This morning I was scanning the radio waves at home and passed by my favorite NPR radio station. The WBUR Boston based show On Point with host Tom Ashbrook (a literate and informed gentleman) featured an interview and calls for one Senator Bernie Sanders, who you remember was an almost ran in the 2016 Presidential election.

During the second half of the hour while taking listener calls, Sanders spoke of Trump’s America (not his exact words, but close enough for government work), “Trump’s policies will result in an America where the Rich get Richer, the Middle Class Shrinks, and the Poor Increase.”

Short and sweet.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Book Illustration

Although this is the Christmas season with all the joy and food treats involved in family gatherings, I did not immediately conjure up visions of sugar plums and fairies. Neither Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” a.k.a. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (1823), not the Nutcracker ballet’s Sugar Plum Fairy.

The Nutcracker Suite Ballet Sugar Plum Fairy

If you are confused or uncertain about real Sugar Plums (as I was), read this Atlantic article and they will clarify in edifying detail.

Sugar Plums Confection U.S. Post Civil War (1968)

No, what sprang to mind for me was the American classic dessert: Lemon Meringue Pie.

Now, I must confess to a personal prejudice here, and proud of it. Lemon meringue is one of my very favorite desserts and has been since early childhood. My first lasting pie memories date from my grandmother serving us (always) home made apple, pumpkin, and mince pies at holiday family gatherings, and she often included a store-bought lemon meringue, sometimes especially for me (number one grandson).

My sensory memories are sufficiently strong and lasting 60-years later that if I had access to a good lemon meringue pie right now I would indulge in a large sized wedge. I would temporarily suspend the inexorable biochemistry and physics of dietary discipline, and savor the gustatory and emotional sensations such a pleasure would evoke.

Back to the subject at hand.

Lemon Meringue Pie, American Style

From the Wikipedia entry:

Lemon meringue pie is a type of baked pie, usually served for dessert, made with a crust usually made of shortcrust pastry, lemon custard filling and a fluffy meringue topping. Lemon meringue pie is prepared with a bottom pie crust, with the meringue directly on top of the lemon filling. No upper crust is used, as in a cherry pie.

Lemon flavored custards, puddings and pies have been enjoyed since Medieval times, but meringue was perfected in the 17th century. Lemon meringue pie, as it is known today, is a 19th-century product. The earliest recorded recipe was attributed to Alexander Frehse, a Swiss baker from Romandie.

Classic American Lemon Meringue Pie Slice

Nearly everybody already knows the basics of the food creation I am taking about. The classic version consists of a bottom layer pastry crust, covered with a sweet-tart lemon custard filling, and topped with egg white meringue. The whole thing is baked and best served chilled. There is no covering top crust

One thing that is most pleasant about lemon meringue pie is that it is a fully self contained dessert. Traditionally you don’t gussie it up. No sauces or syrups are poured on it. No toppings of nuts, or sprinkles, or crushed Hershey pieces. No whipped cream. No ice cream n the side. The pie experience is sufficient unto itself.

The culinary history of the lemon meringue pie is somewhat unsettled. There are some medieval roots in Europe, but not the whole elegant combination. Credit has been claimed for a Swiss baker, an English 19th century origin, and groups of religious Shakers in the US Midwest in the 19th century. Success always has a hundred fathers (or mothers in this case).

Take note of these two examples:

Shaker Lemon Pie:

Shaker Lemon Pie, also known as Ohio Lemon Pie, is a fruit pie typical of the Midwestern United States.

The pie was first made in the religious communities of Shakers. Their success at fruit growing led to the development of what has been called “a veritable calendar of pies” In the Midwestern climate, however, lemons could not be grown, and Cookbook author Caroline Piercy writes that “according to old accounts, lemons were the first food ever purchased by North Union.” Two versions of the lemon pie developed, one resembling a standard Lemon meringue pie, the other, more frugal version using the whole lemon.

The original pie filling recipe calls for ordinary lemons, white sugar, and eggs. The entire lemon including peel is sliced paper thin, gently mixed with sugar, and left to macerate for at least four hours and up to a full day, “the longer the better”. During this time the mixture should be stirred every few hours, and any seeds picked out. The sugar will dissolve and the peel will soften. The beaten eggs are then mixed in, the filling added to the crust, either a lattice or full top crust added, and the pie baked. The resulting filling is a cross between marmalade and lemon curd. The pie is best served warm.

Modern variations may substitute Meyer lemons or brown sugar and add other flavorings such as ginger or blackberries.

Lemon Meringue Fun Facts:

Lemon Meringue Fun Facts. Lemon meringue pie is a type of baked pie, made with a crust usually made of shortcrust or shortbread pastry, lemon curd filling and a fluffy meringue topping. Also it is prepared with a bottom pie crust. The meringue is placed directly on top of the lemon filling. No upper crust is used.

The Quakers generally receive credit for inventing lemon custard in the late 1700s. Philadelphian Elizabeth Coane Goodfellow, a pastry chef, businesswoman, and cooking school founder, who arrived in Philadelphia in 1806, expanded on lemon custard and invented lemon meringue pie.

August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day.

  • Lemon trees bloom and produce fruit year-round. Each tree can produce between 500 and 600 pounds of lemons in a year.
  • Add the juice of one lemon to an equal amount of hot water for an anti-bacterial gargle.
  • Food historians say lemons have been in cultivation around the Mediterranean from as early as the first century A.D.
  • High in vitamin C, lemons prevent scurvy, a disease that causes bleeding gums, loose teeth and aching joints. To this day, the British Navy requires ships to carry enough lemons so that every sailor can have one ounce of juice a day.
  • California and Arizona produce 95% of the entire U.S. lemon crop.

I choose to believe the practical (real inventor) origin story occurred among Pennsylvania Quakers in the early 1800’s who put all the elements together. We enjoy the fruits of their creativity 200 years later, and going strong.

I have no idea if Trump likes lemon meringue pie, or any other kind of pie for that matter. It has been reported he likes candy. We know he used to like Oreo cookies. It doesn’t really matter what his Presidential-Elect dessert tastes are.

This is America. And this post is not about him. It is about a wonderful dessert’s physical structure to make a philosophical point.

Pictures of lemon meringue pie abound on the internet. They are easy to find. Chances are if you have a cookbook collection at home, you will find full color illustrations there as well.

Pillsbury Home Recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie

Here are a couple of choice examples. The classic Pillsbury recipe yields a pie that has nearly as much lemon custard filling in the middle, as the height of the meringue layer on top. The crust is below and the smallest of the three intimate components of the whole. See for yourself.

Williams-Sonoma Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie Concoction

A fancy, dolled up version from the high falutin’ Williams Sonoma outfit is also shown. (Honest, no disrespect whatever is meant towards their food creation. I love their cookware and kitchen tools). This is a socio-political issue,. The Williams-Sonoma pie structure has a thinner lemon custard middle, a whopping tall meringue layer, and a noticeably thicker base crust.

So, there it is. The classic American recipe for political lemon meringue pie gives you a strong middle class, a hefty but manageable wealthy class (within reason), and a thin bottom crust of poverty.

Trump’s version of America’s pie is very different. He wants an huge and overbearing dominant portion of high net worth, a narrower, shrinking portion of pie filling for the middle class, and a thick, dark crust of poor and soon to be poorer people.

Trump’s policies, across the board, will change the shape and character of America’s pie, and not for the better. The substance of America’s value, strength, and tastiness is the lemon custard middle class, not the airy air-bubble filled top layer of Trump’s best buddies and fellow grabbers. Nobody needs more pie crust for dessert either.

Bernie Sanders had it dead-on right this morning. Trump wants an America where:

the Rich get Richer, the Middle Class Shrinks, and the Poor increase.

The lemon pie analogy proves it.

Classic Balanced American Lemon Meringue Pie (Bakery version: Village Inn)

So, America have a slice of pie for yourselves. Enjoy it. But make sure you get the classic old-fashioned American version of lemon meringue. Skip the artificial high-topped substitute being widely pedaled today around our land on Twitter and inscribed on golf hats.

Official FDA Food Label for Ridiculous Portion Size of 1 oz. Lemon Meringue Pie 

In this age overflowing with fake news from the sublime to the ridiculous, even here you must watch your caloric step lest you be fugabooed.

Official FDA Food Label for Typical Portion Size of 1 slice Lemon Meringue Pie (1/8 of 9-inch pie)


For the next 30 days America is legally Trump-free. We can enjoy Christmas with his constant hovering only in the background. If you don’t pay attention to the news and internet as much as normal for the holidays, it is possible to nearly block Trump, his elves, trolls, and his Twits out almost entirely. I suggest you do so for your healthy digestion’s sake.

Sadly, that will no longer be the case after January 20, 2017.

America may quickly discover that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Our musical finale is courtesy of Joni Mitchell, a folk singer with a very fine voice, Joni seems to anticipate the coming of Trump with her powerful song from April 1970, more than 45 years ago.*

   Beach in front of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Waikiki Beach

Joni is Canadian, which may have provided her with an appropriate, friendly distance and new eyes to see some of America’s trends to come. She wrote the song in Hawaii, while on vacation in Maui. Mildly ironic given the geopolitical home state transition we are about to experience between Presidents 44 and 45. The hotel she refers to is likely the Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu, but the song’s impact today is still strong. Poetry in just 2 minutes and 15 seconds.

Watch her sing a slightly longer version (2:37) of Big Yellow Taxi (from about 1975) in a live concert performance.

Joni Mitchell sings Big Yellow Taxi Live in Concert (circa 1975)

Watch it again, and this time listen carefully to the lyrics.

Sing it for everyone, sister.

I suppose in the interest of precise factual description the latest incarnation of this song for our purposes ought to be properly labeled :Big Orange Taxi, but who ever heard od a big orange taxi, even in Florida?

Oh, and just for the record Joni is blond, slender, hugely talented, with great teeth, and quite attractive, just the sort of ‘good’ immigrant Trump’s minions so desire. She could even pass Trump’s look test, unlike so many ordinary others. Yes, and she is also a U.S. citizen, holding dual citizenship both in Canada and the U.S.

Joni Mitchell at Home in Laurel Canyon (Los Angeles) (1970)

Merry Christmas and count your blessings, America. Pray those precious blessings will still be intact this time next year, what with the saber-rattling posturing, and today’s newest pre-Presidential pledge by Trump to upgrade America’s already Number-One in All the World lethal nuclear arsenal. How many multiples of blow-up-the-world nuclear bombs do we need again?**

American Nuclear Blast: Shot Baker (Operation Crossroads) Bikini Atoll (1946). When A-bomb Explosions were Part of the Landscape.#MAGA.

Isn’t the current comfortably excess number of five complete whole world wipe-outs enough already?

Maybe not, if your newbie CIC-Leader has to talk tough to substitute for his cavernous, yawning lack of skill, intellect, and diplomatic experience. Whatever, children.

*Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, from the Wikipedia entry:

“Big Yellow Taxi” is a song written, composed, and originally recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell in 1970, and originally released on her album Ladies of the Canyon. It was a hit in her native Canada (No. 14) as well as Australia (No. 6) and the UK (No. 11). It only reached No. 67 in the US in 1970, but was later a bigger hit there for her in a live version released in 1974, which peaked at No. 24. Charting versions have also been recorded by The Neighborhood (who had the original top US 40 hit with the track in 1970, peaking at No. 29), Maire Brennan, Amy Grant and Counting Crows.

Mitchell said this about writing the song to journalist Alan McDougall in the early 1970s:

I wrote ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ on my first trip to Hawaii. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise. That’s when I sat down and wrote the song.

The song is known for its environmental concern – “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot” and “Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now” – and sentimental sound. The line “They took all the trees, and put ’em in a tree museum / And charged the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em” refers to Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu, which is a living museum of tropical plants, some rare and endangered.

Here are the song lyrics. Joni Mitchell’s website has some additional explanatory notes for the * lines below:

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

With a pink hotel *, a boutique

And a swinging hot spot


Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot


They took all the trees

Put ’em in a tree museum *

And they charged the people

A dollar and a half just to see ’em


Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot


Hey farmer farmer

Put away that DDT * now

Give me spots on my apples

But leave me the birds and the bees



Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot


Late last night

I heard the screen door slam

And a big yellow taxi

Took away my old man


Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot


They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

**Here are two partial perspectives on the U.S. nuclear arsenal:

From 2011:

That is the weighty question confronting President Barack Obama as he prepares his overdue Nuclear Posture Review. Each new American president must by law review his nation’s nuclear weapons and strategy.

Nobel Peace Laureate Obama will shortly decide what to do with America’s 5,500 strategic nuclear weapons — that possess enough destructive power to destroy the planet at least five times over. Some experts say it’s 50 times over.

Obama, strongly influenced by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is expected to decide to spend US $7 billion modernizing US nuclear weapons and plants. Maintaining US nuclear weapons already costs some $52 billion annually. Nuclear weapons, like people, deteriorate over time, so require regular maintenance and refurbishment.

This is a huge cost at when the nation is running on borrowed money from China and Japan. Russia’s total military budget, including nuclear forces, is estimated at around $38 billion — less than what the US spends on its nuclear arsenal.

And from 2014:

The United States’ 2,150 deployed (operational) nuclear weapons have a total yield of around 1027 megatons, enough to completely level an area with a circumference of 6575km.

The nuclear bombs would also be capable of destroying most civilian buildings in an area with a circumference of 17,459 km – around four times the size of the United States, according to teleSUR calculations.

The United States’ total operational nuclear weapons would moderately damage civilian buildings in an area with a circumference of 48,269km – greater than the circumference of the planet.

Central London would be completely destroyed by a single megaton bomb, so the United States´ 1027 megatons would eliminate around 1027 cities the size of central London, or would instantly kill 647 million people, if set off in urban areas.

Globally however, according to the 2010 Blackaby Papers, there are at least 23,000 nuclear weapons in existence, sufficient to wipe out the entire human population of the planet many times over.

The exact destruction ability of the United State´s nuclear stocks is difficult to calculate. teleSUR´s figures do not include the additional 2,500 bombs in reserve storage, or the 3,000 or so that are awaiting dismantlement. The exact figure is secret, but a report published by Hans Kristensen and Roberto Norris last year, titled U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2013, and used for this article, is likely the most accurate available.

Further, the destruction capacity of the bombs depends on a range of factors: the kinds of bombs (detailed below), how high and where they are set off, as well as the type of destruction being talked about (instant damage, or the long term consequences of radiation, cloud cooling, and so on).

According to a range of sources, including the Arms Control Association, in 2009 or 2010, the United States had: 500 Minuteman III warheads, 1,152 Trident II D5 warheads, and 316 B-52H and B-2A. In 2009 (used for calculating the above statistics), it had 550 Minuteman III warheads, 1,152 various Trident warheads, and 150 B61-7, and 350 ALCM/W80-1 warheads.

The Minuteman warheads have a yield (destruction capacity of) 1.2 megatons, the Tridents range between 100 and 475kilotons, and the B61-7 and ALCM/W80-1 have up to 340 kilotons and 150 kilotons respectively. To put those into perspective, the Nagasaki bomb, Fat Man, had between 18 and 23 kilotons of TNT.

The U.S. Department of Defense estimate of the annual cost of U.S. nuclear “deterrent” is US$16 billion, while Brookings says other estimates place the cost higher, at US$30 to 35 billion.

US$1 trillion is the estimated cost of modernizing current U.S. nuclear arsenal, including operation costs, life extension programs and new delivery systems to replace aging elements, according to the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 2014.

The U.S, as it polices the world, alleging it is invading Iraq, Syria, Libya, to get rid of “evil forces”, is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in warfare, on Japan during World War II.