Trafficking Worries Amid Haiti Adoptions

After an 11-hour flight from Haiti, four-year-old Jersen Silvester Eefting met his new parents in his new home in the Netherlands. Jersen is one of 123 children flown to the Netherlands on Thursday. Between 1,200 and 1,500 adoption cases like this are thought to be pending in France. US officials think there are at least 300 such cases in the states–some advocacy groups predict the number of pending adoptions is more like 900.

Last week’s devastation in Haiti–a country that had 380,000 orphans before the earthquake–triggered an influx of questions about adopting Haitian children. Amid the adoption flurry, aid groups warned last week that this could easily lead to human trafficking.

A Unicef spokesperson said that a Haitian government report found that 15 children had disappeared from hospitals and they’re thought to be “taken.” There have also been observations at the airport of children being loaded onto planes. “Unicef has been working in Haiti for many years and we knew the problem with the trade of children in Haiti which existed before,” the Unicef representative said. “Unfortunately many of these trade networks have links with the international adoption ‘market’.”

Human trafficking among Haitian children was a big problem for the country before the quake. A Haitian newspaper estimated 173,000 Haitian children internally trafficked for domestic servitude in 2008.

The Haitian government worked to track down families and make sure that all kids under five were in a safe place and properly fed by this weekend.There are 29 agencies pooling child protection resources in the country, according to a report by The Guardian. Aid groups have set up about 20 safe centers that are catering to  2,000 children every day. Groups have also established surveillance system to monitor disappearances and work to prevent them from happening.

People are coming together to help the children that need help in Haiti, but the goal is not to export the kids. Several Haiti adoption websites say new adoption applications are not being processed.

Unicef has also opposed outside adoption saying it’s a last resort. After all, an unaccompanied child on the street is not necessarily an orphan. “It will take some time before we reach an understanding of the number of children who are going to be orphaned,” a Unicef spokesperson said. “Do not forget that Haitian society has a very strong setup and that there will be a lot of family members willing to care about children from their own families.”

Carolyn Miles of Save the Children said, “the vast majority of the children currently on their own still have family members alive who will be desperate to be reunited with them and will be able to care for them with the right support.” And according to a Unicef spokesman, it’s not uncommon for poor families to put their kids in orphanages with a view of getting them back later.

Some of the adoption scenarios involve families who entered the adoption process before the earthquake hit, but are now anxious to speed up the process. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN she was “personally directing that we do everything we can to try to find and identify those children who are already adoptable… and to try to expedite all the paperwork… to get them to their new home.” And And Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the U.S.’s move to waive visa requirements for Haitian children already on the path to adoption would allow them “to receive the care they need.”

Some worry whether removing a kid from her country further disrupts a country that’s been seismically torn apart. The relocation could save her life and give her opportunities she might not have if she stayed, but it could also upend her entire sense of community. The bottom line:  Most officials agree that sending emergency aid resources to Haiti is a better option than withdrawing anything or anyone.

These are sticky questions. Should homeless Haitian children be flown out of the country for adoption? In what cases?

Roe v. Wade turns 37

Thirty-seven years ago the Supreme Court established a woman’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy. “The guarantees in Roe have provided tremendous opportunity and choice for women to control our lives and bodies,” Eleanor Smeal of The Feminist Majority Foundation said about the famous court case. “It’s so much a part of the fabric of our society that people take it for granted.”

But those who care about protecting reproductive rights are far from crossing this one off our collective “to-do” list. Eighty-seven percent of U.S. counties have no abortion provider, according to NARAL Pro-choice, the reproductive rights advocacy group. What does it all boil down to? This basic human right is under attack on many fronts.

In the courts: Today an anti-choice fanatic from Kansas City, Mo. named Scott Roeder is being tried for the premeditated, first-degree murder of Wichita physician Dr. George Tiller. Roeder told The Associated Press in November that he was driven by religious zeal to shoot Tiller in order to protect unborn children. For 33 years Dr. Tiller defended women’s constitutional right to access safe abortion care. “Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams,” he said. “Abortion is a matter of survival for women.”

In congress: After four months of debate around health care reform, its still unclear if our leadership can stand up against Catholic Bishops and other extremists like Bart Stupak whose efforts in health care legislation chip away at abortion rights.

Where does the president stand? The last few presidents have used the anniversary of Roe v. Wade to make a statement about their stance on abortion rights by flip-flopping America’s policy on the global gag rule. The “gag rule” denies American funding for HIV/Aids clinics, birth-control providers and other organizations that council about abortion to countries that even mention abortion to women with unplanned pregnancies. This policy has become a political punching bag for incoming presidents. But last year, Obama broke the cycle and reversed the order several days after Roe v. Wade anniversary in an attempt to disrupt the political bantering.

Abortion protesters continue to rouse their dissent. Today March for Life activists marched the National Mall, the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill to promote anti-abortion legislative action. The pro-life advocacy group thinks the “life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from that human being’s biological beginning,” according to the organization’s Web site.

In the shadow of this year’s anniversary is the death of a leader of the reproductive rights movement. Yesterday, Ruth Proskkauer Smith died at 102 years old. Smith advocated for women’s access to birth control in the 1940s and in the late 1960s she co-founded NARAL pro-choice, a reproductive rights organization that helped shape the kind of culture that led to the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v.

A few feminist-friendly stories for hump-day

*If a Virginia driver wants a cute little canary yellow license plate with smiling stick figure kids, they’re supporting a “Choose Life” campaign. Fifteen dollars of the $25 processing fee goes to Heartbeat International,  a Christian group that funds crisis pregnancy centers. The Washington Post reports that as of yesterday, “1,678 of the license plates had been purchased, and $10,170 has been earmarked for Heartbeat.” The plate has a drawing of a boy and girl under the words “Choose Life.” Jessica over at Feministing had an appropriate jaw drop at this news. Thank you WashPost for covering this story!

*Lifetime is running trailers for its new original movie “The Pregnancy Pact.” The story is about a gaggle of high schoolers who make a pact to get pregnant. Together. Yes, all together. Whatever happened to the good ol’ days when we just opted to pact together and be friends forever? Right when I was thinking that, Tina (otherwise known as Thora Birch) from the ama-zing 1995 film “Now and Then” walks down the hallway of the High School. She’ll throw her hand in the pile and chant “one for all…and all for one” with me. But nope, she’s in on it too. Well, not quite. Birch plays a  hard-nosed reporter who comes into the school to sniff out the pregnancy phenomena. Seriously, what’s up with our uncritical obsession with teen pregnancy recently? Juno, 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, The Secret Life of the American Teenager…please add to this list. The sad thing is a voyeuristic urge in me yearns to actually watch this. It’s interesting to see how our society reconsiles a life altering (I hesitate to say “ruining” for sake of being sensitive to people’s life choices) occurance such as teen pregnancy with our obsession with baby-mama-drama. The Pregnancy Pact, check it out for yourself.

*Kathleen Hanna? Bikini Killer? Le Tigress?  Riot Grrrl? Any of these names rink a bell? New York University’s Fales Library recognize them, and is archiving precious documents of the Riott Grrrl Manifesto and its offshoot movement in the early 1990s. Why does NYU care? They say because “the Riott Grrrl Collection will support scholarship in feminism, punk activism, queer theory, music history and more.”  Right when I thought the last Riot Grrls were dying off like an exotic species of birds they were, we get this news.

Move over lady and let him rev the engine

About a quarter of the way around the “Life” board game, the solo driver must pause at a mandatory red light to marry. As a kid, I distinctly remember putting my little blue lemming groom in the driver’s seat while plugging my pink one in shotgun. Why? My miniature alter ego wanted to look out the window, of course! Besides, the guy always drives.

I didn’t think anything of the social brainwashing at the heart of my innocuous driver switch-a-roo. But, as it turns out, the heroic male driver is somewhat of a phenomena. The New York Times today reports that the Department of Labor’s American Time Use Survey showed that, “women do indeed spend a disproportionate share of their in-car time as passengers — 29 percent. This is more than twice the share of men, who only spend 14 percent as passengers. This certainly suggests that when men and women ride together, men are behind the wheel.”

Is this a remnant from the cult of domesticity, or maybe a residual chivalrous custom? Probably so, those buggers are hard to shake. But according to sociologist Pepper Schwartz, even in self-declared feminist households, men are far more likely to drive when the couple hops in the car together. As it turns out, upper class folks spend relatively less time as passengers while immigrants, especially Hispanics, carpool more. Is driving a rich, white guy thing? No, it can’t be this easy.

Our transportation scholar and NYT reporter Eric A. Morris brilliantly points out that the gap between men and women is explained by the fact that men tend to work more hours, which in turn causes them to spend more of their in-car time driving. Morris’ post hits a PING! when he asks the question we’ve all been wondering: “is this state of affairs due to men’s preferences, women’s, or both?”

That a little feminist in training (that would be 9 year-old me) put the blue pin in the driving seat, even though the pink one was doing the job just fine, indicates that these gender norms are instilled early and instilled compulsively. I’m not gonna go to that dark place and say men’s insecure egos need coaxing only a joy stick can provide because we all know that’s not fair. And is it really that productive? Let’s just put this little driving factoid on our collective radars and think a bit more about what compels us to do the things we think we’re supposed to do

Many thanks to Google images

Many thanks to Google images


In case you need something to wake you up on this foggy Monday afternoon

I found this video last week and was just going to link to it but after Vanessa’s comment, I decided to delve deeper on the subject. V nailed it on the head calling the video “fried barf on a stick,” and then she pointed out several of the ways in which it’s backwards..ridiculously backwards:

Those actresses make light of the years that women labored to be perceived as equals among men. The new product was not equivalent of the Wii. It was substitute for second-class citizens with games that reinforced subservient behavior patterns

All I can say is I’m glad this commercial isn’t in English. It’s offensive enough visually. Putting the lame ass gender norms aside, I think the video employs humor in a really interesting way. The ad is clearly trying to be funny. We get this sense right off the bat with the portly dudes and their annoyed female companions. The viewer is supposed to identify with this scenario: the guys are trying to have fun and the gals kill their buzz. Whichever side you identify–or don’t identify–with, we can probably all agree that this is a culturally familiar narrative.

The Wii turns the guys into buffoons, but then we realize that the women too are subject to buffoonery as the Shii intoxicates them with an innate urge for all things domestic. The women go cra-zy! The men love it. We weren’t expecting this…it’s sooo FUNNY! Then, in the last moments the women start sucking mechanical dick. All hell breaks loose and it’s hard to not gasp–and let out a little chuckle– at the absurdity. I know European ads tend to be much more unbridled then those in America, but still, this is pretty risqué.

Humor is a powerful tool. That’s really my point. When we laugh, we let the feeling take us over and forget to think. Just for a little bit. Sometimes, this isn’t such a big deal. But, a lot of the time, humor is an artificial treatment we coat over a more serious topic that we’d rather not deal with. Political jokes, racist jokes, anti queer jokes, blond jokes, Jew jokes, dead baby jokes.

It’s troubling to see commercials like this because they invite viewers to laugh off thousands of years of systemic subjugation as if “we’re so over it.” With all of the keeled over laughing, the danger is you’ll forget to think.

Come to Denmark. You might just get lucky.

Visit Denmark for its castles, Viking heritage, the Tivoli garden, Legoland, its offensive cartoons about Muslims and…its loose women.  I probably had you until the last one, but it’s true:  A Danish tourism agency is officially promoting the country with claims of sexy, blond single women who will have unprotected sex with you. If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourself.

0xKaren26 – Karen in Denmark seeking August\’s father – (2009) (Denmark)‘ >div>

But watch out! When you take off the next morning without leaving your phone number and apparently your name, you’ll have no way of knowing if you knocked her up. Even so, you won’t have to worry because over a year later she’ll contact you with your adorable infant son sucking down a bottle in her arms. Email her, if you want, but she’s not asking anything of you. Karen, the beautiful blond, makes it clear that she’s no bimbo and she’s certainly no ho.

For any one who might actually believe Karen’s story, please, don’t be fooled. As it turns out, Karen is an actress who’s appeared here and here in other commercials.

Karen’s home video confessional went bananas on the net. “It is the most successful viral advertising ever. We have cut through the media clutter. It has cost us the same as a 30 second commercial, aired a few times on TV2” according to Peter Helstrup from the advertising agency that created the campaign.

When asked why the they decided on this promotion route, the CEO of VisitDenmark said the video was “good exposure for Danish self-sufficient and dignified women.”

The Karen video caught a second wind this week after the story went viral in Denmark several months ago. U.S. readers had a field day with comments. Person favorites include: “I wonder if she wants more kids?,” “THIS is why the TSA is trying to keep us from flying!” and “Why isn’t she breastfeeding? It is very irresponsible of them to promote formula.”

If not “come to our country, knock up our women and then leave,” then what is the Danish tourist board’s implication? Maybe their justification is that the economy has gone to shit so it’s time to pimp out their women for the sake of the homeland. Or perhaps something is culturally lost in translation.  As’s “Dabitch” puts so well, “Come to in Denmark.”

Local friction could halt High-Speed Rail progress

Atherton and Menlo Park subsection of the proposed high-speed rail line

Atherton and Menlo Park subsection of the proposed high-speed rail line

SAN CARLOS – Tensions flared at a California High-Speed Rail Authority meeting on Sept. 20 during discussion about a proposal to use the Caltrain corridor for the track line north of San Jose. Stakeholders met to discuss design alternatives for the Peninsula section of the $45 billion rail project that will travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two and a half hours.

Duncan Jones, Director of Public Works in Atherton, one of the communities that joined Menlo Park and a band of environmental organizations last summer to sue California High-Speed Rail Authority, spoke out against the proposed plan. He criticized the Authority for not considering alternatives to using Caltrain tracks for the rail section north of San Jose.

Jones said the Authority had failed to explain why the rail couldn’t go up Highways 280 or 101 and avoid the neighborhoods. “It’s easy for the Authority to just say no and go with the Caltrain corridor,” he said, “but I want a real study done to clarify why [these alternatives] won’t work.”

Residents of Menlo Park and Atherton are among three south Bay Area cities concerned over raised tracks bifurcating their communities without the benefit of a stop.

Instead they favor tunneled tracks or a route along highway corridors. A video simulation of high-speed rail in Palo Alto played at the meeting, showed tracks four lanes wide and elevated 21 feet above street crossing through the city.

For planning purposes, the line from San Francisco to San Jose was broken down into ten subsections for residents and those involved with the project to view each section of the rail. The 2.3 mile design snapshot for Atherton and Menlo Park include options for raised, trenched or existing Caltrain level tracks.

Under all these designs, two-lane street crossings would serve residential areas at Fair Oaks, Watkins, Encinal, Glenwood, Oak Grove and Ravenswood Avenues.

The group that sued the Authority has looked into the possibility of tunneling sections of the rail running through their communities, but overall they disagree with the actual route of the design options set forth at this meeting.

Last summer, Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny upheld the Caltrain corridor as the train’s route from San Francisco to San Jose, but ruled that the Authority re-evaluate its route from San Jose to Gilroy. In a past draft of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the Authority mistakenly assumed it could use Union Pacific tracks from San Jose to Gilroy.
The Authority is correcting this error in the EIR but does not plan to reconsider its route from San Jose to Gilroy since the track rights north of there have already been secured with Caltrain.

Jones wants the Authority to open up other aspects of the lawsuit and reconsider the entire San Francisco to San Jose corridor. The group that filed the lawsuit against the Authority also wants Altamont Pass re-evaluated as a route from the Central Valley. By reopening these options, Jones hopes the Authority will find a route with less impact on Atherton and Menlo Park.

Authority representatives said the meeting wasn’t the appropriate place to bring up this concern because Judge Kenny had already accepted the use of Caltrain tracks and the route from the Central Valley over to the Peninsula. However, Kenny did rule that the environmental review’s mistake about Union Pacific track rights meant the Authority needed to do more studies before proposing a revised EIR.

Jones’ discussion about unearthing “already settled” issues, detracts from the consensus needed to make the Peninsula competitive with the rest of California for high-speed rail funding, some said at the meeting.

With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s steps last week to sweep up $4.7 billion of the $8 billion in federal stimulus funding for high-speed rail, grant money may become more readily available to communities with final plans. Without all Bay Area communities on board, it may be hard for the region to compete with the rest of California for the money
In mid September a court rejected the plaintiff’s wish to halt work on the high-speed rail project. On Oct. 9 involved parties will present their arguments to Judge Kenny, who will issue a judgment on whether or not the high-speed rail project can move forward.

Caltrain Operations Manager Bob Doty said the Peninsula shouldn’t loose momentum on this project now. “We need to work together for a solution so we can go out with a united picture or you’re going to get default solutions. The last guy in gets what’s left over. I want to be early.” He pointed out that the Central Valley and Southern California are already pushing ahead with plans.

Telling a tale

Published in Palo Alto Weekly, Februaru 25, 2009

The Jade Empress, wearing a sea-green headdress and holding an oversized fan, is about to take her place on stage. She has 22 lines, which she doesn’t think she’ll forget.

It’s the Tuesday dress-rehearsal of Ohlone Elementary School’s production of “The Monkey King.” The young actor is playing the same role her brother played a few years ago, but this year the show is a little different.

Parents still buzz around applying make-up, and Ohlone students work the light-system control board as they have in years’ past. But this year, the production is marking the first year of Ohlone’s once-controversial Mandarin Immersion program.

Ohlone has performed “The Monkey King” twice before, but Principal Susan Charles thought that mounting the Chinese fable this year would be a good way to welcome the new language-immersion program. Students will sing in Mandarin as part of the play’s opening number, amidst a vibrant cast garbed in traditional Chinese dress, intricate masks and headdresses. Fans and lanterns will decorate the colorful set.

On Tuesday, Otak Jump, an Ohlone teacher and the play’s director, stood among dozens of kneeling youngsters. In his pep talk, Jump encouraged his actors to play with the story.

“Even more than you play with it, let your character play with you, every moment you’re on stage,” he said.

“If you’re a monkey, be a monkey; if you’re a fairy, be a fairy; if you’re a spider, be a spider,” he said, transforming his body into each character he described. “A character never forgets its lines.”

The Ohlone students grinned and nodded their heads.

Jump adapted a classical Chinese “Journey to the West” tale and is directing 110 young actors, who form two casts.

The story was originally written about 400 years ago during the Ming dynasty, and with the addition of the pivotal role of Monkey, the allegory took on a supernatural element. The Monkey King is to East Asia what Mickey Mouse and Superman are to the West.

“Monkey King beats it by half in Asia. Everyone knows Monkey King,” Jump said. “He is a superhero; he can fly on a cloud. Monkey is impervious to being injured.”

Jump’s re-write of “The Monkey King” includes allegorical episodes telling of when Monkey is born, when he becomes the guardian of the immortal peaches, when he goes up to heaven and when he steals the clothes of seven spider spirits.

“When we did ‘The Monkey King’ before we never sang in Mandarin, but now we have a Mandarin class,” Charles said.

The immersion program has 40 kindergarten and first-graders, one-third of whom come from Mandarin-speaking families. Eighty percent of the school week, the children are taught in Mandarin and the other 20 percent in English.

“We’re taking the Immersion program and blending it in the Ohlone developmental model of teaching. It’s quite a stretch, but it’s a stretch I think we can do it,” said Charles, who added that the students are doing well.

“The Monkey King” will be performed on Thursday (school-only performance at 1 p.m.), Friday (school performance at 1 p.m. and public performance at 7 p.m.) and Saturday (public performances at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m) at Ohlone Elementary School’s multipurpose room, 950 Amarillo Ave., Palo Alto.

Out of the mud, a bike passage could rise

Published in Palo Alto Weekly, March 6, 2009

Six months of muck, water and mud flooding of a popular bicycle route under U.S. Highway 101 in Palo Alto could become a thing of the past.

The crossing, which is adjacent to Adobe Creek at Fabian Way in south Palo Alto, is closed to bike and foot traffic from November to March, forcing residents to use an over-crossing at Oregon Avenue, north of Oregon Expressway, or navigate freeway off-ramps at San Antonio Road.

But a proposal by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, based on the Palo Alto Bicycle Transportation Plan could open the Adobe Park under-crossing year-round.

Commissioners, interested in improving the route as a gateway to the Baylands, met with the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee on Feb. 3 to garner bicycle commissioners’ support. The parks commission has assembled a subcommittee to draft various options for the Adobe Creek crossing, according to Cedric de La Beaujardiere, bicycle committee chairman.

Residents of the nearby Greenmeadow neighborhood have already met with the city officials regarding the under-crossing, which residents want, de La Beaujardiere said.

The current state of the under-crossing is at odds with the city’s goal to bike, walk and roll. With the Adobe Creek passage closed half of the year many people revert to driving as their primary means of transportation during the off months. The bicycle committee hopes that a year-long crossing will foster more bicycling and walking in the community, he said.

“Because (the Adobe passage is) currently closed half the year, the alternative for bicyclists is either going on San Antonio — which a lot of people will ride once and then never ride again because it’s not suited for riders going out to the Baylands” — or “alternatively, bikers can go to Embarcadero Road and Oregon Expressway, which is 1.5 miles away,” he said.

The bicycle advisory committee will ask the city to start a feasibility study to determine options for the crossing, including whether it should be an under-crossing, over-crossing or how much it would cost, he said.

The Adobe Creek passage has no known opposition and funds are available to see the project come to fruition, according to de La Beaujardiere.

“There have been some good suggestions that putting it within the city’s CIP (Capital Improvement Program) … will gather more money,” he said.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) has a bicycle-expenditure program designed to help fund projects within the county, de La Beaujardiere said. VTA will match four times the money Palo Alto raises for the project, he said.

The estimated cost for an initial feasibility study is between $50,000 and $100,000, which can hopefully be met with grants from various sources in Palo Alto, City Transportation Manager Gail Likens said. The engineering study will figure out the exact price tag of the Adobe crossing project, but current estimates put it between $5 million and $8 million, she said

Foods that say 'I love you'

Published in Palo Alto Weekly, February 13, 2009

Whether a health nut or a junk-food fiend, in the salty camp or prefer the savory, everyone has different ways of qualifying the foods that are comforting.

Here are a few comfort foods that will undoubtedly warm the soul and say “I love you” loud and clear.

Think outside the box

Generally thought of as a boxed meal for kids, old-fashioned home-style recipes for Macaroni & Cheese are tough to find. Many of the recipes yield overly fussy, epicurean dishes or macaroni drenched in chalky white sauce.

Mac & Cheese remains an American staple but takes on a more sophisticated edge at MacArthur Park Restaurant in Palo Alto, where the dish is a favorite side order for restaurant goers.

MacArthur Park’s chef Faz Poursohi handed over the restaurant’s recipe for this American comfort food: cheesy, crispy and well-seasoned Mac & Cheese.

Macaroni & Cheese

4 cups elbow macaroni

3 T. butter

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

8 oz. dry aged Cheddar cheese

4 oz. grated Cheddar cheese

1 t. dry mustard

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

Kosher salt & white pepper (to taste)

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until done, about 5-7 minutes. Drain and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter; set aside.

Heat the oven to 350�F.

Coat a large baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter and set it aside. Put the heavy cream, whole milk and dry mustard into a saucepan. Warm over medium low heat, but don’t boil it. Remove pan from the heat, and add the dry aged cheddar and the grated cheddar cheese; stir until it is melted and smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Pour this over the macaroni and mix until well blended; put this into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the fresh bread crumbs evenly over the top. Bake until the top is golden and crusty, about 25-30 minutes. Makes 6-8 servings.

Say it with soup

Bikur Cholim — the Jewish custom of visiting the sick — is the basis for Stanford’s student-run group that delivers warm bowls of matzah ball soup to students feeling under the weather.

For three years, the Matzah Ball Brigade has received e-mails and Facebook messages from students requesting matzah ball soup for themselves or for sick close friends, whipped up batches of soup, delivered it to the sick students and attempted to bring good cheer to make the student feel better.

Yishai Kabaker was president of the group last year and said one of his most memorable deliveries was during finals week of winter quarter when in one night he received eight requests for soup.

“I biked all around campus careful not to spill the jumbling Tupperware of soup in the double paper bags dangling from my handlebars,” Kabaker remembered. “After a hectic evening zipping around campus, I got a lot of nachas (Yiddish pride) knowing that I had helped out students during the high season of finals stress.

Kabaker said the Brigade turns to an easy and on-the-go recipe from sites such as for its soup delivery service.

Matzah Ball Soup

1 32-oz. carton of boxed chicken stock

2 eggs

1 T. vegetable oil

1/4 cup sparkling water

2/3 cup matzo meal

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

More oil for your hands

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, oil and sparkling water and whisk until combined. Add the matzo meal, salt and pepper and stir until smooth. Cover bowl and refrigerate mixture for half an hour so the matzo meal absorbs the liquid. The mixture will become more firm as it chills.

Bring chicken stock to a simmer. Lightly oil your hands. Scoop out a golf ball-sized lump of matzo ball dough and roll it in your hands to form a smooth ball. Gently drop into the simmering stock. Repeat with remaining dough, making 8-10 matzo balls. Cover the pan and simmer until done.

You can vary the size depending on your taste. The larger balls (6-8 per batch) will cook in about 30 minutes, while the smaller balls (12-14 per batch) take about 15-20 minutes to cook. The matzo balls are done when cooked through, light and spongy.

Place a few matzo balls in each soup dish then gently top with the soup.

Let them eat cake

Prolific food writer and Palo Alto local Lou Seibert Pappas shares a recipe for chocolate cake, a definitive comfort food. This is a classic dessert served at restaurants and thanks to Pappas you can make it at home as a special treat for after Valentine’s Day dinner.

These individual cakes are meant to have a slightly soft center when served warm. Dollop them with whipped cream or vanilla bean or coffee ice cream.

Warm Chocolate Cakes

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate (or 2/3 cup chocolate chips)

4 T. butter

4 eggs

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

3 T. cake or all-purpose flour

2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate and butter over hot water, stirring until smooth. Whisk the eggs and sugar to blend. Fold in the flour blended with cocoa. Fold this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Butter and cocoa dust six 1/2-cup souffle dishes. Pour in the batter. Refrigerate 1-2 hours just to firm.

Bake on a baking sheet at 400F for 12-14 minutes. Unmold while warm and serve with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. Makes 4-6 servings.