Monday, May 23, 2011

Gastroparesis (or, my stupid gross stomach)

Matt Wells belt (LOC)

I haven't been able to blog as much as I've wanted to lately. My photos and ideas are stacked up, just wanting for me to find a few hours to lay them all out. However, I've been a busy lady, and there have been some major changes over here.

Numero uno: My dearest man-friend and lovely husband Matt has left town for the summer. He's walking the cliffs and gullies of Pittsburgh and interning in the Office of the Public Defender. This is a wonderful development - it clears so many roads for future opportunities and cinches our return next summer. I will miss him dearly, along with Pittsburgh's steamy, green summer, but the sacrifice of time apart is nothing compared to the joy I feel at the thought of returning, of moving back to Pittsburgh, of standing in the doorway of a row house with my hands on my hips.

Numero dos: I have been dealing with some chronic GI health issues since 2007. One fine summer day four years ago a switch was flipped and my stomach became my most hated enemy. Over the years my symptoms shifted and I suffered through cycles of remission and reoccurance. I received diagnoses of gastritis and GERD, but diet changes and endless meds did nothing to eliminate the shadowy cause of all this pain. Last week I finally got in to see a respected GI specialist, and his diagnosis was swift and confident: Gastroparesis.

I suspect you are just as confused as I was. Although this condition affects one out of twenty-five people, I had never heard of it. Basically, it is a partial paralysis of the stomach caused by nerve damage. Often this nerve damage is caused by complications of diabetes. However, for many (like me), the cause is never fully known. But now that my stomach can't move very well, food just hangs out there. This is the really disgusting part. It also explains a lot, like why I have the magical ability to vomit up my breakfast at 2pm. It's not witchcraft people! My stomach is just that stupid and gross.

Since there is no direct treatment for the nerve damage and this is a chronic condition, the best thing I can do is dramatically change my diet. The doctor gave me a booklet explaining the virtues of a good blender and eating 6-8 tiny, annoying meals instead of three normal-sized, satisfying ones. But the best part was the recommended foods:

AVOID: raw vegetables, winter squash, whole wheat products, corn, brown rice, beans/peas/lentils, citrus fruits and berries, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and seeds, anything high in fat

EAT: white bread, white rice, pasta, vegetables that have been cooked to shit, cottage cheese, fruit and vegetable juices, yogurt, eggs, smoothies, low-fat cheese, potatoes sans peels, crackers Crackers CRACKERS

As a really goddamn healthy vegetarian, this diet was a total mindfuck. Suddenly, everything I ate regularly and relied on to keep me healthy was part of the problem. And everything I avoided was somehow good for me. All these years of eating crappy whole-wheat pasta for nothing! As much as I gave the whole thing the side-eye I made like a good patient and bought my cottage cheese and sourdough bread and protein powder. I drank some weird smoothies and broke my meals into little snacklets. I even bought out the kozy shack pudding cups for days when I can't stomach enough calories of white bread. But then something interesting happened.

I began to feel better.

A lot better.

No longer did I finish a meal only to suffer two hours of choking and reflux. No longer was I suddenly nauseous because I ate a handful of peanuts. It's been a dramatic and swift improvement, and such a deep relief. Although I can hardly eat like a normal person right now, I can finally go through a day without feeling ill.

Doctor, I'm sorry I gave you the side-eye. I just had no idea that white bread might actually be good for me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Delicious Dinners #2

Tonight we have the outstanding raw Tuscan kale salad, served with tofu marinated in an Italian-style vinaigrette. The warm, chewy tofu is a perfect compliment to the crisp, lemon-scented salad, and the whole thing is an antidote to steamy, summery, Southern evenings. To seal the deal, kale just came into season and my favorite stand at the Nashville Farmer's Market surprised me with a basket of the most tender, mild, little baby kale I've ever eaten. This lovely green is only going to be in season until mid to late June, so hit up your local farmer's market and make this asap!

Broiled Tofu with Tuscan Kale Salad

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad With Pecorino

as published in the New York Times, recipe by Melissa Clark


1 bunch kale (they recommend Tuscan kale, common kale works fine)
1 thin slice country bread (part whole-wheat or rye is nice), or 1/4 cup homemade bread crumbs (coarse)
1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, more for garnish (pecorino is a bit rich for my blood [$$$] so I replaced it with Gran Queso by Roth Käse.)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.


1. Trim bottom 2 inches off kale stems and discard. Slice kale, including ribs, into 3/4-inch-wide ribbons. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place kale in a large bowl.

2. If using bread, toast it until golden on both sides. Tear it into small pieces and grind in a food processor until mixture forms coarse crumbs.

3. Using a mortar and pestle, or with the back of a knife, pound garlic into a paste. Transfer garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper flakes and black pepper, and whisk to combine. Pour dressing over kale and toss very well to thoroughly combine (dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat leaves).

4. Let salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with bread crumbs, additional cheese and a drizzle of oil.

Italian Tofu

from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz


1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/2 cup white cooking wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, smashed
A big pinch each dried basil, marjoram, and thyme


Prepare the marinade by combining all ingredients in a wide shallow bowl.

Cut the tofu widthwise into eight equal pieces. Marinate for at least an hour, flipping after 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Place the tofu on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Flip over and bake another 10 minutes. Place in the broiler for about 3 more minutes for extra chewiness. Sometimes I cheat and cook it using only the broiler, which leaves the outside slightly crisp and the inside dense and chewy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Kentucky Derby

John, our Master of Ceremonies, dishes out mint julips.

Jacket, Kentucky Derby 2011

He was very proud of his cheerful jacket, a hand-me-down from his grandfather.

Jacket 2, Kentucky Derby 2011

Behold, the most exciting two-minutes in horse-racing.

Kentucky Derby 2011 race

I was disappointed that I never got to see the part where they put the wreath of roses around the horse's neck.

Instead we got ice cream at Bobbie's Dairy Dip.

Bobbie's Dairy Dip

And in lieu of roses I enjoyed peonies from the backyard.

white peonies

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Walking in [the] Memphis [Zoo]

Last weekend my buddy Sharon and I took a road trip to Memphis. The drive crisscrossed miles of woods and farmland, swollen rivers and road-killed armadillos. Our final destination: the Memphis Zoo.

The zoo was founded in 1906, and the original entrance still stands within the park.

Memphis Zoological Gardens

The current zoo entrance looks a little different.

Memphis Zoo Entrance

It is clear how much money has been invested into the zoo. Most of the exhibits had been redesigned within the past 20 years, and the enclosures are creative, beautiful and very humane.

Tigers - Memphis Zoo

However, some animals are still waiting for their new homes. An extensive new hippo exhibit is slated to open later this year. Be patient, girls.

Hippos - Memphis Zoo

Here is one of the two pandas currently on loan from China. Their enclosure is inside of a sprawling Chinese-themed exhibit built to resemble the Summer Palace.

Panda Bear - Memphis Zoo

We caught feeding time at the very popular polar bear exhibit.

Polar Bear - Memphis Zoo

Not all the animals were so active.

Gray Wolf - Memphis Zoo

This komodo dragon's name is Hollywood Jeff. Best name.

Hollywood Jeff - Komodo Dragon - Memphis Zoo

While searching for the "Animals of the Night" building, we found this abandoned aviary. Inside stood what appeared to be a small stone altar.

Memphis Zoo - Abandoned Aviary

Here is Sharon entering the Animals of the Night, where we saw our first live armadillo of the day. They also had a floor to ceiling glass box filled with thousands of cockroaches.

Memphis Zoo - World of Darkness

On our drive home we were persuaded by some very corny signs to stop into Hurricane Mills, TN, birthplace of Loretta Lynn. This is the entrance to the Loretta Lynn Kitchen.

Loretta Lynn's Kitchen, Hurricane Mills, TN

Sharon: What are "Loretta Lynn Food Products"?
Me: I dunno but I think they might be made FROM Loretta Lynn.

They had a buffalo too. Seriously, Hurricane Mills was pretty weird. We ate some mac & cheese at the Log Cabin Restaurant and peaced.

Buffalo - Hurricane Mills, TN

The End.