Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yer Doin' It Wrong

Alas, the poor we have with us always.

I think we all know it's not a good idea to hand them money in perpetuity.  And surely we've figured out that warehousing them in urban high-rise projects isn't working well at all.

But what to do, what to do?  

If only we had some data to help us figure out what might work better.

Oh, well, look at that.  We do!  Marvin Olasky wrote The Tragedy of American Compassion, back in the '90s, or maybe earlier.

Olasky documents charity in early America.  Churches, civic associations, immigrant societies all reached out to help the destitute in their communities, offering sleeping rooms, jobs, coal, food, God.  They took the view that mankind could be sorely tempted to live off the labor of others; that people down on their luck needed a "hand up" more than a handout.  Some people couldn't help the troubles that befell them, but some could and they should be expected to overcome the habits that kept them down.

Olasky also tells the story of an opposing point of view:  mankind is inherently benevolent and the reason that poor can't stop being poor is because they have never been placed in a situation where they can thrive.  Therefore, we need to provide them housing and a guaranteed income.  To  my surprise, this idea has been around quite a bit longer than Roosevelt's New Deal.  Olasky traces it back to 1840. 

His many facts and figures demonstrate that charity worked well in early America because giver and receiver knew each other.  Giver could better discern the needs of someone in his community, someone with who he had a relationship.  I was amazed--no, fatigued--by accounts of busy volunteers offering rooms in their homes to the destitute, delivering coal, gathering up clothes, patiently preaching a better way to the alcoholic and the fallen woman.  They stayed close enough to the poor to smell them.  They spent their time much more than they spent their money. 

Who knows if they got a little judgmental as they made the call between who deserved help and who didn't.  Maybe they didn't understand mental illness or alcoholism.  But they did an awful lot of good. 

It sounds like all of early America was one big Relief Society.

Heavy on statistics, Tragedy is no beach read.  Would the people I know enjoy this book? I ask myself.  Likely not.  It's more for the specialist, the academic, the politician.  None of you are secretly a United States Senator, are you?  I didn't think so.

So, it's out there if you want it.  I downed it as a big serving of literary vegetables, and I'm none the worse for it, just eager for a big helping of fiction now.

As for vegetables, here is a tolerable way to sneak them into your diet:


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage links
1/2 cup water
2 medium onions, quartered and sliced
2 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 medium zucchini, choppped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup chicken broth
6 hoagie buns, split (toasted maybe?)

1. Place sausage links in a 10-inch skillet.  Add water and cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until water evaporates, about 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, turning occasionally, until sausages are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

2. Remove sausages to a cutting board; cut diagonally into 1/4-inch slices.  Return to skillet and cook, over medium heat, stirring, 8 to 10 minutes, or until well browned.  Remove to a dish.

3. In same skillet, cook onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until limp.  Add red and green peppers and zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Add browned sausages, garlic, basil, oregano, and broth.  Heat to boiling, reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes.  Serve on buns.  Probably works better open-faced.  Serves 6 @ 355 calories, assuming an 180-calorie bun.

This is what we shared with the missionaries this week.  I deliver our Friday-night leftovers to them for their Saturday meal.  I never know if they like it, if they throw it out, or if they eat the dessert on Friday at midnight and let the rest rot in the fridge.

If they didn't like this one, I wish they would've sent it back.  I fondly remember the zucchini.  That stuff is pretty good, browned in sausage juices and steeped in a tasty broth. 

From 365 Easy One-Dish Meals by Natalie Haughton.

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