Friday, April 26, 2013

Obama: Cruel And Unusual Punishment

They are not that different. Photo via Gawker.
Barack Obama is great at giving rousing speeches of consolation after every fresh mowing down of Americans, whether it's toddlers in Newtown or runners and their supporters in Boston, but his presidency is marred by having increased some of the cruelest policies in the history of this country. Those who love him, want to pretend this is not happening. They give the guy a pass they would not dream of giving George W. Bush. After 9/11 and with the pretext of fighting terrorism, this country threw the Constitution in the garbage and set it on fire, discarded the Geneva Convention, and imposed a series of unprecedented measures that strongly curtail the safeguarding of individual rights and the administration of true justice. What is going on in terms of lawlessness is directly proportional to our revolting public discourse about freedom and democracy. Revolting.
1. Guantánamo. Wasn't he supposed to close it? There is a terrible hunger strike going on, in which some prisoners are being force fed with tubes up their noses. Some of these prisoners have been festering in there for more than a decade. This defies the Geneva convention, the American Constitution, and every human rights law in existence. This is an outrage. For instance:
In September 2012, a Yemeni man named Adnan Latif died at Guantanamo in what officials say was a suicide. Latif had been cleared by the Bush and Obama administration, and a federal judge had ordered his release. That order was overturned on the Obama Department of Justice's appeal, however, and Latif died after a decade of imprisonment despite never having been accused of a crime. He was the ninth person to die at Guantanamo.
2. Drone attacks in Pakistan. I'm no fan of islamist barbarians, but these attacks seem to hurt far more civilians than they should. They also increase the fanatical hatred that these people harbor for the US.

3. Mass deportations of undocumented immigrants through a cruel, inhumane, utterly repulsive system manned by the Department of Homeland Security and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), which is based on keeping detainees in private prisons that happen to make money by the inmate. This is appalling.
There have been more deportations in Obama's presidency than at any other period in American history. This has been documented extensively, but if you want your liver to collapse, read William Finnegan's piece in The New Yorker about an American man, Mark Lyttle, a unfortunately brown skinned redneck, who was deported to Mexico twice, despite the fact that he is mentally ill, and as American as apple pie and egregious human rights abuses. Out of 400,000 deportees, about 1% are American citizens who are wrongly deported because of a despicable system that is willfully blind to justice and reason.
Since it looks to the rest of the world that we only shed tears, do vigils, light candles, bring flowers and write poems when Americans suffer, think of your fellow citizens. That could be you on the wrong side of the incompetent, sadistic bureaucrats of the DHS and ICE. Hell, with enough bad luck, someone might confuse you with a member of Al-Qaeda and send you to Guantánamo, where you have no rights whatsoever.
These things not only go on unabated in the era of Hope and Change, but they are pursued with unusual zeal, because Obama's greatest fear is to be accused of being soft on terrorism, of being a tender hearted liberal who doesn't have the balls to stand up to the "enemies" of this country.
So next time he brings a tear to your eye with his oratory, remember, there but for the grace of God you go. We are letting this country become a fascist state. It has become worse during this Democratic presidency. Don't whine later when your rights are trampled.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Mexican Food Porn Part Deux

I kept eating everything and everywhere. My good friend, Mr. Michael Parker, and his splendid cook Sra. Araceli, made a fabulous dinner with shrimp stuffed avocados and light, fluffy fried fish and Mexican ratatouille. It was a candlelit dinner, so the pictures of the beautiful table are rather dim.

Here's the table at my family's Seder.

And the traditional Passover plate.

Here's the table at my Middle Enchilado Brother in Law Passover lunch extravaganza.

My last important meal was at very good restaurant La Capital. We started with a refreshing mezcal shpritzer, dusted with sal de gusano, worm salt, which makes everything taste better.

The guacamole and chips here is comprised of thin yuca, plantain and potato chips.
The guac has pomegranate seeds in it. It all works.

I ordered caldo tlalpeño, which is a classic Mexican chicken broth with veggies. This one was elegant and a tad spicy. Mexico is soup heaven, because unlike the US, where apparently no soup is complete without industrial quantities of unnecessary cornstarch, here soups are thin but explode with flavor.  In NY I despair of finding decent soups (the only options are pho, ramens and asian soups - the rest is pathetic).

The Middle Enchilada ordered the now famous tuna sashimi tostadas, originally from restaurant Contramar, but easily copied elsewhere. They are amazing.

I ordered a pescado con chile y limón, fish with lime and chili, that was surprising because it was far more sophisticated than its name implies, and not spicy at all. Behind it you can see a glass of esquites, corn kernels mixed with lime and herbs, and the water in which they were boiled, with mayo on the side, just like on the street, but fancier.

At La Capital they make sopa seca de fideo, which is Mexican vermicelli soup, but dried out, and which I love. You can find this at any cheap fonda as well as in the fanciest restaurants, where they make it more presentable, if equally delicious.

For dessert we had meringue with raspberry coulis and vanilla sauce.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Mexican Food Porn

I was in Mexico City for Passover and I ate like a monster truck. Moreover, I ate fantastically, splendidly well. At restaurants and at the houses of generous hosts who cook and eat well. Mexico City was almost empty and looks very spiffy. For the first time in years the idea crossed my mind: I could live here (if it means eating well every single day). Without the traffic and without the Mexican drama, I could consider it.
Some of the following pictures may be NSFW, if you happen to work at Weight Watchers, that is.

My beloved family surprised me upon my arrival with lunch at El Cardenal, which utterly rocks traditional Mexican food. I ate like half a dozen homemade tortillas with fresh tomatillo salsa and queso fresco. The green liquid you see in the back is fresh limeade with chia seeds.

Then, I could not resist my all time favorite, sopa de fideos. This is a soup everybody makes at home, yet I insist in ordering it at restaurants. New York may have everything, but it doesn't have this.

I stole the garnish from my sister's tortilla soup: chicharrón, queso fresco and dried ancho chiles. My Middle Enchilado brother in law ordered a masterpiece of a soup, called Sopa de Rancho, farm soup. It was unbelievable.

Then I had one duck carnitas taco left by my nephew, which was awesome, followed by a chile relleno with cheese. By this point I felt like the fat guy at the end of Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

For dessert we had crepas de cajeta (dulce de leche crepes) and guanábana sorbet.

That pink thing is a mini pepitoria, which is like a host wafer with piloncillo inside. I love that stuff.

Dinner next day was the Passover seder at my aunt and uncle's where there is gefilte fish with veracruzana sauce and a matzoh mole chicken gratin, which rocks. I was too busy eating to take pictures of the food, but you can see it here.

I was lucky enough to be invited for Passover lunch by Middle Enchilada's mother in law. She is from Veracruz, of Syrian Sephardic descent and she is an unbelievable cook. She makes perfect Middle Eastern food and perfect Mexican food from utter scratch, and thus I want to stay in her house and eat three meals a day forever. I also urged her to write a cook book.
By the way, Sephardic Jews have it easier on Passover, because they are allowed corn and rice. Hence, this paella.

Hence also, this amazing barbacoa de res, with its kosher for Passover corn tortillas.

She also made chicken in a red mushroom sauce.

 And her famous stuffed zucchini with apricots and prunes.

 She makes the traditional Middle Eastern Kebbe but without wheat, for Passover. It's addictive.

Subtle, refreshing jalapeños stuffed with tuna, too.

This woman makes her own chipotle chiles from scratch. And they are divine (they have bits of jicama in them).

There was also guacamole and salad. Which were also good. 
Needless to say, there were other homemade salsas, each better than the next, and more than one dessert. She makes her charoset with prunes and it should be a controlled substance, like her homemade plum jam, which I have no pictures of because I could not stop eating it. I have pined for it every day since. 

I ate everything. It is a miracle I did not collapse. That very night I saw my friend Jack for dinner and all I could eat was a splendid grilled artichoke with some mysterious seasoning at a fancy schmancy place. Oh, and two tequilas, and an anís campechano (dry and sweet anise on the rocks) to aid digestion. The anise works wonders. 

Coming up, Mexican Food Porn, part II.  (What? are you stuffed already?)