We've been away, visiting my in-laws. My father-in-law looked pale but not too bad at all, considering his situation. He sounded awful though; the radiation treatments gave him a sunburn on his back and his esophagus. His esophagus. There is no after-burn ointment for the inside of your throat. He nibbles almost hourly but has no meal-sized appetite, so I am reassured to see that one of his favourite snacks is fresh beef broth with an egg from the neighbour's farm stirred through. He absented himself often from the usual kitchen-table visits to doze in his chair. I am grateful that his stretches of sleep are once again lengthening. The chemo is beginning to make him ill. Into this undiscussed direness hopped one blond two-year-old who spontaneously gives big little hugs, to say endearing things, dump toys hither and yon, and gleefully accept cake at all mealtimes and often in between. The generations need each other always, but it is never more obvious than in times of trouble.
This weekend simply underscored that availability and actual choice are not synonymous. I am never in danger of starving at my in-law's house. The food is good quality, great quantity and the kitchen is a benevolent dictatorship that never closes. It was discussed and agreed beforehand that I had to take at least some meatballs or I wouldn't have any breakfast to eat. Then I had the gall to actually bring them and eat them. A lesser woman might not have survived. It interests me that a household gripped by illness would react aggressively towards my efforts to get healthy. In fairness, aggression is that family's usual reaction to the unknown.
I would like a goodonya for repeatedly declining both alcohol and cake for two straight days while jammed in a circle of joviality surrounding a table covered in both. But did I cheat? A little bit, yes. I enjoyed the herb and garlic butter on my restaurant steak quite a lot, but it bit me back, which surprised me. On Sunday we came home after a 4.5 hour drive to a cleaned-out fridge and no veggie drop-off for 24 hours, so I whacked together a soup with beef broth, carrots, celery... and red lentils. I didn't think anything of it until it was already simmering. This did not bite me back. And I've had one blatant cheat that was a complete self-restraint fail: walnut torte.
Before you pillory me, let me make three rapid excuses: it's local, it's traditional, and it's not that bad. I mean, it is that bad because now I want more sugar, but I've been wanting dark chocolate for days so the crack was there to exploit. The "torte" is actually whole walnuts and a bit of honey (no, not a puddle, just enough that they don't fall out) in a lard-based pie crust. The finished product is small, dense and simple, an excellent way to use up what was left of the 'special' foods during the late-winter Carnival season before Lent, and delicious with a cup of tea. It makes my belly burble.
Now there's a small person beside me, all awake and snack-filled, dressed in a bee costume and demanding that the laptop be used for something useful like watching lullabies on YouTube, so no further ramblings for today.