Sunday, January 15, 2017

Miso Sick

It's pretty rare that I get legitimately sick. I attribute that to a strong immune system, despite, or because of, the assaults I've launched at it over the years and the fact that I'm not immunized. That's probably not a fact that should be advertised over the Internet these days since you'd have to be insane not to immunize your children and it required a number of hoops through which to jump to acheive back in 1982, I imagine the hoops are a little narrower and ablaze these days. I still have my Social Security number and my salvation and all. As it stands I simply have to rearrange my entire home, including the various junk closets and hidey-holes I've maintained over the years to keep track of important documentation like my religious exemption card which must be presented in lieu of my shot record and sign a few forms agreeing to be quarantined if I come down with polio or the measles or something every time I apply to college or for a passport, things of that nature where I'm a risk to my own health and the health of everyone around me, apparently. And for those of you wondering, the main tenant of the religion which allowed my exemption is that members of said religion don't immunize their children. My parents didn't sell my soul, and immunity, to some cult or anything. Kind of, but we didn't have to communicate with any of those people or anything once I was safely away from the needle-crazed "doctors" at the hospital where I was born. Later it turned out the doctor who delivered me went to jail for embezzling or something, probably on the take from pharmaceutical companies, there's no more real information there, just an interesting side note.

I say all that to illustrate this: Getting sick is terrible and foreign and scary for me and in order for me to get better, there are several things I require. Being as my immunization history was questionable at best, I realize now it must have been quite harrowing for my parents to ever take me to a traditional doctor and listen through what I imagine was a pretty intense chastising on their opinions and beliefs followed by an equally intense sales job, followed by a prescription for antibiotics, which I can never get out of a doctor's office without accepting anymore. I never fill them. What I DO do, if quite certainly on my death bed and forced to go to the doctor, I'll wait for about three days in the waiting room to see the on-call doctor, spend another eternity in the secondary waiting room, with the tissue covered doctor's office furnishing which I'm never sure whether to sit with my feet danngling over the edge, the bottom, or just go ahead and lie down and make use of that pillow and read every issue of "Martha Stewart's Living" I can find so I can get some cute name card ideas for my next luncheon, if God promises to make me feel better, I swear I'll organize. I'm mid-way through making my own decorative candy-popper place settings when the doctor comes in poised to write out my prescription for antibiotics.

I'm always sure to tell the doctor what makes THIS particular illness different from any other which antibiotics have helped and if he writes me anything that doesn't end in -icin or -illin, I'll fill it, otherwise I stick to my old tried and true remedies from my doctor growing up, "doctor" being used loosely here as he was a Doctor of Chiropractic. More than that though, he had a more Eastern view of health, wherein the body is only healthy when functioning at its peak level, as opposed to the more Western "absence of disease" forum. Dr. Todd said that, for my body type, pineapple was the best medicine for when I was sick. In addition to that, I should follow the B.A.R.T. diet, which consisted of bananas, applesauce, rice, and toast, nothing heavier than that. The main thing though, was to listen to my body and if I'm craving it, eat it. When you're sick, you're not going to crave anything that is going to make you throw up, your body is on your side, after all. Usually I'll crave weird things for a sick person like spicy food or something rich which strays far indeed from the B.A.R.T. diet. I ALWAYS though, every time I'm sick, crave miso soup.

Miso soup is hard to find down here. For a bowl of good miso soup, there's a nice Japanese restaurant here that will sell you a bowl for $10, which is absurd for a soup that is made from ingredients most people don't even consider food, but they do put a lot of fuss into making it seem like a $10 bowl of soup with noodles and vegetables and you can get it with shrimp or chicken or beef or something, which I feel almost remiss not to do when paying that price so I usually get shrimp since I figure it costs more than the other options, and it IS my very favorite miso soup and I have to be at death's door and willing to wipe out our savings to get it. I never even eat the shrimp or other fancy stuff. I pick around all that for the tofu cubes and the nori,  or seaweed, if you want to just call it like it is. Most people get physically ill at the idea of tofu, seaweed, maybe some slivers of green onion, in what I think is a kind of fermented soy bean broth, but I swear it's the only thing that makes me better when I'm sick.

This last go-round I found myself propped up on the empty cart at Walmart in the Asian foods section deciding between this packaged soup with noodles and a "topping packet" and "seasoning packet" with the plastic bowl and the American-ized Asian-type typeface for like, $3.00, and this slim package of "Miso Soup" which claimed to have three servings in this thin little packet, it was like astronaut food, which was like $2.00 for three whole servings. As I usually do when facing a two-point decision, or any decision, I went with both. What's  $5.00 as opposed to $2.00 or $3.00 when the soup I really wanted was $10 and I would have given my life itself to not be in Walmart at the moment? Or ever.

I made the one with all the packets first and it couldn't have been too bad because I kept it down, but it wasn't anything to write an entire blog entry about, unless you're me and these are the exciting things in life. The next day I tried the astronaut miso soup. It was exactly what I wanted. It was just mild enough for me to not worry about keeping it down, but it had enough flavor to indulge that salty, umami (I think we talked about this in a long ago post) craving, and all it had in it was the tofu and the seaweed. It was so good. The serving size per packet was only 3/4 of a cup, so I had to overindulge, but I'm an American with an American-sized appetite, even when sick. In Asia 3/4 of a cup is probably about right, as a people group Asians are tiny, and I mean that in the most politically correct, complimentary way. Anyway, that's why I've been so long writing anything. I've been sick and uncertain of my strength of body or mind. I've been sitting in doctors offices feeling both beaten and superior at the same time. I've been in Walmart, under acres of fluorescent lights deciding which American, Asian food half-aisle selection is the most authentic Japanese dish. And now I'm here, having survived it all thanks to Walmart carrying surprisingly satisfying miso soup, a chiropractor with some healthy life lessons, and a good old-fashioned, new age, upbringing. And a delivery room doctor who may or may not still be in jail, whose influence on my life may have been greater than we could ever guess. And I suppose I owe the world a decorative luncheon.


  1. The doctor who delivered you was actually the third one to be entrusted with that responsibility. The first was your mom's longtime ob/gyn who predated the naturopathic, macrobiotic, Transcendental Meditation adherents that we had become. So she was fired and replaced by a new doctor who handled the second trimester. However, he was Iranian and your mom started worrying that practitioners of the Baha'i faith, so she had heard, were sometimes murdered in Iran. She feared that if this Iranian physician learned of her affiliation with the faith, he might murder you to during delivery. So she started interviewing possible replacements. Her primary test boiled down to: the doctor had to agree to do whatever your mom told him/her to do. The main thing she wanted for you was a LeBoyer birth. Here's a description of that method I found on a website:

    The Leboyer Method of childbirth is all about minimizing the trauma for the newborn; for the birth it advocates low lighting and a quiet room, amid soft voices and possibly with soothing music. Babies born using this method are brought into the world without pulling, tugging or rotating the baby's head, instead letting the mother, baby, and nature get the job done. Then the baby is immediately placed on their mothers' abdomens after birth where the newborn can be gently stroked and massaged, postponing umbilical cord cutting and suctioning. By waiting to cut the baby's cord until it stops pulsing, a baby is free to take their first breath on their own, when they are ready, instead of forcing them to. Far cry from the painful stimuli such as spanking the baby.

    Then soon after birth comes the practice of immersing the newborn in a small tub of warm water, known as a "Leboyer bath" to mirror a return to weightlessness of the womb and help ease the transition from the womb to the outside world. Like with other childbirth methods, the LeBoyer Method caused controversy in its early creation but has gained acceptance by mothers, midwives and others over the years.

    Your mom found a doctor who knew how to do that, and had the use of a hospital equipped with a birthing room. He was selected to handle the third trimester. Whatever your mom told him to do, he did. She did think it was odd that he handled all the paperwork himself. He would sometimes call her at home to ask what her social security number was or who our insurance company was.

    When you were born, everything was by LeBoyer standards, except that you were quickly whisked away and did not come back for a while. When I asked what was going on, I was told that there was a problem with your right clavicle and you had been taken away for x-rays. We would never have allowed that, but no one asked us. So your first experience of life was to be separated from your mom and subjected to six or maybe 10 x-rays. The medical team decided that either your clavicle had not fully formed -- or it had been fractured. I took both possibilities at face value, but suddenly, the doctor was shouting, "I didn't do it! I didn't do it! Yeah, I used forceps, but only at the very end and I barely put any pressure on them." For the first time, I looked at him with some suspicion.

    They swaddled you in a cloth diaper to bind your right arm to your chest, and you stayed that way for about the first six weeks of your life. A couple of years later, the doctor who may or may not have broken your clavicle showed up on the 10 o'clock news, having pled guilty to insurance fraud. He had been filling out his own forms so he could exaggerate the services provided.

  2. I didn't know all that. Thanks, Dad. I wouldn't have expected anything less from Mom and you, but that's still awfully impressive, and absolutely typical. Mom was so funny like that.