Recipe: Tinga

Mexican chicken with potato for 6 people

Note: Tinga is more than just a recipe. It is the social backbone of Hispanic Chicago. Wherever you find Hispanics who must put together a quick potluck, you will find tostadas and tinga. One person brings tostadas, another chicken, then, depending on how many people are in the class,  lettuce, tomato, crumbled cheese for sprinkling, or salsa. Then you can start to add salads (tuna, napoles, or guacamole), soda, napkins, plastic forks, (if you don’t already have these squirreled away in a file drawer under your grammar books) or for a really special occasion, even tres leches cake. Be careful how you pronounce it though; “chinga” is the Mexican f-word.

This is the last of the end-of-semester recipes; I suppose eventually they will be added to the classroom blog.  If anyone hasn’t noticed, yes, this teaches students the imperative, and yes, they are very motivated to work together to describe the process, get the exact right word for the recipe (we had a huge discussion about “shred” and “grate” for separating the chicken), and copy the recipes in English. In one three or four hour class you can usually do a regular lesson (some students won’t show up if it’s billed as just a party) plus eating, plus two recipes–the students have never been shy about saying which one they want.

1 chicken breast
1 onion
1 lb. tomato (about 5 small tomatoes), chopped in small pieces ½” or less
chipotle pepper (small can–this is not the “chipotle sauce”)
3 or 4 potatoes, cut in small pieces (raw, not cooked)
chorizo (Mexican sausage)
served on tortilla or tostada

boil chicken breast in water
put oil in pan
chop onion
put onion in pan, fry about 3 minutes
add tomato and chipotle pepper
cook until brown
add potato and cook about 15 minutes until potato is soft
in another pan, fry chorizo, separate into pieces with spoon, remove the grease
add chorizo to potato mixture
shred the chicken with your fingers, add to mixture
add salt to taste

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Slug du jour

I may have moved, but I still take care of the yard at my old place in exchange for storage. When I moved in, it was just grass,  with a maple tree in the front yard.  Slowly over time I added borders from my mother’s gifts of plant divisions.   Now the place is a blooming with everything imaginable: hosta, daylily, morning glory (the purple variety “Grandpa Ott), and the purple color “red” basil that reseed themselves every year.   While I’m over there, I usually pick enough mint to tide me over until the next time the lawn needs attention. And once, yes, I very discretely brought my laundry.

Yesterday I finished mowing the lawn just before a sudden downpour.
I had just turned on the hose to water, when the sudden driving rain forced me indoors.

run for cover3

A classic example of cause and effect. Yes, I caused the rain by turning on that faucet, just as surely as if I had washed my car.

After the rain I checked the flowerpots, hoping to get a picture of some exotic designer snail worthy of a handbag design.  But no, the only slimy creature I could unearth was a small slug badly in need of a suntan.


And the toad.


I thought of trying to catch him to show his size next to my hand, but he hopped away.

toad with butt

When I planted the yard, I didn’t stop on my side of the fence.  The north side of the building was a mass of weeds and broken bricks which I cleaned out and replaced with daylilies I found in a dumpster.

neighbors yard

Oddly enough, the daylilies with the south (sunny) exposure (on the left side of the fence) have finished blooming, and now only have bare stalks where the flowers were, but the dayliies on the north (shady) side of the building are in full bloom.

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Chicago spiders are mostly harmless. If they get indoors you can wake up with spider bites, but ordinarily they stay outside and eat mosquitoes. This spider tried to run away from me. I found it under a flowerpot after a sudden downpour.

Note waterspout in the background.

spider on flowerpot1
spider on flowerpot

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Recipe for Dodo (Fried Plantain)

A recipe from Nigeria for African bananas (ọgẹdẹ) (pronounced oh-geh-deh)

peel a plantain banana (they are ready to eat when they are orange or brown, not yellow; and soft, not hard)
slice it the long way
put it on a plate with salt and dried pepper powder (red)
mix together with spoon ( there is just a little, little bit of hot pepper powder, and the salt/chili pepper powder mixture is sort of mashed onto the banana with the back of the spoon)
put oil in a frying pan
put plantain in pan
fry 5 minutes
turn plantains
heat a little on the other side

Note: This is finger food and has a sweet taste although it’s a little bit salty and not really hot at all, although you can taste the chili powder in the background. The bananas were cut in circles less than a quarter inch thick.



These thistles are growing near the train station. There is one with a bee, but if you look closer there is also a lady bug on the one next to it.

thistle by cracked sidewalk

thistle by sidewalk

thistle seed and flower

thistle seeds

thistle with bee

thistle with red brick

thistle bee and ladybug

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mosque of omar The_rock_of_the_Dome_of_the_Rock_CorrectedIs there really a fissure under the Dome of the Rock that leads to the navel of the universe? Tradition says so.  The hole in the southeast corner (the top of the photo is south) leads to a cave underneath called the Well of Souls.  Graham Hancock, in The Sign and the Seal, even speculated on the possibility it once concealed the Ark of the Covenant.

klein bottle1That would have been a physical hole. But what about a spiritual hole? Islamic architectural design in particular is meant to mask a building’s architectural edges in order to emphasize the unseen spiritual reality. Somewhere here in the courtyard outside the mosque of Omar, to the north and east, there is said to be a spiritual hole in the universe that leads directly to Allah. In this spot, a prayer is a thousand times more influential than anywhere else.

I am trying to picture this disturbance in the spiritual realm. Would it look something like a Klein bottle, with a hole in the middle leading to the whole universe? (link to photo credit)

Yes, I was told about this place, and was left there near that spot right at prayer time while my companion went to perform his prayers, after cautioning me not to speak English, as it was during the Intifada and only the Faithful were allowed inside the mosque enclosure.

So what would you do if you found yourself standing alone at the brink of the whole spiritual universe?  Would you try interact with it in some way?  Would you wish to put something in, take something out, or just take notice?

mosque of omar photo album500px

Receta: Horchata

If you have tasted the sweet white Mexican cold drink that is horchata, on the street or in a restaurant and didn’t like it, by all means try it again if you get the chance to taste some made in someone’s home. This was outstanding. My students made it and shared the recipe. Now if I could find some homemade polzole–that pork soup. The church basement kind that you get before mañanitas during Guadalupe’s festival is to die for, I can only imagine homemade.

½ lb. rice
2 sticks cinnamon
1 shot glass vanilla
1 can Carnation evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 large glasses whole milk or 2% milk

wash the rice in water
put it in a pan with water
add cinnamon and vanilla
soak overnight
put in a blender
blend until smooth
strain into a pan (use a wire strainer)
add the water and the 3 types of milk
store in a plastic milk container
serve over ice

note: can be frozen ahead of time without water for parties, to thaw mix with water.

question…how much water?…..

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Receta: Frijoles Charros

A recipe for “Cowboy Beans” from my students–or maybe I should have translated “charros” as “mariachi”. Mariachi Beans, then. Bonus points for identifying imperative (imperativo) verb forms.

bacon (tocino)
Mexican sausage (chorizo)
pork ribs (costillas)
ham (jamón)
weiners (salchichas)
onion (cebolla)
garlic (ajo) optional
hot pepper (chiles) jalapeños, yellow, green, or red
beans (2 pounds for 6 people)

boil 2 lbs. pinto beans in water with a little salt for two hours
cut meat, tomato, onion, chili pepper into small (1″ or less) cubes
put oil in a frying pan
fry the bacon 5 minutes
add the ribs, and fry 5 minutes longer
add the rest of the meat and vegetables and heat
when beans are soft, add the meat and vegetables to the beans
mix everything together

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Un-Establishment of Religion: Chicago Mayor Daley Freaks out the Methodists

Note: if you arrived at this thread looking for information about disability events Friday and Saturday (from

The Disability Community Open Mic will be hosted by the Temple on July 24th from 6-8:30pm in the James Parlor. This is an annual event that provides a forum for people to share their thoughts, writings, and poems about the disability experience. Food and drinks will be provided.

Come watch the Disability Pride Parade on Saturday July 25th with your family and friends. Parade steps off is at 11am from Van Buren St and marches north on Dearborn to Washington St, ending at Daley Plaza. Over 40 disability groups march as a way to increase disability awareness and promote the belief that disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity. Stay for the fun post-parade celebration with music, performances, and speakers in Daley Plaza. There are also exhibit booths where the Temple will have a booth to share information about our church.


Can you close down a church with uneven parking regulations? The Methodist church in the historical Gothic building across the street from Daley Plaza is about to find out. Churchgoers who tried to park in front of the church Sunday found themselves greeted with the following sign:


Do Not Park Here

After 30 years of cooperation the city has decided to withdraw its permission for us to park on Washington and Clark Streets on Sunday mornings. They will tow without regard for our attendance at worship services.
You may park for $5 at the Washington-Wells Madison Self Park Garage. Enter at 172 West Madison or 170 West Washington. Get an over-ride ticket available from the person on duty at the Temple’s Washington Street entrance.

The street, usually parked full on Sunday morning all around Daley plaza, was totally deserted.

Methodists during 11 am service

but a few did make it into the church:

Do Not Park with handicapped cart

Compare this to the vibrancy of the city on Easter Sunday:

Easter Sunday-Washington avenue

How does the city deal with other churches about parking?  I walked over to the Gold Coast to see how the Mayor’s own church, Holy Name Cathedral, was faring.  As it turns out, God is on vacation over at Holy Name:

Holy Name on vacation

but the parking situation couldn’t be better.

Holy Name across parking lot

In case anyone is wondering, the parking lot belongs to Holy Name Cathedral and the Archdiocese of Chicago:

Holy name parking sign1

And other churches?  I walked over to St. James Episcopal, also a historic church, famous for their weekly rush-hour wine-tasting concerts, and found a quiet side street equipped with paid parking machines, as is the area surrounding Holy Name.

St James Pay to Park

Although the city is no doubt desperate for more revenue to pay for it’s O’Hare expansion and other projects, “Pay to Park” is not a viable option for Washington Avenue where the Methodists hang out–it’s a very central street prone to rush hour gridlock.

Instead of trying to shut the city down to residents during the weekend, City Hall should be trying to open it up.  Like most American cities, Chicago experienced a decline in the 60’s , and is now beginning an upward trend. The city has a new vitality in the city center, typified by overall gentrification and some new condo developments on the near south side.  Although not as well funded as institutions like Fourth Presbyterian and the Pacific Garden Mission, the above church has done way more than its share for those who have fallen through the city’s safely nets–the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill–even though it has meant church members being accosted on their way in and out of the church and some older church members being afraid to walk even as far as the bus stop. Now many of those social services have been shifted elsewhere and I no longer see large numbers of panhandlers and homeless in the immediate vicinity of the church and plaza.  But the city should be taking advantage of the new atmosphere of security to promote the city, and to turn it into something the residents can use, rather than trying to turn it into a ghost town and shut down those who are making a positive contribution.

Here is an example of what the plaza should look like.  It’s a group of children playing on the Picasso during one of the festivals last year.

I love photographing the Picasso and somehow manage to take a picture of it almost every time I’m downtown, which isn’t that often due to parking and transportation costs.  But at any rate, this is what art is for. This is what Chicago is for.
picasso eyes

temple and picasso picasso with children temple and picasso1

*”Unestablishment of Religion”:

The First Amendment
“ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ”

UPDATE: Temporary signs have been posted permitting Sunday parking with a permit.

Conquering the Middle East in antiquity

“You are King Xerxes, King of the mighty Persian Empire, and you are about to embark on one of the greatest military campaigns in history.”

An interactive map, courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities, shows the march of Xerxes’ army. If you get stuck and can’t answer a question correctly, you are redirected to a page where you can review the history.

There is also an extensive index of interactive maps, and as a bonus for Arabicphiles, a lesson plan for writing a ghazal, a bedouin form of poetry.

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