Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Friday, May 28, 2004

From Dahr Jamail, Baghdad correspondent for The NewStandard:

In the dark humor that has become so popular in Baghdad these days, one recently released detainee said, "The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house!"

Photo: CNN's Baghdad Cam
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
God Bless You, Mr. Gore!

Vice President Gore speaking at NYU.

I am keenly aware that we have seven months and twenty five days remaining in this president's current term of office and that represents a time of dangerous vulnerability for our country because of the demonstrated incompetence and recklessness of the current administration.
It is therefore essential that even as we focus on the fateful choice, the voters must make this November that we simultaneously search for ways to sharply reduce the extraordinary danger that we face with the current leadership team in place. It is for that reason that I am calling today for Republicans as well as Democrats to join me in asking for the immediate resignations of those immediately below George Bush and Dick Cheney who are most responsible for creating the catastrophe that we are facing in Iraq...

In December of 2000, even though I strongly disagreed with the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to order a halt to the counting of legally cast ballots, I saw it as my duty to reaffirm my own strong belief that we are a nation of laws and not only accept the decision, but do what I could to prevent efforts to delegitimize George Bush as he took the oath of office as president.
I did not at that moment imagine that Bush would, in the presidency that ensued, demonstrate utter contempt for the rule of law and work at every turn to frustrate accountability...

I believe we have a duty to hold President Bush accountable - and I believe we will. As Lincoln said at our time of greatest trial, "We - even we here - hold the power, and bear the responsibility."

Photo: Reuters

If I had a food Time Tunnel I would travel back to my youth and teach myself how to make this stuffed pasta dish.
The lengthy and possibly intimidating prep rewards cook and guests with a tantalizing combination of flavors and textures.
This dish makes a fantastic party presentation and a delicious hot or cold leftover.
The Rule of Three comes not from Sherlock Holmes but from my mother.
With regard to the cooking of fruit and vegetables, the use of three different types of plant varieties or similarly flavored items generally and I guess obviously boosts flavor.
In this tomato meat sauce, the combination of canned tomatoes, V-8 and bouillon comprise the Rule of Three.
Keep plenty of sauce in reserve as the manicotti absorbs this liquid as it bakes.
A few days ago in the new grocery, where there always seems to be a small knot of ladies discretely observing my purchases, I heard a little voice say, “Is that rhubarb? I didn’t know they still sold it.”
“Oh, yes”, I said. “It’s sold for a short while every spring”
The lady, maybe a few years older than myself, of a sudden, looked wistfully reflective and said, “Oh, we used to eat that every year. My mother would cook it and leave it in a bowl in the refrigerator and we’d eat it with sugar.”
I said, “Well, it’s easy to prepare and like any high-color fruit or vegetable it is very good for you. Plus,” I said while pointing, “It’s right over there.”
From the reaction, prior to her eye-glazed tune-out, my suggestion seemed akin to recommending anesthetic-free do-it-yourself home surgery.
However, I’m confidant she’d damn near break her arm scrambling to acquire a memory-soothing and tangy whipped-cream or ice-cream crowned dish of the wonderful Rhubarb Crisp described below…

Cheese-stuffed Manicotti (or Cannelloni) with Rule of 3 Tomato Meat Sauce

In a large saucepan fry 1 lb. mild sausage in 1 Tbsp Olive Oil breaking meat apart into small pieces.

In a large bowl, combine:
2 14 oz. cans of peeled Tomatoes (I use Red Gold)
1 Tsp Tomato Bouillon (or Caldo de Tomate in a Latin Grocery)
1 5.5 oz. can of V-8
I chopped and peeled White Onion
2 Tsp dry Basil or 10-12 fresh leaves (fresh or dry Marjoram also works)
½ Tsp Oregano
5 peeled Garlic cloves
1 Tsp Sea Salt
½ Tsp Black Pepper
Pulse this tomato mixture, in two seperate batches, in a blender until pulpy.

Add Tomato mixture to browned Sausage.
Add 2 14 oz. cans of Chicken Broth.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and, then, simmer approximately one hour.

Boil for one half it’s recommended cooking time and drain in cold water one entire package of manicotti.
Keep pasta damp until it is stuffed.


1 24 oz. container of Ricotta Cheese
1 handful fresh Parsley, chopped
2 beaten Eggs
1 lb. Provolone Cheese, half cubed and half sliced thin
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine Cheese, Parsley, Eggs, seasoning and Provolone cubes.

Preheat oven to 400

Cover the bottom of a large baking dish with sauce.
Stuff cooled manicotti with Egg/Cheese mixture.
Place stuffed manicotti into the sauced baking dish.
I use a small spatula but you could use a pastry bag.
If you use a pastry bag make sure the Provolone cubes will pass through the tip.
Arrange sliced Provolone and Basil leaves over top of stuffed manicotti.
Add a few more dollops of sauce and, if desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan Cheese.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes.
Reserve warm sauce for portion presentation.

Rhubarb Crisp
Oven at 375


1 cup all purpose Flour
½ cup packed light Brown Sugar
½ cup old-fashioned Oats
½ Tsp Cinnamon
10 Tbsp chilled Butter cut into cubes

Add Flour, Sugar, Oats and Cinnamon in a medium bowl or food processor.
Add butter.
Pulse or combine with a pastry cutter or fork until moist clumps form.


6-7 stalks of Rhubarb, trimmed and cut into small chunks
1 ½ cups Sugar
3 Tbsp quick-cooking Tapioca
2 Tbsp fresh Lemon juice
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Mix ingredients in a large bowl and transfer to a 13x9x2-baking dish.
Cover with topping.
Bake 40 minutes or until fruit bubbles and topping appears browned.
Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Photos:, University of Illinois Extension, Irwin Allen News Network

Tuesday, May 25, 2004
As the mandate of heaven failed, despite 3 years of zealous protestations to the contrary, to descend so too did George Bush, now seemingly in the wake of History’s fulcrum, fail to effectively wear the heavy cloak of his appointed office last evening.

As the retro-Riefenstahl Bloomberg News photo suggests the trappings of this most unusual presidency were bountifully visible in the War College-reinterpreted-as-Throne Room-by-wacky-TV consultant setting.
The setting overwhelmed and, unfortunately, poll-panicky White House image consultants further hindered their candidate’s cause with a high-tech safety net observed by the Washington Post’s Tom Shales:

Bush appeared to be using three prompting devices: one to his left, one to his right and one in the center, mounted on the camera used for the head-on shot.

The President, having the noticeable smell of toast wafting about his televised image, said this, gallingly, without an apologetic preface:

The swift removal of Saddam Hussein's regime last spring had an unintended effect…the terrorists are likely to become more active and more brutal.

He then, with that blank look of smug self-righteousness, lost himself in the weeds of a proposed Iraqi bureaucracy and even had the brazen temerity to wave the slim straw of Iraqi oil profitability:

Iraqi oil production has reached more than two million barrels per day, bringing revenues of nearly $6 billion so far this year.

At $4 to 5 billion per month, I guess, that means Iraqi oil has covered about one month and one week of costs as opposed to the pre war claim that Iraqi oil would underwrite the entire effort and be a cost-lowering American import.
I’d laugh but I’m too busy hunting for twenty bucks to pay for 10 gallons of gas.

As Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez is suddenly removed from CentCom command prior to a Joe Dowdy Memorial chopper ride to Kuwait and as the Army plans to submit two thousand accidentally deleted pages from the Taguba Report to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Torture Scandal deepens with news of off-the-book “ghost detainees”:

The memorandum was obtained by The New York Times. It was described as an agreement between the Army intelligence unit assigned to the prison and "external agencies," a euphemism for the C.I.A., to halt practices that bypassed both military rules and international standards…The memorandum provides the clearest indication to date that military officials were troubled by the practice even before General Taguba wrote his report. A senior intelligence official said last week that the practice was intended "to keep the capture of a small number of terrorists quiet for some time," but was discontinued in January.

Searching through the White House web site, yesterday, I came upon this photo of the President’s French-cuffed hand by White House photographer Eric Draper.
The photo was from a set of State of the Union prep photos and I’ve been unable to rediscover the specific link after a pesky computer shutdown.
I was taken by the image of a frail soft hand, the unusual marks on the President's wrist and the, likely gold, W cufflink pinning the starched French cuff.
This unlikely image, to me, typifies the real man far more than any of the scripted banner-rich environments I’ve observed over these past three years.

The garden, no matter the aphids and the pitifully few cicadas observed atop these high Kentucky hills, remains deeply satisfying with a surprise springtime hit taking the form of these, soon to be repotted, young pumpkin vines in this charming, if mass-manufactured, ceramic frog pot.
I fell under the spell of these spiky vines last year.
This year I hope to discover if the oddly beautiful pumpkin blossom is as delicious as the insects in last year’s inner city garden found the pumpkin vines themselves.
Additionally, on the infrequently posted food front, if time permits today or tomorrow, I’ll post a recipe for a Rhubarb Crisp and a supremely delicious Stuffed Manicotti in meat sauce.

Photos: Bloomberg News,, White House
Sunday, May 23, 2004

As the President falls from a bicycle the Washington Post, this morning, pushes responsibility for the procedures symbolized by Abu Ghirab further up a terrified and ready-to-spill-for-immunity command chain.
Readers of this blog certainly don’t need me to spell out the obvious humor inherent in the latest Presidential tumble as old Drudgie her-own-self headline’s the next President of the United States’ reaction:

Did the training wheels fall off?

I’m told all presidential pretzels are currently under protective lock-down so as to avoid further repeats of the generational Japanese Cookie-Toss Scenario.
Look for Laura and the girls to testify witnessing steadfast and even-keeled living quarter navigation as dark suggestions of alQaeda infiltration of a Crawford bicycle repair shop are floated.

Army Captn Donald J. Reese

Meanwhile the Washington Post obtained an audiotape of a preliminary hearing held at Camp Victory in Iraq on April 2, 2004.
Based on the contents of that tape, reporters called Janice Karpinski for her thoughts.
The highlights from tape and phone call:

372nd Military Police Company Commander Capt. Donald J. Reese will testify, in exchange for immunity, that Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez “was present during some ‘interrogations and/or allegations of the prisoner abuse’”.

Intelligence officers told [soldiers] the abuse of detainees on the cellblock was "the right thing to do."

Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, who supervised the military intelligence operation at Abu Ghraib, was "involved in intensive interrogations of detainees, condoned some of the activities and stressed that that was standard procedure."

Sanchez visited the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade's operation, which encompassed Tier 1A at Abu Ghraib, at least three times in October, according to Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski.

How Sheikh

Gilt and silvered bronze roundel from Mantua circa 1480-1500

When we last visited compulsive fine art shopper Sheikh Saud al-Thani of Qatar on May 1st, I described his purchase of a rediscovered Renaissance roundel for £7.9 million at Christie’s last December.
Thanks to the London Guardian and The Art Newspaper we get a peek at the dinner-plate-sized gilt and silvered bronze which sat, wrapped in paper, in a London cupboard for 50 years before it was purchased at 4 ½ times its high auction estimate by our cash-flush Sheikh.

Photos: Reuters, Washington Post, Art Newspaper

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