Philip Sharp: Senior with cancer chooses between medicine and food – Entertainment – Austin American-Statesman

Philip Sharp is battling a case of the sniffles, but, beyond that, he says he’s feeling good.

He’s got his cat of 13 years, Sweetheart. He’s talked to his daughter, Jessica, recently, and the PBS signal is still coming in strong.

You’d never know that days earlier the soft-spoken Sharp had finished his most recent round of chemotherapy treatment.

Sharp is not prone to self-pity or asking for much help. On the day in question, as he stands in his modest apartment talking to me via a Zoom connection facilitated by his case manager with Family Eldercare, Sharp expresses gratitude for the assistance he’s received and the minimal side effects of the treatments for a cancerous lesion recently removed from his bladder. He also is slated to undergo gallbladder removal surgery in the spring.

While his polite demeanor and tender nature serve as no sign for concern, the truth is that recently the 65-year-old, who lives alone with Sweetheart, was dangerously close to having to make this choice: paying for medicine or paying for food.

On lean days like those, Sharp turned to a simple diet of canned beans. You’d be hard-pressed to get him to complain about it. He will talk about food, however. The things he loves. Like a pizza loaded with meat. Tacos. And the Hungry Man meals that Jessica delivered to him recently.

Sharp has lived in Austin since 1998, and while he’s had a long tenure in town, his social circle remains limited. He turns to online chat rooms to make friends with folks his age and talk about their lifestyles, and finds joy in watching PBS shows about American history and science.

“I’m not a real socialite,” Sharp says.

Sharp, who successfully manages schizoaffective disorder through a medication regimen, studied chemistry in college. The jazz flutist also studied music, forestry and computer science but eventually cut short a college education that included stints at Stephen F. Austin University and what is now Texas State University.

“It was all so boring; I couldn’t take it anymore,” Sharp says dryly.

After a period of homelessness following a divorce and car accident, Sharp received assistance from Family Eldercare, the organization that nominated him for Season for Caring, which helped stabilize his living situation.

The nonprofit has assisted Sharp, who lives off of disability benefits, with the stress of managing his finances and staying on top of his medical appointments and mounting bills. For that, Sharp is very grateful.

“It makes me feel very comforted to know somebody is going to be there,” Sharp says.

More Season for Caring.

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Make, give, eat: Why dumplings are the medicine we need during a pandemic – Food and Dining – Austin American-Statesman

Every culture has a dumpling, and I want them all.

Pot stickers and pierogi, pasties and samosas, empanadas and ravioli. These are just a few of the hand pies and filled dumplings that people around the world reach for at family get-togethers, annual celebrations and weekday lunches.

The dumplings I knew as a kid weren’t really dumplings. Those thick, hand-cut noodles dropped into chicken stew dumplings are still a nostalgic comfort food, but those aren’t the dumplings that currently fill my freezer.

I’ve always tried to keep a little stash of Asian, Italian, Argentinean and Eastern European dumplings for quick dinners, but this year, that stash has grown into a stockpile. It must have something to do with the anxieties and uncertainties of the pandemic — plus all this time at home to cook — that have led to a larger-than-usual supply of dumplings that I can cook for a quick lunch or dinner.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been focused on making hundreds of Asian dumplings to give away to neighbors and friends, some of whom have welcomed babies during this year of the coronavirus. Reactions are almost identical each time I hand someone a bag, usually filled with some kind of frozen pork-and-scallion stuffed pot stickers: raised eyebrows, open mouth and some exclamation along the lines of “Oh, I love dumplings!”

During the past six months, I’ve written about making empanadas, pierogi and ravioli, but it wasn’t until this month’s one-person pot sticker parties that I started to wonder why I’ve been so drawn to dumplings this year.

So I reached out to C.K. Chin, the community-building restaurateur behind Wu Chow and Swift’s Attic. His downtown Chinese restaurant is now selling frozen dumplings by the dozens, and I knew Chin would help me sort out what it is about these little pockets of joy that makes them so magical.

Unlike lasagna, brisket or a big pot of soup, which are also definitely comfort foods, dumplings aren’t necessarily meant to feed a crowd — although they certainly can. Dumplings usually start the other way, with a group of people gathered around a table, with everyone putting their labor together to make something that can be divided and shared among them.

Once you’ve made all those dumplings — no matter what kind — you can store them in a freezer to feed your future self. Dumplings embody a certain kind of optimism, Chin says.

“In Asian cultures, dumplings carry deep symbolism. They are treated with a lot of reverence and good luck because they are shaped like gold ingots. Even if you don’t believe the mythos of it, it becomes a tradition in your house,” he says.

With humble origins, dumplings don’t need much to shine. In Asian cultures, the dough is usually made with flour, water and salt, and in the right hands, those ingredients can transform into an almost transparent skin that maintains a slightly chewy texture when boiled or fried. “It takes out-of-the-box thinking to make

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