Monday, December 19, 2022

The Fruit Cake Fell Off The Table and Almost Killed Him

Can we talk about fruit cake for a minute?  Every year, the traditional treat gets attacked and vilified by folks but yet it continues to exist.  I saw one survey that said 35.6% of Americans consider it essential. If you are unfamiliar, fruit cake is produced using raisins, cherries, and other fruit, flour, spices, and nuts.  The cake is dense and heavy due to all the ingredients but not overly sweet.

As a kid, I remember a two-by-two rectangle of Claxton fruit cake appearing at about the same time as a  box of Queen Anne cordial cherries in November.  My Dad felt both were necessary traditions to properly fuel proper holiday spirit. The cake was so dense a small half-inch slice was plenty for me.  As a kid I wanted to know how it could be cake with no chocolate. After a few tries, I began skipping it.

It wasn’t until college when I was given a tin of homemade fruit cake by a girlfriend that my appreciation of the sweet changed.  In addition to the normal ingredients, when the cake had cooled after coming out of the oven, she sprayed it with a goodly amount of rum – then let it soak in for a day.  This made every bite a treat of various fruit flavors all infused with a wonderful rum after-burn.  I treasured every slice of that fruit cake and refused to share it with my roommate. Thanks, Mathly.

Given his feelings toward the confection, I wasn’t surprised when my Dad began including a small fruit cake with other Christmas gifts he sent to me. I’d always pour a liberal amount of rum over it prior to digging in.  Since most commercial fruit cake is very heavy, my annual fruit cake consumption is at most three slices, but every bite was enjoyable.

With my Dad gone, I find myself buying a small box of cordial cherries every year.  Maybe it is time to start picking up a fruit cake too. By the way, a few years ago I went pirate and tried using Captain Morgan’s spiced rum.  Arrr, she be a serious Yuletide dessert now, mates!


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Chop, Chop Here & A Chop Chop There

I’ve never been big on sharing health news. I consider such things to be my private information until I have processed it ... and by then it is history, anyway. This time is different since I discussed its approach before it happened.

As you might’ve been able to tell, I survived my recent surgical adventure. Overall, it was a smooth experience. I showed up when I was supposed to, got checked in by a group of great professionals, got an assortment of drugs designed to make the experience pain-free, and then after being wheeled into an operating room that featured a table full of power tools, took a nap.

After waking up and getting dressed, I escaped the premises without feeling anything below my left knee thanks to an effective nerve block. A short while later, my phone notified me I had new implant information on my medical records app. How efficient — I checked the app and found the name, model, and serial number of an assortment of screws and wires that will probably be with me the rest of my life, along with the information on a graft injectable that was used. Odd feeling. The cyborg part of my life has begun. (Cue, power wrench sound from Devo's Are We Not Men?.

Over the last few days, the nerve block wore off and an assortment of pain pills I am taking in its place has ensured my anesthesiologist called a smooth landing. It has been, more or less. Getting around for the most basic things has required a little relearning and some mechanical help (crutches, a grabber, and a knee scooter). Per my ortho, it’ll be about two months before I am healed enough to use my newly rebuilt ankle to bear weight. That will be when I can figure out if this entire process was successful.

What started as an accident on the aft end of a C-141 that resulted in a fall out of the aircraft onto the tarmac in Guam has finally been fixed. Given that the fall occurred before most of the tech used to repair it existed, the delay was probably a good thing.

I didn’t run into any classmates from kindergarten this time, but Andrea was a much nicer nurse than any Army nurse I ever ran into. I guess there are tradeoffs.


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

All the King's Horses and One Immensely Talented Ortho Surgeon

When I was eight, I went into the hospital alone for the first time  — well, the first time I remember. I was there to have my tonsils out and while I don’t recall being afraid, at that age and situation I had to be. Luckily, the kid in the bed next to me (it was an Army hospital children’s ward) was talkative and. after talking for a few minutes, we discovered we had gone to kindergarten together. While this might be no big deal in the civilian kid world, for a military brat it meant that even though we had both lived in three different states since we last saw each other, we were together again. He was there for an operation on his eyes.

There were no TVs in the ward, so we spent the night talking and getting yelled at by the nurse for talking. The next morning, they wheeled all the beds in the ward out in a long line, and we were paraded down to the operating room to wait our turn. Sometime later, I woke up back in the ward with the worst sore throat of my young life. My friend had returned too, with patches over both eyes.

The most memorable thing that happened that day was when I puked in my bed and my friend was yelling his head off for a nurse to come help. When he could finally get one, she changed out the bedding while cursing me for not calling her sooner. Not sure how I was supposed to yell for her with a throat that had just had tonsils yanked out. By the way, not all Army nurses look like McMurphy.

Later that day, I went home. I never saw my classmate again, and I carried an aversion to nurses for a long while after. I got over it, even dedicating my book POMSILv2 to them.

Over the course of my life, I have had a few surgeries but never ran into another classmate.

Tomorrow, I am having my ankle repaired from an injury I suffered while in the Air Force. I guess after more than a few years it’s time to make my ankle work the way it should. According to what I’m told, I will enjoy a medically induced haze for a few days to mask the pain. So, if I take a few days to reply to an email, that is why.

Just didn’t want you to wonder if I fled the country to avoid being captured by some espionage agency I wrote about a little too realistically… then again, maybe I did.


Thursday, December 1, 2022

What It Is, Ain't What It Was

While my dad was in Vietnam, we lived near Ft. Ord, in the town of Seaside. Next door to another military family whose father was also deployed to Vietnam. Those kids were a little older than me, but we shared one very important aspect in life — we both went to the same orthodontist in Salinas. 

Because it was a long drive, the mothers took turns driving all of us for our appointments, which were coordinated to occur one right after the other. Because of the distance, after the last appointment, we would grab lunch before traveling back to Seaside. It was on one of these trips that I walked into my first Taco Bell.

Taco Bell had only been around for about five years when I was introduced to something beyond a hamburger––a taco. Before anybody else says it, I will: Yes, this was an Americanized version of a Mexican taco, but it made no difference to me. I liked it. I also like the little tubs of hot sauce that came with them. 

Over the course of the year, I remained a dedicated fan of tacos until the one time I tried something, at the suggestion of my fellow dental patients, called an Enchirito. If you’ve never had or seen one, it is basically a beef and bean burrito with onions served in a shallow oblong bowl covered with cheese and red sauce and then topped with three black olive slices. It was delicious, and I love the fact that everybody was bathed in that spicy red sauce.

As life went on, whenever I stopped into a Taco Bell, I would usually get one Enchirito and a taco or two, depending on how hungry I was. Over the years, the Enchirito got removed from the menu and I’d forgotten about them completely until I was in Germany. 

I was standing in line at the Taco Bell on Wiesbaden Airbase when the guy in front of me ordered one. I quickly scanned the menu to see if I had somehow missed the delicacy returning to the menu, but it was nowhere to be seen. Before I placed my order, they delivered his, and sure enough, it was that familiar bowl containing the burrito covered in sauce and cheese topped with three sliced black olives. Even though it was not on the menu, I ordered it, and the person behind the register took the order and moments later delivered one to me. 

For the next few years, I’d continue to order the Enchirito even though it wasn’t formally on the menu. It was always delivered, properly prepared, and as delicious as every Enchirito I’d eaten before. Then a couple of years ago, it became completely unavailable — along with a lot of other things that used to be on the menu, like Mexican pizza.

In the interim, I found the best taco in town, Torti Taco, and completely dropped going to Taco Bell. Then, a few weeks ago, Taco Bell announced the return of the Enchirito.

I heard the news much after they began serving it again, and only a few days before they were due to stop serving it. I’m not sure what their logic was, and I really didn’t care. It’d been years since I had one and I wanted one now. I pulled into the drive-thru and ordered a pair of them and rushed home to enjoy the resurrected delicacy. Then I found out the truth.

This was not the original Enchirito, this was the 2022 Enchirito. The part that was lacking might seem trivial, but to me, it was part of the original they should not have been overlooked. It had the beef, the beans, the soft tortilla shell, and the onions  — and even though the bowl was smaller than the original, it contained enough red sauce to satisfy. What it lacked were the three slices of black olive. How do you do that? Visibly missing from the moment the dish was served. It was that unique bite of flavor that added something to the entire dish and made it special.

So, my dear friends, if you’ve happened by a Taco Bell recently and you’ve never had one before in your life, what you are being served is some sort of cost-saving un-garnished 2022 Enchirito, not the original served as intended.

Taco Bell is not the first restaurant to bring back a classic dish as a promotion, but they have failed. Don’t even get me started on the cheese Danish that McDonald’s is trying to push as the same one they served decades ago. Not even close.