Happy one-year anniversary to Wisconsin Fun Next Exit.
It was a year ago this weekend that I was seeking spinach and scones and deciding to follow the advice of Orangette’s Molly Wizenberg and create my own little corner of the internet universe. I have been feeling nostalgic for the giddiness that I felt when I sat down with a bottle of wine to write that first post late on a Saturday night one year ago. I have truly enjoyed writing this and I’ve been thinking about how nice it is of you to join me here. So, thank you.
This past year has been a memorable one marked by an uprising,
a (temporary) job teaching third grade, a Packers super bowl victory, the Brewers in the playoffs, a train trip to Seattle,
road trips, old friends, new friends, an honest effort at really loving yoga (although my triangle pose is still a disaster), a new-found love of cats, specifically the two 10-year-olds who became my roomates in June,
moving to the east side, an attempt at growing a vegetable garden and cooking. Lots and lots of cooking.
Oh have I got some recipes for you. There’s an incredibly easy and delicious one for whole wheat pasta with a sauce made of butter, cream and blue cheese (go for a run first!) and tonight (while talking to my dear friend Jenn who lives in D.C. but aspires to move back to Madison) I made a vegetarian version of french onion soup with toasts and melted swiss cheese that tasted rich and hearty on this blustery day in Wisconsin. I plan on telling you all about these and more but for now it’s off to bed. Tomorrow I’ve got a date with Lambeau Field and Tuesday marks the first day of the campaign against Walker. I’ll provide the soup recipes and you provide the signatures. Tis the season for a recall. Let’s do this, Wisconsin.
After three weeks of feeling the love and staying optimistic about winning the fight against the soulless tyrant now ‘leading’ my state, Tuesday night I finally gave in to the anger and was mad as hell. I needed to bang some pots around, wield knives and curse in the kitchen. I needed a recipe to match my fiery mood. I present to you, ‘Mad-as-hell puttanesca.’ It’s salty, spicy, tangy and impossible to screw up too badly (this part is key, considering I was cooking with blind rage and not paying much attention to what I threw in the skillet).
I was first introduced to puttanesca by my friend Derek (the Packer owner). Derek told me that legend has it that Italian ‘women of the night’ would make a batch of spaghetti alla puttanesca to put on their windowsills to beckon suitors. I love to picture the open windows and curtains wafting in the breeze while a pot of spaghetti sits steaming on a dark Italian night. Derek makes a more traditional puttanesca sauce with anchovies and herbs (I always forget about those pesky herbs). I never follow a recipe when I make it, but always include a few essential ingredients: olives, capers, and tomatoes.
Between tirades delivered to Dan and the stove, a captive audience, this is what I cooked up the other night:
tomatoes (crushed, diced or whole)- I like Muir Glen organic
olives- cured black olives work well
red pepper flakes
wine (red or white)
whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or penne)
Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes- I like a lot of heat, so I add a lot. Depending on how many you are serving, add some canned tomatoes and the juice (I added half a can for the two of us). I had some leftover tomato sauce in the fridge, so I added some of that, too. Pour in some wine- red or white works fine. To add a little color and up the health ante I added some kale that I tore into bite-sized pieces. Let this simmer and bubble for a while over low-medium heat. Boil water for the pasta. Rant and rave. Cry. Take a sip of beer. Chop olives, wave knife in air, curse. Heat oven for bread. Salt the boiling water. Add pasta. Take a breath. Add the olives and capers to the simmering sauce. Put bread in oven. Dress the salad. Stir pasta into the sauce. Take bread out of the oven. Serve the pasta in bowls with freshly shredded parmesan cheese from the state that is boiling with turmoil. Serve and attempt to enjoy.
The reason for my anger? After days and days of peaceful protests the governor illegally shutdown the Capitol to prepare for his budget address. For the first time there was an orange fence keeping protestors away from the state building in an attempt to keep the noise out of his lethal budget speech.
While we stood outside in the cold, the heartless and cowardly governor told a crowd of supporters (ushered secretly into the Captiol) inside that he plans to cut nearly $900 million dollars from Wisconsin’s public education system. He wants to take this money and give it to the people who fix roads. The same people who donated to his campaign and got him elected. On Tuesday I just couldn’t take it anymore and I erupted with sadness and rage. But now I’m back to feeling optimistic because, in retrospect, the governor is scared. I’m still mad as hell, but I also realize that the governor is working so hard to silence the voices of dissent because he knows that he is doing something wrong. I will continue to fight. And I hope you will join me.
Everything has turned into a chant or protest cry. There’s not a whole lot of time for cooking, doing the dishes, running or writing. The only thing that matters right now is standing united with thousands and thousands of people who believe that the only thing that matters right now is standing (and yelling) united. Everything else, including cookie recipes and inventing new pasta dishes, has been put on the back burner for now. Solidarity!
I have stood one foot away from Reverend Jesse Jackson and heard him tell a crowd of 20,000 that “the ground is no place for champions- we must rise.” I have woken up each day with a purpose- to get to the Capitol. I have watched my boyfriend, who usually can’t drive five feet into his hometown without getting pulled over (he has long hair and a van) run laps around the Capitol to find a pizza to offer to the hungry sheriffs watching over the peaceful crowd. While one power-hungry and confused man is trying to take away our rights, I have never felt more empowered or inspired. I want to be a better teacher, activist and friend. I have smiled more, cheered more, hugged more. I will hold on hope. Together we must rise.
And I have this great cookie recipe to share. I wanted to tell you all about how I burned out the motor on my handheld mixer trying to whip all of the delicious organic butter and how I found myself jogging one of the ingredients- 2 Tablespoons of booze, in the form of kirsch- in a jam jar down the slick bike path in the dark on Monday night, but something else came up. Late Tuesday afternoon as I was wrapping up a Social Studies lesson (naming South American countries with second graders) I was handed three versions of a letter (in Hmong, Spanish and English) to be sent home with the kids right away. The letter warned families of the possibility of excessive teacher absences over the next few days in response to a budget repair bill that had been introduced by Wisconsin’s governor. This was news to me. I attended the rally at the Capitol Tuesday night and received word at 11:30 p.m. that school had been cancelled the following day. Wednesday’s protest was eye-opening. I’ve never personally witnessed such a diverse group of people (and pets) coming together for a common cause. I’ve said the word, “solidarity” more times in the last few days than in my whole life and chanted something in a large crowd besides “Go Pack Go” for probably the first time ever. People keep asking me for reports of the Capitol rallies and all I can really say is, “It’s amazing.” And now the ‘Wisconsin 14’ have fled the state because they believe this legislation is moving too fast and that our voices deserve to be heard. Their bold action gives me hope. Watching my teachers and mentors chanting along with a new generation of teachers makes me proud. Hearing a firefighter declare to a crowd of thousands that we are all in this together makes me believe that we are. This isn’t about making more money or whining over pensions. Nor is it a fight between public and private employees, like they would like us to believe. It’s not even about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about basic human rights and one man’s power-hungry move to try to take them away.
I will share that cookie recipe when this fire burns down, but for now, Solidarity.