Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'm a Georgia Voter!

OK, I’m going to rant for a little while here.  It’s my blog, and I’m allowed to vent when I want to.

One of the reasons I was happy to move back home to Georgia is that after two decades, I was, quite simply, tired of Washington. At first, it was a love affair.  I did the all-but-mandatory stint as a Hill intern and would come home and watch C-SPAN into the wee hours of the morning. Walking across the mall would send this little shiver down my spine. Of course I was a West Wing junkie.  But by the time House of Cards premiered last year, that show seemed like a pretty realistic portrayal of how Washington works these days.

It’s primary day in Georgia, and for a politically aware, moderate voter, it was pretty damn depressing. I made it a point to look at sample ballot in advance and do a little research on candidate positions and endorsements to decide who to vote for. In too many cases, it seemed like there wasn’t a whole lot of choice.  And the available choices weren’t that appealing. 

I’ve never stuck with one party or another.  I swing left on some issues, right on others.  I decide which primary to vote in by how the critical races are being decided.  Right now, I live in Cobb County, so a Republican ballot was a no-brainer – there aren’t any Democrats even running for a lot of the offices on the ballot.  But picking someone to represent me in Congress was like being offered a choice between syphilis, gonorrhea or herpes – I don’t want any of them, and is this really what I have to choose from?!?!

But abstinence isn’t an option when it comes to voting for me.  So what’s a girl to do but suck it up and try to pick the one who seemed the LEAST batshit crazy…

It occurred to me that this election season has been remarkably quiet to me.  Other than a few yard signs (not very many), it seemed almost invisible. Yet I read in the AJC that the Senate candidates have already spent $9 million on television ads, with outside interest groups adding even more to the pot. But here’s the thing… I usually watch stuff on Apple TV or Netflix, so I haven’t seen a single candidate’s television ads. When we moved down here in November, we didn’t bother with a land line, so I haven’t gotten any robocalls either. I get my news online, and I try to stick to less obviously biased sites, I haven’t even gotten many popup ads.

I don’t think I’m all that unusual in how I get my news and entertainment. I’m heading into middle age, and I think anyone under age 40 or so is probably even less connected to the mediums used by traditional political advertising.

What I have noticed is that much of the political “news” I see shared via email and facebook comes from sites that might as well be called “libruls-r-stoopid.com” or “die-evil-conservative-nazis.org.”  More and more, our news and information comes to us in an echo chamber where we hear only the perspectives that we THINK we agree with, or via “news” sites that put the political analysis somewhere in between lolcats, celebrity plastic surgery disasters and quizzes about which flavor of bubblegum best represents our inner being.

The scary thing is that our elected officials seem to be getting their information from the same sources too. Democracy is great, but it only works when the people making the policies have genuine and knowledgeable discussions and a willingness to at least hear each others’ points of view. And it only works when the people who elect those policymakers do the same.

Sadly, I don’t have any magic bullets or suggestions, but I’d love some thoughts on how to reach younger, more digital and more compartmentalized voters – and how we can all work to make ourselves more educated and effective participants in this crazy system.

But for now, I think I’m going to fix a drink and go watch a few episodes of President Bartlett and the gang…
Monday, May 12, 2014

Love and Pound Cake

A little while back, my father gave me an old set of pyrex mixing bowls that belonged to my mother. Sturdy, serviceable bowls that I saw millions of times throughout my childhood.  

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I missed my mom terribly. As I was fixing dinner last night, I thought about how many meals took shape in those bowls.   Biscuits on Saturday mornings.  Cornbread for weeknight suppers. The dressing every Thanksgiving.  Birthday cakes, cookies, brownies for treats. I close my eyes and I see Mom standing at the kitchen counter, with me watching.  Learning.

I learned to cook from watching my mother. What I didn’t realize – and she probably didn’t either – is that she was also teaching me about love. So often, we express our love in what we do for others. When I cook for family and friends, it’s a big, messy, delicious “I love you” to the people in my life. And I think my mom would like that.

And I think that’s a good way to start sharing some of my favorite recipes here… so first up is my current favorite variation on the first thing I cooked for myself – a pound cake. I made my first pound cake when I was 16 from the Southern Living Cookbook, which is still my go-to bible for southern cooking. When I moved out on my own, I unashamedly stole that cookbook from Mom’s shelf – how else was I going to survive on my own? To my credit, I gave her a new copy for the next Mother’s Day.

Since then I’ve probably made hundreds of pound cakes. They remain one of my favorite things to cook.  This particular version came in a later copy of Southern Living. I love the tart freshness of the lime, and I think it’s an ideal cake to enjoy on the patio with friends and family as the weather gets warmer.

Key Lime Pound Cake

What You Need:

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs $
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk $
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup fresh Key lime juice

For the Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to Make It:

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

2. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch (12-cup) tube pan.

3. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

4. Whisk glaze ingredients in a small bowl and immediately brush over top and sides of cake. Cool completely (about 1 hour).