By Marcia Pilgeram
Reader Food Columnist
I’m looking forward to tomorrow. If all goes according to plan, I’ll shed the cumbersome apparatus that has been attached to my left shoulder for the past six weeks. God-willing, the only thing I will ever again sling is corned-beef hash.
Long ago, I convinced myself that my life was far too busy to ever be a candidate for surgery that required more than 24-hour convalescence. I made excuses and deferred surgery for chronic shoulder pain until a minor incident brought acute misery and the only remedy was surgery.
I scheduled the procedure for a time not convenient for either of my busy daughters to come home to attend to me: Ryanne was settled into a teaching assignment in far-away France, and Casey, midway through her first pregnancy, was over her winter break. Still, Casey insisted, so first I threatened to cancel the surgery and finally, I was forced to remind her of the time they did came home to nurse me post-surgery (failing miserably).
That time, after wrist surgery that resulted from too many years of repetitive knife use (young chefs, beware!), both girls came home to help. The night after surgery, while (ironically) watching Food Network’s “Chopped,” and unbeknownst to the other, each took a quick trip to my bedside, during separate commercial breaks, to duplicate my evening treatment (I’m glad they both turned to non-nursing professions).
This time, with a couple of close friends volunteering to help, I had a plan that would see me from the operating room through post-surgical recovery. I prepared my chairside table with every comfort I could think of and cooked and froze some simple meals for the coming weeks.
I was more than surprised by the outpouring of get-well wishes. I was humbled by the offering of prayers, cards, flowers and gifts (including an Elvis fleece, direct from Graceland!).
And then there was the food! Honestly, I was overwhelmed by the meals that friends had so thoughtfully prepared for me: savory soups that were hot and ready to sip and bread that was wrapped and delivered warm. Some even arrived with groceries to prepare an entire meal. In my kitchen!
I can’t remember ever not being the one in my kitchen. I cooked through a crazy childhood and several erstwhile attempts at adulthood. I’ve cooked for money and fun, and I’ve cooked for ego and minor fame. I’ve cooked benevolently and charitably. I’ve cooked early, long before a sunrise. And if sleep would not find me, I’ve even cooked late, in the middle of the night. Whether at my home, or someone else’s, my time is spent taking charge of the kitchen. At my house, it was always me on the cooking side, family or friends perched on stools watching while I whisked away in a tête-à-tête.
But this time, I sat in the living room, watching. There was no chance to micromanage the kitchen from my recovery chair. And so, in a manner foreign to me, and with all the grace I could muster, I watched brave friends transform groceries (without my watchful eye and unsolicited advice) into delicious meals.
Whenever a friend is in need, I’m quick to assemble and deliver a couple of meals. But in my busy-bee world (it’s true that my daughters often refer to my gnat-like patience), I don’t recall taking the time to stay and share the food or even sit for more than a few minutes of conversation. This time, on the recipient end, I was grateful not only for the food that fed my body, but I was especially grateful for friends who appeared to have nowhere to go, sharing their gift of time, with long conversations that fed my spirit and, after all these years, taught me a little something about mindful presence.
My excellent therapist Keith at Performance Physical Therapy says my progress is remarkable, and I’m not one bit surprised. I give due credit to my 7B village: the exceptional skills of Dr. Cipriano, the competent and kind staff at Bonner General and friends like Mary, who took a week’s vacation to look after me (who does that?), Darcy who delivered daily doses of laughter while tending to cat chores, my chauffeured “driving Miss-Daisy” outings by Ken, frequent (and delicious deliveries) by Mary Claude, Dee Ann and Bevie, my constant drop-in nurse Peggy, and my neighbor Howard, whom I hail a local hero for keeping my driveway and sidewalk snow-free (certainly no easy feat this past month).
Thanks to Ben for patiently keeping my Reader space ready, and gratefulness to my daughters, who’ve taught me that it’s okay to allow others to help me.
Know someone in need? Try whipping up a batch of my Split Pea Soup. Deliver it, and maybe even stick around a while.
Recipe: Split Pea and Roasted Vegetable Soup
• 3/4 cup split peas
(either green or yellow)
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 medium-sized carrot,
peeled and diced
• 1 medium-sized parsnip,
peeled and diced
• 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
• 4 stalks celery, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 4-5 cups vegetable stock (for
• 3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
• 4 bay leaves
• Sea salt and cracked pepper
• 1 ½ cup diced ham (optional)
•Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
•Rinse and soak the peas in warm water to cover while you prepare and chop the rest of the ingredients.
•In a large bowl, mix all the chopped vegetables and 3 tbs olive oil. Toss until well coated. Spread on sheet pan, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper, and roast in oven for 30 minutes. Shake pan a couple times, while roasting, so they don’t stick.
•Add the soaked split peas, bay leaves and stock to a large stock pot (if you are adding a ham bone throw it on now). Reduce heat to a low simmer and cover. Cook covered for 30-40 minutes.
•Remove vegetables from oven and carefully add to the pot (they’re hot!). Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Or longer for thicker soup. Blend with an immersion blender or leave chunky.
•Season the soup to taste. Serve immediately or cool and freeze.