The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Sunday, July 10, 2016
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Before I get to my culinary experience with shallots, let me acknowledge that the past week was an extremely important and tumultuous one for our nation. FBI Director James Comey recommended that charges NOT be filed against former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because of her exclusive business use of external e-mail servers while serving as Secretary, despite the fact (according to the FBI) that classified information had been received and sent through those servers in a manner that would have easily allowed it to be “hacked” by foreign interests. And then came the very questionable shootings and killings of African-American men by while and Hispanic police officers in Baton Rouge, LA and St. Anthony, MN — followed by the equally shocking assignation of 5 white police officers in Dallas by an African-American gunman intent upon revenge. Various other violence was intentionally done upon police officers throughout the nation in response to these shootings.

I wish that I had some wise words to offer about all of this. Well, as to Ms. Clinton, that’s not all that hard. Comey cited the notion of “prosecutorial discretion” in abstaining from any further action by the FBI and US Dept. of Justice against Ms. Clinton, and I believe this was a legitimate decision. I am somewhat familiar with the workings of a local prosecutor’s office, and the idea that you can’t go after everyone whom you possess potential evidence of guilt against is very real. Justice in America is not completely blind, and never was. The enforcers of our laws only have so much money and so many people available. In the FBI’s case, they would have tied up a big chunk of their resources and US DOJ’s resources for many months and probably years in trying to convict Ms. Clinton for her mis-handling of sensitive national information.

However, even though the legal standard of “gross negligence” was clearly violated by the former Secretary (Comey used the term “extremely careless” to describe Ms. Clinton’s e-mail behavior, which is logically the same as gross negligence), there was no evidence that she intentionally sought to transfer classified information to unauthorized parties. Further, there was no evidence (I’m assuming) that any harm to national interests actually came of her careless handling of the sensitive information that she was responsible for each day of her tenure as the head of the US State Department.

So, Ms. Clinton got lucky. No harm, no foul; had she been a lower-level officer who did the same thing, she surely would have been nailed. But this is Hillary Clinton, and the indictment and trial and appeals process would have tied up FBI and DOJ resources just when there are most needed for terrorist incidents and controversial local police actions involving minority citizens (and now retaliation efforts as in Dallas). Not to mention the confusing situation that would be caused relative to the upcoming Presidential election. So, Mr. Comey decided to toss the facts out to the public and let them decide at the ballot box. I am satisfied that Mr. Comey’s use of “prosecutorial discretion” was pragmatic and not politically motivated. That’s about the best you can expect in the real world of criminal justice.

As to Baton Rouge and St. Anthony and Dallas . . . my head is still spinning from those incidents; I’m not sure right now what to say (or if anything that I could say would have any positive effect). So for now, I’m going to punt, and focus on a positive little experience that I had this weekend in the culinary realm. Not long ago, I was on one of my occasional food-buying jaunts at the wholesalers in South Paterson NJ, and I came across a bin of fresh-looking shallots in Farmers Produce on East Railway Avenue (one of my necessary stops in South Paterson), for 99 cents a pound. Hmmmmm, I’ve seen shallots at the regular supermarkets in Montclair and Bloomfield going for a lot more than that (like $2.50 for 6 ounces, which would be about $6.50 per pound). Thus I never tried any cooking experiments with them. They are supposed to be a refined variant of the basic onion.

Well, for a buck a pound, I figured it was worth a try. That’s about the same as regular onions at Shop Rite. And just a few days before my South Paterson trip, I was hanging out at my brother’s house watching an episode of “Daryl’s House“, which is all about what former Hall and Oates music star Daryl Hall is doing these days. I.e., he has a big house out in the woods somewhere, and he invites other noted musicians old and young to drive out and spend at day with Hall and his back-up band at his home studio, playing a variety of songs (some from the visitor’s repertoire, some from the Hall and Oates line-up). Well, during the typical course of a “Daryl’s House” episode, the musicians will take a break and visit the kitchen (a fully equipped restaurant-style kitchen), to see what Daryl’s personal chef is whipping up for the lunch break. On the episode in question, the chef was using shallots with the main dish. It was quite serendipitous to find them on sale in Paterson just a few days later.

Tonight I finally dug that bag of shallots out from the back of my refrigerator, and cut up and sauteed two of them in olive oil. I then mixed them into the tomato sauce that I regularly use with pasta (it was rigatoni tonight). And I must say, that sauce was turned into something very, very good. The shallots imparted a mellow and mildly onion-y slant to my usual red sauce; there were strong enough to be noticeable, but they still got along well with the standard sauce elements of peppers, garlic, basil and tomato.

So I had a nice meal. I’m sorry that those police officers in Dallas and those young men in St. Anthony and Baton Rouge won’t be having any more nice meals. I wish that I could make it all better but I can’t. For tonight, about the best I can do to make the world better is to share a little cooking tip about shallots. As my Buddhist friends might say, eat and live, but do so mindfully. Mind the little pleasures, mind the big injustices. For tonight, that’s about as far as I can get.


◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:41 pm      

  1. Jim, This last week/month/summer so far has been a “tumultuous” one, and a very sad one. I find it somewhat disconcerting to mix into one comment the 3 topics you have in your post; so I am going to write a separate comment for each topic. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — July 11, 2016 @ 1:31 pm

  2. Jim, First a comment re the lives of Black people that have been treated so casually by so many different people. I emphasize here that, as usual, I will be writing my random tho’ts about this topic, no well-thought-out piece on this vast topic.

    One thing that struck me was that in the Dallas situation where the White cops were attacked by a Black man I noted that the White cops, while yes, truly, they did run TOWARD the danger, there was no doubt that they were themselves very frightened in the situation; it was evident from their body language as would be the case with any Black person with a police person with a gun. So, White or Black danger is danger.

    The Black Lives Movement deserves careful and focused attention as so often the good and the bad are mixed in situations, and it is difficult to make any pronouncement about a particular situation regarding its goodness or badness, both of which must be separated out.

    But I must admit that here in Chicago, I have been horrified by some pictures and videos that have seen (over and over as TV is wont to do) of how grossly bad Black people have been treated by White cops.

    The sorrow of individuals killed (by anyone, Black or White, White or Black) for what might be called no reason (or even an insufficient reason) ripples through individuals, families, communities, and the nation; it is enough to make one cry for a thousand years, to drown the world in tears.

    I find myself worrying whether or not the “upgrade” in the use of military weapons by both individuals wanting to harm others and the police is something that seems to me to be a dangerous trend and should be curtailed.

    So for all those who have been treated unjustly most people can only offer their empathy and whatever method they use for prayer to somehow help soothe (if possible) the sorrow of all these people who have lost their lives. This period of time is one that is particularly needful of my loved sister’s motto in her adult life. She always said: “If you want justice, pray for peace”, and I concur. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — July 11, 2016 @ 1:38 pm

  3. Jim, I am going to broaden my comment to include the ClintonS (plural). Maybe it’s the change in times; maybe it’s not. But when Bill Clinton went through his grilling about his sexual life in such detail that one might think he actually had RAPED the woman involved, I tended to think that were he any other person in the world, he would have gotten a pass on that and not an impeachment.

    I could not help but think of JFK and his romping thru the pool available to him with more than one woman at a time, with Secret Service agents on the lookout for Jackie Kennedy to come home. One woman or more than one women walking out one door, while another woman was opening another door. And we still think of the times of JFK as “Camelot”. I couldn’t help but think when I found that out that all was politics and always will be politics.

    Now comes Bill Clinton’s wife who has done this most terrible thing: Put our country at risk by using a personal server for government “talk”. Oh, so easily hacked. But strangely enough if I recall in the past the Pentagon and/or other various government departments have been hacked, and they were using only government servers. Not much was said; who can even recall it happened?

    Again, I wonder how much of this same indignation would occur were Hillary MR. H. Clinton rather than the competent and efficient and very political WOMAN she is. Politics is still politics. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — July 11, 2016 @ 1:41 pm

  4. Jim, I’m sure you know that garlic, onion, shallots, scallions, leeks, and chives are all in the same Alium family. (I think of the Alium flower I had that grew beautifully every two years on a long, somewhat thick stem; it was so beautiful.)

    Due to a bad experience I had when I was a young adult, I learned to love the flavor of onions in food but hate the eating of onions as food. (I recently learned that one may ask for French Onion Soup, “hold the onions” when one eats in a restaurant; that is something I am going to seek out whenever I eat in a restaurant in the future.)

    However, I’ve heard that in the family of onions down to chives, the flavor, or perhaps it includes the texture?, of the particular food becomes less “onion-y”; so I always keep chives on hand to sprinkle in recipes. Adding shallots might add a subtle flavor I might enjoy in various foods, particularly anything in the Italian/pasta family. Glad you enjoyed your repast. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — July 11, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

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