Last week, I took some time off work to have a surgery at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. It was very successful and I am healing well. I learned that the south has a different approach to vegetables. This column is usually about how I eat my CSA food will be about my hunt and search techniques for real food. I have a helper named my dad.
My dad is my healthcare advocate for the trip so he flew out the North Carolina with me. We landed in the Washington Dulles Airport expecting to find something healthy and delicious for lunch. Have you ever heard of Five Guys? This is an amazing hamburger and fry place that they love in DC. My dad basically stopped at this restaurant and showed me the place next door called Cosi. Luckily, I was very impressed with Cosi because you could get a greek salad and half turkey sandwich on a wheat bun. First meal was very healthy! I did eat 5 Five Guys fries, which was tasty but not great for my stomach. My dad was super happy with his lunch.
A friend in Santa Fe had recommended a local restaurant that featured farm food in North Carolina. She used to own a CSA farm in the area and was excited for us to eat at the restaurant. We drove down to the square and unfortunately the restaurant had closed and had big cardboard signs over the windows. We were sad and set back to find a new place. Durham is an older town and I think you have to be a Duke doctor to understand the roads. We could not find our way to the other square! Somehow we found the interstate and saw a Subway restaurant that was open for 10 more minutes. We had to settle for veggie subs with milk for dinner. At least we got some red peppers, onions and spinach.
My dad is a great planner and had the hotel breakfast ready for the morning. He got me a hard-boiled egg, whole wheat toast with peanut butter, 2% milk and a peach yogurt. There were not veggies and fruit. We were off to clinic appointments and knew that the coordinators would have great ideas for lunch veggies. The clinics showed my dad where to eat with the doctors in a nice restaurant. It was going to be great. Unfortunately, the green veggie was green beans in butter or spinach in cream. He found me a few sprigs of broccoli from the salad bar, a red pepper salad and cooked turkey. The food was good, but not high in my normal servings of green vegetables.
That evening we returned to the downtown diner called Elmo’s. It is larger than a regular diner, does not feature grilled or fried food and is more inventive than most southern restaurants. The servers all wear brightly colored t-shirts and are happy. We have been there 5 times in a week and the night team knows our seating and order history. We also noticed that most of the eaters are regulars and have sat next to the same person at the counter 75% of the time. He is very nice and gives us great eating advice. He is also a Duke basketball fan so we are learning the local ropes.
Tonight, I had chicken in an asian sauce with carrots and brocoli. They only serve the ends of the brocoli here. Strange, but at least it is a green vegetable. The last time we ordered brocoli, it came as a few ends with tons of cheese and bread…like a casserole with oil. Today’s dinner was healthy. We were happy.
Breakfast was the same, prepared by my dad. We spent the day at the clinic preparing tests before the surgery. There was about a two-hour break to find a good place for lunch. We heard about a Thai place that was close. Unfortunately, the appetizers were all fried and the entrees looked greasy. I custom ordered Pad Thai with just carrots and brocoli stems and my dad was not interested in eating there.
We did not take chances for dinner and went back to Elmo’s Diner. I had huevos rancheros…yes I did in the south. It did not have chile or any hot sauce, but it looked like the real thing. It was actually very good if you think in terms of a pizza sauce with egg beaters, black beans and mild salsa. The tortilla was grilled very nicely at the edge of the plate.
This was the day to be admitted to the hospital. We ate breakfast and made sure that we had time to eat a healthy sandwich before our noon admit. The hospital cafeteria had a sandwich place that was open for only a few hours, not sure why it was not open for longer. If you ordered rye bread without any sauces and only meat and veggies, it was healthy. This was a very good thing to do before the hospital admittance. Duke is very thorough and took several hours to check us in.
Once we were checked in, I had more tests and processes to start before the 6am surgery. We spoke to them about dinner and it sounded healthy. Chicken, collards, potatoes and milk. Unfortunately, it was cooked southern style so it tasted awesome, but hurt my stomach. I changed my food order to vegan to avoid future grease.
The day of surgery went well and I did not have to eat! They brought me chicken broth and popsicle to keep me hydrated and my dad amused. I guess I had 30 wires glued to my head and my dad could see my brain activity. He witnessed an ice cream headache with my popsicle.
Coffee was a priority for my dad and he did a great job. He also surveyed the interesting eggs they tried to feed me (vegan?) and found raisin bran and a banana to eat instead. The nurse was open to us using the cafeteria as I don’t think they understood the term vegan. My dad found me toast, steamed carrots, steamed beets and garbanzo beans for lunch. Green veggies were all soaked in butter or cream so we passed on them. For dinner, he found bean and barley soup in the hospital cafeteria. I had carrots and peas for the veggie. There was even a brownie that my dad and I shared as a little celebration.
My friend Anneke came to visit on Sunday. It was great because she brought swiss chard! She actually cut up two gallon bags and brought yellow raisins, pine nuts and goat cheese. I was so happy to see her and the green vegetables. She showed my dad how to cook them in the microwave at the hotel. That is what we have been eating with our meals this week. Thank you for the visit Anneke.
I can’t wait to get home next week for my CSA share.
Amy Hetager, CSA Blogger