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[cancer|food] Pathologies and attitudes

Last week I almost got into an argument with my Dad. That pretty much never happens. We get along well, and on the occasions where we disagree, we’re quite civil in resolving those disagreements. But he said something about the food I’ve been eating lately which touched off a wholly unwarranted defensive reaction in me.

What Dad was actually talking about was dietary fiber and my eternal GI struggles. But what I heard was, “You’re eating badly too often.” Note these things are not mutually exclusive.

I’ve always had issues around food. At one point in my life, I was in therapy to try to manage that. Food is pleasure and comfort to me both, and my sense of satiety (mouth hunger, if you will) isn’t very well correlated with sense of fullness (stomach hunger).

For some years, I hovered at around 300 pounds of body weight. I was a very large, very uncomfortable person. Eventually through a combination of diet and exercise I got my weight down into the range of 240. There have been periods when I’ve been able to keep it as low as the mid-220s. These days I bounce around closer to 250, though my weight can vary considerably depending my cancer treatments.

Weight has always been an issue. I’ve always been sensitive about it. My doctor described me years ago as an “easy keeper”, meaning I put on weight at every opportunity but have to struggle considerably to shed it again. My metabolism wants to be fat for some reason. This is born out by family photos. A photo of my grandfather and his brothers standing in a row looked like a collection of aging linebackers.

In addition to all this, I am very clear on the relationship between both the quality and quantity of my food and my health and weight. It’s a difficult, triggery topic for me at best.

So, cancer…

Over the past five years, I’ve had over 1,600 hours of intravenous chemotherapy. I have spent over eighteen aggregate months of those years either in chemotherapy or waiting between sessions, and perhaps another aggregate twelve months going through the arduous recovery process. One of the most fundamental experiences of chemotherapy is an almost immediate shift in taste buds, characterized by metallic tastes and dulling of intensity, followed by increasingly strong and challenging food intolerances, as well as loss of appetite and chronic upper GI disruption.

In other words, food slips away from me, and once gone it stays away for a long time.

I’ve spent as much or more of the past five years being alienated from one of life’s greatest pleasures by my cancer and its discontents. It won’t be too terribly long, some months to come, before I lose my relationship with food for the last time.

So now, while I can, I eat what I want. It’s not like we’re worried about diabetes or heart disease at this point. I won’t live long enough for those to matter. I am not being an idiot, and I am not eating pure garbage, but I’m enjoying a lot of things in a bit less than moderation.

Because I am saying good-bye.

So when Dad said something I interpreted to be critical of my diet, I bristled. Wrongly as it happens. But I had not realized how sensitive I was on this topic.

It’s weird. I’m supposed to take care of myself, but every moment of denial is a moment I will see little or no reward for later. And frankly, being plump is part of why I’m still alive. Chemo has to take a lot away from me before I grow dangerously thin. Likewise, weight will actually somewhat slow the effects of my coming terminal decline.

But, yeah, food. That’s one part of my life I will never make my peace with. Cancer has been both a great poisoner and a great enabler for me there.

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[food] Simple Tex-Mex recipes

This is what Lisa Costello and I made for the porch party last weekend. These recipes have a certain obvious resemblance to one another, both are pretty darned good basic versions of their respective food types. Serve with chips or tortillas or whatever pleases you.

Guacamole

Six avocados, halved then mashed to lumpy smoothness
Four limes, halved and juiced into the avocados
Half a head of garlic, minced
One can Ro-Tel tomatoes, well-drained

Fold the above together

Add ground red pepper, paprika and chile powder to taste

Top with crumbled cotija cheese

Chile con queso

One brick Velveeta, diced, then microwaved in slow cooker crock on half power until mostly melted

Place crock in slow cooker on “high”

Add:

About six ounces of sour cream
Half a head of garlic, minced
One can Ro-Tel tomatoes, well-drained
One can Hatch chiles, well-drained
1/2 pound loose chorizo, fried until fully cooked (assuming everyone’s a carnivore, otherwise leave it out)
About four ounces of cotija cheese

Add ground black pepper, paprika and chile powder to taste

Cook for 2-3 hours on “low”, until well melted (it will remain somewhat lumpy)

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[food] Smoked meat party

Yesterday we enjoyed some smoked pork butt and smoked chicken courtesy of Team E—. As usual, the meat was fantastic.

Smoked meat party

There was also smoked avocados, green salad (my style, including chicken croutons), chips and dip, banana nut muffins (made by the Niece) and Mama Dudley cake (made by my (step)mom). Mmm mmm mmm.

Smoked meat party

Because nothing is worth doing that is not worth doing to wretched excess.


Photo © 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[food|travel] Last night’s open dinner

We had ten people last night, including myself and Lisa Costello, at Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet in Houston. (Dad wasn’t feeling well, and so did not join us.) That was a heck of a lot of fun, and the food was pretty good.

In attendance were John DeNardo of SF Signal, Lou Antonelli, Suzan and Perry Harden with their son Mike, Trey Palmer, Jim Crider and Leslie Claire Walker.

The obligatory awkward photograph:

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We had a lot of fun, talking about writing, cars, cancer, life and so forth. Some funny stories are told. Some delicious food was eaten. A minor emergency or two was solved with dispatch.

Thank you everyone for turning out.


Photo © 2013, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[food|repost] Open dinner in Houston, TX today, Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

This is a repost, in case you missed the announcement previously.

I am in Houston right now along with Dad and Lisa Costello for second opinions at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. I have declared an open dinner in Houston, TX today, Wednesday, March 6th, 2013. We’ll meet at 6 pm at:

Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet
8236 Kirby Drive,
Houston, TX 77054
Ph: 713-526-5111
[ Google Maps ]

If you think you’re going to be there, let me know so I can get a rough headcount. Also, should M.D. Anderson add appointments to my schedule which cause a conflict with this dinner, then I can let you know.

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[food|repost] Open dinner in Houston, TX on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

This is a repost, in case you missed the announcement of a dinner later this week.

I will be in Houston next week along with Dad and Lisa Costello for second opinions at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. As I’ll be in Texas much of the week, I am declaring an open dinner in Houston, TX on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013. We’ll meet at 6 pm at:

Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet
8236 Kirby Drive,
Houston, TX 77054
Ph: 713-526-5111
[ Google Maps ]

If you think you’re going to be there, let me know so I can get a rough headcount. Also, should M.D. Anderson add appointments to my schedule which cause a conflict with this dinner, then I can let you know.

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[travel|food] Eating our way across Texas, part ii

Yesterday, Lisa Costello, Dad and I got up, checked out of our Austin hotel, and met up with Donnie Reynolds and his spouse Julia for breakfast at Waterloo Ice House. Mmm, migas. Then we embarked on a nostalgia tour de Austin, showing Lisa places I had lived and worked and hung out in over the eighteen years I spent there. We wound up for lunch at the Hyde Park Bar and Grill, where I had the chicken fried steak with Hyde Park fries. This is not to be sneezed at.

Post-lunch, we headed back to Houston. There we went to dinner with my Aunt B— and Uncle L—, my Aunt J—, and my cousin K— and her husband. Lisa got exposed to another slice of Texas culture at T-Bone Tom’s in Kemah, TX. I enjoyed a jalapeno burger there. Sadly, I did not have it in me to finish my key lime pie. Happily I have leftover key lime pie to enjoy today.

Working Day Jobbery today, then off to M.D. Anderson for my first round of second opinion oncology appointments tomorrow. Open dinner Wednesday night, and we fly home Thursday evening, unless M.D. Anderson wants me to redirect for some reason.

I may never want to eat again.

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[travel|food] Eating our way across Texas

Yesterday we all pried ourselves out of bed early, had breakfast with my Aunt B— and Uncle L— in Houston, then set out for Driftwood, TX. 214 miles as the Google maps, with stops along the way at Buc-ee’s and to visit my Aunt V— in Lockhart, TX. Plus a traffic jam in Kyle, TX, something I would have historically considered unlikely.

We got to the Salt Lick and met up with old Austin friends Chris Johnson and Marty Hoff. After a 75-minute wait for seating, the five of us then proceeded to do culinary violence to 20,000 or 30,000 calories worth of sausage, ribs and brisket (mmm, burnt ends), not to mention pickles and onions, jalapenos, bread and butter, potato salad, cole slaw and beans. Barbecue heaven, and then some.

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Chris his own self

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Me with a plate

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Lunch

Afterwards, Chris shot some portraits of us, which I look forward to seeing.

Lisa Costello, Dad and I then drove to Austin from Driftwood, decidedly taking the long way home. I wanted to show Lisa the Hill Country and Lake Travis areas. Unfortunately, in the thirteen years since I’ve moved away, Austin has englobed that part of Travis County, and it’s all just more Austin now, with steeper hills.

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Road sign near Driftwood, TX

After checking in to our hotel and resting for a bit, we met up with Donnie Reynolds and his lovely spouse for a bit of tootling around downtown, including Sixth Street and the state capitol, followed by dinner at Hula Hut. On the way there, Donnie managed to drag against a Lamborghini and beat him from stoplight to stoplight, driving an SUV with five people in it. Which was hilarious.

At Hula Hut, after enduring a 45-minute wait, we enjoyed queso compuesto and mango-poblano chile quesadillas for appetizers, then fell to our entrees. Mine was the Shiner Bock grilled fajitas, mixed meat.

From there it was a quick tour back to the hotel, with a driveby of the apartments I lived in after college, site of the three-dog, two-man fight if you’ve ever heard me tell that story.

Basically, we ate and drove our way through yesterday. Close to 300 miles in the car, and an unconscionable amount of food. Today’s plan? More of the same! Including lunch at the Hyde Park Bar and Grill, home of the world’s greatest French fries, and a drive back to Houston with dinner at T-Bone Tom’s.

Like or not, Lisa is getting a full load of the tour de Jay’s younger life, and some of the best eating in Texas. Me, I’m glad to have touched my old home base, even if just for a little while.


Photos © 2013 Joseph E. Lake, Jr. and Lisa Costello.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. and Lisa Costello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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[food|travel] Open dinner in Houston, TX on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

I will be in Houston next week along with Dad and Lisa Costello for second opinions at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. As I’ll be in Texas much of the week, I am declaring an open dinner in Houston, TX on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013. We’ll meet at 6 pm at:

Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet
8236 Kirby Drive,
Houston, TX 77054
Ph: 713-526-5111
[ Google Maps ]

If you think you’re going to be there, let me know so I can get a rough headcount. Also, should M.D. Anderson add appointments to my schedule which cause a conflict with this dinner, then I can let you know.

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[food|publishing] The archive party

Yesterday we had an archive party. Friends came over to help prep and box the bulk of my paper archives for Lynne Thomas, the curator of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University. This seemed like a good time for food, as well.

Lisa Costello was here, along with Jersey Girl in Portland. Team E— came, as did two other friends. ([info]the_child was off seeing Swan Lake with her mother.) Jersey Girl made bacon explosion, which we supplemented with a cheese board, a salad, and brownies thoughtfully supplied by [info]the_child.

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The appetizers

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The base of the bacon explosion

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Putting down the sausage layer

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The complete bacon-sausage roll

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The foil comes off before the bacon is finished out

After we ate all that, we played Cards Against Humanity for the better part of an hour, then headed down to the basement for the packing, measuring and weighing.

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Packing the archives

We packed, measured and weighed 311 pounds of material to be shipped. As someone pointed out, I got started on my career before most of the editorial side of publishing went digital. I had a footlocker full of rejection letters, and boxes of critiqued and copy edited manuscripts. If I were to get started on a career today, about the only paper ephemera that would exist would be contracts, and even many of those are electronic.

To that end, I am also providing Lynne and NIU with the electronic side of my files. That, however, fits on a portable USB hard drive about the size of a deck of cards. Ah, progress.

At any rate, it’s good to be fully engaged with Lynne and NIU. It’s good to have those eleven boxes out of the house (and my footlocker emptied). It’s good to have taken care of one more darned thing as I journey further along the arc of my cancer.


Photos © 2013, Lisa Costello and Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Lisa Costello and Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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