Family

New York Press' Gut Instinct: Enema of the State

Terrifying, isn't it?

My younger sister strolled nonchalantly into the kitchen, water glass in hand, and said, “I pushed the enema button.”

“Enema what?” I asked, my brain spinning like a washing machine cycle. I’ve mainly known buttons with simply defined functions: stop, start, pause, record.They’re directives not requiring further description. I guess you could say the same thing about an enema button. However, I lacked ingredients crucial to any journalism tale.When.Where. And most frightfully, why and how?

“Our parents,” my sister began, as nonchalantly as someone mentioning that the sky is blue, “have bought a new bidet.”

Let me rewind (and somehow work food into this story): Last weekend, my girlfriend and I flew back to Ohio to join my two siblings in surprising my father on his 60th birthday. It was a risky proposition, given that he suffered a heart attack about five years ago. “I don’t want to leap out from behind a chair and have him keel over,” I confided in my girlfriend.We rolled the dice and leapt like leprechauns from behind a pot of gold. My father’s ticker survived the scare.

After dinner, we drove back to the family home to sleep, or whatever it is I do after drinking four beers.When I awoke, I headed to the kitchen to feed the Bernstein herd. It’s been my job since I could barely talk. As a toddler, I helped my mom measure and stir. I took to cooking quickly, soon assuming the mantle of breakfast chef. Come Saturday and Sunday, I’d heat the griddle and whip up waffles and pancakes, sometimes from scratch, sometimes via Bisquick. I liked providing sustenance, and I learned to loathe dining out for breakfast or brunch.Why pay for what I could do better—and cheaper—myself?

This is a point of consternation for my girlfriend. She likes brunch’s chatty, caffeine-driven charm. But I’ve conditioned her to believe that my breakfast is better than anything restaurant-bought. “I love your poached eggs,” she says, with gratitude typically expressed for slow, sensual back rubs.

Back in Dayton, the morning sun began its blazing ascent. I returned to my childhood kitchen and cooked buttery, fluffy French toast. (The secret? Thick-sliced challah and enough cinnamon to coat the bread in spice armor.) Coffee accompanied breakfast, the java as black and thick as Saudi Arabian crude. It did what coffee does best: enrich conversation and send the troops marching down the gastrointestinal tract.

My sister hastened to the bathroom first.

Mind you, one of three washrooms.This meant my siblings and I had few bathroom-related squabbles. Someone could always pop a pimple, someone could always shower. But only one bathroom possessed a bidet.You know, a toilet for washing, umm, nether regions. It was my father’s idea. Perhaps it was born out of a bout with hemorrhoids. Or a trip to a hygienically unique Eastern European nation. No matter, my father grew so enamored of water cleansing that he installed an electronic bidet—a splurge, considering he could have achieved the same effect with a squirt gun. Still, the bidet’s seat toasted tushies! Not mine. I avoided that toilet like a muttering subway bum. I preferred the tactility of tp.

After a decade-plus of accommodating parental posteriors, the bidet began cracking. The cleaning stream shot in unfortunate directions. So my parents upgraded. This deluxe version’s washing options included: posterior, “feminine,” turbo and enema. Enema! “It’s kind of exciting,” my sister said, exiting the bathroom. “I never knew I had so much…stuff.”

That settled it: I couldn’t let younger sis show up big bro. Like a deranged Lewis and Clark, I set off to explore the interior of an American. I arranged myself on the heated toilet seat—more like lukewarm tea—and pressed “enema.” A flagpole of water blasted forth, seeking out dark, unexplored canals. “Oh my sweet Jesus!” I screamed, momentarily forgetting I was Jewish. It was like being angrily tickled by wet feathers.

Time passed slowly and painfully, as if I were experiencing a new waterboarding technique. In a minute—or maybe it was 90 seconds—the bidet went silent. I released the water like a sigh. I buttoned. I exited the bathroom and entered an uneasy conversation with my sister.

“I could hear you laughing,” she said. “It tickled.” “Feel clean?” my sister asked. “If that’s how clean feels,” I said, “I’d rather spend my whole life dirty.” Read the original story at the New York Press' Web site!

Gut Instinct: Pilgrimage and Progress

art19117nar In a feat of marvelous daring, damning narcissism and reckless idiocy, I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen. Included would be four couples (counting my girlfriend and myself) and, to my pants-wetting terror, my family. They’d fly in from Ohio, their expectations higher than the cloud-cutting plane.

To my food-crazed clan, Hanukkah, Purim, Easter and Christmas are redheadedstepchild holidays. Culinary-centered Thanksgiving is our money shot. We whip up sweet-potato purée, garlicky mashed potatoes, mushroom-carrot stuffing, sour-cream coffee cake and both roasted cauliflower soup and turkey. Our annual menu is an edible antidepressant—eating it rights our mental ship, connecting us like Krazy Glue.And this would be our first Turkey Day away from Dayton.

“That’s great and all, but how will we seat 12 people?” my girlfriend asked, not unwisely. Like countless New York City apartments, our Brooklyn dwelling lacks amenities such as tables, chairs and, quite often, toilet paper.

“We’ll buy tables and seats,” I said. Money, you solve everything! “Plates and knives?” “Buy ’em.” “And don’t forget decorations. I want candles that look like Pilgrims.”

“Please don’t become a Thanksgiving-zilla.” “I’m not a Thanksgiving-zilla. I just like the holidays,” she said, as if it were a sexual position that could provide untold pleasure.

We outfitted our apartment with Target’s finest furnishings, spending money so wantonly you’d think Thanksgiving was a Scores stripper’s pseudonym. Following the locavore rulebook, I sourced veggies from the Prospect Park Greenmarket and ordered an 18-pound organic, free-range beast from Trenton, New Jersey’s DiPaolo Turkey Farm.

“Sure you don’t want a 22-pound turkey?” the saleslady asked. “Plenty of leftovers.”

“Does Thanksgiving really need more leftovers?” I replied. Besides, when a turkey crosses the 20-pound barrier, it verges uneasily into toddler terrain.And any creature that large deserves a name. Pass me little Billy’s crispy, crispy leg! More of Melissa’s breast meat, please! Days before Thanksgiving, I was fully ready save for my mom’s crème fraîche recipe—soured, thickened cream that gives our sweet-potato purée a rich depth. Clock ticking, I emailed her for guidance.

Hey, Mom: I’m making crème fraîche today. Do you know the proportions? Love, Josh Mom’s response came quickly and confoundingly.

Good afternoon Mr. Bernstein: My name is Steve, and I’m your mom’s human resources manager.Your mother regrets that she is unable to reply due to several meetings, and thus has instructed me to reply.You mother says that she will e-mail you specific measurements later this evening. Please note that some of what you are looking for may be found in specialty grocery stores. Per your mother’s wishes, please have it finished by tomorrow night. Thank you, and I wish your family a pleasant Thanksgiving. Had my mom been replaced by a robot? I understand that HR employees are emotionless automatons, terminating employees’ benefits without blinking a hardened eye. But this took the callous, confusing cake: Per your mother’s wishes,please have it finished by tomorrow night. I smacked DELETE and, like thousands of freshly fired New Yorkers, cursed HR. Hours later, my inbox held my mom’s rocket-science recipe: mix equal parts heavy cream and sour cream. Let sit overnight.

The night before Thanksgiving, I couldn’t sit. Or sleep. To brine my turkey (six hours in salt, brown sugar and bruised thyme and rosemary) in time for our 4 p.m. dinner, I’d have to awaken at 4 a.m. “Turn the alarm off,” my girlfriend sleepmoaned, mistaking my fleshy rump for the clock. I slumped from bed and stumbled into the cold kitchen. Sighing, I rolled up my sweatshirt sleeve and, clutching herb sprigs and carrots, rammed my hand into a turkey’s dark, dank cavity. Following the aromatic fisting, I submerged the bird in a double-ply garbage bag filled with salty brine. Filthy, salmonella-riddled work, but the saline bath worked its plumping, moistening magic.

The next morning, I slow-roasted the wellgreased bird to a burnished brown.The potatoes and stuffing turned out buttery and decadent. Friends arrived, bearing green beans, pumpkin pies and booze. And then came my parents and two siblings, taking seats at our new table, at a new tradition’s beginning.

“I love the candles!” my mom said, beaming at the melting Pilgrims. I told you so, my girlfriend’s eyes telegraphed, as everyone said their thanks and feasted until too full.