Monday, September 13, 2010

a brit on the american ideal

I was struck by an excerpt from Tony Blair's new book, A Journey: My Political Life.

Americans can be all that the rest of the world sometimes accuses them of: brash, loud, insular, obsessive and heavy-handed. But America is great for a reason. It is looked up to, despite all the criticism, for a reason. There is a nobility in the American character that has been developed over the centuries, derived in part, no doubt, from the frontier spirit, from the waves of migration that form the stock, from the circumstances of independence, from the Civil War, from a myriad of historical facts and coincidences. But it is there.

That nobility isn't about being nicer, better or more successful than anyone else. It is a feeling about the country. It is a devotion to the American ideal that at a certain point transcends class, race, religion or upbringing. That ideal is about values, freedom, the rule of law, democracy. It is also about the way you achieve: on merit, by your own efforts and hard work. But it is most of all that in striving for and protecting that ideal, you as an individual take second place to the interests of the nation as a whole. It is what makes the country determined to overcome its challenges. It is what makes its soldiers give their lives in sacrifice. It is what brings every variety of American, from the lowest to the highest, to their feet when "The Star-Spangled Banner is played. Of course the ideal is not always met--that is obvious. But it is always striven for.

Never before have I read such an accurate assessment of America. To have it written by a foreigner shows incredible insight, perhaps only attainable by an outsider. It has intrigued me enough to read his book. If only it had come out during the summer when I had a bit more free time!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

summer squash soup

As is usually the case when I improvise a pot of soup, I can never remember how to make it again. In an effort to prevent that, here goes my first edition of summer squash soup. I'm liable to forget I posted this next year when yellow squash and zucchini are back in season, but then I just get to be creative again!

2 zucchini
3 yellow squash
1 Granny Smith apple
Juice from 1 lemon
1/4 stick of dynamite...I mean butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
~1 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
Honey to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add lemon juice, garlic & shallots. Turn heat up, & sauté until the butter begins to brown.

While this is happening on the heat, peel, core, & rough chop the apple. Peel & rough chop the zucchini & squash. The ratio of squash to zucchini should be about 1:1. Ensure this at the store, I guess. Toss all in the pot with vegetable stock. Add enough water to just cover the contents.

When the liquid begins to boil, turn down the heat & cover. Cook until the squash is soft.

Puree the mixture. I love my immersion blender for soups such as this, but a regular blender or food processor would do the job just as well. Just be careful because the soup is, well, boiling hot. When it is to your desired consistency, return to saucepot & add minced ginger. Cook for about 5 more minutes over low heat. Taste & add honey a bit at a time. The soup is supposed to be a bit sour. The honey really helps cut that, but the ginger brings it together.

Serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream if desired. I stared at my spice rack for some herbs to add to it to give it some more complexity, but I drew a blank. I'm certainly open to suggestions, if for no other reason than to try making it again!