Thursday, June 26, 2008


I usually do not eat chocolate; it aggravates Chester (my cough, for those of you just tuning into this program). Yesterday I was on my way to pick the kids up from camp. I had enough time to stop and get them bagels. Bagel lunches were a sacred ritual with us for a long time. When they were small we went out for bagel lunches on my day off from work and we went to bagels as a family after church on Sundays. We fell away from the ritual but I now find that nostalgia rules my behavior. So, I stopped off and ordered a cinnamon raisin bagel for Amelia, one plain and one cinnamon sugar for Aidan (I didn't know which he'd want and he can be very particular), and a veggie sandwich for me. Even though I wasn't sure I could eat it, I had to get it because it is my "usual."

While I was paying I noticed small Lake Champlain chocolates at the register. They were calling to me from their little foil wrappers. I love chocolate, dark chocolate, expensive dark chocolate. I read the ingredient list on the dark chocolate and noticed that it contained no milk products. Did I dare? I already had one coughing fit that morning but I wanted that chocolate so much; it's been months since I tasted chocolate.

I bought one. I got in the car and had a talk with Chester, "Chester, if you could let me have this one little piece of chocolate I promise I will not abuse the privalege. I just want this one." I greedily unwrapped the chocolate. I took one small bite: al dente just as I like my chocolate. The chocolate was smooth and sweet and just the right about of bitter. It melted in my mouth. I had another bite. It was so good; it was almost a religious experience. And then the last bite. I was in heaven. Three bites haven't made me that happy in a very long time.

I thanked Chester for his cooperation. Perhaps that evening's retching was payback but it was worth it.

I was thinking last night about a book I read on meditation. It recommended eating a raisin to learn the practice of being in the moment. I have nothing against raisins but why waste this experience on a raisin? I mean they have wrinkles and they are sweet but c'mon. If you are going to have a mindful eating experience nothing can compete with chocolate.

Last summer when I met my present pulmonologist for the first time, we spoke frankly about my future and whether I was going to ultimately need a lung transplant (it turns out that I am not a candidate because I have scleroderma and a very messed up esophagus). At the time he happened to mention that patients routinely get feeding tubes at least temporarily after the transplant. "I won't be able to eat?" I exclaimed, "then you might as well kill me."

Food has been central to my entire adult life. Whenever I traveled, my vacations revolved around food: when we were going to eat where were we going to eat, &, most importantly, what were we going to eat. When we were in Rome last summer I insisted that we find a particular pizzeria in the Campo di Fiori that, according to the the Lonely Planet guide, served amazing pizza. When we found the place we discovered that there was nowhere to sit. My traveling companions balked at the idea of standing in the blazing midday heat to eat their lunch. As we walked past the pizza place, I could see the workers cranking out some serious pies and I felt really disappointed. One gander at the pricey menu of the neighboring restaurant provided just the ammunition I needed to convert the gang to my way of thinking. Back to the pizza place where one ordered pie by the length (they were large rectangluar pies). Not knowing the metric system, I simply held my hands wide to show them how big a piece I wanted. The pizza was not the typical Roma variety, which has a cracker thin crust, but a more neopolitan style. I knew when the server folded my piece in half that I was in for a treat. For less than 11 euros we had meals (plus another 6 for beverages).

We tried to find a shady spot on the campo but the only one was occupied by a middle age couple in serious need of a room for their recreational activities. I honestly have never seen an older couple grope each other that much (actually he was groping her while she seemed pretty engrossed in some paperwork she was doing). The Campo di Fiori is also the site of an open air market so we stood under the umbrella of one of the stalls. It was a huge stall and we were taking up maybe 2 square feet, but of course the little strega (witch) running the stall kept griping at us. So we just pretended we didn’t understand her. The pizza (tomato pie in my case) was the best I have ever eaten. I was literally moaning in the street while I was eating it. I couldn't stop thinking about it, and for weeks afterwards I seriously considered going back to Rome just to eat the pizza again.

This story is a fine example of how much I loved food. Food was everything to me or, at least, I thought it was. But now I find I can live without it if that's what it takes. I can still eat on the TPN but these days it seems like my body just needs a break from food altogether. I hope it won't always be that way. Of the seven cardinal sins, gluttony is far and away my favorite and I'd really like to indulge myself in a little bit more of that someday.


Marie Coppola said...

"Food has been central to my entire adult life."

Just one question: why the qualifier "adult?" ;)

I hope you've got some gluttony in you yet, too! Can't tell you how happy it made me to read how much you enjoyed that chocolate! smile.

Tolman said...

I leave for New Hampshire tomorrow. For years I have been agitating for a trip to the Lake Champlain chocolate factory in Burlington but the kids have been too little (it's several hours away). Maybe this is the year! If so, I'll get you something delectable. :),