Thursday, December 09, 2004

It's hard work

I've been thinking about hard work ever since the September 30, 2004 Presidential debate when President Bush used the phrase "hard work" 11 times. He was talking about the war in Iraq but it got me to thinking about hard work in general.

The Presidency is hard work. Usually the pace is exhausting and the many issues which must be dealt with in depth, immediately, are many. But nobody is forced to become President of the United States (POTUS). President Bush chose to run for the office, leaving behind his wealthy non-presidential life, and spent millions to achieve the office. Somewhere there may be jobs that are not hard work but I can't think of what they might be.

Many jobs are difficult in their own ways although not what are traditionally thought of as hard. Picking tomatoes is hard work - backache, sunburned, finger cut, aching joint, bugbitten hard. Childcare is hard - backache, swollen foot, long day, hordes of germs, dry skin from washing so much, stinky diaper and vomit clean up hard. Being a jewelry artisan is hard work - sweating over the tools, trying to get idea from brain to metal after multiple failures and not usre how much more materials you can afford to ruin, pinched, cut, burned, putting yourself out to talk to total strangers and being open for rejection, living in your mom's basement when you are 32, struggling to pay the bills and taking other jobs so you can eat hard. Teaching is hard - planning for hours late at night, figuring out what you can do to help the kid in trouble, dealing with the hurt feelings and emotions of a 2nd grader, scrounging for 1.75 for a missing lunch, talking for hours, listening for hours, standing for hours, dealing with bureaucracy hard.

Many jobs include heavy lifting, hours on our feet, isolation or its equally exhausting counterpart unending interaction with other people. We take these jobs because we need to support ourselves and our families. We need to supplement the family income so that we can eat meat or have heat during the winter or pay for the car/gas/insurance that we need to keep healthcare and groceries in reach.

Sometimes the hard jobs have significant payoffs either monetary or emotional that make them worth the hard work or at least palatable.

When you have a hard job sometimes you gripe about the work. You whine about how unappreciated you are, you feel abandoned by your community, you feel bone tired and cannot imagine that a meal and good sleep will leave you feeling any better. I'm sure even the President feels that way. However, when you have the chance of a good meal and sleep then you are already doing better than millions of people in the world.

I acknowledge that the jobs I've had were hard and other people have even harder jobs and that I'm lucky to have had a job at all and that I've had food enough to keep working and a roof over my head. When I find myself chronically whining about work, I set myself two choices...shutup or move on to another job; I have choices of jobs and can move on, so does the President.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Supper tonight was Chicken with Lentils. It was delicious and the family wiped the pot clean. This is adapted from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe. I served it with Idli (frozen, microwaveable) and various pickles on the side.

Chicken and Lentils

4-6 Tb. oil, divided
3 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
a 2" stick of cinnamon
A dried chili or some sprinkles of crushed red peppers
I used about 1.5 lbs of b/s chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cans of lentils
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
8 oz of green beans - I used frozen
1 can of diced tomatoes or half a can of tomato pureePinch of asafetida (optional but good)
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1.5 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
ground chilies (optional)

In a large pan heat 3 Tb. oil or more as needed. Throw in the bay, cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and red pepper sprinkles. Sizzle for a minute. Put in chicken and brown it all over. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir. Add turmeric, lentils, beans, and tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes is up, in a separate small pan, heat 1-2 Tb oil, add in asafetida, cumin, garlic, ground coriander,garam masala, and ground chilies if you are using them. Sizzle for a minute or two while stirring. Stir the spice mix into the chicken and lentils and serve.