Tuesday, February 2, 2010

down with cheeseburgers!

As you may recall, I have a rather feeble, albeit feisty, grandmother. For the past week she's been in hospital, as multiple doctors and medical stakeholders determine whether there is anything they can really do to help her. She's a trooper, and with only a few outbursts, has taken this entire experience in stride. It's us that are a mess. My aunt and uncle and cousin and my parents, sister, and me have been with her almost constantly. Spending so much time in hospital, one scarcely has time to put together any decent meal at home. Mostly we've been subsisting on melted cheese on toast and Chinese leftovers. These are some of my favourite foods, so other than the lack of leafy green vegetables, I take no real issue there.

The problem isn't what we eat at home. The problem is what is on offer at the hospital. I am sorry, but a burger chain, really? Yes, Tim Horton's is available some times, but more often than not, the only open vendor is the hospital run White Spot. Now don't get me wrong, I love burgers as much as the next red-blooded, meat-eating gal. But to see patients and their family members sullenly gumming down soggy, tired, alarmingly delicious patties is unacceptable. Can't we demand better? Isn't there something in a code somewhere that states that people who are in an institution to try to recover their health and heal their wounds ought to be provided with sustenance that nourishes and sets an example on how to go about feeding oneself outside of the institution? It seems completely wrong. Moreover, it seems like it is part of a greater conspiracy to keep the North American population debilitated my obesity and riddled with heart disease. The status quo is unacceptable.

Rant over.

Now, given that I've been spending what little free time I have at the hospital, it follows that I have not had a chance to do any cooking for quite some time. So on Saturday, I treated myself to an hour or so at one of my favourite places - the Strathcona Farmer's Market - and wandered up and down the aisles looking for inspiration. I didn't make it to the market until nearly the end of the day, so vendors were sweetly giving away their wares, just so that they wouldn't go to waste. A lovely Norwegian man with a big, white beard gave me twice as many leeks. I had a pound of potatoes already at home from the nice little Chinese ladies that grow organic veggies at the corner stall with the banner Peas on Earth.

After filling up my bag with other delightful treasures (a pot of irises and a couple bunches of tulips - one for my house, one for my Baba's hospital room) I returned home with renewed resolve to stay in the kitchen until I felt a bit better. Cooking is, for me, a cathartic expression of whatever I feel inside me. And, since for the past week I've been feeling a great big ball of half-digested cheeseburger inside me, I decided to chop, sauté, and boil a big healthful simmering pot of potato leek soup. I found a simple recipe on epicurious.com and went to town. With my music playing and the space all to myself I felt more at home and more comforted than I had done in a long time.

Even better - I had something tangible to show for my time. My soup was finished without much mess and will enough to take a large container of it over to my aunt and uncle's house. They too have been suffering from the hospital burger sickness. What's more, I did it all with locally grown produce that was tended to with love and care that seemed to infuse every spoonful. I hope my Baba gets out of the hospital soon. I'd very much like to take her to the market. Late in the afternoon is a good time to go. And the vendors would clamour to offer her their delicious wares. She's too precious to let pass by without offering her something. If only she were well enough for a bowl of my soup... imagine the healing that would bring.

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