Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A great day to be an American....

Isn't this the most AMAZING day? I am all keyed up and only got about four hours of sleep last night. After following this election passionately for two years, taking in at least three hours of politics every day (NPR in the morning on the way to work, Rachel Maddow and Daily Show/Colbert Report at night at a bare minimum, plus a whole host of political websites and blogs), I can hardly believe that election day is upon us. And this is a voting day like no other. There is a palpable excitement that you can feel everywhere you go--an energy, a new hope--that I haven't sensed since '92, and even that paled in comparison to this unprecented and historic day. When I came out of my voting booth this morning, my eyes were blurred with tears, and the poll workers seemed worried about me. When I found my voice, I just choked out, "It's just such an exciting day!" They laughed and nodded in agreement, relieved that emergency services weren't going to have to be called on my behalf. ;-)

I dare not speak my wish aloud nor type it here until the polls are closed and the counts are official (please, God, don't let it be another litigious squeaker--save us from the dangling chads and Supreme Court involvement!). But soon I will repair to my friends Tom and June's house, where I go to watch returns for every major election. These parties always start off with everyone in a good mood, in high, anticipatory spirits. But in 2000 and 2004, they ended very somberly, with fellow Democrats skulking away in silence to nurse their emotional wounds at home. We did finally manage to pop the champagne in 2006's midterm elections, but I am hoping that that celebration will be greatly dwarfed (oxymoron there?) by tonight's party--she says with fingers crossed, head bowed in prayer.

Instead of going out to dinner and playing trivia tonight, as is our custom on Tuesdays, we will be enjoying a potluck as we assume the watchful position on Tom and June's couch. For my contribution, I have prepared a huge crockpot full of...wait for it...AFRICAN BLESSING SOUP! It is a delicious recipe for a rich, spicy chicken soup with sweet potatoes and parsnips that I found years ago and prepared for a Black History Month event. It would also be perfect for Kwanzaa and, I believe, extremely appropriate for tonight's gathering!

African Blessing Soup
(Source: Rena Coyle via

1 chicken (3–4 pounds)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, halved
1 orange, quartered
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and thinly sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)

To marinate chicken: Rinse chicken under cool running water. Pat dry and set it in a non- corrosive pan. On a cutting board, finely chop garlic. Sprinkle chopped garlic with salt, and using the flat side of a knife, mold salt and garlic into a paste. Rub the outside of the chicken with the salt-garlic paste. Squeeze lemons and oranges over the chicken and tuck the rinds inside the cavity. Season with pepper and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy roasting pan. Add onions, reduce heat, and cook for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add sweet potatoes and parsnips; cook for 3 minutes. Mix in chicken broth, cumin seed, cinnamon, and red-pepper flakes. Bring broth to a boil and add chicken, complete with drippings. Return broth to a simmer. Cover and place in an oven; cook for 50 minutes. 3. Remove chicken from pan. Slice chunks of meat from chicken and add to soup. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in individual bowls. Place leftover chicken and broth in a bowl in the refrigerator to serve the next day.

In addition to the soup, I did one last post-mortem sweep of my garden after last week's first snowfall and managed to harvest about a pound of tomatillos, along with some Green Zebra and yellow plum tomatoes, and a few hot peppers. I roasted these things along with some garlic cloves and onion until slightly charred about the edges. Then I cooled the roasted veggies, blended them with some fresh lime juice, salt, a couple of avocados and some fresh parsley, and made a very fine salsa verde/guacamole type of deal that we will enjoy with some Trader Joe's veggie tortilla chips tonight. I didn't use it in my salsa verde, but I give you, THE LAST TOMATO, that somehow survived the freeze last week.

Finally, I must show you the piece de resistance for this evening's election returns party, made by our most excellent hostess, June. She just emailed me this picture (I have her photographing food now--my work is done).

YES WE CAN! (And I think we just did!)

I leave you with the inspirational lyrics that have been running through my head for the past couple of days as a benediction:

I KNOW WHERE I'VE BEEN--from "Hairspray" (sung in my head by the venerable Queen Latifah)

There's a light in the darkness
Though the night is black as my skin
There's a light burning bright, showing me the way
But I know where I've been

There's a cry in the distance
It's a voice that comes from deep within
There's a cry asking why
I pray the answer's up ahead
'Cause I know where I've been

There's a road we've been travelin'
lost so many on the way
But the riches will be plenty
Worth the price we had to pay

There's a dream in the future
There's a struggle that we have yet to win
And there's pride in my heart
'Cause I know where I'm going
And I know where I've been

There's a road we must travel
There's a promise we must make
'Cause the riches will be plenty
Worth the risk and chances that we take

There's a dream in the future
There's a struggle we have yet to win
Use that pride in our hearts
To lift us up until tomorrow
'Cause just to sit still would be a sin

I know it, I know it, I know where I'm going
And Lord knows I know where I've been

Oh! When we win,
I'll give thanks to my God
'Cause I know where I've been


Randi said...

A great day, but on the other hand. Prop 8 passed in Cali. Shameful!!

lindy said...

I think this is probably the first time since grade school that I actually feel deeply proud to be an American.

I know it's going to be an uphill battle, and as Randi noted, there's a long way to go...but wow. And the man can certainly deliver a stirring speech..I'm partial to that sort of thing.

I was all choked up, too, but managed to eat my curry anyway, between bouts of emotion! Your soup sounds delicious.

William said...

Your soup IS delicious! I was looking for something yesterday when it was cold and blustery outside, not knowing whether it wanted to snow or rain, or just blow the sheets off the line!
I kind of did it on a whim, and followed the recipe to the letter -- rave reviews, to the point that it disappeared at one meal (only two people in our house) (cats don't like sweet potato). The only thing that disappointed me a little was that the sweet potato was kind of mushy. That, though, I have chalked up to the fact the sweet potatoes weren't first quality -- not as firm as I'm used to getting.
Otherwise, brava for this find -- and brava as well for the description (and context) that served to inspire me to make the soup.
And speaking as one (somewhat loud-mouthed) Canadian I share your sentiments about your election: well done you all in choosing a man who so aptly will fulfil his mission.