In this, the third installment of the Phyne Dyner’s introduction to libertarianism, we’ll look at the fictions inherent in the idea of a “social contract”.
Jean-Jaques Rousseau introduced the idea that people bound together in a society must trade away elements of individual freedom in exchange for security and justice in accordance with the general will. In other words, popular sovereignty decides what is good for the whole of society.
On its face this sounds like a fair exchange. But in reality, such an exchange is little different from the older standard where people trade individual freedom for benevolent good; with the “good” decided by monarchs.
As royalty fades from human fashion, we are left with a democratic tyranny where the majority substitutes for the king or queen and the general will can negate any and all individual freedoms, including the natural rights, for the public good?
Who establishes the nature of the public good?
A more significant question is whether or not the general will of the people is consistent with what is good. History is rife with examples where the popular will of the people was entirely inconsistent with “good”. Almost every tyrant placed on trial for human rights violations can point to his/her own evil and claim “I only did it for the public good.”
Coercion and threats are inherent in social contracts with the State.
After Rousseau, Peter-Joseph Proudhon later opined in favor of individual liberty when he stated that a social contract that respected individual rights would be based in an agreement that the individual need not surrender individual rights to the state, but rather that any social contract should strictly be between individuals who refrained from coercing or governing others.
Because coercion is at the root of all state authority, the Rousseau model tends to be the one used by most governments. Without coercion, the state becomes impotent.
Is a social contract even a contract at all?
The bare idea that such a concept exists as a “contract” fails miserably. Proudhon came close to articulating this when he held any social contract must be free of coercion.
In basic civil law, a contract entered into under threats or coercion is not a valid contract. A contract must be voluntary and entered into according to free will.
Can an American, for example “opt out” of the American social contract? When individuals or groups of Americans simply “quit” the contract, the response of the state has been absolute and predictable.
No, the American state sends its men with guns to enforce the one-sided contract. When entire states attempted to opt out of an America on whose seal the paint was barely dry, the federal collective state sent its northern armies into sovereign states. It is just like being born into the Mafia, you cannot leave the American state and expect to live in peace.
Despite its built-in element of coercion, the American state persists in calling the arrangement a social “contract”.
Can one be born into a contract?
Again, let’s look at civil law.
No. Every party to any contract must give his/her consent to be bound by the contract. As with coercion, a contract absent of individual voluntary entry is not a contract. One cannot be born into a contract to purchase a car, a home, or some land. So how does an individual become born into a contract that involves his most basic natural right to life?
“How does the state exempt itself from contract law?”
If we bothered to asked the question, we would realize that the answer, as with everything related to the state, is (again) “through force”.
A group seeking to establish governance with the consent of the governed is required to make a contractual offer to each individual it proposes to govern. “We will do this and in return we expect that.” The individual now must weigh what is gained to what he/she must deliver. If the terms are not acceptable, the individual can decline all or part of any social contract and not make themselves obligated to that government or eligible for any of the benefits from that government.
Such an arrangement between people and a government would quickly get cumbersome for the state. Consequently, even the most liberal governments rely on unjust use of force (or threats) to make the government-citizen relationship work in a manner beneficial to the state.
Early Libertarian Party leader, David Bergland, said of such a relationship:
“Government as an institution should be perceived for what it is – a group of people who have substantial power at their disposal which they can and do use to control the rest of the citizenry in a variety of ways.”
The best result of such an arrangement is partial freedom. Is that acceptable?
It may seem so. But, in the end, a prison trustee is still a prisoner and the slave held as a near member of his or her owner’s family…
…remains a slave.
[In Part Four, we’ll ask if man can live in liberty? Is the individual’s best hope to live as a “happy slave”, living under a caring and benevolent master?]
[Our introduction to libertarianism will continue. In order to maintain balance in all things, we need a little “R and R” from serious things.]
It had been many years since Mrs. Phyne Dyner and I last enjoyed tempura made at the table. The Japanese classic was a favorite of ours during our dating years and in our early married lives. We still have our original Taylor and Ng wok set from those days.
Making tempura is a bit of work. But it’s also a lot of romantic fun to cook mouth-sized bits of fish, chicken, and vegetables at the table. And, because each morsel is cooked individually, tempura is a slow-paced and relaxing meal.
The move was brilliant!
The little fondue used a fraction of the oil needed to cook in a wok. It’s Teflon coated interior made cleanup a breeze. And there was no Sterno or alcohol fuel to overheat the oil. The pot fit nicely on our small round breakfast table and the setting made for a very intimate dining experience.
Tempura foods usually involve seafood. Our Invisible Friend has an ancient edict prohibiting us from eating squid, shrimp, or scallops. So, we substituted chicken, whiting, mushrooms, scallion pieces, as well as chunks of zucchini and yellow squash. If you live under so such edict, by all means, enjoy your tempura with the seafood you love.
Each diner gets a small bowl of rice and several dipping sauces are passed around as the foods, covered in a puffy and flakey coating, emerge from the hot oil. Sips of warm sake fill the moments between little bursts of flavor.
Tempura is clean, adult fun and you simply must try it soon.
First, you need to prepare your foods. Everything must be truly bite-size so that it cooks evenly and thoroughly. Chunks of mushroom, squashes, sweet potato, scallion, and florets of cauliflower and broccoli are typical. Place each veggie in its own small bowl and refrigerate until its time to cook.
Next, cut up about 4oz of chicken per person and about 5oz of fish or seafood. I find that a very light marinade for each adds to the flavor. So, I sprinkle a bit of ground ginger over the chicken and then give it (just) a drizzle of soy sauce. I sprinkle the fish with a tiny amount of white pepper and then drizzle a little rice vinegar over it. All meats must be refrigerated until its time to cook. Besides, colder foods make better tempura.
Now make your dipping sauces:
Wasabi is an absolute must-have for tempura. I’m not a fan of the stuff in tubes, so I make mine from the powdered wasabi available at most Asian markets. Mix about 1 TBS, each, of lemon juice and water. Then add this mixture (by the teaspoon) to equal volumes of powdered wasabi. The result should be a fiery, bright green paste. A little goes a long way!
Another favorite sauce is made of equal volumes of mirin and rice vinegar. Mirin is a very sweet Japanese cooking wine. You’ll find it at large grocers or Asian markets. Don’t try to substitute any other kind of vinegar. Rice vinegar is slightly less acidic and has a good amount of salt in it.
Our final sauce is a simple 1 to 1 mixture of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add a pinch of ground ginger. Mix well.
Now it’s time to make our dipping batter.
1 C unbleached flour
1 TBS cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg white
Mix the dry ingredients and then add the egg white. Slowly, add the ice water until you get a thick, lumpy batter (like for pancakes). Do not beat smooth! Allow the batter to stand in the fridge for a bit. When it’s time to cook, place a large ice cube in the center of the batter.
Prepare about 1-2 cups of white rice per person. Place a bottle of your favorite sake in hot water…and heat the sake to about 105F. Put peanut or canola oil in your wok (or fondue) and heat to 350-375F. Now, move all of your foods to
Spear a morsel with a fondue fork and shake off any excess moisture before dipping it in the cold batter. Shake off excess batter and plunge the food into the hot oil. When the coating is golden and fluffy, the food is done. Remove the food to the bowl of rice and “de-fork” it. While it cools, start cooking your next piece (something different). Drizzle a tiny amount of one of the dipping sauces over the food in your rice bowl and dab a bit of wasabi on the top.
Wash it all down with tiny cups of sake or hot tea.
People are usually pretty generous during the winter months. It is as though the cold reminds us to be generous.
Now that the winter weather (seemingly) has broken off and warm, sunny days have returned…
…please remember to donate what you can, when you can, to a local food bank.
For those of us putting out gardens: Try planting a little extra to donate to a food bank. Fresh vegetables are greatly appreciated.
Every little bit helps…money, food donations, and your volunteer labor. And, even if you cannot donate, try to pop into a local food bank with a smile.
In our last discussion, I presented “laws” and how most of the laws we find ourselves clamoring for are illegitimate. We also looked at the sole legitimate function of government. This time we’ll explore how we end up with “state”, instead of “lawful government by the consent of the people”.
When we begin to articulate our dissatisfaction with how our socio-political environment is turning out, we turn to applying labels instead of directly addressing our complaint.
We rail against “Big Pharma”, the “gubmint”, and “corporations”. When we want to get specific we claim “Obama is planning to take away our guns” or “the Christian Taliban” wants to establish rules for marriage.
This renaming process is called reification. The term originated with Karl Marx and Georg Hegel. It refers to giving something that does not exist a name. It is a defense mechanism related to deflecting ownership of an idea, ideology, or economic plan.
We use, “the government” instead of saying precisely with whom in government we have an issue or issues. We don’t know the names of the people who manipulate the pharmaceutical market, so they become “Big Pharma”. “Big Tobacco” is another villain from the other side of the common political spectrum.
It’s a lazy practice and one that libertarians should disavow. Let’s be specific in our complaints about those who seem to be running things. Say, specifically, how and by what methods President Obama intends to disarm American citizens. Has he specifically said so?
The honest answer is, “no”.
Who is “Big Tobacco”? What do they want? Who are “they”? Who are “welfare cheats”? The list goes on and on.
“Government” does not exist as an entity. Government exists as a collective of individuals. Government is not evil, but people within government can turn it into an instrument of evil. Libertarians strive to be specific about the names of people within an existing government who are at odds with the cause of individual freedom.
Next time think, before railing about “the government”.
We’ll finish up with a discussion about how two, hugely erroneous, beliefs are used to trample individual liberty.
Belief in the ‘free lunch’.
We hear it all of the time. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” But that’s exactly what many people expect a government to provide for them.
We hear a laundry list of “free” (State-provided) goods and services like, “free” education, “free” health care, “free” legal advice, “free” highways, and an ever-lengthening list of “free” things.
Here’s the truth about “free” anything…
…The cost of whatever is provided “free” to someone else; must be compelled from someone else.
The dollars that buy a “free” school lunch for a child had to be confiscated, at the point of a gun and with threats of imprisonment, from someone who earned the two dollars by performing wage-work or by selling a good or service.
“Free” appeals to us because we see men (and women) busily constructing roads, hospitals, schools, and other amenities. But we do not see the un-built homes, un-purchased refrigerators, or other commodities. These “unseen” things slip our minds because they are not “real” to us…like the construction workers, teachers, or government office workers. It is as though these amenities and projects magically appear via government “generation of wealth”.
Ladies and gentlemen: There is no free lunch. It is the illegitimate use of force by the state, against the individual, that makes such state-provided goods and services available.
So, why do people persist in an unrealistic belief in the free lunch?
Some people strive to create “Utopia”.
Thus, goes the soulful chorus:
“You can’t guarantee that, without government, that people would educate children, treat workers fairly, care for the sick, and provide for the needy.”
No, and neither can government.
It’s been tried. We continue to try it. Like alchemists pursuing phlogiston with which to make gold from base metals, it just can’t be done.
One cannot advocate for freedom and expect to deliver Utopia.
A Utopia is a place where everyone has everything and is universally happy. How happy are the people when they are informed that a portion of their property will be confiscated by the state? All? No. Some? Perhaps. A few? Probably.
Unless everyone in such a system is happy, it is not Utopia.
Therefore, there can be no Utopia. It just isn’t an option.
NEXT: “The social contract lie and the myth of the ‘Happy Slave’.”
The best way to find out what a libertarian is not is to ask a non-libertarian, “What’s a libertarian and what do libertarians believe.” The old political divisions of “conservative” or “liberal” have become meaningless and tell nothing about the core beliefs of people proclaiming to be either. The labels “Democrat” and “Republican” are even less reliable. They tell nothing about the political agendas of either party, since each of those parties slide and intermix their agendas in their efforts to command the most “votes” to remain (or re-gain) political power. So, here we go. What are libertarian beliefs? You may be surprised! – PD
A law is a “shall do” or “shall not do” edict issued by the state. When someone violates such an edict by doing (or not doing) what the edict demands, the state sends armed people equipped with manacles (the police) to either command the lawbreaker to appear at a court, or to drag the offender to the court in chains.
Whenever we say, “There ought to be a law”, we are indicating our willingness to have the state (with our blessing) send its armed agents to apprehend a fellow citizen and haul him up to answer to our complaint.
This is called, getting what we want through force or coercion.
If a law has ‘good’ intentions, why is it necessary to use force or coercion to achieve obedience to the law? Wouldn’t people do, or abstain from, the acts covered by a law as a matter of doing right?
“But that would depend on people wanting to do right. We all know that’s not realistic.”
So, what you’re saying is: “Essentially, people are no good.” People, left to their own devices, are bent toward doing evil…or at least “bad” things.
If this is true, then you are a bad person too. You are equally inclined to evil.
“Yes. That’s true. I can be a bad person and, therefore, I know others are no better than me at being good.”
You’re sure? You somehow, magically, know that others have your character flaws? A psychologist would have a field day with your assertion.
And, if your assertion is true, then what about the nature of any laws enacted by people who are inclined to evil? What does it say about all laws that are enforced through force or coercion?
We are now presented with a paradox.
If people are naturally inclined to do good, we have no need for laws. But if people are naturally inclined to evil, we don’t dare have laws.
“Okay. But it’s not a black or white issue. People are, on the whole, pretty good. But they can do bad things. That’s why we need laws.”
If that is so, then laws only affect good people. People regularly break laws, many of them serious laws, without forethought of whether or not their action is illegal by law.
Murder is a seriously wrong act. Yet, there are hundreds of people murdered each week. That there is a law against murder does not prevent them from committing murder. If people are willing to commit murder despite laws against murder, it seems foolhardy to expect them to obey laws prohibiting acts that are much less obviously wrong.
“So you’re saying we shouldn’t have laws prohibiting murder. That’s sick.”
That’s not at all what I’m saying. Essentially, there is only one crime and murder is a form of that crime.
“That’s nuts. How is murder a form of theft?”
We own only two things: our lives and any property we attain through our own work. We own our lives as a natural right, bestowed by either a Divine Being or through nature. We own that life. When a person murders another, they are committing theft. The murderer stole the life of the victim (the victim’s most basic element of property) and also stole any property rights (e.g. to love, companionship, productivity, etc.) held by the victim’s family, friends, and community.
From this concept, the victim’s family, the victim’s friends, and the victim’s community have a legitimate claim against the murderer. Ironically, the murder victim no longer has a claim against the murderer, as a corpse has no property rights. Consequently, the act of murder is legitimately illegal and punishable by courts representing the family, friends, and the community of the murder victim.
Absent of property rights, there can be no legitimate claim that any law is valid. Without valid property rights, we cannot assert any right to force compliance with our demands at the barrel of guns held by agents of the state that we sent to enforce our otherwise invalid laws.
If theft is the essential element of all crimes, then any government has only one legitimate function: The protection of property rights.
NEXT: “If government has only the legitimate function of protecting property rights, how did we ever end up with this thing called ‘the state’?”
Phyne Dyning has never chased fads, fashions, or trends. For nearly two years, Phyne Dyning has been the non-trendy alternative to what became a plethora of foodie (I still hate the word!) and cooking blogs. While Phyne Dyning spurns trends, it does not ignore them.
The emerging trend?
The death of the food blog.
Consumers are fickle that way. CB radios one day, leisure suits the next. VHS to Beta to DVD, to Blu-ray. Psychedelic rock gave way to Archie bubble-gum hits. The food blog has simply run its course.
Oh sure, a few will remain…sadly on the periphery of popularity, like broadcast quadraphonic FM radio and Nehru jackets. Some of them will remain respectable, others will become punchlines for cooking jokes. The more successful, according to the media experts advising Foodchannel.com, will move toward the food blog’s replacement…the amateur food video a la YouTube.
I just can’t bring myself to court the trend. I just can’t.
What’s next for Phyne Dyning?
I looked over Phyne Dyning’s stats for the past year and discovered that my political curmudgeonry drew a much larger audience than recipes. It may only prove that some people will follow someone anywhere…
…out of morbid curiosity.
Or, does it?
I may be wrong (and often am), but there is an appetite among you for information and commentary related to individual freedom that the main stream simply refuses to provide. You’re fatigued with the deep divisions between us; chasms across which we yell the new pejoratives of “liberal” or “conservative” at each other…while the professional politicians raid the hen house. A growing number of Americans, Europeans, Middle-Easterners, and Asians are discovering that the “game” in which we all play linemen is being coached by a few, very wealthy and morally corrupt men and women who think, solely on the basis of wealth, that they have a divine right to own us.
We were created to be free. We are to own ourselves and to allow others to own themselves.
Every few centuries, those yearnings surface in us. We are living in those times.
The content of Phyne Dyning will change with those times.
Thanks, so much, for reading.
Because he could be arrested for war crimes.
In his book, Decision Points, Bush admitted to authorizing waterboarding (torture) at the “detention” facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Torture is a war crime.
By his own words, George Bush is an admitted war criminal.
Prior to Bush’s dethronement, he was immune to prosecution under international, diplomatic law. He no longer enjoys that immunity and is now just another thug on the run.
A former US president may be wanted for war crimes? Last month, Bush refused to leave the United States for photo ops in Switzerland.
War crimes…really! But war crimes are the things “bad people” are made of. People like Pinochet, Milosevic, and Eichmann. People in funny hats (with funnier mustaches) are “war criminals”. Not a former US leader and “leader of the free world”. Why, the USA executed Japanese “war criminals”.
We wouldn’t tolerate our president to be one. Would we?
Surely Mr. Bush won’t let a few hundred “foreign protestors” keep him from shaking hands with other world leaders abroad?
Oh sure, protests would be expected. Those wacky protestors have been calling Bush a “criminal” for years. But when did protests cause a former US leader to balk at travel outside of our borders?
It has to be said: George Bush is staying home because he reasonably fears being arrested and tried on war crimes charges. Bush may have been dumb enough to admit to war crimes in his book, but he’s insufficiently stupid to risk the real possibility of arrest outside of the good ole USA.
“If you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide”, is a Republican (and for many Democrats) mantra. If the threat of arrest is baseless or if the charges are specious, go fight them. Isn’t that what America’s serfs are told daily?
There are huge implications. After all, America invaded Iraq (twice) to “bring Saddam to justice” and to look for (tee-hee) “WMDs”.
What would be the American reaction if a foreign military force, bent on taking the Bushlet into custody, engaged in a bit of “shock and awe” to arrest him Saddam-style? How in the heck do we hold the high moral ground if we were to repel such a force militarily?
If Bush were arrested and detained for trial as a war criminal, would America send forth Seal Team Six to spring him from an international hoos-gow?
How would history view such an attempt, or a Mossad-like raid on The Shrub a la Eichmann? Would young Americans take to the streets and chant, “USA!” while holding pictures of their former American commander in chief sitting in the dock in an orange jumpsuit?
Would President Obama agree to extradition of Bush? If Mr. Obama failed to do so, he would earn the inglorious reputation as one “harboring war criminals”. What would such a failure say about American politicians wanting to be “tough on crime”?
What would that say about our image as the world’s policemen? I mean “we’re the good guys”…right?
Golly. What if we’re not the “good guys”?
Golly! We’ve always been told we’re the good guys.
Well? Are we? What if we’re not the good guys?
What if we’re the bad guys?
I mean, we can’t be the “sorta good guys”, can we?
Once in a great while, the Phyne Dyner opens his electronic mailbox and finds something more exciting than the usual notifications that he has won the Nigerian Lottery or an “official notice” that he has a long lost (rich) relative in Kenya.
The email header said, “Some comments and my recipe” and the address had a .ru.com suffix. I opened the email with a bit of trepidation and half-expected a solicitation for “marriage to gorgeous Russian women”.
“Nelia” opened her correspondence with a mild criticism that I was giving my readers an incorrect perception that Russian food was “heavy”. She tempered her criticism with a comment that my recipe for pelmeni, while “not traditional Ural Russian”, was “yummy”. She also gave me a bit of guff about my “sexist” comments about the “cute Russian girl” in the video I linked to in the pelmeni article.
I guess I had it coming.
She quickly made friends with me by commenting how much her family liked my mushroom soljanke and shchi recipes. On the other hand, they did not care much for my version of cauliflower soup.
But Nelia was not writing just to be critical.
Russian-born, Nelia wrote with authority and said she had once cooked in a “top” hotel in Riga, Latvia. Like me, she quickly admits to “I am not a chef, but a cook”. That got her some high marks in my book. Too many amateurs and bloggers toss around unearned titles of “chef” and “food critic” these days.
She offered to share a recipe with me if I would be so kind as to publish it. She sent the recipe and I prepared it last Friday evening for Shabbat.
Nelia said it was a favorite Latvian fish recipe and that she served it with a sauce she believed originated in Finland. The fish with mushrooms is her variation of a favorite served all over Russia and Eastern Europe.
The fish is beyond savory and the sauce is simply “to die for”. The fish is “excellent” by itself. And with the light flavors of the creamy sauce, it is absolutely spectacular.
No, it’s not health food. And, no, it’s not starchy. But after you review the ingredients you’ll see why it isn’t health food.
Nelia specified that I should, if at all possible, use whiting for the fish. I was unfamiliar with whiting and none of my mass food retailers were either. Fortunately Rachel, our friend in Scotland, knew all about whiting. Dan, a local Roman Catholic friend celebrating the Christian Lent season, steered me toward Wal Mart (I know) where I could buy whiting.
I had always thought that the fish in Great Britain’s famous “fish and chips” was cod. I have since learned that only the higher end shops sell cod. Many pubs and street vendors sell whiting in their fish and chips. It’s a very mild, firm fish that is economical and fries up nicely.
Thankfully, one of my degrees is in chemistry. It came in handy when I translated Nelias “grams” and “milliliters” into familiar, American units of measure.
This is Nelia’s stage…so let’s start cooking her recipe.
5-6 whiting fillets
¼ C lemon juice
2 tbs olive oil or melted butter, plus a bit more for drizzling
2-3 C large white mushrooms, thickly (3/8”) sliced
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh)
2 C fine breadcrumbs
2 eggs beaten
½ C milk
1 small clove garlic, minced
3-4 large anchovy fillets, finely minced (or 2 tsp anchovy paste)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the fish fillets in a shallow, glass dish. Drizzle a bit of olive oil (or melted butter) over the fillets and then drizzle the lemon juice over them. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Try to keep the fish in one layer so they are equally exposed to the lemon juice. Place in the fridge for 1-2 hours so the fish firm up nicely.
Once the fish is safely in the fridge, heat the remaining oil in a medium skillet over medium low heat. Stir the anchovies (or paste) and the garlic into the oil and cook for about a minute. Toss in the sliced mushrooms and half of the thyme. Cook the mushrooms, stirring frequently and gently, for about 12-15 minutes. The mushrooms should not sizzle. Season lightly with salt and pepper. The goal is to drive as much water as possible from the mushrooms. When they are slightly smaller and a bit “rubbery” they are done. Sprinkle the remaining thyme over them and allow them to cool to room temperature.
While the fish is marinating, we can make Nelia’s sauce. You’ll soon see why this is not health food.
¾ C sour cream
½ C whole milk
1-2 TBS grated horseradish
1 TBS flour
2 TBS fresh dill (or 1 TBS dried)
2 TBS (green) onion tops, minced
1 hard boiled egg, finely minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a small pan, add the sour cream, milk, and horseradish. Bring to a gentle boil and immediately reduce heat to a simmer. Whisk in the flour, a pinch at a time, until the mixture begins to thicken slightly. Stir in the onion tops, dill and egg. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep warm on “low” heat, whisking in a bit more milk if the sauce begins to get pasty.
Heat oil in a deep fryer to 340F. It is best to cut the fish as you go, rather than try to cut first…you will be matching mushroom slices to each piece of fish. You want to cut the fish into pieces TWICE the size of a mushroom slice. Now, fold the fish (like a book) around the mushroom and fasten it using a toothpick. Keep making these up until all of the fish and mushrooms are used. Yes, you can make this step in advance if you like.
When the oil is hot, whisk the milk into the beaten eggs. Run each fish “sandwich” through the egg, then through the breadcrumbs, back through the egg, and again through the breadcrumbs. Deep fry them in batches and drain on paper. Cook each “sandwich” until it is golden and floats on top of the oil…about 3 minutes. Keep finished “sandwiches” in a warm oven until service.
Gently re-heat the sauce until almost ready to boil. Give it a quick whisk before placing it in small bowls or ramekins for the table.
Spoon a bit of the sauce over each bite and watch your guest’s eyes pop.
Nelia offered up a variation where the fish and mushroom are not made into “sandwiches”, but are pinned (via a toothpick) to a small square of rye bread before coating and frying. I think I’ll try that very soon.
Thanks, Nelia! Come back, any time.
Almost forty years ago, John Matejewski had a huge influence on my cooking. John was chief steward on one of the freighters I served on during what I now call, “My Popeye Years”. Like most of the crew, John was of purebred Polish lineage and it was from him that I learned the basics of Polish cooking.
For years, I prepared my kielbasa and potatoes like most people in a hurry. I fried the sausage in some oil, tossed in the potatoes, and then the cabbage and onions. Everything stayed in one pot and was cooked on the stovetop. Cooking time was about 30 minutes.
No, it was not how John cooked that meal.
Almost everything John served came out of a (slow) oven. He was a formidable cook and his passion was bread, cake, and pastries. Consequently, the oven was John’s weapon of choice for most meals.
After finding a deal on all-beef kielbasa, I set forth to prepare it in the same way I had done it for years.
Then, I remembered John and set out to prepare it his way.
Now, John would have used real butter in his version. I used olive oil. If your Invisible Friend has no edicts prohibiting mixing meat with dairy, by all means use (melted) butter.
This is a wonderfully simple meal. There are no complex herbs or spices. The flavor comes from slow cooking that blends the natural flavors of the ingredients magnificently.
1 lb (beef) kielbasa, cut into large pieces
½ head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1-2 lb russet potatoes, peeled (3-inch chunks)
½ C olive oil (or butter)
½ tsp white pepper
½ tsp paprika
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Pour about half of the oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Lay the potatoes in the bottom of the pot. Drizzle the remaining oil over the potatoes. Now sprinkle the potatoes generously with some of the paprika, white pepper and salt. Scatter the onion slices over the potatoes. Gently lay the cabbage on top of the potatoes and onions and then place the kielbasa on top. Season with the remaining paprika, white pepper, and a bit more salt. Do not stir! Leave everything in layers. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to 275F and bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Check the pot occasionally to ensure that it does not dry out. Usually, the cabbage will provide enough liquid.
The juices from the kielbasa gently bathe the vegetables and then get absorbed by the potatoes. The result is a wonderfully flavorful potato with a firm, yet melt-in-your-mouth, feel.