Restless Head Syndrome

If only I could snooze like Lou. A few days ago in the wee hours, I got one of those leg cramps that levitates you off the bed. The only remedy I know of is to get out of bed and walk it off, so Lou and I left Buck warm and cozy. Once the cramp settled down, I took one sofa and Lou took the other. It was still false dawn, with a weak light from the wall of windows, but my brain had already shifted gear from sleep to mental furniture moving mode, also known as Restless Head Syndrome.

feeling the bite

I typed that title, erased it, wrote “nibble,” erased that because it wasn’t true and was too clever by half, typed “feeling the bite” again and am going to let it stand even though it makes me feel like a traitor.

Sexy as hell in a black silk t-shirt, Buck sat on the end of my bed and tried to explain that the day would come when the 14 year difference in our ages would bite. I was 30 then and couldn’t imagine my own mortality, much less his.

Like the two intelligent communications professionals we were, he and I “talked through the Scotch” over many fire-and-bedside chats, and eventually came to the conclusion — in classic cost-benefit analysis style — that if we could get a good 20 years, it would be worth unwinding the dregs of two failed marriages and making a life together.

That was 38 years ago. The investment ripened with years of reinvested dividends and was amortized decades ago. It’s been cream off the top ever since, and more exciting than most Blue Chips.

Buck told me to keep my seatbelt buckled; that it was going to be a wild ride. And I’ve done that. Good thing, too. Especially for this part.

Guess I’ve broken the ice for myself on this delicate subject. It may take a few more food pictures before I broach it again. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, time’s precious, and I’m shutting down the computer for tonight and joining Buck and Lou Lou Belle in our bed we fondly call “the cloud.”

gathering strength

I’m getting all the food pictures out of the way so when I write in this space tomorrow morning while it’s still dark, drinking a great coffee so black and strong it barely needs a cup, I’ll be ready to talk some truth.

But for tonight, one more food photo. It’s emblematic of me gathering strength: fresh collard greens made with onions, garlic and a small smoked turkey thigh; boiled plain turnip roots; a buttered cornbread muffin.

Oh, and hey — we’ve got a storm coming — a late tropical storm with an intriguing name: Potential Tropical Cyclone 16. Sounds like an edgy perfume. A cold front and a tropical storm. Should be interesting.

shrimp, blue crab & grouper

Lucky to live here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where any day of the week Buck and I can drive the shady lane from house to gate in the Longleaf woods and drive roughly 17 miles to Joe Patti’s Seafood down on Pensacola Bay. We come away with treats like the ones you see above. Two pounds of Gulf shrimp go a long way with us: first night peel and eat with Buck’s spicy cocktail sauce, second time around a version of scampi redolent with garlic and laced with capers, then a third go chopped for a lunchtime salad. Similar story with the blue crab claw meat: tossed with a smidge of lemon butter as a delicacy with the boiled shrimp, then another night as a luscious topping for garlic-Parmesan baked grouper.

Toad in the Hole

I love a supper that makes me smile. Toad in the Hole is best in class on that score. It’s comfort food, too, especially after full days of meetings in offices, meetings in restaurants, meetings at our home. After all that talking, I want to put on my soft clothes, sit on the sofa with Buck and drink a nice scotch with a splash of water, enjoy a warm plate of Toad in the Hole, and go to bed.

generous friends

Immokolee tomatoes from Roy and Bette.

The two weeks before Roy and Bette came to visit Buck and me was one of the more miserable chapters in our lives together, something unexpected and generally unimportant that made a hell of an impact: we both got the flu. No, we don’t take flu shots. Haven’t for more than 35 years. Haven’t had the flu, either, until this year.

So will we change course and start taking flu shots? You betcha. That all-nighter in our local emergency room (on my account) was the convincer. Yikes.

Roy and Bette were already scheduled to drive up from beautiful Naples on the southwest Florida coast and stay with us for a visit and to attend Roy and Buck’s 65th Pensacola High School reunion. Buck and I were growing concerned over whether we would be ready for prime time with visitors, even such good friends.

We needn’t have worried. We were much improved by the time they arrived, plus at our age, afternoon naps aren’t considered strange at all, so we had a couple of hours each afternoon to rest.

As always, they brought bottles of lovely wine and a case of fabulous sun-ripened tomatoes from Immokolee, near Naples. Roy shared his recipe for roasted tomato soup and the photo above shows them just out of the oven. The next step is to chunk them in a food processor, then freeze flat in a zip bag until the urge for roasted tomato soup hits.

Sliced Tomatoes and Shrimp Scampi

We’ve enjoyed those tomatoes every which way. I’m even making a batch of taboulleh this afternoon and then baking another pan full for a future pot of creamy soup.

We send Roy and Bette a few pounds of stunningly delicious pecan halves from local grower Renfroe Pecans. The price has grown stunning over the years, too, but when Roy hands you a small pizza box that feels strangely heavy and you discover one of his luscious chocolate caramel pecan pies inside (made with pecans we sent at Christmas), you know that someday Renfroe will get those pecans up to the price they’re worth, but that day has not yet arrived.

Sweet, generous friends. Lou Lou Belle loves them, too.

COMFORT ZONE

Home: It’s the comfort zone., a place to lick our wounds and be nurtured by the cozy soft bits we collect to feather our nests. We need a place of retreat, a shock absorber for life’s shrapnel. Posts about health, aging, friends, and food are here, too. #blogcategories

The KBAM Kitchen

KBAM is a just-right acronym for Kicked By a Mule, and the mission of the KBAM Bar and Grill (also known as the Longleaf Bar & Grill) is one tool we have for kicking back.

Buck and I were already hard-core by many peoples’ lights when mantle cell reared its ugly little head. We haven’t darkened the drive-through window of a fast-food joint in more than twenty years. Except for a day boat fresh mullet run through the skillet of a local marina restaurant every blue moon, fried food has been off our list for decades, as well.

We’ve eaten more than our share of grilled and roasted beef and pork over the years. It was great. But our final hunk of roast beast on a plate came last Christmas. Leftovers sat. And sat. The final pork tenderloin, rubbed with garlic, rosemary and olive oil, sat. And sat.  Before 2014 dawned, Buck and I realized that we had lost our taste for beef and pork. And that was it. Seven months later, and neither of us can imagine ever going back. Buck’s long-standing IBS has almost gone away.

We eat plenty of turkey, chicken, and fish, but the emphasis has totally changed. My trusty old Cameron stovetop smokes fresh turkey drumsticks, and then I use them to flavor a pot of beans or collards and kale. I flake off the meat and make sure all those little cartilage swords are discarded, then return the turkey to the pot. That (+beans or +greens) becomes the protein course. We add a pan of cornbread, a baked sweet potato and maybe a sliced tomato or some yellow squash, and have a wonderful, simple dinner.

Ultimate comfort food plus a nutrition powerhouse: "Magic Mineral broth" pot liquor, baked sweet potato, collards and baby kale, and beans.
Ultimate comfort food plus a nutrition powerhouse: “Magic Mineral broth” (thank you Rebecca Katz) pot liquor, baked sweet potato, collards and baby kale, and beans with house-smoked turkey.

Special challenges to ensure Buck gets enough calories and nutrients have arisen now that he is experiencing the immuno-chemotherapy of Rituxan (rituximab) and Treanda (bendamustine) every 28 days. Our trend toward whole grains and mostly-organic vegetables and fruits has accelerated. Our kitchen has become a first line of defense in our determination to be part of the team that restores Buck to health, and (oh by the way) keeps me strong and healthy along the way.

Strategies and tactics, baby. We got ’em. Would love to hear about yours. What helps you make it through the chemo?