Turkish Breakfast, including menemen

Too many cancer patients die of malnutrition. I understand now how it happens, between the pain and the havoc cancer and its treatments wreak on the digestive system. Cachexia keeps our bodies from using the nutrition we work hard to intake. In many ways, that’s what was going to get me. Not now. I’m eating, digesting, and enjoying!

Food has always been an expression of love for me. Cooking. Sharing. Creating. Cooking with my children and husband. Reading food science for fun (what chemist doesn’t?). It’s fair to say I have a cookbook addiction, which food blogs now satisfy as well. My taste memory is one of my superpowers. If you’ve made me a good meal, you can be sure I remember it clearly and fondly. Thank you! From grandmothers who cooked whole food (one southern, one Middle Eastern), to travel experiences (e.g., taking notes in the kitchen as an exchange student in Spain; cooking classes in Tuscany, Vietnam, the Netherlands), to giving and receiving healing foods during times of trouble or illness. food can transport and bring us together. I’ve considered careers in food but always came back to food as life rather than a livelihood. Food is a tangible way to nourish and empathize.

Love of food contributes not just to health but to my will to live. So it was devastating to have mounting food sensitivities then not be able to eat at all without pain. Thankfully, I’m in a good place now. I have always tried to walk the line between taste and health, which is not always easy given the changing landscape of nutrition science. For people with advanced cancers, there is mounting evidence that low-carbohydrate, veggie strong ketogenic eating heals. That may sound constraining. It’s not really. I’ve healed issues for myself and my family in different ways at different times, but clean eating is always the foundation. Testing shows gluten-free makes sense for me, but that’s not so difficult anymore. So it’s wonderful to see our food system cleaning up its act. Healthy food is a human right, not to mention an economic issue, and should be easy and available. Junk food makers should have to pay the downstream costs of their devastating impact on our healthcare system and lives.

When we decided to come to Turkey, one of the draws I mentioned was breakfast. You foodies understand. I mean, just look at the spread they put out every morning in the restaurant downstairs at our apartment (click the video below). I wonder how you’d build your plate?

Family dinners are sacred, and going out to dinner with my honey is one of my purest pleasures in life. How lucky we are to linger over a good meal and great conversation, sharing our lives, hopes, and dreams. Solving problems. Finding solace in company in times of trouble. Dinner with friends too. It’s all good.

Istanbul is twice the size of New York City. Not only is there beautiful Middle Eastern food that feels like home to me, but you can find pretty much anything you desire. John and I are door-dashing like teenagers over here. As I get more stamina, we have a kitchen and will cook more. We got out again in Istanbul! More recommendations have poured in. This time, we tried Sunset Grill & Bar. Here go you Foodies…

We both started with the Garden Salad, a fresh, crunchy composition that engaged all the taste buds with beetroot, avocado, pine nuts, coriander, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and pomegranate syrup sauce.

We shared a beautiful bowl of umami in the form of tuna sashimi (maguro and toro).

Then, I had Baked Black Cod Marinated in Miso Sauce. A pretty perfect rendition of this classic, with fresh, buttery fish. John had Mixed Seafood Sautéed With Lemon Peels And Basil with baked red pepper, shallot and Kalamata olives. Super fresh and tangy.

We shared a side of Asian Spinach, and I tasted John’s Wild Mushroom Risotto, rich with truffle oil, thyme, and parmesan. The latter tasted much better than the picture looks, especially if you love truffles. And I do!

I enjoyed a beautiful decaf cappuccino and some fresh pomegranate seeds* (look Dad! I’m getting pomegranates here!!), along with a little taste of John’s pumpkin cheesecake with raspberry and mango sauce.

Did I mention the view? That’s Asia over there, right across the Bosphorus. We are standing in Europe. Pretty cool, eh?

Following 10 days off, I start another 10-day treatment cycle tomorrow. The upside? The powerful insulin potentiated therapy (IPT) benefits from HIGH CARB meals on chemo days. It really helps to dream about and plan what I’ll have. Pomegranate juice. Homemade rosehip tea (below).

Gluten-free granola. Fruit. Potstickers. Lentil soup. Anything with rice, especially dolma and maki. Gluten-free pizza and pasta and gnocchi! French fries with mayo!!! Gluten-free tarts and German chocolate cake. Yes! All of this is available here. And don’t worry, I’ve learned how to hack a keto version of everything now, so I won’t be deprived later either. But, it’s still nice to have an upside to chemo days…in addition to knowing cancer cells are dying.

One last encouraging story. I walked to the nearby organic grocery store with John the other day and shopped. Getting around is still such an effort, but my body is getting stronger now that I can eat and move. I love going to grocery stores in other countries, finding local treasures like fresh pistachios, rich yogurt, and pomegranate juice.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” – Bob Marley

Continued thanks for all of the ways you love on our family, including the beautiful food past, present, and future. It helps us be strong in every way.

*My dad once mailed me (yes, mailed me) pomegranate seeds in Boston because he wasn’t sure I could buy them there. It took two tries, but I enjoyed them. As my Southern grandma, Minna, said at the time, “That’s good, hard lovin’!” #ChaldeanFoodies

Special thanks to Erdem Can, Ogeday Karahan, and Michael Goldberg & Asli Kurul Turkmen for restaurant recommendations; Suleyman and Nevriye for the rosehip tea; and EVERYONE who has nourished our family at home, especially Kathryn Edelman and Heather Weingart for organizing meals for Grant. Thanks also to Ed Weinfurtner for sharing the Bob Marley quote. Finally, thanks and love to John LeMay for his photographic skills and partnership in this whole adventure. 


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An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder


An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder

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