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  • Renee Kashuba

Yes, indeed, black lives matter

Since its inception, this newsletter has remained apolitical. I have an open business, welcoming and serving everyone. I focus on the food -- the ingredients and the careful preparation -- and I celebrate flavors from around the globe. I'm thrilled with the challenge of learning new culinary traditions, because every culture offers delicious tastes. This part is easy. But now it's become apparent that this is not enough (and never really was). Today, it is simply required that each of us takes a stand and declares who we are and what we believe in. So, I cannot believe that this needs to be stated (it's just so obvious, because all people are precious and a gift), but here it is:




Really and truly, black lives matter. There. Let's all be really clear on where I stand on this.

The world has been taking a stand, finally, and it's thrilling. In the age of coronavirus, it's also worrying, and we have to remind ourselves how much we depend on others to bear the burden of social activism to bring the change we need. The communities that have been the hardest hit are coming out in the greatest numbers, because the danger from lack of social change equals the danger of the virus (at least in appearance, although we may never know the specific numbers of who got sick where and why, and we never recognize the true losses to racial injustice). The inability to compare accurately perpetuates the status quo.

Here are a few things to note. Thankfully, the numbers of positive tests continue to fall in New York, so perhaps the timing of demonstrations is not as bad as we think, at least in our area. And being outside and wearing a mask appear to be among the most important ways to minimize risk, so these outdoor demonstrations and the wearing of masks among demonstrators may, in fact, keep them safer. The protests also come during reopening nationwide, and it will be difficult to ascribe responsibility for new outbreaks to protest gatherings or to more public activity in general.

Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, contributing columnist forThe Washington Post, and former health commissioner of Baltimore, spoke with Brian Lehrer of WNYC on Friday. She had some wonderful ideas for how to stay safer while protesting:

  • Always wear masks. Masks are not a replacement for social distancing; both are important. Masks worn by all can reduce risk of transmission by 50% to 90%.

  • Use a modified group buddy system: stay with a small group of people, and keep that group distant from other groups. This way, you can be a part of the larger gathering, but really keep primarily within your social bubble. This may be impossible if police corral gatherings or during arrest.

  • Use a noise maker, instead of chanting.

  • Bring your own drinks and hand sanitizer, and use sanitize any time you touch something (like signs or bullhorns) that have been touched by others.

  • Self-isolate and self-quarantine as much as possible after attending a protest.

I found the most remarkable message she conveyed, however, was a poignant reminder that while mass gatherings during a pandemic are hazardous to public health,

"Racism is also hazardous to public health.

Police brutality is also hazardous to public health."

We cannot allow racism and brutality to continue without protest in the name of public safety. Instead, we need to engage in harm reduction strategies -- an approach following the example of measures to fight HIV transmission that is being widely discussed. Read Dr Wen's Washington Post editorial for more.

Finally, we can look for ways to state our case publicly, but from a distance. A group of activists is collecting videos of police misconduct in a Google spreadsheet. Many of us have been reading more these days, and now there's a push to expand our libraries and our minds. There are lists of recommended reading for kids of all ages, beginning with board books. And some individuals are coming out individually to make a statement, like a veteran who held his own hours-long protest in Utah. Even a local Facebook post, like one from Toby Clarke of Irvington to the private group 10533, can make a real difference.


Last week, I promised to promote local businesses I'm looking forward to visiting again as restrictions loosen up. It just didn't seem appropriate. Instead, I maintained a media blackout for the week. Here's a list of some, and I'll be promoting them this week on Insta and Facebook:

  • Rivertown Dance Academy

  • Sebastian Barbershop

  • Little B's

  • JJ Beans Coffee

  • Shames JCC

  • Tarrytown Music Hall

  • Jacob Burns Film Center

There are countless more, but these are the ones I think of first. Maybe you have some, too! Send me your favorites, and I'll give them a shout out.

And, finally, here's this week's recipe:

I learned a few years ago that Martin Luther King Jr's favorite kind of pie is pecan pie. Since then, I've been making mini pecan pies every year for a loyal friend who teaches class on MLK Day, and likes to give his students a treat. These are very well received every year, and they couldn't be easier. They have a very rich flavor, because the sweetness comes from maple syrup, instead of corn syrup (I never use corn syrup, because it's just junk!).

Maple-Pecan Pie

1 c pure maple syrup (best quality)

3/4 c brown sugar

3 eggs

3-4 Tb butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla (or more, to taste)

Dash salt, or to taste

2 c pecan halves, at least

Prepared, but uncooked, pie shell

Mix syrup, sugar, eggs, vanilla, melted butter, and salt until fully combined. Fill pie shell nearly about 3/4 full with pecan halves. This should be at least 2 cups, but it could be more. Fill to your heart's content, particularly if you love pecans. Pour mixture over pecans. Bake at 350 until filling puffs and sets, and pecans begin to brown. Serve room temp with whipped cream.

Whipped Cream

1 pt heavy whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla, or to taste

2 Tb powdered sugar, or to taste

Whip on high speed until soft or stiff peaks form (depending on use). Do not overbeat (stop at dry peaks at the very latest!). Use generously on everything.

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