Has it been a whole week? I’m just glad to be up and walking. I’ve officially had four infusions, which completes two of the planned six cycles. My reaction has been different both cycles. Today, I want to share insight on how I made it through the first cycle.
As you know, I have a passion for food. I even have another food blog that I haven’t kept up with very well. I really thought I would make hay on it this summer, but cancer sort of got in the way…
I like to collect and read cookbooks. I browse them online. Our local library has a magnificent collection that I borrow from quite often. Another great resource for cheapy-cheap cookbooks is my local thrift store.
I had learned about the work of Patricia Wells through reading Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris cookbook. This lovely lady lives the Life of Riley. She lives half the year at her farmhouse in Provence and teaches the art of French cooking there and at her pied a terre in Paris. Learn more about her by visiting her website At Home with Patricia Wells. You can also “friend” her on Facebook. She is the author of many books, including the two gems I happened to have at bedside during my first trip down what I call the “Chemo Rabbit Hole.”
Chemo affects many of us in different ways. I think one of the universal symptoms is an overwhelming fatigue that forces one to sleep for hours on end. I also have flu-like symptoms that consist of joint aches. Another complaint is the metal tasting sense in your mouth that throws your appetite off kilter. When I go down the “Chemo Rabbit Hole” I essentially go to bed for four days. There are other symptoms that many people complain of. For me, some of these came violently during the second cycle.
As luck would have it, I had picked up a pristine copy of Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook at my local thrift store. I could not believe my good fortune. The price was $3.95. The IKEA “Start the car! Start the car!” commercial raced through my head as I waltzed to the checkout. On my last day before I expected to feel the ravages of chemo, my daughter and I took a trip to the library where I picked up a copy of The Provence Cookbook. I now had the city version and country version of French cuisine at the ready.
As I began to float into the badlands of fatigue, I started browsing through the Provence book. I really enjoy Wells’ engaging writing style. She begins each recipe with an anecdote about the recipe, its origins, how it evolved and the reasons why she included it in the book. She is a very generous friend and gives much credit to others in her books. There is not any of the “fluff” that one must wade through to get to the good stuff.
As I lay there in bed, my head was propped up with several pillows. I had a pillow under my knees to prop up my legs. Then I had another pillow on placed on my lap so that I could prop up the cookbook. I chose to tackle Provence on Saturday. I felt awful. I wanted to go to France. Patricia took me there. I’d raise my head. Read the anecdote. Go back to sleep. Raise my head. Read the ingredients list. Go back to sleep. Raise my head. Read the prep. Good back to sleep. Each time I fell back to sleep, I would imagine in my mind what the taste and smells would be. Chemo really zaps all your taste buds and NOTHING tastes good. So over and over, I would play that taste mind game. It really works!
With a new recipe every hour or so I’d go through the same routine: Fall asleep. Turn the page. Read the anecdote. Fall asleep, play the taste mind-game…. By evening, I had made my way through desserts and had spent the whole day “cooking” in Provence with Patricia. So the next day, I slid the dust cover off the Paris book and did the same. It was wonderful. Salads, Soups. I barely made it to desserts. But I had spent Sunday in Paris.
I called my mom on Monday. She is in the hospital as well and is having trouble with her food tasting good so we often commiserate. I told her how I spent Saturday (mostly asleep) in Provence and Sunday (literally conked out) in Paris. She laughed heartily at my mind-game technique, but as a fellow foodie, she totally got it. “Did you remember anything that you had read?” she asked. Of course I did! There were several recipes that I wanted to try. The first being an easy almond cookie recipe on
page 278 of the Provence book. You stir up an egg white with a tablespoon of flour, a half a cup of sugar and two tablespoons of honey. Add two cups of almonds, stir to coat and dump it into a greased nine-inch cake pan and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. The result is a not-too-sweet, crunchy cookie. The only adaptation I would make is to dust with a bit of sea salt as I prefer a little salty with the sweet. I took this shot with my iPhone and sent it to mom. Then I went back to bed for a short recuperative rest.
There are so many great recipes in this book I’ve yet to try. The volume is way overdue at my library and I’m going to just bite the bullet and buy my own copy. And I haven’t even started cooking from the Paris book yet.
Patricia Wells, wherever you are… thank you for your good work. Thank you for taking me to Provence and Paris during those darkest days in the Chemo Rabbit Hole.