Celebrating an Anniversary and a Vaccine

The number one question people have been asking me lately is whether or not Dinner Table Doctor has received his COVID-19 vaccine yet. I am happy to say he has had his second Moderna vaccine. We recently discussed how he feels about the vaccines while enjoying a special celebration.

We have been together for 39 years! We have been married for 25 years, but we started dating (AKA “going together”) when we were 13, so we have been a couple for 39 years. I know this isn’t as big a deal as 40 years, but with the state of the world, we are celebrating all milestones as if they were an even number or factor of five!

To be perfectly honest, since this pandemic started we are now celebrating all kinds of strange things. Snow on the ground? Let’s build a fire and make a gourmet meal! Our son called from college? Yay! Let’s have a nice bottle of wine with a charcuterie board! Laundry all done? Let’s crack open the champagne! You get the idea. We are actively looking for any small reason to celebrate, because why not?

So to celebrate our 39 years together, we selected a more expensive bottle of wine from the many we have on hand. To us, an expensive bottle is anything $50 and up. We selected a cabernet sauvignon from Tuscany – Mazzei 2010 Philip Rosso Toscano. We paired it with a recipe from one of our all-time favorite cookbooks – Made in Italy, by David Rocco. I highly recommend all of his cookbooks and all of his recipes. We have made several and have yet to be disappointed.

We had the house to ourselves and took our time creating the meal together and then enjoying the fruits of our labor. It was perfect. We reminisced about the many years we have spent together and the many experiences, both good and bad, we have shared. Not surprisingly, the current pandemic and the vaccine were part of the discussion.

Many people have been asking DTD his thoughts about the vaccine. Because DTD has signed more death certificates during this pandemic than ever before, he is thrilled to be vaccinated and also for everyone he knows and cares about to get the vaccine as soon as possible. He stresses that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and these amazing vaccines are the way we can return to normalcy.

DTD also reminds patients that vaccines in general are incredible as they have changed the world and revolutionized health care. Small pox, which was around for over 3,000 years killed around 300 million people in the 20th century alone. Now it no longer exists, thanks to vaccines. Vaccinations against measles, mumps, tetanus, shingles, whooping cough and the flu have not only saved lives, but decreased hospitalizations. The progress and success with vaccines is truly a remarkable feat of mankind.

DTD knows some people are hesitant to get the COVID vaccine for a variety of personal reasons. The most common concern is questioning how it was developed so quickly and whether this new mechanism is safe. He reassures them by explaining that this vaccine has been years in the making. Vaccines using mRNA technology, while new to the market as a finished product, are the result of many years of research. The vaccines are new, but the science, mechanism and research methods behind them have been around a very long time. The major advancements are a good thing, and show how much can be accomplished when scientists around the world work for a common good.

Vaccines in general are extremely safe. Yes, there can be side effects from any medicine (even Tylenol) and from any vaccine – sometimes very serious or deadly side effects. But this is extremely rare. DTD has never lost a patient from a vaccine, but he has lost far too many as a result of the COVID-19. As just one doctor in one practice in one small town, that’s a chilling thought.

DTD adds that many patients say they are not interested in the vaccine because they lead a healthy lifestyle and have no preexisting conditions which would put them at higher risk of complications. Unfortunately, a virus doesn’t care if you exercise or eat right. Consider the extreme number of Native Americans who perished from the many new viruses brought by the pilgrims. The Indigenous people were fit and healthy, living off the land and eating no processed foods, but their populations were decimated because their bodies could not fight these new viruses. In today’s world, obviously it’s better to be fit and lead a healthy lifestyle when faced with a new virus, but that won’t stop you from getting it and certainly won’t stop you from passing it on to others who are more vulnerable. While not common, even in his practice DTD has seen some very ill COVID patients who are young and healthy with no known preexisting conditions. While they have survived, they also have to deal with hospital bills, missed work and potential life-long complications.

I encourage you to talk to your doctor about any of your concerns with this vaccine. Of course, you can also read some information online, but be careful of your sources. Many are not reputable. There are several videos and articles circulating that spread false and misleading information about vaccines and, although the people contributing to these seem knowledgeable, they do not have the credentials or education to back their claims. Much of this misinformation capitalizes on people’s fears and religious beliefs. Everything you read online is not true, believe it or not.

Here is a link about the COVID vaccine that offers a lot of useful information, but you don’t have to trust me or DTD. Instead see a physician you know and trust – someone with an actual medical degree who knows about and has years of experience with infectious diseases. A medical doctor who specializes in infectious disease and has credentials and experience to prove it knows more than your random Facebook friends.

Personally, I am eagerly awaiting my turn to get this vaccine and hope to see many, many people benefit from this historical advancement as well. DTD and I are thrilled that he has received his vaccine, and that our parents and other people we love have either already had it or are on the list!

Now, back to our dinner. We made beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction, risotto bianco, and fried fennel. All of these recipes are from the same David Rocco cookbook and all went perfectly together. It was also an extremely easy meal to prepare.

Two very useful cooking secrets we have learned through our 39 years together are to read the recipes fully ahead of time and to prepare all of the ingredients before you start cooking. This makes for a low-stress experience in the kitchen. You can time things correctly so you’re not overcooking one dish while waiting for another. Some parts of the meal can even be made ahead of time. Plus it reduces the chance of you yelling things at each other like “hurry and drain the pasta!” or “don’t overcook the steak!” When ingredients are prepared and you both know what to expect, you can chat and drink wine and listen to music as you cook. The process is no longer a chore, but a fun activity to share. Even when the unexpected happens, you can handle it with grace, or at least with minimal swearing and without throwing any pots and pans at each other!

I am happy to say this menu was completed without a hitch. The steak was perfectly cooked and melted in our mouths – I like steak VERY rare and DTD likes it medium rare. Tenderloin is expensive, but when you’re just cooking for two and have side dishes, you don’t need much. It also isn’t as flavorful as other fatty cuts, so the wine sauce definitely compliments it in a beautiful and necessary way.

The risotto was a lovely side dish. If you are afraid of cooking risotto, get over it! You’re missing out, and it is not as challenging as people make it sound. This particular recipe required a slightly different wine reduction sauce, but really you could just use the one from the beef dish as well, since you’re only drizzling it at the end of cooking. Also, this risotto recipe has the unexpected flavor of fennel, which is why we added the fried fennel as a side.

If you have never cooked with fennel, I encourage you to do so. I even like raw fennel in salads, but when cooked, it is has a sweet and rich flavor that is unique and fabulous. David’s technique is as easy at it gets, allowing the fennel to shine with very few extra ingredients.

I would love to print all of his recipes here, but he has a website (linked above) with the recipes he’s sharing online and not all are listed. I think you need to buy the cookbook. I promise it’s well worth it, and I’m not getting a thing for saying so! The illustrations are beautiful and the recipes will make you feel like you’re in Italy.

Sometimes we pick a meal first, and then select the best wine to pair with it, but in this case we started with the wine and picked a meal that would complement it. With all of the resources online, this is easy to do nowadays. Just Google something like “best food to pair with cabernet sauvignon.” The wine and meal we enjoyed was the absolute best pairing and I was so proud of us for putting all of this together! This cabernet sauvignon was rated a 92 by Wine Spectator Magazine. It had a spicy, mocha raspberry thing going on, and we both thought it was terrific. It paired almost as well with the risotto and fennel as it did with the beef. The whole experience made for a lovely and fitting celebration. I highly encourage you to recreate the entire meal and let me know how it goes!

Best of luck getting your Covid vaccine and enjoy a few pictures of our meal and our years together!

This is how DTD looked when we met in middle school. Believe it or not, I loved his glasses! How studious he looked…I should have known he would become a doctor!

Fair is fair…this is how I looked in middle school! Kind of like his brother!! LOL

This is us as happy-go-lucky college students, young and in love! You can see what we look like now (after 3 kids and too many stresses, but still very much in love) on the “about me and DTD” page.

Our meal and the wine bottle. The fennel looks like caramelized onions, but tastes even better!

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