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[cancer|food] How I spend my days

The lead suit slowly improves. So does the giant clamp on my brain. The problem is and continues to be food.

The protocol I was on at NIH had the incidental effect of deconditioning me from being able to eat. Right now we spend most of my waking hours preparing me to eat, tricking me into eating, calming me down when I react to food, and planning how I will eat.

It is a freaking misery. Everything is about food right now, and not in a fun way. I feel ill at my stomach most of the time. And hardly anything works.

This is one reason I have not resumed regular blogging. My entire life right now is focused around managing enough food intake to try to switch from a starvation metabolism to a fat metabolism. You have no idea how all-consuming that can be. Not to mention miserable.

[food|friends] Last night’s open dinner

Last night, Lisa Costello and I went to our open dinner. Despite the very crummy weather, we had a nice turnout: Joe Jordan, John Sapienza, Evelyn Kriete and GD Falksen.

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A good time was had by all, amid good food and fun conversation. I’m really sorry the weather kept some other folks away. Once I understand my schedule better, I will try to offer another opportunity.

Photo © 2014, 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.

[food|repost] Open dinner in Rockville, Maryland Sunday 2014-01-05

This is a repost, with light edits for clarity.

As mentioned, I am holding an open dinner today, Sunday January 5th, at 5 pm at Gordon Biersch in Rockville, MD.

200 East Middle Lane, Unit A
Rockville, MD 20850
301-340-7159

As always, these are Dutch treat, and anyone who can read this is invited. We don’t need to be old friends or even online acquaintances, though I do love to see my friends. The whole point is to meet people, after all.

I’m aware the weather today may be poor, but it’s the only time slot I have this trip than I can commit to without the reasonable possibility of cancellation. Unless the weather is truly dreadful, I will be there. Please RSVP if you can, it helps with talking to the restaurant.

See some, all or none of you there!

[food|travel] Open dinner in Rockville, Maryland Sunday 2014-01-05

As mentioned yesterday, I am holding an open dinner tomorrow, Sunday January 5th, at 5 pm at Gordon Biersch in Rockville, MD.

200 East Middle Lane, Unit A
Rockville, MD 20850
301-340-7159

As always, these are Dutch treat, and anyone who can read this is invited. We don’t need to be old friends or even online acquaintances, though I do love to see my friends. The whole point is to meet people, after all.

I’m aware the weather tomorrow may be poor, but it’s the only time slot I have this trip than I can commit to without the reasonable possibility of cancellation. Unless the weather is truly dreadful, I will be there. Please RSVP if you can, it helps with talking to the restaurant.

See some, all or none of you there!

[photos|food] The NIH gingerbread house competition

At NIH, the have a gingerbread house competition among the different units. While we’ve been there this week, the results have been on display in the lobby of the Hatfield Building. They’re cute as heck.

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As usual, more at the Flickr set.

Photo © 2013, 2014, 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.

[food|repost] Open lunch in Bowie, MD on Saturday, November 16th

This is a repost for an event happening midday today. If you have already RSVP’ed, I do not need an additional RSVP. I you haven’t RSVP’ed but are planning on coming, please let me know.

As Lisa Costello and I have been back in Maryland this week, I am declaring an Open Lunch in Bowie, Maryland today, Saturday, November 16th. We’ll meet at DuClaw Brewing Company in Bowie Town Center at 11:30 am.

If you can read this, you are invited. Whether we’re old friends, casual acquaintances, or you’re an Internet fan/lurker, you are welcome to attend.

Please do RSVP in comments or by email so I can try to secure a suitably sized table.

See some, all or none of you in Maryland at lunch.

[food|repost] Open lunch in Bowie, MD on Saturday, November 16th

This is a repost for an event this coming Saturday. If you have already RSVP’ed, I do not need an additional RSVP. I you haven’t RSVP’ed but are planning on coming, please let me know.

As Lisa Costello and I will back in Maryland next week, I am declaring an Open Lunch in Bowie, Maryland on Saturday, November 16th. We’ll meet at DuClaw Brewing Company in Bowie Town Center at 11:30 am.

If you can read this, you are invited. Whether we’re old friends, casual acquaintances, or you’re an Internet fan/lurker, you are welcome to attend.

Please do RSVP in comments or by email so I can try to secure a suitably sized table.

See some, all or none of you in Maryland at the end of this week.

[food|travel] Open lunch in Bowie, MD on Saturday, November 16th

As Lisa Costello and I will back in Maryland next week, I am declaring an Open Lunch in Bowie, Maryland on Saturday, November 16th. We’ll meet at DuClaw Brewing Company in Bowie Town Center at 11:30 am.

If you can read this, you are invited. Whether we’re old friends, casual acquaintances, or you’re an Internet fan/lurker, you are welcome to attend.

Please do RSVP in comments or by email so I can try to secure a suitably sized table.

See some, all or none of you in Maryland at the end of next week.

[personal|food] Restaurant disservice, Outback Steakhouse style

I’m not a fiend for perfect restaurant service. I know wait people get tired, kitchens get busy, and everybody messes up once in a while. Generally, I have a lot of patience and a high tolerance level for eccentricities of table service.

But last night, Lisa Costello and I had one of the worst restaurant experiences I’ve had in quite a while at Outback Steakhouse over here in SE Portland. Comparable to my very bad experience at Papa Haydn about this time last year [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ]. Much as with Papa Haydn, the evening was sufficiently irritating that I won’t voluntarily go back to the restaurant ever again.

On entering the restaurant, we were seated immediately in an otherwise empty section. There were very few diners in the place, as we had arrived relatively early in the dinner hour. A little more than five minutes later, we had to ask the host to send a waitperson to our table, as there had been no attention at all. The section was simply dead. He rolled his eyes, which I did not appreciate, then headed off to the kitchen. A waitress shortly appeared.

We placed our order, which was simple with no special requirements. It came out very slowly, and piecemeal. Two appetizers arrived about ten minutes apart. The steak arrived about forty-five minutes after we ordered, just after I’d politely complained to the host, who again was indifferent. Others around us entered the restaurant, were seated, ordered, served and finished their meals in the time it took our entree to come to table. The waitress never acknowledged this and made no attempt to explain the slowness, make up for it, or secure us our food. (She did eventually take one of our appetizers off the bill.)

What the heck do you do as a diner in that situation? I respect that food service is a tough job on its best day. The waitress was not being personally rude to us. I’m a little too well socialized to raise hell, though I did speak to the host twice, for all the good it did me.

Restaurant politics are funny. The whole low-wage/tip thing is weird. (There’s some history about it here, in an otherwise fascinating article about a tipless restaurant.) And I know chances are good the problem had little or nothing to do with our waitress. But her job is to be the restaurant’s face to its diners, and her job includes making sure people know what’s going on. Even a plausible lie about some embarrassing kitchen screw up would have been better than the dead silence and excruciatingly slow service we received.

I think that’s what frustrates me the most. That lack of communication, that lack of service in the larger sense of the term. The indifference.

At any rate, this is the first time I’ve set foot in an Outback Steakhouse in years. It’s also certainly the last. My life is too short, literally and figuratively, to put up with this crap. Especially when I am lucky enough to live in a place like Portland with hundreds of wonderful restaurants to choose from.

[food] My brief career as a French fry tester

Yesterday, I participated in a French fry test for Burgerville. This is a small area burger chain that specializes in whole, fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Jay Lake, French fry tester

They sat me down with three small baskets of fries and a bottle of water as a palate cleanser. A laptop displayed a 14-point survey that required me to rate the fries on appearance, taste, texture and so forth. As you can see from the photo, this was serious business. Afterwards, I did a roughly fifteen minute interview with a Burgerville store manager.

Really, it was both pretty fun and pretty funny. Plus French fries. What’s not to like?

Photo © 2013 Elise Matthesen, reproduced with permission.

[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.

[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)