If you think I don’t deserve access to health insurance, you should vote for the other guy

I am voting for Barack Obama because, under the Affordable Care Act, I am now able to get health insurance coverage for the first time in almost seven years.  I'm voting for him for lots of other reasons too: the future of the Supreme Court, environmental concerns, a sensible tax plan, investment in education, and his thoughtful, measured international diplomacy.  

I always vote. But this is the first time in my life that an election has had such a powerful and immediate impact on my daily life. Illinois has quickly adopted policies under ObamaCare that mean I can get insurance from my state government for a reasonable rate - the same rate as a man in my age bracket - regardless of my condition. I mailed in my paperwork yesterday!

My pre-existing condition, a bleeding disorder, has made it nearly impossible to find coverage.  I am a person who doesn't have health care, but wants it. This marketplace that Mitt Romney speaks so fondly of excludes me.

Sure, anchoring my career in an industry that doesn't regularly offer benefits was my choice.  Going to work for a very small artisan business that can't afford to offer health benefits was my choice.  But I've tried to buy private insurance in the marketplace and can't. I usually get denied because of my pre-ex, but I was once quoted a premium of $2000 per month. Spending 80% of my annual income on healthcare: not a wise choice. Having this disorder was not my choice.  My husband has a small business.  I someday hope to have my own small business so I can continue doing what I love everyday. I don't think we should have to go to work for a corporation to protect my health.

So when I get sick, I just hope I don't get sicker. Some people have a relationship with their doctor and can just call them up and have an antibiotic waiting for them at the pharmacy.  The first Winter I lived in Chicago, I got sick and hoped not to get sicker. But I developed pneumonia and ended up in the emergency room. Draining the resources of a hospital with more important illness and trauma to deal with is the end result of my lack of preventative care.  When I was released, I couldn't afford the prescription cough medicine for $400 and had to ask a pharmacist for the best over-the-counter brand instead and stayed sicker longer.  

I pay for annual well-woman exams at Planned Parenthood out of pocket.  Without health insurance, most doctor's in private practice will not make an appointment for you or are "not taking new patients". I pay for birth control and other prescriptions out of pocket.  I pay for every visit to the Walgreens Take Care clinic for a sinus-infection out of pocket.  Last year a tiny piece of metal flew into my eye from a construction site while I was walking down the street.  The procedure to remove it, the follow up appointments, and the eye drops should have put me back over $1000, but I bartered with the generous ophthalmologist and paid him in pastries.    

Accidents and illness happen to everyone. Why don’t I deserve to have access to a doctor?  Because I have a bleeding disorder, should I spend a weekend in pain and possibly lose sight in one eye waiting for an appointment with a doctor? Or should I wait in an ER for hours and then spend years paying off the bill to save my eye? What should I do, Mitt Romney?

Under a Romney presidency, my access to family planning care might be in jeopardy. He demonizes organizations like Planned Parenthood whose primary purpose is to women’s health because they also offer access to safe, legal abortions. Yet he also would not support the easiest, clearest paths to decreasing abortions in this country (also provided by Planned Parenthood): increased sex education and access to birth control and condoms.  Romney’s personal religious values would trump the private needs of female citizens and outweigh larger public health concerns.  For a man so obsessed with decreasing the size and scope of government, he thinks that he can make better personal health care decisions for me than I can. Family planning for me is quite serious.  A pregnancy without health coverage complicated by a bleeding disorder could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and bankruptcy. That’s a not a financially healthy or responsible way to start a family. When and how to start my family should be my choice.      

I would hope Illinois would continue its new program for people with pre-existing conditions, but it wouldn't be mandated under Mitt Romney who would begin the work of dismantling "Obamacare" on day one.  

I pay taxes. I work hard. I am not asking for a hand out.  I am not asking anyone to give me anything for free or trying to shirk responsibility.  All I am asking for is access to purchase health insurance even though it is from a broken and embarrassing corporate system.  Barack Obama gives me and the rest of America that opportunity.

If you think I don’t deserve access to health insurance, you should vote for the other guy


Dinner Bell

Since I've taken a wee pay cut to spend my days cooking, my budgets for dining out and entertaining in have taken a hit too.  I try to shop sales, cut coupons, and hunt for fixed price dinners.  Today there are two awesome deals available in Chicago that I took advantage of and so should you...

Wine Discount Center's Groupon

You get $30 worth of wine for $15.  If you will need to buy wine in the next six months, and with the holidays approaching you will, you need to get this deal.  Hostess gift for Thanksgiving: done!

 a la card 2011

First, buy a deck today (November 4) or tomorrow and get 20% off.  You can also choose from free shipping or a 2010 deck - 2 months left - free.  Perfect Christmas gift - I bought one for myself.  From the a la card website:

"...each card contains a detailed description of the restaurant and is also a $10 gift certificate to that restaurant. The decks retail for $30, making it almost ridiculous to not own one--who doesn't eat out at least three times a year...Additionally, $1 per deck sold is donated to Common Threads."


Sticky Fingers

You may have seen this little illustrated story wherein "thirteen chefs reveal the culinary battle scars they've received in the line of duty" in Sunday's New York Times.  I saw it and loved it.  Not on Sunday of course, because I usually work a 12-hour shift making dozens of labor-intensive, but delicious chicken pot pies.  These stories from the Times are intense.  Harold Dieterle's tale of cauterizing his wound on the flat top and finishing service before going to the hospital is the stuff of cooking legend.  Something terrible was bound to happen to me in a professional kitchen.  While cooking at home I've cut myself a few times, had a small burn here and there, discovered a major skin-allergy to butternut squash and even dropped an iron skillet on my foot.  I'm accident prone.  But now I work in a tiny, bustling kitchen where an error could mean you burn your co-worker or drop a pot on the dishwasher's head.  So I am careful.  Extremely careful.

Some days I have the luxury of a kitchen assistant or a prep cook to help cut vegetables, but for the most part, I like to do the steady, repetitive chopping myself.  Aiming for hundreds and thousands of little pieces to come out the exact same size, repeating the same task daily, focusing completely on the task on my board. But then came those fucking apricots.  High-quality dried and leathery ones.  Instead of hydrating them first (like I had the previous four times I'd completed this project), I thought I would make less of a mess by chopping the apricots first, then hydrating them.  By the fourth slice, I could tell that this was a stupid idea.  With great effort my knife was barely getting through the flesh of the fruit and yet I soldiered on.  On the fifth downward motion of my right hand, the apricot and knife slipped and sheared off most of my left pointer finger nail and the flesh beneath it.

I could tell as the knife was coming down that I had screwed up, because my mind was going in slow motion but just couldn't make my hands react quickly enough.  I walked to the sink and washed my hands.  I wrapped my gushing finger in paper towels, threw away the bloody apricots and the slice of my finger, and headed to the neighborhood drugstore.  I asked the pharmacist for advice and showed him my finger.  He shuddered and told me to go to the doctor.  Instead I called my nurse friend who insisted I'd be fine since I hadn't cut through the nail bed.  Liquid bandage and a finger cot for six weeks covered the mess, and it grew back.  Now, I have an assistant cut the apricots.


For the next few weeks, I suggest you eat a lot of tomatoes.  It will be months and months before they are worth eating again.

sliced with a pinch of salt
bacon, arugula, tomato quiche   
Caprese salad
French Tomato Tart
barely roasted cherry tomatoes
corn chips and fresh salsa
Hoosier Mama Summer bounty handpies (green city market)

Or can some tomato sauce right now and open it in January when you've had it with roasted root vegetables.


Remembering Bastille Day

An impromptu barbecue or game night can be a great time, but a real party with decorations, food and drinks to match the occasion can be ridiculous and awesome. In planning Kris' Bastille Day birthday party, I enlisted the help of some kiddos I know to make French flags for a garland and to hang all over the apartment (as well as on the building's door to direct friends to our new place).

Kris bought and our friends brought a ton of great records, some French and some funk by request. 

We drank too much French wine and beer.

We ate: five kinds of cheese, crackers, radishes and cucumbers with salted whipped butter, baguettes, ham and gruyere palmiers, blackberries, heirloom tomatoes...

When I attempted to stack my croquembouche, the party-goers insisted on an inalienable right to immediately consume the cream-filled dark chocolate ganache covered profiteroles.   I quickly abandoned the plan and retreated from the plate of pastries to avoid these dessert radicals.

(Super Easy!) Profiteroles:
Ruhlman's pate a choux ratio
Whipped heavy cream, a vanilla bean, a few teaspoons of sugar
Dark chocolate melted with heavy cream, 2 drops of almond extract


Another Sunny Day

With good friends in town, I'd rather wait an hour at Kuma's Corner than slave away at the grill.  Waited only an hour because we got there at 11:30 (when they open).  Arrive early, kids.  Slayer: pile of fries topped with 1/2 lb. burger, chili, cherry peppers, andouille, onions, jack cheese, and anger.  $13

 I don't so much soak up the Chicago Summer sun as much as I hide from it under two layers of sunscreen, a floppy garden hat, giant sunglasses and often an umbrella.  But I do love to eat and drink outside.  Luckily for me (and my fellow fair-skinned dining partner) Jam has a lovely shaded patio. (Three)dom of Choice, except I chose five instead of three options: two eggs scrambled with taleggio, jam & toast, pork belly, fingerling potatoes, fresh fruit and also English breakfast tea.  $17

If you want to eat the best croissant in Chicago, go to Floriole.  The Green City Market sticky bun favorite is now also a beautiful bakery in Lincoln Park. First trip: ham and cheese croissant, quiche, caramel pot de creme, lemon macaron, Hibiscus tea, Limonata. $20 - ish


going pro

I keep planning to update this lonely little blog.  A post on getting kids to eat their vegetables.  A response to Michael Ruhlman's Why I Cook post.  One on how to successfully pack and move a kitchen.  A list of my favorite recipes highlighting asparagus.  Finding the time in my life and space in my brain to write has been nearly impossible.  I moved on May 1st, from an apartment with a dream kitchen into one with very little cabinet space and a washer next to the fridge.  I catered a big party in the suburbs.  I've been doing personal chef work for a family with their third baby on the way.  I landed a new job doing what I love.

I am finally cooking and getting paid for it.  Full-time.

Finding a job in food with no culinary degree has been harder than I thought.  In media interviews, chefs advise people to jump into a kitchen, work your way up the ladder, and learn trial by fire.  On craigslist, their ads sternly warn against applicants without a degree and five years on the line.  I applied for about 150 food jobs before I started getting called back.  I worked for two days in a horrendous kitchen that lacked sanitation and basic respect before quitting.  I was discouraged, but knew I could cook if given the chance.  I staged (worked for free) at a couple of very nice places and got to know my way around a working kitchen - one where I wasn't in charge.  Now I've found a lovely new home cooking at Hoosier Mama Pie Company.  I'm the kitchen's savory cook, making pot-pies, hand pies and quiche, but I'm learning a lot about pastry and sweet stuff too.  I found an awesome chef with a great staff who took a chance on me.  I am now very proud to say "cook" when people ask what I do for a living.

I'm planning to unpack my new apartment, get settled into my new work schedule, and maybe treat myself to a massage and a bottle or two of red wine.  After that, I'll write more.