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Where the squirrels live

Shot with a 200mm lens from an upstairs window. Click here for high-resolution version.

From my upstairs office window, during the winter, I can see deep into the woods, up to the top of the next ridge, and down to the little rocky stream below the house. I also can watch the squirrels going about their business in the trees. I have a pretty good view of two squirrel nests, though binoculars would be needed for proper squirrel-watching.

Of all the creatures in the woods, squirrels have the best — and I suspect the safest — homes. They have to worry about hawks and owls from above, and foxes and coyotes from below, but my guess is that squirrels are caught less often than animals such as rabbits that can’t climb trees.

For many animals in these latitudes (including squirrels, I suspect), the best habitat is to be found where forest comes up against meadow. In a forest, the canopy catches most of the sun. But in a meadow, the sun reaches the ground, and all the growth is different. At the borders of woods and meadows, wildlife gets the benefits of both worlds.

As much as I hate seeing woods cut down for timber, I have to admit, having watched such areas begin to recover, that after the shock of the loss of woodland habitat, many species benefit as low-growing plants take over. Deer and rabbits love it. It’s also how humans managed to subsist when they first started living in the Appalachian forests. They would cut, or burn, a hole in the forest. For subsistence, they required both kinds of terrain — woodland and farmable meadow. When a natural event such as a fire clears an opening inside a healthy forest, that opening becomes a kind of oasis. Even if one big tree falls, and sunlight suddenly reaches the ground, all sorts of growing things take advantage of the opportunities.

I like reflecting on this, because I think it shows that rural living is sustainable — farmland alternating with woods. A recent Gallup poll found that most Americans would prefer rural living to a city, a suburb, or a small town. Rural living, I believe, is a privilege, because it’s not an option available to most people, given the kind of economy we have today.

In the photo below, one of my squirrel neighbors is working the yard for food. I’m not sure what. Skunks, raccoons, moles, and birds mine the yard for grubs, especially during the winter. But as far as I know, squirrels don’t eat grubs.

Speaking of moles, most people regard them as pests. I find them to be very beneficial. In mining for grubs, they do a beautiful job of aerating the soil. Grass flourishes in areas that the moles have cultivated.

Barley biscuits and barley gravy

Barley biscuits

One of my kitchen projects at present is figuring out whether it would be possible to entirely replace wheat carbs with barley carbs without hating what we eat. We all know that wheat carbs, though addictively delicious, are not the healthiest carbs in the world. Whereas barley carbs have lots of health benefits. I will probably conclude that replacing wheat carbs with barley carbs would not greatly diminish the tastiness of our baking.

When baking with barley flour, the main challenges are yeast (or sourdough) breads, and biscuits. Heavier things such as muffins or banana bread would be dead easy. Pie crusts I haven’t yet tried.

Barley flour has much less gluten than wheat flour, and therein is the challenge. I cannot make good barley biscuits without using about one-fifth wheat gluten. Yeast breads require a higher proportion of gluten — one-fourth or a little more. When making yeast breads, you want a dough that feels as springy as wheat dough when you knead it. That requires gluten.

I’ve written about this before, but I am not a soldier in the anti-gluten wars. My system loves wheat gluten. It’s the wheat carbs that make us gain weight. Wheat gluten is 75 percent protein. Adding wheat gluten to barley flour improves the carb-to-protein ratio of the bread, in addition to greatly improving the quality of the carbs.

For biscuits, with four parts barley flour to one part gluten, most biscuits recipes probably would work with little modification. For yeast breads, three parts barley flour to one part gluten should work. But I would recommend these barley-bread experiments only to cooks who have the experience to know how a proper dough should feel and can adjust things as necessary.

You can buy barley flour at most grocery stores in one-pound bags. I prefer to grind my own, using organic hulled barley, bought in bulk at Whole Foods. Store-bought barley flour has a slightly lighter color than my home-ground flour, so I wonder if the store-bought flour is more refined than I would like.

Barley flour, as a thickener for gravy, seems to thicken a gravy pretty the same as whole wheat flour would. The gravy will have a slightly grainy texture, but it’s delicious. Because it’s the starch in flour that thickens a sauce, you don’t want to add gluten to the flour that you use for making gravy.

I would rate barley gravy at 3 stars out of 5. I’d rate barley biscuits at 4 stars out of 5. Barley biscuits are vastly better than whole-wheat biscuits, something I gave up on trying to make a long time ago. Barley biscuits have a nice, nutty flavor that tastes great with a little honey and butter.

I’ll post in the future on yeast breads made with barley flour. I’m even going to try a pie crust.

Barley biscuits and barley gravy. The only fat that I ever use for making gravy is olive oil.

Organic hulled barley, bought in bulk at Whole Foods

My flour-grinding apparatus

Flour from whole-grain hulled barley, nice and fresh

Yes, cats understand television

Lily often snuggles up beside me while I’m watching a movie on the television. She rarely pays attention to what’s on, though. She hates loud soundtracks. The only two things I’ve watched in the past few months that held her attention were “Watership Down” and “Kedi,” on the cats of Istanbul. “Kedi” is a documentary, and, if you’re a cat lover, you’ll want to watch it. With your cat.

Rethinking the unthinkable

Those of you who recognize the quote in the image above will guess the subject of this post: thermonuclear war. The quote is from the 1983 classic film “War Games” starring Matthew Broderick.

First of all, I’m not the only person with a renewed concern about nuclear weapons. It seems to be in the zeitgeist recently. For example:

• Two days ago, on Christmas day, Russia tested a new bomb-delivery missile that flies at 20 times the speed of sound. Putin gloated. The Russian people were thrilled. Here is a link to the Washington Post story, Russia is poised to add a new hypersonic nuclear warhead to its arsenal.

• The day after Russia’s missile test, Vox published a fairly detailed overview of the current state of the world’s nuclear weapons, including some quotes from experts about the global level of danger as it stands today. The article also includes some scary information on just how deadly the detonation of even one nuclear weapon would be. Here is a link to the article, This is exactly how a nuclear war would kill you.

• Earlier this year, the United States released a report with the title Nuclear Posture Review 2018. The report was signed by Jim Mattis, the former Marine Corps general who recently resigned as Secretary of Defense because of his disgust with the Trump administration. The report is a slick piece of public relations. You have to read it carefully to catch the main point. That main point is that, under Trump, the United States has lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons. Here is a link to the report.

• The Vox story includes an anecdote from a Georgetown University professor who, for many years, has taught a course on nuclear weapons and world politics. As part of the course, he always asks students whether they think nuclear weapons will be used in their lifetime. In years past, no more than one student would raise their hand. But for the past two years, 60 percent have raised their hands. The professor agrees with them.

In this context, please take a moment to ponder the insanity of an American politics that construes the most urgent threat to the nation’s security to be the U.S. border with Mexico, a politics so depraved that it’s willing to shut down the U.S. government to get billions of dollars for a border wall. Yes, the Pentagon is spending lots of money to catch up with Russia on hypersonic missiles. But to the Trump administration, diplomacy is a dirty word, as Trump repeatedly insults our allies and sucks up to corrupt and belligerent strongmen. Trump boasts that his nuclear button is bigger than North Korea’s nuclear button. The world’s nuclear arsenal is now largely under the control of madmen.

I grew up during the Cold War. Most people concluded that elaborate shelters were not affordable or justifiable. The government at the time actually recommended the building of fallout shelters and made plans available. But, as my father used to say, what would you do when the neighbors show up and want in? Shoot them?

But I think that there probably is a sweet spot on the affordability scale. There are inexpensive things that one can do in advance that greatly improve one’s options in a sudden emergency. These include the storage of a certain amount of food and water for all types of emergencies, including weather emergencies or earthquakes. Where might that sweet spot be for thermonuclear war?

As far as I can tell, the standard handbook is still Nuclear War Survival Skills. It was originally published in 1979 by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It was revised in 1986. The revised edition is available, in print, from Amazon. A PDF version is downloadable, free, from many places on the Internet. You can find it by Googling for the title.

Chapter 16 of Nuclear War Survival Skills is only two pages long. It’s a summary of “minimum pre-crisis preparations.” Most of those preparations are inexpensive, and all are based on common sense. For example, you may not make the effort to turn your basement into a fallout shelter. But why not have a plan, and why not stash some items such as tools and tarps. Did you know that stacks of books can be used for radiation shielding?

One potentially costly item that must be stashed in advance is a radiation detector. I have an old Civil Defense Geiger counter. It was made in 1963. It still works great. I bought it on eBay. Dosimeters also would be highly desirable, to track the total cumulative exposure to powerful radiation such as gamma rays. A cheap dosimeter card is available on Amazon. I can’t vouch for its quality, but I believe that the science of it is sound. I don’t want to get into the science of why iodine absorption is a problem with nuclear fallout, but having potassium iodide on hand is a good idea. It’s inexpensive and is available on Amazon.

Preparations aside, survivability would greatly depend upon one’s knowledge. Some of the needed knowledge is easy to acquire. Some of that knowledge is probably not available. For example:

• What should you do if you see extremely bright lights in the sky and suddenly the power goes out? Nuclear War Survival Skills contains these instructions: Don’t look at the light. As quickly as possible, get behind the strongest shield possible between yourself and the light. Stay there for at least two minutes. If no shock wave or explosion sounds reach you in two minutes, then you are more than 25 miles from the detonation. Congratulations. You probably will not be harmed by the effects of the blast itself. You can now come out of hiding and deal with the problem of surviving the nuclear fallout. How to survive nuclear fallout in an improvised shelter is a complicated matter, and that’s why you might want to have a printed copy of Nuclear War Survival Skills on your bookshelf. You also will want to know as much as possible about prevailing winds in your area and the location of nuclear power plants or other military targets, especially if they are upwind of you. This information is easy to acquire now. But after the power goes out, suddenly many things become much more difficult.

• Even with the 1986 revisions, the information about military targets and the capabilities of nuclear weapons is hopelessly out of date. There may be places on the Internet where one might find much of this information, with some diligent research. But all I’ve been able to find is low-quality stuff from people such as right-wing preppers, people with high levels of paranoia and low levels of knowledge. In addition to the lack of references, I’d imagine that much information is a matter of military secrecy. Should we continue to assume, as we did in 1986, that any runway long enough to land a B-52 bomber is a target? I have no idea. Are nuclear power plants still a target? I have no idea. Are major cities still a target? I have no idea. Still, those are all things that I would not want to be downwind of. The amount of fallout from a nuclear detonation greatly depends on the size of the warhead and how far above the ground it detonated. A flash of light will tell us little to nothing about those factors. We just don’t — and probably can’t — know enough to fully assess the risks, either before or after we see a flash. Would radio broadcasts provide information after a flash? Though a battery-powered radio is an essential item, my guess is that any stations that are still able to broadcast are likely to be far away, out of range of most receivers and antennas and with no information on local conditions.

Readers in Europe: Your risk calculus will be a little different that risk calculus in the U.S., but the risk to Europeans is as great, or greater, than in the U.S.

I’m not arguing here that we ought to worry ourselves to death. The Vox article, for example, says that the actual risk that a nuclear weapon (or weapons) will be used remains small. We’ve lived with nuclear weapons now for almost 75 years, and, except for once, we’ve had the good sense not to use them. Nevertheless, the world and its leadership does seem to be particularly disordered at the moment. There is still a huge investment in nuclear weaponry, with new generations of weapons coming online. The United States has lowered the threshold for the use of these weapons. There also is a chance that a rogue state or a terrorist cell will get a nuclear device.

Minimal preparation, I think, is in the same category as insurance. We all spend relatively minor sums on insurance to protect ourselves against major losses. As far as I know, every major business has a disaster plan, prepared in advance and kept up to date. When I worked for the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, where earthquakes are a constant threat, we always had a disaster plan, with backup production sites that were equipped and ready, so that we could continue to publish after an earthquake.

Households, I think, would do well to have a disaster plan, with an affordable level of preparations in place. It’s not just about thermonuclear war. It’s also about storms, blackouts, and epidemics, which are far more likely.

Update: From today’s Irish Times, a European take on Russia’s new missile: Bullish Putin unveils ‘invulnerable’ nuclear weapon.

Watership Down

I watched the first episode of Watership Down last night on Netflix. It’s the best thing I’ve watched in a long time.

This is a new production of the Richard Adams novel by the BBC. There are four episodes.

Watership Down was originally published in the United Kingdom in 1972. The American edition was published in 1974. I read the book soon after it was published in the U.S., and I have reread it at least twice since then. I know the story, but whether you know the story or not, this BBC production is thrilling — and terrifying.

I don’t think that Richard Adams really meant Watership Down as an eco-parable. But it is that, though the story also is much more. The decimation of farmland to turn it into suburbs has been going on for a long time. I see Richard Adams as a kind of empath. I have to imagine that he loved the countryside and that, like Tolkien, it greatly disturbed him to see countryside lost. A writer’s imagination would then have a very natural way of lingering on what the loss of farmland would feel like to a rabbit. He felt their needs, their vulnerability, their contentedness (when they had it), and most of all he felt their fear and their panic. This is not a story for young children.

According to the Wikipedia article, Watership Down was rejected by publishers seven times before it was accepted, with no advance, by a one-man London publishing house, Rex Collings. Collings died in 1996. I hope he died rich.

Richard Adams died on Christmas Eve in 2016, at Oxford, at age 96.

Merry Christmas from Acorn Abbey

A smaller take on lemon cake

I haven’t been able to get lemon cake out of my head. I am working on the third novel in the Ursa Major series, and I just wrote the scenes in which Rose, the Scottish cook, sees Jake again. She wastes no time making one of Jake’s favorites — her lemon cake.

But it’s just me and the cat and the chickens right now, so what would I do with a huge cake involving six eggs and half a ton of butter and flour? I read a bunch of lemon cake recipes and came up with a recipe that uses only one egg, with the other ingredients similarly reduced. I wanted a dense cake, more of a pound cake. I wanted it to be very lemony, and I wanted nutmeg in it.

Here’s what I came up with:

1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar

1 egg
1/2 cup flour
juice and gratings from 1 lemon
1/4 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (for color)

Follow the usual procedure for cakes. I used used a stand mixer. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and beat the living daylights out of it. Add the other ingredients and beat just enough to mix it well.

I used the 4-inch spring-form pans that I bought for Scottish pies, in two layers. Bake the cake at 325 degrees until it passes the toothpick test. My pans and oven required about 29 minutes.

For the icing, I made a slurry of 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, the juice and gratings of one small lemon, and half a teaspoon of nutmeg. The icing was too runny and did not make a proper glaze, but I just didn’t want to add more sugar.

The white matriarch

A troupe of five does passed through the yard this morning, with the white deer in the lead. She has been around for at least three years now, so she seems to have become a matriarch. I don’t worry too much anymore about her getting shot. It’s my understanding that all the hunters in the area are aware of her and have taken an oath not to shoot her. Deer season ends Jan. 1. It’s always a relief when deer season ends.

Turning points in right-wing propaganda

Source: Axios. The red components were added by me and are explained below.

This morning, Axios has an optimistic piece with the headline “Trust in the media is starting to make a comeback.” The article reports on several polls and studies, including a study by the Knight Foundation released in September 2018. Axios says nothing about what was happening during the years the trust trajectory changed directions. But it’s very important that we take note of this history, because it reveals a great deal about right-wing propaganda and the degree to which people fall for it.

First, what happened in the 1970s?: A long trend toward declining trust for the media began in the 1970s. Though I have no sources to cite for this, my hunch would be that a major cause of distrust toward the media was the oil crisis of the 1970s. The line starts downward around 1976. At that time, gasoline costs were rising sharply, and a recession had just ended. People were badly stressed by “stagflation” and the cost of gasoline. People began to doubt (rightly so) whether they were being told the truth about inflation and oil. Gerald Ford, who was president from 1974 to 1977, did not inspire much confidence, nor did Jimmy Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981. Then came Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), who lied freely and often and who took great delight in dividing the country and demonizing the opposition. It was Reagan who began teaching angry, ignorant old white people that government was the problem, not the solution. Reagan was followed by the feckless George H.W. Bush (1989-1993).

In 1995, the utterly vile Newt Gingrich became speaker of the U.S House of Representatives. Gingrich left no doubt: Republicans hate government and find government useful only insofar as government controls war and taxation. When Bill Clinton became president in 1993, the country was sharply divided, not just politically, but also intellectually (insofar as right-wingers need rational support for what goes on in their heads). Republicans by now had learned an extremely important lesson: Distrust of the government and distrust of the media are a powerful double-barrel weapon. They aimed that weapon at the American people. In 1996, Fox News was created, with the evil Roger Ailes as CEO. As David Frum has written, Republican ideology is an ideology that cannot succeed in a democracy. People just don’t want what Republicans actually want to do, so Republicans have no choice but to lie and cheat. Republicans are perfectly willing to do whatever damage to democracy is necessary to achieve right-wing objectives. They realized many years ago that an anti-government ministry of propaganda is essential to the right-wing project.

Fox News: Turning point 1, late 1990s: This is a major turning point. For the first time, the American people were faced with a powerful organization whose product was pure propaganda. The historian Christopher R. Browning has called Fox News “a privatized ministry of propaganda.” The so-called mainstream media were completely unprepared for Fox News’ ruthlessness and the sheer brazenness of its lies. Fox News has more than enough power to set an agenda and to force the responsible media to repeat and amplify that agenda. The lies are thick, fast, and repeated. Right-wing shouting heads amplify the lies’ emotional power. Most of the lies go unchallenged. While Fox News was finding propaganda to be highly profitable, the mainstream media underwent a disastrous downsizing after the Internet destroyed a critical part of its business model (classified ads). Newsrooms were confused and intimidated, terrified of losing more subscribers than they already were losing. Having worked in newsrooms all my life until I retired in 2008, I watched something terrible play out. Journalists refused to call a lie a lie. Somehow, the received wisdom in newsrooms was that he-said she-said journalism was the key to survival. Official lies were passed on with no challenge other than a quote from the opposition, as though both sides were equally valid. My view was that the only hope for journalism — and for the trustability of journalists — was to call a lie a lie. Very few journalists agreed with me. I lost the argument then. But now I believe I have been vindicated. I have even received an apology or two from journalist colleagues who now admit that they were wrong. But the damage has been done.

We were lied into the Iraq war: Turning point 2, 2004: Point number 2 on the chart above is extremely embarrassing. It shows what can happen when journalism is overwhelmed by propaganda. Notice the modest increase in the early 2000’s, as President George Bush and vice president Richard Cheney lied the country into the Iraq war, pulling the country and the media along with them. The country actually was unified for a while — in support of a war. Then there was a downdraft of trust around 2004 as people — and people in newsrooms including the New York Times — realized that they had been propagandized and deceived by the Republican Party and the neoconservatives who had taken over the party. It was May 2004 when the New York Times published its half-assed, and still shameful, apology for its coverage of the run-up to the Iraq war. We must never forget Judith Miller, whose name must remain on the long list of graves to be pissed on because of the damage people like her have done to the American democracy, in their service to power and money. Few things in my life have been more terrifying than watching while not only the United States, but also our allies such as Britain, were seized with war fever. That war fever was a well-designed product of the Bush-Cheney administration and its propaganda machine. This country actually became deranged with war fever. Anyone who dared to resist was exposed to a level of demonization that was professionally and socially dangerous. I was in San Francisco at the time. Even the Left Coast newspaper where I worked, the San Francisco Chronicle, was swept up in the war fever, though our subscriber base provided the cover to resist, had we had the journalistic good sense to avoid the contagion of war fever. But the New York Times had war fever, so most other newsrooms did, too. (The McClatchy Washington bureau was a rare exception.)

You might think, if you were naive and optimistic, that a profitable war on false pretenses, sold by a corrupt Republican government and its ministry of propaganda, is the worst thing that could be enabled by a timid and insecure mainstream media culture overwhelmed by an aggressive and amoral ministry of propaganda. But you would be wrong to think that. During Barack Obama’s presidency (2009 to 2017), Fox News and the Republican Party doubled down on demonization and lies, setting the stage for what I believe is the most dangerous political event in American history: Donald Trump in the White House.

The media finally started calling a lie a lie: Turning point 3, 2016: I always hesitate to say that Donald Trump was elected to the White House, because a reasonable person can have reasonable doubt about how severely the presidential election of 2016 was corrupted not only by brilliantly focused propaganda and meddling both foreign and domestic, but also, possibly, by the hacking of state elections systems. Robert Mueller, surely, will have more to tell us on that subject. In any case, Donald Trump’s gaining the White House was like a Near Death Experience to every responsible journalist who still had a job. Suddenly newsrooms came to their senses. They saw what idiots they had been. They saw how they had been played by the right-wing media and the Republican Party. They suddenly remembered that truth, rather than trying to “balance” lies, was the standard of journalism. Subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post surged. I still wonder about the Times sometimes, but the staff of the Washington Post went to work to redeem themselves. At long last, American newspapers were able to use the word “lie.” Fully understanding in spite of his stupidity that the truth would take him down, Donald Trump, like all despots and despot wannabes, declared the media to be the enemy of the people. Only Trump was to be believed.

So the Republican Party took the White House in 2016. But they overplayed their hand, ensuring disgust and blowback not only for the Republican Party, but also for its propaganda machine. Every rational person who is halfway paying attention now knows that Trump is a criminal and a traitor and that he brought his criminal syndicate with him into the White House. When Trump is taken down, the Republican Party will go down with him. Fox News will be exposed for what it is: a propaganda machine that serves power and wealth by profitably deceiving angry old white people, many of whom don’t have a pot to piss in, partly because they lack what it takes to succeed in the modern world, and partly because they have been betrayed by the machinery of economic inequality, for which even the Democratic Party deserves a share of the blame.

What will happen next?: No one knows. But I have a lot of hope, and a lot of guesses. Some people already have gone to prison for the criminal conspiracies that got Trump into the White House. Many more will go to prison. Trump will go to prison, too, unless he can make some kind of deal for resignation that allows him to avoid prison. The Republican Party and the Republican Senate will turn on Trump when that becomes necessary to try to save the Republican Party as the Trump criminal syndicate goes down in flames. But, if there is enough justice in the world, the Republican Party will have so damaged itself that it will never win — or steal — another election. Fox News will lose credibility with everyone but the 20 percent or so of the American people who will believe anything they are told, as long as their hatreds, their fears, and the ugliness of their religion are fed. The deplorables are a minority, far too few to continue to knock the country around once the Republican Party dies, as it will die, simply because (as David Frum wrote) anything as vile as today’s Republican Party cannot survive in a democracy.

I am hardly the only one who believes that we are at a fork in history. On the right lie the Republican Party, fascism, an end to the rule of law if Trump’s criminal syndicate is allowed to remain in power, the triumph of the international oligarchy that brought Trump to power, and killing blows to the American democracy through right-wing legislatures and right-wing courts. To the left lies a lot of hard work.

This 2016 uptick in media trust is probably the most encouraging sign I’ve seen that 2016 was the trough of the right-wing war on the American democracy, a war in which the death of truth would be to them a good riddance. If the blue line on the chart above breaks the 50 percent barrier and continues to climb, then I think that the American democracy has a future. It will mean that we have begun to agree on some things again, after a long national nightmare during which right-wing tactics intentionally drove us apart and intentionally made agreement impossible. To save the Republican Party, it was necessary for evil men to dismiss those things that threaten all of us to focus politics only on the things that threaten the Republican Party and its oligarchs’ agenda. And if the American democracy has a future, then maybe, just maybe, we might actually be able to do something about the things that we agree on, once a shared reality sets the agenda. Climate change and economic inequality are at the top of the list. We also need some fixes in our democracy, to insure that liars, criminals, and oligarchs never get control again.

Low-carb winter feasting

Walnut pâté, mashed rutabaga, and Brussels sprouts gratin

Rutabaga loves Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts love Roquefort. Roquefort loves walnuts. There you have it. A menu for a snow day.

It’s amazing what you can get away with if you banish carbs. Not only have I maintained the summer diet that got me into shape for hiking in Scotland, I’ve continued to lose weight at the rate of about a pound a month after I got home. And not only do I not feel hungry. I also feel like I’m overeating, even though I’m not. We’re all different, though. Other people’s mileage may vary. But if you say goodbye to bread and pasta and sweets, something alchemical happens.

Rutabaga: For now, at least, turnips and rutabagas are the new potatoes in this house. A couple of weeks ago I made mashed potatoes for the first time in months. I was expecting a treat, but instead I found the potatoes cloyingly sweet. They actually tasted as though they had sugar in them. They were good potatoes, too — organic Yukon gold potatoes, mashed with butter and cream. I realized that I had enjoyed a recent pot of turnips much more. Last week at the grocery store, I intended to buy turnips. But the rutabagas were 50 percent cheaper, so I bought rutabagas instead. I boil them with a minimum of water and mash them with butter, salt, and pepper.

Walnut pâté: Nuts are a staple on low-carb vegetarian diets. Walnut pâté is as easy as pie. Throw walnuts, celery, onion, garlic, and seasonings into the food processor, with tahini as a binder. I added a tiny whiff of sage.

Roquefort Brussels sprouts gratin: I always have Roquefort in the fridge, though it usually goes into salad dressing (with lots of garlic). But Roquefort makes an excellent gratin if combined with parmesan. Today’s gratin also included milk and cream, in a buttered baking dish.

I go through stages, and I may well be back to making cinnamon rolls sooner or later. But, for now, trading carbs for low-carb pig-outs feels like a very good deal.

Brussels sprouts gratin with Roquefort, parmesan, milk and cream