Spanish philosopher dives into the 7 deadly sins.

Fernando Savater is considered one of Spain’s living treasures.  He has written on ethics, love, politics, theater, and much more.  The 7 Deadly Sins is a work that exemplifies his accessible and colloquial philosophical style.  


The 7 Deadly Sins covers each sin in its own chapter.  Each chapter starts off with a dialogue between the author and Satan, with Satan trying to get the author to loosen up and engage in the sin of that chapter, promoting the virtues of the sin. After the dialog the Savater dives into the ‘sin’ from several perspectives, namely, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and philosophical.  He sites scholars of each religion in relaying these perspectives.  


Savater goes deep into each sin, and as mentioned before, speaks of the virtues of each sin.  Rage, for instance, is often necessary for social change or for standing up for yourself or others.  There are other cases, like for pride, where one does not know where self esteem ends and pride starts, similar to where patriotism ends and nationalism begins.  It is interesting thinking about these sins from a different perspective.  



For a philosopher, Savater’s style is easily accessible and downright fun. He sounds like the type of person that I’d enjoy having a beer with.   I’ve already started reading another book by Savater, Etica de Urgencia (the Urgency Ethic), and it is equally captivating, enlightening, and fun.  If you’re interested in some light philosophical reading, you may want to check out some of the work of Fernando Savater.    


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New Blog Post at Work

I wrote a blog post at work on the telenovela/tv series/book La Reina del Sur.

The Queen of the South/La Reina del Sur

Escribí en el blog en mi trabajo acerca del serie La Reina Del Sur.  Este serie nos encantó cuando lo vimos por primera vez.  Me encantó especialmente aprender del Melilla, el local español ubicado en  África del Norte.  El libro también me gustó.  Encuentra más en el enlace arriba!

Kids Philosophy Books

I’ve recently stumbled upon a couple of treasures to read with my kids, actually mostly with my 7 year old.  She loves to read chapter books like Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, and Katie Kazoo Switcheroo.  These books are great, and some of the stories have morals that teach great lessons, but none touch on the really big questions with any depth.  I recently found some books that do address the existential questions of life.  


These two really great titles are Really, Really Big Questions and Really, Really Big Questions about Me and My Body by Dr. Stephen Law.  Dr. Law is an English philosopher who has written also written popular philosophy titles for adults, such as the Philosophy Gym.   


As a parent who is fond of philosophy and thinks it is something vital that is completely lacking from modern education I feel these titles are excellent in addressing that lack.  They play into the natural curiosity of children and present the information in a way that doesn’t lecture or moralize.  Actually, what I’ve enjoyed the most about these books, especially Really, Really Big Questions is that it isn’t just reading to the kids, it’s listening to them.  These books ask open ended questions like “why are you here?” and you let the kid tell you what they think.  Dr. Law then makes some comments on some of the varying theories of the topic in a simple way that kids can understand.  A good example is when the books asks “Is stealing wrong?” and “why”?  He then tells the story of a kid who stole another kids bike.  Stealing the bike makes the thief happy and the victim sad.  Before, the thief was sad because he didn’t have a bike and the victim was happy, so it seems there is not very much different except for who is happy and who is sad.  Then he brings up that the other kids are now less happy because they have to worry about their bikes and other possessions being stolen.  There are numerous follow up questions, and examples.


My 7 year old has been very engaged with both of these titles, and wants to keep reading more of the questions.  I’ll be honest, I censored one of the chapters in Really, Really Big Questions.  The question was “Is it okay to eat animals?”.  I am a vegetarian, but don’t want to plant that idea in her head yet.  My wife would kill me if I took another nutrition option away from the pickier eater of our 2 daughters.  That digression aside, this question also exemplifies the moral and ethical nature of the questions these books deal with, a question that when I asked myself made me take direct action in my life.    
The other title, Really, Really Big Questions About Me and My Body is a mix of scientific and philosophical questions.  It introduces kids to the concepts of atoms and cells.  It also brings up the origins of life and single celled organisms.  Another great aspect of both of these titles is that they present ideas as just that, ideas.  Dr. Law leaves the door open for the kids to have their own ideas, and to allow for different explanations.  These titles often present several points of view and are not particularly dogmatic about any of them.  I love that I let her say what she wanted to say, sometimes added some tag on questions to get her to elaborate on her ideas, but neither I nor the book got preachy.   


Getting kids to think deeply about the big questions is very important for their development.  I want to raise independent thinkers, who come up with their own opinions and explanations that make logical sense to them.  These books were great resources towards achieving that goal.  I wish there were more titles like this.  If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!          

Pastel de tamal (vegetariano)

My wife was craving pupusas a couple of weeks ago, so I bought some cornmeal, which happens to come in a huge package.  That can be a good thing, because you don’t want it to go to waste and end up making lots of recipes.  Last night I modified this recipe from the TheLatinKitchen to be vegetarian.  


I love tamales, but didn’t want to be making individual tamales, so I decided to go the pastel, or cake route.  In Panama, where my wife is from they usually go the banana leaf route, but I lined the baking dish with corn husks in this one.  The cornmeal is very also very different  than the corn they use in Panama for their famous Tamal de olla.  The corn they use they call maís nuevo, and we have not been able to find it in Pittsburgh, but it has a distinct sweet flavor.  That being said, even though this wasn’t the Panamanian style, it turned out very delicious.  


Here is the recipe:


For the masa:


3 cups corn meal (I used Maseca)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups warm water

1 cup vegetable shortening, cold

¼ cup butter, cold

1 cup cold vegetable broth


For the filling:


16 oz of Crimini mushrooms chopped

½ onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 can chipotle in adobo sauce, chilis seeded and chopped

1 Tsp tomato paste

Olive oil

Fresh parsley

Salt and Pepper




Filling – make ahead of time.  Saute onions in oil until translucent.  Add tomato paste and garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Add mushrooms, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add chilies and sauce, cook about another 5 minutes.  Season.  


Mix dry ingredients with warm water.  Whip up the cold butter and shortening until creamy.  Beat the dry mix into the shortening about a ¼ cup at a time until integrated. Beat in the Vegetable broth.  


Line a lasagna pan with corn husks.  Scoop half the masa onto them, smoothing it out.  Add the filling and then top with the other half of the masa.  Put corn husks on top.  Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for about an hour.  


This one turned out pretty good.  Next time I might go for it and make actual tamales instead of the pastel.  

Do you know of any good vegetarian tamal recipes?  I’d love to hear them.  


Best wishes,


Tortilla española

I made this over the weekend.  It’s all pretty simple, so I don’t think you need a detailed recipe.  The one thing I’ll share though, is that it is much easier to make mayonnaise or alioli with an immersion blender.  How?  Put your egg yolk, garlic, a little mustard and a spoon-full of lemon juice at the bottom of your beaker.  Start blending and slowly add your oil.  Early in the process add salt and pepper, while it is still liquid enough to dissolve.  It turns out great!


Pupusas, arepas, y tortillas

For the first time in a while I made pupusas yesterday.  Pupusas are corn meal cakes that are often stuffed and topped from El Salvador.  This time I made it with encurdito to top it, a kind of crunchy cole slaw topping.  I also stuffed them with cheese.     


There are many corn fritter type snacks from Latin America.  Colombia and Venezuela are known for Arepas, often stuffed with cheese, meat, or other things.  Usually the corn arepas are made with is white.  Mexico has sopes, which have ridges perfect for putting your topping inside.  In Panama tortillas are crispy, fried corn cakes, made from a sweet yellow cornmeal.  I have not been able to find a comparable corn meal to that from Panama here in the United States.   I may be biased, but Panamanian tortillas are my favorite of these corn based creations, most likely because they are almost always fried and usually topped with cheese.


Anyhow, the cornmeal used to make pupusas is available in the United States to buy under several brand names.  I made these with Maseca.  So, here is the recipe:


Encurdito (coleslaw):

½ head of cabbage chopped

2 carrots shredded

½ red onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic grated

1 cup of white vinegar

Salt and pepper


Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  



2 cups corn meal

2 cups warm water

1 cup of shredded cheese (I used colby jack, but any will do)

1 teaspoon of salt

Cheese slices to stuff with


Mix all ingredients together until integrated and let sit for 10 minutes.  Form balls of dough, the bigger the better for stuffing.  Make a hole with your thumb in the ball and insert cheese, flatten out into a disc shape.  Cook over med/low heat until brown and hard on both sides.  Serve hot with encurtido to top.  


They are really best eaten when still hot, and are not as delicious when re-heated.  How do I know they were really good?  The kids ate them, minus the encurtido of course.  Do you have any recipes for corn fritters, arepas, tortillas, or pupusas?  I’d love to hear about them.  Buen provecho!