Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

It is bad enough that people are dying of AIDS, but no one should die of ignorance. 
- Elizabeth Taylor

            In a past life, before I had a kid and a husband, I worked as a political activist for AIDS organizations in Washington, D.C.  It made college public service seem like kiddie-camp.  Eighty-hour work-weeks, little pay, cranky politicians, big pharma lobbyists that sold snake-oil.  For good or for bad, it was like the television show, The West Wing, except I wasn’t good-looking, and I didn’t have Josh Lyman as my vote-wrangler.
            I eventually left the job because it was literally kicking my butt.  My relationships were devolving into recorded messages. My apartment was a triple-code fire hazard of unwashed laundry and newspapers.  I could only live on a diet of canapés, tuna-fish sandwiches, and Jim Beam for so long.  It was only a matter of time before the job would eat me alive.
            But I loved the job and more importantly, I loved a job that meant something to millions of HIV infected persons every day.  And even though I am now outside the Beltway, I still feel my heartstrings tug every time I see another statistic about HIV, because I don’t see statistics.  I see people - people that I have known, loved, fed, cared and cried for, and buried.
            While talking to Congressional members was riveting (and you’d be surprised how many of them have bad breath), a lot of it was just that – talk.  It didn’t give those living with HIV access to drugs; it didn’t give them hugs; it didn’t give them information to fight the spread of HIV; it didn’t feed them. That could only be done by humans for humans in libraries, in schools and on street blocks.
            Outreach work was not the easiest in D.C.  The communities that needed the most work were often the ones that were the most inhospitable to strangers – especially to starry-eyed little Asian AIDS crusaders.  After knocking on endless doors and getting nothing but suspicious glances and the occasional chortle (laughing AT me, not with me), I was getting discouraged pretty quickly.   I wasn’t doing much good being the “Crazy AIDS lady of SE DC”
            When the going gets tough, the tough make cookies.  And that is what ultimately saved me.  Who doesn’t want a homemade cookie?  Didn’t matter what kind of cookies I baked, chocolate-chip, snicker-doodle, blondies, oatmeal raisin, sugar, peanut butter – they all got eaten.  By the end of the month, I was the cookie-toting, pamphlet-jiving, condom-distributing Pied Piper of the community.  Granted, I still got a lot of funny looks, but at least they took a cookie and pretended to be interested.  That was a start.  And in a world where HIV still affects 33.3 million people across the globe, you have to start, because that is the first step in finding an end.

Sugar Cookies
            While everyone will always want a cookie, some cookies are better than others.  That is just nature’s law.  These sugar cookies rock. They have the right chewy-crispy ratio for the perfect cookie. And there’s nothing to object to in this cookie – no nuts, no raisins, no funny concept.  Just unadulterated cookie goodness.  Sometimes, the simplest are the best. 
11/2 c. sugar
1 c. shortening (yes, use shortening – you need it for the right cookie consistency)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
31/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 salt
additional sugar for rolling

1.     Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.  In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar with a mixer until fluffy.  Add vanilla and beaten eggs and mix until combined thoroughly.
2.     In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Slowly add to the creamed shortening mixture until well mixed.
3.     Form 11/2 in. dough balls and roll in sugar.  Bake on a greased cookie sheet or baking paper until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
 4.  Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and eat!

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