Bomba, Dr. Roy, Quinoa & Strange Days Indeed

“Nobody told me there’d be days like these,
Strange days indeed — most peculiar, mama.”
-John Lennon

*   *   *

Some days just dawn stranger than others. Tuesday was a day like that.

My wife has been fighting a strange rash on her torso for the better part of two months. Nothing major — just red, itchy and annoying. She had changed soaps and detergents, switched clothes, and rubbed herself with various creams, ointments and salves. All to no avail.

Quinoa, Andean "superfood," on the plant

Quinoa, Andean “superfood,” on the plant

So it was that Tuesday I got two email links to a list of “good foods” and a list of “foods to avoid.” Exasperated, she was attempting to see if the rash was diet-related. On the bad foods list: bread, pasta, butter, cheese, salami, beer, wine, bacon, all pork, most fish, coffee, green tea, beans, soy products, mushrooms and mayonnaise, to name a very conservative few. On the good foods list: quinoa. Oh, and a few other things like rutabaga, kefir, raw sauerkraut, herring, coconut meat, flax seed, millet, turmeric, ghee.

It was as if, at long last, I had arrived in the Topanga of my nightmares. Soon I would be entertaining braless women with underarm hair and their African-drum-toting ponytailed white-guy partners, serving millet as they sipped their acai tea while our children play non-violent plastic-free Waldorf-y games outside (until, that is, a random six-year-old, boy or girl I can’t tell, stops in for a quick breastfeed).

And, I was faced with one of my greatest fears — having to cook gluten free! And not simply a single meal for a friend experimenting, which is always a creative challenge, but every meal until we figured out whether that might’ve been a contributing cause to her discomfort.

Hippies in my yard! (Attracted by the scent of flax seed cooking.)

Hippies in my yard! (Attracted by the scent of flax seed cooking.)

That same Tuesday, I’d made an appointment to visit Dr. Roy, the one physician in the canyon, to get a quick tuberculosis test so I could (presuming it would come back negative) drive my 1st grade daughter and her friends on a field trip to the zoo on Friday. “Turn right at the fish pond,” the millet-voiced girl on phone instructed me.

I’d heard about Dr. Roy for years, but having my own doctors I liked and trusted, had never had a reason to see him before this. “Cash only,” said a sign in the dark office that looked more like an opium den. A group of attractive young women in saris and tie-dyed shirts with flowers in their hair smiled out from a room in the back. A jovial, bald and red-faced man in a t-shirt guffawed into the telephone behind the desk. Noticing me, he pressed the receiver against his chest.

“Go to your room!” he barked cheerfully, pointing me to the back. Which one, I sheepishly asked. One of the attractive young women, Marie, smiled and motioned me toward a shadowy nook in the very rear of the office. I settled into a worn easy chair inside the wood-panelled chamber. While it didn’t necessarily look dirty, it also didn’t necessarily look hygienic. There were stickers on the wall and I half expected to see a bong.

Instead, on an old wooden table beside me, was a needle. My needle, I surmised.

“Doug,” he said, extending his hand. Sean, I replied in turn. “No, I said Doug.” He laughed before sitting beside me and picking up the needle. “This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me.”

A moment later it was over and I stared anxiously at the new red prick in my arm, half expecting something terrible to happen. I’m sure he’s a legitimate doctor, I told myself.

“See this?” Dr. Roy said, producing a small vial with a little beetle floating inside. “Chagas! They’re herrrrre!!!” He bared his teeth in a kind of menacing grin. I was visibly alarmed, less by what he was saying than by the wild look in his eyes. “Found this on the wall. Triatoma. The kissing bug. Inserts its tusk into your skin and drinks your blood. In South America, it transmits chagas and kills 50,000 people a year!”

Nat Parker, fresh back from Costa Rica, had texted earlier that Tuesday and invited me for a drink. And boy, did I need one. He showed up unexpectedly, a reassuring face, at the clinic just as I’d emerged from Dr. Roy’s needle room and whisked me away before the good doctor could finish his story about the kissing bug.

Up at the Casa Parker, Nat toggled ginger and lime. “I brought this back for you,” he said, presenting me with a bottle of aged Nicaraguan rum which he then proceeded to open and pour into the cocktail shaker. The drink he wanted me to try was called the bomba, something he’d discovered in Costa Rica. Though stiff with rum, the zesty and refreshing combination of lime and ginger tasted healthy, like something you’d get at the juice bar at Whole Foods. And I was instantly reminded of my current culinary conundrum.

Quinoa — the enemy. For years I’d ridiculed the yoga-set and their odes to the Peruvian wonder food. But I would be supportive of my wife, and it would be a good opportunity to get rid of some of this odd corkscrew grain that had been “gifted” to me by some well-intentioned friend or sibling.

I’d invited the Parkers, Nat and wife Shirley, down for dinner. I would serve them a meal composed of selections from the “good foods” list — seared turmeric-crusted salmon, quinoa with raw garlic and grapeseed oil, and a mustard raw honey sauce. My guests, my wife included, were congratulatory. “This is delicious! What did you put in it??” I feigned forgetfulness, hoping I’d never have to make it again. Sure, it was good enough, but it was defeat. (Don’t even ask for the recipe.)

*    *    *

“Dad,” said my son Flynn as we walked to school this morning, “I can’t get the awful taste and slimy texture of those chia seeds out of my mind!”

“Did I serve you those??” I asked, uncertain in the gluten-free haze of the past few days what might or might not have wound up on the plate.

He glared at me, shaking his head. “No Dad. The naturalist on our field trip to the state park had them in a little jar.”

Strange days indeed.

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15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 00:56:32

    Strange but very funny. I feel like I’ve experimented with every diet known to man, starting many years ago trying to keep your father, who got mad when I scraped the inch and a half of fat off the chicken broth, alive.

    Reply

  2. pal-O
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 01:19:20

    That bomba sounds awfully like one of my favorite drinks: The delicious Dark & Stormy made with Rum, Ginger Beer and Lime. Some add a little nutmeg (a Caribbean thing I believe) but that is optional. I think I will probably eat all the food on the bad list until I pass this veil and I’ll be happy with 80+ very tasty years as opposed to 80+ not so tasty years. Get ready for much stranger days and the folks evolving strangely into them . . . world without end, acquiesce to the ineluctable.

    Reply

    • scolgin
      Apr 12, 2013 @ 03:12:09

      I love anything dark and stormy, ineluctable, bad, strange…

      Reply

      • pal-O
        Apr 12, 2013 @ 16:17:59

        It’s like looking at a mirror sometimes, but one of those very old mirrors that seem to be melting so everything has its own distinctive look . . . Mine is looking grey lately–more of a gold/whitish grey, not a Dorian grey. 8^)

  3. Jessamine in PDX
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 02:33:47

    Your hippie nightmare sounds frighteningly familiar. I went college at Humboldt State and trust me, I got my fill of patchouli, drum circles and hairy people in homemade patchwork clothes. On the other hand, that drink sounds like a delicious dream! Wish I had one right now.

    Reply

  4. glennis
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 03:52:56

    Don’t know about Dr. Roy, but of course we are a UCLA family. There’s another local independent Dr. we know, Celia up on Skyline.

    When you wrote about her rash I was wondering about shingles, since it typically does show up in the torso. I just decided to NOT get a shingles vaccination because it cost $200. I had a wee episode of shingles about a month ago – not severe, thankfully – and I’m gambling that having had it once my immunity is going to fend off another bout.

    Reply

  5. glennis
    Apr 12, 2013 @ 03:53:34

    Did I say “a month ago”? I meant “several months ago.”

    Reply

  6. Topangamama
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 01:11:53

    That’s a great passage about Dr. Roy – too funny. A visit to his clinic is a surreal experience, isn’t it? He’s always got some arcane bit of knowledge to share, and the conversation tends to get convoluted. Last year he treated G. for pneumonia and I was his stand-in nurse (maybe he was understaffed that day). I protested that I had no medical training and hadn’t even washed my hands, LOL.

    Reply

  7. Michelle
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 02:33:45

    Oh my.

    Reply

  8. April
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 15:25:39

    I have the solution to your hippie nightmare – NAET. Leslie can get muscle response testing performed and know exactly what the offending allergen is within minutes. She can then be rid of the allergen via acupuncture and avoiding the substance for 25 hours. How’s that for efficiency? Seriously! http://www.drgarye.com He’s in Thousand Oaks and he’s fantastic! I think he charges about $80 per session. Hope Leslie feels better soon and you can continue blogging about all of your dark and delicious foods!

    Reply

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