‘No’ side condemns ‘No’ side…apparently, maybe. #MarRef

The following, frankly quite sickening, piece of direct mail, purportedly from someone against gays getting married, and therefore a ‘No’ supporter you’d have to conclude, has been surfacing on Social Media. Not to put too fine a point on it, they describe homosexuals as murderers, pedophiles (sic), rapists and child abusers. All of us, no less.

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I asked Mothers and Fathers Matter (M&FM)  main spokesperson @KeithM Keith Mills what he thought on the matter, and would they condemn it. Though categorically denying it had anything to do with M&FM he initially suggested that he needed some evidence the source was in fact a ‘No’ supporter. Which, frankly left me speechless, but to move the conversation along, I asked Keith IF it were from a No supporter would they condemn it. To which he replied ‘Of course!’

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He also said both sides of the campaign have ‘crazies’ and why you you give them airtime by publicising them. Despite the fact that @MFM_Ireland Mothers and Fathers Matter have spent much of their recent time publicising what I assume they would class as Yes vote ‘crazies’…their spokesperson @KeithM Keith Mills had nothing to say.

On the subject of showing each other respect and to have an even debate I then asked Keith the M&FM spokesperson @MFM_Ireland  why hundreds of people, including myself have been blocked from commenting on the Facebook page. His reply was he didn’t know, he was too busy for such things…didn’t have the ‘bandwidth’.

When further pressed he admitted that while he didn’t moderate the page, he apparently knew that people were blocked and why.

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Being one of those banned / blocked from open debate with the main No campaign organisation, and being a person who would never use nasty names or profanity (aside from maybe the odd ‘looney’ or ‘whackadoodle’) I would consider all my comments on their Facebook page, (before I was blocked) to be more than moderate and respectful within the confines of a debate.

So I asked him AGAIN as the main spokesperson for @MFM_Ireland Mothers and Fathers Matter, and a presumed person of influence, would he @KeithM Keith Mills, please go and get some proof from their Facebook page that I had shown anything but a spirit for debate, and the respect that would deserve.

I have, sadly and unsurprisingly heard nothing back. Clearly their call for fair and open debate is about as mythical as their posts that the gardai were investigating No Vote poster vandalism, which I condemn out of hand by the way. Gardai today said they’re investigating nothing of the kind as no one has complained to them.

It’s difficult to have a fair and open debate when the No campaign insists on stuffing one sock in my mouth, and one sock in their own ears.

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© David Wilkins – April 2015

Home made – Lemon Curd

A certain member of our household has something of a penchant for Lemon Curd. The other day I noticed the jar of yellow loveliness was empty and needed a rinse before it got chucked into the glass recycle bucket. I made a mental note to self, to put lemon curd on the grocery list, when it struck me, how hard can it be to make? It turns out…it’s SIMPLE to make!!! I swear to god I don’t think I’ve ever made something that was so tasty, and was so easy to make.

INGREDIENTS

80 g butter cut into cubes – many recipes call for unsalted, I used salted.
150 g golden caster sugar – regular caster will do, I happened to have the golden in my larder.
4 standard lemons, finely zested and juiced. Use an electric juicer if you have one…it’s just easier.
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk beaten

METHOD

Put the butter, sugar, lemon zest and juice in a small saucepan and heat very gently, stirring with a heat resistant spatula until the butter has melted. Then over a very low heat gently add the beaten eggs, stirring all the time. Continue stirring until the mixture is an even yellow colour, and has the consistency of custard. I prefer not to have peel in these kinds of things, so I passed it through a sieve into a big enough bowl, once during cooking, adding back in the peel and pulp and again when it was finished, to get a nice smooth curd. Use the spatula to press what you can through.

Pour into a sterilised jar and firmly fasten the top. I used the aforementioned empty jar. Leave to cool and refrigerate. It will set completely in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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Based on a Rachel Allen recipe.

This version © David Wilkins – April 2015

Marriage Equality – Seven weeks out.

In seven weeks time the citizens of this republic will be asked to vote on what is probably the western world’s most outstanding civil rights issue, Marriage Equality. There has been consistent and overwhelming support for the proposition since polls were first taken in recent years, though the gap has recently narrowed. I suspect this is not so much the ‘No’ campaign articulating a cogent and reasoned argument, as it is people waking up to the fact they don’t really get the significance of this referendum. ‘What’s the big deal?’.

The fate of this campaign lies with the citizens of this country, gay, straight, male, female, young, old, of all religions and none. To quote the Irish philosopher Edmund Burke: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’. It may seem a little extreme to describe the desired outcome of the No campaign as ‘evil’. But let’s call a spade a spade. If the No campaign triumphs it will enshrine in law the gay community’s place as second-class citizens. This will not be put to a popular vote again for many years, if ever.

In the next seven weeks we need to speak to our families, friends, acquaintances, neighbours and colleagues and urge them to vote Yes on May 22. The reasons to support a Yes vote are simple, and overwhelming. There is no sustainable evidence that supports the No campaign. None. Let’s break it down.

WHAT ABOUT CHILDREN?

The No campaign’s argument focuses almost exclusively on the topic of procreation, and the right of children to have their biological mother and father raise them. This referendum is not about children. This referendum is about civil marriage between consenting adults, nothing else.

Even if children were an issue, the rights of children, and their place within the family, including same sex families, is ably covered in the recent Child and Family Relationships Bill, which is in it’s final stages and will be passed by the Oireachtas, and signed into law by President Higgins.

The No campaign singles out same-sex couples when it comes to the issue of procreation, but there are many opposite sex couples that cannot have children for a variety of biological reasons. Why are they silent about them?

They have also completely ignored the fact that many same sex couples are already rearing children. And that the overwhelming evidence shows that people are born gay, and these children are currently being denied the equality of status that the Irish Constitution expressly calls out in Article 40: “All citizens shall, as human persons, be held equal before the law.”

WHAT ABOUT CHRISTIAN VALUES?

There is also the ongoing platitude that homosexuality, and by default Marriage Equality, is against God’s will. It is unchristian. I can guarantee the No campaign that spending hours reading through the gospels of the four Evangelists looking for evidence that Jesus Christ ever uttered a single articulate syllable opposing either homosexuality or marriage between same sex couples would be a master class in futility. He never, ever, mentions it. It is simply not there.

The fundamentalist Christian right usually wheels out the Old Testament, Leviticus in particular; verse 18:22 to be exact. And there’s no escaping it, Leviticus is pretty clear that homosexuality is not really acceptable. I would however argue that Leviticus cannot be taken entirely seriously on this subject. Leviticus in particular and the old testament in general condones slavery, husbands beating their wives and children and forbids you trimming your beard, eating fat, or drinking alcohol in a holy place.

WHAT ABOUT FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE?

This particular argument from the ‘No’ side is a double-edged sword. The freedom to conscientiously object both protects people who wish to hold certain religious beliefs, but allows these self-same people to discriminate against fellow citizens who do not share their views. Church organisations are also voicing fears that they will be forced to officiate over same-sex weddings. The issue at hand is civil marriage. I would no more expect a Catholic priest to marry my partner Alan and I, than he might marry a Muslim or a Jewish couple. Also if they’re so close to their ‘Conscience Clause’, will clerics whose consciences are clear on the subject be free to marry gay couples ?

I will defend to the death anyone’s right to hold whatever beliefs they hold dear. But they cannot use those beliefs to treat other members of society differently. Equality legislation in this country is very clear. Citizens, both as individuals and businesses, cannot, under the law, discriminate based on gender, civil status, family status, age, race, religion, disability, membership of the Traveller community or sexual orientation. Adhere to whichever religious code that gives you succour. Just leave it at the door when it comes to civil marriage.

WHAT ABOUT DAMAGING SOCIETY?

It won’t. It really, really won’t. This is scaremongering of the worst kind. Marriage Equality was first recognised by the Netherlands exactly 20 years ago. It is now the legal standard in dozens of countries around the globe; the sky hasn’t fallen, the citizens have not risen in arms, and people go about their business as usual, apparently underwhelmed by the whole argument.

JUST SEVEN WEEKS

With just seven weeks to go you have an obligation as a citizen to actively support and promote the Yes campaign. To enshrine in law the full and equal rights of all who live here. If you do nothing, and the proposition fails, you will have been responsible for the triumph of injustice.

So, let’s get to work!

© David Wilkins – April 2015

This article was first published in theoutmost.com – April 2nd 2015

Why opposition arguments against Marriage Equality simply don’t stand up.

In a Head-to-Head in today’s Irish Times (12th Feb 2015) journalist Bruce Arnold argues the ‘Marriage means procreation’ side. I’d like to think Bruce is doing this tongue in cheek…for the sake of it. Frankly anyone with a scintilla of intelligence sees that argument for the nonsense it is. It put me in mind of an article I published a year and a half ago. See copy of it below.

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This is a true story. I’m not 100% sure of the exact details and years, but the tale is true nonetheless. When I was a child I had an elderly aunt and uncle, Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Eddie. They’ve long since left this world, but I remember them with fondness for a number of reasons. Uncle Eddie always had a coin or two to slip in your pocket. Kathleen was always immaculately ‘turned out’ as was the Cork phrase for someone who took care of their appearance. They were the quintessential adorable elderly couple, clearly in love with each other well into their 80’s. But the best thing about them was their story. They had been childhood sweethearts early in the twentieth century but in the 1920’s circumstances saw Eddie emigrate to The United States for a life working on the US railroads. They kept up occasional correspondence, keeping them abreast of each other’s lives.

They both met and married others, and each celebrated a silver wedding, and more, with their respective partners. Sadly they were both widowed within a couple of years of each other, he still living in the USA and she in Cork. As they commiserated each other over the passing of their spouses, the correspondence became increasingly frequent, and I can only imagine, intimate. A few short years passed and Eddie asked his former childhood sweetheart to marry him, and move to live in the States. She accepted. Kathleen and Eddie married and lived in the US the few short years until his retirement in the 1960’s and they returned home to Ireland to live out their golden years. They celebrated another silver wedding, this time to each other and the local press in Cork covered it. By the time they married, Kathleen was beyond child bearing years.

They were married in a Catholic Church nonetheless, as they were both widowed, and not divorcees. According to today’s Catholic Church, and right wing religious groups like The Iona Institute, they should not have been allowed marry at all, much less in a church. They couldn’t have children. There wasn’t a functioning womb or ovaries in the relationship.

The central argument of churches, religious groups and conservative politicians, in their opposition to Marriage Equality, is that the primary function of a marriage is to produce children. By that yardstick, infertile straight couples should not be allowed marry. They can adopt of course, but so can gay people, and very soon gay couples. Infertile straight couples can go down the route of assisted fertility such as surrogacy. But so can gay couples. So the rule would apparently seem to be that natural conception, gestation and delivery within the confines of a marriage is their accepted norm. I’m unsure what they think of unmarried straight couples living together with children or situations where children are reared by a lone, unmarried parent. Perhaps they don’t exist.

These opposition groups also warn of the impending implosion of society as we know it. Changing the traditional structure of marriage will clearly mean Armageddon on the streets. OK, I’m being deliberately mischievous with that statement, but they do argue strongly that undermining traditional marriage will inevitably weaken society. They don’t like tinkering with traditional, and accepted norms that have been around for a very long time. Again, by that token, inter-racial marriage in the United States would still not be allowed. It’s only a few short decades since there were states in the Union that had statutes on their books forbidding black people and white people from marrying. Women have only been enfranchised within the last century, and slavery was widely accepted as perfectly normal in the decades before that.
Marriage equality exists in a growing number of countries across the world, and 70% of the population of the United States now live in states that grant full civil marriage rights to gay couples (Jan 2015). The US Supreme Court is expected to rule on nationwide Marriage Equality this summer (2015), and given their recent rulings the pro equality side is rightfully very hopeful. Repeated studies show that marriage, between two committed people regardless of sexual orientation enables an increasingly stable society, not less.

The other chestnut of course is that children raised by gay parents will somehow suffer psychologically, spirituality or morally. On this point studies show that children raised by same sex couples fare no better, nor worse than those raised by straight couples. One study indeed, came to the conclusion that very often a greater sense of openness in gay couples tended to allow children to have closer ties with their parents.

I don’t expect the Catholic Church to marry my partner Alan and I, nor do I expect the state to force them to do so. No more than I would expect my local priest to officiate at the wedding of two Jews or two Muslims. While I might concede the churches dibs on the salvation of my eternal soul, they have no place in weighing in on the ‘No’ side of what is a secular issue, not a religious one.

My Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Eddie did not marry at an advanced age to have children. They married for companionship and security. They married for friendship and support. They married for love.

© David Wilkins – November 2013.

“Boot Camp” Soup

Donal Skehan was touted a couple of years ago as ‘Ireland’s Jamie Oliver’…and he has indeed made a fantastic name for himself, and a very lucrative career as a multi-lingual TV presenter (fluent in Swedish of all languages thanks to his fiancé) and author of a number of best selling recipe books. But he’s not quite the brash, bolchie Jamie the British know and love.

That said, I do like many of his recipes and regularly flick through the few of his books I have. Being the season that’s in it, cold and dark – though with a stretch in the evenings! – I  decided to make some soup and brown bread for work lunches. And on cue Donal posted his Boot Camp Soup recipe the other day.

As usual I made a couple of tweaks. Instead of 2 green peppers, I used one each, green, yellow and red. And I omitted that devil’s spawn of vegetables…celery <makes the sign of the cross and says three hail Mary’s>…yuck!

What intrigued me was one ingredient in particular…a whole head of iceberg lettuce.

In soup.

Lettuce.

Iceberg, no less!

…I am pleased to say it turned out surprisingly delicious. Really really tasty.

Have a go…it’s ridiculously simple.

Ingredients for a week or more of lunch portions.

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3 medium onions, chopped into chunks – or 5 or 6 small onions
1 each red green and yellow peppers, chopped into chunks
1 iceberg lettuce, chopped into chunks
2 x 400g tins whole plum tomatoes, chopped or blended
1L vegetable stock – add more water later if needed
275g red lentils
Salt & pepper – don’t skimp on the seasoning.

Method

Chop all ingredients into rough chunks, into a large pan or stock pot, bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes, stir regularly…lentils may stick to the bottom of the pan.

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Blend with a hand blender, add more water if needed. Leave to cool completely and store in the fridge, or freeze.

I like my soup in a cup 🙂

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Original recipe © Donal Skehan

This blog post © David Wilkins – January 2015

New Year new healthy diet?? Not before the Christmas leftovers are used up!!

Turkey and Ham pie. 

I hate waste. I’m not a skinflint, or a meanie…I just hate waste, especially food…though I am prone to leaving that one chip on my plate.  We buy and cook so much food at Christmas it’s not surprising that a massive amount of it ends up in the bin. So on Stephen’s day, I stripped the turkey carcass and sliced up the lump of ham that was still standing and portioned them into plastic containers and freezer bags. We grazed on same for a couple of days and then froze what was left. So what to do with them? This recipe is based  on a Rachel Allen recipe from the BBC food and recipes website, with a few twists of my own. The amounts are far from exact…but it’s difficult to get this wrong. And obviously this can be made any time with leftover, or indeed freshly cooked ,chicken, ham or fish etc.

This by the way, is not diet food 🙂

Ingredients – serves 2

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For the filling:

  • Approx 250g chunks of cooked turkey and ham
  • One medium onion, finely chopped
  • 150-200g mushrooms finely chopped
  • Butter
  • Double or single cream…I happened to have had double in the fridge
  • 120mls chick or veg stock
  • A bay leaf
  • Couple sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper

You can add finely diced carrots and / or garden peas if you want. I was going to use carrot but decided not to bother in the end. If you do use carrots or garden peas, cook them first.

For the topping:

1kg of rooster spuds. I know that seems a lot for two people, but I deliberately make too much mash. The worst that can happen is you don’t have enough to cover the filling. You can save any surplus, add an egg and make a frittata for breakfast or lunch.

  • Butter
  • Double cream
  • Spring onion very finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Gently sauté the finely chopped onion in some butter for about 7-8 minutes. They should be translucent and not browned.

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Add ¾ of the cream and stock, pinch of salt and pepper, and stir well, leave to simmer for 5-8 minutes

In a separate pan fry off the finely chopped mushrooms in some oil and butter until browned.

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Add the mushrooms, meat chunks, thyme and the bay leaf, a good pinch of salt and pepper to the onions and gently stir, mixing everything evenly, partly cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes before removing the thyme sprigs and bay leaf.

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Peel, rinse and boil the spuds as normal.

Top tip. Very often potatoes get over cooked to the point of being mush when it comes time to mashing them. So when the potatoes have been simmering for about 15 minutes, poke a larger one with a fork. If there is still just a little resistance, drain them and replace the pan lid and leave them for 5-10 minutes. They will gently finish cooking through in the remaining heat and steam and be perfect for mashing. If there is strong resistance then they need to simmer for another few minutes.

Melt more butter in the pan you used to fry the mushrooms, and sauté the finely chopped spring onion for 3-4 minutes before adding the rest of the cream. Warm the cream through for a few minutes before adding to the mashed potato, mix well for a creamy champ mash.

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I use individual gratin dishes (17.5cm / 7”) per person. This give a generous portion per person, so use a size that suits.

2/3rds fill each dish with the filling, top up with the mash, seal the edges and trace over with a table fork.

Sprinkle grated parmesan on top. There is nothing that cannot be made better by grated parmesan on top!

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Place the gratin dishes on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for around 30 minutes.

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Leave them cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Absolutely the ultimate in comfort food…very very tasty!

Original recipe © Rachel Allen

This version and blog post © Dave Wilkins – Jan 2015

Chilli Tomato Jam

This summers garden crop yield was disappointing all round…with the exception of some veg that thrived in pots. I did get some tomatoes off the plants I had growing in the old Belfast sink next to the back door, but the yield and quality wasn’t great. That said…I didn’t pay any special attention to them, and essentially left them to their own devices. But I got a couple of kilos which is better than nothing.

As usual very few ripened on the vine and I relied on my tried and trusted method of force ripening green tomatoes with a banana. So about half were red and the other half are still green. I’ll do something with those during the week, or next weekend, maybe chutney or green tomato jam. But today I decided to make Chilli Tomato Jam. I got this recipe off an old college friend two years ago, and I’ve made this before…and it’s dead easy. I would advise, weather permitting, leaving the back door and / or windows open and the extractor on high as this is a smelly cook with fish sauce and red wine vinegar, but the final result is delicious when cold. If you sterilise the jars properly the jam will keep for a couple of years. Lovely with cold meats, cheese or as an accompaniment to the home made chicken liver paté I made couple weeks ago.

Ingredients

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500g ripe tomatoes

2-4 red chilies (or more if you like it extra hot)

4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 small red onion. I only had large ones so I used a half.

3cm or 1/2 thumb size fresh ginger, peeled

310g granulated sugar

100ml red wine vinegar

2 tbsp fish sauce, (nam pla)

Method

Place the onion, garlic, ginger, chilies, red wine vinegar and fish sauce into a food processor or blender and blitz together.

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The recipe calls for skinning the tomatoes, but life’s too short and I didn’t bother. Chop the tomatoes roughly and put all of this with the sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring every now and then. Cook for forty minutes over a medium heat, stirring regularly. Keep an eye on the heat, this will boil over readily.

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Again, having never met a recipe I wasn’t tempted to mess with, I roughly blitz the mixture about 10 minutes after it boiled, which nicely takes care of the tomato skins.

Steralise some small Kilner jars and fill while the jam is still hot. Close the lids loosely at first until it cools just a little then tighten completely.

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Thanks to Kenneth O’Connor for the recipe.

© Blogpost by Dave Wilkins November 2014