So yeah, I had surgery.
Back in July, right around the time of the main BlogHer conference in Chicago (which, luckily, I stayed home for), I began having abdominal and urinary tract pain. Thinking I had some kind of infection, rare though UTCs are for men, I made an appointment to see the doctor, who suggested I might be passing stones.
This should have come as no surprise. I had a kidney stone attack in 1987, back when I was in high school, and have always known that this day would come. Yet somehow, when the obvious signs were there, I didn’t recognize them.
That night, the pain that had until then been merely a nuisance began to escalate until I was a blubbering mess, shuffling around the house trying to walk the pain away. We ended up in the emergency room. A CT scan confirmed a not insignificant stone in my right ureter … and a boulder of a stone still in the kidney.
Long story short, over the ensuing three months, I endured lengthy waits between urology appointments until treatment could be indicated and scheduled. In the meantime, I referred to it as the Stone of Damocles, a weighty concern that hung figuratively over my head. Ultimately, Dr. Stoller at UCSF had me scheduled for percutaneous nephrostolithotomy (PCNL), where they go into the kidney via a small incision with a tube and break the stone down with lasers. It’s considered minor surgery, but believe me when I say there is no such thing. But, I am better now, free of both pain and stones. For now.
Of course, diet factors into prevention for future stones, and I am now faced with reducing intake of both salt and meat to that end. This is no great hardship. Most salt ingested by average folk comes in processed and fast foods, and we eat practically none of that. And I was mostly vegetarian for some 15 years. Reducing our meat intake has been effortless, really.
But I am not made of stone (anymore). Sometimes you just gotta have some meat. When I came across David Leite’s recipe for Azorean stewed beef, I knew I had to make it. After all, our earlier foray into Azorean stewed meat was a resounding success.
I followed his recipe only, you know, changed everything. For starters, I used pork instead of beef, though admittedly he left the door open for that. I tossed the meat with salt and minced garlic as well as red peppers. I browned the meat and onions (well, DPaul did, as I was running late from work). Oh, and I used the pressure cooker instead of slow-cooking it; eight minutes on high pressure with natural release.
The pressure cooker remains a thing of wonder to me, and I am still discovering its powers. Whereas it renders tough cuts of beef to melting tenderness, pork becomes almost crunchy. It’s not unpleasant, just sturdier than the soft texture of the beef. The sauce, really a gravy of red wine and tomato paste, was rich and complex against the blandness of boiled potatoes and the bright zing of roasted peppers.
I’m thinking these Azoreans know a thing or two about good, simple food.