Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Playing with Food

Perimenopause has its challenges, the most annoying being unpredictable sleep. Some nights I'm out before head contacts pillow; other times my brain is in hyperdrive. It's not worry; I gave that up YEARS ago. It's like a delayed caffeine surge...simply an 18 hour delay(!).

So my sleepytime trick is to give my brain something to do--on purpose--so it will be so busy thinking about whatever task I assigned it that it won't have time to churn on the flotsam and jetsam of my day or my to-do list. For the longest time, in the morbid and perverse fashion common to folks who work in healthcare (the same twisted motive that drives healthcare workers to rush home after a harrowing shift in the ED so they can catch the latest Tivo'd episode of "House" or "Grey's Anatomy", the very one that impels them to tell the most tasteless jokes during 11 to 7) my brain's little job was to name all the oncologists I have ever met. This was quite effective--I have encountered at least 40, and would usually be unconscious around #17 or so--and when that became mundane, there was always the option to alphabetize them. Or to list them in order of appearance. For best effect, I could visualize them leaping over stacks of charts.

Heck, if you can have sheep scaling a fence as a sleep-inducer, you can have MDs vaulting HIPAA-compliant documentation.

After months--years?--of this, though, I needed a change. Alphabetizing the states, naming all the capitals, reciting the entries in my personal address book...eh. They lost their effectiveness rapidly. I needed something with creativity, purpose, and absolutely no stress.

Help came in the form of an all-natural, nitrate- and nitrite-free spiral-sliced half ham. Actually, a quarter ham; we had eaten the first half in early January, and since variety is the spice of the dining table, the rest went in the freezer for another day. Which happened to be this past weekend. Spiral sliced is handy for sandwiches, of which #1 son, aged 16, partakes daily, but even he can only eat so much. So now the challenge: what do I do with the rest?

Voila: recipe fantasies as sleep aid.

Night #1: Lentil soup, made with ham broth (also stocked in the freezer), carrots, celery, diced ham. Yummy. (I had the rest for dinner tonight. Definitely a do-again). It was nice to try something other than the tomato-based version.

Night #2: Potato soup. For those of you who are afraid of leftovers--wait a minute, how come all of you live in my house?! Diced celery, ham, and potatoes, caramelized in the pan, simmered in chicken broth, and then finished with sour cream and dill. I was scolded by #2 son for failing to obtain chives. Note to self: buy herbs on the cheap at local greengrocer and stash in freezer.

Tonight? I'm not sure. I'm toying with making a paella--the perfect excuse to morph leftovers into something unrecognizable by the leftover-phobic--but we have to see what visions pop into my head as I settle for the night.

And let's see if it hits the dinner table tomorrow evening.

Yawn. Good-night.

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