Friday, July 16, 2010


One week later (and five pounds lighter), including three days of missed work, I can happily report that the gastroenteritis is almost entirely curbed. I'd say I'm at about 97% right now, the 3% being my body getting used to eating real meals again, and feeling a little tired still from rapid weight loss and lack of fuel. I inherited my mom's quick metabolism, and I didn't exactly have five pounds to lose before the illness, so I'm slowly working on getting back up to a normal weight.

My diet for most of the last week has consisted of mostly soup, applesauce, purposefully bland congee (rice porridge) and a few pieces of white bread. I know this sounds somewhat ludicrous and possibly pretentious, but it felt so, so wrong to not properly season my food when my cook's instinct is to make it right and balance it well. I forget that the primary function of eating is for energy, and I'm grateful that we've evolved from simply fueling ourselves into creative experimentation with flavor, texture and balance.

Another thought I'll take away from this whole bout with stomach flu is this: I'll never again take for granted the ability to eat, and the variety of foods available to me. Around day four, after my millionth or so bowl of soup, I started to dream in Technocolored gastro-porn: cheeseburgers, sashimi, mussels, mayonnaise, over easy eggs, carbonara, corndogs, lardo, burrata, French dips... everything that I physically could not stomach. It actually made me nauseous to think about food, but after a while I really couldn't help it. I am so, so spoiled by the riches around me and I'll never complain about having to taste my sets before I send them out.

I finally felt good enough on day five to attempt eating a real meal. Following a restorative afternoon relaxing in the sun (a nice change from my bedroom), I settled around the dinner table with my boyfriend and his roommates who had made perfectly barbecued chicken, potato salad with Walla Walla sweet onions, fresh-shucked Oregon peas with yogurt and mint, and grilled summer squash. Not a bad welcome back to gastronomy. Adorably, my boyfriend only served me about a third of what I'd normally eat of each, but he was right in doing so as my stomach seems to have gotten tinier with lack of proper usage. Worry not, it'll be back to right in no time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gastroenteritis can suck it!

I woke up yesterday morning feeling more exhausted than normal and with a dull stomachache that I automatically attributed to the previous night of gluttony with friends (sweetbreads, veal pate, chicken liver mousse and endless desserts, i.e. probably about five sticks of butter in total, not to mention a couple of cocktails). I was surprised, as I certainly didn't have enough drinks to be hungover, but I brushed it off as early morning queasiness that would go away by the time I got to work at 8AM. Doing my best to wear an "I'm doing fine" face and ignore the insistent aches, I tried coffee, ginger ale, bitters and soda, crackers, and several trips to the bathroom before I finally admitted to myself and my coworkers that the stomachache, weakness and nausea were not going away. I felt guilty about barely doing anything at work and leaving before service started, but the idea of working a station even for a few hours made me feel more ill than I already was.

What ensued was the worst short bike ride home ever and a subsequent few hours of laying in bed sweating and half-sleeping with frequent interruptions to visit the bathroom before my boyfriend arrived to take care of me, flowers and several Gatorades and ginger ales in hand. The fitful, sweaty non-sleep and bathroom trips continued throughout the day, but having some company to rub my back and whine and moan to certainly made things a little better. My boyfriend spent an entire gorgeous and sunny Saturday laying around indoors with me, watching action movies on Netflix, making me tea and dutifully waiting out my miserable stomach flu. Good man, that one.

As of this morning it's quite persistently sticking around and I've called in to work sick again, despite my instinct not to. It's ironic that of all the industries I've ever worked in, food service is the one where I've consistently felt the guiltiest about calling in sick. The irony comes from the fact that food service the most likely work environment that you can pass on a contagious illness to a lot of people. The fact of the matter is in a lot of kitchens, there is no such thing as being sick. The common practice is unless you are quite literally dying, you show up to work and stick it out like a good boy. I've known cooks and chefs who've injured themselves quite severely on the job and refuse to leave to get the stitches they need. In my first month of working at my first restaurant, I stabbed myself in the hand with an oyster shucker during service and I just wrapped it up with a giant icepack and went back to work. I figured I still had one good hand!

But I've had some serious health scares in my past so I try to listen to my body when it says "PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME DO THIS." And still I end up feeling guilty.

I know I do it to myself mostly, make myself feel guilty that is. All of my bosses have been extremely cool and understanding about this, but in the back of my head I imagine them thinking that I'm weak and unreliable, even if this isn't the case. Or that they would never call in sick. I'm pretty sure that they know it'd be a bad scene for me to be working my station whilst running to the bathroom every 10 minutes, but it's that lingering machismo and "strong like bull" testosterone-y attitude that hovers over a lot of kitchen environments that's got me feeling hyper-aware of my "weakness".

I normally have the constitution of a linebacker when it comes to my ability to eat a lot and frequently without being bothered, but apparently gastroenteritis ain't picky. I seriously can't remember one time in the last 10 years that I've had something like this. One thing I've learned about the stomach flu: it's TOTALLY BORING. And there's nothing you can do but drink lots of fluids and wait it out. Total bullshit! Two of the most beautiful days of summer so far and I'm stuck in bed, waiting for my innards to quit misbehaving. And blogging about it, apparently.

In the meantime I'll be staving off the boredom by watching more Netflix and flipping through my newest Powell's purchase: The River Cottage Cookbook by the adorable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Just look at that book cover! Piglets!