Real Cooking

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CHERYL JOST
Reality programming seems to be what’s hot right now. It’s no wonder really, since production costs for situation comedies or hour-long dramas are astronomical compared to what it takes to create shows like “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” or “Survivor.”

I wasn’t interested in watching any of those types of shows that placed ordinary people into extraordinary situations. Voyeurism at its worst, I thought smugly. Why would I want to watch a show where women vie for the affections of a man just because he has money?

Well, I didn’t. Watch, that is. But millions of others did and reality shows are now a television staple. On any given night of the week, people are stranded on islands, meeting parents, facing fears and selecting their perfect mates all while America watches.

How vulgar, how demeaning… how addictive.

I usually don’t watch that much television other than my standing appointment with the staff of the “West Wing” every Wednesday night. It came rather as a surprise to Keith when I became adamant about checking in every night for two weeks to see if Downtown Julie Brown was going to be the next celebrity to leave the Australian rain forest.

By the way, did you watch “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here?” If so, I have a question for you. Did you find past Olympic champion Bruce Jenner a narcissistic, excessively annoying, condescending boor-or is it just me?

So, I watched “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.” Now, I’m waiting every week to catch up with “The Family.”

Why the sudden change in my viewing habits? Why has reality programming captured my attention? I think perhaps it’s avoidance. And I know it’s a form of escape.

As I write this on Sunday evening, Keith sits in the kitchen apart from our children who have been sent to another room to amuse themselves. The small kitchen television is tuned to CNN.

As my flying fingers make contact with the keyboard while I transfer thought into typed phrases, I’m catching snatches of information and snippets of words that make me feel increasingly uneasy: “deployment of troops,” “nuclear threat,” “North Korea,” “Saddam,” “terrorist attacks,” “the time is drawing near.”

Scary stuff. Complicated matters. Watching a minor celebrity wrestle with an eel takes a lot less effort and causes far less stress than trying to sort out why our country is on the brink of war.

Unfortunately, it’s the situation that we now find ourselves in and I’m uneasy thinking about the ramifications of this purposed military action. I believe there are times when military action is justified-a necessary evil, if you will.

But this one is leaving me feeling unsettled. To me it’s a Pandora’s Box and I don’t want to see what’s inside. I hope I’m wrong and that those that hold the reigns of power know more than I do, but I fear the next dose of reality television will be very hard to swallow.

The other day Alex went to participate in a wrestling tournament along with his middle school teammates. As always, Keith and I made our way out of town and to the gymnasium where the boys were competing… and as always, there was a knot in my stomach.

There’s something about willingly placing my kid into a situation where I know he’s apt to get hurt that just throws me. Anyway, as I was sitting there waiting for Alex’s first match, a thought came streaming through my head.

“If you feel this miserable about watching your son wrestle in a relatively safe, controlled atmosphere, what must it be like to send a son off to war? Most likely Alex will come home with some sore muscles and a few bruises. What must it feel like to know that there is a real chance of your child never coming home at all?”

I can’t imagine the heartache.

And what must it be like to be a mother preparing for her country to be invaded, for her city to be bombarded with missiles? How does she comfort her children? How does she protect them? How will she provide for them in the harrowing days ahead?

I can’t imagine the fear.

Isn’t it ironic that we talk of war now during this season of Lent, when many Christians observe holy days by fasting and performing acts of contrition? It’s a time to be penitent, a time to reflect and seek out forgiveness from others and from our Father in Heaven. Yet the drums of war beat on.

I can’t imagine God’s sadness.

All too soon a new type of reality show may be making it’s way to the airwaves of this nation and it will revolve around terror, destruction and death. I wonder if America will tune in.

Reality bites.

* * *

Since many try to find meatless dishes for the Lenten season, I’ve included this Mexican dish in this week’s column. I’m really not keen on cilantro, so I omit it. But if you’re partial to the stuff, go ahead and enjoy. I also cut back on the onion if I’m using one that is especially strong. Use your own judgment.

Black Bean Burritos for Two

2 (10-inch) flour tortillas, warmed

2 tbs. vegetable oil

1 small onion

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 tsp. minced jalapeno peppers

3 oz. cream cheese

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Place onion, pepper, garlic, and jalapenos in the skillet and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour beans into skillet and while stirring, cook for three minutes. Cut cream cheese into cubes and add to skillet along with the salt. Cook for two more minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cilantro. Spoon mixture evenly down the centers of the tortillas which have been warmed in the microwave or in the oven. Roll and serve.

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