In Which The Author Suffers Terribly, Though Not For His Art


Here's the thing about back pain in the kitchen. It's pretty much the same as back pain in any other context, except with sharp knives and very hot things. It's been a long time since I had significant back pain, and I've never had pain like this. In my day job, I deal with folks who complain of low back pain every day. I've done it long enough that I could tell from the way the pain radiated from my spine down the back of my left thigh and calf that it was likely the nerve at L4-5 and/or L5-S1. The jury's still out on that, though an x-ray did show some narrowing at the latter level.

Bear with me. I'm going to work food into this, I promise.

For the last 10 days to two weeks, I've had back pain that's gotten progressively worse. I've done what I often do with problems that seem intractable: I've ignored it. I cooked all through the Christmas holiday, and just about every day on either side. I made chicken liver paté and Meyer lemon curd in sufficient volume to give gifts, and while my wife and mother-in-law did most of the cooking on Christmas day, I did pitch in.

Cooking is such an essential part of how I think of myself that it's hard for me to stop doing it. Even though I know I'll be up and cooking before long, it's depressing that I can't do it now. I was in something akin to agony last night, but I was still cooking a six-pound pork butt in my pressure cooker along with cabbage and apples. I was going to make some potatoes, but I finally realized that the time had come to throw in the towel. We have guests at the moment, one of whom is not quite 2 years old, and she needed to eat. I had to sit down every five minutes or so, and I had to go entirely horizontal every half-hour. This is not conducive to rapid cuisine. I would not have done well on "Chopped," is what I'm saying. We ordered Chinese.

So now I've got an appointment with a specialist next week and I've been to the urgent care center. I've gone through a couple of prescriptions called in by a friend who is pretty much an angel for taking my phone call in the first place, and another couple of prescriptions that I hope will alleviate the immediate pain while the first prescriptions help with the underlying cause. At the moment, I'm spent. I'm cashed. I'm done. I am pooped.

I still want to cook, I just can't stand in one place long enough to do it. Sitting is tolerable, so hopefully I'll be able to reap the benefits of other folks' skill in the kitchen until I can get back on my feet. I hope so, anyway.

Oh, and the pork (braised with juniper berries, rosemary and garlic) and the cabbage (smoked pork jowls, onion and chopped apple) came out great, though not until well past the kids' bed times. My last completed task in the kitchen was to get the food into containers. I guess when we eat it, it'll almost be like I was cooking again.

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