mercredi, juillet 23, 2008

back in the world of disposable emotion

I loved this song back in the day. Yes, it was cheesy. But cheesy is a given when it comes to HoJo circa 1989.

Anyhow, I listened to this song a few times today and felt very lucky to have found a friend and a lover divine. And it was awesome when I asked him about the song tonight and he mentioned the mummies, then said that he knew (and liked) the song, too.

mardi, juillet 22, 2008


In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Albert Camus (November 7, 1913 – January 4, 1960), Algerian-born French author, philosopher, and journalist who won the Nobel prize in 1957.
Via Heidi

lundi, juillet 21, 2008

orzo with summer squash and toasted hazelnuts

So you open your weekly CSA delivery and find a whole lot of summer squash. What to do? Bust out some orzo and you've got the side dish any meatloaf should be proud to accompany on your plate.
3/4 cups orzo
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 medium yellow squash (we used farmer Joe's mystery green squash), cut into 1/3-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/8 cup hazelnuts (we used pecans), toasted, loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel, and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest

Cook orzo in boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain orzo in a colander (we did not need to use any).

While orzo is cooking, heat butter and oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté shallot, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.
Add zucchini, yellow squash, salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nuts, parsley, basil, and zest.

Add cooked orzo to skillet and stir gently. If mixture seems dry, moisten with some reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Active time: 40 min
Start to finish: 40 min
Servings: Makes 5 servings
Via Epicurious

turkey meat loaf with sun-dried tomatoes

Due to a slight purchasing miscalculation, Leo and I ended up with way too much ground turkey. The solution? MEATLOAF!!!

The only problem was having to take sides in the crucial tomato v. milk meatloaf debate. You think gay marriage is divisive? Pshaw. Thanks to sundried tomatoes, we can straddle the fence and reach out to moderates on both sides, just like Obama and McCain do in real life. Except we follow through on our promises.

We served this with an awesome orzo, zucchini, and mystery summer squash side dish (recipe provided in separate post) and James' patented Area-51 corn. We'd share the recipe for that one, but then James would have to kill the lot of us.

1.25 pounds ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten to blend
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
12 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained, chopped
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine all ingredients in large bowl.
Season with salt and pepper and mix well.
Transfer mixture to 8 1/2x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.
Bake until loaf pulls away from sides of pan and top is golden brown, about 50 minutes.
Serves 6
Via Epicurious

jeudi, juillet 17, 2008

otters holding hands

Leo and I love to watch the river otters and the monkeys duke it out at the zoo. But these sea otters have to be the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. (Sorry, Ruby.)

Via Andrea

mardi, juillet 15, 2008

health care lessons from france

The United States spends an average $6,402 per person annually on medical care. France spends about half that — while providing better maternity benefits and complete coverage for people with conditions such as diabetes and cancer. Compare the systems.

Health Care Lessons From France : NPR
France: Health Care for All
by Joseph Shapiro
Day to Day, July 11, 2008 · In 2000, health care experts for the World Health Organization tried to do a statistical ranking of the world's health care systems. They studied 191 countries and ranked them on things like the number of years people lived in good health and whether everyone had access to good health care. France came in first. The United States ranked 37th.

Some researchers, however, said that study was flawed, arguing that there might be things other than a country's health care system that determined factors like longevity. So this year, two researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine measured something called the "amenable mortality." Basically, it's a measure of deaths that could have been prevented with good health care. The researchers looked at health care in 19 industrialized nations. Again, France came in first. The United States was last.

French Lessons
Now some American experts say there's a lot Americans can learn from the French.

For starters, the French system is not what most Americans imagine, says historian Paul Dutton at Northern Arizona University, author of Differential Diagnoses: A Comparative History of Health Care Problems and Solutions in the United States and France.

"Americans assume that if it's in Europe, which France is, that it's socialized medicine," he says. "The French don't consider their system socialized. In fact, they detest socialized medicine. For the French, that's the British, that's the Canadians. It's not the French system."

France, like the United States, relies on both private insurance and government insurance. Also, just like in America, people generally get their insurance through their employer.

In France, everyone has health care. However, unlike in Britain and Canada, there are no waiting lists to get elective surgery or see a specialist, Dutton says.

He says the French want pretty much the same thing as Americans: choice and more choice.

Universal Coverage, Not At Expense Of Choice
Dutton says these shared values come out of a shared history. Both countries are products of Enlightenment-era revolutions.

"The French hold individual liberty and social equality very dear ... 'liberty, equality, and fraternity' — of course the slogan of their revolution," he says. "And in this country, of course, we have similar ideals: individual liberty, social equality — equal chances for everyone."

But the French have done a better job of protecting those values in health care, Dutton says.

Americans often assume that when people get universal coverage, they give up their choice in doctors, hospitals and care. That's not the case in France, Dutton says. The system is set up both to ensure that patients have lots of choice in picking doctors and specialists and to ensure that doctors are not constrained in making medical decisions.

In France, the national insurance program is funded mostly by payroll and income taxes. Those payments go to several quasi-public insurance funds that then negotiate with medical unions to set doctors' fees.(Doctors can choose to work outside this system, and a growing minority now charge what patients are willing to pay out of pocket.) The government regulates most hospital fees. This system works collectively to keep costs down.

When someone goes to see a doctor, the national insurance program pays 70 percent of the bill. Most of the other 30 percent gets picked up by supplemental private insurance, which almost everyone has. It's affordable, and much of it gets paid for by a person's employer.

"There are no uninsured in France," says Victor Rodwin, a professor of health policy at New York University, who is affiliated with the International Longevity Center. "That's completely unheard of. There is no case of anybody going broke over their health costs. In fact, the system is so designed that for the 3 or 4 or 5 percent of the patients who are the very sickest, those patients are exempt from their co-payments to begin with. There are no deductibles."

Treating The Sickest
In France, the sicker you are, the more coverage you get. For people with one of 30 long-term and expensive illnesses — such as diabetes, mental illness and cancer — the government picks up 100 percent of their health care costs, including surgeries, therapies and drugs.

France has made an unusual guarantee that every cancer patient can get any drug, including the most expensive and even experimental ones that are still being tested, says Dr. Fabian Calvo, deputy director of France's National Cancer Institute. This kind of access is why the French — unlike Americans — say they are highly satisfied with their health care system, he says.

"It's a feeling of safety — that if you have a big problem, you could have access to the good therapy," Calvo says.

When compared with people in other countries, the French live longer and healthier lives. Rodwin says that's because good care starts at birth. There are months of paid job leave for mothers who work. New mothers get a child allowance. There are neighborhood health clinics for new mothers and their babies, home visits from nurses and subsidized day care.

The Cost Of Care

It's expensive to provide this kind of health care and social support. France's health care system is one of the most expensive in the world.

But it is not as expensive as the U.S. system, which is the world's most costly. The United States spends about twice as much as France on health care. In 2005, U.S. spending came to $6,400 per person. In France, it was $3,300.

To fund universal health care in France, workers are required to pay about 21 percent of their income into the national health care system. Employers pick up a little more than half of that. (French employers say these high taxes constrain their ability to hire more

Americans don't pay as much in taxes. Nonetheless, they end up paying more for health care when one adds in the costs of buying insurance and the higher out-of-pocket expenses for medicine, doctors and hospitals.

France, like all countries, faces rising costs for health care. In a country that's so generous, it's even harder to get those expenses under control.

Last year, the national health system ran nearly $9 billion in debt. Although it is a smaller deficit than in previous years, it forced the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy to start charging patients more for some drugs, ambulance costs and other services. Debates over cost-cutting have become an expected part of the national dialogue on health care.

mercredi, juillet 02, 2008

comment dit-on "localtarian"?

Reason #4,269 that I want to move to France: good, healthy, reasonably priced food in public high schools.
Chef Proves School Lunch Can Be Healthy, Cheap : NPR
Morning Edition, July 2, 2008 · Chef Dominique Valadier starts each day at 5:30 a.m., just as the fish market opens in the southern French provincial town of Salon de Provence.

On one particular day, he picks up 20 pounds of fresh, live mussels at the market before heading off to Lycee de l'Emperi, the public high school where he is the cook.

At the school, he prepares meals for about 800 students, using all fresh, local ingredients. The introduction of healthy school lunch programs, like this one, is one major reason France has been able to curb childhood obesity rates after two decades on the rise, according to two recent studies.

From Within 30 Miles
The menu on this day at Valadier's high school: mussels in cream sauce over rice with leeks and stuffed turkey thighs, accompanied by a squash au gratin casserole.

Nothing here is frozen or pre-prepared, Valadier says.

"Voila. This sticker here shows where these mussels came from and when they were harvested," he says. "This guarantees their freshness."

Eyes twinkling and knives flashing, Valadier opens up the plump turkey thighs, cutting out the bones.

The flattened turkey filets are wrapped around a stuffing of ground up parsley, garlic, cheese and smoked pork shoulder. The loaves are then tied with twine and baked for three hours at low temperatures to keep in the juices and flavor. When sliced, they will serve hundreds of students, 10 times the number that could have been fed on the plain turkey thighs. Preparation and proximity are the keys to high quality meals at lower prices, says Valadier.

"We try to get our base products — meat, fish, vegetables — within a 30-mile radius, because there are fewer intermediaries and we can negotiate prices and quality with the producer. These turkeys were raised and slaughtered just near here," Valadier says. "If I have a problem, I'll ask the producer to come see me, and I can guarantee you things will be a lot better the next time!"

Healthy and Cheap
All around the school kitchen, food is cooking in various pots and pans. Gallons of bechamel, a seasoned white sauce, bubble for the squash casserole. A vat of chickpeas boils for homemade hummus. It is hard to believe this is a public school cafeteria and not a three-star restaurant.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Valadier's meals is that they cost the students only $3 a day, less than the typical fast food fare served at many French high schools.

Another way Valadier saves money is by getting maximum use out of every ingredient. He never throws anything away. In one corner of the kitchen, he is boiling down the fish heads, flesh and bones from yesterday's salmon to make a tasty bouillon for today's mussels.

As lunch hour begins and the students file in, Valadier serves them while answering questions about the meal. He reaches across the counter with a forkful of the squash au gratin to give 17-year-old Valentine Biemence a taste. Biemence says she and her friends have all but quit eating lunch at McDonald's and have discovered a lot of new dishes.

"It's all the time different food and very, very good," Biemence says. "People are really happy, because it's really hard now to eat well and cheap."

Investing in the Future
Valadier once worked in the glamorous world of Riviera restaurants. He says he left that life for something more meaningful. Investing in students' well-being is also an act of citizenship, he explains. If young people learn to eat well early on, they will cost the country's health care system a lot less in the future.

He has clearly found his calling here, while winning over the students — and teachers. Danielle Viou teaches drama and English at the high school.

"We are very, very lucky because it's a real project. It's not just doing the cooking, it's a whole concept of educating and taking time and enjoying it," Viou says. "And it's artistic at the same time."