30 September 2009

Tartine's Lemon Bars

Tartine's Lemon Bars (with title)
Hi. This is a difficult post to write, but truth be told, it's going to be difficult to write about food in the midst of so much suffering for a very long time, so I might as well start. Long story short for those who don't want to read the rest: please visit this site on Google to find out how you can help the victims of Typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines- it has ways for people overseas to help. Thanks so much.

EDITED TO ADD: Make a donation to UNICEF for this cause today, and your gift will be matched, doubling your support.

When I was in high school, my friend and I had this well-meaning discussion about giving to the poor. He said that his parents always taught him that it's usually better to give to big charities (I think he named the Church in particular, though it's not really a charity) than to beggars for several reasons: the organizations know how to systematically dispense goods so it provides the most benefit (rather than a beggar buying a big meal, then is hungry again), you never know what beggars do with the money (e.g., buy cigarettes), it encourages begging instead of working, and encourages organized begging syndicates (watch Slumdog Millionaire to get the gist of it). "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him to fish and he eats for the rest of his life."

"Well now," I thought to myself, "How many people have actually taught a man to fish? How about those who have no fishing rod? Those who are too weak to fish?" Leave it to me to pull a verse apart.

Generosity is so difficult even when we are at our most prosperous, because it's so easily taken advantage of, and no one likes feeling like a chump. The evil-minded have ruined it for those who are desperately in need. On Larry King Live with Suze Orman as a guest (at the height of the recession), someone actually called in to ask how to wisely go about giving to charities (I am phrasing it in a nicer way, as I can't remember if the actual question was "What's in it for me?"). Orman, to her credit, says that when we let go of something, it lets the universe know that we can get something back. My analogy for that is when we hold on to our possessions too tightly, it never lets anything into our palms.

It's depressing to think that the only motivation people have to give is the imagined promise that they'll get something in return. When we're lucky, it happens. But at least it encourages people somehow to give. Even with all the evil and selfishness in the world, if even a little kindness slips through the cracks, then there is hope for the rest of us.

Last Saturday, more than 430mm (17.2 inches) of rain fell in the span of 24 hours in Metro Manila. The topography of the land is not something I'm aware of when I go around Manila, but for some reason (proximity to dams, bodies of water, altitude, drainage problems), parts of Manila turned into a waterworld and all of us here were completely shocked. It just seemed like a "normal" typhoon, sans the wind even, and suddenly there are people trapped on the second floors of houses, people stranded on roofs, and unprecedented destruction in our nation's capital.

We already know how to fish. If there's anything Filipinos are good at, it's cooperating in the face of tragedy to emerge hopefully stronger. However, even with excess manpower, resources are still running low. We're not rehabilitating yet- still rescuing and relieving. We just need to get through this.
Click on this link to find out how you can help, anywhere you are in the world.
Filipinos are also quite adept at making do with a little. If you have any excess at all to give, it would be greatly appreciated. (If you would prefer to contact me directly for any reason, feel free to do so.)

It's okay if you feel that this is improper, but I'd rather you didn't comment about it and just moved on. I only ask it of you if you have it to spare. Thanks so much.

"Panalangin sa Pagiging Bukas-Palad" is a poetic translation of "Prayer for Generosity." (In this case, bukas is open and palad is palm.) This tune was written by Filipino songwriting genius Manoling Francisco, SJ. It's just an instrumental here. (I would love to translate it for you- it's quite a beautiful song, but I don't want religious content potentially causing people not to give.)

About the lemon bars:
I actually prefer the ones I made from King Arthur, but only because I found these a little too tart. The rest is my fault - I may have overbaked it, thus failing to achieve the runny goodness of the lemon curd of the book (not that it is accurate, I think). But if you like lemon squares tarter and a little more flavor to the shortcrust base, I recommend these. Recipe is over at Lisa's, who also managed to take an infinitely better picture of them.

This recipe is again from one of my favorite cookbooks, Tartine. I recently reviewed it over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, finally!

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