Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring It In

There are only a few hours left in 2009, though in Australia it's already 2010.  I find this kind of ironic since, if you've ever been to Australia you know that it doesn't matter how many hours ahead they are, it's always 1983.

Neil and I planned to ring in the New Year with a small dinner gathering and have wound up with more than a dozen people arriving in less than four hours.

Why, you might ask, am I blogging when a house full of company is arriving any minute?  Because I've been banished from the kitchen, of course.

Now, in all fairness, this dinner party was my idea.  I was at the gym (where I get all my best dumb ideas) and thought to myself, "You know, we're not traveling this year; we don't have any major plans; and a bunch of our friends haven't really mentioned anything.  Let's just have a few people over."

Neil got on board, and I offered to cook.

Next thing you know, we've got friends, friends-of-friends, and had a very near brush with a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend (which is where we actually managed to set a boundary.  Yay.  Progress.)  I've been relegated to one dish (Lasagna; I prepped it yesterday.  All I have to do is throw it in the oven for an hour.) and the job of cleaning the bathrooms.  Meanwhile, the dervish has barely left the kitchen in two days.

I warned him this would happen.  That I'd take care of the cooking so he didn't drive himself crazy and ruin his good time by spending all his time in the kitchen.  And, in truth, he's doing so much work now so he won't have to do it later.  Still, here we are - exactly as we planned NOT to be - with Neil astir in the kitchen and me unable to move off the couch lest I risk the dreaded glare of suspicion or pursed lips of disapproval.

Still, I have to hand it to him.  Yesterday, when I couldn't find the kinds of paper plates and plastic silverware that I wanted, Neil ran to KMart during his lunch hour (and for $18.81 got dinner plates, dessert plates, forks, knives, spoons, napkins, plastic champagne glasses, a container of hummus, a French baguette, and cups.)  Today he's prepped the Eggplant Rolatini, made a Tiramisu, and is now organizing the appetizers.  Makes my lasagna look pretty puny.  (Hey! I made sauce, too!)

This man is clearly too good for me.  I have never done anything in my life to be worthy of him and cannot figure out why he's stayed with me so long.  Clearly, the only possible explanations are that the universe has a wicked sense of humor or that one day he is going to murder me in my sleep.

Anyway, it's New Year's - which generally means some looking back, but I did most of my sentimental looking back at Christmas.  There's no reason to bore you all with that again.  I'll just sum up 2009 - from my point of view - before we ring in the new:

1.  Why was 2009 the year everyone wanted me to stop eating meat?  Jonathan Safran Foer.  Natalie Portman.  The people who made Food, Inc.  I felt the whole year was kind of a cruel trick to keep me away from Shake Shack now that they finally opened one around the corner.  Seriously, as soon as a cheeseburger was so close I could go there in my pajamas, everyone is making the idea of eating meat look disgusting and sound immoral.

So here's my retort.  Go local.  Go sustainable. Choose meat from farmers rather than large agribusiness companies.  Eat meat from animals treated well, not raised in a factory.  Choose sustainable fisheries.  Then shut up cause I can't hear you over the sound of my teeth piercing pickles, cheese and sweet, sweet meat.

2.  What's with the endless fetishization of comfort food?  Burgers.  Mac & Cheese.  Fried Chicken.  Last week New York magazine had a five-page article about soup.  Soup.
We now live in a time and place where it's acceptable to charge people $14 for nineteen cents worth of wet chicken.

I'm over it.

3.  Is it me, or did a LOT of famous people cheat on their wives this year?  It seems like every member of Congress, plus Tiger Woods, plus the former New York Governor (who gets bonus scumbag points for sleeping with prostitutes) and the current one (who told us all on the way in, giving himself the air of being a charming rapscallion which temporarily obscured the fact the he's actually an incompetent boob.)  In 2010, I'd prefer more stories about elected officials actually, ummm, doing something good for society.

And can we please actually govern this year.  The whole obstruction/tea party/Joe Lieberman/birthers/I'm in Hawaii so I'll get to that bomb on the plane after this round of golf/truther/Ben Nelson/Louisiana Purchase/watered-down health care/global warming is hoax thing was a fun way to end the decade.  Maybe let's start the next one by doing something that doesn't continue to evaporate the middle class, sink the poor deeper into poverty, and line the pockets of wealthy bankers with the cash we're spending to bankrupt the government.  It's enough to make you nostalgic for the old Clinton days when we knew he was a horndog, ignored all the fulminated faux outrage from people who clearly had their own something-something on the side (I'm looking at you, Mark Sanford) but we actually got things done.  Yeah, they were sort of small and many were reversed, but - if I remember correctly - wages were up, unemployment was down, and the biggest thing we were scared of was the ATM crashing when it became the year 2000.

So, maybe that's the key to a better decade.  Tonight, Y'all, let's party like it's 1999.

The Last Word (For 2009)

DO THIS, New York:

Make my lasagna.

For the sauce:

1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 29 oz can of tomato sauce
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic
crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil

Heat a large stockpot and add a small amount of oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot).  Dice the onion and peel and dice the garlic.  Add to the pot.  Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes.  Add basil, oregano, and parsley - fresh - cleaned and finely chopped.  Add the tomato sauce.  Add some crushed red pepper flakes for some heat.  (You can also add, grated parmigiano reggiano, green, red or yellow peppers, mushrooms, grounds beef, or sausage - it's up to you!)

 For the lasagna:

1 package lasagna noodles
1 pint Ricotta cheese
8-16 oz grated mozzarella
1 egg
salt and pepper
dried parsley

Fill a large stockpot with water.  Add olive oil and salt and bring to a boil.

Put the ricotta in a bowl and add the egg, salt and pepper and dried parsley.  Mix until well combined.

Boil the lasagna noodles according to the package (anywhere from 9 minutes to 14 minutes.)

In a 13x9x2 pyrex dish (or equivalent), do the following:

Cover the bottom with sauce.  Add three lasagna noodles, side-by-side, to cover the bottom.  Layer some of the ricotta mixture and more sauce on top.  Add another layer of the noodles.  Layer more ricotta, some sauce, and some mozzarella in the middle layer.  Add another layer of noodles, then sauce and ricotta.  Top with a final layer of noodles, more sauce, and cover with mozzarella.

Bake at 350 for one hour.

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmmm ... looks DELISH! I hope you have a great evening!

    I love the line "where I get my best dumb ideas!" Great superlative. I'll be borrowing that one!

    I have NOT resigned myself to being a vegetarian, but after reading Omnivore's Dilemma years back (Food, Inc. prequel, you might say), I have DEFINITELY started eating local, seasonal, grass-fed beef, blah blah blah buzzword buzzword buzzword. I am obsessed.

    I have a question for you, though; I've also never been sick so much in my life! I know that 2009 was also the year to Be Illin' (a la swine), but I have seriously started to question if my body is also withdrawing from all the antibiotics I used to consume? Is that POSSIBLE? Can I ever hope that I will be able to create my own antibodies and return to my sick-free self?

    It's hard to separate all the life changes, though, as you already know. Am I just sick more because my body knows my life has slowed down and I'm allowed to be sick now, when I wasn't before? What do you think?