If you’re anything like me (and I can only imagine that if you are one of my readers, then we have at least a little in common), you are still shell-shocked. Every morning I wake up, am happy for about 10 seconds, then I remember our political predicament. There is a gray cloud of dread that follows me around like Pigpen’s dust.
And I know you are probably hoping that I have an amazing culinary cure for this — something you can cook that will comfort you and yours. I hate to break it to you — no amount of macaroni and cheese is going to fix this. Sorry if that bums you out. I’m bummed too.
One reason the situation hit me hard is that I have always been a super fan of America. I am a U.S. history buff. When I was a kid I installed a mini museum in my room, with placards describing “artifacts” I acquired at gift shops on my bicentennial trip back East. I visited the Freedom Train, the Americana exhibit that toured the country in 1976. I bought a fife, learned to play it and talked my sixth-grade music teacher into letting me play it in the concert band. I wore out my LP of the soundtrack to the musical 1776. I voted as soon as I could. I cry actual wet tears every time I hear the national anthem. I was Betsy Ross for Halloween once. And a Minute Man the year after. I followed the trail of Lewis and Clark. The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday (even though the Declaration was ratified on the 2nd, and it wasn’t fully signed until August). I have seen every episode of all seven seasons of The West Wing at least a dozen times. I am deep, deep into Hamilton.
In short, I love America, and I am not about to accept anything that is in the least little bit unAmerican.
But I am just a chef. I work with food for a living and have, like most people, a very small sphere of influence. There is no way that my flourless chocolate cake is going to change any minds. (Oh, if it were only that easy!) And I realize that no Tweet or Facebook post, no matter how on point, is going to convert anyone. All I can do — all any of us can do — is continue to call out injustice when it rears its ugly orange head. Maybe I just need to call it out a little louder now.
No minds will be changed overnight. Change only ever really happens one on one. So maybe that’s it. If I set an example of American patriotism, I might be noticed by a couple of people along the way. So with that, here are the patriotic things I will continue to do:
I will welcome your tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Send me the homeless, tempest-tossed — I will lift my lamp on my front porch. I don’t care what you look like, who you love, what you wear on your head, what language you speak, what god you revere or how you got here. I just don’t. Because life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the unalienable rights of all people — not just Americans.
I will respect your freedom to worship however you like. I’d prefer that you didn’t try to make me join you. Just go about your business, and I’ll do the same.
I will say whatever I want. I promise not to endanger you with my words, but it’s very likely that I will annoy you. But I’ll let you do the same, so it’s even-steven.
I will relish the fact that the press can say whatever it wants. I will also choose for myself where I get my news, because I know that much of it is crap.
I will continue to peaceably assemble. Not only is it fun, but it might lead to a redress of my grievances. If it doesn’t, I might burn a flag (though I probably won’t, because that seems dumb to me). But I won’t bully you, or try to scare you, or make you feel unwelcome. Flag burning is symbolic. Hate speech is appalling.
I will hold firm in my belief that our constitutional right to a well-regulated militia does not refer to those who are merely disgruntled, the Dukes of Hazard or the Bundys.
I will not quarter soldiers in my home (except when they are my invited friends), but I will continue to have great affection for the military.
I’m going to trust that the judicial system will follow the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments before they get all up in my business. If they don’t I will refer back to the First.
I will fight to keep my private business private. I’d prefer that you keep your nose out of it.
And finally, if I see that you are failing to uphold these tenets of liberty, I will call you out on it. Loudly. Publicly. Righteously. I’ve got to believe it’s what the Founders would want me to do in times like this.
Leslie Bilderback is a certified master baker, chef and cookbook author. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.