Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'll Have What He's Having: Hospital Fare, Recovery, and A Great Book

I'd become used to eating from our local food basket, but "in life as in recovery, not all things are level and smooth." (Wisdom of the Last Farmer by David Mas Masamoto.)

Eggs from River Farm come from chickens that have access to all types of land, even the forest. Rich in nutrients, these eggs are health-giving. Even Finn finds it hard to stay away from them. But that's not the kind of eggs you get in the hospital.

On June 4, I had a great deal of pain and after a number of tests an emergency surgery, so Saturday morning, I found myself flat on my back in a hospital, reading the clear liquid hospital menu. I was destined to be okay but at the time I was wondering whether the apple juice I was about to order was from China. And how many pesticide residues it contained? Apples are on the top dirty dozen list of foods for pesticides. It doesn't matter where I end up, I'm always concerned about the purity and roots of my food.

When I graduated to the solid food menu, I was equally convinced nothing would be edible, but during a bout of hunger, and thinking food would make me feel better, I selected "Fluffy Scrambled Eggs."

At least Seattle isn't like Austin, Texas where a corn dog and curly fries were presented to my sister in the ICU. But I ask you: how many times have you seen eggs in a perfect yellow scoop? I imagined the chickens that gave rise to these "eggs", if they were real eggs. I shuddered at the factory conditions. And while the term "breakfast potatoes" had me picturing chunks of fresh roasted potatoes, the reality was far from my fantasy image.

The potatoes looked like a fast food product, something a person might clutch and eat in the car, something borrowed from McDonalds. On the menu, below "Room Service: excellence is always on the menu" it said "Presented by the Food and Nutrition Department." Really? If this is excellence, we're in trouble. At least this "picture of excellence" inspired me to get out of bed take a photo.

Notice the sad attempt at "presentation" with the slice of orange and squares of peppers (probably from Mexico, I thought.)

What really saved me in the hospital were well wishes from JoanE of Rent's Due Ranch, Apple Cider, the perfect gift from Wade Bennett of Rockridge Orchards, and visits from my wonderful friends Ed Haskins and Patty whose late husband Sam Fain had the exact hospital room shortly before he passed away. How brave of her to visit, probably flooded with Sam's memories yet never losing her sweet composure. Of course Tom came every day and even brought framed pictures of the dogs to keep me company for my three day stay.

Mostly, I was very sad to miss Food Lust, and had even suggested to the doctor that we wait till Monday for the surgery, but the doctor insisted surgery should done immediately. And since I was in a great deal of pain and the rather large ovarian mass had twisted, it needed to be removed. The doctor was 99 percent certain the mass was not cancerous, but still, I was thrilled when the final pathology report returned negative for cancer. That meant I could focus on getting better.

I'm generally the cook at home, so once I got home, on Monday, I focused on what's easy-to-make, tastes good and has super nutritious qualities to spur my recovery. One of my favorite soups is Turnip Greens Soup. Tom had gone to the market and had bought fresh spring turnips from Mair Farm-Taki. (Katsumi of Mair Farm-Taki is very kind, sells my book at the market and grows amazing Asian varieties of produce.)
So I made this favorite soup and guess who was way too eager food photos?

Another thing I've been able to do in this time of recovery is catch up on reading. Shortly before the "incident," a book arrived in the mail. It was Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies From the Land by David Mas Masumoto, a book I thought I'd ordered last February when The Last Farmer by Howard Kohn arrived.

Even if you aren't freshly released from the hospital, check out Wisdom of the Last Farmer by David Mas Masumoto. It's a fascinating memoir of Mas Masumoto's father and day-to-day life on the family farm after his father suffered a stroke. Each chapter reads more like a moving essay meant to be read again and again.

One of my favorites was "Hard Pan Economics." Mas Masumoto calls it the "official rock of our farm," and says, "I don't believe I will ever free myself from it's burdens." He goes into depth about the nature of hardpan, where it comes from, that it was formed in the time of dinosaurs, how it's resistant to shovels, and takes an explosive force to break it apart. He looks at hardpan from every angle, then also says that it will always be there and that "it's a symbol of survival for immigrant families who came to our valley to carve out a life for themselves."

At the chapter's end Mas Masamoto says, "Hardpan economics are the choices I made to take care of the land: opportunity costs--sacrificing potential wealth by staying in the valley. . . . A slow lesson for me, hardpan may be invisible at times, hiding just beneath the surface. To survive I must learn to live with it. Hardpan is not going away." It's a lesson for all of us to reach for something beyond our own interests and strive to add something good to the world.

For a great story, sure to bring smiles and tears, check out Wisdom of the Last Farmer.


Kathy said...

Thanks, Deb! So glad you are feeling better. Your hospital breakfast looked pitiful, I'm sure you are glad to be home. The turnip soup must have hit the spot.
Your story reminded me how wonderful it can be to find a good book!

ddzeller said...

It's really good to be back in the 'real' world where I can actually find and cook really good food and discover stories worth reading

Anonymous said...

Ooooooh, thanks for some good new book recommendations!

ddzeller said...

These books were both so good, you won't be disappointed!