Thursday, October 22, 2020

vote!

For weeks, we’d planned to go to the polls together as a family. Both the older kids would be first-time voters in a presidential election and I wanted to make a little party of it. The way I wanted it to happen was: we’d go get our flu shots, vote, and then get ice cream. 

But then my older son told me he’d already gotten his flu shot and my husband said he didn’t want to leave work early, and then the pharmacy said they couldn’t vaccinate anyone under 18, so. No flu shot party. (Though my older daughter and I did end up going ourselves.) And then, to top it all off, the day we were supposed to vote, a construction crew accidentally cut through a fiber optic cable which temporarily shut down voting for the entire state of Virginia. So there went that


I grumped for a minute, and then, a couple days later, we went for Plan B: we'd all meet at the polling station. My husband and I came straight from work, my older son came from his hospital clinicals (he got to see a c-section!!), and the three younger kids drove in from home. 


I’d never done early in-person voting before and had no idea what to expect. Turns out, it's dreamy. People greeted us curbside. A person stationed right inside the doors gave us sample ballots to study. We stepped into the main area and practically glided through the steps: ID check, collect the ballot, vote, done. Mission accomplished.



























I forced the family to pause for a we-just-voted family photo — they weren't happy about it and then we hopped over to Kline's for ice cream. 


























So I got my little party after all!


***


This week I had my first day of training to be a poll worker. The woman had told me to come in at 7:30 in the morning and to pack a lunch. I wouldn’t be able to leave until five, she said.


I'd thought training would involve a presentation of some sort, and maybe some role playing and a test, but an all-day training and we couldn't leave? What kind of training was this? I wondered.


The morning of, the woman in charge introduced us newbies to the rest of the gathered group. Everyone signed a form so we could get paid, and we took the pledge. And then the woman assigned each of us to different stations — I was to be on the computers gave a few instructions, and announced that we’d be opening in a few minutes.


Hang on a sec, I thought. We're working?


Worried I’d gotten my wires crossed, I sidled up to the lady in charge. "Um, I think there’s been a misunderstanding. See, I’m here for the training and—” 


“This is the training,” she interrupted cheerfully. “This is how you’ll learn.” Which actually made perfect sense, I thought.


At the computers, I dove right in. I learned how to:

*deal with address mess-ups (one voter had a current address different from registered address different from license address, whew!)

*how to help a person switch from absentee voting to in-person voting (the voter has to turn to the mail-in ballot over to the election chief and then the chief does a computer override) 

*what to do when a registered voter has no ID on them (have them fill out a form stating that they are who they are)


*what to do when a person needs assistance (the person assisting either someone who brought them in or a poll worker fills out a form) 


We rotated positions every two hours. As ballot officer, I got to sit at a desk and hand out ballots (there are ten different ballots for the county), give voting instructions, and hand out “I voted” stickers and pens. 


At the polling booth station, I seated people and instructed them how to feed their ballots into the machine — but never touched or looked at their ballots! — and sanitized after each person went through.


For curbside voting, I sat outside and when cars pulled up, ran in and out, ferrying IDs and ballots in special folders so their votes stayed private.



























Lunch break: they say we probably won't get a chance to eat on Election Day.


I didn’t particularly enjoy the work — office-y work isn’t really my thing — but I did find the steady trickle of people to be fascinating:


*the young mother pushing two sets of young twins in a plastic-covered wagon (“our COVID wagon!” she said)

*the voter who quietly asked for assistance because he could neither read nor write

*the person who didn’t speak any English and needed an interpreter

*the person who gave me a bad ID just to see what I’d do (flag the person, I learned)

*the in-a-rush people

*the skeptics (Do I get to put the ballot in the machine myself? Will my vote really be counted? How do I know this is for real?)

*the first-time voters

*the elders

*the young couples

*the business folk 


It was inspiring, really — all these people taking time out of their day to add their voice. A little over four hundred people voted that day, and I heard that as of the beginning of that week, about twenty percent of all registered voters in the county have voted. 


Then yesterday I went with Leryann for her first time voting in a presidential.

























Thrills!


Listen, people. Please, if you have the option of early voting in your area, do it!!! Election day is going to be crazy. For example, every single precinct in our area will have the option of curbside voting which is wonderful but it does complicate things. (After running back and forth with folders and ballots, this I know.) 


But whatever you do, however you do it, just do it. Please. GO VOTE.


***

And if you won’t listen to me, maybe you’ll listen to Inigo Montoya?



Backstory...

The other morning when I first discovered that clip, I watched it several times in a row — laughing all the while — before heading out on my run. As I jogged along, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Something about the couple, the way they related to each other, their zest for life, their ordinary fabulous humanness, something, struck me as exhilaratingly inspiring.


Also, the guy seemed familiar. Thoughts of Princess Bride and Inigo floated through my mind, but no, I told myself, it couldn’t be.


Then back home I looked it up and whaddaya know, the guy was Inigo Montoya!


Which made me ridiculously happy.


The end.


This same time, years previous: the soiree of 2019, the quotidian (10.22.18), another farm, another job, back in business, winter squash soup with corn relish, field work, the adjustment, breaking news, a silly supper.

Monday, October 12, 2020

the quotidian (10.12.20)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

















For my birthday, I made my own cake: London Fog.
photo credit: my younger daughter
















Breakfast of champions: a stale croissant, sliced, griddled, and stuffed with ham and sharp cheddar.

 

Sometimes I text my family photos of my working meals just to be mean. 















A little of both.















I'm having trouble keeping up.















Open-air study.















Fall days.















The kid wanted a bird-feeder so he put one up.















For my husband's special day.

















The cake (made by my younger daughter) was delicious.
photo credit: my older son

This same time, years previous: English muffins, the relief sale doughnuts of 2017, the quotidian (10.10.16), salted caramel ice cream, home, party on, old-fashioned brown sugar cookies.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

khachapuri (georgian cheese bread)

A few weeks back, the diner had a brunch special I’d never heard of before. Khachapuri, they said, was a Georgian cheese bread. 

Georgia like the state? I said. 

No, like they country, they said. 

Oh, I said.


And then I had to go look it up, of course, because cheese bread. Need I say more?


I never got a chance to sample any of the diner’s khachapuri (though I did help make a batch of the dough, I think), but back at home, I read a bunch of recipes and cobbled together my own version. I’ve made it twice now, once with a sourdough pizza dough and once with a regular yeasted dough (the regular yeasted dough was softer and paired better with the cheesy filling). 



Striking the perfect balance between playful and easy, novel and delicious, it's a fun meal to make. Like so: roll out a simple pizza dough and then bury it with a mix of cheeses.



Roll up two of the sides — with lots of cheese tucked inside, oo-la-lah — and pinch-twist the ends together to create a boat, of sorts.



Bake the boats, and then, just before they're done, crack an egg into the center of each one.

























Bake for a few more minutes and — voila, Khachapuri! 
























To serve, smack the pans down in the center of the table and watch the masses tear into it like wild dogs.
























Khachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread)

Adapted from a variety of recipes (but mostly this one), and with inspiration from Magpie.


The recipe called for onion salt in the cheese filling, or dried dill; I didn’t use either.


Also, the second time around, I experimented with beating an egg into the cheese mixture to make it more creamy, and adding in a little sauteed spinach; it was fine but I think I prefer the straight cheese version. (I can’t help thinking that browned sausage would be a good addition, though then it wouldn’t be authentic Khachapuri, I suppose…)


I didn't have chives, so I used green onions — stick with chives.


The recipe calls for one pound of your favorite pizza dough. I used a recipe from Food Network that makes two pounds (recipe included). ‘Twas excellent. 


for the dough:

1 tablespoon sugar

1⅓ cups warm water

2½ teaspoons yeast

3 tablespoons olive oil

3¾ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons salt


In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, warm water, and yeast. Set aside for five minutes to let the yeast bubble and foam. 


In a larger bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir to combine, knead briefly, and then return to the bowl and cover. Let rest until doubled. 


for the filling:

1 cup feta cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese

2½ cups mozzarella (I used a mix of grated and fresh)

5 eggs, divided

4 tablespoons butter

everything but the bagel seasoning

minced chives

red pepper flakes

black pepper


to shape and bake:

Mix together the cheeses.


Divide the dough into four balls. Roll each ball into a 9-inch circle, more or less. Spread ¼ of the cheese on each of the dough rounds, going almost all the way to the edges. Roll up two of the sides, keeping the cheese in the dough, as though rolling sweet rolls. Pinch-twist the ends together. The dough should look like giant eyes, or boats. Add more cheese to the center of the boat, if you want. 


Transfer the khachapuri to two parchment-lined baking sheets. Brush the edges of the dough with a beaten egg and then sprinkle with everything season. 


Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using the back of a spoon, make a little crater in the cheese in each of the khachapuri. Crack in an egg, one egg per khachapuri. Tuck bits of butter into the cheese — about 1 tablespoon per khachapuri. Return to the oven and bake another 5-8 minutes, or until the egg is mostly set but still runny in the middle. 


Sprinkle with chopped chives, red pepper flakes, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Eat while still hot, tearing off bits of the crust and using it to dip up the melted cheese and egg. 


This same time, years previous: the relief sale doughnuts of 2019, the relief sale doughnuts of 2018, the quotidian (10.10.17), pasta with chicken, broccoli, and oven-roasted tomatoes, o happy!, catching our breath, it's for real, clouds, green tomato curry.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

fig walnut biscotti

You know, these deliciously chilly nights and crisp days are giving me a serious hankering to bake. 

























Pause.


Did you know that eating certain foods at certain times of the year is not a universal concept? Back when Melissa was living with us, she observed one day that we didn’t eat much soup. 


Her comment stopped me in my tracks — because I love soup and didn’t think of myself as a non-soup eater — but then it dawned on me that she was right: we didn’t eat much soup . . . because it was summer! 


So then I explained the idea of seasonal eating: how we eat more hot soups and casseroles and rich food and pie in the winter and summers are for lots of fresh salads, grilled meats, ice cream, and watermelon. 


To Melissa, it was a new idea, and to me it was a new idea that it’d be a new idea. I mean, I knew this (I’ve lived in Central America and eaten my fair share of hot soups on sweltering days) but still, when something I take for granted bumps up against someone else’s normal, it always throws me a little. Funny, that.


Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh, right. Biscotti.



























To me, biscotti is wintertime food. Twice baked — with the second baking being low and slow — biscotti is the perfect project for warming up a chilly kitchen. Plus, since it’s often heavily seasoned with citrus, nuts, and spices, biscotti makes the whole house smell cozy and rich, like Christmas. 

























This biscotti, to me, has the ideal texture: dry and crunchy all the way through — no soft middles for me! — but softly hard, not break-your-teeth rock hard. It’s sweet, but not overly so, and, thanks to the nuts and fruit, it's delightfully wholesome, in a French farm kitchen sort of way. (French, not Italian, and don't ask me why.) Eating it, one feels practically virtuous.



Fig Walnut Biscotti

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


Consider doubling the recipe: it’s a good biscotti.


1 cup walnuts

1 cup dried figs, quartered

6 tablespoons butter

¼ cup white sugar

⅓ cup brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

zest of one orange

2 cups, minus 2 tablespoons, flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

⅛ teaspoon cloves

1 egg white, lightly beaten until frothy

More white sugar, for sprinkling


Toast the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or on the stovetop in a skillet. Remove to a bowl and cool to room temp.


Place the walnuts and figs in a food processor and pulse until ground (some larger pieces are okay). 


Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, and zest and beat to combine.


In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Combine with the butter mixture. Add the nuts and figs and stir until just mixed.


Chill the dough for at least one hour before shaping into a log — long and skinny, short and fat, whatever you like — and placing on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the top and sides with the beaten egg white and sprinkle liberally with white sugar (or raw, if you prefer). 


Bake the loaf at 325 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch and has little cracks. Remove the loaf from the oven and cool for 30-40 minutes. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaf. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet and return to the oven for another 20-40 minutes, flipping the pieces once halfway through, or until the biscotti is dry and lightly browned (it will harden as it cools). 


Store the cooled biscotti in a pretty glass jar atop. It will keep for several weeks, at least. 


This same time, years previous: if you ask a Puerto Rican to make a pincho..., the quotidian (10.8.18), happy birthday, sweetie!, twelve thousand doughnuts, the soiree of 2014, a lesson I'd rather skip, one foggy morning, at least I tried.