When one candidate seems not to want the Presidency and to be unwilling to pretend that he does, and the other wants it so badly, he’ll say anything to get it, it makes for a lopsided, terrible, weird debate. There was the weary, abstracted, exhausted incumbent at one podium, hunching and scribbling and grimacing. And then there was the eager-beaver challenger at his, hopped up as a frat boy trying to get into a girl’s pants, hiding the roofie in his pocket as a last resort.
“Of course I love you, baby,” he lied. “Of course I care about you as a person. Of course I’ll still respect you afterwards.”
“If you believe that,” said the incumbent, “then vote for this guy.”
“Vote for this guy” echoed a little too convincingly.
We had made a good debate supper, cheeseburgers and oven fries and a cucumber-tomato-arugula salad, in the spirit of trying to hold on to the last shreds of summer. We had about half a bottle of decent red wine open; we poured it and settled in to watch.
“Is Romney the only person in America who’s not bored right now?” I asked at one point.
By the time it was over, we’d worked our way through most of another bottle of wine. Our burgers seemed to have given us dyspepsia.
“Asher Platts for President!” said Brendan.
Asher Platts is a local Maine State Senate hopeful running on the Green Independent Party ticket. We see his homemade, punk-rock-looking signs all over town. One day, he came to our door. He’s very tall and skinny, and there’s something of the serious 19th century statesman about him, young and inexperienced though he is. I was sorry to tell him that we’re registered to vote in New Hampshire, so we couldn’t support him.
I slept badly that night and woke up yesterday morning feeling even more jaundiced as well as muzzy-headed from all the wine I’d had to drink to get through the debate. At the soup kitchen later on, my fellow volunteer, Teresa, and I agreed that “none of the above” seemed like the most viable choice.
“I didn’t watch, said Monica, the kitchen supervisor. “I cooked instead.”
We agreed that Monica had made the right decision.
Brendan and Dingo and I drove out to the farmhouse in New Hampshire yesterday afternoon to spend the weekend. When we got here, the green meadows were alight with dying, golden milkweed. The trees were ablaze in the drizzly fog; the mist hung over the woods, and the lake glinted slate-grey off through the trees. The world felt vivid, intimate, and fragile.
We wrote all afternoon. When my work was finished, I read about the Maine Tar Sands project: a 67-year-old pipeline now carries crude oil from tankers in Casco Bay in South Portland up through the pristine, lake-filled Maine and New Hampshire wilderness to Montreal. This seems bad enough, dangerous enough. But evidently there’s a terrible, potentially catastrophic plan afoot to reverse the direction of the flow and send hot, sandpaper-like Tar Sands oil from Montreal to Casco Bay across the White Mountains into Maine, directly crossing the water supply for most of the region’s people. This is scheduled to be determined in less than two years.
My jaundice shaded into despair. I thought of Monica, avoiding the debates, cooking instead. I rooted around in the cabinet above the counter and found most of a bag of Jacob’s Cattle beans and poured them into a colander, rinsed and picked through them, then put them in a big pot with a lot of water, brought them to a boil, and left them to sit overnight. Just that simple thing cheered me up: I was going to make Boston baked beans.
This morning, I rinsed the soaked beans well and covered them with fresh water and let them simmer for a couple of hours while I worked. We took our daily walk with Dingo to the end of the road and back, then Brendan went to town for salt pork and booze and a few other supplies. When he got back, I got to work.
I drained the soaked beans over a bowl and reserved the liquid, then put the beans in a glass baking dish with one finely minced onion and half a pound of chopped salt pork. In a small pot, I put molasses, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt, pepper, and brown sugar and brought it to a boil with some of the cooking liquid. I poured it over the beans and covered the dish with aluminum foil and put it into a moderately hot oven and left it there.
After another hour and a half of work, I checked the beans, added more liquid, left the cover off and put them back into the oven. We made cocktails: a Dark and Stormy for Brendan, a “sippin’ tequila” for me: silver tequila on the rocks with half a squeezed lime.
Thanks to the tequila, I felt my spirits moving in a sideways direction: not lifting, but no longer stagnant; like a detour when you’re caught in traffic, you get to the same place faster, at least. I cut two small delicata squashes in halves, scooped out the innards, and put them on a cookie sheet. In each half, I put ground cinnamon, fresh sage sprigs, black pepper, and olive oil. I chopped half a red cabbage into ¾ inch thick rounds and splashed olive oil and black pepper on them and arranged them next to the squash and stuck them into the oven.
Soon, I’ll chop the beautiful, springy, extremely fresh jacinto kale into bite-sized pieces and put them onto another cookie sheet and roast them. Meanwhile, the baked beans smell amazing. Outside, the world is dying and heartbreakingly beautiful.