Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Zucchini and (sigh) My Sty

I have a huge, humongous, painfully purple sty on my right eye.

It is a new one, though it occupies the exact same place as the wee one that plagued me so last week.

I'm in a bit of shock over it all. Saturday night I was celebrating the passing of the wee one with a long, lovely phone call to a dear friend in Seattle, and within 24 hours a new, humungous one was already raging into its current dynamic of discomfort.

There is gross injustice in this. Gross.

Don't worry. I don't intend to belabor its hideousness. Too much. All I really want to do in this world until this horrible, wretched, purple sty leaves me in peace for good is to dive into my bed and hide. Even from the dogs. That, my friends, is how horridly wretched this sty is. I want to hide even from ones that love me so unconditionally. Even from ones that are color blind!

I did try being public yesterday. I went to the hospital – and got the confirmation that it was indeed a sty and not some communicable public health disaster. I went to work. I attempted to sit at my desk. I even forced myself to appear in meetings and to set up meetings. I forced myself to keep my hand on my desk, or wrapped around a pen, and not let it flutter around my face in a vain attempt to cover my eye. I concentrated all my energies to concentrate on my tasks and to appear professional and calm. But I was miserable, self-conscious, uncomfortable and utterly distressed by all the fidgety discomfort that the people I attempted to communicate with tried to hide. I understand. No one wants to be in close comfort with someone who may have pink eye. And what else could my swollen, purple, twitching eye be? I was in pain. Pain, my friends. Physical pain, and social torture. Oh, it was a miserable attempt to rise above my vanity.

So, today, I have grounded myself. I am home. Taking a sick day and applying hot compresses to my eye in hopes of hastening my return to normal appearances. I did wake up in time to pack my J. a peanut butter sandwich (for lunch) and fry him up an egg sandwich (for breakfast). He's in trial today. I did shuffle myself into the cozy comforts of his hooded sweatshirt. So attired, I did walk the dogs around the neighborhood. Of course, I did time the walk to be when most neighbors had gone to work. I did wear the hood intentionally over my face. I did take these and certain other vanity-preserving methods all intended, specifically, to keep me from any face-to-face interaction with people. My neighbors have seen me in some pretty ....umm, memorable dog walking attire, but somehow I was too shy to show off this sty.

But I wasn't completely anti-social. I was social, in the sense that I had you – dear reader – in mind. For you, I took my camera on the walk. For you – I'm posting these pictures of the sights and scenes of my dog walk this morning. I did do that. For you! Dear reader, for you! And, following doctor's orders, I did – with the hot compresses on my eyes (alternating back and forth to compress both eyes – apparently I have the roots of another sty in my other eye….sigh) - watch some of the Northern Exposure our dear Dad sent us home with on the dvd player that my college roommate had the foresight to predict I would appreciate. (Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou to you both!) It was wonderful, indeed, to be able to escape into someone else's televised reality without having to treck through the local masses down to Video World to rent a movie.

And I did keep my Tuesday date night with J. Our "town council date." Every other week the town council has a meeting. The local radio station airs it. Most of the time, we make a big dinner and listen to the meeting. Sometimes we go down in person. The town council meets just across the street. But most of the time, we stay at home for the entertainment. This time, with the sty and all, I was most certainly going to stay at home. Not even such exciting topics as whether to ban cyanide could drag me into public.

I made this recipe for our dinner. Sort of. It really is a lovely, lovely recipe for zucchini stuffed with feta, pine nuts and dill. I found it on a site called the Sassy Radish. The "stuffing" for these zucchini is exceptional. With the feta, it offers that particular sort of beloved comfort - cheese comfort. Just the kind of comfort that soothes the souls of the afflicted - such as my sty-laden self. But it is not cheese heavy. Oh no. It is lightened and freshened by the fresh dill. In my case, it was further lightened by my glee that I could avail myself of all the fresh dill growing outside my door. (I need such glee, you see. I planted so many fresh herbs this year....and only the dill has returned my love. Sigh. Next year. Next year I'll get the hang of gardening up here.....maybe (please, please) next year I'll even have an actual garden box!) Here's another perk to this recipe - it celebrates what the local grocery store does offer. Such optimism did my soul well. Sometimes we run out of garlic. Cucumbers can be a challenge. And sigh if you want, but milk free of articifical bovine hormones is generally not an option. But, for whatever reason, we almost always have feta cheese and pine nuts. Pricey, sure. But they're there. So not only is this recipe delicious, it is covenient. Particularly convenient for those with rural Alaskan pantries and a sty-provoked shyness that holds them back from going to a grocery store where they would undoubtedly run into the entire town. And let me not end this waxing rhapsody without sharing how easy it is. Incredibly easy. Summed up, one sautees zucchini and onions then tosses it into the food processor to whir up with the other ingredients.

There you go. Summer simple. Decadent. Easy. And (my vanity really embraced this part), pantry-ready ingredients! No last minute trips to the grocery store required! No risk of sty-publicizing! Bliss. Simple, hearty, vanity-preserving bliss!

I did adapt the recipe a bit - for my circumstances, not for taste. With all my self-pity and all, I just couldn't find the extra energy to steam the zucchini for stuffing and broiling. So I just chopped it all up, rather than scooping and steaming. I took instead that extra step of boiling pasta. It seemed easier. But it is really hard to get much easier. I confess. I also added some cherry tomatoes and spinach. Rather than stuff zucchini shells, I tossed the stuffing with the pasta and served it up in a skillet. But I want it to be very clear that this recipe does not need nor benefits from my adaptations. That little splash of additional color gave some lift to my otherwise grey day of pity-party. And, cherry tomatoes and spinach, well – it's just my thing. It's what I do. And I was lazy. Forgive me. I have a huge, wretched, purple, painful, twitching sty. I am, quite simply, out of sorts. Those not seeking distractions from themselves would probably be perfectly satisfied with all the beauty and grace of the original recipe.

Those that do sample it, whether it be in its original form or in the derivations thereof – should let me know if they agree that it would make an exceptional topping for bruschetta.

All summed up, here's my excitement for the day: I successfully dodged all social viewings of my sty. I discovered a recipe that combines zucchini, feta and pine nuts - and it was delicious. Seriously delicious. And the town council meeting, as always, was interesting. Very interesting.


Figs Olives Wine said...

You poor, poor girl. It is so unfair to be in pain AND feel hideous at the same time. You make me want to go to the farmers market and make you a care package right now! I think of you every time I watch a Northern Exposure episode ;) My husband's obsessed, but I'd never seen it until this year. I can't believe you get feta but sometimes not garlic...Yummy looking zucchini by the way! What's the cyanide used for? Did they in fact ban it?

Aileen said...

Oh, thank you so much for the sympathy! Fortunately that horrible, wretched sty is gone! So funny that you think of Northern Exposure - I must confess that I hadn't seen it until this year too. I can't believe I missed it entirely when it was aired on television. We don't have nearly as many trees and moose, but I'd say we surpass in characters. As for feta, I'm sure if I ever planned a dinner all around it and went to the A.C. with the sole purpose of procuring it, there'd be a ton of garlic and cucumbers but no feta to be had. The unpredictability makes it fun. Plus, it is a good reminder not to take anything for granted and I derive endless entertainment from nurturing my pantry. As for the cyanide - they want to build a huge open-pit gold mine upriver. The cyanide, apparantly, helps flush out the gold. If it gets into the water, however, it could have a devastating effect on a salmon run that has sustained a Yup'ik culture that predates the gold mining industry by at least a couple thousand years. The town council doesn't really have much say about whether or not the mine gets built. But they could ban cyanide from the town. Some want to do so on principle, others as a negotiating tactic to get the state to build a railroad out to the Southwest. Some fight such a ban on principle, others because they don't want to lose the job opportunities and other financial benefits of the mine. In the end, the council didn't ban it. They cited to many reasons for not doing so, though I suspect few of those reasons were actually researched. As for me, I just can't fathom risking anything about this place for a project that may dribble down a few local dollars, but not nearly enough to even start to match the risk. I think I'm having adverse flashbacks to the perspective of project sponsors and financers that I know too well from my project finance days back in New York. I take little assurance from any of their assurances. All in all, I wish more people could become aware of the unique beauty and historical relevance of this part of Alaska before the project gets final approval.