Friday, March 13, 2009

Black Bean Soup and The Daily Show: Delicious! Angry!

I usually write these posts well in advance. Today’s was to be about a recent dream in which Al Pacino stopped by to deliver cake to my sister. (“Everyday at 4:30, she passes my HOUSE, and she LOVES my CAKE! So I thought I’d bring her some HERE.”)

Then, this morning, I caught wind of last night’s Daily Show, where Jon Stewart’s sat down with CNBC’s Jim Cramer. And … whoa.

Backstory: Jon and Jim have been feuding all week, after a cohort of Cramer’s skipped a Daily Show interview. In response, TDS produced a blistering takedown of CNBC, essentially calling the channel a fraud. Cramer fired back, Jon fired back again, and it came to a head yesterday, when Cramer appeared on TDS for his own interview.

And by “interview,” I mean “public slaughter.” Just to give you an idea, here are a few choice quotes from Stewart:

“You know, we're both snake oil salesman to a certain extent, but we do label this show as snake oil here.”

“I got to tell you, I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a [expletive] game.”

And finally:

“What we are getting is, listen you knew what the banks were doing. And yet we're touting it for months and months. The entire network was. And so now to pretend that this was some sort of crazy, once in a lifetime tsunami that nobody could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.”

Again, whoa.

Here’s the thing - Jon’s not blaming Cramer for the crash, nor is he attacking Cramer’s personal ethics. (Well, maybe a little) He’s attacking the competence of televised financial news, and Cramer was the only one to sack up and attempt to defend it. (Poorly. Oh-so-very poorly.)

Ideally, the prime responsibility of news organizations is to act as a watchdog for the public – to strive for objectivity (which doesn’t truly exist, but still), to be the fourth estate that Thomas Jefferson so eagerly promoted as a check/balance for government. Financial news, in particular, has to be extra-vigilant, as it ostensibly affects the well-being of millions.

CNBC failed at that. Really, it didn’t even try. Part of it is the nature of television. CNBC survives on ad dollars generated by ratings, and the easiest way for most cable TV channels to garner those ratings (Nickelodeon and ESPN aside) is through celebrity and shock value. So CNBC brings on the CEOs and the loud, flashy financial bigwigs. And they lob softball interview questions so they'll come back. And they tell the public, who has much less experience in economics, that these people are trustworthy, EVEN THOUGH CNBC KNOWS BETTER.

Stewart’s takedown is a few months (years) too late, and it's tinged with blamegame-ism, but it’s merited. Where were these guys when bad stuff was going down? Why didn’t they investigate? Why did they sidle up to industry bigwigs when they knew they were charlatans? It’s the same damn questions we asked of the news a few years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit, and it’s frustrating as hell to see it happen again.

So that’s my two cents. Readers, how about you?

Oh! Wait! But don’t go yet! There’s food. Namely, this black bean soup from Mark Bittman. It’s delicious! With a fried egg on top, it’s even better! Eat it! Happy weekend!

Black Bean Soup with Fried Egg
Adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
Serves 4

1-1/2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste
2 15-ounce cans black beans (or 3 cups cooked from dry), drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

For garnish:
Sour cream or plain yogurt, or 4 eggs (1 egg per bowl)
If using eggs, 1 tablespoon olive oil

1) Heat 1-1/2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 6 or 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional minute.

2) Add the beans, stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes.

3) If using eggs, heat an additional 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat in the meantime. Add the eggs, cover, and fry slowly until the whites are completely set and the yolk is to your liking.

4) To thicken the soup, purée it briefly with a stick blender, transfer half through food mill or into a blender, or just mash it by hand. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice. Adjust seasoning as necessary, garnish with cilantro and egg or yogurt or sour cream. Serve immediately.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
Plain soup: 258.5 calories, 6.3 g fat, $1.10
With one fried egg on top: 362 calories, 15 g fat, $1.25

Calculations for Plain Soup
1-1/2 tablespoons canola or olive oil: 179 calories, 20.2 g fat, $0.23
2 medium onions, chopped: 92 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.53
2 cloves garlic, minced: 9 calories, 0 g fat, $0.09
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste: 35 calories, 1.5 g fat, $0.06
2 15-ounce cans black beans, or 3 cups cooked from dry: 641 calories, 3.2 g fat, $1.50
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock: 67 calories, 0 g fat, $1.33
Juice of 1 lime, or to taste: 10 calories, 0 g fat, $0.33
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped: 1 calories, 0 g fat, $0.33
TOTAL: 1034 calories, 25.1 g fat, $4.40
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 258.5 calories, 6.3 g fat, $1.10

Calculations for Soup Plus Fried Egg

1 tablespoon olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.11
4 eggs: 296 calories calories, 20 g fat, $0.50
TOTAL: 415 calories, 33.5 g fat, $0.61
TOTAL PLUS SOUP: 1449 calories, 58.6 g fat, $5.01
PER SERVING WITH SOUP (TOTAL/4): 362 calories, 15 g fat, $1.25


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