Okay, look. I believe that President Obama is doing the best he can in a very, very difficult position—and given that the poor guy is getting incessantly hammered from both (all) sides for doing his best in nearly-impossible-circumstances, it’s perfectly natural that he’s upset and grumpy about the fact that everyone keeps telling him what a shitty job he’s doing. I would be too. I have, in fact, been known to get huffed about that sort of thing in my own job, when it really seems like, based on feedback, there is no possible way to make people happy[1], because it’s really, really frustrating, and getting yelled at all the time without hearing that your constituents appreciate the hard work you’re doing is demoralizing. And if you care about your constituents, that makes it harder—because you’re trying, because you do, in fact, care—and then they holler at you that you’re a traitor and never really meant all those promises you made anyway. And, frankly, I fail to see why the President shouldn’t be allowed to be human, and have the same perfectly natural emotional reactions that any of us would have if we were in the same circumstances. The fact that President Obama listens to enough of his critics to even be frustrated by them is actually kind of noteworthy—I mean, we all know that GWB disallowed criticism (because it was “doubting” or “pessimistic”, or whatever) and regularly sacked people who questioned him, right?

Further, everyone who has worked for a government agency of any size must appreciate how incredibly difficult it is to make any kind of systems change—let alone meaningful changes that will have a long-term impact instead of being immediately reversed when the administration changes. Governments are slow. They have a lot of entrenched systems and a huge amount of institutional drag.

Plus, you know the major trend that Obama is trying to reverse? The one of increasing social and economic disparity that’s making the rich richer and the poor poorer, and further, making it increasingly difficult to jump that gap by any means (including education, hard work, and pretty much anything short of divine intervention)? That trend has been in place and steadily picking up steam since pretty much right after WWII. Yeah. That’s right. Over fifty years. If anyone I have ever met in my entire life is capable of reversing a major socio-economic trend that’s been barreling full steam ahead for fifty years after only two years in a position of power, I will personally give that person a flying unicorn dusted with fairly powder. With a diamond necklace.

AND. You know what else? That trend? The one that’s been going along for a long time and is pretty entrenched and supported by a whole lot of both obvious and subtle policies and laws and bullshit wrapped up in rhetoric about the “invisible hand of the free market” and “personal responsibility”? You know who benefits from that, right? The wealthy. You know what else? Those wealthy people are, in generally, also the decision-makers, the people in power—both in the corporate world and the political world. The very people who benefit, directly and indirectly, from the policies and trends that the President is trying to reverse, are the ones in the best position to resist changes and make things hard.  Why should those people support his effort to fix things? Answer: they shouldn’t. They don’t. They’ll do everything in their power to keep things going in the same direction. And the President, not being an idiot, has got to understand this, and comprehend that creating long-term and meaningful change will have to be done through a long, long series of intermediate steps and gradual recruitment from the ranks of the established wealth-and-power elites. Because otherwise they’ll just tie his hands completely and make damned sure that any minor changes that do get made are immediately and completely obliterated by the next administration. So the President is forced into the distasteful and incredibly frustrating position of having to fight for every little change—which can only be achieved through compromise—while simultaneously getting howled at for being weak, and a sellout, and a backstabber to the progressive and liberal cause by one half of the people, and getting howled at for being a commie and a socialist and a bleeding-heart giving all the hard-working American tax dollars to lazy and undeserving poor people by the other half.  And most of the people who have (and will) benefit from the things Obama has accomplished—like stimulus funding that brought thousands of dollars back to severely-cut social and homeless services, major changes in HUD and DOT policies, extended unemployment benefits, health care reform, consumer and student loan reform—aren’t paying enough attention to recognize the very real benefits that this administration has brought them. And many of those who do recognize the benefits aren’t expressing appreciation; they’re whinging about how it’s not enough.

And, in addition to all of this, there is a small and crazy but very very loud group of people who are bound and determined, regardless of any facts or evidence or their own self-interests, to rabidly resist anything that the President does, because they’re afraid that the world is changing. They may or may not be racists, per se (not that they’ll admit it if they are), but they’re scared, because a world in which a man who is not a white man can be the President is a world in which the automatic privileges of being white and/or male and/or straight may eventually not be automatic. And those people are probably more scared if the tiny and seemingly-inconsequential amount of privilege they receive is one of the few things they have left. So they’ll yell and scream and repeat rhetoric, because they’re freaked the hell out, and they don’t know what else to do, and all they have left are the petty benefits they get as part of the Good Ole’ Boys Club. And those people are infuriating and impossible to reason with, but even then, I would suggest that decent people at least try to have some tiny iota of compassion—because even though those people are being assholes, they’re still scared, and no one likes to be scared.

Let me be clear, now—I am not suggesting that the administration shouldn’t keep trying, or that they couldn’t have done more, shouldn’t keep trying to do better and be more aggressive. That’s not it. I, like a lot of people, really, really wanted this administration to usher in a sweeping and immediate tide of changes that would totally and completely erase the inequities in our county. I want DOMA repealed. I want Don’t Ask Don’t Tell junked. I want the wealthy to pay more taxes, I want housing and transportation costs to be part of household cost burden equations, and I want average transportation costs to be a required disclosure along with rental and/or mortgage costs. I want a lot of things that aren’t happening yet, and may not happen for a long time (perhaps never).

What I am saying is that I believe that Obama and his administration are doing the best they can to right an extremely difficult and entrenched series of wrongs, and I think everyone who is so fretfully outraged about what a terrible job he’s doing should consider reality-checking their expectations and try show some appreciation alongside rational constrictive criticism, rather than just hurling abuse. Okay? Come on, you guys. Don’t be an asshole. Obama is not as bad as GWB, and you know it, and things would be much worse if McCain was in charge. Be critical, fine, but don’t be a dick about it.

[1] “I want more services and better transit service! But only for me, not for people who I believe ‘don’t deserve it’ because they’re lazy, or stupid, or somehow different from me and therefore undeserving! I don’t want to pay more taxes! Why are you wasting so much money planning?! Why don’t I have a library near my house? Why are my taxes so high? Why doesn’t the city/county fix all the potholes on my street? I don’t want to pay more taxes! What do you mean the Sherriff’s office has to lay off deputies because revenue is down? That’s unsafe! I deserve better protection! Why are my taxes so high?”)


Memorial Day Pizza

Memorial Day Pizza

Garlic oil, pancetta, mozarella and shaved asparagus, loosely based on Jim Lahey’s Bird’s Nest Pizza.

Potato-Cornmeal Waffles

Last week, over IM, M informed me that he wanted to make waffles this weekend. Potato-cornmeal waffles, he said. With bacon and cheddar. Because I am a reasonable person, I responded as anyone would— “YAY!! WAFFLES!!”— and the deal was done.

Potato-Cornmeal Waffles

Saturday morning, it was revealed that, although M had A Vision for Sunday Waffles, he did not have a recipe, or even a starting point for a recipe. Also, that the person making waffles would be me—probably because 1) the waffle maker is mine and 2) I’ve made an effort to stake out most baking-type stuff as My Cooking Thing, so I can claim some sort of cooking felicity in the face of M’s slightly-daunting ability to sort of toss a bunch of things together and magically make a pile of awesome without relying on things like recipes.

I, however, cannot really cook things without recipes. Not new things, anyway—I have been known to make modifications to my stockpile recipes, but that is not at all the same as tossing a bunch of ingredients together and somehow ending with edible food. And, in fact, my nearly-disastrous dinner attempt on Saturday night bears this out. Did you know that you can accidentally make a syrupy kind of horrible-tasting emulsion with butter, olive oil, garlic, lemon, and white wine? You can! Fortunately, I had pulled the shaved asparagus and garlic scapes out before I made the terrible emulsion, so M saved dinner with a butter sauce, and we ate okay-but-not-exciting pasta with asparagus & scapes with butter sauce. Also, FYI, shaved scapes can cook up kind of woody, but shaved asparagus is pretty good.

Eggs, Mashed Potato, Melted Butter

Dry Ingredients

Clearly, finding a recipe to start from was Step One. Fortunately, the internet is an awesome cookbook, so I hit my go-to sources first. Smitten Kitchen has a recipe for Pumpkin Waffles, and Epicurious had one for Cornmeal Waffles. Subbing mashed potatoes for pumpkin & taking bits from the Cornmeal Waffle recipe, I whipped up a batch of pretty decent waffles, and, huzzah! breakfast!

Waffle Iron & Batter

If you’re a person who grew up with Bisquick waffles, like me, scratch waffle batter seems kind of fiddly. And starting a scratch-waffle-batter recipe with “first, make some mashed potatoes” seems extra fiddly, especially when you realize that you need to make sure that you’ve got time to cool your mashed potatoes so they don’t cook the egg yolks when you mix them.

And doing all this stuff on Sunday morning before you can have breakfast can be a little challenging, if what you want is a nice mellow hang-out with your coffee and the internet. But! If you make a couple of batches of waffles, you can freeze ‘em, and then you’ll have nice waffles to take to work for breakfast for a week or so, and that’s nice.

And if you’re lucky, you’ll make a batch of slightly fiddly waffles and your boyfriend will thank you for making his breakfast vision a reality, and that’s nice too.

Waffle Batter

Potato-Cornmeal Waffles

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Pumpkin Waffles, with a touch of Epicurious’s Cornmeal Waffles

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
2 Tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups buttermilk*
1 cup (cooled!) mashed potatoes
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted & cooled
Vegetable oil for brushing waffle iron or cooking spray

*Bob’s Red Mill makes a dry buttermilk powder, similar to powdered milk, and that’s what I used. I’m not sure how much/what difference fresh buttermilk might make. Some people may have buttermilk on hand regularly, but if you’re not one of those people, this is an available alternative.

Preheat oven to somewhere around 200-250°F (to keep waffles warm between coming off the waffle iron & getting to the table—if you’re tossing waffles out to table as you make them, ignore this step!) and preheat waffle iron (or not, if you know your waffle iron & don’t care to do so). Sift together flour, brown sugar, baking powder and soda and salt. Whisk egg yolks in a large bowl with buttermilk, mashed potatoes, and butter until smooth. Whisk in dry ingredients just until combined.

Whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold gently into the waffle batter, until just combined.

Brush waffle iron lightly with oil and pour batter onto to waffle iron. Cook to taste, relying on your knowledge of your waffle iron’s vagaries and temperamental issues.

Transfer waffles to oven rack to keep warm. Make waffles until you’re out of batter!

Serve with butter & syrup, bacon crumbles, cheese, whatever you like! I had mine with butter, bacon, and maple syrup. M had bacon, cheese, and butter on his. Both topping combinations were deemed successful.

This recipe made about 6 ½ waffles in a regular waffle iron.

Waffle in Iron




From this food 52 recipe, via TracyFood.

I had this long (looooooooong) post that I was almost done with, full of frustration and melodrama and maudlin (and footnotes). And then last night, M and I want to Beaker & Flask for dinner with M & K, to celebrate M’s birthday, and it was a great evening, with gorgeous cocktails and wonderful food, and it was all lovely, and, you know what? M loves me. And even though he was congested last night, and fussed and snored, and I had stress dreams and overslept, this morning he asked what I wanted him to make for dinner, and I drove to work knowing that he loves me, and, just as importantly, he wants and values what I bring to this relationship & his life.

So, okay, maybe in some ways I am a Trainwreck McLoserpants, and maybe I’ll still post my long, long, exploration of the ways of assessing success and the loss (real or perceived) of progress, because it’s true too, at least sometimes. But even if I am a Trainwreck McLoserpants, I still get homemade pizza, and I had a lovely dinner last night, and even though I am still the freaking poster child for insecure and anxious, I think that I’m more secure in my relationships1 now than I have ever been before.

[1]With M, but also with everyone else.

This weekend we made brunch. A large brunch, for a lot of people—ten or so folks showed up, I think, plus the four of us in residence —and I asked M how he managed these enormous brunches before. That is, before me, before I was around to be sent to the store for more eggs and tofu and chop things and wash things and clear away and put out glasses and find a bottle of white wine in the basement and put it in the freezer to chill please? And he told me that before he just got up very early for these brunches, and sometimes other people would help—which makes sense, of course, because in addition to occasional semi-spontaneous brunches, the main brunch event is the traditional Horace Phair wrap-up, when everyone is off work and there are masses of out-of-town friends available to help mince kale and grate carrots.

It was a lovely brunch, and stretched into a very pleasant day. I thought of the first Horace Phair I attended, and Saluthaus, which M lived in for the very first few weeks that we dated, and the porch, on which there was some arguably age-inappropriate making-out following our first date. I remember those weeks, and I remember that date, and I remember the shocking thrill the first time M kissed me. I’m glad that I still sometimes feel that electric thrill, and I’m glad that he can spontaneously volunteer brunch-for-a-dozen and know he’s got help in the kitchen.