Friday, August 7, 2015

The Republican Presidential

As I waited for the pageant to begin I couldn't help but be surprised by how many people were in attendance. The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio was packed with a cheering crowd that became even more rapturous in their applause and vocalizing as the contestants finally made their way to the stage. Ten men ranging in age from 44 - 69. Wait? What kind of pageant is this? Then I remembered what I was actually watching was the Republican Presidential debate on Fox News Channel and the only beautifully coiffed female on screen was Megyn Kelly. 

As the contestants started to answer questions posed by the moderators I quickly felt I was watching a debate between junior high schoolers who happened to be using big words to rile the crowd. However, these school boys didn't always answer the questions posed to them. Like beauty queens vying for the top prize, these male counterparts had their agendas and their talking points. And they tried to work them in in a roundabout way, pushing that square peg answer into that round hole question, all the while continuing to smile at the moderators and in some cases wink at the crowd.

Below are some things I took away from the torturous two hours that I didn’t want but knew I had to sit through:

Donald Trump thinks we're too politically correct in this country. I'm not sure I disagree with him. But he's cocky; an instigator. He seems to take pleasure in being politically incorrect and by the sounds of the cheering crowd he had them eating out of the palm of his hand. Sadly, I was afraid he was feeding them his own special brand of candy and that led me to wonder: With him in charge might the inmates truly be running the asylum. As the debate wore on, the cheering in respect to his comments and outbursts diminished giving me hope that many fingers had been put down many throats and that small piles of candy-colored vomit were beginning to soak into the carpet.

Scott Walker often looked like he was deigning to be a contestant. One had to get past his condescending facial expressions before his answers and comments could even begin to be heard. 

He said that God hasn’t given him a list, a 10 Commandments if you will, to enact on his first day should he be elected President, but he says that God wants us to follow his will and that’s what he’s going to try to do. That separation of Church and State line continues to get thinner and thinner with this Party.

Mike Huckabee erased the line between Church and State by calling for our country to recognize that the Supreme Court is NOT the Supreme Being and that the 5th and 14th Amendments should be used effectively to protect a child at the moment of conception. He's pro-life, and that's his prerogative, but his beliefs should not be thrust upon the women of this country who do not believe as he does.  It’s their bodies after all, should’t it be their choice?

When asked how he would handle transgender people serving openly in the military he responded, “The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.” (The crowd cheers) “It’s not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make us a different country and more diverse. The purpose is to protect America.” So, Mr. Huckabee, are you saying that transgendered people can’t kill people, break things, and protect America like any other person serving in the military? He then spoke of how the military has been reduced under President Obama and how we should be able to help where ever the help is needed and then talked about the age of and number of B-52’s we currently have that are combat ready. Because that’s on trans topic.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t answer the question of what he would do as Commander-in-Chief re transgender military personnel, but from his body language and the light-in-the-loafers tone he took when talking about ‘transforming the culture’ and ‘making us more diverse’ one could tell he is adamantly opposed to transgender people serving in the military.

Ben Carson thinks that we should change our taxation plan in this country by using the biblical blueprint of tithing. Each person pays 10% of their earnings no matter what those earning are. 

He’s no fan of Hillary. 

He made a smart point of saying as a neurosurgeon he operates on the thing that makes people who they are—their brain. He went on to say it’s not their skin color or their hair that makes them who they are and, “It’s time for us to move beyond that because our strength as a nation comes in our unity. We are the United States of America not the Divided States of America.” Smart point, but not going to be President.

Jeb Bush, as much as I hate to say it, gave some pretty decent answers. Of course, I don’t want another Bush in office even if he does look more like Barbara than George H. W.  

I’m unsure why he thinks President Obama doesn’t give people hope.

Ted Cruz is a President Obama hater and thinks new leadership is needed. He is especially disappointed in the Obama Administration’s Foreign Policy. 

He is for religious liberty and against Planned Parenthood. There goes the gay and female vote. Not that he was every going to get either anyway.

His final statement began like this, “If I am elected President lemme tell ya about my first day in office. The first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.” (The crowd cheers) 

Marco Rubio says God has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates and that the Democratic Party can’t even find one. (The crowd cheers). 

Wow. I’m pretty sure I saw President Obama singing Amazing Grace at a funeral recently. We may have different ideas about how God works. I mean, just because he doesn’t do it like you think it will be done doesn’t mean he hasn’t blessed us.

Chris Christie thinks we need to start working on rebuilding our military immediately sending a clear message to the world that we’re a strong country. 

Rand Paul doesn’t want his guns or his marriage registered in Washington. He said, “When the government tries to invade the church to enforce its own opinion on marriage, that’s when it’s time to resist.” Yet I’m left to wonder why so many of these would be leaders so quickly bring God’s word or God into the conversation, when God’s word and God should have nothing to do with government. 

If the government should stay out of the church, as Mr. Paul suggests, then the church, religion, God should stay out of government. You can’t have it both ways.

John Kasich was a misappropriation of a podium. He’s a nice man who’s done a lot for the state of Ohio. He believes in traditional marriage. He says he’s old fashioned. But he also believes the simple fact of the matter is to give everyone a chance. If one of his daughters happened to be a lesbian he would love her and support her. He believe’s the Lord wants America to lead and to succeed. Nothing’s more important to him than his family, his faith, and his friends. Chris Christie or Rand Paul would get the nomination before this kind, grandfatherly type man.

Many of these contestants mentioned President Ronald Reagan in their answers, comments, or rebuttals. I was 17 when Ronald Reagan left office. I wasn’t very politically inclined back then. What I do know about him as a gay man doesn’t make me look at him as such a wonderful leader or political role model.

When the contestants began to talk directly to each other the claws came out. I half expected someone to throw off his heels, ask his trying-to-stay-poised neighbor to hold his earrings, and take out his bumpit. 

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be the President of the United States. I can’t imagine the pressure and stress of leading a country. I think it’s easy to stand behind a podium and point out what one thinks is wrong with the Obama Administration or what’s wrong with Hillary Clinton. But until any of these men happen to have the title of POTUS, no one, including themselves, knows what they will do or be able to accomplish with that power. Personally, I can’t imagine any of them being my President.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Root & Bone NYC

In the summertime the kitchen is the last place you want to be, right? It's hot in there. And that heat can be oppressive. Your hair sticks to the back of your neck. Sweat trickles down the center of your back. You need a separate dish towel just to wipe your forehead and the back of your neck...over and over. You can fan yourself but all that does is circulate the warm air.

Now pretend that kitchen is grandma's. Same summertime heat. It's steamy; made even more humid by the mixing of vapor rising from the pots on the stove and the heated oven where biscuits are baking at 350°. Lawdy mercy it's hot in there. But the swelter that comes from that kitchen is somehow comforting.

The kitchen is the center of the house; the hub. There's a flurry of activity--from checking the pans on the stove, to cutting up the garden fresh vegetables, to gossiping about the latest goings on about town. There's a sense of being part of something and you never know what stories you might hear. And then there're the smells. They make your mouth water in anticipation. As for the heat, well it's nothing a glass of ice cold lavender lemonade can't squelch. Or if you're feeling more spiritedly adventurous, try a Sweet Grass Gin with honey green grape & field greens. Ice cold of course.

That's just what my companion, Mandy, and I did on a recent evening. Mandy and I have dinner together every week. We both write and we use these weekly get togethers to read whatever's new that the other is working on or to catch up on the week. We often like to get out of our neighborhood rut and try something new. Twice a year over 300 restaurants participate in what is known as Restaurant Week. It's an affordable way to eat at what might otherwise be an unaffordable restaurant. Us taking advantage of our desire to find a new neighborhood and experience a new restaurant is what led us to pay our first visit to Root & Bone on Avenue B and 3rd Street in NYC's Alphabet City.

The place is small; the heat and the kitchen equally felt and on display. Don't let any of these things deter you. When you're sitting at your table, or at one of the bars, you might feel like you're at a family reunion. Everyone is sitting closely next to everyone else and all the conversations are happening at once creating a sound that, while less pleasant than a cicada symphony, is much more harmonious than traffic sounds and car horns.

Root & Bone has a menu of easygoing southern food dressed up with city personality. It knows where it comes from but it fits right in with the tastemakers and foodies of NYC.

In the south the evening meal of the day is called supper and that's exactly what Root & Bone calls what many New Yorker's call dinner.

1st course
From the Restaurant Week prefix menu I chose for my first course: Grandma Daisy's Angel Biscuits. Two small homemade biscuits served on a small wooden cutting board with a bowl of honey roasted chicken jus. Jus is just a fancy way of saying juice or gravy. There was a sprig of thyme and small mound of benne seeds and sea salt. For full effect the biscuit should be dipped in the jus then dipped in the sea salt and seeds then savored for all the unadulterated flavor that floods your taste buds.

Main course - Supper
Braised Short Rib Meat Loaf. This is not your grandma's meat loaf. In fact this meat loaf was like no other meat loaf I've ever eaten. For one thing it was texturally not what one would expect of meat loaf.  Meat loaf that is made from ground beef, ground turkey, ground pork, etc., all kind of looks the same. Like it's made from ground meat. This meat loaf had the structure of rib meat that you would eat off the rib. It wasn't ground. The tomato jam and mashed roots that decorated and paired with this meat loaf by design accentuated the flavor. The accompanying green beans and broccoli were seasoned to southern perfection.

This is where I wanted to lose all my manners and decorum and lick the tin pan. I ordered strawberry shortcake. I was hoping that it would be made with a biscuit instead of the sponge cake I grew up calling strawberry shortcake. I was not disappointed. The biscuit was similar in size to one of Grandma Daisy's Angel Biscuits. This biscuit however was so much more. The bottom half was sitting in strawberry juice and topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The top of the biscuit crowned the berries and cream. The 'so much more' of this biscuit was the sea salt that topped it. Salty and sweet like I'd never tasted it before. I'm aware of the chocolate and popcorn type of salty sweet, but this was so much unexpected goodness that I seriously was sad to take the last bite and made myself put my napkin in the tin pan to prevent myself from lapping the juice up like a dog.

At the end of supper I met chef Jeff McInnes. I'd had the pleasure of watching him work all evening--standing on the sidelines calling out orders, making sure things moved along. He mopped his brow in the heat. I told you that separate dish towel would come in handy. I watched as he mingled with his patrons--inquiring about their meals, making sure they knew exactly how to eat Grandma Daisy's Angel Biscuits. He seemed to have grace under pressure (some people thrive on that pressure) and was kind on top of that. In my observation, he genuinely wanted his guests to enjoy their experience. 

"How was everything?" he asked me.

He's a creative artist, after all, and like other creative artists who infuse there work with a part of their soul--a painter in his brush strokes, a writer in his narrative, a dancer in his dance--there's a part of a his soul in his recipes. Don’t we all want our supporters to enjoy our art?

My response, "So good. Oh my God!"

I know that’s true of everything I write. I want each piece to find its audience: those people who identify with, or laugh at, or cry over the tale. But even when I prepare a dish of food that might be new to its consumer, I desire to please them. I hope they love it as much as I do. There’s a sense of pride in blending the spices and marrying the flavors. From discerning palettes to non, one wants to thrill the tastebuds and excite the senses.

"I'll take that 'Oh my God,'" he smiled.

As we continued to chat beyond my exaltations of the meal, I learned that Jeff is from Alabama. I told him I'm from Kentucky. He was very personable. I told him that I'd been in the City for 18 years and that it's always nice to find a restaurant that offers southern cooking with a twist.

The oh-my-God summed it all up. The food was amazing. The atmosphere may have been hot, the ambient noise more foreground that back, but none of that mattered. The experience at Root & Bone is one that I would gladly repeat. As for the heat, maybe the air conditioner was out. Or maybe it's all just part of the experience. Regardless, I would go back in a heartbeat. Only next time I would hope to greet Jeff as less of a stranger and more of an acquaintance after all I've met him now and as Will Rogers said, "A stranger is just a friend I haven't met yet."