When Martin Yan famously declares that if he can cook you can, too, he is adorably full of shit. Now, when I tell you something is so easy you can do it, you should laugh, “Oh look, doofus has spoken.”Okay okay okay the bag of masa for tamales says MASA PARA TAMALES on it, and you should buy and use that one only. It has directions on the side, which is good even for people like me who can’t follow recipes to save their lives. The directions call for lard. I infused olive oil with annatto seeds. The directions call for salt as the only seasoning. I added ground cumin, fennel seed, chili powder. The directions call for water or stock. I used fancypants organic chicken broth. I had that. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It tastes good. Once you mix up the masa, you have to let it sit for a few minutes. You will be tempted to skip this step because HEY! DELICIOUS TAMALES! but don’t. File your nails. Call Dial-A-Horoscope. Lament not going to the prom. Or you could take out your frozen banana leaves and cut approximately 8″ x 8″ square pieces and an equal number of thin strips. Plop about 1/3-1/2 cup of masa on the top sheet. Pretty, eh? Already, you feel like aces. Tamales are super great for using up small amounts of leftovers. I diced two chicken thighs, added a bit of leftover gravy and tossed in some chili powder, herbs and pepper. In the back of the fridge, I found two pepper hulls left in an aging jar and because I put vegetables in everything, I sliced ’em up all cute. The colors are really something, aren’t they? On top of your colorful concoction, plop another bit of masa. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Now, imagine the banana leaf is aluminum foil with a spine along one edge. You’re going to fold the banana leaf the same way you would any food pouch-thingy. Take the spine in one hand, match it with the opposite edge and fold down to the surface of the masa. Then take the loose, rolled ends and fold them under. You can either place the package into a steamer as-is or tie the whole thing securely with a thin strip of banana leaf. I’ve made them with and without the ties and it’s fine either way. These little bundles smell good and feel heavy in the hand. In the proportions I make them one, maybe two, will be sufficient for dinner. Knowing that, when you see eight or nine in a steamer basket, you feel good. Steam for an hour. Yes, an hour. Argue with your mother. Wash your car. Call your insurance company about that last bill. Or you can set the table, make a salad, clean up your kitchen and make it all look easy. After an hour, put the tamales on a plate and serve them. Because we are brave and love delicious everything, you can serve it with plain yogurt or salsa or hoisin sauce or sliced mangoes or guacamole or crumbled queso fresco or cole slaw or ANYTHING YOU LOVE. I regret all the years I didn’t know I could make tamales for myself. You must try it. The hardest part was finding the right masa mix, but after I found it, the rest was easy and really inexpensive. If I can do it, you can, too!
Understand what we have here. There’s a fiscal commission operating partially in secret, without transcripts or recordings, planning to drop recommendations on Congress in the middle of a lame-duck session, with each leader in the House and Senate promising a vote on the recommendations. Unlike the Conrad-Gregg commission upon which this was modeled, the executive order on the fiscal commission does not mandate a super-majority requirement in each chamber of Congress for passage. It does mandate the need for agreement from 14 of the 18 commission members for passage of any recommendation, but the commission is stacked with people who want to target entitlement spending rather than any balanced proposal.
Even those supposedly defending bedrock programs like Social Security and Medicare on the commission, like the SEIU’s Andy Stern, have expressed a desire to at least open the retirement program to add-on private stock accounts:
“I agree with many Commissioners who have said that all entitlement programs should be on the table. We should include tax entitlements in that conversation… This Commission should examine our country’s entire retirement security system, private and public. Taxpayer dollars are spent in a multitude of ways, not just on Social Security, with the aim of producing retirement security. Yet, many Americans retire with anything but security. We should include as part of our agenda ideas for strengthening the private parts of the retirement security system, reviewing both the adequacy and the solvency of the Social Security system, and the possibility of universal add-on retirement accounts.
Add-on private accounts are an idea direct from the DLC in the late 1990s, when Bruce Reed, who co-wrote a domestic policy book with Rahm Emanuel, was involved with the group.
We have a commission pre-disposed to those types of ideas, operating partially in secret, foisting recommendations on Congress in December, without a super-majority obstacle to overcome in the House or the Senate (although the filibuster would presumably still be in play should a Democrat actually want to protect people from safety net cuts).
An House aide told me that the commission is deliberately trying to “keep the public from weighing in until the last possible moment.” They aren’t delivering public hearings outside of Washington, claiming that they don’t have a budget, but that could be deliberate as well, because it allows them to have billionaire hedge fund manager Pete Peterson provide the commission with staff and fold the conversation into his deficit mania “America Speaks” tour. It’s quite a public/private partnership going on.
Privatization of Social Security and Medicare – or trusting Wall Street with healthcare and pensions -is as brilliant an idea as trusting Halliburton and BP with an entire coastline. How stupid do you have to be not to get that?
Later this week, it’ll be time to start the second set of seeds for lettuces, chard, spinach, sorrel and herbs for when the first set has been picked, bolted or suffered some disaster. You can’t rule out incursions by groundhogs or mysterious blight, so: containers, compost, potting soil, seeds. I growl at squirrels.