Saturday, February 09, 2019

My weird visit to Dr. X

Thank you for the sweet comments. In this post, I describe a strange evening that ends with some food but isn't really about food. I still cook, but not as much as I used to, and if I wait to write about cooking adventures, there will be big gaps. 

  As I mentioned in the last post, I have a boring but debilitating ankle injury. Thursday I decided to see a doctor and I chose Dr. X because his office is a quick drive from our house and he’s in our insurance network. How bad could a random doctor be? He wasn’t going to perform major surgery, he was just going to look at my ankle and perhaps refer me to a specialist, so I saw no reason to bother with a lot of fussy research. Or any at all. Off I went to Dr. X.

First thing, the nurse called me in and had me step on the scale fully dressed without even taking off my boots. Good God. That was a blow. The nurse left and eventually Dr. X came in. He was a tiny, bright-eyed, bespectacled man of about my age with an accent from somewhere on the Indian subcontinent. When I say he was tiny, I mean he was considerably shorter than I am and I am not tall. I felt like a volleyball player next to Dr. X.

Dr. X shook my hand and before he had even dropped it said sharply, “Why are your hands so warm?”

I was about to reply that it was probably because the room was hot, but he didn’t wait for an answer. “And why are your fingertips bluish?”

I looked at my fingertips anxiously. “Are they bluish?”

“Purple. You see?” 

I said, “Maybe because I ate a pomegranate a few hours ago?

He looked up. “Do you eat a lot of fruit?”

“Not really. I do like pomegranates.”

“What is your diet?”  

“What do you mean by that?”

“What do you think I mean?”

I said, “Are you asking, like, what do I have for breakfast?” 

He didn’t answer. He said: “Do you drink?”

“Yes.” What did any of this have to do with my ankle? I told him I was here because I’d been walking a lot and hurt myself and . . . 

He cut me off. “Give me your phone. I want to look at your phone.”

“Ah, I know what you’re going to do,” I said. “You’re going to look at my pedometer.”

Dr. X seemed disappointed. He said, “A lot of people with iPhones do not even know about the pedometer.” He took my phone, went into the pedometer, studied it for about 20 seconds. He then informed me that I had a repetitive stress injury because I’d been walking too much and hadn’t been resting between days of walking, he could see it right there on the pedometer. Bodies need rest, something about mitochondria, stretching, cross-training, etc etc, walk 10 minutes a day, no more, and you’ll be fine in two weeks.

I was annoyed. This domineering little man had demanded my phone and hadn’t even glanced at my leg. I said, wait a second, I’ve been resting and elevating my leg and icing it for a few weeks already and it isn’t getting better.

“Oh, you’re worried about a stress fracture,” he said cheerfully. “Stand up. Now jump up and down like this.” He jumped up and down. I jumped up and down. 

“Does it hurt?”


“That means you do not have a stress fracture. You have, like I said, a repetitive stress injury. Do you get a lot of sunlight?”

Huh? “Probably not. I take vitamin D.”

“How much?”

“I don’t know. A capsule.”

“Very strange that someone who walks that much would say she doesn’t get a lot of sunlight.” 
 He began typing the diagnosis into the computer. “How do you spell repetitive?”

I told him how to spell repetitive. 

“That’s what I typed but it’s not coming up. How many words a minute do you type?”

“I type pretty fast,” I replied. 

“I know you type fast because you are a writer, but how many words per minute?”

“I have no idea. I’m still wondering, why did you ask me about my diet? Why did you ask me if I eat fruit?”

“I forget,” he said.

The appointment was over. As I walked out, he said, “Are you limping?”

Why yes, doctor.

It was the weirdest appointment. It was about 7 p.m. by now and I limped across the street to a roti shop and ordered a vegetarian roti for dinner. I had been planning to go to a pizza restaurant, but cheesy pizza seemed much less attractive after that visit. A roti is like a Caribbean burrito, but instead of a tortilla, the wrapper is a sheet of whole wheat Indian flatbread, and instead of carne asada and pinto beans, the filling is likely to be chicken and potatoes, or, in my case, curried greens and squash. Roti are everywhere in this part of Brooklyn but this was my first. It was delicious. What is your diet? Healthy.

I sat there eating the roti in the empty roti shop, thinking about Dr. X. I would never go back to Dr. X, but I realized that while he was eccentric and obnoxious, I had rather enjoyed him. I had found him amusing, even somewhat cute. I had found him amusing and cute because he seemed harmless and he seemed harmless entirely because he was so much smaller than I was. If a tall doctor had barked questions at me and demanded my phone, I would have been nervous. Instead, I had played along, unfazed. I thought, Is this how men feel all the time when they (literally) look down at women? Is it just size that explains the difference between “you’re beautiful when you’re angry” and “you’re terrifying when you’re angry?” 

Obviously size confers advantage. I knew this in an abstract way, but I’d never really felt it before. I enjoyed that feeling. I imagine Dr. X would too.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Waiter! There are raisins in the soup, my son is a blond, and I live in a strange city!

The new house is handsome and brown and my old stuff looks really good here.

        The last time I wrote on this sadly neglected blog, I described the night our dog almost died from eating chocolate. The other day, Gracie ate a large pellet of rat poison in the park and I took it as a mystical sign that I should re-start my dormant cooking blog.

Kidding. I recently took a leave of absence from grad school, which has freed up a lot of mental energy. I also cooked a really strange, delicious soup that I wanted to recommend. So I am typing.

Not that I don’t have a good excuse for the hiatus. It’s been a hell of a year. Both of our kids are now in college and Mark and I now live in Brooklyn. Last spring, Mark’s employer asked him to move to NYC and given that we were about to be empty nesters we said, sure, why not? Why not leave behind family, friends, temperate climate, elderly cats, the house where we raised children and chickens and goats and had happy memories and fig trees and a hand-built pizza oven to embrace, in middle age, a new life in a vast metropolis where we know hardly anyone?
a sad day
Well, I can now tell you why not. Oh boy, can I tell you why not. But I can also tentatively tell you why to. While I can’t think about my old life without wanting to cry, the change of scenery has been exciting and interesting enough that I am able to avoid thinking about the old life for days at a time. My grandfather used to talk about people needing to “repot” themselves lest they stop growing. We repotted. We’ll see how much growing ensues. There have been moments when I have worried that shrinkage and regression will be the result of the move, but today I am feeling optimistic and am betting on growth. Watch this space.

Anyway, last week on a sunny, cold morning, Gracie and I went out for our usual hobble. She walks and tries to run, I hobble. The best thing about New York has been the walking and it was so unbelievably great that I walked and walked and walked — sometimes 8 or 10 miles at a go — until I injured myself (boring old person injury) and now the worst thing about New York is the walking because even a short trip to corner store gives me insight into what it must be like to be 90. 

scene of the crime
We were hobbling around in the park when I saw Gracie eating something that wasn’t the usual denuded chicken bone, but a rectangular green pellet the size of a lipstick. I yelled and she dropped the thing but snatched it up again before I could jerk her away. She swallowed it whole. We hobbled straight to the vet. After a delightful procedure that I was permitted to observe, the startled vet said, oh wow, yes, that’s rat poison. The good news: the rat poison was still almost completely intact and Gracie is fine. The bad news: there is rat poison lying around in Prospect Park.

We hobbled home from the vet to await the extreme weather of the polar vortex and I decided to make a strange, wintry cabbage soup I’d read about in The Dean & Deluca Cookbook. The soup contains kielbasa, cabbage, and golden raisins. Although I have since learned that it is fairly common to put raisins in cabbage soup, this was a first for me. Satisfying my curiosity about the raisins was the whole reason I wanted to make the soup; I think I may be more tempted by recipes that sound weird than recipes that sound good.

To be fair, the cookbook tried to make the recipe sound good. Here’s the headnote: 
“There's a wonderful paradox in this soup (Waiter! There's a paradox in my soup!): it's filled with hearty ingredients and hearty flavors -- and yet, the overall feel of the soup is light and delicate. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser in winter.” 

Guaranteed crowd-pleaser? Not exactly. The first night, I was tempted to throw away both Dean & Deluca and the soup. It was watery and cabbagey and the raisins were just bizarre. Two days later, Mark reheated the soup and brought me a bowl for lunch (my injury means I get served more often) and it was a completely different soup. A soup we both wanted to eat. They always say this about soup and stew, that the flavors need time to meld, but rarely has it been so true as it was with this soup. By day three, the raisins had given up all their fruity sugar to the broth, which was floral and sweet, and yet there was also spicy, meaty kielbasa in there, so it filled you up. For five days in a row I ate the cabbage soup for lunch and marveled at how good it was until finally today I realized the soup was on the downswing. Like the raisins, the kielbasa had finally given all its flavor to the broth and tasted like nothing. When the kielbasa tastes like nothing, the soup’s over. 

You should try this recipe, though let it sit overnight before you serve it. This is a tasty, unusual, once-a-winter soup. I hope I can remember to make it again next winter. 

The other recipe I made recently that went over big was Deb Perelman's beans on toast from Bon Appetit. It felt wrong to serve a dish like this, geared for picky children, to two unpicky adults, but I will probably do so again because it is so easy and tasty. This is exactly the kind of meal Owen would have loved when he was a kid. No more. When I dropped him off at college in August he was a dark-haired meat eater.

He returned to us in December a vegetarian blond. He could not be persuaded to touch meat, even when we went to the most tempting Chinese dumpling restaurant. I respect that. I’m not nuts about the hair, but he could not care less, which is as it should be. Our children have their own lives now and Mark and I are trying (!) to do the same.