Memorable Meals

One of my Twitter followers has been diagnosed with tongue cancer and the treatment plan he is facing is nothing more than unthinkable. However we must do what we must to survive but it brings to mind questions of the quality of life and the strength of the human spirit to live.

No matter how bad things get we humans have this deep imperative to survive and nothing sparks that impulse more than food. What do you do when you cannot eat though?

I have been feeling rather down as my nutrition is lacking from of all of the diet restrictions from cross-reactive pollen allergies. In reality there are plenty of foods I can still eat but I mourn the loss of my favorite food items. I can still eat and taste. I am grateful for this.

I have also been really depressed from of all my physical Injuries and the countdown to surgery in 18 days. I am also dealing with the anger that I put off my surgery for 2 weeks to help ease a work deadline, which has now shifted, so now the deadline is right during the week of the surgery. Every day my pain and discomfort grows and my suffering is longer by 2 weeks for nothing.

Perspective is a steadying force too. I know another sweet lady who has breast cancer and is doing chemotherapy before surgery. Her strength and courage moves me. Again, compared to my acquaintances and friends with cancer, I have nothing at all to gripe about. Physical pain is an inconvenience, it’s not good to be in pain and there are health effects but in comparison to cancer it is a drop in the bucket.

I began to think of the healing nature of our food and of meals shared with friends and family. Food is nurturing to our bodies and our shared meals are nurturing to our souls.

A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou, beside me singing in the wilderness. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

My last Thanksgiving was with my mOm, my stepdad and my sister. I miss them very much and I hadn’t seen them for months before that holiday and we haven’t visited since. I don’t remember much about the food, only how wonderful it was to hold their hands around the table, have Ken say grace and to eat the food we all prepared together.

Our gathering is limited by geography and the inevitable countdown of time slipping away looms over me until I can’t take a breath but it is also makes our reunions so much sweeter.

My birthday two years ago was the day my exboyfriend was buried. We parted badly and it was just a year after when he died suddenly. The church was filled with our friends and his family and many local people, awash in grief. I couldn’t face the burial service so my dear friend Anna picked me up, took me into her home, her beau poured me champagne and they made me a decadent dinner of lobster mashed potatoes and filet mignon. We didn’t talk a whole lot but it was a night filled with love and caring directed towards me. It made everything better and reminded me the power of enduring through the pain of loss and why we go on to live for the joy of life .

A recent picnic with Anna and Deb was very spontaneous and delightful, it was such a perfect day. Sunshine, cool Spring air, sitting on a lawn filled with tiny daisies and black bees under a cherry blossom tree we celebrated “hamine” in a way only Midwestern, Russian and Californian girls in San Francisco can. We had a lunch of mixed cultures: Californian wine and beers, Japanese onigiri, fried chicken with an Asian twist, French cornichon, local roasted beets in vinaigrette, and the ultimate dessert of rice crispie treats with bacon. We continued on with dinner at Anna’s with the doggies, more wine and laughter and silliness. My back still isn’t right from trying those dance moves on one foot in the living room. Good friends, silly conversations, our park in our town, a mingling of everything in our personal melting pots, we shared the joy of a perfect Saturday. We all work so hard with our jobs, families, school, communities and hobbies, and oftentimes hanging out with friends gets lost in scheduling conflicts and fatigue. But these times replenish our batteries and give us the mental lightness to carry on with our busy lives.

Years ago when Marc was still alive we all trouped up to Lake Tahoe for a ski weekend with about 20 friends. A couple of us didn’t ski that time so we drove over to Emerald Bay for a little hike down to the Vikingsholm. It’s a pleasant walk and most of the way was clear from snow. Marc’s best friend Joe was in training to go to war in the Reserves and it was a nice treat for me and Sharon to spend a little time with him in one of the most beautiful places in California before he faced his challenge and served our Country in Kuwait and Bagram.

We rambled around the mansion and grounds, through the woods and beaches and settled on a sunny spot out of the wind to watch the lake gently lap the stony shore.

Joe said he had lunch for us and pulled out three MREs from his pack. He showed us how to heat up the beef stew and corned beef hash and we ate everything and listened to him talk about what it was like to eat a meal in a ditch or in a hole somewhere, what he and his men liked and didn’t like, and what they talked about during their time on maneuvers.

Joe never really talked much about his Army experiences as he is a very stoic and a very patriotic man; the soldiers I know are all generally very reserved in sharing their experiences and emotions, particularly to civilians and to women. It is a peculiarity but I understand.

There we sat in this glorious place eating very inglorious food, skipping pebbles into the clear water, and imagining what Joe would be doing in a few short weeks and just fully being there , at the Lake, together in the sunshine.

All of these meals are like a diamond, a pure, sparkling moment you want to take out, polish up and enjoy in the light, letting the facets reflect the rainbow flash of your memory.

I have many, many memories like this to contemplate as I prepare for my unpleasant experience ahead. I am so lucky to have dear friends who have offered to take me to their home and look after me during the worst of it, and others to bring over food and run errands for me, or take me to appointments or just visit with me. I have loving family to give me moral support and encouragement and to make me laugh even though they are far away.

I am even more lucky that my doctors give me 70-90% chance of a successful outcome. I have an injured ankle, shoulder, back, knees, hand, and more but it is not cancer and I know eventually I will be better, healthy and strong. I think of my friends and acquaintances who are facing a battle for their lives and I think about how brave they are. I will try harder.

4 responses to “Memorable Meals

  1. i hope your surgery goes well.

    • Thank you very much. The surgeon is the SF Ballet’s company doctor so I have a lot of faith in him.

  2. Barbara Small

    You are doing remarkably well during all of this stress and pain. Pain is exhausting and working while the business moves and keepng all of your appointments. Give yourself credit for making it through as well as encouraging your ill friends and some famiily members needing cheering up. You are really a special woman. Hang in there!

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