When I gave my introduction before the start of the Les Blank films last Tuesday night, I told everyone that our Mardi Gras event is one of my favorites (and if you follow us at all, you know we have a ton of great events throughout the year!). I love it because I get to spend at least a full day cooking up the gumbo we serve as part of the evening's festivities. I spend hours tending the roux--that delicious hazelnut-colored mixture of oil and flour that is the base of any authentic New Orleans dish. Then I cut up the Trinity (onion, green peppers, celery) along with garlic, okra, green onion and parsley; add Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp; throw in loads of spice; while Roger makes enough rice to feed a small army.
Les Blank's films are filled with lots of good eatin', and folks joke that you always leave them hungry. That's why we carry on one of Les's own traditions of serving up big bowls of gumbo and rice, along with Greg Hamilton's jambalaya, as a gift to our community.
Before owning the theater I used to cook a lot. I grew up in a time before there was a lot of fast food (I am 64 after all). I remember coming home from school to find (to my embarrassment) my mother and grandmother killing chickens from Aunt Ruby's farm out in our front yard. I guess you couldn't take the country out of my mother or my grandmother even though we lived in a small housing addition at the edge of our growing town. We always picked bushels of peaches every summer, and I helped my mother with her canning. That pop, pop, pop when the lids make a seal is a comforting sound. When we first moved to Portland, I canned peaches and pickled beets and spent untold hours every fall making a new batch of apple butter. With my grandson each Easter I always baked a Bunny Cake, using the Watergate Cake Recipe and a whipped cream frosting covered in coconut. Sage had such fun decorating the bunny's face and bow tie with jelly beans.
We all need to eat. Sharing food is something we do. At Middle Earth, a daycare center I worked at in college, our artistic chef (a retired architect) always told us, the eye must eat, too. So radishes were roses, celery sticks became ants on a log, grapes were transformed into caterpillars.
I guess I'm sharing all of this because yet, once again, our country is reeling from another mass shooting. And I couldn't help but weep thinking about those families sitting down to dinner with an empty chair at the table. How is that even bearable, especially knowing that this is something that can be prevented. There is absolutely no reason on earth why any civilian needs to own an automatic rifle. This killer was aided and abetted by 52 senators, 298 representatives, the NRA, and our current administration.
For all of these victims, no more birthday cakes; for the children, no wedding cakes. Alyssa will never again eat her mom's special holiday cookies, Coach Aaron will never hang out with friends and family at another fish fry. Peter Wang was a culinary student planning his Chinese New Year menu, and it won't be cooked or eaten or enjoyed.
When can we talk about this? When do we stop caring only for "gun rights," and begin to care about the rights of children to attend school without fear, and for families to enjoy dinner in peace without any empty places?
Are you as heartbroken as I am? Then, please, check out the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, one way to stay engaged in the campaign for life-saving laws. For those of you in Oregon, you can become involved with Cease Fire Oregon. It's a start.