Cracklin’ Latkes

IMG_4837Don’t get me wrong.  I love beef brisket sandwiches as much as the next unreconstructed meatatarian.  So when Kish and the happy jogger and I visited Dinin’ Hall today and I saw that Challah was there, I was a happy camper.

And, I was right.  The brisket sandwich (on challah bread, of course) was succulent, juicy, and by itself worth a short trip over the Franklinton area to my favorite stopping place for our Columbus food truck friends.

But what really rocked my socks was the latkes I ordered to accompany my brisket.  They were unbelievably light and crispy, like eating a bird’s nest that had that subtle, indefinable, yet  forever lip-smacking potato flavor.  Even after adding some of the sour cream-based dipping sauce, I felt like the latkes could go floating away into the humid Franklinton air — and what a crunch!

Woo-hoo!  Challah, I want to see you again!

Why Always Us?

Or, perhaps, the question should be:  why always U.S.?

President Obama apparently is weighing some kind of military strike against Syria in response to its government apparent use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.  As described in the New York Times, the use of military force would be limited, designed to cripple the Assad dictatorship’s ability to use chemical weapons but not effecting “regime change.”

It seems like an effort to thread the eye of a needle with an awfully blunt instrument — but the issue I’m raising is more fundamental.  I’m as appalled as any civilized person about the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, but . . . can’t someone else do something about it?  Syria isn’t our neighbor.  We don’t share any kind of common cultural or linguistic heritage with Syria.  Syria doesn’t have any great economic or geopolitical significance so far as I can determine.  As a result, when it comes to Syria, our interests appear to be no greater than those of those of any other country, and much less than some.

So, when the Syrian government commits an atrocity, why do heads swivel in our direction — as they always seem to do?  And, why are American Presidents eager to spend our treasure and risk the lives of our soldiers when that happens?  Is it because they like being viewed as world leaders?  Forgive me, but I would rather have a President whose focus is exclusively on our interests, assessed with a cold and calculating eye.  In this case, what exactly would a Syrian adventure of the kind described by the New York Times accomplish for the United States?  Even if successful, it would still leave the Assad government capable of slaughtering its people — only with conventional weapons, rather than chemical ones.  And, of course, any involvement risks the possibility that some wild-eyed fanatics in the Arab world will swear out a jihad against the Great Satan because it, again, has intervened in the world’s most volatile region.

There is no reason why the United States should be involved in punishing Syria for its gross moral transgressions.  The Arab League, or Turkey, or the United Nations, or some other country that shares a border or a language or some other cultural element with Syria should assume the lead.  Our resources are not infinite, and it’s time we stopped acting like they were.

Gum-Chewing Surgeons

You’re getting ready for an important operation.  You’ve read the literature about the risks and benefits, decided to go forward, and now you’re in the prep room.  You meet your surgeon for the first time — and you notice, with a sharp and ugly chill running down your spine, that he’s chewing gum.

If it were me in this scenario, I’d say thanks, but I’ve changed my mind, then I’d leap from the operating table and sprint from the room, hospital gown or not.  I’m guessing I’m not alone in that reaction.

With apologies to all the gum-snappers and bubble blowers out there, it’s because there’s something about chewing gum — the slack, open mouth?  the rubbery jawline? — that just makes a person look stupid and and unprofessional and incapable.  The very act is completely inconsistent with the perception of cool competence and steely unflappability that every surgeon wants to portray to the anxious patient who’s getting ready to go under the knife.

You wouldn’t vote for a gum chewer for president or choose one to prepare your tax returns or provide you with thoughtful counsel on a potentially life-changing decision.  Your instincts tell you that the person sawing away away on a wad of Juicy Fruit doesn’t quite know what they’re doing and isn’t quite serious.

So why, then, do so many businesses allow the first person who interacts with their customers coming in the door to chew gum?