Sunday, December 28, 2008


Lately, whenever I spend time with my family I try to make myself useful, or at least try to feel useful, by going directly into the kitchen and cooking. I usually spend the majority of each family visit doing this and it actually seems to work. I manage to stay focused, stay busy, if I'm lucky I stay out of trouble and I might even be somewhat useful. As a side benefit I'm also able to improve and increase my culinary repertoire.

Something I've enjoyed making, and most everyone seems to have enjoyed eating, is a Gratin of Butternut Squash, Leeks, Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts. It's simple to make and rather delicious.


  • 3 1/2 pounds butternut squash (or 2 medium squashes), peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2 to 3/4- inch cubes (about 8 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
  • 3 cups sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 5.5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place butternut squash cubes and olive oil in large bowl; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and ground pepper and toss to coat. Spread out squash cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Roast until just tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium-low heat. Add sliced leeks and chopped sage; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes. Coat 11x7-inch baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Spread half of leek mixture over bottom of prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of squash and half of cheese. Repeat layering with leeks, squash, and cheese. This can be done 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pour cream evenly over gratin. Sprinkle with toasted chopped hazelnuts. Bake uncovered until gratin is heated through and cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes (40 minutes if previously chilled).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

so this is christmas

It was difficult this year. I'm glad it's over. I love my family, I really do. I know that there were years when I didn't show up for them and if I did I was demanding and unpleasant. I put them through a lot and they loved me anyway.

This year I showed up. I tried to avoid inflammatory topics, I cooked, I tried to be kind, patient, tolerant and loving and I tried to keep my mouth shut.
I tried to be nice. It was very hard. I did my duty.

I forget and I'm surprised when I find that my family are not more like I think they should be. I'm not always happy with who they are and I'm disappointed at myself for having expectations, for judging them, for wanting them to be different. They can't seem to see me for who I am and I can't make them. It's often hard for me to believe that we share any of the same life experiences but we do. I am from these people. I am of these people. It's exhausting and it's confusing and, luckily, Christmas only happens once a year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

it's coming on christmas

It’s been a very cold and grey week. The Christmas music has been inescapable and the New York holiday crowds are as thick as I can ever remember them. I’ve been an emotional tangle of restlessness all week and while I’ve been trying to open myself up to the spirit of the holidays I’ve had a critical voice in my head that is stubborn, easy to anger and slams closed any door that the Christmas spirit might find it’s way through.

Earlier this week I happened to see a television program, one that I rarely watch, and on that program is a guy I used to fuck around with back in California. I’ve seen him on this show before but this week it struck me especially hard. He’s always been extremely handsome and as he’s aged that hasn’t changed. It was a frigid December night and I was eating take-out from the carton, watching TV and mindlessly shoveling food into my face with chopsticks when this guy from my past; tall, sexy, handsome and so very happy and successful, smiles into the camera and throws me into a vortex of self-pity. I can’t even imagine what a weekly paycheck from a prime-time television show would look or feel like. Immediately I made his success all about my own lost opportunities and lack of success.

Like the one-two punch from a heavy weight champ, the next day I received a message on Facebook from someone I haven’t seen in years, someone I haven’t thought about in years. We were on the same volunteer team for GMHC back in 85 or 86. I remember having a crush on him then and feeling invisible. Since that time he’s had a career as a publisher, started a magazine and been very successful and visible in the gay media. I’ve always found him attractive and have always been intimidated by him. The message read, “When did you move back to New York? The last time I saw you was at the Slow Club in San Francisco”.

I had no recollection of this. Perhaps I was embarrassed that I was waiting on tables and he was a big-wig in gay publishing so I blocked it out or maybe I avoided him because of the aforementioned attraction and intimidation factors and I blocked it out or maybe, and this is the most probable scenario, I was too fucked up to remember.

I answered his message, I made light of my not having any recollection of our West Coast meeting and made some general niceties, hope he was well, etc… Then I went on Facebook and looked through the pictures posted to his profile. There were pictures of parties at summer homes with happy people holding cocktail glasses, laughing. There were pictures of trips to European capitals and various exotic locations, mountains, seashores and familiar feelings of envy, lost opportunity and inadequacy fell over me and solidified like a hard candy coating.

Yesterday a cold rain hammered the slick reflective city streets. I decided to go downtown to try and do some Christmas shopping. I maneuvered my way through a whirl of garlands, poinsettias and twinkling lights, piped in carols, shopping bags and umbrellas. I became so irritated by the crowds, so frustrated at the high prices and so confused by the choices that I went home empty handed. I found myself to be fully under equipped, both financially and emotionally, to deal with the seemingly simple task of buying a few Christmas presents.

I descended the subway steps at 34th street. Wet, tired and dejected I entered the subway car and caught myself staring at a man with a long beard who looked like he could use a meal and a bath. He was wearing plastic bags as socks and I looked away out of embarrassment. As I turned I noticed my friend David leaning against the door, his hands on the stroller in front of him just smiling at me with fondness and affection. He said nothing he just smiled. I bent down and started talking to his child. The boy offered me the toy train he was playing with and the three of us shared a few moments before they got off at the next stop. The doors opened, David smiled at me over his shoulder and wheeled his boy into the crowd on the platform. The doors closed and the train pulled away into the tunnel with me in it and though I still wasn’t happy about the season, I felt a little lighter, a little more at peace, a little more like I was where I was supposed to be.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I've often heard Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years referred to as the Bermuda triangle. The first point of that trinity has passed and astonishingly I'm still here.

Turkey sandwiches have been made and eaten, the bird's carcass has been thrown in a soup pot and it is now December. Christmas music is playing in stores non-stop, television commercials are on over-drive and everyone is more uptight about money than they were just a few days ago.

It's interesting, and rather sad to me, that an approaching celebration of a magical story about a child king, the Prince of Peace, can bring about such rampant commercialism, financial insecurity, family drama, loneliness and depression.

I have not felt the holiday spirit yet this season and despite all the holly and the ivy being shoved down my throat I'm going to make an attempt to keep the true spirit of Christmas in the forefront of my thoughts as I pass the next few weeks on these city sidewalks dressed in holiday style.

Very soon the city will begin to buzz and bustle with shoppers and I will wish I was able to afford to give my friends and loved ones expensive luxury items but I'm going to try to remember the nativity and keep in mind what we're actually supposed to be celebrating. So if you happen to see me drifting into sadness and self-pity, sipping my Starbucks Christmas blend while gazing enviously at shoppers holding bags filled with electronics and cashmere sweaters, remind me of the little town of Bethlehem, the Magi and that what we're really supposed to be celebrating is how the world was transformed by the innocence, vulnerability and unconditional love of an infant who was born into poverty.