Though you might think so, it’s not all cupcakes and bunnies here at Curl Nation. We have our serious moments too when we ponder the origins of the universe, world peace, and the like (not that cupcakes aren’t serious business, because they are).
Speaking of voting, leading up to election day, politicians like to talk a lot about change. About what they can do for you. About how voting for them will make your life better. Voting is really important, but then what about after? It’s not nearly enough.
Recently, I went and visited my Representative to Congress. He wasn’t actually representing my interests at all – we disagreed on some fundamental principles, and I wanted to talk to him about that. The sucky thing is, it’s unlikely that he’s going to change his mind, and this is someone I voted for. Twice. We’re supposed to be allies, this Representative and I, and it’s more than disappointing that we’re not. But even more disappointing? The lack of access to our elected officials in Congress. The knowledge that if I hadn’t gone with a more powerful coalition, I wouldn’t have gotten an in-person meeting, and wouldn’t have had the chance to air my position and concerns.
Affecting policy change isn’t only a matter of electing the right people. There are also many institutions and officials who possess a lot of power to draft and enact policies that affect the entire population, but since they are not elected, they are essentially not accountable to the public. As I made my way to a “public” hearing for one such state board that was considering a rule change that would affect all residents in my state, I pondered the barriers that were in place to prevent the “public” from participating in this process: 1) hearings were scheduled in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, 2) notice for the hearing was advertised only on the board’s website only in English, 3) no language or sign language accommodation was made at the hearing, 4) only 2 hearings were scheduled and both took place within 5 miles of each other. This assumes that if one could actually find out about the hearing (and how would you even know to check that board’s website?), that only English-speakers who live in this one particular geographic area, who are able to go to a 4 hour hearing in the middle of a workday, would be the only ones who might have something relevant to say about this topic. A rule that affects every person, of every age, of every race and ethnicity, in the entire state.
Both of these experiences have one main thing in common: access to our government and political process is way too limited. If you’re not lucky enough to be a paid activist, or to have an accommodating employer, or be a curler, or speak the right language, or live in the right geographic region, or know the right special interest group, your voice would not be heard. Too much of what is happening in our country and communities is being influenced by a privileged few.
It’s hard to stay informed. It’s hard to have conversations with people who have differing opinions. We need more civic engagement in this country, from all parts of the spectrum. I’m not asking you to participate and agree with me. I’m just asking you to participate. Maybe we can come to an agreement and maybe we can’t, but no matter what, our society and our communities can’t improve if the majority of us just let a few people make all the decisions.
Sure, getting involved takes time. And some of us have more time than others. I’m lucky and grateful that my curling lifestyle gives me the time and flexibility to work on issues that are important to me. And some of us have more resources than others. But everyone can do something. And all those somethings together is how change happens.
Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream
Makes 17 cupcakes
2 apples, peeled and chopped 1 tablespoon sugar splash cider vinegar
Cupcakesapple mush 1 egg ¼ cup oil ½ cup sugar ½ cup brown sugar 1 1/3 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon baking powder ¼ teaspoon cinnamon pinch nutmeg ¼ teaspoon salt
½ apple, peeled and chopped
1. Make apple mush. Peel and chop apples. Put apples into a small saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, the vinegar and water, then cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 10 minutes or so until apples are soft. Mash with immersion blender to make a thick mush. Makes about 1 cup (more or less). Let cool while preparing everything else.
2. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Put apple mush, egg, oil, sugar, and brown sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine well. Add the dry ingredients to food processor and pulse in brief spurts until mixed. Add fresh chopped apple and pulse until just combined.
4. Scoop batter into prepared pan; fill cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake tests clean.
5. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove and finish cooling on a rack.
Caramel Buttercream½ cup sugar 2 Tablespoons water 2 Tablespoons cream 6 tablespoons butter 2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla
1. Make the caramel by heating sugar and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer until caramel reaches a deep amber color. Remove from heat. Let cool for 1 minute and add cream. Caramel will bubble violently. Stir to combine. Set aside and let cool.
2. Whip butter. Whip butter until smooth, then whip caramel into the butter.
3. Make meringue. Place the egg whites, water, and sugar into a heat proof bowl (preferably stainless steel). Start whipping egg whites and while still whipping, place bowl into a large shallow pan of hot water (bring water to a simmer, then remove from heat). Continue whipping until egg whites are voluminous, shiny, marshamallowy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and continue whipping until meringue forms stiff peaks, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Whip caramel-butter mixture into the meringue. Whip in the caramel butter in 3 parts, whipping until smooth before each addition.