A friend brought up a good point the other day. This is a horrible time of the year to have to give something up for Lent. Winter has us feeling defeated — with almost a foot of snow the other day after spring started to tease us. Illness has us down — I’ve been sick with a cold virus (which led to a sinus infection, bronchitis, and an ear infection) for three weeks. And maybe it’s not the time of the year, but politics and the news have me feeling pretty low. I attempt to not get too political here (I had some pseudo-stalkers who didn’t like my politics on my old blog), but let’s just say that Republican governors who think it’s a good idea to propose 50% funding cuts to public universities are on my shit list. Some people invest and innovate through a down turn. Here in Pennsylvania, we slash, burn, and build more prisons.
Part of the cuts to our university have the potential to decimate our College of Agriculture. This comes at a time when research on feeding the world using sustainable methods is more important than ever. So I guess if I were to give up something for Lent (which I won’t because I’m a heathen), it would certainly not be the college that represents, and innovates in the top industry in our state.
Beyond, I think about my grandfather, who grew up on a farm and had a tractor business. He never went to college. And yet, through the availability of state-funded and regionalized public higher education, he was able to put my dad through college. My dad started out as a teacher and went on to become a local businessman which allowed him to put me through college and a masters degree program at public, land grant institutions. My siblings and I (and all of our spouses) graduated from public universities. My husband and I work at a public university (me not so much anymore). My in-laws taught at a public university. My mom, sister, and sister-in-law have degrees in education from public universities — my sister is a teacher at a public school and my sister-in-law works at a public university. Without subsidized public higher education, where would we be? I am not saying that any one of us is changing the world. But I do know that we are educated citizens and productive members of society who contribute in positive ways.
And I might not remember how to conjugate all of the French verbs, but I do know that being exposed to the academy changed my worldview in a profound way. At a time of economic and global turmoil, we need more, not fewer, educated citizens who are capable of challenging their own worldviews. Education did not get us into this budget mess — our funding has been steady or decreasing for years. But we realize that education will have to accept cuts to move forward. Let’s just make sure that we are not cutting off our nose simply to spite our face.
“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” ~Mark Twain
Cod in Parchment
Since I was knee deep in education, rather than food, I should add that this is a perfect dish for those giving up meat for Lent. It is also great for kids, as each person can customize what is in their packet and the surprise factor of opening it up at the table is always popular. Feel free to use other flavorings, vegetables, or anything you have on hand!
1 1/3 pounds of Wild Cod (or similar mild white fish)
1 potato, peeled and sliced paper thin
1/2 of a large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 of a lemon, thinly sliced (remaining half used for juice and zest)
1/2 of a large carrot, grated or in ribbons using a vegetable peeler
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
6-8 large green olives, sliced
4-6 sprigs of fresh oregano, stemmed and chopped
4-6 T white wine
4 T butter
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
3/4 t salt
1/2 t Smoked Paprika
Freshly Ground Pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut fish into 4-6 somewhat equal servings. Cut parchment paper into 4-6 pieces that are roughly 13 inches by 13 inches.
2. Make herb butter by combining butter, zest, garlic, salt, Smoked Paprika, and pepper. Set aside.
3. Take one square of parchment and make the first layer with several slices of the paper-thin potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a piece of fish seasoned with salt and pepper, then a few onions, some tomato slices, carrot ribbons, and a dollop of the herb butter. Place one or two lemon slices on top of that along with some chopped fresh oregano and a few green olives. Drizzle with a bit of lemon juice and about 1 T white wine (per packet). Gather up parchment into a purse, attempting to avoid any gaping holes for steam to escape. Tightly tie the packets shut with kitchen twine and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining fish.
4. Bake packets for about 18-20 minutes until you see them starting to bubble a bit. (You can cheat and open one up if you are unsure if they are done.) Place each packet on a plate and open at the table.