Thursday, October 23, 2008

January 20, 2009

By Gary T. Czerwinski

I already Miss George W. Bush.

No public official made a columnist’s job so easy. All W. had to do was to open his mouth and it was a cinch to type out 500 words why what he had to say was so inane. Or dangerous.

I expect Janurary 20, 2009 his last day in office, will be a day of celebration around the world, the likes of which we’ve never seen. I’m confident it will rival New Year’s, complete with fireworks.

Old W. has mellowed a bit in these, his final days. Gone is his bellicose braggadocio. Gone is the smirk and forced smile. When he appears on television, he’s basically just a footnote that no one wants to read. And no one believes.

I’ve always contended that W. never really felt comfortable in his role as president. His countenance expressed that he wasn’t “elected” president as much as he “pulled it off.”

(What is it with all this facial quirkiness among Republicans? Watching McCain’s grimaces, eye-rolling, tongue-sticking-out in the third debate, I felt like I was back teaching junior high kids. And then Palin’s wink-wink.)

To give him credit, W. has at least been consistent in his resume. Like most of his previous jobs, he leaves this one much the same: in worse shape and broke. Not only is our own economy in a toilet that Joe the Plumber can’t figure out, but the rest of the world’s is jeopardized as well. And to think he began his presidency with a budget surplus! Aren’t you glad he had an MBA?

Ironically, one of the best things he managed to accomplish was to ruin his own party, the GOP. It’s no wonder conservatives like Colin Powell and Christopher Buckley, (son of William F. Buckley considered the “father of modern conservatism”) are jumping ship. If McCain loses, it’s because he’s been unable to organize a winning coalition or message. In his acceptance speech at the GOP convention, that message or theme was “fight with me!”

Huh? Fight?

Americans are tired of fighting. Fight in Iraq. Fight to pay for gasoline. Fight to pay high food costs. Fight to keep your job. That’s all we’ve been doing for eight years. For too long, families have fought just to stay afloat and to feel optimistic in a querulous world his presidency helped to create.

Contrast that to Barack Obama’s stellar campaign organization and message of unity and hope. And intellectualism.

Ignorance and greed can’t grow a nation.

Does W. have any remorse for the damage he’s done and lives he’s ruined? One has to wonder. When he walks the White House halls alone, does he ever wonder, “God, I really screwed up?”

I know there are still die-hards who fervently believe in poor W. There are those who blindly believe his failed policies will somehow be vindicated by history and that his foreign policy has been prescient. But they are the same who believe Sarah Palin is ready to assume the presidency.

Unfortunately, W. is not quite out the door yet. I’m sure he’s already preparing a list of “pardons.” Unknown facts and circumstances will surface as historians sift through the verbiage of his disasters. Slips of the tongue will reveal new details. His visage will drift in and out of focus. But one thing is certain: I doubt that face will ever appear on any of our currency he so infamously devalued. And defamed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Apple-Onion Casserole

A regional classic featuring apples, onions, herbs and bacon. A great accompaniment to ham and pork. I like it cold, too.

This recipe is adapted from my Grandma’s old cookbook. It sounded so whacky I had to try it. It’s almost a meal in itself and the first time I made it I almost ate all of it. I suspect it’s an old recipe with ingredients that were cheap and which most housewives would have had on hand. 

When I lived in SW Michigan, I had access to a myriad of apple varieties. One of my favorite roadside stands was run by a little old lady who grew old apple varieties and could tell you what kind of apple it was by just looking at it ... ten feet away! She was a rarity who still grew Winesaps which I love. A bowl of Winesaps will scent an entire room! Always add one to your apple pie. 

If you choose to use rosemary, use fresh; dried rosemary needles can be annoying in one's mouth . . .
  • 3 medium-sized onions
  • 2 medium-sized, crisp apples
  • 6 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup soft, cubed bread crumbs, crusts removed
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • Dried/fresh thyme leaves and/or rosemary needles. Give a good mince.
Peel and slice onions thinly, about 1/8 inch. I used yellow sweet onions.

Peel and core apples then slice into rings. I've tried using "chunks" but it doesn't work as well. Thin slices of apple "rings" work best and look the best when layered with the onion. You may choose to keep the skin on, and,  for a more festive look around Christmas, use a red and green apple. If you can find them, Ida Reds are nice and will a pink blush.

Cut bacon into smaller pieces and sauté/fry until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain and cool. Add the bread cubes to the bacon “renderings” to coat. Remove to a bowl. In the same pan, add chicken broth, a pinch or two of dried thyme or rosemary (or both!). Bring to a boil and reduce to a bit less than 1/2 cup.

Butter a 1.5 quart glass-baking dish. Arrange the apples, onions and bacon in alternate layers. Pour in the broth mixture. Cover the top with the fat-soaked bread cubes.

Cover the dish and bake in a 375-degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. Uncover it and cook for another 15 minutes longer.

Notes: It's important to have crisp apples. If the apples are soft, they will cook before the onions. You want everything the same texture.