“Give her a Number 3 with OJ” my husband shouted out
Recipes for the appetizers mentioned above can be found over at Recipe Central, courtesy of Chef Jude Sheehan of Walkers Restaurant in downtown Manhattan. The chef is always accommodating to diabetics’ requests for fresh, healthy balanced food. (He better be, he’s my son).
They sat in the back room of a busy downtown restaurant. From a distance, nothing seemed unusual. A group of friends getting together for an evening meal. Imagine being at the next table and overhearing the lively conversation as they passed around appetizers of Taylor Bay scallops, chili rub shrimp with tomatillo salsa, miniature crab cakes with Cajun remoulade and platters of hummus and Moroccan olives.
As they ate with great gusto, they talked about food. The animated chatter waned only when the waiter flagged their attention to taking orders for the main course. But an observer at the next table noticed odd things going on. The people in this group all wore wired beepers on their belts and pricked their fingers for blood drops applied to little machines making faint beeping noises. Sandwiched between food talk and finger sticking, stories popped up about hypoglycemic unawareness and glycosylated hemoglobin. What weirdos!
Every group of diabetic cronies has war stories from the battles and challenges of living with diabetes. Sometimes when we tell them to each other it helps remind us of things we have grown to take for granted, or it gives us new insights and inspiration into our diabetes care. Steve Donahue remembered when he and his wife went hiking in the Grand Canyon when they first met. At the time he didn’t feel it necessary to reveal much about his diabetes. To prepare for the hike, he packed a bag of emergency snacks and they set off down the Canyon.
After about three hours of walking, Steve sensed symptoms of low blood sugar. He opened his backpack to take a snack. The bag was not there. How odd, he thought. He asked Deirdre if she had seen his feedbag. Well, yes indeed she had seen it when she repackaged their gear to lighten their load. Not only did she remove the bulky bag of snacks, but ate most of them. Oh boy! A situation was developing. Steve ate the few bits and crumbs he could find and they walked on in search of a rest stop and food. At the rest area, people sat enjoying sandwiches and snacks they had carried with them. No Deli in sight. And, men being men, they don’t ask for directions or food. So they sat, alone with no food and a falling blood sugar. Deirdre realized that Steve needed to eat in order to keep his strength for the march back up the Canyon.
She was about to go forth and ask for food (women are like that), when a family who had been sitting nearby noticed the young couple sat without anything to eat, and came over and offered them a box of leftovers. “It was a blessing and a lesson that day” Steve remembers. “We ere lucky to be given food and I realized the importance of support from a partner when you live with diabetes”. Deirdre has learned much about diabetes risks and requirements since then, and jokingly calls herself a Type 3.
Laura Laria related her diabetes war story that night, remembering when, as a 12-year-old, she knew something was wrong by the “funny” way she felt one day. She knew she wanted food, and yet she found herself standing at the open refrigerator, gazing at all the choices on the crowded shelves, unable to make a decision. When her mother entered the kitchen and saw her daughter looking vaguely disoriented, she immediately stirred up a quick fix of sugar water, which the family doctor had recommended for this type of situation.
Testape was the gold standard for testing urine sugar at the time, and sure enough, one hour after the 8-ounce glass of sugar water, the Testape blared out a 4+. After that incident, Laura learned to keep her favorite Chuckles in a bag on the door of the fridge and only eat a few pieces whenever she got that “feeling”. It worked then and she has kept this protocol since to correct low blood sugars, knowing that 3 Chuckles = 15 carb grams, the magic number that will raise her blood glucose 50 points.
These days Laria wears an insulin pump and uses all the new technology and gadgetry available that makes a day-to-day living with diabetes more flexible. But she reminds herself that dangerous highs and lows can still arise. “It’s the nature of the diabetes beast. I never leave home without my meter, pump supplies and a bag of Chuckles”.
My husband chimed in with his own war story. He told of the time I was training for my first 10K run and without forewarning, slipped into a sudden low blood sugar slump. I felt extremely lightheaded. He rushed me into the nearest food source, a broken-down, greasy-spoon luncheonette. Once I was seated at the grungy counter, I began asking ” What kind of bread do you have? Are the eggs organic? Is the orange juice fresh squeezed?” The counterman ignored me with a blank expression. I was furious at his rudeness and got up to leave. My husband shouted out “Give her a Number 3 with OJ”. The counterman understood the number 3 and OJ, other than that, the guy didn’t speak English. We both learned lessons that day. I learned to always carry a carb, (my choice, a packet of raspberry Dex Glucose Tablets) and my husband learned not to give me any choices when I enter altered states.
Fortunately, most war stories are in the past and thanks to advances in care and education, fewer will experience the extremes we once did during those early mean years and salad days when we didn’t know much about living with diabetes. But some things don’t change nor get erased from our mental Rolodex, like the litany of rules to live by when you wake up with diabetes each morning. Test regularly and treat blood sugars according to results. Eat a balanced diet of fresh nutritious foods Exercise daily with enjoyment and enthusiasm. Stay plugged into reliable sources for diabetes news, information and education. Welcome support from family, friends and your medical team. Ask questions, questions, and more questions if you don’t understand something about your treatment. Keep your attitude as healthy as your body. They work together.
The following recipes are courtesy of Chef Jude Sheehan of Walkers Restaurant in New York City. He has scaled them down for quick and easy home preparation. You love food and you love to cook, but summer’s coming and who really wants to spend much time over the stove. Next month we’ll talk about 5 ingredient recipes that take only 15 minutes to prepare. See you then.