For my first ROTW, I'm experimenting with three iterations of the second thing I ever learned to cook in my life.
You should know I didn't cry last night. I walked around the convention center in Oregon in a stupor. Like Pavlov’s dog, I would start to half smile as people walked past because that is what women like me do to make things comfortable, but my face wouldn’t comply. Each time it paused halfway and went back to this resting state where I felt my jowls and jaw muscles completely at rest, and it was so unfamiliar a feeling I had to realize I have spent 40 years forcibly smiling, because that is what we do.
I walked up to a sobbing stranger and hugged her, and over her shoulder I focused on the giant balloons we’d towed with us, ready to toss into the air when we won, resting sadly in a corner where we’d abandoned them. In the bathroom, I watched women throwing up and wiping away tears with rough toilet paper. We left and headed to a friend’s somber election party where everyone hugged me hard. I still didn’t cry, not a tear. Instead I drank the gin routinely put in front of me and smoked the pot that appeared before me and helped clean up, because that’s what we do.
At home I crawled into bed and just waited to be asleep.
I didn’t cry this morning watching his speech or seeing the real numbers or reading the curious texts and PMs and emails. I calmly made coffee and fed the dog and did the dishes, because this is what we do.
She apologized early in the speech, because this is what we do.
I broke when she did. “This is painful and will be for a long time,” she said, and her voice wobbled, and I felt the muscles in my jaw for the first time in 12 hours as my face broke open. One of my oldest friends had come to town to enjoy the victory party with me, and now he stood facing the TV, letting me cry without him watching. Each sniffle, each quiet sob betrayed the facade of strength and resilience I usually enjoy, because that is what we do. “You have today to stay in bed, but tomorrow…you get up,” he said as he left after a hug. It was three hours and two boxes of tissues ago.
It wasn’t a simple election. I didn’t choose a horse based on sex — I chose Clinton because she doesn’t just talk about fixing things; she understands how to get things done and that perfection is the enemy of progress. She seemed to understand that we are a nation divided and that compromise is how we bring together people and politics. That each small move in a direction, covering as many areas as possible, not immense policy shifts, are how change holds. She took all the vitriol and the hatred and the lies and insinuation thrown against her and, however private her pain, focused like a laser on what had to be done.
But I also, perhaps irrationally, believed I understood her internal dialogue. “If I work hard enough, I will earn people’s respect. It doesn’t matter if I am pretty or nice. If I do good, if I am productive, people will see past their preconceptions and prejudices and really SEE me.” Productive and good… It's what we do. Do not for a moment think that Hillary Clinton is impervious to the pain of people commenting on her looks, her motivations, her marriage, her choices. Not showing pain… That’s just what we do. We never let Hillary Clinton be a whole person, because that is also what we do.
When I opened my eyes this morning, I woke to a new reality, where I would likely lose my health insurance, my primary health care source, the inherent right to my body and person, and reflexively I felt ashamed of my selfishness because I am just a white woman from a middle-class background and there are others for whom it will be far, far worse. I felt ashamed for being selfish, because that’s what we do.
Last night, as I received messages from friends who were nervous, anxious, I largely put them off, annoyed that I had to be their counselor. I just wanted my experience. I had worked hard, this was to be a moment of insane exhilaration, of justification, of finally getting ours. We had waited, patiently, much like Hillary Clinton had, and it was our turn — women like me. And today, there is a literal wall of promises to remain kind, to persevere for human rights, to be a human shield, and that is beautiful and raw and rings completely empty to me. I know that I will indeed pick myself up and go back to being a woman who comforts and consoles and counsels, because that is what we do.
But today that is just too hard. I don’t want to hear theories or plans or be invited to more secret groups. I don’t want to talk about how the Republicans now have to reap what they sow or about Sanders or be the recipient of virtual hugs. I don’t want to be around people or have to feel their pity or sympathy or concern. I don’t want to have to offer those things either. I am bitter. I am angry. I am specific in both, and I am so, so sad.
So I am going to go through the motions. I am going to open my home as a safe space. I will gather people around me and remind them that I will put my body between them and what threatens what we know as truth. I am going to cook. It's what fills me. It is practice, it is focused, it is small things you put together, compromising for what's in your kitchen or who will eat it. It is something that makes people better, makes them feel loved and cared for. I will go through these motions because if I practice enough, like smiling, it will take. And because I believe I have to be the person who comforts and consoles and counsels, because it is what we fucking do.
Chicken soup seems smart. It will take you all day — a nice distraction — and tomorrow morning when you wake up, your second thought can be, "At least I have soup."
It will be OK. It always is, because what else could it be? This is what we do.
Chicken & Matzo Ball Soup
(We make everything in bulk. So...you can half this recipe, but the point is to make enough that it’ll last for a week. With people over. And a Hungarian army coming through.)
- 2 roasting chickens
- 1 onion
- 1 bulb of fennel
- 1 lb of carrots
- 1 head of celery
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 cup of white wine
- 1 bunch of dill
- 1 bunch of parsley
- 1-2 parsnips
I cut the chickens up into bigger pieces, and remove the giblets. Wash everything, pat dry, salt and pepper and brown them reasonably in the bottom of a heavy stockpot (I use an additional pan and transfer them over into stockpot when done).
Peel the carrots, leave them whole. Cut the ends of the celery, separate into stalks, including leaves. Cut onion in half. Slice top off of garlic. Tie dill and parsley together with twine, remove all rubber bands, etc. Cut fennel in half. Peel parsnips. Place everything including the wine in the pot, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3-4 hours.
Pour everything through a colander into another bowl or pot. Return the broth to the pot and continue to simmer. Take the skins off the garlic, which is soft from being boiled, and stir the garlic into the soup. At this point, it's up to you what you want to put back into the soup for the vegetables. I tend to include everything. So I slice the carrots, celery, onions, parsnips, and fennel and return it to the pot (my mom starts with all new veggies at this point. I think it’s a pain). I dice a little of the dill and parsley and put that back in.
Now, you just have to separate the chicken. Toss the bones and skin, and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, and toss back into the pot. Bring to a simmer, season as needed.
Take off stove, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Once sufficiently cold, a skin of fat will form on the top; remove that and you’re done.
We’re fans of Streit's matzo meal. No Manischewitz. OK, so here’s the underlying concept of matzo balls. Some people like them heavy (sinkers), some people like them light (floaters). You could rebuild the Berlin Wall with my dad’s, and mine have trouble staying in the soup. The variable is the amount of oil. You need 1/2 cup of liquid and 1/3 cup of fat. You can use lard or oil, doesn’t matter. For the liquid you can use stock or water — I use seltzer. Makes them really light.
Note: Matzo balls absorb the stock you cook them in, so don’t cook them in your soup! It will all disappear. Cook in some additional chicken stock, then add to pot. You can also add noodles, but we keep them separate and add as needed or they, too, will suck up the stock.
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup seltzer
- 1/3 cup oil
- 1 cup matzo meal
Combine first two ingredients and whisk together. Add oil. Add matzo meal and mix in with a fork. Let sit in refrigerator for about an hour and then add to rapidly boiling chicken stock water and cook about 20 mins. Then add matzo balls only to soup.