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November 27, 2006
How long do I have to sit out here?

What's-Her-Name was crouched under the picnic table, staring fixedly at the bowl of food I had placed next to my feet as bait. She maintained her gaze. You can go in anytime you like. Nobody's making you stay.

But aren't you hungry? Come on and eat. It's right here. Yum yum!
I gave the bowl a little tap, so she could hear the sound of it. Maybe it would get her in the mood.

What's-Her-Name won't come inside. You have to catch her and carry her in. You have to carry her all the way up to the third floor, where she and Gypsy spend virtually all of their indoor time now. This is because she knows that The Cat Formerly Known as Benito is inside somewhere, waiting to jump on them.

My thinking this morning had been that I would sit on the back porch steps and entice her to come near me with a bowl of breakfast, and that I would grab her as she ate. If this isn't the oldest trick in the book, it's certainly one of them, though, and What's-Her-Name wasn't about to fall for it.

I'll wait, she said.

You know you're hungry, I said, giving the bowl another nudge, but my voice already sounded whiny, even to me. Once again, I had lost. Soon I was just too chilly to stay out there any longer in my bathrobe, and I arose and went inside. And it was What's-Her-Name 1, Crafton 0.

It is time for another summit meeting, Q has said. We will sit together on the couch, each holding a cat, and the two of us will talk about peace and nonviolence while they two of them growl and hiss at each other. The hope is that, through this experience, they will see that there is another way to live. There is little evidence that such a thing has ever worked; our willingness to continue the cat summits is simply an index of our desperation.

We do not, at this writing, have much in the way of a concrete and reasonable hope for disengagement. But winter is coming; it's going to get cold out there -- maybe What's-Her-Name will come to her senses. Or maybe Noodle will come home and enlarge the cat community, shifting its balance of power. Maybe Ben will quit jumping on the girls when we put on his SoftPaws, plastic covers for his claws that will render him harmless to the upholstery. A lot can happen.

But what will not happen is that any of these relationships will end. Just because eventual peace is the task of those who are currently at war is no reason to wash our hands of them. It was I who brought Ben into the small world of our house; I bear some responsibility for what has happened because I did that. Real people aren't just responsible for their intentions; they're responsible for what actually happens because of what they do. And they have a role in helping make it right.

You write about cats too much, a reader once wrote me. I'm allergic, and I get hives just reading your stuff.

Oh. Sorry. But really-- none of them are just about cats.
In response to several requests:

White Bean Soup

Wash and sort
1 lb dried white beans
Cover with cold water in 6-quart stockpot or large saucepan and bring to a boil. Do not add salt at this point, or your beans will never soften, no matter how long you cook the soup! Boil two minutes and remove from heat. Let stand for an hour or so. Turn into colander and rinse again. Return to pot.

While beans stand, chop and set aside
2 large cooking onions
4 large carrots
4 large stalks celery
6 cloves garlic
Heat in skillet
1 tbsp olive oil
Add chopped vegetables and stir over medium high heat until onions are soft and translucent, about ten minutes. Add to beans.
3 quarts stock(chicken,turkey,vegetable,or canned broth;
always save the water you use to cook vegetables
and use it in your soups)
1 bay leaf
a few healthy grinds of pepper
1 tsp ginger
1 tbsp dried dill weed (or a handful of fresh)
Heat to boiling and reduce heat to a gentle bubble. Cook for 1-2 hours, or until beans are tender. Stir now and then. Add more liquid if it has cooked down before the beans are done. When beans are tender, put solids through a sieve and return them to pot -- or use your wonderful new stick blender that only cost thirty dollars to puree the soup right in the pot without making a horrid mess. When soup is pureed, stir in
1/4 cup dry sherry
salt to taste
Serve, garnished with fresh or dried dill and, perhaps, a dollop of sour cream.

And this...
Turkey Parsnip Soup

Strip your turkey carcass and place in large stockpot. Cover with water, including vegetable water from cooking. Heat to boiling and reduce flame to cook,uncovered, for about 2 hours, until carcass falls apart. Remove bones to a plate. Return any stray bits of turkey meat to the pot.

While turkey cooks in the pot, heat in skillet
1 tbsp olive oil
Add, and saute for 10 minutes
2 large onions,chopped
4 large carrots,chopped
2 large parsnips,peeled and cut into 1" strips
a handful of chopped parsley
a handful of fresh sage or 2 tbsp dried sage
two sprigs rosemary
any other vegetables you have lying around

Add to turkey stock. Add grinds of fresh pepper. Simmer at a modest bubble for another hour. Salt to taste,and remove rosemary sprigs. Puree with your new stick blender.

Bon appetit!
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