Sunday, November 23, 2008

On teaching

I'm not sure there is anything more humbling than -- while discussing, in a class full of students I love and respect, what the meaning is of individual vocation and how it fits into roles, categories, and changing some of what's wrong with this crazy world -- having one student ask me what my opinion is (I usually try to evade this question) and as I begin to answer, watching a dozen students pick up their pencils to take notes.

I'd better work on living an answer as well as thinking one.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Spinach dahl

It's been a while since I've had a recipe post on here. Mostly I've been too busy to cook. But tonight we had something worth repeating, and since I never measure while I'm cooking, I'll never remember how to make it again if I don't post it here.

It's adapted (liberally, as usual) from this recipe on allrecipes.com, which I use quite a lot.

1/3 c butter
1 large onion
4 large cloves garlic
1 red pepper
4 cups broth/water (I used 2 cups vegetable broth, 2 cups water)
1 cup lentils (I used 1/4 cup French green lentils, 1/4 cup black lentils, and 1/2 cup brown lentils for variety)
2 Tbsp garam masala
1 Tbsp ground ginger
5 oz (one largish box) fresh organic baby spinach
1 can coconut milk

1. Rinse lentils and soak for 20 minutes or more. Slice onion thinly; mince garlic and chop red pepper. Start basmati rice in rice cooker, if desired.
2. In wok or deep saute pan, melt butter. Saute garlic and onion together over medium head until onions are soft, clear, and just starting to turn golden. Add red pepper and cook 2 minutes.
3. Heat broth or water in microwave until near boiling. Add to pepper and onions. Add lentils, garam masala, and ginger. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Uncover and mash or taste a lentil. If soft, add spinach and coconut milk, stirring over low heat until coconut milk is incorporated and spinach has wilted. Serve over rice or with naan.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On the election

All day, and contrary to my general hopelessness and resulting reticence about the political realm, I've been thinking about the possibility of Obama becoming my next president -- and my first president: not only the first one I ever actually voted for, but the first one that I thought would care about my opinions.

I have been thinking, with awe and gratitude, about the enormous victory this is for the soul of the American people, in finally electing a black president. For several weeks now I've been reflecting on this powerful symbol that racism and intolerance might have an expiration date. What I realized today is the incredible sign this represents for the enfranchisement of the other disenfranchised people in this country: the young, the poor, the disillusioned.

Through his incredible speaking, his campaign's commitment to and dependence on broad-based and personal appeals, and most of all through his real faith in the American people, Obama has inspired millions of people like me who were not only apathetic about, but actually hostile to politics and its power. Certainly his election is only the beginning of the change I can believe in -- but it does give me hope.

I find this videoto be, oddly, an epitome of what this campaign means for the future: it's a hack, a mashup of a mashup of a speech; it's shared on youtube. It was unsolicited, done by a bunch of young people merely because they wanted to, because they'd been inspired, and in turn it's inspired thousands more people. It's genuinely inspiring because they were genuinely inspired; it's a creative response, not merely politics according to the usual patterns. It's making a difference.

Somehow, somewhere in his past, Barack Obama got the idea that if he channeled his inspiration with thought and energy, instead of following the usual patterns, he could change this country and possibly the world. Now he's passing that on to millions.

If politics doesn't have to be as usual, maybe I can change my patterns too. In the future, I'm going to try to participate in the process not just by voting, but by looking for opportunities to motivate minds and hearts. Whatever differences in policy Americans may have, I hope we can all agree on that change.