Almost exactly four years ago (when I was begging you to #artharder – remember?), a friend said something that I’ve thought about ever since. We were talking about the election results and what they meant for our friendship (among other things) since we had voted for different candidates. My friend said (paraphrasing here, but it’s close): I believe in our country, in our democracy. I believe our democracy is stronger than one person.
On January 7th Dr. Heather Cox Richardson used her Thursday Facebook Live series on Reconstruction to address the January 6 insurrection. As always, she provided a context, framing the assault in the broader, longer story of America. The talk, as all of her talks, is about an hour long. If you don’t want to watch (or listen to) the whole thing, then maybe you’ll at least watch about four minutes’ worth, starting around the 39:00 mark and ending when Dr. Richardson says, “… one of the things about democracy that I love — and hate — is that it really is just us, and none of us are purely good or purely bad. We’re a mix of all of those things.”
(Side note, with thanks to Suzanne: Here’s the link to subscribe to Dr. Richardson’s newsletter, delivered every day by email, and here’s a link to the archive.)
Now we forge onward, still grappling with uncomfortable truths and, perhaps, with a more realistic understanding of how strong – and fragile – our democracy really is. A challenge, I think, will be to hold on to what we’ve learned while also trying to regain stability. There is already momentum behind the idea of returning to “normal” (whatever that means), before we’ve had enough time to get any clear perspective on the past four weeks, four months, and even the past four years.
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”Zora Neale Hurston
So, a thought: Try standing still for a little while — not too long, but just long enough to regain balance and footing. Let go of any need to solve all the world’s problems, since they’re not really yours, or mine, to solve alone anyway. Put down the things that aren’t yours to carry. Do small, ordinary things and rebuild those inner reserves that feed the better voices inside your head.
How about some cooking to start (yes, in the messy, real-life kitchen)…
If you’ve been following here for a while, then you already know that we’re egg people. We eat eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Scrambled eggs, baked eggs, boiled eggs, poached eggs, deviled eggs, egg salad, shirred eggs (and so on).
But my favorite way to prepare an egg is also the simplest. It’s a variation that’s somewhere between sunny-side up (fried without flipping) and basted (fried and then finished by putting a little water in the skillet and covering to steam). Like a basted egg, this version has a fully set white and runny yolk, but the white doesn’t get spongy or slimy and instead has nice, crispy, browned edges that give a nice contrast in texture. It’s terrific all by itself or on a piece of toast or on a salad.
How long to cook this splendid egg, you ask? You’ll have to figure it out for yourself, learn to cook it to your own liking. The trick, generally, is to listen carefully to what’s happening under the lid as the butter pops and steam accumulates (yes, even without adding any water). You’ll hear a slight change in pitch (it will get a little higher). It’s subtle, but once you’ve learned what to listen for, you’ll get it right every time.
Why this particular recommendation? Preparing food for yourself is a wonderful kind of self-care, but it’s easy to decide that you don’t have time (or energy) to cook. That’s when a “recipe” like this one is truly a saving grace. It takes 5 minutes, tops, from assembling the ingredients/materials to sitting down to eat. You have time and the necessary skills to do this, I promise.
Other cooking ideas:
That Alison Roman shallot pasta recipe (#1 on NYT Cooking for 2020)? It’s delicious, and not hard to make. I followed the recipe pretty closely the first time and made it from memory twice after that. The red pepper is the variable that you’ll likely want to adjust to your own taste. Don’t subscribe to NYT Cooking? Np; here’s a link that includes the recipe, along with some tips and ideas for substituting ingredients.
For the millionth time: Just make this celery soup, already. It’s delicious, I promise.
When’s the last time I tried to convince you to make David Tanis’s spinach cake? Too long ago, I’m sure. Reminder: If you grew up eating Stouffer’s spinach soufflé and wished to make something equivalent (but better) at home, then this is your recipe.
Indulgent: Southern butter rolls.
Two great episodes from the wonderful Sam Sanders: “Aaron Sorkin on ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7′” and “Lessons from 9/11 for Today’s Extremism; Plus ‘Crazy Stories About Racism'” (I ordered the book; of course I did)
“A Wise and Counterintuitive Way to Meditate in a Crisis” (starting to see the theme here?)
ICYMI: Season 2 of “Dr. Death”
What I’m listening to right now: “The Apology Line”
Following on the theme of self-care: “How to Stop the Negative Chatter in Your Head.” (WSJ)
Also self care: My book group read (and enjoyed, and would recommend) Susanna Clark’s Piranesi, a lovely and intriguing novel that defies any further description.
Let your heart lean into “The Last Two Northern Rhinos on Earth,” one of the best, and most beautiful, essays I’ve read in a long time.
If you read none of the other recommendations here, I hope you’ll read this one: “The Enduring Allure of Conspiracies.” (Excerpt: “Specific theories may come and go, but the allure of conspiracy theories for people trying to make sense of events beyond their control seems more enduring. For better — and of late, very much for worse — they appear to be a permanent part of the human condition.”)
“How Heather Cox Richardson built a sisterhood of concerned Americans.” (Boston Globe)
“How We Talk About Being Fat (it matters).” (Side note: Bittman’s newsletter is terrific)
And last, but not least: “What is a Teenage Girl?“
On deck next month…
Valentine’s Day: that redemptive holiday for all of us who failed to send Christmas cards.
Speaking of Valentine’s Day: This year’s Works of Heart auction, benefiting the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, will be entirely online. Here’s the link to see the art and get connected with the auction. And here’s my piece: