Sometimes when I write, food doesn’t take center stage.
Sometimes, food is in the wings, waiting for the right time to enter the story. And, at times, it never enters.
I’ve just wrapped up a 6-week creative writing class, and this class has been just what I needed at this time in my life. I’ve had the opportunity to branch out from my usual professional writing (at work) and food writing (in this space). I’ve written a little fiction even, and I’ve explored some hidden corners in that right-brain side of my head that doesn’t see as much daylight as it should.
I’m sharing a piece with you today, a moment remembered from the past, from last fall. I wrote it last week when I was in Austin, sitting at my hotel room desk with only the sound of the tapping of the keyboard to keep me company. When I was nearly finished writing it, I ordered room service. A glass of champagne and a slice of chocolate cake.
Food is glaringly absent from this memory, as it should be.
* * * * * *
My birthday was tomorrow, Wednesday. On Thursday, Sam and I were to fly to Manhattan for a long weekend, in theory to celebrate my birthday, but really, that was just an excuse to get away. We were to have dinner that Friday night at Gramercy Tavern.
Instead of packing, I was in the Trauma Intensive Care Unit at the hospital I work in. But instead of wearing my usual professional, “Attending Physician” attire, I was dressed in jeans and sneakers. I was there as a family member of a patient. I was there as the daughter, the daughter who also happened to be a doctor.
The night before, Dad had fallen. It seems so trivial – just a fall, a simple fall. But my father, a large man – maybe 5’10″ and 270 pounds – landed hard. The back of a straight backed wooden chair, positioned just so, broke his fall when it caught him squarely in the rib cage. The impact fractured five ribs, in multiple places each, driving one of those ribs into his right lung.
Now, I stood by his side, holding his hand carefully so as to not disturb the bandages protecting the IV and the arterial line in his wrist. My father looked confused and uncomfortable, his face covered by a clear plastic mask attached to the oxygen tubing. He struggled to breathe, and the forced intake of air with each breath caused a sharp wheeze, as if he were trying to breathe through a plastic straw. Dad had stridor, that awful
harbinger of a narrowed airway that often leads to complete respiratory failure.
The respiratory therapist, Eric, a cocky young man who, despite the arrogance he exuded, seemed to know what he was doing hovered on the opposite side of the hospital bed, positioned between my father and the beeping electronic monitor that gave continual readings of my fathers vital signs.
“I think I’m going to have to get intubation kit,” Eric said to me in a quiet voice. He was trying not to alarm my father. “I’m also going to bring a ventilator in.”
Eric left, and in less than a minute, the surgical chief resident entered the room and moved directly to my father’s side. I moved out of the way so that the surgeon could listen to my Dad’s chest with his stethoscope and inspect the chest tube protruding from my dad’s collapsed lung. The surgeon looked up from my father, meeting my eyes.
I cut him off, before he could say anything. “Just do what you have to do,” I said.
He nodded and left the room. I could hear him calling for the crash cart.
“Dad,” I said, moving close to my father again, leaning in close to speak in his ear. “Dad, the doctors are going to try to help you breathe better, okay?”
He looked at me, not understanding, but unable to talk because he was so out of breath.
“I’ll be right here,” I said. “And I’ll be here when you wake up. I promise.”
He nodded. A calmness took over his face.
“I love you. It will be okay, it really will.”
But I wasn’t sure about that. I had a strong feeling that I had just lied to my father, and I would never forgive myself for it.
My first trip to Austin was filled with plenty of meetings on gynecologic cancers, a decent amount of networking with some very smart people, productive brainstorming of ideas for work, and plenty of rest. I didn’t have a car, so my time there was limited to what I could explore in the downtown area on foot – except for one night when a good friend took me out for dinner.
I present to you my iPhone photos (mostly) of my Austin experience. My experience, other than meetings? Food.
a cocktail at parkside -- the korean spring
fried oysters at parkside.
a portrait of me by my friend, Christy, taken at Olivia.
charcuterie at Olivia.
a darn good margarita at la condesa
brussels sprouts with bacon and grapes. best sprouts. ever.
cream cheese ice cream
tacos with spinach, giant white butterbeans, salsa verde
If you told me that one day I would be pushing a candy-apple red KitchenAid Stand Mixer in a stroller around Epcot on St. Patrick’s Day, I would probably think you’ve had one too many green beers. And, if you told me that I would be pushing that mixer-filled baby stroller alongside a French-speaking, macaron-baking, Australian-born Canadian carrying a basket of chocolates, I would immediately know that you’ve not only been drinking but that you’ve also forgotten to take your antipsychotic medications.
But, it happened. It really did.
why, yes, i did win that mixer. yay, me!
I spent the weekend in Orlando for the second annual Food Blog Forum held in that city, but the very first one held at Walt Disney World. Disney was one of the sponsors and the host of the conference, and the hospitality shown to our group was really incredible. From the hotel rooms at the Polynesian (my son’s favorite Disney hotel), to the food served over the course of the two day conference, to the the complimentary park passes for the attendees and our family members, Disney did everything right.
Disney always does everything right. It’s their way.
While winning the mixer was a nice bonus of the trip, I was there to soak up knowledge and to have fun in the process.
Lessons abound at food blogging conferences, both inside the session rooms and outside them. Though I was doubtful whether I would walk away with any earth-shattering wisdom, I had a wonderful time and managed to gain tidbits of information along the way.
From Diane and Todd, the White on Rice Couple, we were taught that photography should be about storytelling. That is such a simple, common sense idea, but it’s one that gets lost amidst the props and pretty plates. I am quite grateful to Todd for teaching me so much about Lightroom, organizing my digital photos, and shooting in Raw versus JPEG. That brief round table session was very high yield. And aside from the photography genius, I discovered that Diane and Todd are a beautiful couple, on the inside and out – inspirational and passionate about life.
I learned from Dawn Viola’s session that she’s even more amazing than I first thought. She has such a passion and energy for life that I wish I could bottle it and add a few drops to my coffee each morning. I absorbed every tidbit of writing advice that David Leite offered to us. When his two sessions were over, I was left wishing I could pack him up, take him home with me, and force him to sit by my side while I write. Jennie’s and Kelly’s round table session on food writing was simply too short. I could talk to them for hours, especially since it’s the writing that has me so jazzed lately.
The highlight of Food Blog Forum Orlando wasn’t the swag bag of goodies or the page of notes that I took from the sessions. It wasn’t even the green beer that Mardi and I sneaked out to get after lunch, though that was pretty darn great at the moment. The best part of the conference was the coming together of friends and strangers to partake in a two-day event to celebrate food, to celebrate feeding others – whether with a fork, through the written word, or through the beauty of a photograph.
We honored the act of nourishing others, and I can’t think of anything better than that.
* The top photo was taken by Aggie. Thanks for capturing the hilarity of the moment for me, Aggie.