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December 2013

True Duck

I like duck, and if it’s on a restaurant menu I’ll often lean that way.  I’m rarely disappointed (fact is, I’m easy to please).  But it wasn’t until I had the duck at True that I realized how refined and far from the garden the duck in those other restaurants has become. 

As I ate it seemed that here was duck that someone from the household had shot that morning (in the spirit of Catching Fire making a zillion bucks over the weekend, I’ll say it was the 14 year old eldest daughter of the house, up just before dawn, crunching lightly across the frost).  Roasted and sliced over a bed of braised collards with a handful of baby heirloom carrots that her little brother pulled from the garden just before cooking.  A dollop of mashed butternut squash and a spoonful of cherry compote that had been put up the previous fall.  In the quiet of the softly appointed dining room it was easy to believe we were in that farmhouse at the big family table, rather than a chic restaurant in Montgomery.

When some of my favorite restaurant meals are impressing me with the way the flavors are balanced, I find myself thinking in awe, “How did they do that?  How did they know to mix those ingredients in exactly those proportions?”  I didn’t feel that way at True.  It seemed obvious.  Now my fantasy farm fades and I imagine Chef Wesley in the kitchen, the vegetables in front of him (that were, indeed, pulled from a garden that morning), and the duck laid out (which was, in fact, killed that morning not far from Montgomery), cooking and arranging almost without thinking about it.  Just paying attention to the food and what it was and where it came from.

If there is a New Southern Cooking in Alabama, following the path that Frank Stitt started on 30 years ago, a way of thinking about food that marries the most iconic ingredients of the rural south with a global sensibility and technique, then this is one of its finest exemplars.



My Coach

“You got this, Nonai!”  I’m bending down ever so slowly to pick up a pencil that’s dropped to the floor and Josie is cheering me on just as she would a teammate about to execute a backwalkover backhandspring on the balance beam.  “Good job, Nonai!” she says, as I straighten back up, pencil in hand.  She gives me a high five. 

The improvements are subtle, but they’re definite.  Starting about five days after the first cyclophosphamide infusion I began to feel a bit more control of my trunk muscles.  By last week, I could feel the right hip muscles that I haven’t been able to get at for months.  They’re very weak, but when Miranda (my PT) tells me to flex them in order to keep from hyperextending my knee joint, I can kinda do it.  Most days it seems that I have a little more flexibility in my fingers – I put Marian’s housekey on my keyring and I don’t think I could have done that a month ago.

None of this has translated into major functional improvements.  Miranda says she can see the improvement in my gait – if she squints.  I can feel the difference, but getting from place to place isn’t any easier.

Still, I’m encouraged.  I had the second infusion on Wednesday.  We’ll see over the next few days if there are any observable effects from this one. 

Marian and Lynn were in Las Vegas for the Gymboree annual meeting, so I stayed at Josie’s house, getting her to and from school and gymnastics, making sure she got her homework done.  As we’ve said before, she is my medicine and it was quite clear that we were doing equal parts of  taking care of each other. 

At the gym I stand by the rail watching her and her teammates fly through the air while I work on lifting one leg and then the other (“I saw you doing your exercises while you were watching me,” she says when she finishes up).  I think it ought to make me feel bad to watch them be so impossibly graceful and limber when I can hardly walk – but it doesn’t.  I just feel joyful watching them and amused to find myself in this situation.  

I can’t explain it, other than with the echo of JoBug’s voice in my head, “You got this, Nonai!”