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Are you a prepper now?



I am 60 miles to the east of the epicenter of this earthquake.

What next? We are in the midst of a pandemic that is getting worse in many areas, including the state I live in. A severe tropical storm just moved up the Atlantic coast. That was only the first blow from what is likely to be a long, and severe, Atlantic hurricane season. The country is on edge, because of the American political situation, which, when it doesn’t create turmoil, creates paralysis and rewards incompetence. And this morning, to remind many of us on the East Coast that nature bats last, North Carolina, where earthquakes are pretty rare, had a 5.1 earthquake that was felt from Atlanta to Washington. It was the strongest earthquake in North Carolina since a 5.2 earthquake in 1916 — not very dangerous, but disturbing. Many times, having living in San Franciso for 18 years, I have felt buildings shake in moderate earthquakes. This was the first time I’ve felt this little house in the Appalachian foothills shake.

I was pretty well prepared for the lockdown and the Covid-19 pandemic. But being prepared is an ongoing project. Being prepared costs money, so most people have to go about it incrementally. There are many guides on “prepping” to be found, so there is no need for me to reinvent that wheel here. But let’s think about what we have learned from the Covid-19 lockdown.

For one, there will be shortages as supply lines are disrupted and people begin to hoard things. Whatever was hard to find in your location should now be on your radar screen for future preparedness. Once the hoarding and panic buying begins, it’s too late. It’s necessary to think about these things in advance.

One of the things I’ve learned during the Covid-19 lockdown is how beneficial it can be to coordinate with your neighbors. Many things can be shared, which reduces the expense of being prepared and increases your security. We should all try to establish preparedness pods with our most trusted neighbors. It takes a village. If you have neighbors with lots of tools and know-how, as I do, then you are very lucky. And I can do things that they can’t do, such as handling communications, by Morse code if need be. I have things, and know-how, that they don’t have.

Everyone should be prepared to get by without outside help or outside supplies for at least three weeks or so. We should increase that time at an affordable rate. And we should look at ways of extending our independence for everything that is essential — food, water, and energy, to start.

For years, I’ve considered the greatest risks in the where area I live to be, first, pandemics; and second, widespread or grid-down power failures. Sooner or later, no matter where you live, you’re probably going to lose electricity. Candles, batteries, and flashlights will get you through short outages, such as the outages caused by thunderstorms. For longer outages, you’re going to need a generator, and some solar, if possible. (To be able to get by without electricity other than solar would be ideal, but that would involve some advanced prepping.)

When I built the abbey, I had a house-size, code-compliant transfer switch installed, waiting for the day I acquired a generator. Since then, though, I have soured on the idea of whole-house generators. This is because those generators — except for those that are extremely expensive — don’t put out clean power. Rather than a sine wave, the output will be a “modified” sine wave or even a square wave. There is no way I would expose my refrigerator, heat pump, well pump, etc., not to mention my electronics, to such dirty power. The risk of damage, as I see it, would be too high.

An affordable compromise is an “inverter” generator. These are smaller, but they’re adequate for refrigerators and most appliances. They’re safe for computers and electronics. They contain a small, gasoline-powered engine, an alternator with rectifiers (much like the 12-volt system in your car), an inverter to convert the direct current to 60Hz alternating current, and a capacitor circuit to smooth the wave form into a decent (if not perfect) sine wave. I bought the Westinghouse WH2200iXLT because its specifications are explicit about a promised THD value (total harmonic distortion) of less than 3 percent. As with many prepper items, once you need these things, it’s usually too late to buy them, because they sell out.

If you’re not yet a prepper, now is a good time to think about your situation, and then to get started. A three-week time line is a requirement. Six months is a good goal. I’m a liberal prepper. It’s not about guns. It’s about providing for yourself, and working with your community to be as locally self-sufficient as possible.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich



The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer. Simon & Schuster, 1959. 1,252 pages.


If I had read this book five years ago, I would have read it pretty much purely as history. Barack Obama was still president of the United States. Having elected its first black president and experienced eight years of economic recovery with competent, scandal-free government, America seemed to have outgrown its worst vices. Now we know that America has not outgrown its worst vices.

In writing this post, three times I’ve written something angry, and three times I’ve deleted it. Instead of venting my anger over the ugly turn in American history that we are now living through, I think I’ll just say this: There is no better time to read this book than now. Adolf Hitler, of course, was character number 1 in this history. Just behind him were Hermann Goering (who cheated the hangman with suicide by cyanide) and the others who had great power who were hanged at Nuremberg. There were hundreds more with lesser roles whose names are on the historical record. And there were the millions of nameless Germans who should have known better but didn’t. If you read this book now, you will recognize these people, because today people just like them are still with us. That these people today have not acquired the power to do the damage the Nazis did, or that they’d be satisfied with domination and oligarchy and anti-democracy tyranny rather than genocide, says little about their character. They are the same people.

We are fortunate that so many records survived to document this history: the secret government records captured in Berlin, the diaries, the letters, and the Nuremberg interrogations, depositions, and testimony. Those are the sources that Shirer used to write this history.

Shirer writes, in his afterword to the 1990 edition:

“Perhaps it will help too if the erring governments and the wondering people of this world will remember the dark night of Nazi terror and genocide that almost engulfed our world and that is the subject of this book. Remembrance of the past helps us to understand the present.”

If only the worst people among us could recognize what they are and how eager they are to be misled. But, because of what they are, I doubt that they ever will.

Germany, redeemed


Germany today: Hamburg, Nov. 12, 2017

I have only about 150 pages to go in William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I just finished reading the horrifying chapter on the atrocities of the Nazis. Shirer also describes what the Nazis had in mind, had they won the war. They would have established a vast slave empire and police state reaching all the way from France and Great Britain to Russia. Having already exterminated millions during the war, millions more would have been exterminated. Everyone who survived, including the French and the British, would have been enslaved to the Germans, given enough only to subsist, with no rights to speak of.

But consider Germany today. While the American democracy is hanging by a thread under the depraved Donald Trump and the now-dangerous Republican Party, Germany is a model of how the world could be. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, is now often referred to as the leader of the free world. Trump and the Republican Party literally are trying to turn the United States into Russia — authoritarian, lawless except for police in the streets, looted by, owned by, and run by, the extremely rich.

We Americans need to study Germany. First, we need to study what Germany was at its worst. There probably is no better single source than The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Then we need to study what Germany is today. There we will find a roadmap for what we Americans must do once the Republican Party is put out of power.

As I see it, Germany’s case affirms what I as a liberal American see as the object of our political struggle. That is that the answer to America’s biggest problems — whether inequality, poverty, poor health, racism, appalling ignorance, and even gun violence — is the same single answer. That is the enactment of the entire liberal project, in which the destination is democratic socialism, equality under the law, the redistribution of wealth downward instead of upward, a highly regulated economy that emphasizes shared prosperity rather than elite profit, a real commitment to real (and free or affordable) education from childhood to university, and fixes in our laws and Constitution that have allowed corrupt, oligarchic, anti-democracy forces to gain control. That we as Americans can’t afford these things is one of the many lies that prevent our having them. America is outrageously rich, and that wealth is produced by all Americans, not by our untaxed lords-of-the-universe CEOs. All must share in that wealth. Germany and the other socialist democracies prove the case. When polls ask Americans what they want, once you strip away all the loaded words such as “socialist,” what Americans want is to be like Denmark. Or Germany.

Had Hitler won the war and established his vast slave empire and police state, it could not have lasted. The people of Europe, including the Germans, would not have put up with it for long.

Having almost finished this history of Germany (from about 1930 to 1946), I find that I very much want to know what happened next in Germany. I know that it was bleak in Germany for many years after Hitler, not least because I lived through the Cold War. Russia went one way, of course, and the NATO allies went another. I used to listen to Soviet propaganda from Radio Moscow on shortwave radio. I also listened to Radio Deutsche Welle. (Both Radio Moscow and Deutsche Welle broadcast in English, with stations aimed at the United States.) And there was the BBC World Service, as there is now. I knew as a young American who would have been sent to Vietnam, had my date of birth not drawn a high number in the lottery, that what had happened, and was happening, in Europe mattered. But it was all so complicated, and I knew far too little history. But I was learning.

I have never been to Germany. After this book, I now find that I would like to see the rebuilt Berlin. As a old pagan, I wouldn’t give two pfennigs for all the churches in the world (except for the Gothic cathedrals). Rather, it’s to the concert halls that one goes to be immersed in what is best in European culture, and Germany has a fine new one, at Hamburg. I’m guessing that Germans today might have a lot of interesting advice for us Americans, if we Americans care to go there and get it. I am guessing that Germans are quite rightly proud of what they have accomplished, not only since Hitler, but also since they pulled down the wall.

In any case, I find that I feel that I don’t greatly blame the Germans for Hitler. They should have known better, certainly, and some resisted, though they were cowed. But there are just two many examples from all over the world of what happens when a certain kind of people gain power, as Trump and his base have done in the United States. It would seem to be a way of being to which all human societies everywhere are susceptible. It is authoritarianism, the will to dominate, the need to scapegoat, a strange tolerance for — even an attraction to — cruelty and violence, an uncaring attitude toward unfairness and injustice, a worshipful devotion to the purity of ideologies (or theologies), a susceptibility to being deceived and for deceiving oneself. The degree of fanaticism varies, as does the level of power these people acquire. But they are the same people, and today they are 25 to 30 percent of the American population. There are still such people in Europe, to be sure. But they are outnumbered. They usually are outnumbered. But the defects of their character leads them to play dirty. Part of the purpose of laws and constitutions is to keep such people out of power as the minority they are. If the time ever comes when the majority of people truly want to subsist in a slave empire and police state, then by all means let’s have it. But that won’t happen, because a democracy with the support of the majority doesn’t have to be a police state, just as a failed democracy without the support of the majority has to be a police state, if there is to be the law and order that authoritarians love so much: lawlessness and loot for them in their palaces, à la Putin and Trump, and law and order for the rest of us, with jackboots in the streets.

How strange — and encouraging — it is that, having almost finished with this book about Germany, the Germany of today is something very different. I’d pack my bags for a visit today, but Americans aren’t allowed in, owing to authoritarian, ideological, know-nothing misgovernance. And anyway my cat wouldn’t let me go. But I will get there.


Update: As a minority, these crazies will always be with us. Just this morning, the New York Times posted this story on far-right activities in Germany. Note the references not only to Trump, but also to Russia.


The long history of hiding in the forest



Deer in the Forest. Painting by Eugen Krüger, Germany, 1832-1876. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Click here for high-resolution version.

I’m about three quarters done with William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

On April 9, 1940, Hitler’s armed forces started their attack on Denmark and Norway. Tiny Denmark fell quickly. Norway had the means to fight, and forests in which to hide. With Oslo under attack, the King of Norway and the members of Parliament left Oslo on a special train for Hamar, 80 miles to the north. Twenty trucks headed north with the gold of the Bank of Norway, and three more trucks with the secret papers of the Foreign Office. “Thus,” writes Shirer, “the gallant action of the garrison at Oskarsborg had foiled Hitler’s plans to get his hands on the Norwegian King, government and gold.”

The Norwegian Parliament actually met at Hamar, with only five of its two hundred members missing, writes Shirer. But when they heard that German troops were approaching, they moved again, this time to Elverum, a few miles from the Swedish border. The Germans sent a negotiator to talk with King Haakon VII. The king received the negotiator, but the negotiator was told, “Resistance will continue as long as possible.” Hitler was angry. On April 11, the German air force was sent “to give the village of Nybergsund [where the king was hiding] the full treatment.”

Shirer writes:

“The Nazi flyers demolished it with explosive and incendiary bombs and then machine-gunned those who tried to escape the burning ruins. The Germans apparently believed at first that they had succeeded in massacring the King and the members of the government. The diary of a German airman, later captured in northern Norway, had this entry for April 11: ‘Nybergsund. Oslo Regierung. Alles vernichtet.’ (Oslo government. Completely wiped out.)

“The village had been, but not the King and the government. With the approach of the Nazi bombers, they had taken refuge in a nearby wood. Standing in snow up to their knees, they had watched the Luftwaffe reduce the modest cottages of the hamlet to ruins. They now faced a choice of either moving on to the nearby Swedish border and asylum in neutral Sweden or pushing north into their own mountains, still deep in the spring snow. They decided to move on up the rugged Gudbrands Valley, which led past Hamar and Lillehammer and through the mountains to Andalsnes to the northwest coast, a hundred miles southwest of Trondheim. Along the route they might organize the still dazed and scattered Norwegians forces for further resistance. And there was some hope that British troops might eventually arrive to help them.”

On April 29, Shirer writes, they were taken aboard a British cruiser and were moved to Tromsö, far above the Arctic Circle, where they set up a provisional capital. Eventually German troops got to them, though, and on June 7 King Haakon and his government were taken to London, where they remained in exile until the end of the war.

I wonder if there is a movie about this. If not, there ought to be. The idea of a King and a parliament hiding in the woods to escape a burning village, then fleeing through a rugged valley and mountains, is exceedingly dramatic. These images stuck in my head for days, and, as I thought about it, I realized that there is a long history of hiding in the forest.

Sometimes it is good guys hiding from bad guys. Sometimes it is bad guys hiding from good guys. In reality as well as in stories, forests are a refuge and redoubt (think Robin Hood). But also in reality and in stories, forests are a dark place of danger (think Mirkwood, or Hansel and Gretel). This polar tension between forests as refuge and forests as dark and dangerous places makes them a powerful idea in the human psyche.

Very few newspaper articles stick in my mind for years, but this one did. It’s from the New York Times, with the headline “Why We Fed the Bomber.” The bomber the headline refers to is Eric Rudolph, a North Carolina (!) terrorist (anti-gay and anti-abortion) who planted a lot of bombs between 1996 and 1998. For years, he hid out in North Carolina’s Nantahala Forest, by, according to Wikipedia, “gathering acorns and salamanders, pilfering vegetables from gardens, stealing grain from a grain silo, and raiding dumpsters in Murphy, North Carolina.”

Or consider the Russian family that lived in the wilds of Siberia for 40 years, unaware of World War II. Or consider the Vietnamese soldier who hid in the jungle for 40 years. Or Barry Prudom, a murderer who hid in Dalby Forest in northern England.

In Googling for this post, I found a huge amount of material — more than enough for a book, a book that I would very much like to read, if someone would write it. It seems that the Germans, in particular, have preserved a fascination with the forest. This article, “The Myth of the Wild German Forest,” contains some excellent bits of history:

“Publius Cornelius Tacitus, a famous Roman senator and historian, was the first to write about the forests in the land of the ancient Teutons, a Germanic tribe. His brief study Germania founded the myth of the eerie forest that housed barbarians and robbers alike — a forest so dense that it helped the Teutons keep the Romans off their backs…. The forest is still today regarded as a symbol of German identity, celebrated over the centuries by poets, writers and painters. Other European cultures that also have dense forests have a more distanced relationship to their woodlands.”

I would quickly become disheartened if I wrote here about the American attitude toward its forests. But certainly we do still have them, if we can keep them. A book that I reviewed here a few years ago, Ramp Hollow: the Ordeal of Appalachia, mentions that the early subsistence settlers of the Appalachian Mountains very much depended on the forests for their survival. From that book I learned that you don’t necessarily have to have a pasture to keep a cow. You can keep a cow in the woods. In fact, this article from Cornell University recommends keeping cows, sheep, and ducks in the forest. The article calls this “silvopasturing.”

When I was looking for land, before I bought the abbey’s five acres of woodland, I did not at first realize how much I wanted woodland. Anyone who has had supper with me out on the rear deck, when the wind is blowing, has heard me say: “Just listen. The wind in the trees sounds just like the sea.” The sea and the forest — both deep, dark, vast, mysterious, and dangerous — are closely connected ideas in the human psyche. Think of the magic of a path in the woods, especially if you don’t know who or what made the path, and you don’t know where the path is going. Tolkien invokes this idea, with great effect. I don’t think I’d be able to live in a place without either the sea or the woods.

I very much feel here that tension between the two faces of the forest: the forest as an eerie, dangerous place; and the forest as a place of refuge, where one can even find food and water. I confess that, those few times that I’ve had to venture into the woods alone at night (to look for a chicken who didn’t show up at bedtime, for example), I’m scared, and I have to buck myself up for it. Even inside the house, the nighttime noises can be scary: the alien hooting of a barred owl, or a pack of coyotes on the ridge, the snorting of a buck, or — worse — the sounds you can’t identify. My friend Ken, who doesn’t like herds of cows much more than he likes grizzly bears, has written about the primal importance of living in a place where there are things that are a bit scary. And yet, in the light of day here, when the birds are singing, I’m like the raccoons and deer: the woods make me feel safe.

It took me a while to realize that, because of my last and very difficult year in San Francisco, I developed a genuine case of post traumatic stress. It was a number things: a house fire in an old Victorian (the San Francisco fire department saved my dog, and I subsequently moved), some middle-sized earthquakes, the lingering uneasiness of feeling that cities were under attack after 9/11, the backstabbing and dirty dealing that accompanied the merging of the staffs of the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, and, probably worst of all, a water accident that occurred in my fancy fifth-floor apartment that flooded the apartments below me all the way to the basement. There was a huge fight over insurance, and not until the statute of limitations ran out did I finally feel safe from the threat of having my retirement destroyed by lawsuits (and probably bankruptcy). During that last year I had a recurring dream in which I had to cross the entire United States from west to east, skulking through the woods — always the woods — traveling only at night, and keeping away from the yellow lights of settlements and barking dogs. Eventually, in those dreams, I came to an abandoned house deep in the forest. Sometimes the place was almost grand; sometimes it was a hovel with a rotting roof and rotting floors. It was the refuge that I was looking for.

And now, this is that place.

If I built enough fence to surround four acres of woods, I could even have a cow.


Update: Ken has emailed me with the names of two movies, one about the King’s flight through the forests of Norway, and the other about a similar winter journey during the same period.

The King’s Choice (2017)

The Twelfth Man (2018)


The other pandemic: Trumper psychosis



Hitler in Nuremberg, 1935. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Click here for high-resolution version.

Two pandemics are at present raging across the United States. Both are particularly severe in the West and South, where, for similar reasons, people are particularly likely to be infected. One pandemic, of course, is a biological pandemic, Covid-19. The other is what Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee has called “the mental health pandemic.”

Lee published a book about this in 2017, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. She also has an article this week at Salon:

Yale psychiatrist: Trump’s psychosis has infected his followers. Here’s how to get them better

I think it must have been Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung who originated the concept of psychic epidemics. Jung frequently mentions psychic epidemics in his writings, and, as I recall, Freud and Jung frequently discussed psychic epidemics in their letters. I’m aware that everything about Freud and Jung is now in dispute among the intelligentsia. But even if you dispute whether Freud’s and Jung’s psychological theories are good science, there is no disputing the fact that both of them were brilliant and well-placed cultural observers, at a dangerous time in world history. Jung is famous for having said (in 1936), “I saw it coming. I said in 1918 that the ‘blond beast’ is stirring in its sleep and that something will happen in Germany. No psychologist then understood at all what I meant…” [See footnote at end.]

What Jung was referring to was what he called an archetype. Jung was claiming that his psychoanalysis of German patients in 1918 found similar, and pathological, stirrings in his patients’ minds. He called that “the blond beast.” If that was true in 1918, then surely today, I would argue, Donald Trump is feeding a similar archetype in the minds of his “base.” I thought for a while about what we might call it, and the term I ended up with is “the white barbarian.” The American white barbarian is way beyond stirring in its sleep, though. It’s in the streets. This morning I was shocked by the news that a Democratic Party headquarters in Arizona was destroyed in an arson attack. If you’re on Facebook and haven’t removed all the right-wingers from your feed, then it’s easy to see that Facebook is a key trolling ground for white barbarians. Images from Trump rallies have captured white barbarian faces for history. Hordes are their most hospitable habitat, but they also operate individually, as in the photo below, or as with the pathetic “pizzagate” gunman who fired his AR-15 inside the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, where he was told that Democrats were holding children as sex slaves. He subsequently was sentenced to four years. White barbarians in a state of psychosis seem capable of believing anything they’re told.

In her Salon article, Bandy Lee says that, to keep their followers psychotic, an “influential figure” with his “severe pathology” must create and maintain an atmosphere of psychological contagion. Hitler used rallies for that, as does Trump. One of Trump’s biggest political problems at present is that he can’t hold his rallies because of Covid-19. Covid-19 also has forced the Republican Party to cancel its national convention, which Trump desperately needed to keep his base of white barbarians in a state of psychosis. During the Bush-Cheney administration, Bush and Cheney brilliantly and diabolically deceived the media into getting almost the entire country into a state of war fever, as preparation for invading Iraq. In March 2003, only 17 percent of Americans strongly opposed invading Iraq. I was among the 17 percent. It is a terrifying thing to see such a large majority of one’s country deceived into a state of madness in support of violence. Republican politics is now completely dependent on public psychosis to achieve its ends — and has been since Newt Gingrich (1995) and Fox News (1996). An irrational, uncaring, authoritarian and anti-democracy politics that provides no benefits to its voters but only to its richest contributors can’t do things any other way.

A big topic with the rational intelligentsia at present is whether conditions will get better after Trump goes down. Many argue that things will not get better, that the Republican Party will just find new ways to keep its base in a state of rage and psychosis. At present, I’m more optimistic. I think that the period between now and Nov. 3 may be very dangerous, but if Trump goes down in a landslide — as it appears he would if the election were held today — then I think the Republican Party will have to conclude that its politics of rage and deception and keeping its base mentally ill won’t work anymore, as demographic change leaves them behind and as people see through their deceptions. Still, it’s a very dangerous party machinery that can lie and deceive its way to war with only 17 percent (of very well-informed people, I might add) resisting the contagion. Why are some of us immune? Why are some so susceptible? What can be done to improve the odds of recovery for those who have gone mad? There is much to think about there, but it will have to be a post for some other day, after Trump is turned out of the White House.


These two white barbarians, by the way, have been charged with felonies for pointing their guns at dark-skinned protesters. Note that her finger is on the trigger, an absolute no-no for anyone who has been trained to use guns.


Note: The quote from Jung comes, I believe, from the Tavistock lectures a year before World War II. I believe the quote is accurate, and much has been written about it. The “blond beast” probably refers to Nietzsche. See more here.


Update: For a long time, no matter what the right wing in America was up to, comparisons to Germany were out of bounds in public discourse. That taboo has fallen. Here is yet another piece in the New York Times drawing comparisons between Hitler’s Germany and Trump’s America:

American Catastrophe Through German Eyes: Trump says he wants to protect law-abiding citizens. In 1933, Hitler issued his ‘Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State.’


It was 94F in the garden, though


Vegetables don’t like to be picked in the heat of the day. Early morning is the best time. But basil wants to be clipped five minutes ago, so this basil, squash, and tomato went from the garden to the supper table in 35 minutes.

I wore out my first copy


It was 1976, I believe, when I bought a copy of the 1943 edition of Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking at a junk shop. I am not hard on books, so I’m sure that the book was in fairly rough condition when I bought it. Over the years, though, the fabric peeled off the spine, and the covers came loose. Recently I found another copy of the 1943 edition on eBay and bought it for $28.

Why the 1943 edition? The 1943 edition is the wartime edition, which emphasized frugality and cooking from scratch. There have been many editions of The Joy of Cooking (see the Wikipedia article). According to Wikipedia, the 1936 edition emphasized meals that could be made in 30 minutes or less, using frozen and canned foods (yuck). The 1951 edition sounds interesting, though I have never seen a copy. Later editions, as far as I’m concerned, are probably poor references for truly traditional home cooking in America, which is what this book is good for.

In the 2009 film “Julie & Julia,” there is a funny scene in which Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) encounters Irma Rombauer in a publisher’s office. Rombauer is presented as dowdy and a bit of a hick. Compared with Julia Child, no doubt she was. But, in my opinion, though learning to cook other nations’ cuisines competently is a skill greatly to be desired, there is no shame in honoring, loving, and preserving one’s native cuisine. The 1943 edition of The Joy of Cooking is the best reference I have ever seen for traditional American cooking.

I rarely follow any recipe exactly. But I do consult many, many recipes, just to get a concept before making my own version. My modifications are usually about making things healthier, with a bias toward California cuisine and Mediterranean cuisine. Though just about every recipe in The Joy of Cooking 1943 is made from scratch, she does use pantry staples that we all still use — tinned tomatoes, tinned salmon, and cracker crumbs, for example. (I don’t keep crackers in the house because I like them too much, but I recently bought some Ritz crackers — for the first time in my life, as far as I can recall — to make a traditional squash casserole.)

Part of the value of The Joy of Cooking 1943 is its completeness. You’ll find a reference for just about everything your grandmother (or great-grandmother) used to make. I was shocked a few months ago, though, when I discovered that there is no recipe for pimento cheese, which is an American classic.


Click here for high-resolution version


Click here for high-resolution version

The German election of 1933



The Reichstag burns, Feb. 27, 1933.

It’s impossible to read William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich without making comparisons to Donald Trump. To risk an unattractive analogy, to compare the two is like comparing a hot little pustule ripe for popping to a deadly case of gangrene. Donald Trump is stupid, lazy, cowardly, petty, and gratuitously cruel. Whereas Hitler was a political and military genius, and a total psychopath. Hitler had a plan — a diabolical plan that he had the discipline and nerves to execute.

At present I am 450 pages into the 1,250 pages of Third Reich. I’ll have more to say about this impressive book later. But the German election of 1933 is on my mind now because the next American election is just over three months away. We already can see that Trump’s strategy for Nov. 3 is a crummy, timid imitation of the German election of 1933.

Trump wants as much disorder in the streets as possible between now and November. The hot spot at the moment is Portland, where noisy and naive protesters, probably with inexperienced leadership, are up against heavily militarized police and uninvited federal agents. Trump will continue to call for “law and order” to stop the “violent Marxist thugs,” saying that only he can make us safe. Nancy Pelosi, who knows her history and is more inclined toward understatement than overstatement, makes the comparison to Hitler: “Unidentified stormtroopers. Unmarked cars. Kidnapping protesters and causing severe injuries in response to graffiti. These are not the actions of a democratic republic. Trump and his stormtroopers must be stopped.”

Trump cannot win — or steal — the November election without treachery in some form. The question is: How far will he go?

The complete story of the Reichstag fire is still in dispute. Hermann Göring once boasted that he had set the fire, though Göring denied that at Nuremberg. Whatever happened, the Nazis wasted no time in blaming a Communist conspiracy and using the Reichstag fire to try to swing the election, which came six days later. The Prussian government declared:

“Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down…. Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups…. The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war…. It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war.”

The election was March 5, 1933, and it was the last democratic election in Germany during Hitler’s lifetime. The Nazis got 44 percent of the total vote.

FiveThirtyEight’s national polling average, as of July 16, shows Trump with 41.2 percent. To take control with 41.2 percent support, a level of treason and treachery would be required that I don’t think Trump is capable of even conceiving, let alone carrying out. (We should keep in mind, though, that Putin, who owns Trump, is much more competent.) Nor is the American democracy as weakened and exhausted as Germany’s was in the years after World War I. Trump has goons (many of whom have already been brought to justice), but Trump has no Göring.

Just listen to the sadistic voice of Göring, in Frankfurt the day before the elections:

“Fellow Germans, my measures will not be crippled by any judicial thinking…. I don’t have to worry about justice; my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more! … Certainly, I shall use the power of the State and the police to my utmost, my dear Communists, so don’t draw any false conclusions; but the struggle to the death, in which my fist will grasp your necks, I shall lead with those down there — the Brownshirts.”

In comparison with that, Trump and the even the sadistic Stephen Miller are feckless amateurs. But they will try to keep their power, and their only possible game is a dirty one.

The protesters need to learn some history, too. To march in great numbers and to make as much noise as possible is perfectly good protesting. But to break things or to make any use of fire before such a dangerous election is very foolish.


Update 1: From the Washington Post (be sure to watch the video, which went viral):

A Navy vet asked federal officers in Portland to remember their oaths. Then they broke his hand.


Update 2: Heather Cox Richardson’s Facebook post last night makes the same point that I made in this post yesterday morning. As she puts it: “It seems clear that the Trump campaign — which got a new director last Wednesday — is going to make its case for reelection on the idea that there is violence in America’s cities that must be addressed with federal force, and that only Trump is willing to do so.”

Heather Cox Richardson on Facebook


Update 3: New York Times:

Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun: Protesters are being snatched from the streets without warrants. Can we call it fascism yet?


What’s blooming at the abbey, July 6


By the time summer leaves us, most of us are tired of summer. But would we ever tire of summer mornings? I think not.

These are iPhone XR photos. The XR camera is so good, and so handy, that I think I will trade it this fall for an iPhone 12, partly to get an even better camera, and partly to get support for T-Mobile’s low-band (600Mhz) 5G, which sounds very promising for rural areas without a lot of cellular towers. The 600Mhz band of 5g uses frequencies that formerly were used by broadcast television. Propagation at those frequencies is excellent. I still use my heavy Nikon D2X camera, by the way. The Nikon is still best for more formal and more carefully composed photos, especially when the camera is on a tripod. But the newer iPhones are astonishly good at snapshots (and video).

Food departments



A screen capture from the Washington Post web site

When a newspaper is prospering and newsroom budgets are growing, that newspaper can have itself a food department. When revenue is sliding and newsroom budgets are being cut, the food department is the first to go.

If the Washington Post had a notable food department ten years ago, it never caught my attention. In the last few years of my newspaper career (at the San Francisco Chronicle), there were two outstanding newspaper food departments in the U.S.: the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times in those days poached a writer or two from the Chronicle. (To have your staff poached by the New York Times is a high compliment to a secondary newspaper.) If the Chronicle still has a food department today, I’m sure it’s tiny. Mostly the Chronicle now writes about restaurants. (Secondary and tertiary newspapers these days cover restaurants better than they cover city hall.)

A newspaper food department requires spending some capital. You have to provide a well-equipped test kitchen. You need a special studio for food photography. You need some sort of dining room for tastings and sharing and an assortment of photogenic serving vessels for photography. On the expense side, you’ll be buying all sorts of expensive groceries every week. You need a staff with special training and food-world credentials. I always found the food department to be the happiest department at the paper. I loved to drop in on them and see what they were cooking.

The Washington Post, of course, and the New York Times are now rolling in money. Life has been hell at every other newspaper in the country, but fortunately this country has two strong newspapers left. Even if I didn’t know that the staffs and budgets are growing at the Times and the Post, the work of their food departments would reveal that they’re rich.

Another thing I notice about the Washington Post’s food department is that they are doing superb food photography, as good as the New York Times. It’s a safe bet that, when the Post expanded its food department, they aimed to beat the New York Times. It doesn’t matter to me who is winning. They both are doing beautiful work.