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July 17, 2008

Mrs. Henry goes bionic

Filed under: Dieting,Mrs. Henry — Mr. Henry @ 11:07 am


This week Mrs. Henry had surgery. She no longer walks with original factory-installed parts. Chromium now replaces mother nature’s original joint.hip-parts.jpg

In the adjacent room Mrs. Scharf sceamed, “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I’ve just come out of soy-gery! Noyce! Noyce!”

The nurse told her to stop yelling and noted that here in the Hospital for Special Surgery all the patients have just come out of surgery. This argument cut no ice whatsoever with Mrs. Scharf, however, who kept it up the whole day long.
At dawn on the second day after surgery they gave Mrs. Henry two Vicodin (codeine) followed by a can of “creamy milk chocolate Ensure, complete, balanced nutrition.” To the medical profession it may be complete, but Ensure did not offer much nourishment. Its foul taste and texture ensured instant regurgitation.

Poor Mrs. Henry had a bumpy ride that day, but after she refused both the medication and the hospital diet, she began to improve. Throwing himself into the breach, Mr. Henry prepared a dinner that she could find palatable and easy to digest.

What is your go-to comfort food after a bad day in the operating theater?

For Mrs. Henry it is miso soup, soft tofu, white rice (with umeboshi) and broiled Arctic char. She felt better within minutes. For breakfast he made her a compote of white nectarines eaten with cottage cheese and crackers. They released her the next afternoon.
The list of ingredients for Ensure defies exaggeration:

Water, corn maltodextrin, sugar (sucrose), milk protein concentrate, canola oil, soy protein concentrate, corn oil, cocoa powder (processed with alkali), short-chain fructooligosaccharides, potassium citrate, whey protein concentrate, magnesium phosphate, natural and artificial flavors, sodium citrate, soy lecithin, calcium phosphate, potassium chloride…

That is only half the list. The remaining ingredients have really complicated names.

Ensure may well be parody-proof, but its use in hospitals is positive proof of the commercial might of America’s corn and soy agro-industrial complex. To Mrs. Henry, and to anyone who eats a sensible diet, Ensure tastes like poison. Why can’t hospitals figure this out?

Friends brought baskets of goodies. Stinky baked delicious too-many blueberry muffins. Kim sent a gift basket from E.A.T. including a silver bell shaped like a Southern belle (get it?) which Mrs. Henry now rings every eight to nine minutes. The physical therapist is on his way over to treat her bell-ringer’s elbow.


  1. Please wish Mrs. Henry a swift recovery for me.

    My comfort foods? Cream of tomato soup, macaroni and cheese (made the way Mom did it with about four or five different cheeses and nothing colored an alarming shade of orange), and fresh-baked pie or cake are all on my list. For Mr. Twistie, it usually involves rice…but despite his Japanese descent, he tends to eat said rice with thing like meatloaf or scrambled eggs. It comforts him, but I honestly don’t get the scrambled egg and rice thing. I just accept that it makes him happy.

    Comment by Twistie — July 17, 2008 @ 7:06 pm

  2. Scrambled eggs with rice is essential to the purest version of Japanese comfort food – ochazuke.

    Top it with sprinkles (of dried seaweed and itty-bitty fishes) and you have yourself a country banquet. The old timers pour a little green tea on the rice.

    If you are feeling sick to your stomach, try some soupy rice with an umeboshi mixed in. It’s the Japanese cure-all.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — July 18, 2008 @ 7:27 am

  3. I’m sorry to find merriment in Mrs. Henry’s pain and travails, but the bell-ringer’s elbow line made me laugh. May she feel better and better every day.

    Comment by Casey — July 18, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  4. Yes, here’s hoping that as the days go by, that bell gets less and less use. For both of your sakes!

    Comment by Glinda — July 19, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  5. Scrambled eggs with nothing but a little bit of salt were the best surgery-recovery food for both my mother and me recently. Best wishes to Mrs. Henry in her recovery!

    Comment by Christy — July 20, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

  6. Speedy recovery for Mrs. Henry!

    When I’m not feeling well, almost any food my husband makes for me is comfort food. I know the healing power of the meal made by someone who loves you! Grilled fish with roasted sweet potatoes and a light salad is the usual comfort dish; but when I was a kid nothing made me feel better than very thin spaghetti with a light tomato sauce made with tuna and tiny little shrimp. Now when I start to feel like I may be coming down with something, I reach for Miso soup.

    Ensure is what hospitals have replaced their kitchens with. The “better” hospitals (the ones who have “nutritionists” on staff for their patients) have Ensure [i]and[/i] frozen microwave meals made by the same people who make Ensure–take a look at the ingredient lists in those “food” products if you ever get a chance. They all look like the Ensure ingredients. Doesn’t just [i]taste[/i] like poison.

    Comment by ChaChaHeels — July 21, 2008 @ 5:21 am

  7. I’ll echo the best wishes to Mrs. Henry for a speedy recovery!

    I’m jealous, too. I’d love a bell of my own!

    Comment by kit pollard — July 21, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

  8. My go-to comfort food is (she said shame-facedly) pasta with butter, kosher salt, and fresh-ground black pepper. No nutritive value whatsoever, but it’s what I crave when I’m having a bad day.

    Comment by Chicklet — July 21, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  9. In comfort there is no shame.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — July 21, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

  10. My mother’s home made chicken-corn soup. Brilliant, simple and the best comfort food ever.

    Comment by Eilish — July 21, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

  11. Ah, the raincoaster is a connoisseur (connoisseuse?) of the foods for illness, having been laid up for an entire year in the distant past with an illness we needn’t discuss. And living as she does amid … uh … downtown lifestyles, she is aware that the junkies, who have difficulty eating regular meals, will walk away from free Ensure in favour of paying for Boost.

    But when I was ailing, the thing I loved most was Swanson’s pot pies and boxed salads. It’s good for you, it’s easy, and it is digestible. Thick soups and/or yogurt with frozen veg as pasta sauce also cannot be beat.

    Comment by raincoaster — July 22, 2008 @ 1:24 am

  12. Really, if I’d had slaves, it would have been impossible to top Mr. Henry’s day after diet. Although if I’d had slaves it would have been served on the handsomest of them, platter-style.

    Comment by raincoaster — July 22, 2008 @ 1:26 am

  13. Miso soup in the hospital is pure genius! Thank you for another inspiring post.

    I have to point out, however, that ochazuke should always have tea in it b/c “ocha” is tea. I have never had egg in my ochazuke, but always Japanese pickles of some kind (pickles=”tsuke”, the other half of the name).

    Comment by anonymous — July 22, 2008 @ 7:08 am

  14. Thank you, anonymous. Yes, ochazuke means “tea pickle” and should therefore consist of these two ingredients. In addition to being a comfort food, the preparation remains the traditional breakfast in Japan today, usually accompanied by eggs of some kind. In tonier hotels you get a raw quail egg broken over hot rice.

    Among Mrs. Henry’s Japanese-American clan, the term has become elastic and includes any meal in which leftover rice is reheated and served with sprinkles and other goodies. In her case she favors sliced avocado, a bit of fish, and a green vegetable like asparagus (with “dipping sauce” – mayonnaise and soy sauce!). And, of course, there are pickles and more pickles.

    Curiously, this is Little Henry’s favorite meal, too. Might ochazuke become an American fast food staple one day?

    Comment by Mr. Henry — July 22, 2008 @ 7:40 am

  15. My best wishes to Mrs. Henry for an easy, speedy recovery. For an even scarier read, try the label of the Glucerna product. I was visiting someone in the hospital recently and tried to decipher it myself. I have an extremely strong command of the English language and found myself truly frightened by the list of “ingredients.” Ingredients sounds like such an innocuous word for that collection of horrible sounding components. I could not imagine voluntarily ingesting such a vile and disgusting product. It seems that if a hospital or doctor provides or recommends it, some people will consume anything, no matter how terrible.

    Comment by LeighB in GA — July 22, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  16. “fructooligosaccharides” Really?!? This is a word? In food? Oyyy!

    Comment by Jennie — July 26, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

  17. Dear Jennie,

    Would that Mr. Henry were clever enough to concoct a Brave New Word like fructooligosaccharides.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — July 27, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  18. If Mrs Henry doesn’t want her codeine, may I have it? I would never turn down free narcotics.

    If you are going for a calorie hit that tastes great, how about some Milwaukee frozen custard? It’s like ice cream, only with more fat (because it has egg yolks in it).

    Comment by class factotum — August 8, 2008 @ 7:41 am

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