Spicy zucchini-corn risotto with toasted pumpkinseeds, and Risotto burgers

Zucchini corn risotto

Happy labor day! It strikes me as funny that many of the laborers in our workforce don’t actually get to call labor day a holiday, so I’d like to take a minute to thank the doctors, nurses, waitresses, cooks, grocery store clerks, gas station attendants, shop clerks…anybody working this rainy monday. I’ve been thinking a lot about work lately, because I’m looking for a job. Oh, I have a job, of course, but I need what they call a “real” job, because, as everybody knows, waiting tables is a completely surreal job. And everybody also knows that raising children doesn’t count as work, it’s more of a walk in the park, really. I’ve been thinking about what defines something as “work,” and it seems to be money. If you get paid to do something, it becomes work. And the more the work is valued, the more money you’re paid to do it. Some things that certain people do for fun, like playing baseball, making music, painting pictures, or writing, other people get paid to do, it’s their job. Some of them get paid quite a lot to do it. They’re very lucky! Sometimes I imagine an alien race drifting down to observe humans as we labor away in our wide array of jobs. I wonder if they would be puzzled to see that certain jobs are rewarded over others. If they’d scratch their bright green heads with their long frog-like fingers to see that, say, the CEO of a company that makes weapons that kill people is given much more money than the nurse that cares for us when we’re at our most vulnerable, scared and, probably fairly sickening, in our time of sickness. I videotaped a remarkable lecture, once. (I was paid to do it! It was a job of work!) The man speaking, and I regret that I can’t remember his name, said that the idea that there aren’t enough jobs, and there isn’t enough money to go around is a myth. If everybody worked the same hours – not a forty-hour work week, but a shorter one – and if we were all paid a more balanced amount for the work that we did…well, we could all live comfortably. Everybody could. That sounds nice to me. I wish it was possible. America has always been a country that values hard work, it’s part of our myth of who we are as a people. We work hard, we’re proud, self-sufficient, we are entitled to certain things, but only if we work hard enough to deserve them. The problem, of course, is that plenty of people work incredibly hard and still don’t get those things. Many of the jobs that require long, unforgiving hours doing work nobody else wants to do aren’t well-paid, don’t come with health insurance, paid vacations, job security, or any benefits at all.

Risotto burgers

Here’s a kind of work I call fun! Making risotto. It’s just the right amount of hands-on stirring and mixing. You feel involved! But it’s not finicky or incredibly time-consuming. You stir a bit, you wander away, you stir a bit more. My pet name for this particular risotto is “taco risotto.” It’s got oregano, smoked paprika, cumin, sage, and jalapenos – so it’s a bit smoky, a bit spicy. The zucchini is grated, so it blends in with the rice. The corn retains its bright sweet qualities. Risottos are soft by nature, so I thought it would be nice to add a bit of crunch in the from of toasted pumpkinseeds, which also bring their lovely and mysterious flavor. And I made some crispy toasted tortilla strips to scoop up the risotto.

The next day I turned the ample leftovers into big juicy burgers, which we ate on buns with tomatoes and lettuce. If I’d had an avocado, I would have sliced that to go along with it.

Here’s a playlist of work songs for labor day.
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