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A post-riot Shabbat: No-kitchen lemongrass and red curry soup with poached salmon

#tweetyourshabbat is a global movement founded by Carly Pildis, celebrating the struggle and joy of getting Shabbat on the table every week. This is a place for real dinners and real conversations about Jewish life. Join us at Forward in sharing what you’ll be eating and how your feeling this week at #TweetYourShabbat

Lemongrass and red curry soup with poached salmon

Lemongrass and red curry soup with poached salmon Image by Carly Pildis

I am writing this from my home in Washington, DC, where we are locked down.

I am sitting on the floor where my kitchen used to be. There is a city-wide curfew in place because the far-right extremists, including neo-Nazis and white supremacists, attempted to take the US Capitol today. They intended to reverse the results of the 2020 election and install President Donald Trump for another term.

Less than 20 of them were arrested for these acts of domestic terrorism, and they now roam my city’s streets. Federal law enforcement failed to arrest these domestic terrorists on federal property, and now my city, which is treated like a concubine of the federal government, disenfranchised and without representation, is left to face the potential violence. The people of D.C. deserve self-rule and autonomy from our federal government that has failed to protect us. Statehood, now.

This isn’t the column I planned to write this week. I had planned to write about the fact that I don’t have access to a kitchen right now. Major structural repairs on my family home have required our kitchen to be gutted. I am simply too sad and too angry to write any of this

It’s always like that when something sacred is violated, when something that seems as solid as a mountain shows a crack and you know for the first time it is possible for it to fall down.

So instead of writing a cheery piece on how to make Shabbat happen even in ridiculous and humorous circumstances, I am sitting on what was once my kitchen floor, overwhelmed with grief.

Grief for America. Grief for the people of DC. Grief for democracy. The grief that is tinged with rage. I am a political organizer, a mission-based vocation you cannot succeed in unless you believe in democracy. I train people in democracy for a living. It’s been my mission for over 15 years. I’ve trained them to vote, to mobilize, to lobby, to publish op-eds. I teach people that they are powerful within our system and I train them to use that power to fight for justice. The hours are long, the work is exhausting and it isn’t possible to do it year in and year out unless you really, really believe in democracy, and in the people’s ability to make a change.

I am not naive, I know we have really only been a democracy for the past 55 years. I know that there are always people trying to take the ballot away from Americans. Yet, I have seen the power of the people move Congress, make presidents, and change the world. I have stood with young people in the Halls of Congress who had believed that they weren’t going to be heard, that they didn’t belong because they were living in poverty, or because they were Black or because they were gay, or because they were women. I have watched what blooms in a young person when they realize they can make change, when they realize that this is the people’s house and Congress works for us. The look on someone’s face when they tell you that a Member of Congress said yes, they will do what they’ve been asked. Some of those people work on the Hill now, some called me in tears yesterday. I had no more wise words for them, other than that I still believe in the power of American democracy.

Yes, American democracy has always been flawed, has always been an unaccomplished project, has always been under attack. I will always be there to defend it, because I have seen what it can do. In the arc of history, democracy is never promised. Yesterday was a terrifying and terrible reminder that we must all fight for democracy.

When the walls are tumbling down, when the institutions you believe in are under attack, when those you trust to protect and lead you have failed, you can find solace in Shabbat. Whatever happens in a week, from a beautiful victory in Georgia to the deadly and devastating attempted coup in Washington this week, Shabbat still comes. No matter whether we are celebrating or mourning on Friday night, we light the candles, we eat challah, we pray. We rest.

So here it is, the recipe I crafted for this week. A comforting soup with strong Vietnamese influences. It takes only 10 minutes and it comes out fragrant with lemongrass, basil, cilantro, and curry, with delicate poached salmon, rice noodles and crunchy bean sprouts, and beet noodles. It’s an instant soup made Shabbat-worthy. You can make it because like me, you are currently without a kitchen, or because you can’t pull yourself away from the news, or because you were simply too tired and sad to cook this week.

Regardless, Shabbat is here and American Democracy still stands. God Bless America this and every Shabbat.

How was your week? How are you spending Shabbat? Let us know at #tweetyourshabbat! Everyone is welcome at this table! Come hungry.


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