Thursday, February 25, 2010

Dinner Disasters and Nightmares

As our guests ooo-ed and aaw-ed in the middle of an elegant, multi-course dinner last Sunday (see previous entry), E confessed to one of them (Guest S) about a cooking disaster that had occurred about 20 years ago at a dinner he cooked and she attended. He could tell that something rang a bell by the look in her eyes but that she was not quite remembering what he had re-played in his mind a hundred times since. Two weeks before, E had fixed the same meal again (something he almost never does) in order to prove to himself that the 'jinx' was gone. (The guests at that dinner also ooo-ed and aaw-ed.)

The nightmare dish that hunted his dreams for years involved sea bass and shrimp cooked in parchment (along with various baby veggies, fresh thyme and fennel, saffron, wine, etc.). The recipe called for the packets to be cooked at a very high heat (475F) for a short 10 minutes. Since this was only one of several courses and was not the only time the electric oven was being used, E had decided to use "Pre-Heat" to get the temperature ready as quickly as possible. The problem was, he forgot to switch back to "Bake" (probably given the pre-dinner drinks and wine with all the previous courses). After about 5-7 minutes when he returned to the kitchen from the closed dining area, he noticed smoke coming from the oven. Upon opening the door, to his horror each of the packets was on fire. ("Pre-Heat" uses the broiler to heat the oven.) Panicked, he first stuffed towels under the door crack to the dining room so the other 7 dinner guests would not suspect anything. He then took out the packets, put out each flame (still relatively small ones, but 8 small ones and each growing), and looked in horror at the ashes floating in each dinner packet that were now quite charred. Meticulously and very quickly, he opened all windows and doors to the outside, hand picked out the ashes, cut the packets in a zigzag manner to look stylish and unburned, and tried to rearrange the fish and veggies in each packet to look presentable.

As the guests ate their dinner suspecting nothing (and not really missing the planned presentation of opening the packets in front of each to 'release the aromatic essence'), E noticed in the candlelit room that 'Guest S' next to him (who 20 years later was at our party last Sunday) was trying to push away subtly her shrimp and pieces of her fish and was looking uncomfortable while making glances at her husband. E looked at his own fish more closely (which was hard in the candlelight), and he noticed one of his shrimp was raw! Others did not seem too disturbed, so he remained quiet but did see there was some picking and choosing going on.

For a perfectionist cook like E, this was the worst day of his life. For 20 years he has been concerned every time this same couple has come over that another disaster might happen. Finally, on Sunday in the midst of his Chinese New Year feast, he decided to fess up to Guest S.

This story, told in all the above detail and more over yet another glass of wine all around, led to a whole slew of 'confessions' by our guests of their cooking disasters. One had fixed apple pies for Thanksgiving and had used baking powder instead of flour. Another had made cookies with her sisters for a big family occasion and had grabbed the wrong jar, whereby she put in a cup of salt instead of sugar.

E then told the story how his ex had been fooled into putting her finger in the hole of an ice cream maker by his southern Dad on her first visit to his home over a July 4th holiday. When his Dad walked away laughing at the funny New York girl, she 'out-smarted' him and put a rag in the hole ("I wasn't going to sit there all night and freeze my finger just because he had lost some cork or something"). The result was that his Mom's prized, fresh peach ice cream was served to 20 guests with a very distinct taste of salt because all the salted ice had melted and over-flowed into the ice cream.

But our good Friend D told the funniest story. At a Passover Seder with 30 guests, her homemade Matzo Ball Soup was served with a distinct and not very pleasant odor. (E was there and remembers it all.) Everyone (including lots of kids) gingerly tasted the soup. Most looked up and around at others, not knowing what to say or do. One guest then said, "How wonderful. You must have used a lot of lemon in the chicken soup. It is really different.") Friend D, as cook and hostess, looked perplexed. The rest of us ventured one more sip when all of a sudden Friend D's elderly grandmother shouted at the top of her lungs in a "Fruma-Sarah" like screech: "Don't eat. It's RANCID!" You can imagine every one's faces, especially the host and hostess. (Turns out it WAS rancid. Friend D had been told not to refrigerate her newly made, hot soup until it cooled. But since she finished making it well after bedtime, she left it out all night. Not a good thing for chicken soup. Soup like that does not make you well. It makes you dead.)

So, E's confession and story led to an hour of other stories of cooking disasters -- all in the midst of Course Number Three of the six-course feast we were having.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just another Sunday dinner

My husband cooked a 6 course, 10 food Chinese New Year Dinner last Sunday night, using 6 different sets of dishes to boot. It was really fun. We had 3 other couples over and the meal lasted for four hours. Most of the dishes Eddie made for the first time.

Cocktails: Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail

1st course: Hot & Sour Soup

2nd course: Drunken Chicken and Snow Peas in Sesame Dressing

3rd course: Sweet-Sour Coconut Shrimp and Thai-Style Cabbage Slaw

4th course: Sesame Noodle Salad

5th course: Hot Sichuan Green Beans, Soy-Braised Mushrooms, and Hoison Turkey with Hot Mustard (the recipe called for pork but Eddie substituted turkey)

6th course/dessert: Mandarin Berry-Almond Float

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friends Finding Us on Facebook

Eddie's High School pictureBoth E and I have had the experience recently of connecting through Facebook with friends we have not seen (and often not thought of) for 30-40 years. For each of us, this re-discovery has begun by one friend finding us (probably through the Facebook Search function), seeking us out, and then exposing us through his/her list of friends to others who begin to recognize our names and subsequently to 'ping' us for friendship connection.

Ed's High School picture 1976The experience has been almost over-whelming at times in terms of memories and emotions. Each of us was, to say the least, a bit dorky and 'band-kid-like' in high school. E was very active (e.g., editor two years of the school newspaper; a straight-A student; 1st-chair clarinet; member of the Latin, Teachers of America, and Thespians Clubs); but none of those was in any way "cool" at the time. I was the shy type overall and also active in the band (last-chair trombone) and the school newspaper (feature editor) but not a lot else. So, while we both had plenty of friends, some of the people who are now so eager to link with us as Facebook 'friends' were not really that eager to be seen in the public, high school hallways with us back in the days of yore. I now have more high school “Facebook friends” then friends I had back in high school. Just processing that fact is taking us each a while.

Eddie receives an awardHaving said that, we are each feeling very excited about these renewed contacts. For E, most of them are from people two-to-three thousand miles away from us, i.e., mid-America ... Bush/Cheney, anti-Obama country). And, with each contact made, there is a 'coming out' that has to occur. What we are finding is, even with friends connected with VERY conservative religions and positions (e.g., working in a Baptist college in the South), there is a willingness and complete sense of genuineness in wanting to know about us and our gay, married lives and a (via Internet, at least) real caring about who we really are and have become.

Ed in stage bandThis really is overall shocking and has led to both of us having bizarre dreams. Memories of good and bad instances of the past are mixed with present day settings in these dreams. High school buddies and acquaintances are becoming present again in the Land of Slumber. It is all very bizarre ... and exciting.

And then there are the 'shocking' discoveries of past friends (or sometimes their younger siblings, who are also now connecting to us) who are GAY. Who knew? If we had only known then.... What might have led to what? And what admiration we have for one guy who just linked with E today who is living in a small Tennessee town and has on his FB page "married" and "Interested only in men." Wow! Here in California, that is pretty easy to do, but in ****, Tennessee?? Amazing.

We are mid-stream on this story. Every day, it seems, we are each getting new friend requests (and are now starting to peruse the friends of our new contacts to find old acquaintances we can now 'request to friend.' It is mind-blowing how so many of us really look the same, 40 years later. It is also becoming sad that as the pot is stirred and other friends' names come to mind, we find they are not yet on FB; and we cannot thus connect to them.

Like probably many others (in fact, hundreds of millions of others), we are finding Facebook is changing out lives. The iPhone did so. YouTube did so. Google did so. The Internet did so. Can you imagine where we would be without any and all of these?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mid-February Health Recap

Earlier this week (the day after my birthday), Ed was once again under general anesthesia for about 1.5 hours. Back home the same day, he is feeling a bit 'beat-up' and sore like he had done way too many leg squats. But, the real result is that our surgeon truly believes the final healing can now occur over the next month.
The surgeon reported to me after the surgical procedure lots of pleasure in what he had seen and done. The opening in his lower colon is for sure only a slit at this point, and there was no sign of any lingering infection. He did confirm what he had suspected previously: 'grainy' tissue had developed around the area and was probably making it harder for the final closure to seal and heal. He scraped this tissue away (remember Ed was totally out, which was a good thing). He then brought the colon lip over the muscle below and sewed several temporary stitches. Hopefully, by the time they dissolve in the next month, there will be no more open slit and instead, a firm melding.
So, new predicted time of the final surgery is now sometime between the Giants Opening Day and Tax Day (or early to mid April). In the meantime, Ed will continue his daily hour-plus walks and maintenance of his overall health and healing. (And our gay men’s seder is back on!)
If all goes as planned, you will not hear another surgical update about Ed’s colon from us again until April, when hopefully I can be sending the final couple of messages. We are totally grateful to all of you and also so aware that this journey has been overall shorter and so much easier than what many people with cancer must go through. But, it is a journey for us of learning and life; and its happy result has included so many of you now knowing for sure that your colon is cancer-free!
To all our friends Back East, we wish you some sunshine and slow melting to minimize flooding. To everyone, you are our special Valentines this year.
Also, Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Blogging 1-800-FLOWERS

Eddie and I love having fresh flowers around the house. At least once a week Eddie picks up bouquet of flowers to have on the dinning table or kitchen counter. We also enjoy sending and receiving flowers. I received several beautiful floral arrangements after my cancer surgery.

Multiple times a year we order flowers to be sent for a variety of occasions. The most common are for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays and get well wishes. We have tried several internet flower delivery services and the one we have used the most has been 1-800-Flowers. Nevertheless, I was still surprised to receive an email offer from them that in exchange for blogging about them, we could receive one of their bouquets.

I have read before that 1-800-Flowers has a strong web-marketing push based on social networks, blogging, twittering, etc.

They are offering FREE weekday delivery that is available at this 1-800-Flowers webpage.

Also see their Facebook Fan page. They offer flower giveaways every week and give special fan-only discounts all the time.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Slow Healing Continues

Guy with iPhone and ileostomy bag

Since Ed’s last medical/colon update 3 or so weeks ago, we have been riding once again the roller coaster a bit. You may remember we heard at that point the healing of the internal sutures had begun but would take longer than originally planned. Just six days later (on January 18), another visit and exam shocked our doctor that the sutures appeared to have closed up and healing was close to done. This exam was done with a special butt telescope-like instrument as well as by the old fashion digital feel. The doctor and we were all elated.

The doctor was so pleased that he scheduled a visit to the hospital for X-Ray exam and yet another CAT-Scan to confirm all might be ready to go ahead and do the next surgery in mid-Feb. During the next 10 days we got our hopes up, especially since Ed was really feeling well, walking at least an hour each day, going out some for dinner with friends, etc. He was (and is still) spending a huge portion of his day dealing with the ileostomy pouch or 'the bag,' but we were both getting psyched that Mr. Bag would soon be history; and so we laughed at its 'mind of its own' antics and waited for the tests.

You can guess the rest. When liquid under pressure was applied to the internal site while the X-rays were being done last Wednesday, the supposedly sealed site re-opened and the cavity beyond reappeared in the CAT-scan. Our doctor and we were sorely disappointed. He did not have much to say at that time other than 'probably at least two more months.'

In a late-night email the next day, the doctor indicated that he was still studying the pictures with his partner/colleague but that he also had an idea for a "Plan B." Monday he called with the recommendation that Ed come back on the 11th to the hospital for Visit #4 to the operation room, this time with him and his trusted colleague. He believes the site is on its way to healing and might in fact have healed on its own in another few weeks if the forced liquid had not broken the still-flimsy area. He now wants to go in and add a few, dissoluble (i.e., temporary) sutures that will close the opening and hopefully cause it quickly to seal up for good before the sutures go away. With that process, he should be able to tell by mid-March (again with X-Ray and CAT-Scan exams) if the healing is complete. Without this help, he is just not sure at this point if and when the healing would be done on its own, now that it has clearly opened up again.

So, we MIGHT be looking now at surgery around Passover time (mid-to-end-of-March). (That probably means we don't host our usual group of 20 this year.) But, I think we have also learned by now not to count the chicks too soon unless the fat lady is really singing. And even though he says we should still keep our August hiking and kayaking in Scandinavia on the calendar, I am also researching beaches in Hawaii.

Stay tuned for the next movement in this made-for-television soap opera about Ed’s colon.

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