Monday, May 10, 2010

Mono Mania

You know, I'd been wondering if there's something wrong with me. I haven’t been able to gain purchase on my life. I've had a month of being low of spirit, run down of bod, fuzzy of brain, nothing at all fun. At first, I ignored it -- denial has always been my favored coping mechanism. To distract myself, I bought these terrific tea towels. This stiff-upper-lip message was part of an abandoned World War II propaganda campaign created by the British government.

You can see my penchant for distraction and denial.

But my boring symptoms went on so long, even I had to pay attention. I bowed to fate and last week went to the doctor who said, for starters, I have low blood pressure. This was made lower by her tapping a vein and getting a few more vials of it. She called a few days ago and said, “Sweetie, you’ve got mono.” It took half an hour for me to stop laughing.

Others in my life have not been equally amused, not my doctor, who urges me to take this seriously, not my folks, who are worrying about me with a laserlike intensity I haven’t seen since the last time I had mono. I was 18, a freshman at Bennington and unable to understand why my body wouldn’t do what it was supposed to do. I managed to get so run down, I couldn’t even walk to the clinic and was carried there by Bennington’s only burly guy student who slung me over a shoulder like a bag of spuds. My talent for denial, it seems, goes back as long as my great fortune to have wonderful friends.

Back then, I was young and stupid. Now for good or for bad, I am neither. At least I don’t think I’m stupid. I am having trouble, though, wrapping my brain around having physical limitations screamingly obvious even to myself. I don't feel too badly until I push it, which is, alas, my general tendency. My body is making it plain this is not tolerable -- my appetite’s off, I’m beset by rotten headaches, gargantuan glands, I ache and just run out of gas. Yesterday, I did not have the energy to paint my toenails. This admission is so pathetic, I can barely stand it. I did paint my toes this morning, though, a cheery blue they are, a few watts brighter than my blue tea towel.

Mono is officially known as mononeucleosis. It is unofficially known as the kissing disease, because it’s transmittable by saliva. This makes it sound more fun than it is. It can last for weeks or months -- months -- there is no pill, no shot, no cure other than rest.

The trick will be pacing, resting, martialing my energy for a bit. This seems easy enough but I want to live my normal life. That is to say, I want to do everything. My friend C says this is a karmic lesson to teach me to bend, to be patient. I hate that. But I may have to surrender the case, throw in the tea towel. I will keep calm and carry on.

But first I’ll make dinner.

Nourishing Quinoa

I do a dozen of versions of this dish, changing up the vegetables, spices and whole grain to suit my mood and the season. In any guise, it’s fresh vegetably, whole grainy, madly nutritious, high in protein and fiber, quick and easy, rich in flavor, delish now, reheating like a dream later. The leftover bit is another plus at present, when cooking, normally my pleasure and passion, can seem a Herculean task.

3/4 cup quinoa

2 cups water or vegetable broth, divided use

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 ribs celery, chopped

4 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 teaspoons cumin

1-1/2 teaspoons turmeric

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional but adds nice cheesy flavor and vitamin B-12, crucial even if you don’t have mono)

a dozen or so grape tomatoes

a handful cilantro, chopped

Rinse quinoa to rid it of saponins, a natural but bitter protective coating.

In a medium-size saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups water or broth to boil over high heat. Add quinoa, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, or until quinoa has expanded and absorbed all liquid. Allow to cool. Take a nap if you’re able to.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, carrot and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add celery and mushrooms and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Add cumin, turmeric and optional nutritional yeast, stirring gently until vegetables are coasted with spices and mixture is fragrant.

Fluff cooked quinoa so it’s airy and free of clumps. Add quinoa and, if neded, some or all of the remaining half-cup of water or broth to moisten.

Toss in tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.