Roasted mushroom and white bean soup (with smoked basmati rice, of course!)

Smoky roasted mushroom and white bean soup

Smoky roasted mushroom and white bean soup

American mythologies #3: The end is nigh. In America everybody will try to sell you something. That’s how the system works. Your waiter wants you to buy another drink, at the food store they want you to buy a lot of snacks you don’t need, at the clothing store they want you to buy more clothes than you’ll ever wear, at the big big stores they want you to buy all kinds of crap you never needed to know existed, your kids want you to buy cheese-stuffed pretzels and wrapping paper for some club or other, the nice artist next door wants you to buy his paintings, the failed novelist wants some publisher to buy her stupid novel, the pharmacists want you to believe you’ll die without their medicines, the people on the news want you to buy their lies about how everything is going to hell, so that you’ll watch more news and buy all the products their sponsors advertise. If you’re an American, chances are you, yourself, are trying to sell something to someone much of the time, whether you want to or not. All year long, but this time of year most of all, every bit of mail I get, either from the postman or my computer, every message I receive, is a frantic alert that I’m about to miss an opportunity! Time is running out! Everything ends in two days! Or ten hours! Or by the time you finish reading the message! Act now! Act now! Act now! Don’t delay or the moment will be gone. You will have missed it, and it will never ever come back.The sale will be over, and you won’t have bought the thing you never knew you needed at a slightly reduced inflated price, and you might as well just off yourself. And then you watch the news, which ignores anything of actual significance to warn you of deadly terrors that, well, they’re unlikely to touch your life, but YOU NEVER KNOW! And when you’re in a constant state of near-panic, a never-ending ferment of knotty anxiety, the last thing you want to hear is that this is your last chance! YOUR LAST CHANCE for an exclusive special offer! Beat the clock! Before midnight! Only hours to go! Limited time hot deal! TODAY ONLY!! FINAL HOURS!! FINAL HOURS!! * Your absolute very last final last chance! Until the next time, of course, because as soon as you delete that one email, or recycle that one flyer, another will appear in your mailbox, offering a different sale for the same product. And when you ignore that one another will come along. And another and another. Until it’s all just noise, the words have no meaning, time has no meaning, it’s not really passing, it’s in some strange cycle from day to day till the last syllable of the next dozen emails you open. The truth, children, is this: Time is passing at an alarming rate. It’s running and passing, and flying by more quickly with each unfolding day. So don’t waste it buying things. Don’t waste it in stores or online shopping carts. You will never regret not buying that one thing you probably don’t need, but you might regret time you don’t spend with people you love, doing things that you love. Act now! To make something you feel good about…a picture, a story, a meal. And when you do buy something, because you must eventually, try to buy it from somebody who, in making it, was doing something that they love. If time is running out, spend it well, it’s the most important thing you have to spend.

I told you I was going to put smoked basmati rice in everything I made from now on, and this soup is no exception! (You could make this with regular basmati rice or even white rice. It will still be smoky from the roastedness and the smoked paprika.) This is a really meaty, umami-isn soup. You could make it even more so by adding a dash of tamari, a smidgen of marmite, or a spoonful of miso paste. I didn’t think it needed that, though. It’s plenty flavorful as it is. It’s also pretty easy to make. It doesn’t take long to roast the mushrooms, and don’t be afraid to cook them till they’re quite well-browned, it will deepen the flavor. This soup will still be creamy, and it will be vegan if you leave the small bit of butter out.

Here’s Big Youth with Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. Spot the sample!

    Time is running and passing and passing and running, so you all better get it right this time, because there might be no next time.

* actual messages from my deleted folder!
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Smoked basmati rice!!! And smoky red lentil and pine nut croquettes

Red lentil and smoked basmati croquettes

Red lentil and smoked basmati croquettes

Well, I’m still thinking about American mythologies, and today I’m thinking about our creation myths. Maybe because it’s Thanksgiving-time, or because I’ve been helping Malcolm study for his social studies test, I’ve been thinking about the birth of our nation. The boys have been steeped in comic book culture lately, so I’ve been thinking of the whole situation more as an origin story than a creation myth. We think of ourselves as a super-power, after all. A superhero nation, coming to the aid of everyone else in need. “With great power comes great responsibility” could be our national motto, particularly when we’re trying to think of excuses to invade other nations, for one reason or another. And like all good origin stories, ours is fraught with drama, well-intentioned, and deeply flawed. Like all heroes, we have a weakness, visited upon us before our birth, deeply entangled with everything in our history, everything that has ever befallen or ever will befall our nation. I will admit to you that while I was studying with Malcolm, I was moved nearly to tears. (It doesn’t take much these days!) I was moved to think about these men talking about ideas, and to think that they recognized the gravity of their task. They knew how momentous a thing it was to forge a nation, and in doing so to discuss ideas such as natural rights. Natural rights! What a mind boggling concept! Every man is entitled to Life, Liberty, and Property. It’s such a beautiful thought. Until you read further, and you realize that, of course, it’s every white man. And there it is, the fundamental flaw. The system was created by white men to be protected by white men to protect white men. Any changes to it were made by white men for hundreds of years. For far longer than we’d like to admit to ourselves. And certainly things are changing, slowly and haltingly. But the fundamental fault in our foundation still resonates in every decision we make, every action we take, as people and as a nation. We can never forget that, and when we tell the myth of our creation, which has so much to admire and to celebrate we have to tell that part, too.

Smoked basmati rice, pine nut and red lentil croquettes

Smoked basmati rice, pine nut and red lentil croquettes

Smoked basmati rice!! Who knew? Not me. I found this at Wegmans and I was so ridiculously excited about it. It smells amazing when you open the bag, amazing while it’s cooking. It’s decidedly smoky tasting. I made it once just to try plain, and found it delicious. Then I had the idea to try it like this. And I’m quite proud of myself, because I wasn’t at all sure that it would work, but it did! First I soaked the rice and the red lentils (separately) for about eight hours. You could probably get away with five or so, but I don’t know for sure because I haven’t tried it. Then I drained them and processed them till coarsely ground. Then I added some smoked gouda, and egg, some pine nuts, some garlic and some smoked paprika. And I processed them again until fairly smooth. Like thick cookie batter. Then I fried them in a shallow pan of olive oil. Crispy, flavorful, and smoky like bacony baconless croquettes. We had them with a smooth creamy dipping sauce of pine nuts and (store-bought) harissa. And that’s that! You could easily add other herbs and spices if you like. I think you could make this without the egg and cheese, if you wanted it to be vegan. If anybody tries it, let me kwow! And you could easily make this with non-smoked basmati rice, if that’s all you have. Although, honestly, I’m putting smoked basmati rice in everything I make from now on!

Here’s Blind Willie McTell with Amazing Grace

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