“Son of Quartermaster” Reports on Food in China

FullSizeRenderQuartermaster’s Note: This is a “guest post” by my oldest son, a 13-year-old beginning 8th grade this year, who traveled with me to China this Summer.

In China there were many times when our group would sit down to a meal, and just be blown away, by food that didn’t even cost half the amount of a much lower-standard American Chinese restaurant, but looked and tasted three times as good!! In this way Chinese cuisine in China was on a whole other level.

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A chef at a restaurant in Beijing preparing to serve the famous “Peking Duck”

One of the things noticeably different in the places we ate, yet such an improvement, was the lack of fried flavorless meat with an overwhelmingly sticky sweet sauce (e.g., lemon chicken, General Tso chicken, orange beef, etc.). Instead, meat was carefully cut according to its cooking method, seasoned and flavored with things like cumin, Szechuan peppercorns, all sorts of other interesting spices and ingredients, and without heavy doses of syrup or sugar.

There were lots of interesting proteins to try: in addition to chicken and beef, we enjoyed pork, lamb, mutton, duck, and an array of fresh seafood. One of my favorite dishes was lamb cut into strips and stir-fried in a hot wok with lots of different spicy peppers and cumin. It was brought to the table atop a little portable stove that kept the aromatic meat sizzling through the meal.

With at least one vegetarian in our group at all times, we enjoyed lots of different

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American fast food such as KFC is fairly popular in large Chinese cities, but we were too busy enjoying all the authentic Chinese food to try it

vegetables and tofu. I don’t normally like tofu, in part because it’s rather flavorless, but the preparations of it in China were varied in terms of texture and cooking method — we sampled it in soups, cubed and deep-fried or cut into ribbons and stir-fried. Generally, tofu actually tasted like something edible, and since we always had other dishes with meats at mealtime, the amazingness of the meat balanced out the quantity of tofu, so that the tofu dishes became another fun thing to try.

During my visit to China I learned some things about stereotypes concerning Chinese food. For example, dog as food is not as widely accepted in China as the stereotype suggests. In fact, one of our hosts in Taiyuan shared his experience that animals like dogs and mules are sometimes consumed as food in China, but usually eaten only in certain areas and at specific times, like special festivals. He also told us that he would not eat the meat of an animal that he knew has been mistreated.

Picture2Soy sauce is a universal condiment at the Chinese restaurant in the United States, but not something you find on the table in China; it’s still an ingredient in cooking, but it is far more common to find a condiment such as hot chili oil or malt vinegar (certain provinces, such as Shanxi, are famous for special vinegars). All you salty rice lovers, being your own soy sauce.

The weirdest thing I ate in China was definitely scorpion, which we tried on Wong fu Jing street in Beijing. It was my first fried arachnid, and while crunching into something with tiny little legs and a stinger was a new experience, the taste was similar to crispy fried chicken skin, and hence, not bad. The most upsetting part of the experience with eating scorpion was watching the live ones that had been skewered and anchored in display baskets, waiting for their turn in the fryer, squirming around while remaining fixed in place.

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YUM!

As a seafood lover who is especially fond of sushi, I enjoyed visiting the local markets in Beijing, which had an absolute top notch selection of not only fresh and live fish, but all sorts of shellfish, shrimp, crab, octopus and squid, oysters, claims and other mollusks. We saw an amazing variety of things from the sea during our visit.

IMG_1918My personal food favorite of the trip definitely goes to the dumplings (“Jiaozi”). Unlike potstickers common in American restaurants, jiaozi are steamed and very tender. The dumplings contain a delicious mix of meat and vegetable, and usually a little “soup” that escapes when you bite into one. They are served with vinegar and chili oil. I enjoyed them so much, and literally ate dozens of them during the trip.

My trip to China this summer was one of the most tantalizingly awesome trips I have ever embarked upon, for me and my palate. I hope to travel there again very soon, and for anyone reading this, I hope that that your experiences involving China are filled not only with God’s love and grace, but also with the amazing Chinese  cuisine that I love so much.

Gaudete Means Rejoice!

FullSizeRender 4As the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday seems a turning of the corner within the liturgical season. We begin to “Rejoice!” as we approach the Nativity of our Lord.

As a family, we marked the occasion by putting up our Christmas decorations. The Christmas tree will remain festooned only with lights until the 22nd or 23rd when we’ll decorate it with all the ornaments and everything else.

I decorated a little, but most of what I did on Sunday concerned another highly important thing, beer! I managed to brew a big batch (almost 25 gallons) of Religious Liberty back in October. It was ready to keg.IMG_0579

I decided, for fun, and since I’m somewhat lacking in variety this year (it’s been far too busy!) to mix up the dry-hopping.

Religious Liberty is normally all Cascades in the boil, and then also dry-hopped with Cascades. The result is a very “citrusy” pale ale, specifically orange flavors.

I decided to dry-hop two of the five kegs the regular way, but then also make a “Christmas Liberty” version, still dry-hopping with Cascades but also adding an equivalent amount of Simcoes, which are known for having a “piney” or “resinous” aroma.

Finally, since only four kegs fit in my kegerator at once, I decided to “cask” the last keg (which for me, means letting it sit at cellar temperature for 2-3 months to allow it to carbonate naturally).

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Pope Benedict is at the Synod on the Family

[NOTE: For the first time on Quartermaster of the Barque, I fired the censor and used the same profane word three times. Anyone who might be scandalized should go away.]

It is wearying that so much attention is paid — even in a circle so apparently festooned with the best kind of people as we churchblogging Catholics — to individuals who seem to delight in raising the anxiety level and drama of the Business.

Pope Francis, we are told, is presiding over pure chaos. Schism anon, because he intends to permit divorce. divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion. Same-sex marriages, or at least blessings of civil ceremonies, or tacit approval of some unacceptable sort for same-sex relationships will be another fruit of the Synod. All the while, there will be a bunch of sloppy cloppy platitudinal relatios that either are meaningless in terms of content or loaded with ambiguity.

I call bullshit. And here’s why.

His Holiness, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (ya know, the guy with all the memes currently trending on Facebook with the “clear teachings” on the family) is present at the Synod, at least figuratively.

A pope can’t be blamed for dying. Every pope has died. Every pope will die, until the end of time. But Pope Benedict didn’t die and, (Deo gratias) hasn’t died. No, he chose to renounce the chair.

And let’s not indulge any of those utterly absurd claims that he was somehow coerced to do it. Double triple quadruple infinity bullshit. Benedict told us that he was not coerced. Are you calling God’s Rottweiler, the one and only der panzerkardinal, a LIAR??? You’re actually going to accuse Joseph Ratzinger of committing a potentially supreme violation of conscience?

No? Good. So let’s roll that steaming nugget away, OKAY?

We know that Benedict prayed and received assurance that a decision to abdicate would not harm the Church, but perhaps even strengthen it. It would be utter bullshit to argue that His Holiness did otherwise, or that he neglected his sacred obligations, or intended to cause evil or harm.

Pope Francis, however enigmatic, has given no cause to be branded a heretic or enemy of the Church. And moreover, by all appearances the other bishop in white is serene. This moment in the Church is secondary to his will. He acted. From that we should all draw immense comfort. He continues to shepherd us, pray for us, and walk with God.

A Week Ago We Went to the Pacific Ocean…..

And all I caught was a terrific summer cold. My immune system is still in combat mode. But that’s life. A cold is a great reminder of our tremendous olfactory faculties.

It was a great trip to this same campsite on the Northern California coast where I’ve been going for nearly 30 years. We were blessed to have Fr. A with us for one night. We enjoyed some great beer, and as a slight alternative to traditional camping cuisine, the first night I made New England Clam Chowder, with fresh clams, and sourdough bread, which is a big favorite in our family.

Proper Quartermaster Provisioning

Proper Quartermaster Provisioning

The Hike

The Hike

The Vista

The Vista

"Beach Art" - Unknown

“Beach Art” – Unknown

Tidepools

Tidepools

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Preparations under way for Holy Mass

Preparations under way for Holy Mass

Verdict: The Quartermaster is Right about Cry Rooms

Over a year ago, I wrote a post (entirely grounded upon my opinion) condemning cry rooms in Catholic churches. That post generated a fair amount of traffic, comment and controversy. At least, a “tempest in a teapot” amount of controversy.

Then, in January 2014, the Holy Father baptized a group of babies at the Sistine and said that “the most beautiful choir of all is the choir of the infants who will make a noise…” I posted a followup to the original post on cry rooms entitled: Pope Francis agrees: Children Don’t Belong in Cry Rooms, and Neither Do You. I stated, somewhat “tongue in cheek”, that Pope Francis agrees with me.

Source: Flickr, under Creative Commons license; Author: jason john paul haskins

Source: Flickr, under Creative Commons license; Author: jason john paul haskins

Tongue in cheek because, while I am an avowed opponent of cry rooms myself, it seems fairly apparent (to me, at least), that I don’t speak for our Holy Father.

Everyone knows that fame and Catholic blogging are never partners, but shortly after I posted that blog about Pope Francis, I received an e-mail from a pretty “famous” Catholic “personality” who blogs, who objected (primarily) to the headline and my attempt to conflate the words of Pope Francis. He (fairly) pointed out that the secular media engages in this practice, and we should be careful not to do the same thing to try to bolster our own opinions.

I was somewhat humbled. Disappointed that my first one or two brushes with a “Catholic celebrity” hadn’t exactly garnered me any favorable ratings. I thought it charitable that this person elected not to make his disagreement public without first approaching me privately.

If nothing else, I wanted to be fair. And I was afraid of being denounced. So I changed the title of the blog post and I made a few modifications to the article. I thanked him via e-mail, and told him it had been very exciting to discover that he even knew who I was, much less had taken me seriously enough to spend the time to write me an e-mail.

Although I’m trying to be more circumspect when it comes to inferring the Holy Father’s positions, I don’t think there’s much left to infer regarding the Pope’s opinions regarding cry rooms, because on December 14, 2014, he said this:

“Children cry, they are noisy, they don’t stop moving. But it really irritates me when I see a child crying in church and someone says they must go out. God’s voice is in a child’s tears: they must never be kicked out of church.”

Read the rest here.

Just to be fair, this article does not state that Pope Francis is speaking directly about cry rooms. Okay? But it strains credulity to suggest that a pope is in favor of cry rooms when he says children must never be kicked out of church, because that’s exactly what cry rooms do.

14745079586_c1d31054d3_osuppose, if we must get really pedantic, that some parents may view cry rooms as a comfort or oasis from worry about disturbing others during mass. I suppose that some might not agree that cry rooms equate to being “kicked out of church”.

But I say in response, “If you built it, they will come.” If a parish constructs a cry room, it sends the clear message that crying babies and their errant parents should go there. It sends the clear message that certain members of the faithful are not welcome to take part in mass with the rest of the assembly. In effect, a cry room effectively does what Pope Francis says must never happen.

The Pope’s statement is NOT infallible, magisterial, take it or leave it dogma of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. It falls squarely into a matter normally relegated to the local Ordinary, at least to date (AFAIK). But if you, like me, believe that Pope Francis is the type of pastor who is always pointing to Christ, then we need to earnestly reevaluate whether cry rooms belong in our churches, because as of now it’s not purely about my opinion (or yours).

Holy Father has Message for Fathers suffering Workaholism

From January 28, 2015 general audience:

“Father is a universal word, known to all. It indicates a fundamental relationship that is real and ancient as the history of mankind. Today, however, we have reached the point of affirming that ours would be a ‘society without fathers’…. And, as often happens, we have passed from one extreme to the other. The problem of our times no longer seems to be the invasive presence of fathers, but rather their absence. … Fathers are so focused on themselves, on their work and at times their personal fulfilment, that they even forget their families, leaving children and the young to their own devices. … Now, on this shared path of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all Christian communities that we must be more careful: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of children and the young produces lacunae and wounds that can be very serious. And in effect the deviances of children and adolescents may to a considerable extent be due to this lack of examples and authoritative guidance in their everyday life, to this lack of closeness and love from their fathers”.

Truth. Read the rest here.

Even though, as a father, I am “here” much of the time (at least physically) it is still too easy to forget that what frequently occupies our attention — respect, success, money — is entirely unimportant compared to the magnificent gifts we find in our children and family.

And, the one thing (no matter how distracted I am) that constantly catches my attention is how quickly it all goes — how one minute you’re holding a little baby, bouncing him on your knee and changing his diapers, and how the very next minute he is bounding through the door with youthful vigor, emptying your refrigerator, and “borrowing” your underwear and socks. In another minute, he’ll be standing on the lawn of some college quad somewhere, watching you drive away. And in a minute after that, God willing, you’ll be bouncing a grandchild on your knee, and passing him back to mom or dad when the little one has a soiled diaper.

I suspect that a question we may have to answer to Our Father in Heaven, relative to our roles as fathers, is “Where were you?” Not, “Where were you, when your {boss}{client}{customer}{coworker}{vendor} needed you?”

Polemic Contra “Elf on the Shelf”

Christmas is not magical season. Magic (apart from that which originates from the demonic) is not real. Telling children to believe in magic and fiction in connection with the Nativity of Our Lord is a huge mistake.

Source: Flickr; Author: Davitydave; Creative Commons License

Elf on the Shelf: good little “Big Brother”, always watching. Source: Flickr; Author: Davitydave; Creative Commons License

I’d prefer not to fritter away the credibility and trust I’ve built up with my kids on selling fairy tales. There’s no Elf on the Shelf for the Quartermaster’s kids, as insurance against this foreseeable utterance: “Why should I believe you when you say God and Jesus are real? You said the same thing about Elf on the Shelf and Santa Claus!”

Elf on the Shelf strains the whole Santa thing — which has been grossly perverted by our secular consumer culture — to a point of ridiculosity. I intensely dislike the idea of coaxing good behavior from children with a season-long bribe. “Be good, or Santa won’t bring presents!” That’s true, because, getting stuff is the “reason for the season”?

As if we needed another reason to resist the whole Elf on the Shelf mania, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology says that Elf on the Shelf teaches kids “…..a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy.” This professor argues that the idea of Elf of the Shelf reporting back to Santa each night “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures.”

I would have to agree. Countless millions of children are being raised in the belief that a creepy little doll watches them during the month of December, and helps a fictitious dispenser of mammon to determine whether any pellets will drop into their cages at the end of the maze. Should the government ever decide to install a similar device for year-round monitoring — under the guise that it will be used for “safety” and to determine what “services” each family needs — it will be all the more palatable, thanks to Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf is just another warped way that the secular religion known as Consumerism draws ’em in young, conditions ’em to want and buy, and then finally lets ’em down with the realization that the thing being sold was a total lie.

Catholic parents: things like Elf on the Shelf cheapen Christmas and betray the truth that Christmas is real. Our focus should be on the reality: an infant — both fully God and fully human — was born 2,000 years ago to an Immaculate Virgin. He didn’t come to bring Xboxes and iPads. He doesn’t condition His love upon good conduct. He isn’t a minion who watches us and reports back the Big Guy.

Jesus is the Word. He is the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. He is the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. He is the door through which we enter into salvation. Giving our children their first introduction to their Savior — and encouraging them to prepare their hearts for Him — is our primary obligation at Advent and Christmastime.

Elf on the Shelf is a $15 hindrance in our mission as Catholic parents. As he sets his gaze on our kids, he diverts their attention — and ours — in an utterly wrong direction. Send Elf on the Shelf home to the landfill.

Outcomes for Children Raised in Same-Sex Households

In short, this is an area for further study, but current findings suggest that claims regarding positive outcomes for children raised in same-sex households are misstated, overstated, or generally, not on par with outcomes for children raised in conventional families.

Children have a right to a father and a mother. When we intentionally deprive a person of his or her natural rights, this deprivation constitutes an inherent disruption in the person’s life. We can take steps to ameliorate, mitigate or minimize the damage, but there is no complete “fix” to supplanting a mother or a father, even with two, three, four, or five loving “parents”.

Intentionally depriving a child of a mother and father is selfish and evil. Misleading about the potential harm of such an act compounds and amplifies the selfishness and evil, because it beckons society further astray to satisfy one’s own desires.

Children aren’t chattel. No one has a right to a child.