We just got word that Mom may receive the Pfizer Corona vaccine as early as next week! This is truly a Chanukah miracle. The closer we get to vaccinating Mom, and then the rest of us, the faster we can be in physical contact with her. No more masks, no more distancing. Just sweet hugs and kisses.
There are so many questions still to be answered about the efficacy of this vaccine. Was it tested on older people? What percentage of the population may have bad reactions? Will it harm the reproductive organs of young men or women? Is there enough to go around? How long will I have to wait to be offered a dose?
Someone that my husband Jeff works with, a man in his 50s, is still suffering from side-effects of Corona. He is a strong advocate of the vaccine because of his damaging experience with the virus. He suffers from lack of energy and occasional memory lapses months after recovery.
Closer to home, my daughter-in-law’s Facebook post proclaimed that when all is said and done, they are a very positive family. Sadly, three out of four of my son’s family have tested positive for Corona. They are spending Chanukah in isolation in their apartment until further notice. We did manage to send them a gift package and dinner one night. We’re about a two hour-drive away so helping them is a bit difficult, even if they weren’t in mandatory quarantine. The four-year-old is going a little stir crazy.
Meanwhile, the weather is playing tricks on us. Yesterday it was a balmy 24° C (75.5° F) until the evening when it started raining and the temperature dropped significantly. Today’s high was 20° C (68° F) with strong winds. We’re heading into a cold, rainy weekend with colder temperatures.
The head nurse at Mom’s care facility called us to request that we bring in more sweaters and a coat. It seems that after a few years, some of Mom’s sweaters have worn out. Plus, visits are either held outside or in a visitor’s room with all the windows open. With the weather turning to winter, Mom needs to stay warm. My dad rummaged in Mom's closets and found several sweaters that have buttons or a zipper down the front for easy dressing. We chose three to take to Mom.
And so the world turns, by degrees frustrating and frightening yet also promising. As we increase the number of Chanukah candles that are lit each night for the duration of the eight days of Chanukah, I can only reflect on their brightness in these dark times and pray that the hope that they inspire is just around the corner.
Don’t ask me why I decided to try making sourdough bread. I thought: “Well, that’s a good challenge.” I don’t yet understand all the intricacies of keeping and feeding a jar of the fermenting flour mixture but I do know that the older the mixture, the more tasty the bread. I was gifted a jar of sourdough starter by my friend Sharón, who also shared her kibbutz’s favorite recipe. I followed directions but I was sure I’d failed in my first attempt. I made a second loaf that looked lovelier than the first, and, miracle of miracles, when we cut them open, they had both worked. We all loved eating them. With my confidence restored, I’m going to bake it again this Shabbat!
If you’re inspired to try this in your kitchen, here’s a link to step-by-step directions on how to create a starter. Or, if you have friends who make sourdough bread, maybe they’ll be generous enough to gift you some.
1 cup starter
1½ cups warm water
1 cup whole wheat flour
2½ cups white flour
1 tsp salt
Mix the starter with the warm water then add the flour and salt to form a sticky, pliable dough. (You’ll know your starter is ready to use when a small amount floats in water.) Slightly knead the dough only enough to create a small ball which should be left to rise overnight in a covered bowl, preferably in a cool place (like the fridge). Take out the dough from the fridge and let warm to room temperature. Remove dough to a floured surface. Gently pull each edge of the dough up and onto itself, flip it, then using the palms of your hands, make a rounded domed shape. Line a bowl with a muslin towel and sprinkle with rice flour. Set the dough ball into the bowl, sprinkle top with more rice flour then cover and let rise for three to four hours. To see if dough is ready to bake, poke it with your finger. If it bounces back slowly, it’s ready. Using a very sharp knife or blade, mark the top of the dough with one or two slices across the top. Set oven to 450° F / 230° C. Place dough in a casserole dish or Dutch oven with lid. Turn oven down to 425° F / 218° C and bake covered for 40 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until top of dough is crusty and brown. Voila! Let loaf cool for at least an hour before cutting into it.