I’m afraid this last week of surgery finds me spiraling into heavier and heavier contemplation. What if these are the last opportunities I’ll have to touch bowel, to fire an anastomotic stapler, to stitch long incisions closed, to stand for seventeen hours around an open abdomen and enjoy the time passing as though we are gathered around a beachside campfire instead of a broken body—the operation itself like camaraderie around a hearth?
I know that the experience I have had on general surgery has been made anomalously pleasant by the brilliant and kind company with whom I have had the pleasure to keep—and who I will miss, every one. The longer I live, the more my sense of home resembles a haphazard collection of shells. Some chipped, some polished to pearl.
The words of Marilynne Robinson, which are ever in my throat, seem to clasp ahold tighter in the light of this new experience, however brief– the privileged perspective only the work of surgery can lend a human being—
Every spirit passing through the world fingers the tangible and mars the mutable, and finally, has come to look and not to buy.
Maple Bread Pudding with Praline
adapted from Bon Apetite
For the praline–
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sugar
1 cup pecans, toasted, chopped
For the bread pudding
8 large eggs
1 quart whipping cream
2/3 cup agave
1 cup maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1-pound maple wheat bread, torn into bite-size pieces
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
For praline: Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray, or line with parchment paper. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber color, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 7 minutes. Stir in pecans. Quickly spread nuts on prepared sheet. Cool. Chop praline into small pieces.
For bread pudding: Whisk eggs, cream, agave (you could also use sugar—the lovely PA at work gave me this because she found out she was allergic to it), 1 cup maple syrup, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Add bread pieces; stir to coat. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Transfer bread mixture to prepared dish. Bake until puffed and golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly. Cut into 6 to 8 pieces. Place 1 piece pudding on each plate. Place scoop of ice cream atop pudding, drizzle with maple syrup, sprinkle with praline, and serve to hungry residents who seem to never eat—so when they get the chance—Oh, let it be good.
It was good.
Food is the tangible, the mutable—the perfect metonym for that which we consume without ever really having—like time.
I love Jacksonville, and it seems Jacksonville loves me (evidence: 1) barista at Bold Bean gives me this in my foam. 2) Someone anonymously purchased me a taco at Lillie’s Cafe). The conundrum, as always, what to do with all these lovely shells of home? It is a job for a greater snail than me–I cannot possibly carry them all.