One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and Leonard Peltier’s Thanksgiving Statement

(Includes a meal brought to you by Discomfort Foods)

I’ve been living on Custer Street in Salina, Kansas since the day I moved to the United States from India in 2000. At that time I had no idea who General George Armstrong Custer was and what he had stood for. Now I do.

On Thanksgiving Day I was in my kitchen here on Custer Street, and I received an email from Prison Radio that included Leonard Peltier’s “Thanksgiving 2019 Statement” read by Mumia Abu Jamal. So I listened to it as I was cooking our Thanksgiving dinner.

Typically, the type and quantity of each ingredient I might use in the presentation of a Discomfort Foods recipe is determined by choosing key statistics and points that are embedded in the story being conveyed and converting that to a measurement or meal design. But listening to the statement inspired me to turn the dinner I was already preparing—with our usual turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and green beans—into a Discomfort Foods design. This time the discomfort element is to be experienced not through our taste buds, or the wonderful smells of the turkey cooking in the oven, or whatever. It comes from the words of Peltier in the voice of Abu Jamal—two people who are paying the heaviest of prices at the hands of white-freedom. That’s what makes any Thanksgiving meal hard to swallow. And should.

We associate Thanksgiving with the beginning of holidays and good eatin’—things we take for granted. Discomfort Foods challenges that. It isn’t just counter-comfort, It’s also counter-association, trying to replace grandiose associations—of our bloody history, of the present and of the future—with ones that are fact-based and justice-based.

Peltier’s statement:

The year of 2019 is coming to a close, and with it comes the day most Americans set aside as a day for Thanksgiving. As I let my mind wander beyond the steel bars and concrete walls, I try to imagine what the people who live outside the prison gates are doing, and what they are thinking. Do they ever think of the Indigenous people who were forced from their homelands? Do they understand that with every step they take, no matter the direction, that they are walking on stolen land? Can they imagine, even for one minute, what it was like to watch the suffering of the women, the children and babies and, yes, the sick and elderly, as they were made to keep pushing West in freezing temperatures, with little or no food? These were my people, and this was our land. There was a time when we enjoyed freedom and were able to hunt buffalo and gather the foods and sacred medicines. We were able to fish, and we enjoyed the clean clear water! My people were generous, we shared everything we had, including the knowledge of how to survive the long harsh winters or the hot humid summers. We were appreciative of the gifts from our Creator and remembered to give thanks on a daily basis. We had ceremonies and special dances that were a celebration of life.

With the coming of foreigners to our shores, life — as we knew it — would change drastically. Individual ownership was foreign to my people. Fences?? Unheard of, back then. We were a communal people, and we took care of each other. Our grandparents weren’t isolated from us! They were the wisdom keepers and story tellers and were an important link in our families. The babies? They were and are our future! Look at the brilliant young people who put themselves at risk, fighting to keep our water and environment clean and safe for the generations yet to come. They are willing to confront the giant, multi-national corporations by educating the general public of the devastation being caused. I smile with hope when I think of them. They are fearless and ready to speak the truth to all who are willing to listen. We also remember our brothers and sisters of Bolivia, who are rioting, in support of the first Indigenous President, Evo Morales. His commitment to the people, the land, their resources and protection against corruption is commendable. We recognize and identify with that struggle so well.

So today, I thank all of the people who are willing to have an open mind, those who are willing to accept the responsibility of planning for seven generations ahead, those who remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors so we can continue to speak our own language, practice our own way of thankfulness in our own skin, and that we always acknowledge and respect the Indigenous linage that we carry.

For those of you who are thankful that you have enough food to feed your families, please give to those who aren’t as fortunate. If you are warm and have a comfortable shelter to live in, please give to those who are cold and homeless, if you see someone hurting and in need of a kind word or two, be that person who steps forward and lends a hand. And, especially, when you see injustice anywhere, please be brave enough to speak up to confront it.

I want to thank all who are kind enough to remember me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for continuing to support and believe in me. There isn’t a minute in any day that passes without me hoping that this will be the day I will be granted freedom. I long for the day when I can smell clean fresh air, when I can feel a gentle breeze in my hair, witness the clouds as their movement hides the sun and when the moon shines the light on the path to the sacred Inipi. That would truly be a day I could call a day of Thanksgiving.

Thank you for listening to whomever is voicing my words. My Spirit is there with you.

Doksha, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Leonard Peltier Star.

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and an Impeachment

(includes a recipe brought to you by Discomfort Foods)

In February 2018 on Fox News, Laura Ingraham ended her interview with former CIA director James Woolsey by asking him if the United States continues to “mess around in other people’s elections.” To which Woolsey, as though tasting the tasty lie in his mouth, replied:

“Welllllllll aummmm yum yum yum yum yum… only for a very good cause, in the interest of democracy.”

The United States has been interfering in foreign elections since World War II. And our government’s foreign policy has always been about sabotaging other people’s lives and their environment in furtherance of its geopolitical interests. Policy has not been aimed at furthering a “good cause,” and it certainly has not been “in the interest of democracy.” 

For example, in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the Bush Administration and the EU pumped millions of dollars into Fatah’s campaign to ensure its victory. Fatah lost that election and Hamas won. And before the dust had settled on that defeat of US meddling, the Bush administration had already started making plans to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government.

In a 2008 investigative article, Vanity Fair reported that it had “obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan [a Fatah strongman], and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power.”

The assault on Gaza has not waned. While we here in the U.S. were glued to our screens watching the first day of impeachment hearings looking into Trumpian extortion aimed at manipulating the 2020 election, news was coming in from Gaza of Israeli forces killing dozens including 7-year-old Amir Rafat Mohammad Ayad.  

Im-Peach-Mint Quid Pro Quobbler 

(This is an updated version of an old-fashioned recipe for peach cobbler) 

Quobbler filling ingredients:

1.687 cups warm water

4 teaspoons imli (tamarind)

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

4.375 cups, peeled and sliced peaches

1 teaspoon salt

Quobbler batter ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup milk

Served with:

fresh mint leaves

vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

(cooking directions at the end of article)

Why I chose these ingredients in their respective measurements for the recipe design:

1.687 cups water equals 81 teaspoons, which conveys the findings of the Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong, Dov Levin, who revealed that between 1946 and 2000 the United States participated in 81 “partisan electoral interventions” around the world. This of course does not include the country’s numerous coups and invasions.

The original recipe called for 3/4 cup granulated sugar. I substituted that with 4 teaspoons imli (tamarind) to convey the fact that this is the fourth impeachment hearing in the country’s history. I chose imli because the first two letters ‘im’ conveniently prefix peach; as a Hindi word, it symbolizes the United States’ own meddling in foreign elections past, present and future; and the imli fruit has a very sour taste, communicating the tart irony of today’s politics: that in the crimes under examination in the impeachment hearings, America finds itself a victim at home of the same kinds of crimes it has committed abroad.

4.375 cups of peaches equals about 70 tablespoons, which in the recipe conveys the roughly 70 years that the U.S. has spent interfering in other people’s elections.

IMG_5918

The sweet quobbler batter making up the base remains true to the classic cobbler recipe, except I substituted granulated sugar with brown sugar to emphasize how almost always it’s the non-white people of this world who pay the price for our government’s intrigues. While baking in the oven, you can see the base slowly enveloping the im-peach filling, much like the predicament of our own ill-gotten and directly threatened democracy that is being artificially held together by a fake sense of sweet freedom.  

What started off as Russiagate has quickly evolved into Ukrainegate, so I added a teaspoon each of chili powder and salt and a few sprigs of fresh green mint leaves to add a few more articles of tongue-twisting tastes to challenge the status quobbler.

IMG_5939 

We had some friends over for dinner yesterday and I served them the quobbler for dessert as we played some gin rummy. And here are some reactions I got:

“It challenges the senses. Pushes you into unchartered territory. It doesn’t coincide with any expectations. Unfamiliar.” 

“The heat (from the chilly powder) creeps up on you. Metaphorically speaking, we keep going through this impeachment thing and it keeps getting hotter and hotter in your throat.”

Cooking directions: 

Soak the imli in the warm water for about 1/2 hour. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, squeeze as much of the pulp as possible out into the water. Pour the imli water along with the chili powder into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook (about 40 minutes), stirring occasionally till the sauce thickens and measures 1/4 cup.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put the imli sauce, sliced peaches and salt in a saucepan and cook on medium-high heat for about two minutes, stirring. 

Cut the butter into small pieces and add to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place the dish in the oven till the butter melts. Remove from oven.

In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir in the milk till just combined. Pour this mixture into the baking dish over the butter and spread it evenly to cover the bottom of the dish.

Spoon the peaches over the batter and bake for 35-40 minutes. Decorate with mint leaves and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. 

Enjoy during the remainder of the Im-Peach-Mint hearings with friends and family.

bon appétit!