A Savior is Born and the Recipe for Tastebuds Blue Walnut Salad, Just in Time for Your Holiday Feasts!
He Saved Me and What He's Taught Me Just Might Save Us All!
Welcome to My Sixteenth Newsletter Friends!
In 1982, Pope John Paul II warned the world not to degrade the sacred Christmas holiday by transforming the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ into a 'feast of useless waste' and 'easy consumerism.'
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‘Christmas is a feast of humility and poverty, of the appearance of the son of God who comes to give us his infinite love. It must be celebrated with an authentic spirit of sharing, participation with one's brothers who need our affectionate help,' he said.
Infinite love, authentic spirit, affectionate help, what beautiful concepts. Seeing the holidays through my child’s eyes now, I see how very far we have strayed from their true purpose and meaning. Seeing the world through my son’s eyes, gives me a call to action. I can no longer shrug my shoulders and say, ‘well, what can you do?’ Ari has truly saved me and what he is teaching me, has the power to save us all!
I thought I had it all and thought I knew it all, me and my band of gypsy souls and night crawlers. We were so sure that everyone else was missing out on the true meaning of life, so sure it was anything but ordinary. It was just there, just beyond my reach. If I could just be the best artist, chef, or writer. If I could just soar, just the tiniest bit higher, one more drink, one more ride, the fastest car, the baddest guy. So close, I was always feeling so close, but nothing, nothing was ever enough.
An unexpected pregnancy at 43 years old, got me to sober up, grow up and eventually wake up to the fact, that the true meaning of life, is simply the miracle of life itself. So while we may have strayed from the true meaning of Christmas, that pales in comparison to how much we have overcomplicated and degraded life itself. We have made our lives so miserable and complex, so difficult and deadly, that it is rare, truly rare to find time and energy to marvel at the wonders of God’s creation.
Desperate for meaning and searching for joy in all of the wrong places, we have become a fattened herd of complacent imbeciles, stampeding toward the next new thing that some celebrity or athlete tells us to buy, wear or think. Crestfallen, we line up for our daily dose of mind numbing or fear inducing drugs from the medical doctors and spin doctors who’s profits rise with our addiction and dissatisfaction.
Complications that arose during Ari’s delivery, left me worried that his heart could stop at any time. For months, I spent hours watching his tiny little chest rise and fall, and I became acutely aware that my entire world now revolved around the simple act of Ari being able to fill his lungs with oxygen. My happiness and any chance of future happiness now suddenly so completely dependent on this life that grew inside my somewhat reluctant womb!
Almost nine years later, as I stand in the doorway of my happy and healthy son’s bedroom, turning back for one last look before turning out the lights, I thank God for him and I feel so lucky that I was able to bring him to Ireland, where the leading cause of child mortality is accident and injury, as opposed to firearms as it is the United States.
I then retreat to my room and read the day’s headline news stories on my phone, from around the world, which America often dominates. I read them at night, so they don’t ruin my day and often I’m too exhausted to get properly outraged. Instead, I just think and worry and pray myself to sleep.
The last thing in the world I thought I’d be doing when I moved to Cork, was trying to figure out a way to solve America’s most pressing and urgent problems. Beating my head into a wall at times, feeling that the problems are too great and too many and can’t be solved by one person or even one generation. It is the love that I have for my country and the love that I have for my family that keep me up at night, though I am better, happier and safer for leaving both.
“It is no accident that propels people like us to Paris. Paris is simply an artificial stage, a revolving stage that permits the spectator to glimpse all phases of the conflict. Of itself Paris initiates no dramas. They are begun elsewhere. Paris is simply an obstetrical instrument that tears the living embryo from the womb and puts it in the incubator. Paris is the cradle of artificial births. Rocking here in the cradle each one slips into his soil: one dreams back to Berlin, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Minsk. Vienna is never more Vienna than in Paris.”
-Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer (Paris: Obelisk, 1934; New York: Grove Press, 1961; London: John Calder, 1963; London: Flamingo, 1993)
Cork, which has much more rain than Paris but no less literary inspiration, has cradled me for nearly three years, and the serenity of my new refuge gives me ample opportunity to slip into the soil from which I fled. I have flung the curtains wide and as I step out, onto that balcony in my mind, where from 3300 miles away, I see America more clearly than ever. I examine her closely and carefully, viewing what ails her from every angle, desperate to find a cure.
I believe that the best chance of finding meaningful solutions lies with those most affected by the issues currently plaguing the country; women and people of color, and yet, they are vastly underrepresented in key decision making roles. To them I say, "Lead or get out of the way, following is no longer an option!”
Many American women and people of color wear their hard won equal rights like a coveted pair of shoes that finally arrived, after a long fought battle and too much bloodshed, but are two sizes too small. We hobble around with bloody, blistered heels and toes, afraid that if we say something, we will end up barefoot again.
We settle again and again for the thin cheap bandaids they offer, or we trade justice and accountability for financial compensation and nothing ever changes. We’ve been accepted into this white man’s world, but not accommodated and what was once a ball of confusion, has now become a grenade in the hands of a toddler; a delicate and deadly situation, hard to watch, harder still, to defuse.
Please please please know, that I am not blaming white men or shaming them in any way! I mean, I don’t have a problem with them at all, some of my best friends are white males! (Insert 3 laughing crying emojis)! But in all seriousness, through no fault of their own, white male politicians tend to be the ones making the laws that affect them the least, like access to a good education and affordable healthcare. As a result, women have been stripped of their reproductive rights while gun rights are being passed out like candy. It just seems unlikely, that anything will get better, if the ones best positioned to bring about change, are the ones benefiting and profiting greatly from how things stand.
The passing of a bill to protect same-sex marriage was largely in part to the hard work of Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay person elected to the Senate. Also worth noting, many white males are gay. The protection of rights and people is about perspective and representation. How can you become impassioned, enraged and inspired to challenge, change and fight injustice, if you are not affected by it?
A more severe and obvious example would be, how the crack epidemic, prompted the war on drugs and the mass incarceration of its dealers and users, who were predominantly black, as opposed to the handling of the heroine epidemic which claimed the lives of many young whites as well as blacks, but prompted a war on addiction and was treated as a mental health crisis. Crimes related to heroine spurred a shortage of beds, not in prisons, but in hospitals and rehab clinics.
Similarly, an AR-15 in the hands of a white male is a mental health issue, but in the hands of a Muslim is an act of terror and a bb gun in the hands of a 12 year old African American boy is a justifiable homicide when he is considered to be a threat by law enforcement officers after a 2 second assessment.
Every life brought into this world has the ability to make things better or worse; to be a part of the problem or the solution, and I feel strongly, that a mother’s love can be the deciding factor. In my next few newsletters, I will examine the theory, that all of the major problems facing America today could be solved by women, equipped with the proper tools to become great leaders, being given the opportunity to have a child when they want, how they want, and then receiving all the support they need to be the best mothers, like they do in Ireland.
It’s not at all that we don’t need white male bosses, leaders, husbands and fathers continuing to make great contributions and important decisions. To put it simply, in a way that every white male (born before GPS) with a drivers license and a wife or girlfriend can understand and will surely find familiar; We are lost and we are in danger. We’ve been telling you for miles now, that we are heading in the wrong direction, but you don’t listen and you refuse to pull over and ask for directions. We have lived here all our lives. We know the way out. How bout letting us drive for a while?
Our Journey Begins at Birth…
Saturday, January 18th, 2014
Ari is four days old today and I finally have a moment to write about this experience. It’s incredibly hard to capture what I’m feeling with words but I’ll give it my best. My best though, might be sub-par with all the exhaustion, fatigue and medication!
When Abaz handed Ari to me after giving birth, I had the emotional wind knocked out of me. I went hysterical, laughing and crying and feeling a love and a joy that I have never known. Oh my God…as I write this, the tears pour out of my smiling eyes.
Ari looked for me, locked eyes with me, like he had been waiting for this moment and wanting it as badly as I did.
The labor was awful. 22 hours of my little boy’s heart slowing to a standstill almost, me wearing an oxygen mask trying to breath in extra air for him. Doctors and nurses turning and shifting me around, trying to keep him moving. I was scared to death I was going to lose him. I worried that there was something wrong with his heart and that I wouldn’t get to hold him after delivery, that he would be whooshed off to surgery and placed in a glass box for months.
But there he was, and he was perfect! Immediately all the pain and suffering is forgotten. Dr. Schubeck searched for the placenta and the chord and was very concerned about their condition. They were frayed. That’s why Ari couldn’t get what he needed. He struggled for days and that explains his wild movements that last week and why I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t eat enough or drink enough.
It’s a miracle that I had the specialist, Dr. Stetzer, and that he scheduled me for induction. He wanted that baby OUT! ASAP! My hypertension is what caused the stress inside the womb. I should have stopped working sooner. I should have taken the ‘AVOID ALL STRESS’ order more seriously. Lesson learned.
Abaz talks about wanting another child with me. The way I feel right now…I should thank my lucky lucky stars for Ari. Now that I know what it feels like to have a child, to lose a child would wreck me, even in the early terms of pregnancy.
So, I am in awe. Utterly amazed by this little creature! All day long I laugh and shake my head when I remember my words and opinions about childbearing. I said, “Hell NO, I don’t want kids!” I truly believed that they ruin your life! I drove home from my brother and sisters’ houses exclaiming, “I’m NEVER going to live like that! Their houses were chaotic, kids running around, toys everywhere, extremely loud, dinner just thrown together or eaten out of to-go bags. Dishes and laundry piling up. The smell of dirty diapers or vomit. NO THANK YOU!
What makes me successful as a chef and restaurateur is my constant pursuit of perfection, structure, routine and sanitation. Children are not programable, they are constant and they can be filthy! I’m already realizing that, that moment when I turn the lights off at the restaurant, after everything has been cleaned, checked and prepared for the next day, will never happen in parenthood.
In parenthood, you hit the lights and say, “Well, I did the best I can do for today.” You leave a lot undone, but you realize it is impossible to stay on top of it, whatever it is. Catching up has no value, there will just be more to do tomorrow. There is no end, nothing to accomplish, there is only life and life is miraculous!
With Abaz having another family (it’s complicated!) to care for, I was able to take a friend up on her invitation to spend Ari’s first Christmas visiting her in County Mayo, Ireland. A month before traveling, I tried to book us a slot at the famous Westport House to see Santa, but had no luck whatsoever. A couple of days before Christmas, I told my friend that I just really really wanted to go to the house and see if there were any cancellations, or any way at all we could get Ari in to see Santa. She spoke with several locals who said there was no way, because every family in Mayo goes every year, and it sells out almost immediately. “But, I always have good luck!” I told her and so she agreed we’d try at least.
The queue was quite long and Ari fell asleep, strapped cozily into his bjorn, inside my winter coat, keeping me toasty warm! Everyone but me, held their entry papers anxiously in their hands, and I was losing hope as I saw how excited everyone was coming and going, that anyone would ever have a reason good enough to cancel their booking.
A petit, elderly woman dressed as one of Santa’d helpers, with delicate features and a long silver braid running down her front shoulder, sat behind a long table draped in red velvet. In front of her was an old cash box, magic markers, pens, peel-off labels and stacks of papers, mostly tickets people had printed at home. She greeted my friend and I so softly and sweetly, so I decided to play ‘the ignorant tourist,’ appealing to her good nature, thinking she may have sympathy for us, coming all the way from America, never suspecting that we had to purchase tickets in advance.
“Sorry love, I’m afraid we’re all sold out and have been for quite some time.” I just stood there looking sad and began stroking Ari’s head as if he was disappointed even though he was asleep. I looked at my friend and shrugged my shoulders. The woman looked at Ari as if seeing him reminded her of something, “Ah!” she said suddenly and sounding relieved.
She leaned toward us, and looked around to make sure no one else could hear her. “Well now, Santa does have one dispensation! He would never turn away a child, if it was his first Christmas!” I swear I heard bells and saw fairy dust! “Is this your child’s first Christmas?” she asked. “Yes! Yes!” I exclaimed. “He was born in January, so yes!” I said nervously and excitedly.
“Ah! Well then, he’ll be needing a name tag. She repositioned herself on her chair and began talking more formally, as she popped the cap off of a black magic marker and grabbed a fresh label. “Now, what is you child’s name?”
“Ari,” I said, loudly, happily and clearly. Her hand holding the pen jerked upward and froze. She glared down at the label. “Could you say that again Love?” she asked, sounding a bit unnerved.
“Ari,” I said again, more pronounced. Her hand didn’t move. Her head cocked sideways a bit, but her eyes were still on that label.
“Can you spell that for me love?” I sensed frustration, her sweet voice sounding bitter all of the sudden.
“A-R-I,” I replied.
She dropped the pen immediately, and pressed it into the table. Raising her head, her eyes closed and wincing, she asked breathlessly, “Tree feckin letters?” Then she leaned in to look at Ari’s face which was sideways on my chest. She smiled, and her smile grew bigger and bigger as she observed Ari. I was sweating and smiling nervously. I’d always known that the Irish swear more than anyone else on Earth, but never thought I’d hear the f word coming out of the mouth of someone’s sweet old grandmother! Maybe, I misunderstood.
“You gave this sweet beautiful boy, tree feckin letters?” She looked as if she’d been gutted, and she plopped back in her chair. She shook her head, clearly outraged and picked the marker back up. I glanced over at my friend and snuck in a laugh while the woman pasted his name tag onto the front of his bjorn.
She returned to her sweet as pie self and finished our transaction, allowing me to purchase tickets for the house and passes for the Wonderland Express Train, before handing me a map and showing us where to find Santa at our allotted time.
After a tour of the magical house given by our own personal elf, we were brought to see Santa with a group of nine or ten other kids with their parents. Santa took the kids onto his lap, one by one and then invited the parents to gather around him and pose for a photo. At the very end he addressed the entire group of us, all sitting around him and his elves appeared with gifts for every little boy and girl.
Santa would call out the name on each beautifully wrapped present. “Is there a Conor here?” He called for a Deirdre followed by a Saoirse (ser-sha) and an Oisin (o-sheen). It was one beautiful Irish name followed by the next; Daithi (da-hee), Cillian, Tadhg (tige), Caoimhe (kwee-va), Eoin (owen)! Then all of the sudden, Santa looked a little baffled and I assumed he was holding Ari’s gift. He laughed a jolly old laugh and asked, “Is there an Aristotle here?” Everyone chuckled, but nobody moved. After a moment, people starting looking around, myself included, everyone thinking the same thing; “What arsehole would name their kid Aristotle?”
Just then, I felt my face flush with blood and heat. My friend was starting to put two and two together as well. She cringed and erupted in laughter pointing to the front of my bjorn. I nudged Ari sideways, struggling to see what she was pointing to, and there, very beautifully written on my son’s name tag was the name, Aristotle! I walked to the front, not as an arsehole, but as the proud mammy, who loved her son so much, that she gave him nine feckin letters to his name!
Add this song to your Christmas play list!
“What the World Needs Now, is Love Sweet Love!” Of course I am speaking mostly to women here when I say, “Lead or get out of the way, following is no longer an option!” What I mean by this, is that we need good, strong, fully engaged and fully committed, loving and compassionate leaders AND mothers EQUALLY. It’s just not working, trying to be both at the same time. Let me be clear, YOU CAN BE BOTH, BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME, NOT IF YOU WANT TO BRING ABOUT THE NECESSARY CHANGE IN AMERICA to protect our children, our democracy, our environment and our future. NOT UNTIL policy and politics change to better accommodate working parents and address modern concerns.
I am not saying that all women need to leave the workplace, and become mothers or more fully engaged mothers. I’m suggesting that it would help if a lot of us did! I’m not saying that all women in the workplace need to become CEO’s or politicians. I’m suggesting that it would help if a lot of women did! Many of you, who have been secretly dreaming of being a stay at home mom, right now are saying, ‘but what about my college degree or my upcoming promotion?’ To that, I ask, ‘Is it beneath a cardiologist to apply a tourniquet to a patient who is bleeding out from his severed arm? Should he stand there and watch the patient die, just because he is overqualified to perform the work of a paramedic?’ The cardiologist can return to heart surgery just as soon as the bleeding stops and the patient can take care of himself!
Food for Thought Anyway!
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And Speaking of Food…
The Recipe For Tastebuds Blue Walnut Salad
In an authentic spirit of sharing, I decided to make a large version of this salad, so you can bring it to your next family dinner or holiday get together!
Makes Six Servings
1 head cleaned and chopped Romaine Lettuce (I love a salad spinner for this!)
1 head cleaned and chopped Green Leaf Lettuce
I 12 ounce bag of Baby Spinach washed and trimmed (Or, to save yourself a bit of work and money, use a bag of mixed baby greens that comes with shredded carrots and red cabbage already inside.
Combine all ingredients in an uncovered serving bowl lined with a paper towel or two and keep in refrigerator until everything else is ready.
One Large Carrot peeled and thinly sliced on a bias
1/2 head small Red Cabbage, cored and finely sliced (nearly shaved)
One Pint of Grape Tomatoes cut in half long ways
2-3 Green Onions cut on a bias 1/4 inch slices
2 Golden Delicious Apples Cored and Sliced the Pastry Chef Way and then coated with Bottled Lemon Juice. I usually splash the lemon juice onto the cutting board just after slicing, then flip the apples around in the puddle ensuring each slice is coated.
6 ounces Crumbled Blue Cheese
6 ounces Toasted Walnuts
Tastebuds Balsamic Vinaigrette
(This recipe makes more than you need, but if you are going through all the trouble of making it, may as well enjoy a few salads with it. It makes a lovely gift as well!)
3/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar (packed)
1 Tablespoon Dried Basil Leaves
1 Tablespoon Ground Rosemary
1Tablespoon Dried Parsley Leaves
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Tablespoon Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard
2 Cups Olive Oil
Combine all ingredients except for olive oil in a blender or in a pitcher if using a hand blender or emulsifier, and blend together at low speed just until mixed. Then drizzle in olive oil while continuing to blend at low speed. Transfer to jar or bottle with tight fitting lid (a quart size mason jar works well). Shake well before using. No need to refrigerate, lasts several weeks.
Remove paper towels from bowl, add the carrots and red cabbage to the mixed greens and toss with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat each leaf. Scatter the grape tomatoes and green onions on top of the greens followed by the crumbled blue cheese then top with walnuts. Garnish with the apples, fanning them out or shingling them along the edge of the bowl all the way around the salad. Sprinkle with the rest of the red cabbage for a dash of color and serve with the extra dressing on the side.
Note: Only dress the salad if it is going to be eaten right away, otherwise, serve with dressing on the side with a small ladle.
Thank You for Being Here My Friends!
Ari and I send our love, sweet love to you all and wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone who you think would enjoy my writing and recipes, you can now gift a subscription by clicking the button below. You will also be supporting me as I try to make the world a better and more delicious place through my writing and recipes!
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Starting in January only paid subscribers will have access to both my stories and my recipes. This will enable me to share my highly secret and most guarded recipe of all, Tastebud’s Signature Greek Pasta! Which, for a lot of fans of the restaurant, would be considered the BEST PRESENT EVER!!!