Saturday, November 29, 2008


I can’t say I’m a firm believer in the body's need for regular detoxification or “cleanses”. I will admit, however, that the idea of it sounds right, especially right now, bloated on Thanksgiving indulgences, but the act of doing it feels a little like irretrievably lost life moments. These last few months of ingredient deprivation were worthwhile - I suppose - but like a life of obsessively cleaning house, will I be on my death bed and happy that my home was always in perfect order or will I wish there were more hungover mornings blamed on too much good wine, cheese and chocolate?

My brother went through some interesting phases where, if I remember correctly, there were fruit juice fasts, days of just drinking tea, maybe a prune cleansing (I truly can't think of anything more immediately "cleansing" and filled with urgency than a diet of straight prunes. There is a reason, after all, why the marketing people now call prunes "dried plums").

I’m sure my grandmothers would have approved of these diets: one grandmother loved to feed us prunes when we were little kids to help with our b.m.'s - that oh-so-dated abbreviation that makes me think of a classical orchestra's homage to our digestion. The prune feedings continued until my oldest brother wouldn't leave the bathroom for the better part of a morning and afternoon; we never saw prunes in her house again. My other grandmother thinks it’s perfectly okay to be gay, divorced, quirky, obsessed with words, anti-establishment, Democrat or Republican, but it is by no means okay or remotely normal to skip your glass of juice first thing in the morning.

Some people swear by the spiritual, physical and emotional benefits of cleanses, everything from the more mainstream detoxes to the fringier practices, like daily coffee enemas (coffee just has to taste better enjoyed from the top down rather than bottom's up). There are lemonade cleanses, fruit or fat flushes, raw foods diets, the South Beach Diet (which my friend keeps calling the South Park Diet - you gain a hundred pounds and swear like Cartman?) and there's even the maple syrup diet.

I started this blog because my doctor had put me on a food elimination diet to “heal” my system and potentially allow garlic back into my diet. I did a fairly respectable job eating nothing more interesting than what a 2 year old might find palatable for the better part of 3 months. Then, when it was supposed to get really informative, when I was supposed to add back one food every three days and check carefully for reactions, I failed miserably. If this was my big test, I cheated. I craned my proverbial neck and looked on Renee Murray’s paper in 6th grade, okay? And yes, just like the teacher said, I'm only cheating myself. But oh the temptation is so strong when you are so weak, ill-prepared, or deprived of pizza!

Just when I should have been checking carefully for food intolerances or allergies I was eating food after food, in combination, with hardly a breath in between. The good news? I didn’t notice any major reactions. The bad news? Lack of accurate information. Did the 3 month break “heal” my system, allowing my body to chill out? Or did the 3 month diet do absolutely nothing and all my symptoms can be traced to garlic and onion alone and simply avoiding them is the reason why my health has improved.

One positive thing I have noticed, though, is that if I accidentally get garlic into my system, my reaction is not as severe, nor as immediate as it was pre-cleanse. I’ve also learned to really pay attention to my body. What foods make me feel like a million dollars? What foods make me feel like a piece of dung?

While no believer in the spiritual higher-ground of a clean house or detoxified body, my experiment in ingredient deprivation nonetheless felt like a total body floss and that can't be totally bad. For the first time ever, I broke some lifelong habits of relying exclusively on certain foods as the bread and butter (literally) of my diet.

So, for now, almost everything is back in my diet. I still avoid raw garlic like the plague. I don't eat raw onions and I'm wary of foods with barely cooked or lots of cooked garlic. There is a toxin in raw, crushed garlic called allicin. It has anti-microbial abilities and is destroyed through cooking; perhaps I am intolerant of the allicin in garlic and that is why cooked garlic does not bother me as much.

The one thing I didn’t remove from my diet was sugar. Oh sweet, sweet sugar. My love for you is obsessive and dysfunctional. I crave you, hide you and become sullen when I can't see you and taste you. Some nights I run out in the late hours of the evening, to dimly-lit convenience stores to find you and bring you home. Soon, not now, I will leave you for a short or perhaps long while. But only when I'm ready.

Until then, my house is only sometimes clean and my life is largely un-wasted.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tastes like the ocean

Taken from Mt. Constitution, Orcas Island, San Juan Islands

You have to know your audience when giving cooking instructions. I forgot this important detail tonight.

You see, there are two types of people in the world: "those who are comfortable with a little ambiguity" and "those who most definitely are not". To be more precise (and now I've just given away which type I lean towards) the latter variety are typically extremely unhappy about ambiguity. As much as it pains the loose and free type to be forced to corral their freeflowingpassmethebong mentality into a confining box of specificity, it is equally as painful for the specific-types to be given little or no detailed instructions about a task. Or worse, incorrect instructions!

By way of example I'll tell you about my friend the wildlife biologist. She likes to cook and got herself into a little pickle whereby she made a potato salad that came out inexplicably bitter. When I told her to add "some" sugar to balance out the bitterness, she nearly threw a gasket. "Some? Some? How much?" (If Kinsey ever stopped screwing around and had more time for developing other scales, my friend would know that she is a 10 on the uptight-meter, which would thrill her to no end, as this type is often an over-achiever and 10, well, 10 just has to be a good score!)

I come from the people of Specific Land, like my friend. To be more specific, I'm partially from Specific Land, on my mother's side, and from Analtopia, on my dad's side. The wine goddess, on the other hand, hails exclusively from Laidbackville. While this sometimes causes some interesting domestic squabbles, it is often what brings people together in the first place. We each want a little of what the other has. Much as we may poo-poo the opposite type, we secretly envy them.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the bell curve, flip flopping between states of being and ways of seeing. I take a vacation from Specific Land when I cook. When I'm in the kitchen, I dance around the precise, eschewing things like that little clanking metal thing known as measuring spoons. Taking this much-needed vacation is restorative and saves dishes, besides.

Tonight I was cooking a dinner for my private clients/friends (I've worked for them once a week for the last 8 years.) They are like family to me now. I've watched their child grow up. I've watched their child grow up eating only 4 foods. I've watched their child grow up looking at my food with curiosity and then refusing to eat it, once a week for 8 years. Their child's mom (we'll call her Leigh) is a brilliant physical oceanographer. Leigh's a perfect mix of both types, generally laid back about all things, but ruthlessly precise about science, math, words and cooking.

We were talking about her upcoming Thanksgiving dinner and specifically about how to prepare perfect green beans. I will be out of town and felt the urgent need to provide technical assistance, as I've usually been the one to prepare their holiday meals over the years. There are two things I tell people: Make sure to "shock" the beans in ice water after they have gotten to your ideal texture and doneness (usually between 6-7 minutes of cooking in boiling water). This will arrest the cooking, preserve the bright green color and keep the string beans from getting mushy. Backing up a step, I tell people to make the cooking water "taste like the ocean". Normally, I'm never questioned about what "tasting like the ocean" would taste like. People get the idea of it, the laid back types and the specific types. "Okay," they say, "make it taste really salty" and then off they go.

Not so much tonight. This is what Leigh had to tell me about making something "taste like the ocean".

"A rough number for open ocean salinity is 35 parts per thousand (ppt). 4 quarts of water is about 4 liters, so 1 ppt = 4 ml. 35 ppt = 140 ml. About 5 ml per teaspoon, and 3 tsp per Tbsp, so that's about 9-10 Tbsp of salt."

So I tell her that, yeah, maybe telling an oceanographer to make something taste like the ocean was a bad choice. Thinking I'm clever, I tell her to make it taste like brackish water, Puget Sound perhaps (because really, 2 tablespoons in 4 quarts is plenty of salt.)

"Well, Puget Sound is more like 20 parts per thousand," she says, "so that would be about 5 Tbsp of salt in the pot."

Then she tells me, by email, today....

"Make it taste like the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Germany..."

blink. blink.

Oh, forchristsakes, just steam the damn beans.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Psychic Kevlar

I was in a dour mood yesterday. Perhaps it’s because I read the paper. I do most days and try my hardest to position my psychic Kevlar protective barrier so that I don’t let the sadness of the world seep so deep into my consciousness that I lose my sense of humor. Some days I win, other days there are microscopic holes in the barrier and in it creeps. Forget the local section – I’ve long since abandoned reading that (my wine goddess does and I can tell by her sighs and ohmigods that I’m better off sticking to the food section).

“Everything in the world is funny” so said Ginny Ruffner, a famous glass-artist I had the good fortune to interview for a writing job I have. At first blush, on some days, I might not agree- and especially on days like yesterday – but when I learned more about her life, and specifically about the car accident that left her disabled, her words had sudden traction. I sometimes think everything in the world is funny, but if she thinks this, than I can do even better.

My mood was so blah yesterday that I took myself to a movie to escape, to cinema-medicate, to hope that when I walked out, blinking into the gray Seattle skies, there'd be a subtle shift in my perspective. I used to hate seeing movies alone, for purely practical reasons. Who can I ask my millions of annoying questions to if I’m there alone? (I can never seem to follow foreign accents very well or okay, I’ll admit it, plot. Yes, I’m one of those people.) All the better for me and my relationship to cultivate a love for taking myself to the theater.

The name of the film alone got me in the doors of the Harvard Exit. I figured if this couldn’t fully do the trick, then I could always cross the street and saddle up to the bar at Poppy and drink their "Papi Delicious" cocktail. My new liquid addiction combines tequila, mint, jalapeno, and crushed pepper with a sugar-spice rim. But back to the movie...

"British director Mike Leigh has made the first great comedy for our new depression," says Michael Sragow of the Baltimore Sun and I couldn't agree more. Movies that inspire us to find joy in the mundane, appeal to each other's inner humanity, with characters that smile despite it all will do well now. Despite these reviews I found myself highly irritated by the lead character for the first hour. Her perpetual childlike state, the constant grin, the high-pitched giggle - it bothered me. In the face of the rudest people, she laughs. How can someone be that immune to the moods of others?

I won't spoil the nature of the character development that is the essence of this movie (in truth, not much plot-wise actually happens - alas, a movie I followed!) By the end, though, I understood that her humor, her grin, her giggle were her version of my Kevlar barrier. She was no more immune than you or me but she had made a conscious, daily choice - hard as it can be - to not add to the sadness by losing herself in it. There's compassion and empathy and then there's hopelessness and a downward spiral. Happy-go-lucky keeps her head up and in this time, it's something we can all learn from. Go see this movie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fist bump to the gluten-intolerant!

As I was eating my bagel this morning, I took a moment to send a little piece of gratitude out into the world that I was eating my bagel this morning. I have several friends who are celiacs (aka gluten makes them dog-sick) and several others who are allergic to wheat. It isn't a pretty thing to have unless, perhaps, it becomes something worth celebrating (see gluten-free girl if you are not sure what I mean). I'd be lying, though, if I didn't admit that I feel like I dodged a bullet.

I learned a lot going gluten-free for 3 months. I expanded my diet into worlds I had utterly ignored. I tested gluten-free recipes, discovered a love for quinoa flakes as a replacement for cream of wheat, explored certain areas of the supermarket I'd smugly passed on by; basically, I got over my uneducated opinion that "gluten-free" items were uniformly inferior to their gluten-filled siblings. True, there are some god-awful products out there but, more and more, there are some really excellent ones. And, naturally, there are thousands of foods that are gluten-free right from the beginning.

With the help of Bob's Red Mill and the glorious alchemy of applesauce when it meets baked products, I offer up - in honor of my gluten-free friends - my new, most favorite cupcake recipe to date. I need never make these with wheat again - so much the better for everyone at the party to enjoy.

Emerald City Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Not to channel that Food Network program "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee" (truly one of the least creative tv show names ever) but I must confess that this recipe involves embellishing a store-bought cake mix. I've heard for years that applesauce is the magic ingredient when trying to make baked goods moist when you are not using as much fat. What if, I asked myself, you kept all the good fat and added applesauce anyway? The result yields a moister than moist cake with rich, dark chocolate chunks.


Cake Batter
½ cup butter or non-dairy margarine -- softened
16 oz Bob's gluten-free chocolate cake mix
¾ cup milk (cow, soy, rice, or nut)
1 tbsp lemon Juice
2 large eggs -- or if you are egg free, use Ener-g egg replacer
⅓ cup hot water -- 110 degrees
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup applesauce -- unsweetened
¼ cup dark chocolate -- best kind, around 65-75% cacao, chopped into small pieces

¼ cup butter, unsalted or non-dairy margarine -- room temperature
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk (cow, soy, rice or nut -- even coconut milk would work)
½ cup (scant) Cocoa powder


Line muffin tins with baking liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (use convection bake if you have it). This recipe will make 12 large cupcakes and 18 regular-sized ones (but then you won't get the muffin top overhang - the best part, really).

Have the ingredients at room temperature. Cream the butter or non-dairy margarine in an electric mixer over high speed until smooth. Lower the speed and incorporate the cake mix. In a separate bowl, mix the milk and lemon juice and add it to the mixing bowl along with the eggs. Blend ingredients together over low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat well over medium-low speed for another minute. Add hot water, vanilla extract and applesauce and beat for another minute. Lightly blend in the dark chocolate pieces. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, checking with a toothpick (if it comes out clean, you are good to go).

While the cupcakes cook, you can make the frosting by beating the butter in a mixer over medium-high speed until nice and light. Lower the speed (or risk sudden aging by powdered sugar) and carefully add the powdered sugar. Add the milk and then the cocoa. You may need to adjust the consistency by adding more powdered sugar or more milk. You want a nice spreadable consistency. You can firm the icing up in the fridge for 15 minutes before spreading if necessary or you can make ahead and bring to room temperature before spreading. Make sure the cupcakes are fully cooled and mix the icing well to ensure that it is creamy. Garnish the cupcakes with dark chocolate curls (drag a peeler across the edge of a thick chocolate bar). Eat 4 and tell everyone the recipe just doesn't make that many.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

R.I.P little man

My bff had to put her cat Hobbes down today, just weeks after her weight-challenged cat Gilda up and left this world, freeing up kibble for starving cats the world over. Gilda got more than her fair share, bless her heart. Hobbes, though, he never could keep the weight on so he was affectionately known as “Keith Richards”. I thought that after Gilda died, Hobbes would be free to enjoy his golden years, what with his cranky, cantankerous sister up in the big litter box in the sky. He mostly ignored her, but in later years with his hearing failing, perhaps he was guided around the condo by the sound of her hissing and grew to appreciate her. With Gilda gone these last 8 weeks, Hobbe’s purring sweetness was no longer in stark contrast to her permanent bad mood. Maybe he lost himself a little. As independent as cats seem to be, perhaps even they wonder who they are when no longer defined in contrast to their constant companions?

Language is so interesting. We put preserves “up” when the harvest is so bountiful we just don’t know what to do with it all. We put our pets “down” when life becomes just a little too much for them and we know it’s time. We make this decision for our pets because they can’t really ask for it themselves.

Just when my bff was driving south to the vet’s office, I was heading up north to Bothell to a nursing home. On Fridays I volunteer with Senior Services of King County taking my “ladies” (and sometimes a man) to their doctor’s appointments or, like today, to visit a spouse who, for medical reasons, can no longer live at home.

Today my client's name is Concetta Migliore. When you say her name out loud you realize precisely why Italians love to sing. Concetta does sing, but her true talents lie in her piano and accordian playing. At 89 years of age, she no longer has the strength to hoist the accordian up like she did for 20 years at Mia Roma, an Italian restaurant icon in Bothell.

On the way she asks if we can play some of her music so I pop in her Andrea Bocelli cd and with his voice in the background she starts telling me her stories; about her music days, about her husband, who’s 97, about how he’s as handsome today as the day they met. “We’re still in love, after all this time,” she tells me and it is confirmed when I see their greeting 10 minutes later. We find her husband Johnny with his aide David amid the controlled chaos of the home, the blare of so many televisions fighting for attention with the visitors greetings, the back and forth of the nurses and the presence of the residents, nearly all in wheelchairs, lining the wide florescent hallways.

Concetta leans down to Johnny, in his wheelchair, totally blind and challenged with constant fluid in his lungs. She kisses him many times, so sweetly, first on the lips and then twice on his forehead. He smiles broadly and holds her hand. While she reaches in her purse for homemade biscotti and cheese sticks for him (“he just loves cheese sticks” she says in a stage whisper), David tells us Johnny had lasagna today for lunch and asks him, loudly, “So, Johnny, what did you think of the lasagna?” He replies, deadpan, “not very much.” His family is from Calabria. I get the sense that this man has strong opinions about Italian food.

We can’t stay too much longer so Concetta asks him if he’d like to hear her play the piano and oh yes, oh yes he does. They’re famous in Bothell, this couple, for their music, their dancing, their obvious love for each other. Johnny is wheeled towards the main hallway near the reception desk, steps from the front door where there is a piano. Concetta steps up, instructs me to stand where she can see me ("I just hate playing with my back to people!”) and holds Johnny’s hand and asks him what he wants to hear. Several other residents wheel over looking expectantly towards the piano. Some, farther down the hall, stare vacantly in front of them.

I don’t know the songs myself but they must be classics because it seems I’m the only one hearing them for the first time. She plays beautifully, sometimes leaning in to the piano for emphasis and then, at other times, shaking her shoulders up and down, leaning back on the bench with sheer joy and delight. After each song, we clap and say, “Bravo!”

In the car ride home, she tells me she wants more than anything to be with her husband but it simply costs too much per day at the home. She’s going to figure out a way, though, to make it work because she just loves him so very much. I can’t help but feel somewhat sad; his health is obviously declining. But at this moment, this is my sadness, because when I look back over at Concetta she only has a smile for me, “I have had the most wonderful life.”

I volunteer to help people, yes, but I also volunteer to gain perspective and to force myself to embrace how very lucky I am. Lucky to have my health, my beautiful partner, my family, my friends, my sweet, sweet dogs, a career that I love. Standing next to the piano today, looking out at the residents, many of them in their last months or years of their life, I didn’t feel sad or depressed, I felt strangely joyful. What a gift to remember how important it is to really live. I, too, want to look back someday and say, “I have had the most wonderful life.”

Hobbes, rest in peace, little man.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The best coffee shops in Seattle start with a "V"

I take sushi and coffee very seriously. Life is simply too short to waste your appetite or your caffeine headache on a second-rate place in a city with top quality fish and beans. In order to determine which places I will re-visit, I subject unexplored establishments to a form of a stress test. At sushi joints, I order a hamachi hand roll. If the nori remains crisp, if they've used the best, most luscious slices of yellowtail (and not the stringy leftover bits) and if they present the roll directly into my hand or in a holder versus laying it down on a board where it will quickly get soggy then they will have earned my undying loyalty.

At coffee shops, I order a macchiato (no, not this). It's a lot easier to hide bad coffee in a latte, but I'm not a huge fan of drinking my coffee black, so I split the difference and order a macchiato to get the best sense of how delicious their coffee is. Macchiato literally means "stained" and refers to the swirl of milk (and now, often, foam) that mixes with the coffee, usually one espresso shot. When the coffee is wonderful, it's a shame to deaden the flavor with too much milk. A nearly perfect macchiato blends several distinct and delicious worlds into one and it makes me think happily of our next president.

I'm a loyal, daily visitor to Vivace Coffee in Seattle, which I consider the best in the city (for more information about the genius behind Vivace, press here). I have a theory that if the barista at Vivace thinks a customer is cute, they make a luscious heart pattern in their lattes. Get a leaf, like I did below, then... not so much.

Every blue moon, I make it over to Victrola because they know what to do with their beans, and they make a beautiful cup. And while we're on the "V's" I'd be remiss not to mention my third favorite place in Seattle for coffee, Cafe Vita. To make matters even more confusing, all 3 of these coffee shops are in and around the Pike/Pine Corridor of Capitol Hill, two streets that run parallel to each other and are so often confused that a local comedy show, Almost Live, spoofed it by having a "Pike or Pine?" game show. No one ever got it or gets it right.

A little known Seattle factoid is that the friendliness of the baristas is usually (although this is improving) negatively correlated to the quality of the coffee. In days past, the more surly the treatment, the better the coffee. All that energy lesser coffee chains put into "smoke and mirrors" customer service is conserved and channeled directly into the artistry and flavor of your coffee. Receive a smirk or blank stare when you say "thank you"? Get ready for a superior hot beverage. Asked about how your weekend was? Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, November 7, 2008

La Spiga

Exactly a year before I spent two months in Italy I decided it was high-time, after 3 great years, to leave the Herbfarm nest and set my sights on something new. I walked straight from the gardens in Woodinville right through the front door of La Spiga, the well-known osteria on Capitol Hill specializing in all things from the region of Emilia-Romagna. I spent one wonderful year making their pastas from scratch, rolling them out, cutting them, forming them and passing them along to my fellow cooks to combine them with sauces to order. For that one year, the notion of where flour began and I ended was indistinguishable. We became each other, my skin annointed for 9-10 hours every day with the milled grain from "la spiga di grano" (the shaft of wheat), the force of my evening shower stream the only thing to separate us.

Four days ago, 24 hours before the polls opened, I deliriously, giddily welcomed wheat back into my life. I had been planning on starting with wine. My wine goddess had patiently and lovingly saved some special bottles, resisting her own temptations, so we could drink them together. Thing is, I couldn’t quite get my head around drinking alcohol first thing in the morning and when that ticker counted down I was poised, mouth open, as soon as I woke up, proverbial foot on the starting line.

An elementary school educational movie from my childhood still rolls on in my head, the stern narrator's voice warning that 'drinking before noon' is a sure sign of alcoholism. The day after I saw that movie, I was sort of mildly traumatized, suddenly acutely aware of all the warning signs I needed to be vigilant for in my adult family members. I remember it was a Saturday and my dad had been busy working on the yard for hours. He was sweaty and tired and the sun was beating down on him when he called me outside. "There's some Budweiser in the fridge," he said, "will you bring me one?" I looked down at my Mickey Mouse swatch and panic screwed up my face when I realized it was 11:49 am. Tears filled my eyes and I told him I was convinced he was now an alcoholic. His laughter still rings in my ear, drowning out the narrator's warnings ever so slightly.

Regardless, after waiting so long to indulge in some of my favorite foods, I couldn't stomach the idea of drinking a glass of wine at 10 am. I was ready to go and I was ready to go now. I started with a simple, humble, multi-grain loaf, a small ball of wheat I would refer to later as my "gateway" roll. Many other, bigger portions of wheat were in my immediate future (read lunch, snack, dinner, snack). Later my bff pointed out that in my haste, I probably double or triple dipped into my list as that roll had yeast in it too and perhaps oats (oopsie).

The way this food reintroduction is supposed to go down is that every 3 days I introduce a new ingredient on my list - one at a time - eat a normal amount that first day and then wait two days, going back to the elimination diet and checking for any allergic or intolerant reactions. After 2 days of observation and noting no reactions I can move on to the next test. The doctor told me to be careful and not to overdo it. Only eat the one ingredient on the first day of the three days, in case there is a cascade effect. For example, wheat might not cause any problem on its own, in isolation, but perhaps wheat plus another intolerance can then cause symptoms, mucking up the blame-game. Ideally, if an ingredient doesn't negatively affect me after the test, I should lay off of it until all the tests are over.

There's what the doctor tells you to do and then there's what you actually do. For many months, what he told me and what I did looked remarkably similar. I gotta tell you, though, the intense focus and discipline I showed in the early days of this experiment were matched one-for-one with the sloppy, lazy, self-indulgent version of myself towards the end.

After the gateway roll, I slid into a binge of gigantic gluteny proportions. Into the pie-hole went a sandwich on wheat, then a cookie, or two, or three. The next day an innocent enough stop at my favorite coffee shop Vivace found me pointing, eyes slightly rolled back in my head, to a locally made baguette from Macrina Bakery. No butter, no thank you, just that whole baguette. The man to my left smiled gently when he saw the enormous loaf barely contained on my tiny white bread plate. "I always like to see what people choose to eat for breakfast," he says to me as I walk past him, breathing in the toasty, yeasty smell. I nod my head, my eyes fixed on a table, a chair, a place where the baguette-eating scene will take place, "Yes," I say, as if I eat this every day for breakfast.

That day, the next day, I felt fine. No symptoms. Nothing. As I suspected - wheat, and it appears yeast and oats as well - are not my problem. Lord knows, if I did have a wheat allergy I'd be dead by now.

Until my next ingredient test, call me hardtack walking. Now will someone please get me a glass of water.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pinch me.

Since I last wrote, things have really changed.

In my ideal fantasy world the fact that our new president has a black father and a white mother would be only one detail about them; one aspect out of many in a multi-faceted individual. Much as it pains me to admit it, we don't live in my fantasies (curses!) so this detail, this small fact is no small fact, it is the very thing that has for so long prevented anyone but a white Christian male from - let's face it- the most difficult job imaginable.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, an Independent, a Nader-ite (man, that guy has staying power), Joe the Plumber or a Southern Baptist preacher, what happened the other day is undeniably world-changing. We have broken through one of the many barriers that divides us.

One day we will have a woman president. One day we will have an atheist or agnostic president. One day we will have a president who is gay. One day we may have, in other words, presidents that actually represent the true diversity that exists in our country. I may not be alive to see any of this but I don’t doubt that we will get there.

I've had this feeling in my belly since we voted in Barack Obama as our next president. I thought it was indigestion (more on my food re-introduction tomorrow) but I now realize it was nascent patriotism. It started low in my gut and it was quite a different feeling for me to have. Unlike a cynical belly (one I am much more familiar with) a patriotic belly felt both light and heavy. Light with pride and hope and just a little laden with old familiar fear.

Finally, at least for now, the America I've always believed in hasn't let me down. I'm not heading out to buy USA mud flaps for my gas efficient car, but if we keep this up, I just may. What happened on Nov. 4th is more than notable, it is more than amazing, it is plate tectonic shifting unf***ing believable. And it shouldn’t be. But it is. And someday it won't be.

But today it really is.


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