Kris, the friend I meet at Jimmy Bean’s on Tuesday mornings to write with, has been recovering from a back operation, and I’ve been chauffeur while Claudia heals from her total knee replacement, so I’ve been sloughing off on blogging, but both are mobile on their own now, so I’m catching up.

MONTHS AGO: I hadn’t seen Reds when it was in the theaters, so we watched the DVD a few weeks ago. Later at the writing office I did some timed writings and then picked up A Long View from the Left: Memoirs of an American Revolutionary by Al Richmond. My mother knew Al Richmond when he was editor of the People’s World, and liked him. I like his writing. I hadn’t known that his mother was a Russian revolutionary in exile when he was born, and that they went back when the tsar was overthrown, when he was about five. So what John Reed (the main character in Reds) saw as a young man, Richmond saw as a young boy. Here’s my favorite vignette from the book so far, when he was six or seven:
“With residence at the Metropole [hotel in Moscow] went the privilege of eating in its dining room twice a day. The cuisine did not match the grandeur of the physical setting. I especially remember a gruel that was served for breakfast as I was convinced at the time that it consisted of the kind of oats that is fed to horses. Cooking did nothing to destroy or soften the tough, stubborn individuality of these grains. I chewed and I chewed them until I was tired of chewing, but the grind of my child molars made no more impression than the cooks had; these grains would not be masticated into a mash and when I finally swallowed them each descended through my gullet as whole and intact as Jonah.” p 24-25.

 I just got back from this year’s Mario Savio Memorial Lecture, a series in which I have heard Molly Ivins and Angela Davis. Tonight I heard Robert F. Kennedy Jr., speaking on the environment. My friend Emily and I met at Amanda’s in downtown Berkeley— healthy, organic fast food in biodegradable plastic containers—and arrived at the Berkeley Community Theater to find a long line already formed. We got in conversation with a personable young man standing behind us. Turns out he goes to Berkeley High, where the theater is, and is in the Environmental Justice small school. He’s done some community service and a lot of studying on the issue. I’m at an age where I am relieved to see younger people taking up the work. Part of the lecture program every year is the Mario Savio Young Activist Award, given to someone under thirty, preferably under twenty-six, who is accomplishing amazing things for peace or social justice. This year’s award went to a young woman, daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, who organizes for workplace justice in New York City.

Then Robert Kennedy spoke, without notes, for about two hours, and I was riveted the whole time. He talked about being on the board of a venture capital firm in San Francisco that invests in green technology, so he knows all kinds of neat technological stuff, plus he’s been talking to the Obama transition team, knows insider political stuff, plus he’s great at excoriating the Bush administration, and he’s funny besides. Neat tech stuff: We now have the ability to build a smart grid that will not only allow us to sell solar power back to the power companies but through which we can volunteer to have one or more specific appliances in our houses turned off for fifteen minutes from a central point during a spike in power use so we don’t need extra power plants to cover these brief peaks. If we have an electric water heater, for instance, fifteen minutes off would only drop the water temperature one degree. Kennedy has three kids with asthma, so he has a personal interest in stopping particulates from dirty coal. (I had asthma as a kid, so I know how that feels.) The worst news was about mercury pollution—also from dirty coal—that will cause thousands of babies to be born with IQs 5 or 6 points lower than they would have been without the neurological damage mercury causes in the fetus. In the question period someone asked “What can we do?” about environmental problems in general. Kennedy didn’t talk about consumer choices or recycling or solar panels, he said we need to keep involved in the political process. 

OK, topsoil. Not a sexy issue, but the Dust Bowl of the twenties and thirties was caused by a rise in the price of wheat during the First World War that led people to put under the plough arid land that should have been left for grazing. Now ethanol is pushing corn prices up and I fear the same thing will happen. Soybean plants aren’t as hard on soil as corn, so biodiesel isn’t quite as bad as corn ethanol, nor is cellulostic ethanol, but corn ethanol should be stopped right now yesterday.

Speaking of corn, I’m trying a no-gluten diet to see if it will help my arthritis, so I’m eating no wheat and more corn. I wanted to make spoon bread—I have fond memories of eating my mother’s and I knew she used the recipe on the Alber’s Corn Meal box. So I went to the store, but the box had other recipes on it, not that one. I knew what to do. I googled “Alber’s corn meal spoon bread recipe” and there it was, exactly as I remembered it. Corn meal mush with baking powder, egg yolk, grated cheese and beaten egg whites mixed in and baked. Real comfort food. My mother often put recipes in her newsletter, Sporadic Times. And back when she wrote a homemaking column for the People’s World under the name of Marjorie Crane, she put recipes in that, too. Here’s a recipe she sent me for persimmon pudding, typed on a 3 x 5 card.

Dear Nan:
    Here’s the recipe for persimmon pudding.
1 cup ripe persimmon pulp
1  “   flour
1  “   sugar
1/2 “ milk
1/2 “ chopped walnuts
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp salt  1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp melted butter

Mix well, put in rather small buttered casserole or deep cake tin, bake in slow oven 1 hr. Makes a dark pudding, like plum p. keeps well, and can be cut like cake.

    We didn’t take away our shards and tins because we were too loaded. La Honda Y camp is far into the mts on winding roads and we got there late, but in time for dinner and fun.

TODAY: The first day of the rest of my life—Claudia is driving!

The no-gluten diet didn’t work for me, which was a relief because I really like yeast-raised baked goods, which require gluten, but a disappointment because I’d like something to work.

For Michael Moore’s Michigander views on the General Motors bankruptcy go to He manages to bury his I-told-you-so in an interesting plan for the use of the GM plants. Good for him.
This image comes from a post about corn syrup on strollerderby, “the mother of all parenting blogs.”
Tuesday, June 2, 2009