Easter eggs AWe were unable to reach the web the past few days, so we arrive here at Easter out of breath and unprepared. We do have those eggs we’ve colored over the years  (well, actually, the children did most of the work) and we’ve taken  them from the little egg boxes that we keep beside the cartons filled with Christmas decorations.  We haven’t anything new to say about Easter eggs, so we’re reposting our sentiments from last year.  The photos are fresh.  You’ll notice they’re the same decorated eggs, but rearranged — we couldn’t get the same arrangement even if we tried.Easter eggs BSociety finds it easier to give up religious belief, than to abandon the traditions and symbols of religion. Eggs have symbolized fertility, birth and rebirth, for a long, long time. And, as you probably know, you can find eggs used symbolically that way in a number of religious traditions.  Here and now we’re celebrating Easter and what we have here are Easter eggs.  Much of Christian lay society makes a greater celebration and display at Christmas, Christ’s birthday, but clearly in the sacred drama of Jesus’ life his rising from the dead on Easter morning is far, far more significant than his birth.

If you wish, the egg represents the stone that was rolled against the entrance to the tomb to seal it and was found rolled aside on the third day after his death. Or, if you wish, the egg being empty — and all those painted eggs are first punctured and drained — symbolizes the empty tomb of Christ on Easter day. But for many people, contemporary Easter eggs, as bright and colorful as flowers, simply call to mind springtime, fertility and that awakening we feel when we have come through another dark winter and are looking forward to more light and warmth.Easter eggs C

 

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National Poetry Month logoApril is National Financial Literacy Month and it’s also National Poetry Month. We think it’s a bad idea to put them in the same month.

On one side we have the Academy of American Poets which began National Poetry Month in 1996 to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States. On the other side,  we have US $10000 billthe US Senate which in 2003 passed Resolution 316, making April National Financial Literacy Month, and two years later the US House of Representatives passed a bill supporting the goals and ideals of Financial Literacy Month.

Because we have poetry and financial literacy occupying the same month, we’ve looked around for poems about money. There aren’t many. We’ve already posted “The Banks Are Made of Marble” by Pete Seeger and, anyway, we make a distinction between song lyrics and unadorned poems. After a critical search we think that “Money,” by Philip Larkin, is the best poem about money. Readers familiar with the rhythms and rhymes of conventional English verse may be unsettled by these unconventionally long lined couplets. We must add that Philip Larkin (1922 – 1985) was a distinguished British poet, a kind of unofficial Poet Laureate in England, and that the word screw in the poem is a Brit’s slang for salary or wages.

Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?
I am all you never had of goods and sex.
You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’

So I look at others, what they do with theirs:
They certainly don’t keep it upstairs.
By now they’ve a second house and car and wife:
Clearly money has something to do with life

—In fact, they’ve a lot in common, if you enquire:
You can’t put off being young until you retire,
And however you bank your screw, the money you save
Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.

I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down
From long french windows at a provincial town,
The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad
In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.

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Barbara Nitke - Exhibit of her Photographs at One Eyed Jack's

Barbara Nitke – Exhibit of her Photographs at One Eyed Jack’s

Did you know there was a Golden Age of Porn? OK, probably you never gave it a thought. A Golden Age is a time of prosperity, achievement and happiness, and for the porn industry that period extended from around the early 1970s to the mid 1980s. It certainly was a time of achievement and prosperity for porn movies — happiness for the actors, not so much.

One of the most beautiful visual records of that time is Barbara Nitke’s un-sentimental collection of evocative photographs gathered in her book, American Ecstasy. (Critical Pages posted about American Ecstasy some time ago.) Nitke worked as a set photographer in the porn industry just as the Golden Age was coming to an end. To be protected by the US Constitution, the porn movies had to claim a socially redeeming value — in other words, they had to pass as artistic expression, which meant they had to have characters and a plot, not just bodies doing it. That was the achievement and that’s what brought about porn prosperity and the Golden Age.

According to Green Cine’s Sex in the Movies Guide, “between 1972 and 1983, porn — not sexy Hollywood fare, not racy sexploitation, not European art films, but pure, unabashed porn — chalked up 16 percent of total box office returns in the US.” Eventually, AIDS, the video camera and the Web ended the showing of large scale porn movies in movie houses. The Golden Age was over.

But not forgotten. Photographs from Barbara Nitke’s American Ecstasy volume have been enlarged and beginning on April 4th they’ll be exhibited in Great Britain at One Eyed Jack’s gallery in Brighton. Social historians, admirers of E. J. Bellocq’s Storyville portraits and anyone interested in fine photography should take a look at these astonishing photographs.

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Chief Justice John Roberts

John Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

The full majesty of the United States Supreme Court was on display the other day when the conservative majority proclaimed that rich and poor alike can now give as much money and they please to as many political candidates as they choose, so long as they don’t give more than $5,200.00 to any one individual.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion of the court’s conservative majority. He found that the restrictions on campaign giving, which limited the number of candidates to whom you could give money, violated the Constitution. Roberts wrote that such restrictions “intrude without justification on a citizen’s ability to exercise the most fundamental First Amendment activities.”

In a wonderful example of non-sequitor thinking, Roberts wrote, “Money in politics may at times seem repugnant to some, but so too does much of what the First Amendment vigorously protects. If the First Amendment protects flag burning, funeral protests and Nazi parades — despite the profound offense such spectacles cause — it surely protects political campaign speech despite popular opposition.”

Somebody from Sesame Street should point out to the Chief Justice that merely because we find certain things repugnant, doesn’t mean they have any other relation to each other or to something else we find repugnant.

Anyone who so desires can burn a flag, protest at a funeral or parade with Nazis. But only the very rich can give away money in the thousands or millions to influence an election. In the last presidential election, Sheldon Adelson, the casino billionaire, along with his family, gave over $53 million to super PACs to help elect Republican candidates from Mitt Romney on down to a Representative from New Jersey. Thanks to the conservative Roberts court, the rich have considerably more freedom of speech than the poor.

About 20 percent of US households are on “food stamps.” Conservatives look at that number and say, “Good grief! Twenty percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program logothe US is getting a free lunch, and the rest of us are paying for it!” Liberals, seeing the same number, say “Good grief! Twenty percent of the US lives in such poverty that they can’t afford to eat without government assistance!”

Some facts may provide a clearer picture of the “food-stamp program.”

First of all, it’s no longer stamps – it’s a card, an Electrical Benefits Transfer (EBT) Card. It used to be called the Food Stamp program, but now it’s the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It’s the government assistance program to help low-income households pay for food.

Last year, 2013,76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits go th these vulnerable household.

SNAP eligibility is limited to households with gross income of no more than 130% of the federal poverty guideline, but the majority of households have income well below the maximum: 83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits. 61% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 75% of the poverty guideline ($14,648 for a family of 3 in 2013).

The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744; net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.

The statistics cited in this post come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. If you’d like more information on this subject, check out feedingamerica.org —  that’s what we did.

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Whether God is an old man with a white beard, as portrayed by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or whether, on the contrary, God is a badly organized committee just blundering along, are theological questions beyond the scope of this web site. Consequently, when it comes to Creation, we’ll stick to the scientific news we read in the New York Times and witness on BBC TV.

Now, the cosmological news this season comes from astronomers at the South Pole who believe they’ve found evidence that in the trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Moment of Creation, or Big Bang, the universe expanded at a truly terrific rate and took on the smooth shape it appears to have today. They also believe they’ve found evidence of gravity waves – and no one has ever done that before.

Inflation of the cosmos - Polarization Pattern in Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation

The image above shows the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation, and those twists and turns were presumably produced during the period of terrific expansion, or inflation, which occurred very shortly after the Big Bang went bang! We don’t think the image is a suitable substitute for Michelangelo’s painting of God creating the sun and moon and planets, but what it portrays is evidence that our universe did undergo rapid expansion.  Of course, the evidence will be queried and tested by other cosmologists before it gains complete acceptance.

Calling the Moment of Creation the Big Bang really shrinks it down rather a lot, and reduces it to an almost trivial phenomenon. Even so, it’s a difficult moment to envision. Most people – and this includes physicists, too, especially when they draw on the blackboard or make cinematic dramatizations of the event – imagine a vast volume of empty blackness and then a tiny white speck that explodes and is the BIG BANG. The problem with that vision is that prior to the event there’s nothing there, and by nothing we mean nothing at all – no big empty volume of blackness. Remember, prior to the Big Bang there’s no space. No, not even empty space.

Below is one of Michelangelo’s images from the Sistine Chapel showing God creating the sun and moon and other astronomical bodies. He looks rather angry, but maybe that’s because creating the cosmos is hard work, even for God — or maybe that’s just Michelangelo’s personal irritation coming out as he’s trying to paint while lying on his back on scaffolding way up close to the ceiling, with drops of paint spattering him.God creating sun & moon & planets

Or maybe it’s simply Waffle Day in Sweden.

Here’s the story, take it as you will. In the liturgical calendar March 25 – exactly nine calendar months prior the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus – is the Feast of the Annunciation. The Annunciation, you recall, is the occasion when the angel Gabriel surprised Mary, telling her that she had been chosen to become the mother of the son of God, to be named Jesus. And Mary assented to God’s plan. That day, in Swedish, is called Vårfrudagen (Our Lady’s Day – the Lady being Mary, mother of God.) But Vårfrudagen sounds enough like Våffeldagen (waffle day) to easily conflate the two, hence the overlap of Waffle Day and Our Lady’s Day in Sweden.

(You can look up the story of the Annunciation in the Gospel of Luke, and you can find the confusion over Våffeldagen and Vårfrudagen in Wikipedia under Waffle Day.)

In the United States, Waffle Day is celebrated on August 24, memorializing that day in August of 1869 when Cornelius Swartwout was awarded the first waffle-iron patent granted by the U.S. Patent Office. If we’re not otherwise occupied, we’ll write a post about waffles when August 24 rolls around.

We’re not going to post an image of a waffle. Annunciation by Botticelli

But we do like this image of the Annunciation as envisioned by Sandro Botticelli.  We like the ballet-like relationship between the angel and Mary, and the delicate space between their hands. We like the way the angel’s gossamer cloak, still billowing, is just settling down under the effect of earthly gravity. In this scene which links heaven and earth, we like the solidity of the red tile floor and the sense of spatial volume induced by those lines of perspective, and we like that distant scene in the deep background.

Earth & Ecliptic by Andreas Cellarius

The astronomical diagram above was designed by Andreas Cellarius, the Dutch-German cartographer best known for his elaborately decorated maps of the heavens, the Harmonia Macrocosmica, which display the divine harmony of the macrocosm.  The engraving reproduced above shows the earth tilted in regard to the plane of the ecliptic — and that’s important, because if the earth were not tilted we wouldn’t have seasons.

The earth travels around the sun in a nice flat path, but the earth is tilted in regard to the plane of that path, so that at different times of the year the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun (summer), and at other times it’s tilted away (winter.) And twice a year the angle is such that the northern and southern parts get an equal amount of sunshine — the equinox, when night and day are essentially equal in length.  We’ve now gone through the vernal (spring) equinox.

John Milton, the heavy-weight Puritan poet of the 17th century,  says that when God created the Garden of Eden, the earth’s axis was not tilted, and the weather remained wonderfully temperate. But after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, everything got slanted awry and we wound up with our freezing winters and hot, hot summers. Milton’s Paradise Lost is too long to quote here, so instead we’ve chosen a very, very short lyric.

“Sumer Is Icumen In” is a poem in Middle English, actually the lyrics to a round, or rota, from about the middle of the 13th century. The little verses celebrate the arrival of spring.  The first stanza, below here,  mentions the loud song of the cukoo bird, the growing seeds, the blossoming meadows, the new growth of trees in the woods.

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing, cuccu;
Groweth sed
and bloweth med,
And springth the wode nu;
Sing, cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calue cu;
Bulluc sterteth,
Bucke uerteth,

When we originally posted this we also posted Ezra Pound’s parody, “Winter is icumen in,” but we found it too depressing.It must have been posted by our evil twin brother. We’ll stick with spring.

Maybe you’ve read  “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” the poem by William Butler Yeats that begins:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

William Butler Yeats may not be the grand exciting figure he was some decades ago, but his major poems  still retains their beauty and mystery. “Innisfree” is one of his earlier,  simpler verses. Marilyn Robertson is acquainted with”The Lake Isle of Innisfree” and has named her own poem “Innisfree.” Here it is:

When I can’t sleep, I often recite a poem I’ve memorized,
taking deep breaths between the lines, but not so much
that I ruin the meter. Last night it was Yeats.

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
But I soon realized it was a poor choice, because
the last ting I wanted to do was rise.

Then I began to wonder where Innisfree was, exactly,
and could you get there in a rowboat
with all the things you’d need for a long stay.

Gardening implements. String for the beans to climb.
The beehive, of course. A couple of warm sweaters—
who knows what the weather will be like?

I’m thinking it would be summer and, with any luck,
someone else will have built the cabin—
maybe Yeats himself—and left behind a basket

of wattles to use for kindling, plus a few poems
to read on the porch after supper as I watch
the linnets busily fluttering away the Irish light.

—Marilyn Robertson

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Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach

Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach

If you read this on March 8, you’ll be reading it on the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Or we could say it’s  the 300th birthday of CPE Bach — yes, CPE  is what musicologists call him for short. CPE, born in Wiemar, was the second oldest son of JS, and one of the four surviving children of seven.

The Bach family was loaded with musicians. Johann Sebastian’s father, his uncles, his elder brother, his children — it would be a geneticist’s dream to study the DNA of that family. Most important, there was no jealous squelching or abuse of talent among the Bachs. Quite the contrary, they appear to have educated and helped each other in many way. Carl Philipp is the transitional figure between J.S. Bach and Mozart, and CPE broke new ground, composing a more emotional and more fluid music than his father. Here, also, it’s significant that the father didn’t stand in the way of the son — quite the contrary, he gave moral support to his son in that venture.

Most listeners probably cannot tell the difference between music written by JS Bach and CPE Bach. That includes us at Critical Pages. However, we’re reasonably familiar with certain pieces by JS and certain other piece by CPE. We know those when we hear them.
Here’s a brief stunning piece by Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach. You’ll hear what we mean.

Republicans are beating up on President Obama, telling him to do something to stop Putin from interfering in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Senator Bob Corker, Ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is good example of Republican thinking on the subject of Russia and Ukraine. “The Russian government has felt free to intervene militarily in Ukraine because the United States,” Corker said, “along with Europe, has failed to make clear there would be serious, potentially irreparable consequences to such action.”

Exactly what “serious, potentially irreparable consequences” does Senator Corker have in mind?  “The United States and our European allies should immediately bring to bear all elements of our collective economic strength to stop Russian advances in Ukraine,” he said.  Oh, our economic strength — maybe that means boycotts or trade sanctions or limiting the G8  to G7, something like that. Or, better yet,  maybe we can withdraw our ambassador from Moscow before they withdraw theirs from Washington, that’s been suggested, too.

The unpleasant fact is that in this game of geopolitical poker, Putin is holding the strong cards.

The US is currently trying to disentangle itself from its longest war; our voters are broke, the Republicans want to shrink government and cut taxes, the Democrats want to raise the minimum wage and the middle class, and everybody is tired of wonderful foreign adventures to bring democracy wherever. Furthermore, the US wants cooperation from Putin in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear facilities, and in Syria and in regard to North Korea.

Ukraine had been part of Russia for about 300 years. Russia gave Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 when Russia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union – or Evil Empire, as President Regan correctly called it. And Crimea is sufficiently distinct from the rest of Ukraine that it’s a semi-autonomous republic with its own parliament. Ukraine has been an independent nation since 1991 when the Soviet Union fell apart – that’s 23 years, during which time it’s  had a largely corrupt pro-Russian government, the underlying reason  it lost the support of its people.

What’s going on in Ukraine is terribly important for the Ukrainians. As for Russia and the West,  in terms of strategic geopolitics, it’s far more important to Putin and the future of Russia than it is to the United States or the nations of Western Europe.  We can jawbone the Russians and we can put together NATO meetings, committees and envoys and negotiators. But the principal actor in this dangerous game isn’t a politician in the United States or Europe, he’s an autocrat in the Kremlin.

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Valentines and hearts are romantically linked. For long-ago Valentine heartcenturies the human heart was thought to be the place where emotion resided. After all, our heart will beat faster and harder when we feel a great emotions (think terror or erotic excitement) even though we may be bodily at rest. What more proof do you need that emotion dwells in the heart?

So when we send a valentine, a message declaring love, the little note often carries the image of a heart, a human heart. Well, not exactly an image, but a symbol, a red thing that stands for a heart. That design, nowadays called a  heart-shape, was around for a long time and was thought of as a leaf or a dart. It was taken over and used to represent a heart only later.

And in the photo below, there it is on the cheek of the young woman kissing the young man. Indeed, the young woman is wearing sunglasses, and the beach-like sprawl in the background suggest that this is not February 14th, that it’s not Valentine’s Day and that the heart is the sign of human affection any day of the year.Valentine's kiss

The first image we have of a man giving a woman his heart occurs in a Medieval manuscript and the heart is shaped like a pine cone, because classical authority, namely the  philosopher-doctor Galen, said it was shaped like a pine cone. Gallen was a brilliant man and his influence lasted from the 3rd century through the 16th, but he did his disections on monkeys, not humans. Furthermore, there are many shapes to pine cones, and we don’t know what Galen had in mind when he said the heart was shaped that way. But we’re getting lost in a digression here.

Let’s take a look at that Medieval depiction of a lover giving his “heart” to his beloved. The scene comes from  Li romanz de la poire — let’s call it The Romance of the Pear and please don’t  get fussy over the etymology and meaning of romanz in medieval French. Here’s the scene.
Medieval man giving his heart to his lady
You’re right, she doesn’t look happily impressed. In fact, she looks likes she’s going to swat the poor man. Yet she does have a certain passion. In fact, the story is called The Romance of the Pear because the Lady peels a pear with her teeth and shares it with her lover. There’s a certain intimacy in that. No? Well, the story was pretty hot in the 13th century.

All of this is quite far from our freezing Valentine’s Day of  2014. Today we have ice and snow from Georgia to Maine. So we’ll insert our favorite image from our previous Valentine’s Day posts.A couple of lovers in a snowstorm

As we said before on an earlier Valentine’s Day, we admire the young gentleman helping the young lady across the street in a snowstorm, and we admire the young lady who wears a short dress and those high-heel shoes in a blizzard.  If you’d like to see the posts on a couple of  earlier Valentine’s Days, just type Valentine’s Day into our little search box on the upper right, over the right-hand column.

 

 

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Eighty-five very, very rich people own the same amount of wealth as the bottom  half of the entire population of the world.

In the United States, the 400 richest have more wealth than the 150 million citizens who comprise the poorest half of the population.

Maybe you’re wondering if these crazy statistics were produced by a wild-eyed radical group intending to overthrow the capitalistic system No, these facts come from a briefing paper, “Working for the Few,” prepared by Oxfam International.

Just to be on the safe side, let’s take a closer look at that organization. Oxfam was founded in 1942 in Oxford, England, as the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. It was organized by a group of Quakers, Oxford academics, and social activists. Over the years it has spread and now has many affiliates around the globe. Oxfam America is a member of Oxfam International, an international confederation of 17 organizations networked together in 94 countries, as part of – to quote them – “a global movement for change, to build a future free from the injustice of poverty.” Oxfam America is a 501(c)(3) organization, and gifts are tax-deductible to the full extent allowable under the law. Definitely not radical. You can make a donation without worry.

Here are some of the other interesting statistics from the Oxfam briefing paper:

• Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
• The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.
• Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
• The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
• In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

I’m sure there’s a way of looking at this data and believing that we can’t do anything about it. Capitalism is the dominant economic system around the globe — in some places it’s more regulated than others, but it’s still capitalism. And some people believe that capitalism is a “natural” system of economics, that it simply comes into being all by itself, naturally.  But none of that is true. Capitalism is an economic structure created by people, not by nature nor by God and angels. Like legislative or judicial systems, it’s devised and brought into being by people. For a long time, monarchy was considered the natural system of governance, part of the divine order of things created by God. It wasn’t and neither is capitalism. We can change it. We can make it better, fairer, more broadly productive.

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Pot of minestroneJanuary is coming to an end and we’ve neglected to point out that January is officially National Soup Month.  I don’t know who the national officials are who decide  these things, but Critical Pages was informed it was National Soup Month so, to be absolutely sure, and knowing that the Web never lies, I looked it up on the Web and, yes, January is National Soup Month.

The soup in that pot is minestrone. Maybe you already knew that. The Italian word for soup is minestra, and when you make it into a diminutive and say minestrina, that means you’re talking about a thin, clear soup, and when you use the heavy word minestrone, that means it’s a thick soup. Maybe you didn’t know that.

The soup pictured in this post was excellent. Here’s what went into it:

  • Tomatoes, 1 small can of diced tomatoes (14.5 oz). Whether or not to use the juice from the can is a judgment call. We used the juice.
  • Garlic, 2 cloves, diced.
  • Olive oil, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons. You can sauté the garlic in this.
  • Onion, 1 sweet white Spanish onion, or any other onion, chopped. Half an onion if it’s a big one.
  • Celery, 1 cup chopped.
  • Carrots 1 cup, sliced carrots. That’s 2 or 3 good thick ones.
  • Yellow summer squash, or zucchini, 2 of them at most, sliced or halved or quartered and sliced.
  • Spinach, regular or baby. I tore the spinach up into biggish pieces and I guess 1 or 2 cups full, but I don’t how to measure a cup of spinach.
  • String beans. Get a couple of handfuls and cut them up into bite-size pieces. I used a heaping  1/3 cup full and it was fine.
  • Bell pepper, sliced to bite size. I added half a red bell pepper. Actually, this was a mistake. It was OK, but I won’t do it again.
  • 3/4 cup of ditalini pasta. That was way too much. It’s best to cook up the pasta separately, otherwise it gets mushy.
  • Vegetable broth or water. One time I used 1/2 can of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water, and another time I used no broth and 5 cups of water. When I’ve included the juice from the small can of tomatoes, I’ve added 3 cups of water. If the vegetable broth has herbs in it, then you should be careful when adding herbs.
  • Wine. 1/3 cup of white wine. Some people add wine to every soup they make. I’m one of those.
  • Oregano and parsley, 1/2 teaspoon. of oregano and parsley. Or maybe neither; salt seems to be all you need. Season to taste with salt as you go along, or in the soup bowl.
  • Some people add ceci beans (also called chick peas or garbanzo beans). Those beans have all sorts of health benefits and I wish I liked them more, but I don’t.  If you like them, open a small can (14 oz), drain the beans and use however much you want.

Get a fresh loaf of Italian or French bread to go with this.

Heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic in the pot you’re going to make the soup in.  If you want to add the chopped onions, go ahead, but don’t add more olive oil. Add the broth and/or water and tomatoes, and stir it all. Then toss in the celery and carrots and stir some more. Next, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. After it’s simmering add the softer stuff – the squash or zucchini, beans and spinach. The last thing to add is the wine and not quite a half teaspoon of parsley – and maybe a pinch of oregano. It’s best to add salt to taste, but that’s hard to do if the minestrone is too hot, so let some cool in a dipper and try it there. If you simmer it too long, things get mushy. A bit crisp tastes better.

By the way, a mix of carrots, celery and onions, roughly chopped and thrown together, is the starting point for a lot of soups, stews, stocks and sauces.  These three aromatics, as they are called, are found together in so many recipes that the French have a word for the group — mirepoix. We’re showing off our Italian and French today.

Critical Pages isn’t a recipe site.  This post is about what we got when we used these ingredients in this way. Past performance is no guarantee of future results, not even when we do it in our own kitchen. That’s true for a lot of things in life.

 

 

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