Friday, May 15, 2009

Orange and Beet Salad & Peanut Butter Cookies: in memory of Bunny and Ned

Last month, I became a supporter of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. I sent my donation in memory of Topsy, the traumatized elephant electrocuted by Thomas Edison in an effort to discredit Nikola Tesla's polyphase (alternating current) system. I sometimes fantasize about getting a steampunk-y group together, donning elephant masks, and rampaging through Greenfield Village, a veritable Edison shrine (Ford worked for the Edison Illuminating Company in the 1890s, so it's understandable). Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum are national treasures, and I've enjoyed visiting both over the years. The kindly old engineer who used to drive the GV train worked on the Michigan Central Railroad where my great-grandfather was a conductor, many years ago; this accorded my father the honor of riding in the engine itself to talk over the glories of the Age of Steam when he visited. But, I digress...

Today, I wept when I learned that two Asian elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary died during the last 24 hours. Bunny passed away from natural causes at 57 years of age yesterday. She had lain down in a pleasant place earlier this month, and received palliative care until her peaceful death yesterday evening.

photo of Bunny from The Elephant Sanctuary

Ned was confiscated by the USDA last fall after he was seen performing in an emaciated condition. The people at the sanctuary tried nursing him back to health; Ned would eat and gain weight, then lose it again. On Wednesday, he lay down and did not get up again. Medicine and fluids were administered to keep him comfortable. He died early this morning at the young age of 21.

photo of Ned from The Elephant Sanctuary

I hope that an autopsy will reveal why Ned failed to thrive, and that if his previous owner's treatment caused Ned's condition (instead of, say, a longstanding, hard-to-diagnose illness of some kind), the owner faces stiff penalties. Elephants truly never forget, and so many of them have suffered at the hands of human beings and bear scars both physical and psychic. That there are kind souls like the people at the Elephant Sanctuary gives me hope.

In honor of Bunny and Ned, here are two recipes. The peanut-butter cookies include the classic elephant treat: peanuts. The salad combines Bunny's favorite food (oranges) with beets, which Ned enjoyed eating.

Peanut Butter Cookies
(makes about sixty 1 1/2-inch cookies)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Sift or whisk flour and baking soda together.
Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars together until fluffy.
Beat in egg and vanilla.
Stir in the flour mixture until blended. Shape into 1-inch balls and arrange about 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Press flat with a fork, making a crisscross design on each cookie. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand briefly, then remove to a rack to cool.

Orange and Beet Salad
adapted from Simply Recipes (and very delicious!)

1 bunch of beets, leaves removed - about 4 or 5 medium sized
2 large navel oranges, pared and sliced
1 bunch of arugula leaves, cleaned, and any thick stems removed
Several thin slices of red onion
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

In a small jar, mix the following ingredients:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Make salad dressing.
Cook the beets with their peel on (simmer for 30 minutes or until beets can easily be pierced through with a fork). Drain beets and let cool before peeling.
Slice or quarter beets. Place them in a small bowl and marinate them in half of the oil and vinegar dressing for 30 minutes.

Compose individual salad plates with arugula, a few slices of orange, a few beets, a few slices of red onion and a few chopped walnuts. If you want some added color, gently add a few slices of the orange to the beet juice from your bowl of beets. Let the oranges absorb the beet color and use in your salad. Sprinkle dressing over the individual salads.

Be kind to animals. We need each other.

photo of Tarra and baby bird from The Elephant Sanctuary


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