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Monday, February 13, 2006

It's Not Always the Food. Is it?

My horoscope says to proceed with caution. Maureen's says that if something can go wrong today it will. Funny how a breakfast diversion consumed with a side of Dilbert, the Far Side and Peanuts, can become ominous four houors before angioplasty.

It appears as if another one clogged up. At least that's what the CT scan said is causing the random attacks that felt remarkably like my old ulcer acting up again. They started before Christmas during one of my 6:00 a.m. power walks. The first few times I just walked through the pain, relieved when it subsided and confirmed to my hopeful mind that it was not my heart but my stomach that was at fault. It didn't happen every day, but often enough so that the morning walk became something to avoid, easy with the holidays approaching.

Christmas morning, unloading the presents from the car in front of my daughter's house, it struck again. Thoughts of a rush to a nearby emergency room were dismissed. Why screw up my granddaughter's first real Christmas--she had just turned 2.

So I pushed through it with a silent promise to see the doctor right after the holidays. Although hindsight tells me that it would of been a Christmas to be worked out in therapy for her had I keeled over dead in an ocean of wrapping paper.

Two weeks later I was at my doctor's still hoping it was my stomach. I even convinced him to give me a prescription for Nexium, in exchange for a promise to go to a cardiologist. I did and two tests and three weeks later, I'm steeling myself for what will be my third and possibily fourth stent.

Of the two I already have, one seems to be clogging up again, but I'm not sure if anything will be done about that on this trip. The doctor was somewhat vague about that. There will definitely be an attempt at stenting the left anterior descending artery as well as one of its branches.

That's where the aprehension starts. If the good doctor can't stent them, then it's open heart surgery, which frankly terrifies me. I remember my father commenting on his and how it felt as his rib cage slowly mended. I envision my chest laying open, my heart stopped and a machine nearby providing oxygen to my blood in quantities that just might hasten the feeblemindedness that is approaching fast enough on its own. I can't even watch CSI.

I asked my doctor why, when all my numbers--cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure--were good and when my excercise program was payin off in lost pounds, did this happen. Was it something I ate?

Not really, he said. There are two basic reasons--my father and 20 years of cigarette smoking--neither of which I could change at this point, even though I stopped smoking 20 years ago.

At least he didn't say food. Because here is one recipe that could share the blame.

Linguini and White Clam Sauce
Serves 2

Some people use whole clams. I like the minced clams better. It’s your choice.
This is a quick and easy meal that can be on the table in under 30 minutes. It goes well as a side with a main fish course, too.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
¾ cups dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup chicken broth
2 6.5-ounce cans minced clams, drained and juices reserved
Salt to taste
½ pound Linguine pasta
Parmesan cheese, for grating over the pasta
  • Bring four to six quarts of water to the boil. Add salt and then add the pasta and cook until it’s al dente. If it’s dried pasta, it will take about 10 minutes or so. Fresh pasta, maybe five. Bite into a strand. If you get just a little resistance when you do, it’s al dente.
  • When it’s done, drain it in colander and return to the pot. Add a pat of butter and stir to coat. Keep warm.
  • Open the cans of clams and drain off and save the juices.
  • Mince the shallots and garlic and chop the parsley.
  • Heat a very large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the olive oil and butter.
  • When butter is melted and bubbling, stir in the minced shallots and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the oregano, black pepper and chopped parsley. Add white wine, chicken stock and reserved juice from the clams and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is reduced by a third, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • When sauce is reduced, stir in the minced clams and salt to taste and heat through, being careful not to boil.
  • Pour over the pasta and toss. Serve immediately.
  • Top each serving with the freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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