Malcolm and I were walking the hot streets of town the other day when we came across a basket of GI Joe figures in front of an antique store. It made me think of the movie Marwencol. It’s a fascinating, absorbing documentary – the kind you think about for a long while after you’ve seen it.
I couldn’t get it out of my mind, yesterday, and yesterday being independence day, the story of Mark Hogancamp became, in my melting little brain, a sort of allegory for America’s struggle for independence. In the face of violent intolerance, Hogancamp created his own country, with its own rules. The country, Marwencol, is hopeful, frightening, imperfect and evolving, and it’s the place where Hogancamp can escape from the physical and emotional reality of who he is, to be a different, better version of himself. And to pursue the justice that eludes him in the old world – the real world.
He’s a true eccentric, just as the people that first came to America must have been, and the people that created our country, and forged a path out west, surely were. It’s the creativity and passion attached to his eccentricity that make his new world possible. And the story of the new world is beautiful and hopeful, but it’s also violent and disturbing at times. Of course, the story of Independence Day is the struggle for freedom, just as the story of Marwencol is Hogancamp’s quest for freedom from who he is and from all that he’s lost.
David found a remarkable version of Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How it Feels to Be Free. She talks about what freedom means. She says it’s freedom from fear, it’s a new way of seeing something. There’s a line in the song in which she says that freedom means feeling a “little less like me.” She’d learn to fly, and she’d look down and see herself, and she wouldn’t know herself. She’d have new hands, new vision. She tells us that the Bible says be transformed by the renewal of your mind. God, she’s brilliant – she makes me speechless. But this is what I was thinking about on the 4th of July – eccentricity, creativity, the freedom to create a world for yourself and reinvent yourself. A new way of looking, and of seeing.
Speaking of eccentric! Speaking of yankee ingenuity! I envisioned this zucchini fritters with chickpea flour. They were all out of chickpea flour at the grocery store. I pretended to be a stubborn child, who wouldn’t leave the aisle till I got chickpea flour, the boys pretended to be stern parents. We all had a giggle. And I went home and made these croquettes with mashed up chickpeas. Which might even have had a better flavor, and a lighter, more pleasing texture. We ate these with pita bread, tomatoes chopped with mozzarella and basil, lots of fresh lettuce from the CSA and pecan tarragon sauce. You could use any kind of sauce you like, though. Something with tahini would probably work well! I seasoned these with sesame seeds, thyme, and sumac (zatar, baby!) All-in-all a nice summer meal.
Here’s that remarkable version of I Wish I Knew How it Feels to be Free.
One large zucchini, grated finely
1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 scallions – mostly white parts. Cleaned and chopped quite finely
1 t sesame seeds (I used black, but white is fine)
1/2 t dried thyme, or 1 t fresh
1/2 t sumac
1 t cumin
1/2 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 cup beer
salt and plenty of pepper
Olive oil for frying
To serve – pita bread, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, pecan-tarragon sauce
Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the zucchini.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, sesame seeds, scallions, and thyme. Stir and fry till the garlic starts to brown, then add the zucchini. Sautée for about 5 minutes till the pan gets quite dry. Take it off the heat and stir in the cumin and sumac. Scrape the zucchini into a bowl with the chickpeas. Squish with a potato masher and/or a fork till it’s fairly smooth, but still a bit chunky. You want it to retain some texture.
Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and beer.
Let the batter sit for 10 or 15 minutes.
Warm the olive oil (about 1/3 inch deep should do it) in a wok or frying pan.
When the oil is hot enough to fry a bread crumb, drop the batter by small spoonfuls into the oil. I made mine half-dollar sized, and flattened them a bit with my fork.
Using a slotted spoon or fork, turn the kofta till they get brown on both sides. Remove them from the oil and put them on a paper towel to drain. Then keep them in a warm oven or toaster oven till you’re ready to eat them.
Serve with warm pita bread, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and the sauce of your choice.