Saturday, March 15, 2014

Is Corned Beef and Cabbage Really Irish?

IS CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE a traditional Irish dish, or was it created by impoverished Irish American immigrants who needed an affordable alternative to chicken to put on their Sunday dinner table?

To set the record straight, I have extensively researched this topic and discovered corned beef and cabbage is definitely from Ireland, though people there today mostly eat fish, pork and mutton.

Corned beef originated in the 17th century as a way of preserving beef before there was refrigeration. The word "corn" in corned beef refers to the large chunks of salt that were used in the brine.

I discovered that a corned beef processing plant was established in the port city of Cork, Ireland, in 1682, to provide provisions for ships crossing the Atlantic. In fact, between the 1680s and 1825, corning beef was Cork's most important industry.

True, most of the Irish corned beef was exported to Britain and Europe, but some Irish people ate it with cabbage to break the Lenten fast on Easter. Irish immigrants mostly likely brought corned beef with them when they came to America.

Properly prepared, corned beef and cabbage is a lusty, scrumptious, satisfying dish. And now that you know it is truly Irish, you can enjoy it completely on St. Patrick's Day (and any other day) without feeling even a wee bit guilty! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day of the Dead Poem for Bobby Kennedy

which bobby that bobby sitting there
next to christopher pretty boy
edge of old sagging bed
glorious threadbare star quilt
one room plank wood shack
cracked windowpanes
that bobby
pine ridge indian reservation
white world on hold
that bobby
speaking softly
pretty boy mother father mangled killed
buried at wounded knee
just three days prior
that bobby
time drifting by some say hours
speaking softly
that bobby
bewildered reporters
stranded outside with junky cars
wild horses and barking dogs
no pay phone booth
all those enthusiastic supporters
patiently waiting impatiently
in rapid city
fidgety blue-eyed campaign aids fidgeting
not allowed inside
that bobby
sitting there speaking softly
with christopher pretty boy
that bobby who once said
perhaps we cannot prevent
this world from being a world
in which children suffer
but we can reduce the number
of suffering children
that bobby
whistle stop tour across the prairie bobby
huge crowds lining rural highways
in indiana bobby
waves of students rushing knocking
over chairs grabbing ripping shirt sleeves
stealing his cufflinks in the old field house
at kansas state university bobby
screaming crowds in los angeles
mexicans on castro street holding out
plates of tortillas
scar faced black children greenville mississippi
laying on filthy mattresses
tummies bloated
merced california migrant labor camps
families huddling ten to a room fighting off night terrors rats
that bobby who in scottsbluff nebraska once said
where one of us prospers all prosper
where one of us falters all falter
that bobby laying there on the pantry floor
at the Ambassador Hotel clutching
busboy juan romero’s rosary beads
asking if everyone else was alright
dreadful june morning
my alarm clock radio woke me up
the senator is dead
i was 20 he was 43
two million people standing at attention
as bobby’s funeral train sadly clanked by
salty old veterans in eisenhower jackets
boy scouts sailors firemen saluting
little leaguers holding caps on their hearts
nuns and factory workers
sweet old black women hysterical
arms raised to the sky
brawny white men clutching tiny flags
in ham-hock hands
white policemen holding up black babies
poor white trash wiping away tears
whole families crying sobbing heaving
wide eyed school children holding signs
goodbye bobby
so-long bobby god bless bobby
simply bobby
that bobby
who once said
let us tame the savageness of man
that bobby  
who would not have bombed cambodia
no kent state no jackson state no watergate
bobby that bobby
who would rather be sitting on a worn blanket
with a heartbroken orphan
in a shack on the pine ridge
bobby that bobby
the bobby i loved

--David Bunnell,
Day of the Dead, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

How to Improve Your Short-Term Memory without Playing Computer Games

IF YOU WANT TO PLAY COMPUTER GAMES to shore up your memory and cognitive skills, go ahead. There are plenty of scientific studies to demonstrate the effectiveness of programs from LuminosityPosit Science and other brain exercise companies.

But if you are like me, the idea seems retrograde. When personal computers first came out in the mid-1970's, I played lunar lander on an Altair and was a fan of Microsoft's Flight Simulator which was once the most popular computer game for the IBM PC.

But that was then.

Today my work life revolves around computers. I spend hours every day writing articles, sending out tweets and positing on Facebook and LinkedIn.  I regularly use a dozen or more iPhone apps and I read books on my Kindle. The very idea of finding another reason to stare at a screen (big or small) is an anathema.

If you share this sentiment, you may be interested in the simple exercise I've devised to shore up my short-term memory which leverages off a daily ritual that I have been doing for at least 50 years.

It has been amazingly effective for me. I can remember names, facts, numbers, and visual images better than I could 20 years ago and while I can't back up my claims with double-blind studies, it won't take much of your time to try it out.

All you need is a daily newspaper.

Every morning I read The New York Times, usually but not always at a coffee shop. I read the entire front page first without turning to the pages where articles are continued.

Today's edition, for example, had six front-page stories and a striking photograph of Pope Francis waking though a large joyous crowd of presumably Catholic worshipers.

The lead story was about Iran seeking a nuclear accord to end sanctions that have pretty much wrecked their economy. There was a news analysis piece by David Sanger, one of my favorite reporters, noting how things in the Middle East have shifted dramatically in the past couple week with both Iran and Syria wanting to negotiate deals with the United States.

The other articles included one about the many signs of distress exhibited by the shooter who killed a bunch of people in a Washington, D.C. navy yard, a report that the Mars rover has failed to find signs of life on the planet, the surprising news that the textile mills in South Carolina are operating again, and finally, the shock waves created by the Pope who said the church had grown "obsessed" with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception (no duh).

While reading the front page I made a mental note to myself to remember the name of Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, and also the name of the Mars rover, Curiosity.

Moving on, I turned the pages one after another, picking up the continued stories and reading the other stories all the way through to the final opt-ed page.

I usually read every article in the front section but only articles that interest me in the other sections.Reading The New York Times takes about 30-40 minutes (I'm not a fast reader). And of course it takes longer on Sunday.

The memory exercise comes during the 10-15 minutes it takes me to walk home. I simply try to remember as much as possible about what I've read, including names and numbers.

Usually I can I recall what articles were on the front-page and where they were positioned. Today, I remembered the photo of the pope, the name of the Iranian president. I chuckled thinking about David Sanger's observation "three chess players President Obama deeply distrusts" are pulling the strings in the Middle East:  Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and Hassan Rouhani.

I try to remember every article I've read. I remembered how many barrels of oil are being stolen daily by thieves in Nigeria--100,000, and the annual cost is $3.8 billion. I remembered the phrase "Nigeria's larcenous ingenuity" was used in describing how the thieves tap into oil pipelines and even process the oil in makeshift refineries.
I remembered the somewhat weird article about John McCain's essay trashing Putin which was published in the old communist newspaper, Pravda.

I could picture the photograph of Syrian rebels teaching women wearing hijabs how to fire machine guns. By time I got home I've remembered about 25 specific articles, facts, names, photos, etc.

Some days I go back to this exercise later in the day or before going to bed just to see how much stuff I can still remember.

This may or may not work for you, it definitely works for  me and it doesn't cost anything, doesn't really takes much time, and I would read the paper anyway.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Old Are You When You Turn 60?

ALL I REALLY WANTED TO DO was read The New York Times and enjoy my “simple Mexican breakfast” of rice, beans, eggs, salsa and tortillas when I stopped in this morning at one of my favorite Berkeley lunch counters.
But the African-American man with salt-and-pepper beard, droopy but penetrating eyes sitting next to me just had to talk to someone, so I politely obliged him.
“Had your coffee, young man?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied, “first thing, have to have it when I get up or I can’t function.”
“I used to be like that,” he said.
“But after one cup,” I continued, “I am usually good for the whole day. Maybe I’ll have another cup in the afternoon, but not always.”
He laughed. “I only drink coffee every other morning, but I drink brandy every night. Brandy keeps you looking young. But you got to drink it every night.”
Somewhat incredulous, I prodded him, “how’s that?”
“Look at me,” he replied holding up 6 fingers, “this is how old I will soon be. Can you believe that, young man?”
“Well you only have 40 years to go,” I answered.
I thought about telling him that I’m 67 but decided not to. Didn’t want to ruin his day or his perceptions. I turned back to my newspaper, and he soon found someone else to talk to.
Seems strange to think of 60 as old. I think of 60 as young. 70 is middle age. At 80 you are older but still not old. 90 and above is old.
Death, when it comes, should only happen after age 100.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

day the towers come tumbling down

day the towers
came tumbling down
betty ong picks up the airfone
cockpit not answering
someone’s been stabbed
we’re getting hijacked
while george bush reads aloud
girl got a pet goat
she likes to go running
with her pet goat
sujo john bounds down 81 flights of stairs
the south tower collapses
he’s buried alive
but somehow survives
in the lobby lauren manning
catches on fire
when the elevator explodes
she runs shrieking outside
random brave man rips off his jacket
smothers her flames
we never learn his name
and yes 25 skin grafts minus-four-fingers later
lauren’s just fine
staircase blown asunder
fire captain jonas gropes in the dark
surfing down chunks of steel discovers daylight
turns around goes right back in
denise rabinowitz escorts her frail 75-year-old dad
takes the last elevator from the 90th floor
they walk home uneventfully
nicole simpson
decides not to get on the elevator
with her assistants at morgan stanley
floor 73
she lives on they all gone
10 guilty years later she dreams safely again
lucky ronny francesco he’s one-of-only-four
above the 91st floor
who tells tales to his grandkids
hazel gamal
seeks to escape billowing toxic grey asbestos clouds
the cacoffiny of howling sirens
unholy den of discombobulation
he ducks into a battery tunnel toll booth  
somehow hears his wedding ring drop
somehow finds it
in ankle high dust and guess what
still married
from nearby studio window
willy dubois witnesses all
second plane lumbers into second tower
fireball fills up sky
mammoth flames pour out gaping hole
then silence
air fills with papers
buy/sell orders personnel reports memos
to the boards of directors
and sadly yes
70 who work on floor 106
windows on the world
a restaurant whose name
the new york times claims
was not lightly chosen
plus 100 who show up that wretchedly sad
tuesday morning
for breakfast
all die but chef michael lomanaco
he’s at the farmers’ market buying vegetables
i do fondly recall his lobes of foie gras in sauternes
burnished ducks and butter-braised lobsters
the abundantly long list of napa chardonnays
thinking as i look down at toy taxis
i really should come here
more often
i could be one of those despairing patrons
hanging out the windows waving linen tablecloths
at passing helicopters
streets tightly packed below
people not knowing what to do
some look up
police dispatcher says ominously
bodies dropping like flies from the upper floors
and so they are
i suspect leaping beats searing pain
anonymous man
calmly embraces gravity’s ecclesiastic suction
drops head first
arms side-by-side
left leg bent at the knee
ever so casually
like a 150-miles-an-hour arrow
his final thrill
captured on film for the world to see
--David Bunnell

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

For Those Who Marched with Martin Luther King on August 28, 1963

his daddy never hear the splash

willie james howard 15
sure can sing
he has a sweet round face
good-natured too
for a black boy sweeping floors
at the live oak florida dime store 1944
during the war we can agree was fought for justice and liberty
oh willie know alright
he know the rules
but cyndy goff she 15 too
she smile at him
silky blond hair eyes sparkling blue
willie know the rules
he know
he shouldn't write that note
i love your name
i love your voice
for a sweetheart you are my choice
and for this tiny bit of poetry
willie paid a terrible inflated price
cyndy goff she show willie's note to her daddy phil
her daddy phil show it to two more good ole boys
we forget their names
it doesn't matter now
they come for willie
they drag him off his front porch his momma lula
please oh god what my willie done
she clings to him
til they stick that pistol in her face
yes they come for willie
they fling him in the backseat of phil's old chevrolet
drive over to the bond howell lumber company
where willie's daddy work
james howard you'd better come with us
that boy of yourn in a heap of trouble
so james howard comes out
he tries talking to willie
son he say
but one of the ole boys shout shut up nigger
or we put a bullet in that boy's head
so james howard gets in
and they all drive down the old red clay road
that winds through mossy old oak trees
way down to the suwanne river
far far away
wha de old folks stay
and phil ask willie
did you or did you not write that note boy answer me boy
yes sir willie say
with rope they bind willie's hands behind his back
they bind his legs they force his daddy to haul willie out the car
they force his daddy to stand willie up on an embankment 
near the waters edge
phil ask willie
you know the penalty for what you done boy answer me boy
yes sir willie say
right then james howard know he'll find no mercy today in these white men
good southern christian white men
they do kindly oblige him bid his son adieu
willie i can't do nothin for you now
i'm just glad i belong to a church and can pray for you
then phil raise his gun
bullet or river boy bullet or river
bawling terrified willie stagger back
he stumble he fall
his daddy scream and scream
his daddy never hear the splash
good southern christian white men
they drive james howard back to the lumber yard
so he can finish his shift
before he come home to lula
all he say to lula
willie not coming home

--David Bunnell