Anne’s Minestrone col Pesto

6 servings
90 minutes

200g dried mixed pulses (e.g. red kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans, spelt, “green grain” (unripe spelt), red lentils, split peas, red or brown rice. I use Davert’s “Bunte Minestrone/ varied minestrone” mix, 49810)
1 large white onion
1 small leek
4 small peeled waxy potatoes
2 carrots
2 parsley roots
2 sticks of celery, or small piece of celery root
2 small zucchinis
2 tomatoes (boiled, peeled, sieved)
400ml good chicken stock
150 g soup pasta (heart-shaped pasta or wagon wheels/rotelle)
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs pesto
salt, ground pepper
4-6 tbs grated Parmesan
bunch of fresh sweet basil or borage, with flowers

Soak the mixed pulses overnight, for at least 12 hours.
Throw out soaking water, simmer separately in fresh unsalted water for 30-40 minutes.
Slice onion, leek, potatoes, carrots, parsley roots, celery, zucchinis. In a large pot, sauté onions in a drop of olive oil until translucent. Add the other vegetables, and fill pot with 1.5 liters of water and the chicken stock. Skim the foam from the boiled mixed pulses and add them to the soup, along with the boiling water (which should amount to a cup or two). Simmer soup over low heat for 30 minutes. Then add sieved tomatoes to the pot. Finally, add salt & pepper and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Just before serving, bring soup to a boil and add the pasta hearts or wheels, cooking until they are al dente (about 5 minutes). Then turn off heat, mix pesto with a tablespoon of the soup and the rest of the olive oil and add. Serve with fresh basil/borage and grated Parmesan, and have a pepper mill and olive oil to hand at the table.

Bon appetit!

Democratic Conventions

I found Michelle Obama’s speech very interesting to watch. She’s an icon to professional women, and a fine speaker, obviously, and so beautiful. Her messages are reassuring, reasserting values and good, decent, community-building citizenship, telling stories to remind everyone how what Obama has achieved is based on his “down-home-and-real” deep-seated beliefs. All good.

But seeing her performance (and it is classic prime-time TV) brings home what it means to have to “do rhetoric” to be elected, because it includes applying a thick veneer of perfect public protective polish on top of stories engineered and strung together to pull heartstrings. That will in fact make you go ah! or ugh!, depending on whether you are actually ready to have your heartstrings pulled and to surf in on party patriotism, or not. Me, I sit here dourly scratching my head and think: Do they really have to pile all that on? Do they really have to play the “conventional” card?

Maybe, yes.
But then again, maybe no.

After all, there’s Bill Clinton. Unconventional, passionate, wild, real Bill. Rules of rhetoric? of course. Populist? always. Clichés? no. Going through Republican arguments point by point, and defusing them. And then zooming in to focus on Obama’s continued commitment to bipartisan politics (a key element in his politics from the start):

“He also tried to work with Congressional Republicans on Health Care, debt reduction, and jobs, but that didn’t work out so well. Probably because, as the Senate Republican leader, in a remarkable moment of candor, said two years before the election, their number one priority was not to put America back to work, but to put President Obama out of work.
Senator, I hate to break it to you, but we’re going to keep President Obama on the job!”

And the best part is how he builds on his own work to say that we need cooperation:

Through my foundation, in America and around the world, I work with Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are focused on solving problems and seizing opportunities, not fighting each other.
When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics, but in the real world, cooperation works better.
What works in the real world, is cooperation!

Not only does Bill Clinton still love politics, he still makes politics fun, because he’s got real, muscular, scrappy values. Yeah! Whoop! Come on, damn the veneer, let’s get down and be political!

Text of Bill Clinton’s Address to the Democratic Convention, September 5, 2012, WSJ Washington Wire

The Menopause Blues

A “taboo” topic not normally covered in course books, yet one that my generation, getting up there in years, is thinking about, even if we don’t talk much about it outside of girlfriend circles. Laughter helps with pretty much anything. Comic relief for the Menopause Blues, by Cybill Shepherd:

“If you’re feeling dry,
just make yourself a drink.
Splash vermouth and estrogen…
It’s later than you think!
I’ve got those menopause blues.
Those hot-flashing, non-ovulating,
mood-swinging menoplause blues!”