I served my one day of jury duty yesterday. I spent my morning on a panel for a criminal case. After questioning, I was sent back downstairs, told to go to lunch for an hour and report back. After my Chinese lunch, I took a seat in the main room, only to be handed my $9.00 check and released until the next time I am called, perhaps in a year.
As I made my way down the stairs of the train station to return home, I was overwhelmed by the need to bake something. To work with my hands in a familiar environment. Walk in my garden, pick flowers for my table with the dogs at my side. To find color and warmth.
The Criminal Justice Center environment disturbs me on so many levels. There's the good, at least let's hope, and then there's the sordid, the ugly, the pathetic. I sat in a small room with total strangers for two hours, while one by one we were taken into the courtroom for questioning. Everyone is complaining. No one wants to get picked. I am fearful some may be untruthful in attempt to dodge the responsibility. Two point out that at least we live in a country where it's possible to be given a trial.
In that little room there was a table top artificial Christmas tree, fully decorated. It's September 18th, at this point it may as well remain; a couple more months, and it will be the season. That bit of decoration lent nothing but strangeness to the sterile, colorless place.
But you can tell, this environment makes people want to talk because there is nothing else encouraging you to feel human and alive. We would have been a chatty bunch after four days together, the expected duration of this trial.
Lucky me, I came home in time to pick Olivia up at school at the regular time. I kicked off my flats, walked barefoot in the garden, picking flowers, cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, and eggplant. I made cornbread to go with a vegetable soup for dinner. This morning we toasted leftover cornbread for breakfast.
My good fortune at being released is ultimately about being spared stories of gun violence and kids, and the burden of deciding the fate of two young individuals. Instead I sit in sunshine, in the company of snoozing dogs.
adapted from Bill Neal's Southern Cooking
1 1/2 cups yellow or white cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt and sift well. Beat the buttermilk and eggs together with 3 tablespoons of the melted butter.
Brush a 9-inch cake pan with the remaining melted butter and preheat in the oven for 5 minutes. Combine the liquid and dry ingredients, and stir until just mixed. Pour into the hot pan and bake 30 minutes in middle level of oven. When done, it will be golden brown and the cake will have pulled away from the sides of the pan.
Serves 8 generously.