Saturday, May 23, 2009

Food Musings

His head was bowed as he sat on the edge of the hospital bed. A large man who had sailed four times around the world with the Navy, he was back once again with a new stroke. The last one, five months ago, cleared up pretty well; other than some slight blurring of his peripheral vision out of the left eye, he was pretty much at his baseline. But this time he felt that his world was coming to an end. Earlier today when he was home, he had been trying to assemble the components of his four-wheeled walker which had broke down. The task was not going well and becoming increasingly frustrated, he tried to swear. To his alarm, all that came out was a string of incomprehensible noises.

As he recounted the story to me, I could sense the frustration as he struggled with his speech -although now much better. A period of verbal fluidity was only occasionally punctuated by a garbled word. Still smoking four cigarettes a day -down from a 4 pack a day habit- he had no intention of quitting. What do I have left? he queried me, other than my cigarettes, I don't have much else. I left him sitting with his lunch tray arrayed with food falling under the rubric of low salt and low fat.

As I prepared dinner, I envisioned him sitting on his bed, eating joylessly the sanctioned dishes placed in front of him. Food -which could have been a source of pleasure for him- was now prescribed and proscribed like another pill to swallow or a poison to avoid.

While sipping a ginger tisane, I diced a medley of mushrooms, baby bok choy, and bits of garlic for a tofu stir-fry. It was bracing to feel the raw materials of our dinner in my hands -tangible precursors to our meal.

The oyster mushrooms -translucent little conches- were still speckled with some dirt; the leaves of the baby bok choy fanned out delicately.
We finally sat down to eat in the twilight. Neither a drug to be feared nor a panacea to embrace, our dinner was simply a meal -healthful and pleasure-giving.

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