Cabbage, Then and Now

Saint Patrick’s Day brings with it my favorite meal of the year. Since childhood, I’ve been a sucker for corned beef and cabbage, my appreciation of these basic ingredients only growing as I’ve aged. And, of course, with the added appreciation of those other Irish staples, the boiled potato and a proper stout with a thick, creamy head. There is a certain luxury to these simple foods, and I await them with the sort of eagerness one might ascribe to a child who waits all year for the chance to unwrap birthday presents and blow out the candles on a cake. A year ago today, I insistently prepared this meal and looked forward to it with anticipation that was, in retrospect, somewhat ill-placed. 

The timing of that particular March 17th in 2016 was right at the most challenging part of my chemo cycle. The bitterness of each bite brought me lower until I was just pushing my food around on my plate and trying to smile at the fact that my wife and daughter were enjoying theirs. Recalling it now, I can still feel the tears welling up and the struggle to push them back down. I wanted so desperately to enjoy my food — and I recognized how extremely lucky I was to even have an appetite. I tried to refocus on the things I had to appreciate. And yet it was the most depressed I had felt in months. Because of my treatment, I was only drinking water and the only saving grace for me was the irony I found in not even being able to drown my sorrows in a glass of Irish whiskey…

When I began prepping dinner last night, just before going to bed, my wife asked me if I was sure I wanted to go through all this effort. I reminded her that it was my favorite meal of the year, so, yes, I wanted to make sure it was prepped and ready to go into the slow cooker before I hustled our daughter off to school. This morning I got up on schedule, cut a few of the ingredients to size and turned the cooker on. Later, when I brought my daughter home, the house smelled nothing short of beautiful.

Some days call for chips and a beer — others for a thick stout and chili flavored crisps.

My memory of this day last year is still profoundly strong, but the experience itself was completely different. I was fortunate in that my last infusion was almost two weeks ago, putting me squarely past the most difficult days — end ensuring that, if my schedule stays on track, I’ll be good on the timing for one more year of tasting my St. Patrick’s Day food the way it is meant to be. Even more of a bonus, I was able to add a pint (or two) of Guinness to the mix.

There is a moral in here about patience, or fortitude, or maybe about appreciating the future and knowing when not to get stuck in the moment — as well as when to revel in it. And the small things, always the small things.

But I just want to say, “cheers.”


I should note that the whole week of my chemo treatment was documented last year, with video updates posted on my blog for each day. What you see in the videos was accurate for my experience at the time — but such videos can only show a part of the whole, and so details like my emotional response to my dinner are left out. One of the odd effects of the chemo (for me, at least) has been the way that emotions tend to flood their way in, and just as abruptly sometimes, drain completely away.

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