A brief lull, and an odd discovery

Finally done with all the English 101 stuff, the grades finally entered in the District’s system. Let’s hope nothing there comes back to bite. That’s a forlorn hope, of course: as anyone who teaches anything knows, someone has to make an exception of himself. Every. single. time. So let’s rephrase that: let’s hope that whatever comes back to bite isn’t a pit bull. 😉

We now have three days until class starts again, this time not one but two eight-week gigs: the magazine-writing course and another English 101 crew. People are already turning in stuff for the magazine course, it having gone online a few days early, for their convenience. Oh well.

Having been sick for the past two and a half weeks with some sort of indigestion and heartburn paired with an unending headache, I’ve been madly self-medicating. Started with my usual subtractive medicine: stop ingesting things I love that I know are probably bad for me. Getting rid of the coffee helped some—alas. One of the small things that makes life worth living, or at least tolerable, is starting the day with a delicious cup of top-quality French-press coffee. But it must be admitted that the stuff keeps me awake at night, contributes hugely to the tooth-clenching, and does annoying things to the gut.

Then it was off the sauce—damn it. The other small thing that makes life worth living is celebrating the end of the work day with a beer or a glass of wine. But we suspect that daily tippling is not good for our health, or at least not good for our moral standing. After I snuck back into the grocery store two days ago to purchase a Murphy’s stout to go with dinner, the instantaneous and unmistakable protest from the belly showed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there will be no more swizzling for the likes of me!

I’d been using a generic version of Pepcid AC, which was laying around the house because the vet recommended it for the dog, who occasionally would barf in the weeks after I got her. This stuff did so little that it soon became apparent it was doing nothing. So yesterday when I was at the Safeway I picked up a package of omeprazole, the stuff that’s in Prilosec. The pharmacist said it had virtually no side effects.

Right.

These days I don’t take anyone’s word for that, so looked up a non-woo-woo study to check the side effects and their incidence rates.

HOLY God! Headache? Chest pain? Severe diarrhea? Severe stomach pain? Pancreatitis (some fatal)? Esophogeal candidiasis? Liver failure (some fatal)? Liver necrosis (some fatal)? And on and on…

Like I’m not sick enough?

So we’ll be returning that stuff to the store.

Moving on, I turned to the woo-woo pages, where I learned that a tisane of sage leaves and hot water has been used for centuries to treat indigestion and heartburn. Supposedly, too, chewing up and swallowing a half-dozen blanched almonds calms your stomach. We’re also told that raw apple is imagined to be soothing.

Well, what the heck. I happen to have a sage plant growing in the back yard, almonds in the freezer, and a lifetime supply of apples in the fridge. None of these things is known to cause necrosis of the liver.

So I picked some sage leaves, made a tea of them, and then blanched some almonds. Surprisingly, munching the almonds seemed kind of calming. Probably all in my head, though.

The sage tea, however, actually did seem to work to good effect. Can’t say it cured anything, but after drinking it, I did feel quite a bit better.

This morning, having awakened queasy again, munched some more almonds, brewed some more backyard sage tea, and took the dog for a walk. When we returned, I ate some of the rice I’d fixed for the dog’s cuisine, and afterward felt OK.

So, who knows? Maybe the stuff helps. Or maybe the passage of time helps (three weeks seems like a lot of passaging…but when you get old, your body heals very, very slowly). Experience suggests that these little ailments will do one of two things: kill you or go away on their own. Not much exists in between.

Old age. 😀 It’s not for the young or the faint of heart.

Right now a gigantic pot full of chicken carcasses and the bone from a chuck roast (found yesterday for $1.69/pound!! and converted to hamburger) is simmering with onion and herbs to make a glorious stock for future soups, which we hope also will be duly therapeutic. So good…

How to Make Leftovers Stock

You can make this in a slow cooker, but for some reason I think the stuff tastes better when it’s made in a pot on the stove.

Save a bunch of bones from chicken, beef, lamb, and pork—toss them in the freezer till you’re ready to use them.

When ready to spend the better part of a day keeping an eye on a slowly simmering brew, break out a large stock pot. Skim the bottom of the pot with olive oil. You’ll want to start this process in the morning, BTW.

Then coarsely cut up a fresh onion—no need to peel it—and brown it gently in olive oil. Add some cut-up celery and carrot. Toss in a couple of garlic cloves. Add herbs to your taste—I used some dried fines herbes and (what else?) the sage leaves wilted when I made the sage tea. Anything will do nicely.

When the onions have lightly browned or fully caramelized, depending on your mood and how closely you were watching the pan, add your collection of bones. Cover the whole mess with water.

Turn the heat to medium high. This is the only time you’ll need to hang around the kitchen. Keep an eye on the pot, and when it just comes to a boil, turn it down to low. Cover and go away.

Allow the broth to simmer for hours. Many hours.

When you get around to it, much later in the day, turn off the heat and heave the pot over to the drainboard next to the sink. Set a large bowl in the sink and place a strainer over it. Ladle the broth and cooked stuff into the strainer, draining the juices into the bowl. Use the back of the ladle to press as much of the broth out of the bones & veggies as you can. Discard the used-up bones and veggies.

You now have a stock that you can use for any number of delicious things, either to cook with or simply to eat as a light soup. You can add stuff to it to make a sturdier soup—pasta, rice, veggies, barley, whatever. A little white wine or sherry gives it a very nice flavor.

This is not real stock, which has to be clarified and reduced. But it’s sure good enough for government work!

Image: Blue Lotus. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

11 thoughts on “A brief lull, and an odd discovery”

  1. I get drastically motion-sick on many modes of transportation – planes are especially bad. I find ginger to be very helpful for nausea, whether it’s ginger ale, ginger Altoids, or ginger chews from The Ginger People. I can’t handle spicy stuff very well, so sometimes the ginger chews are too strong for me, but depending on your tolerance, you might find them useful.

  2. ….ummm I think I can smell that stock! Wonderful!

    Two thoughts on your tummy problems:

    1) milk and milk products – might try a few days without. Intolerence of milk seems to crop up more than we want to admit. My Mom and sister now can only have the soy stuff. I’m crossing my fingers!

    2) do you still have your gall bladder? If yes – it could be the problem. Might want to get that checked out.

    Hope you feel better soon!

  3. I had a long term indigestion/gastric reflux problem & am with you on the major side effects & can’t fathom taking something forever for it, so I also researched lifestyle changes. One thing I’ve found, even now that it’s well under control, is not to eat/drink too much liquid in the evening (sorry, that includes chicken soup & stews). I also limit onions & garlic, which also affect me – & I used to never cook any main dish without an onion. I do much better with solid foods & a lighter evening meal than I used to eat. We eat dinner fairly late, but I eat nothing after that.

    The major change I made that resolved the night-time heart burn & waking up with a bad cough/congestion/headache, though, was forking out the big bucks (I think it was about $40) for a wedge pillow. You can also just raise the legs on the head of your bed, but I have enough trouble sliding down on the pillow, so I can only imagine sliding off the end of the bed if the whole thing was tilted! The wedge works differently than just using two or 3 pillows, as it slants from the waist up, instead of just your neck. It would be cheaper to buy a nice thick piece of foam & cut it to shape, but the expense was well worth it in my opinion. [It also helps to sleep on your left side instead of your right, due to the anatomy of your stomach.]

    By the way, I can still have my beer or two in the evening – as long as it isn’t too late when I finish!

  4. @ Mary: Thanks! I’m brewing up some ginger tea right now, ginger being another on the list of supposed digestive aids. Also I happen to like ginger quite a lot. 😉

    @ sandra jensen: Considered both gall bladder and pancreatitis. The symptoms don’t seem to apply: no pain, no unusual bowel phenomena.

    Doctor Funny thinks it’s probably some sort of gastroenteritis, brought on either by a low-grade infection or by irritation from my favorite potables. The persistent headache is highly suggestive of a viral enteritis, which I’ve had before and which eventually goes away. It can take several weeks, lhudly sing goddahm. I consider the restaurant where our group meets on Thursday mornings to be somewhat suspect — twice I’ve had things with off-tastes, and besides, I so rarely eat in restaurants I probably no longer have any resistance to the bugs that reside in their kitchens.

    And we do know that coffee irritates my gut; last time I tried decaf it was very good coffee that tasted identical with the real stuff, but I found it just didn’t interest me. I want a cup of coffee in the morning. Failing that, a cup of hot water with a twist of orange is better than anything else. I so missed the morning coffee that I just went back to it and damn the consequences. Sooo….this could be the consequences.

    The Brits publish boozing guidelines for men and women; these indicate that one SMALL glass of wine — we’re talking a couple of sips, really — is as much as a woman should have on a daily basis. Well, my idea of a glass of wine is the same as my idea of a cup of coffee: I want a glass of wine. If their recommendations are correct, then two cans of foamy-delicious stout is about 1 3/4 cans too much, and two glasses of wine is 1 2/3 glasses too much. So there’s also a very good possibility that it’s the result of years of two-glass-a-day swiggling.

  5. If you think it’s enteritis (just saw your replies to others) – be sure to get your yogurt or some other form of active enzymes – might help your tummy fight off the bug.

  6. @ Valleycat: Yeah, there’s also the possibility that it’s GERDS. The burning sensation seems to have passed, though, and the weird thing is, laying down doesn’t seem to make it worse. When I get up in the morning I usually feel OK until I start walking around.

    It also has crossed my mind that I do eat way too much food at a single sitting (I do love to eat!), and that I should be eating less food, maybe more frequently during the day.

    My favorite yogurt is at Trader Joe’s, which entails a drive across town. Prob’ly tomorrow I’ll go over there and pick some up. Safeway refunded almost $10 for the pills, which will pay nicely for some yummy Greek-style yogurt.

    Hm. This ginger tea is downright DELICIOUS! Hope it works…then I’ll have an excuse to drink it all the time.

  7. I love that greek yogurt! I enjoy eating it and it does seem to sort out whatever digestive problems might pop up. I have heard from a couple of friends locally of stomach pains and burning sensations this week. Maybe some bug? Although I live pretty far from you so probably not the same bug. Best wishes for a speedy solution to what ails you. I would be very sad to give up my morning coffee, but even sadder to give up my glass of wine in the evening. So I hope it clears up and you can go back to your simple pleasures with no ill effects,

    Oh – one more thing – my Dad passed away at the age of 97 (three years ago) and he ingested ginger every day. Either tea, or candied ginger or both. To prevent digestive problems. It worked for him!

  8. OK, I am now concerned about you! When was your last physical? Please take care of yourself. I need my FAM!! Hugs, Cathy

  9. I certainly don’t have any medical credentials but wondering if the ongoing headache is caffeine withdrawal if you are off and on the caffeinated stuff.

    Lordy, but caffeine withdrawal can give you a headache. And cutting out the daily indulgence can send you into withdrawal.

  10. Thanks everyone! 🙂

    Wouldn’tcha know it, E. Murphy, the headache started several days before I swore off the coffee.

    Yes, caffeine deprivation anemia sure can give you a whopper of a headache. Longest I’ve had it last, though, has been a week, and that was after I’d been drinking about 80 ounces of coffee a day (that’s a lot!). It’s been more than a week, so if the coffee starvation were doing it, it probably would have passed by now.

    Since I haven’t had a true marathon headache since my periods stopped (wahoooo!), I’m pretty sure there’s a connection with the cranky belly.

  11. Why not check out taking some HCl Funny? Some of these things that have come up since I’ve become older have really annoyed me. The body just doesn’t work the same way as it did before.
    I have taken some digestive enzymes myself, but just eating raw pineapple regularly seems to work pretty okay too. The type of alcohol is a big factor for me for heartburn – I can’t drink off the shelf coolers, but can drink them if I make them at home. Wine is fine for me (so far) – please don’t take that away from me! 🙂 And I love my french press coffee too. Here’s a bit of blurb on indigestion / heartburn / aging:
    http://www.aim4health.com/stomachpains.htm

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