I’m sort of in a rage right now*. It might be that I’ve had three bourbons tonight, or it might be that just a few minutes ago, on my phone, a notification popped up informing me that Donald Trump intends to do away with the tax subsidies that have allowed tens of thousands of Americans to purchase their own health insurance at an affordable price.
I dunno, maybe it’s a combination of the two.
I wrote a post yesterday about this pumpkin soup that I’ve been making for years. It’s easy, it’s comforting, it’s delicious. Recently I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to post more recipes on School of Home because food is a big part of my identity, and a huge part of what Harper and I are trying to convey here on this website. Food is home, and home can often be found in food.
Well. Fuck that. (Not the food-is-home sentiment, but rather the original folksy post about the soup.)
I want to share my recipe for Easy Pumpkin Soup, I really do. I also want health insurance. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive, yet somehow it seems utterly cruel and inhuman that I would even have to utter that last part.
As a condition of many of the jobs I have worked over the past decade I have gone without health insurance. I once broke my pinky finger during a game at a gay kickball league (one of the gayest injuries any person can ever sustain) and went to the hospital, sans insurance, to deal with it. After seeing the bills I wish I had just re-set the finger myself or cut the damn thing off.
Imagine if that had been my wrist. My leg. A heart attack. Cancer.
The Affordable Care Act meant that for the first time in my adult life I could actually afford to purchase health insurance without a major financial sacrifice. I’m not talking about sacrificing cable TV or buying video games. I’m talking about deciding whether I could afford car insurance so that I could drive myself to work or whether I should spend that money on health insurance. Pay my student loans or pay for health insurance? Pay rent or pay for health insurance?
I sit here today in admittedly a much more fortunate position, however still dependent on the ACA for my health insurance. All but one health insurance company has dropped out of the North Carolina market recently. By my own research (seriously, I called up a Healthcare.gov representative the other day), re-enrollment in the most basic of health plans this fall was going to mean a premium increase in the HUNDREDS of dollars each month.
And that was with the subsidy.
Without the subsidy it is within the realm of possibility that my out-of-pocket health insurance costs would have increased by more than septuple what I had been paying. Even before Trump’s announcement that he would end subsidies I was looking at a premium jump of over 750%. My out-of-pocket insurance costs would have gone from just shy of $1200 a year to closing in on $10,000 a year.
Now I’m not saying that the Affordable Care Act is perfect. I’m not saying that its the right answer to our health care issues.
I’m also certainly not saying any criticisms I have warrant its dismantling.
What I am saying is that what Donald Trump and his misfit band of heartless cronies are doing right now is cruel.
They are dangling the very lives of the most vulnerable amongst us in the air while they enrich the pockets of their peers.
They are hell-bent on carrying out a political vendetta at the expense of the American citizens they pretend to represent.
So I sit here tonight with my bourbon and my rage and the assumption that rather than re-enrolling in a health plan, however imperfect, next month, I will most likely be once again joining the ranks of the uninsured.
Self-medicating when I feel a flu coming on. Ignoring chronic pain or persistent dental problems. Crossing my fingers that I don’t get in a catastrophic accident, and knowing that when and if that does happen, the only way out of that debt will be bankruptcy.
At least I have soup. Soup is easy, and comforting, and will never hurt you (unless you spill a pot of scalding hot broth on yourself, hope you have insurance).
So here’s a recipe for Easy Pumpkin Soup. I meant to present it to you with all the joy and excitement I feel each fall as the weather turns colder and I can start pulling out my sweaters, but Donald ruined all that, as he and the fascist asshats that surround him have ruined many days this past year.
All I can give you today is anger, frustration, and a soup recipe.
This truly is Easy Pumpkin Soup - the whole thing comes together in under 30 minutes and can be endlessly modified. Toss in some spices if you wish - cinnamon and cloves if you want to take it in a more pumpkin pie direction, curry powder and paprika if you're looking to get interesting.
The simplicity of this recipe can also be its downfall. Because there are so few ingredients, quality is paramount:
Use real maple syrup, not pancake syrup; Aunt Jemima has a place and time, and it is not here.
Homemade vegetable or chicken stock will go miles in this recipe.
Make sure you have pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling.
Lastly, if you can get your hands on pumpkinseed oil please do - not only does it add an extra depth of flavor to this soup, but its also amazing in salads or drizzled over cheese.
1 - 32 oz can pumpkin puree (or two 15 oz. cans)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
½ cup sour cream
1 Tbsp minced chives
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 crushed garlic cloves. Saute, stirring frequently, for about 4-5 minutes or until the garlic has just barely begun to brown.
Add the can of pumpkin puree and cooking, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes or until the puree starts to slightly deepen in color.
Add the stock and half-and-half or cream and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the soup has reached a simmer stir in the tablespoon of pure maple syrup along with a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile mix together the ½ cup sour cream and the tablespoon of minced chives in a small bowl.
After 15 minutes remove the pot from the heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Serve the soup warm with a dollop of the chive sour cream and a few drizzles of pumpkinseed oil. Some crusty bread for dipping would make a nice accompaniment as well.
*I started this essay at 11:35 pm, Thursday October 13, 2017, approximately 15 minutes after I first heard of the new policy change. It was finished by 12:30 am, Friday October 14 2017.