A fork in the road

Mags with forks

Have you noticed? There are forks in every photograph these days. Well, not just in. The forks are main characters, really. They’re stars. All the forks on the magazine covers look glamorous, somehow, compared to what we use at home. (Except for the MIT magazine. They seem to have forgotten the fork. Or maybe they’re still busy inventing a better one.)

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me to see them getting so much attention, given how frequently we eat with them, but for some reason a recent glance at my coffee table made me self-conscious about my Oneida. (Or is it Dansk?) I mean, how could a fork from a line called Symphony claim any sort of cache? I rifled around in our silverware drawer – the one I overloaded and broke, and Jim fixed, last weekend – and came up with one sexy fork. We bought it at Goodwill when we moved in. I ate with it for six weeks straight, before our life arrived in the moving truck, and now, in a sea of cutlery without character, I’m clinging to it.

I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been washing it by hand so I can use it more frequently, when a full orchestra of perfectly serviceable Symphony silverware waits at the ready. Just because I like Mr. Goodwill’s flat handle and dull finish, and how heavy he feels in my hand.

But we’re sort of in a fight, me and this fork. He came back into my life at a bad time.

I went to see my new periodontist a few weeks ago. I have a healthy, photogenic mouth, but apparently my gums are another story. They need a sort of preventative surgery. Hearing it explained, I’m not sure how the procedure differs in principle from Botox.

(Gross-out warning: Don’t read this if you’re eating.)

“Pretend your gums are pita pockets,” said Dr. B., jamming an inch-long device into the fleshy pink spaces between my teeth. “I’m going to pry them open, stuff them with turkey and tomatoes – you’re not a vegetarian, are you? – and sew them shut again.”

I cringed. “What happens afterward?” I asked. That story my father tells about turning fish and chips into a hot fish milkshake careened through my mind.

“You’ll go on a periodontic diet. It’s not like you can’t eat anything,” she said. “You just can’t eat anything crunchy, or hard, or super chewy, or anything sharp, or anything that could get caught in the sutures. No artisanal breads, no cereals, no hard vegetables, nothing too spicy, because you don’t want to get the blood clots flowing, no . . .”

I stopped listening when she suggested I view it as an opportunity to lose weight. But I’ve found a couple opinions, and surgery it shall be.

So I’ve been preparing, mentally, for my little adventure on Friday. Or, more precisely, for accepting what I won’t be able to eat after the fact. I’m steeling myself for a world of soup, and I have a list: avgolemono, egg drop, pho . . .

There’s physical preparation involved, also. I’ve been feeling good, these last few weeks. I was starting to think maybe I’d taken a turn for the much better – maybe even nailed lupus into some form of remission – but when I stopped my anti-inflammatories in anticipation of Friday’s work (Yes! The only time in my life I can say I’m having work done!), the pain started creeping back. Or, well, running back.

Late last night, my fork and I had a little tiff.

I guess I should back up a little. It really started when I found out that this weekend is razor clam season again. Oyster Bill told me I’d find fresh clams at Wild Salmon Seafood Market, and I got a hankering for the same fat, sweet meat I dug for last fall. As it turned out, the market didn’t have fresh razor clams, but they had frozen ones, and I decided to give them a try.

The truth? They’re not bad. For me, a huge part of the razor clam experience is digging and cleaning them, but chopped up in a light, simplified version of the razor clam chowder Kevin Davis serves at Steelhead (PDF), they were delicious. And best of all, I now have, conveniently frozen, two tasty lunches that will fit my periodontal “diet.”

Last night, the good fork and I scooped hot pasta, tossed with wine-infused spicy sausage, kale, and razor clams, into my mouth. But halfway through my bowl, my wrists got really, really tired. I put my fork down, not because I was done eating, but because it hurt too much to hold it any longer. Damn, it is downright embarrassing to think I might injure myself eating.

So no, I won’t be razor clamming this weekend. I probably won’t be doing much of anything, except hanging out, avoiding aerobic exercise, and teaching my husband how to make matzo ball soup from my perch on the couch. And hoping, really hoping, that the second the surgery’s over, I can hop back on the Naprosen wagon and go back to that fork in the road.

Oh do tell, wise reader: What would you eat?

Razor clam rigatoni 2

Portuguese Razor Clam Rigatoni (PDF)
Inspired by the Portuguese-style clam chowder popular at Cape Verdean spots on Cape Cod, this hearty pasta dish, made with spicy sausage, kale, garlic, and a touch of cream, makes a great home for chopped razor clams. If linguica or razor clams aren’t available in your area, substitute any spicy sausage or regular chopped clams, respectively.

TIME: 45 minutes total
MAKES: 4 hearty servings

3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
4 spicy sausages (such as linguica, chorizo, or hot Italian), casings removed
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4” half-moons
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 (1/2 pound) bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 pound razor clam meat, chopped
3/4 pound bite-sized pasta, such as rigatoni
1/4 cup heavy cream
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Put a big pot of water on to boil for the pasta.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 2 teaspoons of the olive oil, and swirl to coat. Add the sausage, crumbling it into bite-sized pieces as you add it to the pan, and cook, breaking it up as you go and turning occasionally, until no pink remains. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the pan, then add the leeks, garlic, and thyme. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the kale has wilted. (The sauce can be made ahead up to this point, and set aside for an hour or two before the meal.)

About ten minutes before serving, add the pasta to the boiling water, and cook according to package directions. Stir the wine and paprika into the kale mixture and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Add the sausage and clams (with any accumulated juices), and cook, stirring, just until clams are opaque. Increase heat to high, add the cream, and stir to coat all the ingredients with the cream. Stir in the cooked pasta, and serve immediately, sprinkled with cheese.

9 Comments

Filed under pork, recipe

9 responses to “A fork in the road

  1. oh, i love your blog and i’m going to have the same periodontal procedure in May, so I empathize with you. I am sorry that having to lay off your meds is taking such a toll – that sounds brutal and frustrating. But for foods, I would say explore yummy fresh spring pea soup, creamy asparagus soup, baby broccoli soup, gazpacho if you can find good tomatoes, fabulous sesame soy rice noodle salads with fresh spring veggies (although, cooked a bit) and soft baked tofu. Mac and cheese. Gorgeous poached eggs on polenta with fresh steamed spring greens and some roasted garlic and herbs mixed into the polenta. poached fish over risotto. Hope that gives you some ideas! 🙂

  2. Oh my goodness, Gaile, your ideas make me want to lose all my teeth, they sound so good. Thanks!

  3. I had a tooth pulled and a bone graft put in a couple months ago, so I feel your pain. I wasn’t supposed to eat anything acidic, either (agh!) Here’s a few of the things I ate: http://foodonthebrain.wordpress.com/tag/food-for-invalids/

    Soup, fish, eggs and mashed sweet potatoes were all good. I dipped soft bread into soup to soften it, and ate lots of yogurt and ice cream. I had trouble with rice and noodles unless they were very soft. Polenta is a wonderful idea.

    Hopefully you’ll heal quickly and get right back on track!

  4. Saag paneer! Perfect!

  5. Well, I would use it as an excuse to drink smoothies and milkshakes ad infinitum, so It’s nice you have some more well-rounded readers. Good luck with the surgery!

  6. Bree

    Oh, Jess, I feel your pain! Literally! There are days when it hurts too much to lift my hand to my mouth to eat. Or that it hurts my jaw too much to chew. Forks can be hard to grasp; grasping that ugly fact is even harder. Chopsticks have been banished from my life entirely, which makes me look like an idiot at sushi restaurants (I alternatively suffer or pretend that eating sushi with your fingers is hip). As for post-surgery food, let me go back to my recent impacted wisdom tooth extraction… I ate lots of pudding, guacamole, simmered-down beans, scrambled eggs, smoothies, and copious amounts of mashed potatoes without guilt. (I did not lose weight.) Here’s a tip: Gordito’s has the best Arroz con Leche EVER. Good luck!

  7. Leslie

    Being in Vietnam at this moment and suffering from a cold non stop cough from the million hour flight here I do recommend pho – the asian version of chicken soup to cure all (although not my case right now – who knows though I might be worse without it.) Of course with all the other fab ideas as well.

  8. Maybe the forks mimic the body a bit, and are seen as sexy…

  9. Pingback: Temper tantrum « hogwash

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