Change The Massachusetts Flag

Today,  I’m home in Quincy, Massachusetts. This state, like the rest of the United States is on land stolen from Native Americans.

4th of July

Like last year on the 4th of July, it feels right to think about the founding of this country. I consider my birthday a personal new year and a time for self-reflection. Likewise, the birthday of this country is a time to think about the history of the United States — how we can do better now and in the future.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. But it wasn’t until five years later, in 1781, when the Massachusetts state legislature became the first to recognize the 4th as an official state celebration recognizing the anniversary of the country’s independence.

Receiving a link to sign a petition prompted me to write this post today, on the 244th birthday of the United States. The petition seeks to change the North Quincy High School mascot from the Yakoo, an offensive caricature that stereotypes Native American culture. I signed the petition and immediately thought about the Massachusetts flag.

Massachusetts Flag

When I was in my 20s and working for the state, I remember looking closely at the flag. Previously, I had only noticed the figure of a Native American man standing. But that day, I noticed that there is an arm holding a sword over his head.  A sword over his head!

Taking the Indigenous peoples’ land was bad enough. The flag shows the violence of it. Why should this emblem continue representing our state? Should we be proud of this? I am horrified by the symbolism.

The seal, which is on the flag, goes back to circa 1639, when the Massachusetts settlers adopted it. The sword was owned by Myles Standish, known for his violence against Native Americans as a military advisor for the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Colony in the 1620s.

Many say the the original sin in this country was slavery. As an African-American, I can trace my ancestry back to enslaved African-Americas in Virginia and South Carolina. The exact year enslaved Africans arrived to colonies in the Americas is not clear. Some have said 1619. But that seems to reference English colonies. The European slave trade began in the 1400s and Christopher Columbus may have transported enslaved Africans to the Americas in the late 1490s.

However, looking at the time line, Native Americans were here for thousands of years before European colonizers arrived. The theft of their land and the brutality against them was a sin. Slavery was an additional sin and the timelines intertwine.

Further, when people deem the United States a nation of immigrants, that leaves people out. Some of us were already here. Some of us came here unwillingly. We are a nation of immigrants, and Indigenous people and descendants of Africans who were enslaved in the United States. Let’s include us all.

Take Action

Since we’re at a place in time where symbols of white supremacy continue coming down, it’s well past time to change the Massachusetts flag. Especially as the Trump administration targets the Wampanoag tribe’s land. Is the state of Massachusetts in solidarity with Native Americans or not?

Last year, WGBH reported on the issue and a suggestion for the change could be an easy one. Remove the arm and sword and add a tree. A tree flag was one of the ones used during the American Revolution. Ships sailing from Massachusetts also used the tree flag. So adding a tree would be consistent with Massachusetts history.

For 36 years, the MA Indigenous Legislative Agenda has been working on changing the flag and seal, along with other initiatives as well.

Let’s support current legislation (S.1877 & H.2776) and urge the MA Rules Committee to move the Mass Flag and Seal Bill out of committee. Click on the links to send a letter. See a sample letter below.

I am a resident of (city or town), Massachusetts. I am writing in support of (S.1877 / H.2776) the bill to create a special commission, made up of Native leaders of the area now known as Massachusetts and state legislators, to change the state flag and seal of Massachusetts. The time has come to remove the sword that has been hanging over the heads of the Native people of this land for 400 years! This legislation has been stalled for 36 years in the legislature. Even Mississippi is holding bipartisan discussions now to remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag – which would leave Massachusetts as the last flag of white supremacy flying in the country. This image is a disgrace to the progressive traditions of our Commonwealth, an offense to Native people, and to everyone who upholds the value of racial justice for all. Thirty nine Massachusetts cities and towns have already voted at town meeting or city council to change the Massachusetts flag and seal, and an equal number of legislators now co-sponsor S.1877 / H.2776). Please vote favorably to move the legislation to change the Massachusetts flag and seal forward now.

*Updated 7/17/2020* Yesterday, there was a rally by Native American groups in front of the state house in support of this legislation and it generated some media attention. Governor Baker was asked about it during a press conference and stated that he is open to discussion.

*Updated 7/29/2020* There is real momentum behind this issue and the Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved new legislation (S.2848) to create a special commission. Now it’s up to the House and Governor.

*Updated 8/4/2020* North Quincy High School has changed the image of the Yakoo mascot.

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Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Holiday Dessert Roundup: Mincemeat Pie

Mince pie cut in half with background blur.
Photo Credit: By Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

From my last few posts, it’s clear that I love holiday sweets. Gingerbread is a holiday staple and eggnog might be my favorite holiday treat. But there’s another one that I haven’t written about — mincemeat pie.

First, let me clarify. Most mincemeat pies do NOT have meat in them. They are made with dried fruits and spices. While we call them mincemeat in New England, apparently in most other places, they’re called mince.

Personally, I’ve never made a mincemeat pie. One of my mom’s sisters, is the pie maker for our holiday meals and we are often blessed with one of her mincemeat pies. After a brief Twitter exchange with someone, I realized that not all families are so blessed! We had one for Thanksgiving and I’m hopeful for Christmas too! Served warm with vanilla ice cream, it’s a carousel of delicious flavors and textures.

I started wondering if enjoying mincemeat pies is more of a regional thing. The pie does have its roots in England. Growing up in New England may have skewed my views. Although for a period of time, Connecticut banned mincemeat pies. Those Puritans were no joke.

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Mincemeat pie is a holiday treat that has been enjoyed by many for a very long time, according to a recent article on Haiwatha World.

Mincemeat pie finds its roots in the 11th century — the Crusades, to be more precise. Returning crusaders brought back valuable spices — cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — from the Holy Land, and these three spices were used to season a special “Christmas pie,” to represent the three gifts of the Magi to the infant Jesus Christ. Christmas pies were small, and could be eaten in a few bites. These pies were made in an oblong shape to resemble a cradle, and space was left for a Christ child figure to be placed on top. (The figure was removed before eating.) It was considered to be lucky to eat one Christmas pie for each of the twelve days of Christmas, between December 25 and Epiphany, January 6. The mincemeat filling of these pies was indeed almost entirely meat, but cooked with rum and spices, which acted as a preservative, as well as giving it its distinctive flavor.

With my increasing interest in all things mincemeat pie, I decided to do some additional research on the latest news and have assembled a roundup for your (and my) holiday reading pleasure. Enjoy!

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– Here’s a recipe for a boozy Baileys mince pie.

– Selfridges was selling a mini mince pie advent calendar.

Mince pie filled cookies are a thing!

– A mince pie sandwich is also a thing.

– Is mince pie flavored popcorn going too far?!

– Caffè Nero is offering mince pies in the UK for the Christmas season, but not in the US.  Not even in New England.

– Here’s a recipe for mincemeat crumble cake.

– The Helen M. Kelly Memorial Mince Pie has been in this family’s fridge since 1988.

Mince pie bao buns are for sale on Amazon Fresh UK.

– Parenthood won the best Thanksgiving TV dinner and the mincemeat pie had a lot to do with it.

– Grocery story Lidl has mince pie ice cream!

– A Dublin restaurant took the meat part of mincemeat too literally for Professor Darryl Jones.

– An American website had a similar meat problem with its mincemeat pie recipe.

– Try Queen Elizabeth’s royal recipe for mince pie. No meat included!

– If you’re ready to go absolutely medieval, try this mincemeat pie recipe that includes pork shoulder roast and bacon.

– And guess who has never tried mincemeat pie? I apologize in advance.

On July 4th: An Open Letter To Speaker Pelosi

Image of John Hancock statue, represents the 4th of July.
Photo taken Monday, July 1, 2019. Statue of John Hancock at Hancock Adams Common in Quincy Center, Massachusetts.

It’s July 4th, 2019. The last time that I wrote a blog post dedicated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on July 1, 2007.

Being aware of her love for chocolate ice cream, I created a recipe for chocolate ice cream in her honor celebrating her becoming the first woman Speaker of the House.

I hadn’t looked at that 2007 post in years. Reading it again now, I noticed my disappointment in Pelosi’s refusal to consider impeaching President Bush. Impeachment was “off the table” as far as she was concerned.

Well, here we are again. Almost 12 years ago to the day. Same Speaker. And shockingly, an even worse president. And that’s saying something. Looking back, Bush doesn’t seem quite as horrifying as he did back then.

I don’t believe that will be the case with Trump, if this country survives as a Democracy for 12 years to look back on with a different president. The horrors his administration has inflicted are too many to name.

For now, let me just say that my heart is breaking for the atrocities being committed in this country. Not that unspeakable horrors against people of color is new in the United States. It’s literally what this country was founded on – the theft of Native American lands and the genocide against Native American people. Then the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans for centuries. Just last century during World War II, the property of Japanese Americans was stolen and they were rounded up and placed in concentration camps.

No. This country does not have a good human rights record. And I am skipping over a lot. But we are supposed to do better. Now it is brown immigrants from Mexico and Central America who are seeking asylum after fleeing violence, that are being rounded up and placed in concentration camps.

This past Monday, I took the picture above and I wrote a letter to Speaker Pelosi. Since it seems to fit the theme of July 4th, I’m sharing the letter below. You can submit a letter to Speaker Pelosi as well by clicking the link here.

Open Letter To Speaker Pelosi

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

The news that I read each day about the people being held in detention shakes me to the core. I have cried over this. We have concentration camps on our soil. The treatment of these men, women, children and babies is deplorable, cruel and seem to be crimes against humanity.

I understand that there is virtually no chance that the Senate would convict and remove President Trump. But I still think that an impeachment inquiry in the House should begin. Please start the process. At least there will be televised hearings, so that more people in this country will see the reality of what is happening.

Soon after President Trump was elected,  I remember hearing that his team was looking into the Korematsu decision. Between that, Trump’s greed, racism,  lawlessness and the growth and profitability of private prisons, I thought that there could be concentration camps here. It was only a matter of when and who would be in them. Now we are here. I don’t know how we fix this, but as I prepare for the 4th of July, I am taking the words of the Declaration of Independence to heart.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

I live in Quincy, Massachusetts and today visited a memorial to John Hancock, stating that he was the first signer of the Declaration. He was born here. Just a few miles away from where I am writing now.  I understand there is much hypocrisy involved with the Declaration. I am a black woman and my rights and humanity would not have been acknowledged at the time of the signing. But we are supposed to be better than that now.

For the love of God, please use your power to ease the suffering of those who have fled violence to come here looking for safe haven and are now essentially being tortured. I beg you.

Sincerely,

Lisa Johnson

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Current events may have many of us contemplating a bit more about what it means to be American. So much happening in this country is heartbreaking, unnecessary, and to be frank, criminal.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We the people can make a difference in very tiny ways. Even if only calling our House Representative and Senators to tell them how we feel. If we each do something that resonates with us, we can make this country better than it ever was.

Along with fireworks, picnics and barbecues, on this July 4th, it’s the perfect day to reflect on this nation’s founding — and think about how we can reset, striving towards a more perfect Union.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Author: Crystal King

Many years ago, I worked at a software company with Crystal King. I didn’t really see her face to face much, because we both worked from home sometimes and worked in different departments. But I do remember seeing her on lots of emails! So it’s quite fitting that we reconnected on LinkedIn.

Then recently, I noticed that Crystal posted about writing her latest novel. Latest?! Call me impressed!

When I read further about her novel, The Chef’s Secret, I noticed that it was inspired by a real Roman cookbook from the 16th century, written by one of the first celebrity chefs – if not the first. I was intrigued and naturally wondered about her experiences with food.

By the way, if you’re looking for a late Mother’s Day gift and your mom is into food, Rome and history, this novel would be a great gift for her! Or maybe you might just want to get it for yourself.

Also, as a special gift for readers of this blog, you can request a free digital companion cookbook that contains 27 recipes!

Now let’s learn a bit more about Crystal and resume this ongoing interview series with the 23rd interview of You Pick Six.

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
My favorite recipe is tortellini soup. I make it all the time in the winter. It’s super simple. Slice up a chicken or pork sausage and sauté it in the bottom of a saucepan. I will deglaze with a little bourbon, then add in enough good broth (this varies depending on what we’ve got at home…we make broth from duck, pheasant, chicken and more) for the two of us. I usually throw in chopped carrots, sometimes potatoes, and a slew of herbs of my fancy that day. Thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper, paprika, turmeric. Add the fresh tortellini after the carrots have cooked, then when they are floating to the top, I add frozen peas and cook for another minute or so. When served, I add grated Parmesan or Romano on top. Super fast, super easy and delicious.

I also like making Parthian chicken,which is a holdover from my novel, Feast of Sorrow. It’s a 2,000 year old recipe and one of our favorite dishes for the dinner table.

What is a favorite quote?
The controversial NYT literary critic Anatole Broyard once said, “Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.”   Oh, Rome, where my heart is.

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
When I was young, my mom would occasionally travel to some convention for whatever thing she was selling, whether it was Princess House or Avon. My father would cook and that was always an adventure. I remember one breakfast where we had the big tabletop casserole/griddle out and he made one monster pancake, and the three of us kids all had to help him flip it. We loved when he did stuff like that with us when mom was gone.

What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
This is hard! There are two that stand out, for very different reasons. é by José Andrés comes first to mind. My husband and I went for one of my milestone birthdays, shortly after it opened (it’s a secret restaurant behind Jaleo in Vegas), when it was nearly impossible to get in. Everything about that meal was amazing, from the presentation, to the show the waiters did, to every delicious, surprising morsel of food.

And last year, I was in Caprarola, Italy, visiting the Farnese palazzo to research my third novel. We stopped in a little spot, Trattoria del Ciminio, that was pretty much empty.  When the lunch crowd did start to filter in, we were the only tourists. The salumi was hyper local from deer and wild boar. I had a goose tortelloni that was to die for, and a smoked duck carpaccio that was pure heaven. I’ve not had anything else like it in my travels. My husband and I keep talking about that place.

What is a favorite cookbook?
Another hard one! But right now, my big soft spot is for [L’Opera] the cookbook that my main character, Bartolomeo Scappi, published in 1570, to great acclaim. It is the inspiration for my novel, The Chef’s Secret.  There are over a thousand recipes in its pages, as well as woodcuts that show you what a papal kitchen was like back in the Renaissance. The recipes are fascinating and many of them still delicious to palates today.

Tell me about your book.
The Chef’s Secret is about Renaissance celebrity chef, Bartolomeo Scappi. Scappi was the private chef to four Popes and the author of one of history’s best-selling cookbooks. We don’t know much about his life, or the life of his apprentice and nephew, Giovanni. Which meant that I was able to turn on my imagination and create lives that perhaps they might have lived.  In my story, Giovanni is on a quest to find out the truth about his uncle and the fifty-year love affair that the chef hid from the world.  It’s a book full of food and feasting, a bevy of historical figures, and of Rome and Venice during a time rather different than we know today. It’s a mystery and a double love story. It was great fun to write, and to sample the recipes from the Scappi cookbook as I plotted it all out!

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Thank you so much for participating Crystal!

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Photos: Provided by Crystal King.