This post has very little to do with wine, but it does concern things Blind Muscat may or may not be putting in his mouth, so it's close enough for blogging.
I've just been through a stint in the hospital, one of the reasons for this blog going near-derelict in the last few weeks. The condition is question is a flare-up of a fairly rare auto-immune weirdness known as Wegener's Granulomatosis, named for a combination of the guy who first systematically described it and for the fact that it ends up forming nasty little granules. It's a flavor of a family of auto-immune conditions known as vasculitis, and the Wegener's variant attacks small blood vessels in the kidneys and lungs. Since I only have one kidney anyway, having lost the other years ago for unrelated reasons, this can be a bad thing.
Twenty years ago people simply bled to death. One of my doctors, a gent in his 70s who was in med school in the early 60s, says it was then known by its full name: Wegener's Lethal Granulomatosis. Finally, someone discovered you could treat it using the unpleasant side effect of chemo drugs--suppressing the immune system--so that it can't act badly, until it forgets. And so now that I'm out of the hospital and taking daily doses of some very unpleasant but life-saving drugs.
But what this post is really about is the diet that comes as part of the package. First of all, with my immune system shut down, raw food is out--no oysters for me--which is tolerable mainly because we're about past the months that have an "r" in them, so the oysters won't be much good for a while, anyway.
More peculiar is the kidney-friendly or renal diet. With my kidney still not quite processing stuff right, there is a danger from not only salt--there go the flavors--but from potassium and phosphorous, normally things you'd want in your food. With my kidney at half speed, it's not processing things completely, which can lead to excess buildup of potassium and phosphorous in the blood. To avoid overdosing, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, beans and chocolate are out, among other things. Weirder yet, canned vegetables and fruits are fine, since they have had all the nutrients processed out of them; but most fresh versions are to be avoided.
Highly refined carbs? Great. Fats from all sources, animal and vegetable? Perfect. Sugar? Bring it on The list of foods in the good column includes, I swear, donuts -- never had donuts prescribed by the medical authorities before.
And finally, there's another layer because of one of the medications I take, for yet another peculiar medical history reason. When I was four, I contracted TB in my lymph glands--known fondly as scrofula, a very Dickensian name. Since the TB control methods in the 1950s were less than perfect, I'm taking a med that suppresses any potential TB rerun, in the context of the suppressed immune system.
Is anybody still following this?
Said med reacts badly--potential blood pressure spikes--with proteins that have been transformed by one or another kind of fermentation--the ones in aged cheeses, soy sauce, and of course, beer and wine. I told the nutritionist, only half in jest, that she was putting me out of work with this diet. A couple of the nurses actually got worried that might be true, and asked my doctor to take pity on a poor wine writer and let him have a taste now and then. I noted that hard spirits are fine, since the proteins get lost in the distillation process.
So, all this adds up to my ideal meal: Wonder bread, dunked in olive oil or pork fat, followed by jelly donuts, washed down with vodka.
And now for the quinoa part. Quinoa is a grain-like seed from the Andes which has more nutritional value than you can shake a stick at--lots of protein, but also astronomical amounts of potassium and phosphorous, not to mention magnesium, iron and vitamin B6. It's a vegetarian's delight, a heal toodie's best friend, and something I cook a lot of just because it's darn tasty.
Quinoa could kill me. If my wife decides I'm too cranky on all this prednisone, she could just slip some in a meat loaf and be done with me.