Monday, October 6, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

I could be writing about so many more profound things, but I have to put in a good word for the joy of cooking. My stipend doesn't give me a lot to spend on food, so I get the fun challenge of being creative. There is something very satisfying about making something new and, if I am lucky, delicious. So far our well-stocked spice cabinet and leftover vegetables have been my best allies.
Recent inventions include:
  • Gluten-free peach pancakes (needed more peach) and a dill omlette stuffed with tomatoes (Why is there an enormous bottle of organic dill weed in our pantry?)
  • Black beans (a VSC house staple), carmelized onions, and shaved zucchini sauteed in garlic powder and olive oil

It helps that I have read yet another memoir by Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl. Her breezy, sunsual, hyperbolic style makes any meal seem like a sublime privilege. Just one chapter is enough to make you want to run and fire up the stove.
I've read her books in reverse order, just now getting to the initial volume about her hippie college days. Commune life and picking up random men in Morocco would likely have turned me off when I first discovered her, but now it seems very appropriate for my current life in a new city. Does she ever feel guilty about going establishment and working for mega-publications like the New York Times and Gourmet? If you have never heard of her, I recommend starting with Garlic and Sapphires, which chronicles her incognito restaurant reviews for the NYT.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Fish Fry

There's a VFW post across the street from my office, and every other Friday the old guys there hold a lunchtime fish-fry. Since food is a major component of my office's life, we of course order lunch from there. And since my boss is the Nicest Man in the World (TM), he of course fetches our massive order of cod and hush puppies.

This Friday, however, the boss was away at a meeting, and so I got promoted to head of fish fry, initiating Intern Jenny and Intern Jennifer into the group ordering ritual. Thank goodness I come from a big family, where you learn quickly to organize everyone's order or else end up battling fast-food cashiers for your chicken nuggets.
I was afraid the VFW folks wouldn't recognize me without my boss, but I needed have worried. My entrance with two other cute young girls in tow got a cheering welcome. Without "The Doc" around (as they assume my boss is), America's veterans felt much more at liberty to flirt with us "nurses." They wished we offered "Nurses for Old Guys" and regretted that Enfamil was not on their beverage menu. They also got a kick out of offering us vodka for our ice tea. As usual, one side of hush puppies was missing and had to be fought for. All in all, another entertaining Fish Friday.

Side note: in addition to the usual hush puppies, fries, and cole slaw, spaghetti is another side order option at the VFW. Huh? There are other places in St. Louis that also offer entrees like "catfish and spaghetti." The Nicest Man in the World (TM) claims it adds some sort of tangy flavor, but I consider it an affront to my (25%) Italian heritage.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


There is a song by the Newsboys which sings to God:
And I feel like I could break
Lord I know it's getting late
Let my heart be broken by Your heart ache

I had my own taste of heartache this week as I dealt with a new level of involvement at NFNF. One of our client babies died - something I had heard about, but never been connected to before. I had only met this mother twice, but already her outgoing personality and her troop of children had won a piece of my heart. There are really no answers here. Babies do die, and often for accidental reasons we can't explain. I'm sad for the client's loss, but I am mostly worried about the fate of the remaining family.
My boss invited me to sit on a debriefing session for the staff that knew the client. I went in seeking a little more information. What I got was a two hour emotional roller coaster. In a situation like this, the nurses need to mourn, but also to seek lessons from experience. Did we do everything we could? Did we do too much and enable co-dependence? There was sadness, anger, and frustration.
The more I was reminded about the family's situation, the more I saw connections to my own family. There are four kids, half boys and half girls. I look at the 9 year old son drawing pictures and see my little brothers. I hear about the hardworking father and see my own. I see the oldest daughter parenting her siblings and see myself.
And then it hit me - that could have been us. If my parents had been born in the 'hood instead of suburbia, if they hadn't had a stable upbringing, if if if....I could be homeless too, living in hotel rooms and hoping my parents patch up their differences enough to make a home. I wish I were God and could swoop in on that family, lifting the kids up to a cozy house and good schools.

Don't go thinking I'm crazy
But I'm feeling Your heart ache
Your creation through Your eyes
There is pain
It's no mistake
The closer I get to You I see
Soul's full of hurt
Full of need
The closer I get I see
Less of me