There will be talk of food today. That will be the sweet part. But before we can get to the sweet part, I’ve got to get the bitter part out into the open.
I promise. This will be just a few short words about being blind to the hate that surrounds us.
Intellectually, I know that Serbians hate Croatians. You can pretty much substitute any two groups in the statement. Sunnis and Shiites are good ones. Hutu and Tutsi also work. But do you know how much of that real animosity, violence, and intolerance I see on a daily basis?
None. Zero. But just because I’m not aware of it, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Fifteen Jewish Community Centers in at least five states received bomb threats by phone. Yesterday. Thankfully, these were just merely acts of intimidation. But there were no bombs. Only the evacuation of small children while officials searched the buildings for explosives.
Think for a moment, what it was like to be one of those kids.
Or one of those teachers.
Or one of those parents.
It makes sense why some people will not see this as a hate crime. Jews are only about 2 percent of the US population. We forget this, living in New York, but most people across the country don’t see us at all. And they certainly haven’t been exposed to the hate directed at us for centuries.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. It is. And right now, in America, it’s louder than ever.
Okay. That’s the bitter. Now onto the sweet. And nothing is sweeter than candy. So I thought I would share a little something surprising that I stumbled upon while shopping yesterday in Trader Joe’s.
All pizza is beautiful.
Well, not all pizza. But all the different and varied styles of pizza can be wonderful. Naturally, not all versions of a form are as good as others. Just like there are crappy New York style places in Manhattan, there are crappy deep dish parlors in Chicago.
Over the years I’ve come to soften my narrow-minded approach to evaluating pizza. For years, I insisted on judging the quality of a place based on its plain cheese offering, with the notion that if a pizza maker couldn’t do the basics well, then nothing else mattered.
All that resulted in was the loss of a lot of joy. I learned this lesson the hard way, many times, as I tried to choke down an unsatisfying cheese pizza while drooling over the specimens a couple tables down covered with gorgeous chunks of sausage and crisp discs of pepperoni.
So what does this have to do with hummus?
I consider myself lucky. My first Chicago style hot dog was had in Chicago. And I had a Chicagoan order it for me, just to make sure I got the right thing, the right way.
Yes, I had heard of Chicago dogs in the past, with their tomato wedges, pickles, sport peppers, and celery salt. However, as a kid who grew up eating dirty water dogs from pushcarts in Manhattan, these midwestern variations on the form sounded like heresy.
But I won’t soon forget that first experience of eating a Chicago style dog, which was surprisingly good. Nor can I forget the first time I had dim sum, Raf took me to some place in Miami, and I was completely underwhelmed. There are stories upon stories. The first time trying ribs. The first time encountering sushi. My first taste of a fresh fig.
All of these food events have been indelibly etched into my mind. I’m guessing you probably have a few similar experiences. And if you would like to share a story or two, I’d love to hear about them. But I’m bringing up the significance of trying new foods for the first time because last night I got to do something super special.
All good stories start with “Once upon a time.”
Once upon a time there was a man who was a sucker for clever marketing schemes. One would think that by the time he was in his forties, he would know better. One would certainly hope that a fellow of his advancing years would stay away from social media and the power of the modern hype machine.
But you would be wrong.
Last year, when Nine Pin Cider announced its 26er program, the profussor couldn’t resist the power of its charms. Every two weeks, the local cidery would produce some very special batch of cider, available on tap only at a handful of local establishments. There would be 26 in all over the course of 52 weeks. And if you found some way to try them all, there would be a prize.
Frankly, I can’t even remember the prize. I do know there was a punch card. And that punch card has been in my wallet for almost a year. Today is the release of the final cider. That’s right. Number twenty-six.
From the beginning, I thought I was doomed to fail. And to be honest, up until yesterday, things were looking pretty bleak. But then I got a last minute save.
Seasons in the Capital Region are a funny thing. Recently, I’ve adopted a rather unorthodox way of looking at winters up here. Instead of thinking about it as one season, it’s really three. I wish I could take credit for this, but this idea is directly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut:
November and December aren’t winter. They’re Locking. Next comes winter, January and February. Boy! Are they ever cold! What comes next? Not spring. ‘Unlocking’ comes next. What else could cruel March and only slightly less cruel April be? March and April are not spring. They’re Unlocking.
Which means that winter has finally arrived. I have to tell you, I’m so much happier in general during the colder months with this revised outlook on the seasons.
Do you know what else gets me through winter? Beans.
Happy New Year! I’m going to take a moment to share a couple of lines from a Fiddler on the Roof song:
God would like us to be joyful
Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor
May all your futures be pleasant ones
Not like our present ones
And if our good fortune never comes
Here’s to whatever comes
Drink, l’chaim, to life
Here’s to joyous occasions. I hope your holidays were full of as much joy as you could muster. Mine were a little lighter on the fried foods and a little heavier on the meats. In the past week I’ve enjoyed two standing rib roasts, a wedge of scrapple, hotdogs, kielbasa, pulled pork, breakfast sausages, hamburgers, ham sandwiches, liverwurst, pierogi, dried sausages, chicken livers, pate, donuts, cupcakes, and more.
Yesterday, I bumped into a friend who was looking for jeans at Nordstrom Rack. I could use some more jeans, but I’m not going to be trying on any pants for at least a few weeks. My shopping trip was all about socks, and I scored some great pairs.
Let me put this out there right now. This is a terrible time to make a resolution to lose weight.