Good morning and Happy New Year! I promise not to take up too much of your time today because I know you are eager to get to your appointment at the Blowout Bar, or to refresh that mani-pedi. Or both. After all, who among us wants to greet the New Year with cowlicks and chipped nails?
So, folks, here we are again. The baby in the top hat, sash, and diaper is once more about to kick the old geezer out of the way, as the number on the calendar changes to 2016. And with another birthday pending, I hope this image will not become a metaphor for my life!
I’m sure for all of you 2015 had its ups and downs, but overall, I hope you emerged at the top. And as much as we might tell ourselves that New Year’s Eve is no big deal, just another night, and that Friday will follow Thursday, as in any other week, there is a sense of closure and a new beginning.
Politics has certainly been a highlight of 2015, or should I say lowlight. Tuning into the Republican debates and Trump tweets has been like binge-watching the Comedy Channel. And I’m sure we can look forward to much more in 2016. As for the Democrats, I was starting to give Bernie Sanders some serious consideration. But now, I can’t be sure that I won’t be getting Larry David. And if I do, would that be so bad?
On the personal side, my husband and I shall be entering 2016 dog-less. Our beloved Labs, Bette and Davis, who have been featured in many of my essays, and were the inspiration for my book title, How Old Am I in Dog Years? both died this year — Bette in May, at age 15, and Davis just the other day, at age 16 12. I know we were extremely fortunate to have them for as long as we did. But they are very missed, and the house is strangely empty. For now.
And New Year’s resolutions? Fuhgeddaboudit! A complete waste of time and psychic energy. So instead, last year I made a list of habits I definitely would not change in the coming year. And I’m proud to say I accomplished every one of them. Therefore, adhering to the adage you can’t argue with success, I am re-listing.
I present my personal reforms that will once again NOT happen in 2016.
- Spend more time at the gym.
- Eat more vegetables.
- Give up Cool Whip
- Lose weight.
- Shop less.
- Get more sleep.
- Organize my drawers and keep them organized.
- Stop wasting time watching Law and Order
- Improve at golf.
- Learn French.
- Cook at home more often.
- Always hang up my clothes before I go to bed.
- Read James Joyce.
- Wear a bikini.
- Complete a London Times crossword puzzle.
- Solve even one clue of a London Times crossword puzzle.
- Have a neat desk.
- Never write another critical essay about my husband.
So, whether you’re celebrating tonight in finery, jeans, or pj’s, I want to wish you all a happy, and above all, healthy New Year. Jokes aside, it is a clean page in a new book, and we should all try to make the most of it.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you again for your support, and ask you to stay tuned in 2016. There will be a new name, and a new web site coming soon. A whole new look, but the same old me!
As much as I gripe about the tedium of the holiday season (see T’is The Season To Be Cranky, November 30, 2015) I must confess that there is one time-honored December tradition to which I happily succumb.
As soon as the calendar informs me that we are about to embark on the eight days of Hanukkah, I am overtaken by a compulsive urge to make latkes. Completely forgetting the horror of clean-up, I am motivated by visions of the succulent food with the delicious, crispy brown edges.
As an aside, one must always consult the calendar to verify the arrival of this holiday, because, unlike Christmas, it has no specific designated date. Rather, from year to year, it tends to hover over the month, and its descent is always a surprise. Not being a student of the Hebrew calendar, its landing always appeared to me as being completely arbitrary, although I’m sure that’s not the case. But, like all Jewish holidays, it’s never on time. It’s either early or late. In fact, I can recall one year, in the not-so-distant past, when Hanukkah was so eager to arrive, it actually collided with Thanksgiving.
But back to latkes. For the uninitiated, a latke (pronounced lat kuh, with emphasis on the lat) may appear to be nothing more than a fried potato pancake. But in truth, the little latke is so much more. It’s a fried potato pancake with a soul. The making and the eating is a treat for all the senses. Therefore, once a year, I say throw food caution to the wind, swallow an extra statin, and prepare to enjoy starch cooked in oil.
Actually, as a holiday tradition, it’s all about the oil. Cooking with oil is a commemoration of the ravaged temple and the miracle of the small amount of olive oil that kept the eternal light burning for eight days, instead of just one. But it is not my intention here to retell the Hanukkah story. If one is interested, one can always consult Rabbi Google. Rather, it is to praise the latke.
Latke. I even love the sound of the word, which I find somewhat sensual. Uttered slowly and softly, letting the tip of the tongue rise to plant a gentle caress just behind the teeth, could there be a more loving term of endearment? Come to me, my little latke.
But like all things Jewish, the proper preparation of latkes is not without differences of opinion. Traditionalists claim that the only authentic way to make them is to grate the potatoes by hand. Since I don’t believe that a preferred methodology is discussed in any biblical text, I stand with those who shred by food processor. The outcome is just as good, and one’s knuckles remain intact. (Contrary to popular belief, knuckle blood is really not the secret ingredient in a good latke.)
I prefer to get my tactile fix from squeezing the liquid from the shredded potatoes, then combining the other ingredients with my 10 digits. Want to release your inner child and relive the early developmental gratification of playing with your food? There’s nothing like being up to your elbows in potatoes, onions, eggs, and flour (or matzoh meal if you prefer).
And what can compare with the aroma of frying the latke? Nothing, except for eating the latke. Garnish as you like – apple sauce, sour cream, even caviar. And voila! The dull potato has been elevated into a luxurious treat.
And I say fie on the spoilers who attempt to ruin the entire experience by suggesting healthy alternatives. Like baking, instead of frying. Or substituting other vegetables for the potato. A kale and cauliflower latke? Really?
And don’t even think about using a prepared mix!
I confess there is a downside to this otherwise joyous experience. I must now begin to repair the damage that used to be my kitchen. But not even the splotches of potato starch that have landed on my floor and counters, and the splattered oil on my stove, can detract from my satisfaction.
And the secondary benefit? The memory of the experience that comes from the lingering odor of potatoes cooked in oil which will permeate the house long after the eight days have run their course.
And once everything is nice and tidy, I know I will forget the mess and do it all over again next year. Whenever Hanukkah decides to arrive.
I’m so glad this holiday season is over. Because if I hear one more boast about brisket, I think I’m going to spray paint someone’s Dutch oven. When did brisket emerge as the national dish of December? And where was I when this was happening? Clearly not in the supermarket purchasing Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix.
I realized that I was living on the fringe of a cult when I innocently asked a few friends, “How was your holiday? Did your family join you?” And to a person, the response was consistent –“Yes they did, and I made a brisket!” The pride factor was palpable.
Another aspect of this mania that I found utterly baffling was that each woman who rhapsodized about this fatty chunk of beef claimed to have the absolutely best brisket recipe ever, a family treasure handed down from Great-Aunt Selma, whose secret ingredient was whispered in the greatest confidence – grape jelly! Or was it Coca-Cola? (Some weird stuff goes into brisket.)
So here we are, once again on the threshold of a new year. How many times in the next 24 hours will you say or think: Where did the time go? So I won’t bother to repeat it here. (But where did it go?)
Do you still consider making New Year’s resolutions? If you don’t write them down, do you even think about them? I have long ago given up making promises to myself that I will never keep. If I want to feel bad about myself for being a weakling, I already have sufficient items from prior years to draw upon.
Well, we’ve made it to the end of another year. And in spite of predictions to the contrary, you might have noticed that the earth as we know it was not destroyed on December 21, 2012. That is, unless you’re still hiding in your underground shelter and are not planning to emerge until your beef jerky and bottled water supply are depleted.
I had an inkling that the Doomsday interpretation of the Mayan calendar might be incorrect when I noticed with some relief that the gardeners in my neighborhood, most of whom hail from south of the border, did not throw down their hedge cutters and walk off the job. Instead, they went about their business as if it was an ordinary day. Honestly, in the face of an apocalypse, would an untidy lawn be of any consequence?
The 2011 holiday season has been over for approximately a month now, and even the slowest among us has probably put away the last celebratory vestiges. Christmas lights and tree decorations have been replaced in their cotton-lined cartons, safely stowed away for another year. Dried out evergreens have been carted away by the garbage trucks and the fallen pine needles swept into the trash bins. Wrapping paper and ribbon that wasn’t decimated by greedy hands has been put into drawers to be recycled for future gift-giving. The last of the sour egg nog has long since been poured down the drain, and the dreaded fruit cake pulverized in the waste disposal. Mothers and daughters take to the malls in droves, January sale-shopping being the best antidote for post-yule depression.