bet, in my limited readership, there is only one person who will really benefit from this recipe, and that's only because I talked with her about it yesterday and we got interrupted by one of the three three-year-olds in the house at the time.

Anyway, this recipe...nay, this technique is for when you have a full day at home and only want to pay attention halfway to whatever you're cooking.


For that you need to obsessively save vegetable scraps. I do this, sticking vegetable odds and ends and roots and slightly gone greens into a big plastic container in my freezer. (Or a ziploc bag.) This is the perfect base for a rich and hearty vegetable stock. I take all those veggies (today, asparagus ends, fennel stems and leaves, scallions, wild garlic ends that had dried out, onion skins, several cloves of garlic, and some bok choy) and rinse them quickly cool water to shake off any freezer ice. If you don't save veggie ends, I bet you have some veggies in your fridge that are about to go, and of course you have onions and garlic in your pantry, or a bag of frozen peas. Any greens, any onions, any vegetables so long as it is not starch will do.

So, take all your veg, and stick them in your biggest stock pot and cover with water. Throw in a couple bay leaves and set it simmering.

And then leave it, for an hour at least, completely unattended.

(So long as it's only simmering, you don't need to watch it.) When I get my second cup of coffee, I'll maybe give it a stir, and, if the water looks low, I'll pour in a bit more cold water. Sometimes I'll add salt, or peppercorns. Sometimes not.

After 90 minutes to two hours, when the water is reduced by 1/3 or 1/2, and it's starting to look dark and rich I'll drain the stock into a separate pot, (discard the veggies) and taste it. If it needs more salt, add it now. If it seems a little lackluster, I'll chop up an onion finely and add it in there.

2) Now THE RISOTTO: The typical ratio of rice to broth in risotto is 1:3. Plus you have to keep ladling it in and stirring it, and ladling it, and stirring it, and keeping the broth hot on the stove, and using all the pots in the house, and being super attentive, and sometimes it's a pleasure, but today, this is too much work. I am being lazy!

So take your practically-free vegetable broth and double that ratio. Put in 1 cup of rice to your 5 or 6 cups of broth. (If you don't have six cups, add some water and some white wine.) Stir it round. Add in some saffron and a knob of butter, and set it simmering. And leave it, mostly unattended, for 40 minutes, or till the rice has absorbed all the broth. (Give it a stir every now and then, ok.)

Add some freshly grated dry cheese (pecorino, parmesan), and another knob of butter, and some freshly chopped parsley, and serve.

Alternately, you could do this "oven risotto" from Martha Stewart, which is pretty fool-proof, and probably coincides better with your definition of lazy.

April 22, 2014

The Lord is Risen Indeed

"Thine's all the glory, man's the boundless bliss."

Well this has been on repeat in my head since Sunday. William Billings, you are delightful. Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Happy Easter, all!