In Sickness

When sick in my family, there was a mantra: drink plenty of fluids and rest. Pretty simple, really.

When sick in my family, there was a mantra: drink plenty of fluids and rest. Pretty simple, really.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Presents wrapped for Christmas (not counting the ones we shipped): 0

People home sick: 2

Are you good at being sick?

I mean, really think about it: do people rush out of the house to get away from you when you’re sick… and not because of the germs?

I have come to believe that there are two things that challenge a marriage because we are raised with our own set of expectations:

1. Food

2. Illness

You might say the rather predictable money, but if you die first, maybe money isn’t your biggest issue.

I can’t tell you how often food procurement and preparation or lack thereof haunts my friends and their families. Sometimes, I find myself siding with their spouses. If you grew up in a foodie-type family, then there is an expectation of regular grocery shopping, hot meals and recipe scouring.

If you were brought up in a scavenging sort of household, a bowl of cold cereal or tub of popcorn might suit you just fine… and you wonder why your spouse gets so bent out of shape about boring stuff like eating. I mean, survival-level nutrition shouldn’t be such a big deal, you think.

So, too, with illness.

My husband stinks at being sick.

I mean, he’s really bad at it.

In my family, when you were sick, you were told to drape yourself over the couch, watch TV, and request that things be brought to you. People stopped by to kiss you but generally let you get on with your mopey, bedridden self.

My husband does not subscribe to this manner of being sick. He is certain that other people delight in being ill, positively relish it. That when other people’s skin feels like it’s going to fall off and their joints ache and they have a fever and feel foggy, they are well-suited to it.

I try to disabuse him of this viewpoint, but he closes his ears and does a silent “Nananana… I’m not listening” in his head. At least, that’s what it looks like.

When I ask if he wants something from the grocery store, anything at all, he says, “Noooo.” Then he tries to think of reasons he needs to run out to the store to get something. Anything.

When I get home from the store, I say I’m going to make myself some fried eggs; would he like some, too?

Him: Ergh. That doesn’t sound remotely good. Okay. But let me flip mine.

Me: I can flip them.

Him: But they’ll only be good if the yolk is still runny.

Me: So I’ll leave the yolk runny.

Him: But you might not. And then I won’t eat it.

Me: You’re very bad at being sick.

If I were sick, I would be very happy, nay, gloriously blissful, if someone offered to make me an egg or two and bring it to me.

My husband says this is because other people (like me) are content to be still. He is wiggling on the couch while he says this.

I decide to take my stillness and walk it very quickly out of the room.

How about you? Are you a calm, good-natured and still person when you’re sick? Do you allow others to help you? Or are you grumpy and wish everyone would just leave you to your own fried eggs which will be flipped in precisely the most perfect manner? Not that I’m passing judgment.

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Foodie-ism: a National Epidemic?

No cynicism here: the bee finds yummy potential in many flowers. Even those without truffle oil.

Miles run today: 11

Column filed today: 1

On a scale of one to 10, how great it is to lie in bed and smell pancakes being cooked by your husband: 10.5

Our neighbors’ puppy was out yesterday, taking the yard in tight circles, all NASCAR-like. The owner said they had taken the Cutest Puppy in the World to the mountains on a long hike this past weekend; they thought he’d be worn out. But no dice. Still energetic.

Our son is a puppy. We must make sure he goes outside each day for exercise. Rain, hail, snow, 100-degree temperatures… we’re outside.

When our son was young, a friend told us, “You do realize that you’re only increasing his stamina, right?”

This disturbing thought had not occurred to me.

I wondered if I should be yelling, “Now, lie down! Watch two hours of TV! Don’t get up!”

But I never did.

And now, something even more sinister is occurring amongst the children of this nation: Foodie-ism. Well-meaning adults have created monsters; little creatures who know how to operate garlic presses and mandolins, food processors and pineapple corers. My children think that homemade bread is a God-given right.

I am not, in any way, suggesting that my kids would turn down Doritos. Heaven forbid.

But when I made a Cooking Light alfredo sauce for chicken and vegetable pasta the other night, my daughter said, “You know, this is really just like the white cheese sauce on Velveeta Shells and Cheese.”

I looked at her very hard.

And then I had to acknowledge that a child who, when asked by her grandmother what she would most like her to make when she was at her house, said “salmon with capers,” is a bit of a food snob.

The little, almost-5-year-old girl down the street eats olives by the handful. Not just any olives, but the high-end kind. She can tell the difference.

A recent picnic at a local park revealed to me that some local kids love brie. (Mine prefer Havarti.) They ate prosciutto like it was going out of style, wrapping it around their hands in much the same way as I used to remove the edges of my Oscar Mayer bologna.

My mother was a gourmet cook, channeling Julia Child and whipping up coq au vin with delightful regularity. But some things just weren’t available at our local grocery stores.

When I was five, I didn’t know that prosciutto existed. Mangoes were things people ate in other countries. And pineapples were things we bought in cans. I remember reading in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe about turkish delight, and it sounded fantastically exotic. Now that I’ve had it, the magic is gone.

I am wondering if we should put Foodie-ism on the president’s four-year gotta-address list. I mean, Michelle has all those kids farming kohlrabi and Swiss chard in the White House gardens.

What frontier of food will exist for my kids when they are grown and every Twinkie has been fried at the state fair, every pepper has been bred to the highest mark on the Scoville scale, and every Kobe beef burger is cooked to the perfect degree of done-ness?

Where does it end, people?

Perhaps, for me, it ends at truffle oil. I have never (knowingly) ingested truffle oil, though I am sure I would love it.

I will not allow any to pass my lips, because I know it is a slippery slope to Foodie-ism. Do not invite us to dinner if you are serving anything involving truffle oil. I am trying to protect my children and their futures.

What is your most exotic food indulgence? What would you eat for your last meal on earth?

The Omnivore’s Angst

Food. It's what's for dinner.

Days per week my daughter is excited about what I’ve made for dinner: 2

Days per week I cook dinner: 6 (not a great ratio, I’ll admit)

“Normal,” non-bug-oriented foods I won’t eat: 3

* Disclaimer: I am actually a very kind person.

So there we were, ambling around Glastonbury, a town in England frozen in the 1960s, full of dreadlocks and long skirts and chick peas.

“I need a burger,” my brother-in-law who has visited Glastonbury numerous times kept repeating. “Where is a place that sells burgers?”

At 2 p.m. after being stuck in a nightmare fun park called Wooky Hole, trying to escape arcade games and fun-house mirrors, then driving to a town rife with King Arthur lore I should have loved but couldn’t concentrate on because of the rumbling in my stomach, I would have eaten raw squid topped with beets.

We walked past cafe after cafe, mean words barely held back in my brain. My adult/parent/daughter-in-law/sister-in-law good behavior was holding on by a string akin to cooked angel-hair pasta.

Look around, I wanted to say to my brother-in-law. These are people who shun meat. Can we please get a veggie pot pie and move on?

As my 4- and 6-year-old kids clung to my hands, their energy draining away so they could barely maintain verticality, I also wanted to say mean things to the people nearby who were happy and grain-fed.

Baths are fun, I wanted to say. But also, I was considering, Jimi Hendrix is dead! Dead, people!

I did not scare any flower children that day, and my own children continued to prop me up until we wandered into an eatery proclaiming, “Burgers!” on its hand-written sign.

We ordered. I sat and looked grumpy.

And maybe the sign forgot to mention: they were veggie burgers. My brother-in-law was not a happy camper. But because the rest of us were gnawing the table legs, he choked it down.

I used to be a picky eater. too. My mom cooked me separate meals until I was six, and then she said, “This is for the birds. Eat it or don’t.” Mostly, I didn’t. I don’t remember being especially hungry, and not eating whatever it was had little effect on me one way or the other.

Then I went to camp.

It was the summer after 4th grade, and my friends were going to Girl Scout camp in the north Georgia mountains. (Something people don’t tell you about the north Georgia mountains, but which I figured out after several trips up there is: it rains. Like, all the time.)

Camp food, like most institutional food, wasn’t so great. I’d never been away from home for more than one meal at a time, and I spent mealtime hoarding my roll and listening to my stomach making loud growling noises that made other kids frightened of me. I wrote my mom and dad letters saying things like, “They are serving us canned green beans” that my parents found hilarious and framed.

When I got home, I started eating and never stopped. My legs grew four inches that summer, and my taste buds did, too. Things got a lot easier for me after that.

Years later, in cooking for family and friends, we have dealt with gluten-free, vegetarian, veggie haters, people who won’t eat seafood, people who only eat chicken or seafood and Atkins diet folks.

I am now on an Anne Diet kick. I want you to come visit and let me cook for you. But I will be cooking to no specific diet. All foods are on the table, and you may eat them or not. Here are my current food thoughts:

1. Cheese. Two of our neighbors don’t eat cheese. I don’t mean they have cut it out because it has too much fat. I mean, they don’t like cheese. I was not aware that people like this existed in the world.

Sadly, I could lose half my body weight on cutting out cheese alone. I am particularly fond of blue, brie, havarti, goat, farmer’s, feta, gorgonzola, cheddar, monterey jack, asiago, mozzarella, parmesan and pretty much any other cheese. Probably, if you eat at my house, there will be cheese.

2. Vegetables. I’m not sure why many men, especially, are veggie-haters. I have yet to meet a vegetable I don’t like. There will be vegetables at our table. Like, always. Except for

3. Beets. Beets are evil and must be destroyed.

4. Protein. At our house, there will be all manner of seafood, red meat, pork, chicken, legumes and nuts. Just try to stop me. (Except for those with nut allergies. I will keep all nuts away from our kitchen if you come to visit.)

5. Gluten. If you have a medical condition, I will eliminate gluten. I am not interested in making someone ill. If you are simply anti-Cracklin Oat Bran (gasp!), I will have to open up the box and ask you to try a piece. It’s addictive.

6. Butter. We use Brummel & Brown as our spread, but you can’t beat (small amounts of) butter for cooking or baking. Let’s not denigrate a true hero, people.

7. Fruits. It’s true that I have to force myself to get enough fruit in my diet. I eat a lot of dried fruit in the winter (in trail mix, especially) and fresher fruits, like pineapple and peaches, in the summer. If you are very, very good, I will make you my Grandma Ann’s Apple Pie. I am still waiting for research to prove that fruit in a pie is more nutritionally sound than plain old fruit. Still waiting.

8. Tomatoes. I won’t get into the whole “Is a tomato a fruit or vegetable?” paradox with you. But fruit, vegetable, or small, round animal, there is nothing like a homegrown, fresh-off-the-vine tomato. Nothing. I will also allow myself to enjoy the canned variety but draw the line at 14 tomato-laden meals per week.

Please write and tell me your weird food stuff. Are you a foodie? What is your kryptonite? What do you hate?