Monday, November 3, 2008

The Time is Now

Finally, finally, finally: Election Day is upon us.

What a relief! (I think.)

For me, this election began four years ago when two important events happened, almost simultaneously. The first was that then-presidential candidate John Kerry lost the election to the incumbent President George W. Bush. The second, and the happier event of the two, was that after months of seeing his name on lawn posters and in the windows of my neighbors’ homes, a man with an odd name and a blinding smile became a United States Senator, proudly representing the folks back home in Illinois.

Like many people with liberal leanings, I was disappointed when Kerry lost to Bush. We’d already seen that Bush seemed to lead the country with little foresight and a lot of aggression. He epitomized an attitude that I despise: the United States is King of the World. World, you’d better damn well do what we say or we’re going to come over and kick your ass. I am not an America-hater. I love the principles upon which this nation was founded. I value education, knowledge, independence coupled with cooperation. I value our free speech and big dreams. Like so many Americans, I’m a mutt of European descent, a product of America. As a biologist, I value the genetic diversity that America has produced through the mixing and mingling of people from all over the world. And I love that we have one of the best university systems in the world. America is still a place where others dream of coming, whether for an education, a job, a new place to call home. I call this place home, too.

Goodness, I’m getting a little teary-eyed just thinking about it.

There was a part of me that was not surprised when Kerry lost. Kerry, for the life of him, could NOT give a straight answer during the debates. It made me cringe. He struck me as kinda slippery and untrustworthy, not much of an improvement over Bush. I think a lot of people who voted for Kerry were choosing him because he was not Bush, not because Kerry himself was a spectacular choice. Personally, I liked Howard Dean, but that’s a story for another time.

So Kerry lost, but the man with the funny name won in Illinois. To be honest, Barack Obama didn’t have much of a fight in 2004. The Republican Party had the worst time finding a candidate for that Senate spot; every person they chose was struck down by some sort of scandal, as though there was a scandal flu going around Republican headquarters. Obama’s grassroots support was so strong that, at least around my town, it was clear that he was the favorite candidate. Most of the time, he seemed like the only candidate.

I was intrigued by a politician who had clearly won Evanston’s heart. Who was this guy? So I started paying attention, and I started dreaming that in 2008, this Obama man would join Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as her running mate to form the Democratic Dream Team. Surely they would win the White House after eight years of Bush! And it would be awesome.

What I didn’t count on was Obama making that bold decision to announce his own candidacy for the White House. Apparently he’s less conservative about his leadership experience than I am. I’m sympathetic to the concern that others have voiced: Barack Obama is a rookie. But I am struck by his intelligence, his thoughtfulness, his use of words like “evidence.” For a non-scientist, and especially for a politician, he is a scientist’s dream. Add into the mix his concern about climate change, his support for clean, sustainable energy like wind and solar…

I have known for four years that I would be voting for Obama in the 2008 presidential election. I just didn’t know which spot he would be occupying on the ticket. Tomorrow, with excitement and nerves and more than a little hope, I will cast my ballot and cross my fingers that the voting machines aren’t cyberjacked by thieves trying to steal the election.


After I vote, I’ll trot off to work, play with my little flies and tiny tubes, come home, and park myself in front of a bowl of Smoky Pumpkin Soup, maybe accompanied by some flatbread and Matt’s Spinach and Orange Salad. After all this election excitement, a girl needs some serious nourishment. The soup is particularly well-suited for nourishing tired, hungry souls. Rich in orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potato, it’s pumpkin soup sexed up with shreds of smoky gouda cheese and a generous pour of half-and-half. It’s a little decadent, but reasonably so, because it makes a big batch. One of these days I’ll make this soup for a party to show off my good taste, but for now, it’s just me and my soup spoon, slurping away while we wait for election season to draw to a close.

Happy Election Day, everyone. May our next president live up to his promises to fix all that is broken in our country.

Smoky Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Witch in the Kitchen: Magical Cooking for All Seasons by Cait Johnson
Makes 4-6 big bowls of soup

First things first: the pumpkin. Ever since my friend Nicole taught me how to make fresh pumpkin puree, I’ve tried to make it a fall ritual to steam-roast a pumpkin into tenderness and then turn that bright orange flesh into a silky puree. It’s a little messy, a little bit of work, and a lot of fun. Daphna and I prepped her pumpkins together a few weeks ago and I was rather proud of our efforts. Beforehand, D had sent me this link in which The Pioneer Woman gives a great lesson on how to make fresh pumpkin puree. Her instructions are very clear and very similar to what I do at home, and she has lots of pictures, so hop on over to her site if you are interested. (Thanks for the link, D!)

Once you have your pumpkin puree, make this soup! It’s a thin brothy soup, one that can be sipped from a spoon or slurped straight out of the bowl—or cup, if you prefer. Rich with herbs and cheese, it’s a nice centerpiece of a meal; surround it with bread and a nice salad (maybe topped with a scoop of beans or another protein-rich food) and dinner is served.

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium to large onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup peeled, diced sweet potato
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. rolled oats
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup smoked gouda cheese, shredded (yum!)

Salt and pepper to taste

1) Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in either a nonstick soup pot or a nonstick skillet. Add the onions, garlic, carrot, and sweet potato to the skillet. Cook for ~5-10 minutes, enough to let the onion become fragrant, translucent, and start to brown a bit.
2) If you used a skillet in step 1, transfer the contents to a soup pot. To the soup pot, add the vegetable broth, pumpkin, and oats. Bring the contents to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Crumble the thyme into the soup pot by rubbing it between your fingers over the pot, sprinkling it over the soup. Add the sage. Give the whole thing a good stir, cover the pot, and simmer for ~30 minutes, or until the sweet potato is tender.
3) Add the half-and-half and the gouda cheese. Stir gently and frequently to melt the cheese into the soup. Keep the heat low; a simmer is good here, a boil is bad.
4) When everything is all nice and melted, puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor. Be careful: it’s hot soup! Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and/or pepper. You may not need to add any additional seasonings, especially if your vegetable broth is very flavorful.
5) Serve in deep bowls to people you love.


Rosiecat said...

Wee! What an election. I was touched by John McCain's gracious concession speech. To balance this sappy feeling, I came up with a snarky little poem:

He did it with style,
He did it with class.
He did it without acting
Like a complete ass.

JD said...

Nice, maybe Obama will name you the new Poet Laureate. Man you would be racking up the honors in a truly liberal arts form:

PhD Candidate in Neuroscience
Poet Laureate of the United States
Vegetarian Blogger Extraordinaire

Rosiecat said...

Oh, JD, I miss Albion and its crazy antics mixed with scholarly life! Hurray for liberal arts at work!

And now, another poem.

A Haiku for JD

JD, my sweet friend
Picks me up and squeezes me
He gives big warm hugs.

ammie said...

Ooh, can I have a poem too? And the soup sounds yummy!

Rosiecat said...

Of course you may have a poem, Ammie!


Ammie, kind and strong
Moves like water through this life
Unfair rock breaks down.

See you tomorrow for another crazy dinner!