If you don’t know me well, allow me to introduce you to Tyler’s sister. If you should know one thing about me that shoots straight to the core it’s that I’m an over-analyzer (if that’s a noun). I could over-analyze Mary having a little lamb: why is her fleece so white? Do you think the lamb followed Mary all over the place because she was insecure about something? Should I ask Mary how she feels about all this…? Ugh.
One thing I’ve learned this week is the importance of knowing what you need; something Tyler knows without even trying. Monday, on my long trip home (an unexpected 7 hour delay in Salt Lake City… I know that wasn’t time-wasted, as I directed some Mormon prayers out to San Diego 😉 kidding… I was wondering what I might say to Tyler right before chemo: Should I make a joke? Should I tell him about the overly-eager-to-engage-in-conversation, overwhelming salesman I sat next to on the plane? I know, I’ll tell him about all of the older, frailer people I work with who go through chemotherapy and who are now living vibrant lives!
So, after comforting myself with TCBY at the airport (I love airports for many reasons, but one reason is that no one knows I’m a nutritionist, and my need for comfort food was overpowering that night), I called Tyler to see how he was doing in anticipation of the chemo infusion. He said “I’m fine” and I followed with, “You know, I wanted to share this with you. I thought about it today on the plane to SLC… I mean, I work with many, many people who go through the same thing you’re going through, and they’re in much worse health going into the chemo. You’re going to breeze through this with no probl…”
“STOP” Tyler commanded, abruptly.
“What?” I wondered…?
“Just tell me you love me,” he responded. “I’m sick of talking about it. Just tell me that you love me.”
I let a comfortable silence pass, and then I understood…
“I love you.” I responded…
He didn’t need anymore positive reassurance or scientific explanation, he just needed to know that I loved him no matter what. And that was that. We said goodbye, he started chemo, and there we were. Day 2.
Tuesday was a tough day coming back to Kansas City. I arrived late Monday night (midnight to be approximate). I awoke early. I worked with patients, led a meeting, got through a conference call, and on and on…. Late in the afternoon I was in the foggiest of fogs. I just wanted to crawl in a hole. I knew I should get everything done at work that I’d been ignoring, I wanted to be there for Tyler, for my family, for Tasha, and I wanted to be a normal friend to all of my supportive KC friends… As you can imagine, this overwhelmed me, and again, I wanted to crawl in a hole. At that moment, I knew I needed to cry. I shut my office door, melted into my chair and did just that.
After I composed myself, my amazing house-mate and friend, Kristina, met me in the Med Center after work and walked beside me as I spewed emotional vomit (which, I knew I needed to do). She nodded, listened, and when we made it home, we both changed clothes and both b-lined it to the kitchen. On auto-pilot, we emptied the contents of the refrigerator onto the counter to assess our dinner weaponry… baked spaghetti squash, ~1 cup of black beans, 1 large, slow-cooked bison steak with all juices and healthy fats included (grass-fed from the Hassler Farm), chicken broth, fresh fennel, 1-2 cups of chopped kale… At that moment I knew exactly what I needed. I felt like I was in the book “Like Water for Chocolate.” The main character, “Tita is only able to express herself when she cooks.” Well, Kristina did most of the expressing and I did most of the chop-weeping and helped with flavor adjustments, but our final product was the most amazingly expressive and therapeutic stew: deep, mahogany brown, comforting, healing, satiating, warming… what I needed, right at that moment.
I’m going to give a warning on all of my “recipes”. I am similar to my father in more ways than I can count on our whole family’s fingers and toes. However, we are dissimilar in that I NEVER WRITE DOWN RECIPES and I rarely (if ever) cook from recipes (except baking… always follow baking recipes).
That being said, I want to share with you the “recipe” from last night. I realize how atypical these ingredients are, but you can alter and use different meats, herbs, veggies, fats,… One thing I always say in my cooking classes is “there are no rules in the kitchen.” Mess up and you’ll invent a one-of-a-kind recipe or you’ll learn what never to do again.” (FYI, there are rules in baking).
- 2-3 cups cooked grass-fed beef or bison (or chicken or pork) with broth/fat/liquid included (if desired and meat is “clean”) – (Kristina slow-cooked this with onion and garlic)
- 3-4 cups chicken, vegetable or other broth
- 1 cup cooked black beans
- 2 cups chopped kale or other green (this could be from a bag or chopped, fresh greens)
- ½ cup fresh, chopped herb (fennel, parsley, etc.) or 2-3 tablespoons dried herbs (this can be a blend or Italian herbs – basil, parsley, oregano, marjoram…)
- Juice of one, whole lemon (or 1-2 tablespoons juice)
- Salt & pepper, to taste (~ ¼ – ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper…?)
To thicken, we used arrowroot powder, but you could use corn starch (we generally avoid flour)
*Spaghetti squash or Fresh baby spinach: We served it over cooked spaghetti squash – if you have that on-hand it was delicious. You could also put fresh spinach in the bottom of the bowl and wilt it with the hot soup
- Heat broth, meat and beans to a boil, then bring heat down to a simmer
- Add kale, herbs, juice of lemon and salt & pepper, let herbs and greens wilt and become aromatic. (We also added turmeric (very cancer-fighting/anti-inflammatory))
- Sprinkle in arrowroot powder or cornstarch to thicken – a little at a time so not to over-thicken
- Adjust salt and pepper, as needed
- Optional: Serve over cooked spaghetti squash or fresh spinach
Although the soup seems a trivial “need”, it was the therapy my body yearned for. Not to mention the jasmine tea + red wine combo that mellowed me out. Hopefully, this soup will fill some need for you, as it did for me, in the cold winter to come.