Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sick.


I don't know about you guys, but I've had it up to here (insert image of me in your head here, right arm bent, with right hand held horizontally around mid-forehead, scowl on face) with health care. In all my forty-five years, I never imagined that the day would come where I would be using the term health care in my life, more than I use the term dry martini. I just watched the morning news, and in a short half hour I was told:

1. Not to get a mammogram or do self exams
3. That obesity is going to cost us $344 billion by 2018
3. That salt is bad for me
4. That the swine flu fairy did not show up again, so there are still not enough H1N1 vaccines to go around
5. And last but not least, that the über -contentious Health Care Bill is stiiiiiiiillllllll working it's way through our stellar bureaucracy

The media loves this type of stuff, as they seem to exist solely for the purpose of creating mass hysteria among hard-working, already-stressed-out-enough-about-the-economy Americans. "Hey, you guys are freaking out about paying your bills?! How about we add to it by talking endlessly about your potential health problems?!"

So, this morning I decided I would cut through all the clutter and noise, to give you the real deal on the health care news du jour.

Do not get a mammogram until you are 50, or do self-exams.

Let's just nip 1. right in the bud, shall we? Stupid freaking idea.

Next.

Obesity.
America, can you please, please, please head over to Target or Walmart -- or Restoration Hardware if you have good taste and cash to burn -- buy yourself a full length mirror, turn on all the lights in your house, remove every stitch of clothing you're wearing, then stand in front of your new mirror, and take a good, long, hard look? I mean, really soak it in. If you do not like what you see, chances are good you will be costing this nation lots and lots of money one day soon, if not already. So, what you need to do after you wipe away your tears, is put your clothes back on, get in your car, and drive to your nearest Weight Watchers meeting. Weight Watchers works. Really. I wouldn't lie to you. So does exercise, so do some of that as well. In fact, forget about driving to the meeting and instead, put some sneakers on and walk there.

Salt.
I admit it--food without salt sucks. Have you ever tried eating a french fry that had no salt on it? Copy paper has more flavor. But if Joe Average simply stopped stuffing bags of salty snacks and processed foods down his pie hole, bookmarked epicurious, and learned to cook meals at home instead, dollars to donuts he wouldn't be on high blood pressure medication.
Or, obese.

Just sayin'.

Swine Flu / H1N1
If you're going to name an epidemic--the next hot disease--then for Christ's Sake, come up with something sexier than The Swine Flu/H1N1. Throughout history, there have been some really great names for pandemics: there was the mysterious Black Death (aka, the bubonic plague), and the Seussical-sounding Spotted Fever. Even the Spanish Flu was nicknamed "La Grippe" which made is sound less like a scourge, more like your charming neighborhood bistro. Let's face it--the name Swine Flu is just not sexy, and H1N1 sounds like something a computer programmer in the back office at Microsoft came up with. I went on to Thesaurus.com to see if there were any other names relating to swine that might make this a more marketable pandemic. I crossed hog, oinker, pig, and porker off my list (although Porker Flu might tie in nicely with the whole obesity issue) and so far I have come up with:
Boar Flu
Beast Flu
Brute Flu
Peccary Flu

Personally, I think Beast Flu has a nice ring to it, so I'm going to lobby for that one.

But I digress.

There's a flu going around. One goes around every year and (shocker!) people do die from it. If you've not gotten a shot yet--NEWSFLASH!--there are not enough vaccines to go around, so chances are pretty damn good that you're on your own.
  • Carry some Purell with you and wash your hands whenever you can, and then wash them some more. Pretend you're a brain surgeon operating on your own brain -- that's how clean you'll want 'em.
  • Watch what you touch when you are out in public, and do your best to keep your filthy, germ-infested hands away from your face. If you have to pick touch your nose (who doesn't?!), use a tissue.
  • Wear a light scarf around your neck, and when you're on the subway, or in some public place where some fool is hacking up a lung right next to you, wrap it around your nose and mouth to avoid catching their scourge.
  • Don't make-out with complete strangers. (just keeping you on your toes to see if you're still paying attention)

The Health Care Bill
Sorry, suddenly I am feeling too sick to go on....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sundays + Naked Chickens


I can't help myself from acting like a psychotic turrets patient each time I see that Perdue Chicken commercial for "Roasterphobia" on TV; the instant I see Tom Perdue telling that roaster-averse Mom that the correct way to cook up a chicken for her poultry-lovin' family is in a plastic bag--well--the profanities just come spewing off my tongue.

Let me say right now that there are some things in this world that I'm perfectly fine cutting corners on. Dishwashers were made for a reason. Fresh herbs from the market? So much easier than tilling soil, getting your nails dirty, slugs. Store-bought hummus? Yes, yes, more yes.

But I ask you people--have we become either so collectively lazy or dumb as a nation that we can't roast a freaking chicken in the oven without it being sealed up in it's own little sodium phosphate-filled chicken body bag? I mean--think about it--it's a chicken, and it's an oven; how bloody hard can it be to pull off? It's not like you're being asked to get Republicans and Democrats to agree on the Healthcare bill, or find Osama Bin Laden.

When I was young (way back when), there was something called Home Economics in school. Just like there were shop classes that taught us woodworking, metalworking, printing, and the somewhat puzzling "plastics" ("Here son, cook this bright yellow piece of plastic in that oven over there until it reaches ten million degrees, then bend it into a napkin holder to take home. But don't get burned while doing it, despite the fact that everything around you is as hot as Satan's lair!"), this course taught us practical skills to help us in life. In Home Ec. we learned to sew, craft and, of course, cook. I loved Home Ec. I remember making cheese blintzes, and baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch, not a log. We made homemade butter during one class, and cinnamon bread during another. Not once did we cook anything in a plastic bag (honestly, I'm not quite certain if plastic bags were even invented then, as all I seem to recall were the paper variety, and those either came as shopping bags, grocery bags, or plain, brown lunch-bags)

My Mom makes a handful of things really, really well. She makes a great pork tenderloin cooked with sauerkraut and potatoes. A classic pot roast. And a wonderful matzoh ball soup. But I have always loved her roast chicken the most. It reminds me of our Sunday dinners growing up, where we would head home after 9:00 mass, have buttered hard rolls for breakfast, read the funnies, watch Abbott and Costello reruns, then sit down for a big midday dinner with real mashed potatoes, and homemade gravy. Afterward, we would head outside to play, because, let's face it, there was nothing fun to do inside.

We've become nation of lazy asses. Home Ec. is sadly longer taught to our children, which is why chickens are now packaged in plastic bags, mashed potatoes are found in the frozen food section rather than the produce aisle, and gravy comes in a jar. And then we wonder why kids only eat junk food.

Tonight I am roasting a big, 8 lb. chicken in the oven. I cleaned it out, rinsed it off, patted it dry, then rubbed it with real butter inside and out, and stuffed some butter under the skin, too. When all was said and done, an entire glorious stick of butter was stuffed into and around that beautiful bird (get over it; it's butter, it's natural and if you use it in moderation it will not kill you). Then I put two whole heads of garlic and an entire lemon inside of the cavity, as well as some fresh sage, thyme and rosemary. These were herbs I happened to have in the fridge, and I didn't fret about how much I had because I don't cook that way; I use what I have on hand and am happy with that. And finally, I salted and peppered that plump bird before I placed it in a roasting pan, covered it with a lid, and stuffed it into a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Maybe I will baste it every 30 minutes or so to keep it moist, or I might forget all about it because I am drinking a good bottle of red wine tonight. Whatever...there's butter all over that bird, so it's going to be fine; it's not rocket science folks.

And that's my point. Cooking should not be a challenge, it should be a joy. It's sharing, and caring, and loving, and celebrating, but more than anything, it's about making memories. Memories made slowly and happily with your own two hands--and hopefully your children or loved ones--and not ever, ever in a plastic bag.

PS. My blog on mashed potatoes is here. Make 'em.

TIPS ON ROASTING A CHICKEN
From help with cooking.com

As a general rule, calculate a cooking time of 20 minutes per pound of meat plus an additional 10 - 20 minutes at a temperature of 350ºF (176ºC). Therefore, a 5 lb chicken will need to be roasting in the oven for at least 1h 50 mins. A 5 lb bird will serve between 4 - 5 people.

Some people prefer set the oven temperature to 450ºF (230ºC) and roast the bird at this high temperature for the first 10 - 15 minutes or the last 10 - 15 minutes. The rest of the time the chicken should be roasted at 350ºF (176ºC). The surge of heat will result in a really crispy and brown skin and deliciously succulent meat.

2½ - 3 lbs - 1 - 1¾ hrs
3½ - 4 lbs - 1½ - 1¾ hrs
4½ - 5 lbs - 1½ - 2 hrs
5 - 6 lbs - 1¾ - 2½ hrs

If you find that the chicken is browning too quickly during cooking, then loosely cover the breast of the bird with a large piece of aluminum foil until it is done. Covering the breast of the chicken will also keep the meat from drying out.

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If you do not possess a meat thermometer, then you can check that the meat has been properly cooked in two ways:
  • The drumstick should move about freely when wiggled.
  • The juices of the chicken run clear upon inserting a skewer into the leg