Being on spring break means that I get to pretend I’m a real person for one whole week. By “real,” I mean I make a point of doing all of the following:
- Accepting invitations for social events I know I’ll hate, like playing Risk, just because I have that kind of time.
- Getting a shower at 9am so that I can go to a 10am yoga class, which I also know I’ll hate.
- Drinking. Excessively. Around people. Voluntarily, on days like St. Patrick’s, when everyone sane in New York has stayed inside. (These last three qualifications bear distinction from my typical, solitary, weekday sipping.)
- Relishing ordinary chores, like cleaning the entire apartment, depositing my paycheck, bathing Penny, and doing my taxes, which are otherwise entirely out of reach for me during the school year.
Another extraordinary privilege that sometimes falls into the final category involves filling my prescriptions, at my leisure. If you weren’t jealous of my life before, I bet you are now.
This year, my refills fell a week short, and I found myself in a 24-hour Duane Reade in Union Square at 10pm on a Saturday, with K and a very spindly pharmacist. Let’s call him Vlad.
So, K and I have just seen Warm Bodies, which was pretty excellent. I get the bright idea to duck into the Duane Reade before hopping on the subway, because my refills are already six days overdue, and it’s just a matter of time until I’ve been off them long enough to finally see however much more horrible life is without them. I am pleased with this spontaneity (it’s sadly about as spontaneous as my life gets); I can also buy Easter candy and a new comb, having just recently cleaved my last comb in the tangled rat’s nest that I call my hair.
One thing I really hate about having a rare autoimmune condition is the extent to which pseudo medical professionals, like pharmacists, think they have a right to ask me about it. Even so, no one has been so appallingly nosy as Vlad.
Maybe I should mention at this point that I’m dressed like something of a fashionable junkie shredding guitar in Alabama. Each of my pant legs is a different color (pink and red). My high-heeled boots are shiny with what me-of-four-years-ago thought was a tasteful snakeskin print. I’m wearing a studded vest that is so punk that I bought at Forever 21. Marilyn Monroe, looking like Courtney Love, blows cigarette smoke from my over-washed tank top. In short, I look like a disaster– albeit, I’d like to think, an intriguing one– and so maybe the assumptions Vlad ends up insinuating aren’t so out of nowhere.
At first, I’m grateful to Vlad for filling my scripts without any fuss at the late hour. I disappear momentarily to locate a comb and get sidetracked for entirely too long deciding what color Peeps to buy.
When I return, it is clear that Vlad has been reconsidering his easygoing attitude. He gives me a cockeyed look and asks, clearly as casually as he can manage, “Do you mind if I ask, why are you on this hydroxychloroquine?”
This isn’t the rude part. No one understands why a twenty-five-year-old woman from New Jersey would be taking an antimalarial drug every day to survive. Not even I do.
So, I give him my usual response, which is nothing exciting: “It’s for a dryness condition.” I deliberately avoid mentioning the disease itself, because no one ever recognizes it, and jargon usually only prolongs these interactions.
But then he holds the bag back at the edge of the counter and asks, “What is this ‘condition’ called?”
The tone in his voice says I’m trying to hassle him for just one extra box of pseudoephedrine for my easy-bake meth lab at home. Should you ever receive a diagnosis of any kind, you will learn that it fosters great patience, especially in the face of immense idiocy. So I answer, “Sjögren’s syndrome,” and I pointedly tap my credit card on the counter.
“And how do you spell it?”
Now I’m pissed. Had I said, “pancreatic cancer,” no one would have challenged me to “spell it.”
But because my existence is doomed to encounter this kind of willful indiscretion time and again, I oblige Vlad. “S-j-o-g-r-e-n.” I stop short of mentioning that there’s an umlaut, because apparently unlike Vlad, I am aware of what a bitch move it would be to suggest that he doesn’t know what an umlaut is.
“And what does it do to you?”
It’s becoming kind of a stand-off at this point. I clearly hate Vlad. I know the only reason I’m putting up with this is because I’m a girl with a medical need facing a guy who’s still clutching my medicine in his hoary hands. “Dryness, you know? Dry eyes, dry mouth, skin, whatever else. [I consider saying "vagina" here, to make him as horrifically uncomfortable as possible, but I am merciful.] Can you ring the rest of this up now?”
This whole interaction has only taken five minutes, and he gives in without any bitching. He also fails to get the scanner to register the barcode on the Cadbury eggs. He doesn’t realize he can type in the UPC. I enjoy watching him flail. Even more, I enjoy watching him enter the price manually under “miscellaneous grocery item;” he gives them to me for thirty cents less than they’re priced in a flurry of emasculated haste. He does not do this out of embarrassment or kindness but because I have chosen not to correct him when he assumes the wrong price.
I still don’t even know what he imagined I was going to do with the hydroxy; I’ve googled it since and can’t find anything fun about it in the narcotics underworld. But I could do without people like Vlad making me wonder whether there is anything “real” even wrong with me. It always makes me feel like the crazy one, even though he’s the conspiracy theorist who doesn’t believe a doctor’s signature with his own eyes.
I like to think that being on break means that I’m cooking extravagant foods more often than usual, but really, it just means I’m spending too much money going out. It’s my gift to myself for not having gone anywhere more exciting. In the middle of all that gallivanting, I sometimes like something as easy on my wallet as it is on my body.
I originally made this spaghetti using a Real Simple recipe, which, while okay, made creepy suggestions, like, “keep 1/4 cup of starchy water from the boiled pasta to thin out the olive oil for a sauce.” Maybe that starchy water wouldn’t taste like the runoff from a pumice stone if you’re eating real pasta, but I’m not up for fucking around with my second-class alternatives. Since counting calories is something I will probably never have to do, I prefer using real olive oil and bulking this meal up with a few other ingredients.
In this version, I sauteed the sweet potato in olive oil over medium heat, with a lid on for about eight minutes, being sure to turn the slices every few. About two minutes before they were finished, I added the shallots and sage leaves.
Meanwhile in a separate pan, I heated up the brussels sprouts in some olive oil, lemon, and garlic at the same time, making sure to flip them at least once.
Then I combined the pasta with more olive oil, parmesan, the vegetable mix, and ricotta.
sage, sweet potato, and ricotta spaghetti with a side of brussels sprouts
prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 15 minutes
for the pasta:
1/2 lb. gluten-free corn spaghetti
2 tbsp. + 1/4 cup olive oil
1 large sweet potato, peeled, sliced, and halved
1 shallot, minced
18 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup ricotta
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Put a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions (7 minutes in a rolling boil).
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan. Add sweet potatoes and cook on medium heat, covered but stirring every two minutes or so, for about 8 minutes or until tender.
- Add shallots and sage leaves to the potatoes. Also add more olive oil, if necessary (no more than 1 tbsp.). Cook two more minutes, or until shallots have softened.
- Combine with drained pasta, another 1/4 cup olive oil, parmesan, ricotta, and salt and pepper to taste. Eat with brussels sprouts on the side.
for the brussels sprouts:
2 tbsp. oil
8 brussels sprouts, halved
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat olive oil, then add brussels sprouts and garlic. Cook, flipping at least once, for 6 minutes, or until tender but still crispy. Be careful not to let the outer leaves burn.
- Spritz with juice from half a lemon while cooking. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste. Serve alongside pasta.