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What did Emma Eat?

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Limping along though I am, fighting City Hall and feeling like the merest husk of a domestic goddess, I am wondering what other “Bad Rad” women throughout history did to feed their families when they were in the midst of political activism. I look at my calendar, and every night there is a meeting – City Council, a potluck where I need to hand out fliers, a neighborhood meeting where I need to catch people up and rally them to stay motivated, or a meeting that is part of my “regular” life of school activities, or seeing family and friends. Days are similarly encumbered. The Inbox is always full, and I play a little game with myself – I answer three messages about our civic battle, and then I can play solitaire, or paint my nails (black, lately). Three more sets of nerves calmed, three more fires put out, and I can read a chapter in my book. The phone rings constantly, sometimes reporters, sometimes angry people,  puzzled people, occasionally (if I am lucky) someone who just wants to know when the Macy’s bill will be paid.

So I think about women like Harriet Tubman, and Emma Goldman, and Sojourner Truth. What did their families eat for dinner while they were out marching, being arrested, and carrying signs? I was born and raised for this, and I should know the ropes.  My earliest memories have to do with attending a McGovern rally and listening to Pete Seeger and Peter Paul and Mary. I went to Oberlin College, and I have spent hours protesting everything from apartheid to nuclear proliferation. I became a lawyer because I was the foreman of a jury on which it quickly became apparent that the (probably guilty) accused was going to be convicted merely because his public defender was doing a sloppy job; this lit a fire in me to insure justice by advocating for those who were unable to afford a good defense. It was a mistake, the law school thing, and I only defended the criminally accused for a terrifying three month stint, but I did end up representing people with disabilities for many years, and the feeling of obligation to right wrong when I see it is still an important one.

The problem is that I never received any kind of education for “family life while leading an insurrection.” I assume that Mrs. King cooked for Martin and the kids, and, well, Ghandi didn’t eat a lot of the time. What happens when the woman in the family is at ground zero for the agitation? At my house,  meals are still expected on a regular basis, and although Mr. Annie is a fabulous guy (and not a bad cook) he has a full time job, and I don’t. The preparation of meals (along with the alleged cleaning of the house) has always been my gig, and one that I loved.

We have eaten pizza, we have eaten Thai, we have picked at leftovers and we have eaten canned tomato soup and grilled cheese. I want real meals, now, and I want to cook them. Was Susan B. Anthony worried about what anyone ate? Doubtful. Did Emma Goldman complain if her speaking schedule prevented her from enjoying a sit-down spread? Ptobably not. I suspect that if I burned with the true zeal of a reformer I wouldn’t care, either. I may never have books written about me as The Champion of University Town Aesthetics or The Enemy of Excessive Development, but my family is going to eat well this week, and I will be hailed on Forest Street as The Mom Who Made Dinner Again. Here’s what we’re eating in the cradle of the revolution:


Marinated, Grilled Chicken Breasts, Asparagus with Truffle Oil and Rice Pilaf

Sometimes I make marinade, sometimes I use salad dressing, and sometimes I buy marinade; this is a week when I’m likely to pick some Italianate dressing to use as my marinade. I’ll steam the asparagus and drizzle some white truffle oil over it; maybe a little of the Fleur de Sel my friend Alice just brought me from Williams-Sonoma.* (She brought me the white truffle oil from Zabar’s in Manhattan, too).


Spareribs, Oven Fries, Green Salad

My spare rib production method is definitely not authentic; my excuse is that I am a northern girl, and should not even pretend to be making real “cue.” I cook the ribs in a slow cooker or in a slow oven, covered with barbecue sauce, until they are fork-tender but not falling apart, and then we put them on the grill to get crisp.


Vegetarian Spaghetti, Semolina Bread, Green Salad

Since it is not time yet to get “real” tomatoes for making marinara, I buy the best sauce I can find, and sautee some veggies in olive oil to add to the sauce – zucchini, broccoli, onions, garlic, whatever comes to hand.  I’ll buy the Semolina Bread this time.


Pan-Braised Chicken with Mushroom Sauce, Small Pasta with Butter and Parmesan, Broccoli with Lemon Zest

Basically, I braise the chicken in olive oil until its just cooked through, then simmer it in some broth with a little Rosemary and garlic until its tender. Then I remove it from the pan, deglaze with some white wine, add sliced mushrooms and cook until they are tender, then serve the chicken with the sauce. (No sauce for Sam).


Drunken Noodles, Cucumber Salad


Quick Chicken Korma, Basmati Rice, Fruit Salad


Grilled Burgers with Vidalias and Guacamole, Potato Chips and Fresh Pineapple

*Alice, who is fighting my battle with me, bought me this beautiful, intriguing jar of salt in the hopes that I would cook something and blog about it instead of stewing about local politics. How could I refuse?


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

11 responses »

  1. Eric Williams


    You sound like one of those East Indian Goddesses with about ten arms. How do you do it all? I’m tired just reading about your hectic schedule. You are amazing!!!! And you seem to keep it in perspective, cuz that weekly menu makes me hungry and that’s sort of the point here, isn’t it. You go girl! You’re an inspiration and I truly mean that. xoxo Eric

  2. Ann,

    Eric is right (this time). Quick observation………

    Whatever the outcome, you shall sleep well, knowing you did your best. I do not understand what it means to just “let the chips fall’ either. Too much I fear the night that the monster comes, and I have not done anything to block his path. So struggle we must.

    Im reminded of Forrest Gumps run, when one day suddenly he just stops. He knows he has done what he was supposed to do, and he is released. We will not see it coming kid.

    I’ll be going fishing……..

  3. Sometimes you have to fight the fight. It is hard to balance everything. I as sure your family is glad that you are cooking. I love my crock pot during hectic life times! Good Luck! Christina

  4. We just ate a fresh pineapple and it was so good it felt naughty – its one of those things where I know I should be eating local produce, but (like artichokes from California) I can’t help myself.

    Have I forwarded you the information about the Community Supported Agriculture program at my old company, which owns Giving Tree Farms? I’ll do it right now while I’m thinking about it.

  5. Wow, Annie! That is an impressive weekly menu for an active activist!! I have cooked bbq ribs in my slow cooker but not crisped them up on the grill – when I’m in Alaska this summer, I’m going to try that out. How many hours do you leave them in the cooker before you slap them on the grill? I usually leave them in until the meat is actually falling off the bones and that would not work too well 😦 for this method. junemoon

  6. Reading this, I now realize that, while I was at Williams Sonoma (getting us a new meat thermometer) and wandering around trying to figure out what to get Ann to distract her away from City Center 2 and back to cooking-writing, I must have been drawn to the salt because I think of her as “salt of the earth.”

    Just to be clear how bad it’s been, so that you all appreciate her even more, the City Council meeting on Tuesday lasted FIVE HOURS. They finally adjourned at 12:30 in the morning on Wednesday. With all votes deferred. And no pee-pee breaks! When I got up to speak at hour 4.25, I congratulated the gentleman on Council on their excellent prostate health. And I thought about how maybe what we really ought to be doing is having Ann cook for them. Then we’d have ’em in the bag.

  7. Alice,
    I was afraid you were in this thing with Ann. I’m sure you have been breifed….Under all circumstance WASH thouroughly after any and all contact with City Council.
    Could be worse. Im out of Personal leave at work and all public hearings are scheduled at 1:30 PM Tuesdays. What I’d give for a rousing 12:30 AM chance to comment on the chairmans prostate on Public TV.

  8. imagineannie

    Robert – have I told you, lately, that I love you?

  9. Yeah, you can see why Ann is the Good Cop and I am the Bad Cop in this thing. She doesn’t know how to be truly bad, and I have zero ability to be good. Think how lucky I am, though, to be the person growing rosemary for the Forest Street Kitchen! I’ll bet y’all are jealous. I’ll have to grow some mint, too, so I can waylay (sp?) the Forest Street Cook into a mohito (sp?) when she comes to get rosemary this summer.

  10. imagineannie

    First off: sorry to take sooooo long responding to all of you; it was not a failure of love, but a failure of time and energy that kept me from you.

    Eric, Its a mom thing, I think. Maybe just a woman thing. Believe me, after periods of great activity and fierceness come GREAT periods of retreat and exhaustion.

    Robert, truer (and more helpful words) were rarely spoken. Its getting to be stopping time, I think. One more step and I’m into obsession…then I turn into Ralph Nader. I’m cuter than Ralph Nader, and I like it like that.

    Kristin, thanks so much for the info on the CSA!! As for the Evil Non-Local Pineapple, there is one on my counter right now. I think a world without fresh pineapple is too much to ask, even for the sake of being a localvore. (locavore?)

    junemoon, it depends on what kind of ribs. I tend to get the Western Pork ribs that have lots of meat on them – almost like pork chops, and those can go 8 hours in the slow cooker before hitting the grill. A less meaty rib would maybe go 6. I guess around 6 hours I would start lifting the lid and poking, going for no resistance to the fork but stopping short of being able to flake pieces off easily. I hope this helps, if not, let me know and I’ll try to be more scientific and less poetic in my explanation. 🙂

    Alice, now that I have actually seen the herb garden, I have visions of spatchcocked chickens grilled with rosemary under the skin, pasta with sage butter sauce, summer vegetable soup with thyme, and yes, I’ll be having a mojito. (You were close). Perhaps i can just drink mojitos and watch the herbs grow…..

  11. imagineannie

    Oh, I missed Christina – I have fought the crockpot, but honestly, there are some times when it just saves my rear end.


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