◊ Perspective

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Dear mom,

Glad to see you’re learning internet lingo (ps. LLOL is not a thing).

Sweating the small stuff surely is a luxury. What’s more luxurious is the ability to recognize the small stuff as small, which can be hard until after the fact. Or until I’m outside of it. Puma sneakers were no small thing in that factory store in Manhattan – you can attest to that.

Obsessing over the small things… is it called tunnel vision?

Since my sneaker meltdown in 6th grade, I’ve had so many opportunities to step outside the tunnel that my ability to shift perspectives has grown markedly nimble.  This skill is one of the many gifts I’ve gotten from moving so far so much so fast. It is the most luxurious of all luxuries.

I’ve implemented it in the way I see big things (we don’t have to talk about Israel/Palestine again), and I can zoom-in:

Let’s talk about coming home for Thanksgiving.

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the farm

In grad school, my assignments can create a strong vacuum at the bottom of the tunnel. Reporting is time and emotion consuming; deadlines = anxiety dreams. Should I cut graf one? Which quote is more quotey? I agonize.

I have to physically switch it up to remind myself of the bigger world and make these things small again. I usually go to the kitchen. Once I’m behind a chopping board, my attachment to my homework loosens (still can’t figure out if this is a good or bad thing). I chop veggies into a salad and munch away for too much time than I should spare. Big salads are (more) important.

Physically removing myself from the North Side of campus for a solid 5 days last week sharpened this notion. Being home made me realize how silly it is to make anything more important than health, family and old friends. I didn’t do a lick of schoolwork when I was home and I was not worried.

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Women’s holiday sliv shots

Instead, I chatted with my cousins over popcorn and M&Ms til 2AM, went to the farm with the boys, picked radishes, ran my favorite nature trails, lost at mah jong, massaged a shit ton of kale, sat in the kitchen, dined and snacked and gorged with fam, and took long sits in your steam shower.

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I still get sucked into the tunnel – I worry about the insignificant and obsess over the small. Making a salad can pull me out. Physical movement – a change of scenery – melts the petty-worry-grip.

xo,

Shaina

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When I went to the farm, I snuck away from the boys and their antics to pick radishes (pronounced raydish in the country). I came home with two full grocery bags of spicy, dirty raydish. The Berkeley grocery store radishes weren’t nearly as spicy as the homegrown, so I compensated by garnishing the dish below with spicy arugula.


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Spicy Radish Egg Salad with Almonds

This is a classic Bubbe recipe (she used big black radishes and skipped the almonds). Her house consistently smelled of fried onions (pronounced hun-ions in Bubbe land). She used the same hunions in her knishes, brown potatoes, kreplach, chicken burgers and more.

  • 3 eggs, hardboiled
  • 1 tsp olive oil OR 1 tsp butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • One bunch radishes (5-7 medium radishes)
  • toasted almonds, chopped or slivered
  • salt
  • pepper
  • arugula for serving

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Dice onion. Coat the bottom of a deep skillet with olive oil, butter or a mix of both. Turn heat to medium, and add onions once oil is hot.  Stir to coat onions in oil and spread them evenly over the pan. Turn heat to low, cover pan and let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. After about ten minutes, add salt and fresh black pepper. Continue to cook until onions are deeply browned.

*Side note: I learned from you who learned from Bubbe to go big or go home when it comes to fried onions. It’s just as easy to fry three as it is one, so just do em all! Put what you don’t use into a jar and store in the fridge – they will stay good for over a week and are a luxurious addition to omelets, veggies, sandwiches, salads, yogurt, etc.

In the meantime, use a large hole grater to grater radishes into wide shreds.

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Toast crushed or slivered almonds in a toaster or over a skillet until brown and fragrant. Peel the hardboiled eggs and mash them with the back of a fork. Combine radishes, almonds and eggs.

When onions have cooled to room tempurature, stir them into the egg mixture. Add plenty of salt and fresh black pepper. Serve over spicy arugula with a slice of good bread.

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Guest Post

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Dear Shaina,

Thanks for inviting me to be a guest contributor to your and your mom’s blog. I’m glad you wanted me to describe the making of my tomato sandwich which I have made for us many times. And I’m assuming this invitation is not just because your mom is busy cooking for Rosh Hashana.

This is an appropriate recipe for me to write for you because it relates to my “country roots” contribution to who you are. I used to feel shame about my dad selling eggs in town, raising our own wheat and grinding the flour, and eating mostly fresh vegetables or ones we canned during winter. I wanted to be like town people who bought bread and other groceries at a store. Now city people want to be like country folks, at least about groceries.

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I was at the farm today and when there I always make a point to see the “Shaina Lane” sign. When you were born, my basic hope as an older father was to live long enough for you to remember me.   Now the danger is that I might live so long I won’t be able to remember you. So the sign may come in handy.

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In one of my early travels to NYC I was walking across Central Park feeling insignificant and had a mild depersonalization experience. When I emerged from the park there was a pet shop where I knew I could find a Tropical Fish Hobbyist book “Cichlids of the World.” My name was in the book under a photo I had taken… When I saw it and read my name, I felt rooted in the world. So if you ever question who you are, drive to the country and see the street sign with your name on it.

To be remembered is so important to Jews, maybe because it is as close to eternal life as we get. And my beliefs don’t include an afterlife, so in the words of Todd Snider “Babyface, that’s all I’ve got.”

It has been really nice to have you home for the summer. Let’s find time to go to the farm and walk and talk-or at least walk- before you leave for Israel in a few weeks.

love,

Dad

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Fried Egg Tomato Sandwich

In Wild Ducks Flying Backward Tom Robbins wrote an essay about what his last meal would be if he were facing the hour of execution. It was the tomato sandwich made with two slices of Wonder bread or some other white bread you might find in a 1950 kid’s school lunchbox. Other necessary ingredients were Hellman’s mayonnaise, a home-grown tomato, and plenty of salt and pepper. The proper tomato for our sandwich is also the topic of a bluegrass song: “There’s just two things that money can’t buy; that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes.”

I would modify TR’s recipe for my last request by adding an “over easy” fried egg.

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Ingredients:

  • IMG_1363Two slices of fresh white bread, for example, Merita or Claussen’s brand. Do not use any bread that claims to have whole wheat as an ingredient.
  • One preferably warm, just picked home-grown tomato. If you don’t have this growing in your garden, it would be OK to buy a tomato from a farmer’s market. Do not use Mountain Pride, Roma or any tasteless type of tomato bred for shelf life which is all you will find in grocery stores. My favorite is Rutgers; most “heirloom” varieties such as Brandywine are not acidic enough. Beefsteak will work.
  • Hellmans Mayonnaise; at least two tablespoons; the more, the better.
  • Salt and black pepper; LOTS of salt.
  • Two fresh eggs, preferably just laid with dark yellow yolks. If you have your own chickens you will occasionally get a double-yolked egg which is ideal.

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Begin with the two untoasted pieces of white bread; if it is not absolutely fresh, or has been refrigerated, microwave for five seconds (both pieces together) or until the bread is soft. Slather at least one heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise on each slice. Have your frying pan medium hot and break your egg (or two) into the pan; being careful to not break the yolk. While they are frying for less than a minute, cut enough thick slices of juicy tomato to go to the edges of one of the bread slices. When this is done (you have to do it quickly; otherwise the eggs will be overcooked), slightly break the yolk(s) with your spatula and flip the eggs and cook the other side for maybe five seconds, depending on how hot the pan is. You want the yolks to be a little runny but not too much.  The perfect sandwich will have a runny yolk that comes to the edge of the bread but not spill out when you bite into it. Sprinkle the tomato slices liberally with salt and black pepper before you put the egg on top of the tomato slices. Cap it with the other slice of bread and eat it while it’s hot with a cold glass of milk.

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