Gobble, Bobble, Weeble, Wobble

We had a delightful crowd for Thanksgiving – some we knew, some we didn’t, and I think it was one of our best hosting experiences in a long time. Everything just clicked, significantly owing to Sarah’s awesome culinary and hostessing skills.

My contribution was The WSJ’s cipolline in agrodolce, which is a fancy way of saying “sweet & sour cipolline onions” (cipolline onions look like vidalias which were left in the dryer way too long). That was delicious, but was fantastically labor-intensive – we made the error of tripling the recipe, requiring making two batches. The right approach would be to double the recipe, which would still fit in one sauté pan. Additionally, this isn’t a good “only” recipe for a cook – it traps you in the kitchen, so it’s better to be making this along with something else, although be warned: peeling all those onions takes a LONG time (it took me ~50 minutes to do 3lbs, because you’re trying to leave them whole, but peeled). Budget more than 2 hours from start to finish.

Quoted here in case the link goes away: In a large sauté pan heat 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and 2 ounces butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until butter is lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add 1 bay leaf and 1 pound medium whole cipolline onions, peeled. Season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and caramelized on both sides, about 12 minutes. (12 minutes my tuchus – it takes longer). Add 2 tablespoons sugar and cook until all granules have dissolved. Add 1 cup red wine vinegar and simmer until reduced completely, about 20 minutes. (this too takes longer). Add 1 cup chicken stock, then turn heat down to low. Simmer until onions are tender and liquid is reduced by half. Remove pan from heat and finish with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I discovered two new wines: a 2010 Gabriele pinot noir, which was delicious (although light, so went well with the turkey), and a 2011 Binyamina Reserve Sauvignon Blanc which had a crisp mineral taste which offset the sweet richness of the onions particularly well.

The overwhelming consensus at the table was the people were most grateful for their families and friends. An amusing bit of the meal was when I referred to the proper name of Sarah’s sugar-free cranberry sauce as “abstinent,” and folks decided that the other one, with sugar, was clearly properly described as “promiscuous.” Heh. None of that for me, then – I don’t know where it’s been!

All in all, fabulous!

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¡Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce!

I am not someone for whom writing about feelings comes easily, so please be patient.

I am grateful for many things: for my Lyme entering remission; for my band resuming from our hiatus; for having a good job I enjoy;  for living in a country where supporting the losing candidate in an election doesn’t mean fearing for my life; for being part of a supportive,and yet challenging, religious community; and for the countless miracles which go unnoticed on a daily basis.

But there is one thing which stands apart in my gratitude list: fourteen years ago today, Sarah was willing to accept a ring from me.  There had been good in my life before that, certainly, but an historian writing my biography would divide my life into the pre-Sarah and post-Sarah periods.  I could not have imagined then how much better life would become by being with her, and I know that were I to time-travel back to meet my former self, the other me would shake his head in complete disbelief at the possibility.

The good times are better in your company; and the bad times you make bearable.  Being with you is like suddenly being able to taste sweetness.
So in gratitude for the past fourteen years, and in wondrous eagerness for the next, I love you, Sarah: happy anniversary!

Turning the corner*

I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, along with Bartonella, babesia, protomyaxzoa, and a wicked strep, following a spectacular parvo infection nearly two years ago. It took a whole lot of painful, expensive testing to figure out what it was – spinal taps, EMGs, MRIs, oodles and oodles of blood tests, For these two years, my life has been on hold – I went through periods where I could not drive, periods of (what’s that word again…) aphasia, a sensitivity to vibration which was so severe that using an electric razor was not possible (and a straight razor was not acceptable according to Jewish law, even under these cases) so I was using depilitories (which largely didn’t work and ripped up my skin instead). I had to quit playing music, bicycling, exercising, and had to get used to saying “no” a lot.

In the middle of this, my father-in-law died, Sarah and I suffered three miscarriages, and I had an unrelated testicular torsion (which redefined my pain scale along with being completely humbling).

So now, after all that awful stuff, there’s something amazing:

my doctors (cautiously) think that my Lyme (et al) are in remission, and so I’m now being moved to the “wean off of the hideous treatment” protocol, rather than the “kill it dead” protocol.

41 cm of “not in my arm anymore” PICC line.

That picture is the PICC line that was removed from me on Friday – I was going to say “removed from my arm” but really it was removed from a lot more than that! Showering no longer involves plastic wrap and tape! As an aside for anyone else who gets a PICC line and is trying to figure out the whole shower rigmarole, first, shave your arm. After that, use regular plastic wrap relatively tightly around the site, followed by press-n-seal over-top of that (but the press-n-seal needs to attach to skin), and then use painter blue tape to seal up around the edges. Make multiple passes with the painter tape. Not having to do that means that easily 20 minutes got taken off of my morning routine. Yay!

Today at the synagogue, I said the prayer recited after recovery from illness, birkat ha-gomel

הגומל לחיבים טובות שגמלני כל טוב

which is normally translated “[Blessed is God who] bestows loving-kindness upon the culpable/guilty/unworthy for the good, for He has bestowed completely good loving-kindness to me.”

The thinking is that everyone has done something for which they could be culpable for Heavenly capital punishment, and a recovery from illness means that God decided not to exact that punishment upon us this time.

And just like that, a cloud has lifted from me: yes, there are still things wrong; infertility still sucks in spectacular ways, I still have a lot of drugs to wean from (Atovaquone [Mepron] is next), and I still have back trouble, but right now, I feel better than I have in years.

*The title of this post puns on the old name of the Lyme disease activist group “the Turn the Corner Foundation,” which has since become The Tick-Borne Disease Alliance. They are a good resource.

¡Bienvenidos!

I’ve been watching the Republican circular firing squad for the last week, as many many folks have written on the topic of immigration and/or courting the “Hispanic vote” (with the unfortunate monolithic implication that it carries), and I think that nobody’s quite got it right.

I wrote about this in dec 2007, in june 2007, and april 2006, but I’m not sure I said it clearly enough then: the problem is not amnesty or enforcement, the problem is the whole broken immigration system.

The right immigration policy for the United States can well be summed up (in my opinion) by the words of Emma Lazarus’s poem The New Colossus engraved on the Statue of Liberty:

…”Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

So then – if we’re getting oodles of people from points South, why not pick a few places and treat them the way Ellis Island was treated in the past? You get in, stand in line, get your provisional ID card (no government benefits for a few [3 perhaps?] years, but other than that, you’re an American now). We want people to come here and be Americans – this is the country which is founded on the idea that life here can be better (by dint of greater economic and religious freedom) than elsewhere: that’s why people keep trying to come here. It’s a good problem to have.

We should not indulge the nativists and those who cloak nativism in technocratic solutions: we don’t need H1-B, guest-worker, or any other funny temporary programs – we have plenty of people who want to come here and stay here, becoming Americans in the process.

Where we have gone off the rails is that we have built a system which is easier to evade than it is to follow. This is somewhere between foolishness and madness. Obviously border security is important: if the Canadians ever decided to invade, you’d better Beliebe that we’d be in for a world of hurt. We do need to be able to have a clear and coherent border security process where the folks allowed in are allowed in and the folks not allowed in are not.

HOWEVER, this foolishness needs to stop. The party of small government, of individual freedom and responsibility, of equal justice, and of civic duty, desperately needs to quit wallowing things that drive away people who want to (a) be left alone, and (b) build a better life for themselves and their families.

It’s time to fix the system. Let’s make a new covenant – “El Paso Island” perhaps – where we can normalize all of the hardworking, decent people who just want a better life. I don’t care if they don’t have any particular skills*: I had plenty of ancestors who came here from Europe without any particular skills*, and so did pretty much everyone else. Come on in, the country is fine, and we’re better for having you here.

* – that is, no particular skills except for the desire to work extremely hard.