A couple of years ago, I got really sick. So sick. And I never really get not-working sick. If it had not been for my mother and her pretty constant nagging, I probably would have died.
I thought I had a kidney stone. I was coming home from speaking on a panel on local food and I suddenly felt just awful. Thought I initially was getting one of those fast stomach things. And then, in the middle of the night, I had pain. So bad it was worse than labor (although memories of labor are shaky).
Now there are several points during this journey that I look back as moments I could have certainly made different choices. For example, if the pain is so bad you wonder if you are dying, this is a time you could call an ambulance. Or, if you were me, have your husband drive you 2 minutes to the emergency room.
Yeah, so that’s not what I did. It passed so I felt better in the morning. My mother hounded me into going to the doctor. They told me I looked like hell. Gave me meds for a kidney stone, shot for pain, sent me home.
Fast forward to me three days later, still sick. Fever maybe getting worse. Looking green. My mom sat in my bedroom and told me I was going to the emergency room. And, again, I made a different choice. Wasted time by calling the attending on call at the hospital. Asked him what the criteria should be that would send me to the hospital vs. waiting it out at home.
In the end, my mom MADE me go to the emergency room. She would not hear of no. And she made my husband drive me. And she saved my life.
And this often reminds me that life is more fragile than we think it is. At the ER, I was baffled when the resident looked so relieved to tell me that my organs were functioning. It never occurred to me that I was really sick.
And I would love to say that that sickness taught me to live better, worry less, and make every day count.
But I am still me. I fret like crazy, usually at 3am about things I cannot change immediately and certainly not change in the middle of the night. I spend too much time engaged with my children in arguments about socks and what’s for dinner. I forget what I enjoy besides work.
And I worry that I did not nag my mother enough like she did for me. I am sad I didn’t push to have mom in the ICU or realize she was ill. She was so stoic, she seemed fine to me. And maybe that’s just what she wanted.
I wish I had kissed my mom goodbye when I left to take one of my kids to sports. I didn’t want to give her my kids’ colds. I wish I had gone to have dinner with her more before she died. Most of all, I wish she were here, even for a second, to know how much we loved her and how we are doing okay without her so she shouldn’t fret.
Grandmother’s Brunswick Stew
Get a pot big enough to boil a chicken. Chop (not fancy or fine) 2 carrots, 1 onion, 2 stalks celery, and fresh thyme. Put a bit of butter or oil in the bottom of the pot and sweat the vegetables. (Sweat generally means cooking them some without really browning, until translucent)
Add a chicken and 8-10 cups of water or chicken stock (depending on the size of your pot). Cook til the chicken juices run clear. I often under cook the chicken just a shade (cooked but pink-ish) since I am going to add it to the stew. However, do what works for you.
I use a pair of tongs and a kitchen fork to remove the chicken from the pot. As soon as it’s cool enough, I pull the chicken off the bone, taking care to get all the gristle and skin. Leave the chicken in large pieces and set aside.
Continue to reduce the stock in the pot. Add the bones (but not the skin from the chicken) to this. My mother always added a couple of bouillon cubes as well.
When my Grandmother made this, she used the creamed corn that she and her cousins “put up” in the summer and froze. I like to use fresh white corn.
8-10 ears white corn, taken off the cob (also be sure to get the milk off the cob and add it to your stock)*
2 pkgs butter beans (about 4 cups)---I get these from Brinkley Farm and use either butter beans or cream peas
2 cans whole peeled tomatoes or 12-14 fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
fresh cayenne pepper or red chili flake
2 onions finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
In a smaller pot, sweat your onions and garlic. Add the tomatoes and butter beans. Add stock from your chicken pot to cook the beans. Cook 20 min or so, until the beans are cooked. Add chicken pieces of a size that suits you. Add the corn. Cook for 10-15 min for everything to marry. Add more stock if needed. Season with salt, pepper, Tabasco, Red pepper flake or fresh cayenne.
I often marvel at how this is a perfect stew for winter, but is best made either in the late spring or summer.
* some people like to add the cobs to the stock for 20 or so minutes to help with flavor. I worry about them making things bitter before I remember to pull them out. I use the flat side of a knife and run it along the side of the cob, getting any juice/milk from the cob along with any extra meat hidden in pockets