Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Among The Living

I'm back! And you're wondering, 'she left??' Well yes, I did, physically from this blog, and quite emotionally too. Since Thursday I have had a bout of the nasties -- excruciatingly painful sore throat cum chest cold cum flu cum sinus cold. You name it, I had it, or rather still, have it. I didn't turn on my computer, I didn't open a cookbook for browsing. My life, as I knew it, was over. Of course I'm being melodramatic here, but that is the point.

In between taking medicine, coughing up my lung, dozing in and out, and yelling at Rosie O'Donnell on The View, I caught up on some reading. I'm sure many readers of this blog know that my food heroine, Nigella Lawson, lost her husband a few years back to throat cancer. Many of you also may know that among writing columns and doing a documentary of his disease, John Diamond also wrote a book. A few days ago, I got his book. I'm not going to lie and say reading this book at a time when I felt the worst I ever have in my life was somewhat reassuring. I wasn't dying; I don't have cancer. Quite oddly, however, I found some things I could relate to. The feeling of being detached from oneself, of feeing like one's fading away, and how other bodies, moving in and out and around you, don't understand what you feel because they are 100% healthy.

I have to say that this is one of the most moving books I have ever read. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Nigella is so much a part of my life, said in the least scary stalkerish way. I visit her website daily. I have all her books. I have read them all countless times and cooked from them even more than that. I know her story, and I can't imagine how she had felt, losing her mother, then her sister, and then her husband. Reading the book, however, gave me a new understanding of her. The side of her many do not see, Nigella as the wife, Nigella as the mother, are clearly revealed in this book. I felt odd reading this book at first; I felt like maybe it wasn't my business to know these personal things about someone I admire and their family. But, then again, this isn't a private diary. John Diamond decided to write and publish this, as painful and personal the whole ordeal was for him. I guess any reader, even the healthiest of us all, can take something from the book. There are some touching accounts in the book, and John is a really good writer. I hope others will get to read this book. It teaches me how you are not alone as long as you have someone that loves you to take care of you. In his introduction to the book, John writes how Nigella kept him alive as much as did the medicine.

I'm trying to make this post about how honest of an account John's book is, and not how my flu is anything close to as serious as cancer. I know that. However, laying around feeling sorry for oneself is what one person is bound to do when their immune defenses are down and they know the other side of the hill is a long way off. I didn't eat these last four or five days. On Friday I had the small sandwich I wrote about, on Saturday, one small bowl of clear chicken soup made from a bouillon cube, on Sunday a piece of toast and a quarter of a red pepper. Somehow, don't ask me how, I managed to bake a quiche and make Irish beef stew. I wasn't feeling particularly in the mood for cooking, but I had ingredients I had defrosted before I got sick, and throwing food away above everything else was just something I didn't want to deal with. Don't ask me how either tasted. They turned out nice; I'm getting better at rolling out pastry, and the meat in the stew was tender and practically falling off the fork. But, everytime I went into the kitchen to check on the stew (I think I cooked it for three or four hours), I wanted to heave each time I picked up the lid. I can't even think of stew now without wanting to gag. Watching Rafa eat it was even less appetizing. He ate the stew like he had never seen meat before in his life, swallowing each mouthful of beef cube whole. I was irritated as I sat there, feverish and seething. I wanted to throw him across the room along with the bowl of stew. I don't know what made me so irritated. The fact that he was eating so vocally when I found it to be the most vile act on Earth, myself not having an appetite or particular like of food anymore. Or maybe it was that he could eat; that that day was the same as the day before, his body hadn't changed. It wasn't rejecting or fighting anything.

The fact that I could write about it now means that I do have my appetite back, but not completely. I have made it to the other side of the hill, and I do realize how lucky I am that I could say that. Reading John's book taught me that even though things are not as great as they could be, or even as good, they are not that bad either, not really.


Anna's kitchen table said...

What an interesting post Ilana (())
You've made me want to read the book NOW!
I'm glad to hear you're feeling better, it's funny how feeling even a little off-colour can feel so all-consuming, and like you say, that definitely makes you count your blessings, when you realise what awfult hings can happen to nice people.
Anna xxx

pistachio said...

Ilanakins, sorry to hear you've been ill, I was thinking I hadn't seen you around. Good to hear you're feeling much better now.

Take care of yourself, sweetie.

pi xxx

Kelly-Jane said...

Hope you make a full recovery soon Ilana.

I haven't read John's book, I sort of want to and sort of don't at the same time.

You did really well to cook when ill, it makes something which would normally be pleasurable an real ordeal!

Get better soon.


Kathryn said...

Hi Ilana,

I want to read that book too now.

Oh and that was a really well-written post. I identify completely with cooking when feeling off-colour - it's horrible.
And I am glad you're feeling better.

Kathryn x

Sarah Nicole said...

Good to see you are around. I was going to call and add you to the New York Missing Adults list.

domesticgoddess said...

Sorry to hear you've been ill. Hope you're feeling better after that nasty bout of flu!

I read 'C is for Cancer' a few years back and I agree, it was deeply emotive and heartbreaking. Yet the fact he's such a lively & interesting character and writer makes the book have a life-assuring quality in it, too. It's no wonder Nigella says, "I just want to be happy"- when you've been through awful spells like that, all you can do is focus on the positive side of life.