we celebrate our sense of each other

January 4, 2018—Issue #144

Happy New Year!

By now, I’m sure most of you have heard the news. Today is my last day at Slate, and later in the month I’ll start writing for New York Times as a columnist. It’s an exciting change, even as I’m very grateful for my time at Slate.

It also means a few big changes for The Newsletter. The most important one is that this iteration of The Newsletter has to end. The last issue will hit your inbox on February 1st. If you’re a regular subscriber, that means you’ll get one more newsletter. Paid subscribers will get four more issues before things are up. At that point, if you’re a monthly subscriber, your subscription will end. If you’re a yearly subscriber, you’ll get a pro-rated refund. To make up for everything, these next four newsletters will have three recipes instead of two, and possibly more links.

With that said, the end of this direct relationship doesn’t mean the end of The Newsletter. It will continue in modified form. Details for what that means, and how to sign up, will come soon. Until then, I hope you enjoy these last few issues, and thank you all for your support.

As always, I want your thoughts and feedback. Shoot me an email, or leave a comment below. 

The Work

There won’t be any work until I start at the Times, so until then, I want to share some of my favorite work from Slate. First up is my very first piece for the magazine, on the ridiculous idea of “racist bones.”

There are many, many more where this came from. The problem is that “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” only makes sense if your definition of racism stops at personal animus. If that’s true, then yes, I’m sure that most people lack racist bones.

But let’s broaden our horizons a bit. If we think of “racism” as material harm—or anything that furthers racial stereotypes—then it doesn’t require anyone to hold hatred or show explicit bias. 

Second is a piece I wrote in 2015 on the divergent historical reputations of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee.

To millions of Americans, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, Lee is a role model and Grant is—despite his gifted generalship and consequential presidency—an embarrassment. What happened? How did the hero of the war become a quasi-ignominious figure, and how did the champion of Southern slavery become, if not the war’s hero, its most popular figure?

The Reading

A 1997 essay from historian Robin D. G. Kelley on “identity politics” and class struggle. Sonya Posmentier on the 14th Amendment. Jamilah King on the victims of Jonestown. Austin Murphy on delivering for Amazon. A New York Times mea culpa on its coverage of the 1980s crack epidemic. Lauren Hough on being a cable guy. Eric Orts on the Senate.

The Photo

It’s been a little while since I shared a photo of Carter, so here’s a recent picture of him hanging out in his Christmas gift from his grandparents. He’s getting so big!

The Recipes

Both of these are taken from my Rancho Gordo cookbooks. The first is a little involved, in terms of both ingredients and preparation. I have been able to find this particular kind of sausage at Whole Foods, but your mileage may vary. A good substitute would be a spice-forward sausage, like a Spanish chorizo. The second recipe is much, much easier. For the beans, I recommend just ordering straight from Rancho Gordo, you won’t regret it.

Marrow Beans with Merguez Sausage, Pistachios, and Honey

Ingredients!

  • ½ pound Marrow beans or similar, sturdy white bean, covered by 1-inch of cold weather and soaked overnight

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 pound fresh Merguez sausage

  • ½ medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 celery stalk, diced

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground

  • 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper

  • Salt

  • 1 bunch chard, stems removed and cut into ribbons

  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or more to taste

  • 2 teaspoons harissa paste

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • ⅓ cup chopped pistachios

  • Honey, for garnish

Directions!

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the beans and their soaking water to a boil.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the sausages and cook, turning frequently until brown and just cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Refrigerate until serving.

Pour off most of the fat from the skillet and set over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and sauté, stirring and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add a little water or chicken stock if needed to deglaze and keep the vegetables from sticking. Cook vegetables until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the vegetables, coriander, cumin, and Aleppo pepper to the beans. Partially cover and simmer until the beans begin to soften, about 1 hour. Season with salt and continue to cook until the beans are soft, about 30 more minutes.

In a small, heavy skillet over low heat, gently warm the sausages. 

Add the greens to the beans and cook, stirring, until tender. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley, lemon zest and juice, and harissa paste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve the beans in warmed shallow bowls, topped with sliced sausage, pistachios, and a drizzle of honey.

Flageolet Beans with Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Lemon

Ingredients!

  • 1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced with a mandolin

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 cups cooked Rancho Gordo Flageolet beans

  • Zest of 2 lemons

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese

  • Chopped, toasted walnuts, for garnish

  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions!

In a bowl, toss the shredded sprouts with the salt, if using. Mix well, kneading the sprouts with your hands to soften. Transfer to refrigerator and let sit for at least 15 minutes and up to 4 hours. Remove the sprouts from the refrigerator and, using your hands, squeeze them to remove excess liquid.

Transfer sprouts to a serving bowl. Add the beans, lemon zest and juice, and cheese; stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding pepper and additional salt if you need it. Top with toasted walnuts. Serve with crusty bread.


we have a lot to give one another

hold on, be strong

December 9, 2018—Issue #142

To be honest I’m only posting this gif because I love this stupid mascot.

First, some housekeeping. If you don’t subscribe to the weekly edition of this newsletter, I think you should consider it. Every week, I deliver takes, links, and recipes, as well as whatever else catches my eye that week. It’s a great value, and a great way to support my work. This month, to celebrate the holidays, subscriptions are 20 percent off! And this isn’t a temporary discount. Sign up and for as long as you are a subscriber, you will pay the reduced rate.

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Now, a quick take.

I want to share the most interesting thing I read this week. It’s from Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America by political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck. This particular chapter deals with the roots of Donald Trump’s appeal to Republican primary voters, and this particular passage highlights the way racial and economic appeals interacted together.

Even some of Trump’s positions and rhetoric that were ostensibly not about race may have activated racial attitudes, including his support for government programs like Social Security and Medicare. Social welfare and insurance programs have long been tied to racial attitudes, with support for welfare programs weaker among whites with less favorable views of African Americans. But for the programs that Trump supported, the opposite is true: Americans with less favorable views of African Americans have been more supportive of federal spending on Social Security and Medicare.

As the political scientist Nicholas Winter has argued, “Social Security has been linked symbolically with the in-group and with hard work and legitimately earned rewards—values and attributes associated symbolically with whiteness in most (white) Americans’ racial schemas.” Donald Trump’s discussion of protecting Social Security and Medicare for hardworking and deserving Americans arguably evoked racial imagery. [Emphasis mine]

For more than a year I’ve argued that you should understand Trump’s voters as cross-pressured between support for government programs and hostility toward diversity and immigration. What I hadn’t considered is how even a straightforward promise to protect Social Security and Medicare might be as racialized as a call to “build the wall” because of symbolic understandings of those programs. For these voters, these federal retirement programs are for whites, and thus there’s no perceived threat in a promise to protect them from any incursion. And on the flip side, a promise to expand them might prompt opposition, since current beneficiaries may see this as a giveaway to the “undeserving.”

This doesn’t mean “don’t propose major expansions of Medicare or Social Security” or “don’t propose new universal programs,” but it might mean that expectations of winning some Trump voters back on that basis are mistaken. They want government help, but they don’t want to share it.

As always, I want your thoughts and feedback. Shoot me an email, or leave a comment below. Are you liking The Newsletter™? Click here to say so on Twitter! And if you know someone who might enjoy this email, forward to a friend!


The Work

I wrote about the Mississippi special election and what it says about the nature of politics in the Deep South.

Mississippi whites are still among the most conservative in the nation, a direct consequence of the state’s experience with slavery, emancipation, and its aftermath. “These attitudes grew out of the historical incentives to subjugate African Americans—incentives that strengthened through the antebellum period and morphed in the postbellum period into significant institutional and social customs designed to keep blacks in socially, politically, and economically marginalized positions,” Acharya, Blackwell and Sen write.

I wrote about Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, and why he’s been forced to turn against some of his party’s judicial nominations:

What we see here, and what we’ve seen since Shelby County v. Holder unleashed modern voter suppression techniques, is a complete lack of Republican opposition to the ongoing drive to discourage and disenfranchise Democratic constituencies, and black Americans in particular. Moderate Republicans are just as indifferent as their most conservative colleagues. Even supporters of criminal justice reform like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley have little to say about dedicated efforts from co-partisans across the country to keep black people from voting.

I wrote about the ongoing legislative coups in Michigan and Wisconsin, and how they build on earlier efforts by the North Carolina Republican Party.

Even the best defense of these moves—that they are simply an effort to protect the gains and accomplishments of the previous majority—accepts the anti-democratic reasoning that an outgoing majority is not bound by the results of an election, and instead has the right to change the rules of the game to preserve its power.

And I zeroed in on the Wisconsin effort to write a little about the geographic and racial divides driving this attack on the outcome of the elections.

The Wisconsin Republican Party’s legislative coup is happening in a political environment shaped and polarized by these divisions and resentments. Eight years of hyper-partisanship, premised on a belief in the illegitimacy of the opposition, has culminated in a so-far successful effort to rob that opposition of its ability to exercise power now that it has claimed the reins of governance.

The broader implications are clear. The nation at large is wracked by a rural and urban divide that encompasses deep divisions along race, culture, and education. Increasingly polarized along partisan identity, those divides have helped produce a Republican Party—led by Donald Trump—that sees its opposition as illegitimate and seeks to restrict its influence on the nation’s politics and governance.

The Reading

Adam Serwer on the Creed franchise. Mari Uyehara on San Marzano tomatoes. Brian Palmer and Seth Freed Wessler on Confederate memorials. Aisling McCrea on the idea that “debate” reveals anything. Allison P. Davis on Lena Dunham. J.W. Mason on the economics profession since the Great Recession. Lawrence Glickman on racism and the English language. Chris Lebron on Kanye West. Thea Riofrancos on populism. Caroline Fulford on The Favourite.

The Photo

I think the D.C metro is extremely photogenic and I go through periods of photographing it and trying to capture its essence. I took the last time I was in the city, at the Woodley Park metro station. It’s my attempt to abstract elements of the station, reducing them to their most prominent attributes. Here, it is the lines that all converge at a single point.

This reminds me of something I’ve been working on. Next year, I’m doing a gallery show of some of my photos. But first I have to curate and select the work I want to share. To that end, I’ve been asking myself a few questions: What is my voice as a photographer? What am I trying to say or communicate with my work? What do I hope audiences take away?

As I wrestle with those questions, I’m curious to know what you think, especially if you’re a long-time reader who, at this point, has seen hundreds of my photos. What do you take away from them? How would you describe my aesthetic? Subscribers can leave an answer in the comments!

View comments


The Recipes

I made the first recipe for dinner on Saturday, and it was a hit. Would highly recommend serving with a salad of winter greens or something similar that can balance the plate, which will be heavy with butter and chicken fat. And, if we weren’t snowed in today, I would have gotten the ingredients to make the second recipe, which is one of my favorite pies. You can eat it for dessert, of course, but I think it’s best as a breakfast pie, served with a strong cup of coffee.

Chicken with Buttery Orzo

via bon appétit

Ingredients!

maintain' and keep silent, make note, an observation

November 24, 2018—Issue #141

For the Americans out there-which is most of you-I hope you had a warm, happy, and tasty Thanksgiving.

To celebrate the holiday, this newsletter is going out to all subscribers, free and paid!

That said, I don't have a particular take this week, although there is one brewing, related to a previous discussion on politics and social cohesion. Until then, I hope you enjoy the links and recipes for this weekend, and if you are new to The Newsletter™, welcome! I'm happy to have you.

As always, I want your thoughts and feedback. Shoot me an email, or leave a comment below. Are you liking The Newsletter™? Click here to say so on Twitter! And if you know someone who might enjoy this email, forward to a friend!

To get this newsletter every week, become a paid subscriber for just $5 a month or $50 a year. This weekend only, your first 3 months are free if you sign up monthly.

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The Work

The only work I did this week was an advice column! I stepped in for Daniel Ortberg to handle food questions for Thanksgiving. I think it went well!

Q. Mashed Potatoes: Say the future of liberal democracy depended on the mission impossible of convincing your dinner guests that there is a better potato way than mashed. What spud-based dish do you serve instead?

A: I don’t serve potatoes at Thanksgiving. There’s already enough starch and butter in the meal, but if I did, it would be a pommes anna or potato and leek gratin.

The Reading

Amanda Arnold on the end of Stacey Abrams' campaign for Georgia governor. Edward-Isaac Dovere on how Democrats won back Michigan. Parker Richards on the Electoral College. Helen Rosner on Thanksgiving. Lutivini Majanja on Thanksgiving. Allen Salway on Thanksgiving. Rajan Menon on the collapse of American foreign policy-making. April Glaser on the California fires. Max Read on the decline (and potential fall) of Facebook. Dayna Evans on the return of bread.

The Movies

The return to work after parental leave left me with only a little time to watch movies. But I've recently gotten back into the habit, and even went to an actual theater to watch a film on the big screen. (Shoutout to the in-laws for babysitting.)

We saw Widows, director Steve McQueen's latest and his first foray into genre film-making. It was fantastic.

A Michael Mann-ish heist thriller that is also the somewhat literal story of a woman burying her grief after the death of her husband that is also a sharp look at politics, capitalism, crime, and racism in an American city.

Basically, Michael Mann’s Thief + Season 3 of The Wire + all the Chicago scenery from The Fugitive with a sprinkle of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. 

As I think about it, the comparison to The Fugitive is apt. Steve McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn have taken what could have been a formulaic genre story and produced a tense, imaginative, artful yet crowd-pleasing thriller that moves so smoothly you hardly notice the seams and weak points (the big one: there is entirely too much plot, such that you could almost imagine this as a mini-series).

Additional notes: Viola Davis is a titan who dominates every scene she’s in. Elizabeth Debicki is truly excellent in what should be a star-making role. Daniel Kaluuya has incredible range, an amazingly expressive face, and in this film is genuinely terrifying, with a particular scene that is my new high point for “extremely villainous shit.” The third act is perfect.

The Photos

Kodak released its new Ektachrome transparency film this fall and I immediately bought a few rolls. These photos are from the first roll. At the top is a picture of Carter, obviously. And at the bottom is a photo I took just down the street from my apartment. 

I was struck by the deep blues, deep shadows (which I emphasized with slight underexposure) and sharp geometry. If you are interested, I shot this on my Leica M5 using a 35mm Zeiss lens. As always, you can follow me on Instagram for more photography.

The Recipes

Leftovers aren't actually the best thing about Thanksgiving, but they can be very useful. These recipes should use up the foods that typically make the most leftovers (or at least I’ve never experienced a Thanksgiving where people finished all of the turkey). The turkey soup is inspired by a turmeric-heavy soup from the Zahav cookbook. It's fragrant with cumin and garlic, and gets a blast of lemon flavor. (you should also use your turkey carcass to make stock for this recipe.) I didn’t have mashed potatoes at my Thanksgiving but if you had them at yours, you should make these waffles, which are outrageously delicious.

Turkey and Lemon Soup

Ingredients!

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large onion, minced

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 large carrot, diced

  • 1 large celery stock, diced

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1-inch fresh ginger, grated

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 6 cups turkey stock or chicken stock, preferably homemade

  • zest of one lemon

  • 2 to 3 cups chopped cooked turkey

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (can sub with more parsley)

  • cooked basmati rice for serving

Directions!

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until onions are translucent. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook another minute, then mix in the turmeric, cumin, and a generous pinch of salt.

Add turkey or chicken stock and along with lemon zest. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 20 minutes. During this time, make your rice. After 20 minutes, add the chopped turkey, lemon juice, parsley and cilantro, as well as more salt and pepper to taste taste. Cook gently just until the turkey is warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve soup with basmati rice and more cilantro or parsley for garnish.

Mashed Potato Waffles

via Joy the Baker

Ingredients!

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 cups mashed potatoes

  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Directions!

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. As the butter melts it will begin to crackle and pop. That’s the water evaporating out of the butter. Continue to cook the butter until the crackling subsides and the butter begins to brown a bit. The butter will smell nutty. Immediately transfer the browned butter into a medium bowl. Whisk in buttermilk and eggs until thoroughly combined. Add the mashed potatoes and 2 tablespoons chives and gently stir to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Use a spoon to mix until all of the flour is thoroughly combined. Try not to overmix the batter. Just stir it until the flour is combined.

Heat a waffle iron and grease if necessary.

Dollop batter (about 1/4 cup per waffle) into the waffle iron. Cook until golden on each side. The amount of time depends on your waffle iron. Remove waffles from the iron and place on a cooling rack to rest. The cooling rack will keep the waffles from getting soggy on the bottom as they cool.

Just before serving the waffles, turn oven to the broiler setting. Place waffles on a baking sheet and top with cheddar cheese. Place waffles under the broiler until cheese is melted, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with remaining chives and serve warm with fried eggs and salsa.


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