Friday, December 02, 2016

Surviving in the Post-Trump World

I have gained approximately 100 pounds since Trump won the election and I feel like I've aged ten years. I have to get my act together and come up with a plan for staying sane for the next four years before I end up in an Oreo coma or a straightjacket. These are the options:

  1. Retreat entirely into a fantasy world of knitting and comfort lit.
  2. Embark on four years of rage, activism, and civil disobedience.
  3. Absent myself from Facebook and Twitter and rely on one trusted news source, to be checked no more frequently than once a week. Regularly donate to groups that can effectively fight the Trumps. Engage in periodic acts of activism, but don't try to fight everything.
  4. Move to a different country and watch our destruction from a safe distance.
Obviously, option three is the most sensible, but I really needed to write it out for myself. Option four has possibilities too, but is considerably more difficult. Given that Jon and I work in high-demand professions, with diligence, we might be able to find jobs overseas. The main problem is that I'm not willing to abandon my children here and since three of them are adults and one will be going off to a university, taking them with me might be tricky. The other problem is that Jon doesn't want to leave the US but I think life here will become intolerable. Jon himself has experienced a hate crime of sorts. He was at the grocery store, wearing a scarf that a friend bought him in Turkey. The scarf's print is recognizably Middle Eastern. Anyway, a random white man, for no reason whatsoever, came barreling toward Jon and forcibly elbowed him out of the way. The store wasn't crowded and there was plenty of room to get by, so we concluded that it was an act of aggression. It was certainly acknowledged, long before the election, that the United States is a racist country, but the fact that so many people now feel empowered to aggressively demonstrate their hatred is deeply disturbing. I think that all of us - truly ALL of us - harbor some amount of prejudice. However, decent and thoughtful people have the ability to detach from their prejudice, to examine it, and to work to overcome it. Since the election, some people have completely dispensed with decency.

Since long before the election, I've been in a constant state of outrage over the way that sexual assault victims are treated in the criminal justice system, particularly the odious case over the summer in which a rapist was given a light sentence because he's a college athlete. I wasn't the most enthusiastic Hilary Clinton supporter (I preferred Bernie) but I was optimistic that a woman president would be a huge blow to out hateful patriarchal culture. My vote for Hilary Clinton wasn't just a vote against Trump, but a vote for women. So you can imagine what a crushing disappointment it was that we elected a sexual predator instead. Now, every loathsome creeper who ever leered at me or made comments or tried to grope me on the bus is legitimized. Jon and I had a massive screaming/yelling fight the day after the election because he just doesn't get what it means to be a woman in the United States. I am still so fucking angry. This is the main reason I'd like to get the hell out of the US and take my children with me.

On the other hand, what would the US look like if everyone who had the means and education to leave did so? If an opportunity presented itself to you, would you consider leaving the United States?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thanksgiving Aftermath

Fun fact: Spatchcock, in addition to being a method of preparing a fowl prior to roasting, is also an incredibly awkward-looking pole dance maneuver.  Either way, it means you end up with legs that are at an acute angle in relation to the head.

I had a great deal of difficulty cutting the spine out of the turkey, and had to resort to using Jon's tin snips, because my kitchen shears are useless. It was an incredibly gory operation and my kitchen looked like a crime scene when I was finished. Apologies to those of you who follow me on Instagram and already saw this horror show.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

Once you've finished violently wrenching out its spine, you flip the turkey over and perform CPR on it until its sternum snaps and you end up with a splayed out bird that allegedly will roast much faster than if you had left it in its natural state.

I used the Bon Appetit recipe that was circulating the internet. You brine the turkey in orange zest and aniseed and then baste it with olive oil infused with more orange and aniseed.  It was mostly a success, although the orange flavor didn't really come through and I didn't wash the brine off thoroughly enough, so bits of it were salty. But also tender and juicy with a subtle hint of anise. It took a lot longer to roast than the recipe said and we finally gave up and ate it.

A photo posted by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

Could have used about twenty minutes more in the oven.

We stick to a pretty traditional menu, but I always like to try at least one new dish. This year's newcomer was a sweet potato/swiss chard gratin from Smitten Kitchen. It was delicious and worth the time it took to prepare three pounds of Swiss chard. Five stars! Would make again!

Aside from the food, it was lovely to have all four children home for the holiday. Even Ian slept over on Thanksgiving night, though he lives only a mile away. In our quirky old house, all the bedrooms open up to each other, so when everyone is asleep, with our collective breath heating up our tiny bedrooms, it reminds me of a cozy beehive. It was wonderful to be the first one up on Friday morning and to see all of my children - even though they're young adults now - safely tucked into bed and sound asleep.

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving. What was your most successful dish this year?

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving and Despair

For this one week, I'm going to try to put aside my post-election angst. Ever since that horrible Wednesday, I've been increasingly bewildered and angered by the news. Of course it's no surprise that Trump's political appointees support his agenda of enriching himself at the expense of the earth and the American people. Did you really think Trump was going to end corruption in Washington? You got played. But the news from the liberal side also has me in a tizzy: Ignore Trump's gross behavior, focus on his policies! Stay angry! Not normal! Hamilton! Ignore Hamilton, focus on Trump's $25 million settlement of the Trump University fraud case! Ivanka! Pence is worse than Trump! No he's not! Attend the Million Women March! Boycott the Million Women March!

Do you remember the prairie fire chapter in Little House in the Prairie? When Pa barely has time to plow a firebreak, and Ma and the little girls run around the property, beating out every small fire with wet gunny sacks? That's how I feel. Steve Bannon is one fire that needs to be beaten out. Myron Ebell is another. And Jeff Sessions, and all the rest. I don't know what to do or where to look and I feel totally helpless. Meanwhile, some of my relationships are on shaky ground because of political differences. The only thing that's keeping me going are the Obama-Biden memes.

But, for the first time in eight years, I do not have to work on the day before Thanksgiving. Last year, we had just installed a major upgrade to our software and I was on 24 hour call to support it over the holiday weekend. The year before, I was on day call and trapped in my cube until 5:00 pm. So the past two years were especially awful and I am so happy to have the day off. If you need me on Wednesday, I'll be cooking up a storm.

This year, I'm going to spatchcock the turkey, which I'm keen to try. The step when you use brute force to crush the breastbone?  I'm going to imagine it's Donald Trump's face. So that should be therapeutic. Indeed, I think I'll name this year's turkey Donald Trump. He will have an orange zest and aniseed rub and he'll be delicious.

The other exciting thing about Thanksgiving this year is that now we have Wegmans. I was actually a tiny bit tearful the first time I went to the new Charlottesville Wegmans, partly because of the intense wave of homesickness, and partly from the joy of having a piece of WNY here. When we first moved to Charlottesville, I was dismayed by the poor quality and limited selection at the local grocery stores. What do you mean I can't buy New York wine? What do you mean you've never heard of sponge candy? How am I supposed to make pie crust without lard? With Crisco, like some kind of barbarian? Why are all the apples so mealy and gross? Why are the onions so mushy? Why are there only five available pasta shapes? Why does no one in the south know how to run a deli? Since when is Labatt Blue "imported?" Why does all the cheese come from Wisconsin? WHY ARE THERE NO EGG BAGELS?  For the past eighteen years, every time we went home to Buffalo, I'd have to stuff the car with a year's supply of acini de pepe, Weber's horseradish mustard, a cooler full of Sahlen's hot dogs and other foods it's impossible to obtain here. But now, at last, I have Wegmans at my fingertips. Western New York, represent!

The last exciting thing about Thanksgiving this year is that I bought my "forever shelves" for pantry items. My kitchen simply doesn't have enough space for all our food - not even with the new plumbing pipe shelves that I built last year. I'd had my eye on the "French Shopkeeper's Shelves" in the Wisteria catalog, for years, but ultimately, decided they weren't right.

The shelves I considered and rejected - Via

Instead, I bought the "French Baker's Rack" from Restoration Hardware. A splurge, but these are the shelves I'll use forever. They were delivered early Saturday morning, and I had a glorious weekend reorganizing.

Old shelves - hand me down from my uncle
and still very serviceable. Hoping to sell them.
At first, I moved all the food from the old shelves to the china cabinet (another hand me down).
I put the china in the new shelves, but was unhappy with the arrangement.

Now, the china is back in the china cabinet and the food is on the new shelves.
Between the kitchen shelves for dry goods and spices, and these shelves for canned goods and other non-perishables, my food is finally easily accessible and organized.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! And remember, if anyone in your family is especially hateful, you can make a donation to Planned Parenthood in their name.