Whether we accept it or not, the holidays are fast approaching, and with them come the temptations of foods we don’t normally eat. I’m not talking about the extra servings of desserts that add that comfy padding to our hips, or the dozens of “coffee” drinks that appear this time of year that contain more shit than they do actual coffee. No, I’m talking about the appearance of things that you know you really can’t have, at least not without a trip to the ER.
The infamous coconut macaroon incident of Christmas Eve 2011. I remember it well, and it has kept me on a fairly straight path ever since, mostly because, as many of you know, the pain of an obstruction is something that I can only compare to that scene from The Princess Bride when Wesley is stretched out on that death machine after being captured by Prince Humperdinck’s men. (Not that I’ve seen the movie a lot or anything…) Remember that scene when Humperdinck runs in and cranks the machine up to ten and poor Wesley is writhing and emitting ungodly sounds? To anyone who hasn’t had one, that’s my example of what an obstruction looks and feels like, and I think my poor husband who has witnessed more of these than he cares to admit would agree.
Anyway, during that holiday season of 2011, things had been very quiet with regard to my health for close to four months. No crazy obstructions, no weird diets, almost…normal. My husband and I were spending the holidays in Boston with his family, and I was eager for a few days of amazing Italian food, cappuccinos at Caffe Vittoria and a few obligatory stops at Bova’s Bakery.
Boston is a real foodie town, and my chef husband had gotten me hooked on his favorite staples on our early trips up there. Each trip always involved several stops at Bova’s, a bakery that had been in the North End since his days as a culinary student at Johnson & Wales. Bova’s is exactly what a bakery should be, owned and operated by the same family since 1932 on a corner lot in the North End and open 24 hours. It’s a dessert queen’s dream and a low carb dieter’s nightmare, not that anyone on a low carb diet has any business being in the North End anyway. We would stop there the day we arrived, after a nice Italian meal and an espresso, again to pick up confections for the annual Christmas Eve extravaganza at his brother’s house, and once more the day we departed. More than once I have swaddled a loaf of their fresh baked bread like a baby and carried it onboard the plane with us to head home. It’s just that good.
We had been in town for a couple of days already, and were stopping by the bakery to pick up a ricotta pie and some cannoli to bring to my brother in law’s for Christmas Eve dinner. Seeing my glazed look as I stared longingly into the displays of cookies, cakes and breads, my husband told me to pick out something for myself as an afternoon snack to tide me over until dinner. I walked from case to case and came face to face with my kryptonite – the coconut macaroon. They occupied three shelves, beckoning me with their light and airy sweetness. Sure, I hadn’t been able to eat coconut successfully in the last nine years, but the last few months had been so good. I wouldn’t get many of course, just two, and if I chewed them really, really, really well and washed them down with lots of water…(by the way, I now think I have a complete appreciation for the thought processes of the average addict).
The lady behind the counter put two small macaroons in a paper bag for me and we ventured back out onto the snowy streets clutching our treats. Back in our hotel room, I put the macaroons on a plate and poured a small glass of milk to go with them. This was an event. I bit into the first one and my eyes rolled back in my head, the sweet, forbidden flesh of the coconut my ultimate high. I ate them slowly and deliberately, chewing every bite enough that my jaw ached by the time I had finished them. I drank two glasses of water afterward and went to lie down for a nap before dinner.
About an hour and a half later, I woke to get dressed to head to my in laws, and as I applied my makeup, I felt a sharp pain, as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. Ignoring it, I continued on, the pains becoming more sharp and frequent as we got into the car for the short drive to the suburbs. My husband took one look at me and pulled into a CVS pharmacy, returning a few minutes later with a bottle of grape juice, a heating pad and an I-told-you-so look on his face. Fifteen minutes later, at his brother’s house, I bypassed greeting the family and headed straight for the guest room, plugging in my heating pad and letting it warm my stomach as I sipped the grape juice. The pain was excruciating now, and literally took my breath away as it came in waves. Fucking macaroons.
I lay on the bed like that for about six hours, the afternoon light fading into darkness as I could hear the party gaining momentum down the hall. My husband came to check on me several times, asking each time if we needed to go to the hospital. We probably did, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to admit it, and as I mentally kicked myself for falling into the coconut macaroon trap, a true Christmas miracle occurred. As another wave of pain hit and I gasped, I heard a popping sound and could feel the lodged material start to work its way through. I waited another hour or so and finally sat up, breathing deeply. I was through the worst of it. I gingerly made my way down the hall and joined the rest of the group in their merriment thankful that this wouldn’t be known as The Christmas We Spent in the Emergency Room.
The moral of this story – chew, chew and chew some more. Tread with caution when trying any heavily fibrous foods. Be mindful during the holidays when things tend to contain far more sugar and richness than your system is used to processing. Corn, shredded coconut, mushrooms and dried fruit pretty much always end up in an ER visit for me, so I haven’t eaten them in years. It’s all about seeing what works for you, what doesn’t, and making modifications accordingly. And when you do come across your kryptonite, having the presence of mind to walk the hell away.