The third time’s a charm, right? Let’s hope so. Last week I underwent my third eye surgery in as many years. And with any luck, it will be the last – at least for a while anyway. If nothing else, I’ve got the surgery drill down pat. I’ve learned the crucial necessity of power hydrating the night before. I know that it is pointless to lug a book around – even thought there will be hours of waiting. And I’ve learned to anticipate the eerie feeling of slowly coming back to reality mid-way through surgery. All of my surgeries have been at the University of Minnesota, which is of course, a teaching hospital. So to wake up and realize you’re listening to a play by play of what’s happening to your eye can be a little unsettling.
But mostly what I’ve come to appreciate is the recovery room. It’s such a nice feeling to land and become increasingly re-grounded in the world. Like magic, my husband Mark materializes in front of me with a reassuring smile on his face. That’s when I know we’re really getting to the good part. They’ll ask what I’d like to drink and without hesitation, I’ll choose the apple juice. My juice will almost assuredly be accompanied by a package of Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. And I will methodically indulge in this snack like I were in the finest of restaurants enjoying an absolutely memorable meal.
So I was taken aback this time around when the recovery nurse asked me what color popsicle I wanted. Popsicle? I hadn’t thought about popsicles. “Green? Orange?” I answered with uncertainty. She arrived back and handed over a paper cup with a half opened popsicle perched inside. It was purple. I ate half and gave the rest to Mark. It was okay. But it wasn’t apple juice and Lorna Doones.
I forgave my nurse this oversight, but I have to admit that I started to loose a little faith in her as she was reviewing my post-operative care directive. She recited the orders verbatim, Mark following diligently along with his own copy. When we got to the part about putting a hot compress on my eye, it included a little tip. An easy way to do this, read the instructions, is to microwave a sock full of rice. To feel like I was contributing something to this process, I piped up from my bed that we don’t have a microwave. The nurse looked up and said, “Well whatever you do, don’t use the oven. I tried to dry a pair of jeans that way and they burnt right up.” Wow.
I pondered this as she resumed reading. I can’t imaging stuffing a pair of jean in my oven. I mean, what rack would you put them on? But what I really can’t imagine is actually telling someone that I attempted it. There are just some things better left unsaid. The nurse wrapped up my care requirements and encouraged me to get started straight away with a pain pill. I was still feeling substantially numb but reluctantly decided to take her advice. She brought me a pill, a cup of water, and finally, my long awaited package of Lorna Doones. I downed them all.
Right around this time, however, the discharge process seemed to come to a screeching halt. My nurse left and came back and left. Time dwindled. Another nurse came and left. I started detaching rogue pieces of medical equipment from myself. I never did see my pants-burning nurse again, but finally, a man appeared at my door with a wheel chair for O’Neill. Mark sprinted for the car and while I waited in the lobby with my escort I realized that I was becoming increasingly nauseous. The dull headache I noticed two hours earlier was now a freight train barreling by at high speed. I had not eaten for 20 hours and my Lorna Doones were not holding their own.
By the time Mark got me to food, it was too late. A Divanni’s hoagie never looked so ugly. There was no turning back. I was in for a five hour car trip to hell. Nothing helped. I was hot, I was cold, I was delirious, I was tortured. It was wretched. But finally, just as we made our final turn north, the vice grip on my head began to loosen ever so slightly. With my one working eye I saw Lake Superior’s frozen Chequamegon Bay come into focus and I actually felt slightly human. I could breathe.
Things only got better from there. I was in good hands and well cared for. A friend had left a pot of wild rice soup waiting and I was actually able to eat a few spoonfuls. It was exactly what my stomach wanted. Another friend brought by some thai pork that made a lovely little Valentine’s Day dinner the following night. My local coffee shop sent up a bag of goodies. I had everything I could need.
Everything that is, except I still felt jilted out of my post-surgery Lorna Doones. They had become such a tainted memory. And since I am hopeful there is not another surgery in my near future, I decided to treat myself to a batch of shortbread cookies. The recipe I settled on is just what I was after. Buttery, salty, and just ever so slightly sweet. They are as fitting with a cup of tea as they are a glass of wine. The semolina flour gives them a delectable crumble.
Canestrelli (Shortbread from Ovada)
adapted from the Essential New York Times Cookbook
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
8 ounces salted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
Sift together the flour and semolina and set aside.
Beat the butter with an electric mixer on high speen for a minute or two. Add in the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Lower the speed of the mixer and gradually add the flour mixture, continually scraping down the walls of the mixer bowl, and mixing until the ingredients are just blended. Don’t overmix! The dough will be somewhat crumbly.
Press the dough together into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper over the dough and roll it out to a quarter-inch thickness. Cut the dough into shapes with a cutter or small juice glass.
Transfer the cookies to a baking sheet witha metal spatula. Before baking, prick them all over with the tines of a fork. Chill any unused dough while the cookies bake in a 325ºF oven for 15 – 20 minutes until just a hint of color begins to show. Remove and transfer to a wire rack. Makes about 3 dozen 2 inch cookies or 2 dozen 3 inch cookies.