Sunday, August 30, 2009

My margarita recipe

It was a hot summer a few years ago when my girlfriend Holly and I stumbled onto our favorite drink. It was a rare day off for me, and Holly too, as we were both in school at the time and working fulltime. By noon we had two coolers packed (one for food, one for booze) and we were headed to a local beach off the beaten path where the odds of sharing with other locals was probable but the chance of tourists was slim. Exactly how we like it.
Anyway, we were out to catch a little sun, a buzz, and relax. As I pulled the Jose and mix from the cooler, Holly reached into the food cooler and came out with a bag of frozen raspberries. "Should we throw some of these in?"
"Why not?" I replied. I had the freshly sliced limes ready to go, too. And kosher salt. We have always been serious about our margarita ingredients, whether we were on the deck at home or camping in the middle of nowhere. We don't do half-assed margaritas.
The addition of the raspberries was delightful. As the afternoon wore on, we lost more articles of clothing, and our lounge chairs slid deeper into the water, the raspberries thawed into a soupy mess. This only made the drinks better. A handful of berries followed by a shot of juice in our drinks made the perfect margarita.
Three hours later, it occurred to us we would not be driving home. "Don't worry, Bob will come and get us," I assured Holly, digging for my cell phone. Not that she was worried.
I called my husband. It went something like this.
"Honey! You're home now."
"Of course I'm home. It's six o'clock. Where are you?"
"We're at Sand Point. We were SO hot, we had to go swimming."
"Honey? Can you come get us? I think we drank too many margaritas."
"What were we gonna do for supper?" There was my second clue. At first it went right over my tequila-befuddled head. I giggled, "oh we don't feel like eating yet. We've been having chicken 'n biskits with can cheese."
A big sigh. "OK, give me a minute." He hung up.
"Is he mad?" Holly asked, although she couldn't wipe the shit-eating grin off her face. "No," I started to laugh, then suddenly remembered. I stared, my hand over my mouth, horrified.
"What?" Holly tried to look alarmed, but was overcome with a fit of the giggles.
"Today is his birthday. Oh my God!"
She howled with laughter.
"Shit, Holly!"
I slipped on a rock and landed on my ass next to my chair, up to my armpits in the warm water. "Oh my god, did you pee over here?" I was laughing now too. "The closer I am to your chair, the warmer the water is!"
When Bob arrived, we were still in the water. We tried to make it up to him by taking him down the lake to our favorite supper club for dinner, and he graciously accepted, my long-suffering husband, even though we were tipsy and maybe a little rowdy.
It's August again, I still drink perfect margaritas, but everything's different.
I miss you, Holly.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

why i like feta cheese

I am not a refined or complicated girl. I was raised on oatmeal for breakfast, bread and butter for lunch and something with beans in it for supper. So it may come as no surprise that I still love oatmeal, but I am having a blast trying new foods, of which there seems to be an endless supply!
I don't remember my first taste of feta, but I do remember when I began craving it.
It was a typical "chemo day" for me in the fall of '08, about five months into my 16 month treatment plan for breast cancer. My morning started with a parade of nurses and technicians taking turns trying to access my port. After at least 6 tries they had a line in, which almost immediately infiltrated and had to be restarted with an intra-peritoneal needle. It felt like a nail in my chest. I gritted my teeth and cursed my surgeon's placement for the hundredth time. The nurse flushed my port with normal saline, one eye on my face for my reaction, and sighed in relief at my shudder when the taste hit my mouth.
"What do you want to eat, honey?"
I looked up at my husband in disbelief. He always asked this; I just couldn't believe his inate ability to ask at the exact moment I felt the most nauseous. I realized I was still holding my breath from the anticipation of the nail going in. I blew it out slowly.
"I'll have pizza."
It was our little ritual, every chemo day. I would get plugged in, and he would wander down to our favorite cafe, knowing by the time he went through the line and got back upstairs, my pre-meds would be kicking in and I would be hungry.
So he nods and saunters out, cracking a joke at the nurse as he leaves. My funny, wise-ass husband is clearly a favorite here among the mainly female staff of nurses (and one effeminate male nurse he shamelessly flirts with), so I would like to go off on a side note and describe him to you.
His name is Robert. He hates it, so I call him Bob. Everyone else, calls him Bobby.
Bob has been through a lot in the past 8 months or so. The night I was diagnosed, I was 6 doors down the hall from his mother's room, who was dying of a rare peritoneal cancer. She passed away shortly after that. In the midst of his grief he was still there for me during multiple surgeries, complications, illnesses. He took care of our children, then 7 and 1, when I was too weak or sick to hold them, changed diapers, made school snacks, shaved my head for me - and somehow maintained his sanity and sense of humor. He'll probably never know how much I really love him for that.
Bob returned with two takeout containers and two fountain drinks. "They have a new pizza," he told me, opening mine up on the side table of my recliner. "It has artichokes but I figured you would like it."
It smelled heavenly. Fifteen minutes ago, I felt like vomiting. The pre-meds were working!
The pizza looked like a flatbread with artichokes, calameta olives and feta cheese. It tasted like nectar from the gods. There wasn't much those days I cared to eat, but I loved that pizza.
Bob ate his turkey sandwich in the straight-backed chair across from me, looking pleased with himself. My nurse returned, ready to change my IV bag.
"Time for your Benadryl, Sarah. Oh my, is that pizza from downstairs?"
"Yes! Its a new one. So yummy. You like feta cheese?"
I stopped smacking long enough to offer her a piece. We ohhed and ahhed together between bites while she changed my bag. The benadryl was the favorite part of my day- as soon as it started infusing I would start to feel sleepy, and soon I wouldn't be able to hold my eyes open. The nap, a precious commodity these days, would also be on a full stomach.
I saw a woman, well-dressed and with her own hair, watching us from the hallway with a strange look on her face. Obviously, she was either new to the Infusion Center, or not a patient. Not everyone understands.
I leaned back into my recliner, still some grease on my face, yet strangely content for the moment. My eyelids were heavy as I listened to Bob and Amy, my nurse, discuss the latest Top Chef. My bald head felt chilly, but Amy, anticipating this, was already tucking a warmed blanket around me. I drifted off and dreamt I was eating feta cheese pizza again.