Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Married a Swede + What to Add to Tuna Salad

When people find out that my husband is half-Japanese, half-Swedish, lots of people ask questions about his Asian heritage.  "Does he speak Japanese?"  "Has he been to Japan?"  Etc.  One time an fellow law student, herself Asian, even asked me for advice on "How I'd gotten his family to accept that he'd married a white woman."  I tell ya', it wasn't easy...

Anyway, nobody has ever once asked about his Swedish heritage, which is too bad because I find it fascinating!  Also, he mostly identifies with his Swedish roots so it's really all I can talk about.  In addition to his family's amazing and very Swedish Christmas celebration every year (complete with two real Smorgasbords and this incredible from-scratch braided cardamom bread), his family lives near the Swedish area of Chicago, religiously attends North Park Covenant Church (a church with Swedish roots)... no pun intended... and I believe he was like the first person ever in his huuuuuge family not to attend college at North Park University.  I think even if you include those of us who married in, there are seriously only like 4 or 5 out of the twenty-two of us in this generation who did not attend North Park. 

Swedish Poser.
Christmas morning Smorgasbord.
This makes me a happily free-loading wannabe Swede.  I have LOVED being part of all these Swedish traditions - not to mention how cool it is to be part of such a big family.  As an aside, isn't it great to be an American??  I love that my name is Japanese, my traditions are mainly Swedish, and my mom's cooking is still some rockin' Italian.  To all the haters I say:  I love this country and I love my heritage.

Anyway, one of our very favorite Swedish traditions is something anybody living anywhere near Chicago can do for themselves.  For decades my in-laws have enjoyed going to Tre Kronor, a little authentically Swedish cafe/bistro located right by the above-mentioned authentically Swedish college and church.  This place is T**D**F and to all those of you who live or lived in Chicago and did NOT go there even though I told you to:  Shame, shame!

[Some-of-the] Girls Brunch Out - Christmas 2006
Deciding what to order is seriously torture!!  I mean I HAVE TO HAVE the baked onion soup, every time:

And the Vanilla-and-Orange French toast:

Um, and this too please, thanks:

But... what I most frequently order doesn't look nearly as exciting.  And yet, it's SO DARN GOOD that it often beats these out.  I (and a few other family members) most frequently order their "Tuna Salad with Grapes and Almonds."  And so because I've had this decade-long obsession, and in the hopes of freeing myself up to order more of my other favorites, I inspected it as closely as I could last time so that I could try to recreate it.  Here's what I've got:

Save yourself a lot of stress and effort and just ignore exact measurements and do this to taste.  Seriously.  This salad could take you 10 minutes to prepare or it could take up to an hour... go for the 10 mins, you can always add more of something if it's lacking.

(1) Start with tuna.  Obviously.  Say, 2 of the 4-5 ounce cans

(2) Add mayo.  For this much tuna, maybe a heaping big spoon.

(3) Add Henri's Tas-Tee Dressing.  Lots.  Maybe 1.5-2x as much as the mayo.  If you can't find it, use more mayo and a little bit of vinegar (white, or seasoned rice, or even apple cider would be fine) and increase all the herbs.

(4) Add dried minced onion (spice section - don't dry it yourself) or TINY diced shallots if you like onion more than I do.  Fairly minor amount.  Maybe 2 tsp??  Depends on your preference.  I noticed teeny tiny diced shallots during my inspection at Tre.

(5) Add lots of salt and pepper.

(6) Sprinkle some celery seed - more, if you can't get a hold of Tas-tee's.

(7) Add plenty of dill weed, fresh or not doesn't matter.

(8) Add dried cranberries (a handful).  This is my own addition, not found in Tre's.

(9) Add very small diced celery for crunch.  Best way to get it small is to make several slices the long way that don't go all the way to the end, then chop sideways through all the skinny long pieces.  This is also my own addition.  I like crunch.

(10) Add halved grapes, red is best.  Plenty.  The sweetness and the moisture are what make this salad.

(11) Add toasted almond slivers.  To toast, just pour some (1/2 cup?) in a saucepan and heat on medium low, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown and they smell done (5-10 min).  At some point, sprinkle with sea salt (or table salt) and stir to blend.  SO EASY.

Stir this all together, let the flavors coalesce for a bit, and enjoy.  I think tuna salad is the one sandwich that actually tastes better on wheat bread than on white.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sad thoughts.

This is a topic I've wanted to blog about for a long time now, but I haven't been able to find the words.  I spend a lot of time trying not to think about it - we're talking mental contortions here - so to write about it was waaaaaay too dangerous.  In fact, fair warning:  If you're also struggling not to think about your own parents' aging and eventual passing, read no further.

This most recent trip home has forced these thoughts to the forefront of my mind.  My dad and I took Little M down to Peoria to visit my grandmother, whose health is failing.  Um yeah.  The inevitable gets pretty hard to deny on a long trip like that.  I know my father is struggling to come to terms with what's happening to his mother and I know I'll be in his situation in about 25 years - if we're very blessed.  And as the years don't seem to be slowing down any (quite the opposite), it pains me greatly.  I find myself multiplying:  "See him 3x a year for 25 years = 75 visits and he's gone..."  "If he's like grandpa... 20 years of health... 60 visits until he's suffering..."

I hate, hate these thoughts.  I hate them so much that one of the only thoughts that makes me feel better is "okay by that time, I've only got another 30 myself..."  That, and "Matthew will probably have a kid by then... maybe..."  And finally, "But I'll keep them with me, in my home... no nursing home for them... so we might have YEARS left together instead of just visits!"  Yes for me, this is the issue that comes to mind when people refer "childhood innocence."  When you're a child (at least, a lucky child with a good childhood), life seems to stretch into eternity, and you're not haunted by how short it is.  People say "Life's too short to ________" and you wonder what they're talking about, since math class seems to last about five years.  Your parents have no gray hair, no wrinkles.  Every 4-5 year span seems to be its own lifetime, so it's like you have at LEAST 17 lives yourself and your parents have 10 more as well.  But then you finish up college, your twenties fly by, and all of a sudden you're a parent yourself and your own parents are in their sixties.  And you know the coming years will only fly even faster...

Am I crazy???  I really don't know but I'll be interested to see the responses to this blog.  I *know* there are others who struggle with these thoughts and I have to wonder how much of it comes down to living far away.  Pretty much every friend I have in Boston ends each visit with their parents feeling they HAVE TO move back home, but can't.  One of my very best friends struggles with these thoughts about her dad, even after having lost her mother during her college years... so it doesn't seem like my perspective on how bad it will be is that far off from reality.  And I know that it "happens to everyone" - that doesn't make me any happier about it; if anything it makes me more sad.

I don't know what to do with these thoughts, really.  I try so hard to just not ever think them, and while that works during the day, I find myself waking with a start at least once most nights in a panic as I realize just how little I see my parents each year.  I feel like I'm basically in denial during the day, and my defenses are down at night and reality strikes.  During the day I somehow know that because it's inevitable, it's not worth thinking about.  But at night my mind says "Wait, it IS that bad!!!"

I know there are many people out there - at least, many women - who simply would never live very far from their parents.  I would definitely be one of those women if it were just my career on the line.  But we don't really have that option with where my husband's career is taking us.  I would never ask my husband to downgrade his career just so we could live near our parents.  And if I were the breadwinner, and I were training at MGH, I'm sure I wouldn't want to downgrade anything either.  Medical research is very political... connections are important... pedigree matters a great deal... my husband is at the very top of his game and we've both sacrificed an enormous amount for him to be there.  Thus it seems impossible:  How can I ALWAYS live far away from my parents, for the rest of their lives?  But... somehow, it *does* have to be that way.

How about the afterlife?  Any comfort there?  Well sorry to say people, but no.  I'm a Christian and while I think it's fair to say that Christians do not know, even Biblically, who is and who isn't "saved," the reality is that almost anyone I'd turn to for spiritual guidance probably, if they're honest with me, thinks my parents are damned.  So the "Good News" doesn't do much to ease my anxiety.  Luckily people hardly ever mention damnation at funerals... funny, isn't it?

Anyway, I wish blogging about this would give me some resolution but I find myself headed off to bed still dreading what thoughts the night might bring.  I actually think I'm afraid to go to bed anything less than exhausted because I'm trying to avoid waking moments that harbor these thoughts... and so I stay up too late.  I guess the question I'm left with is:

Am I crazy, do I need to see a therapist, or do a lot of other people struggle with these thoughts? and,

If you struggle with these thoughts, what are your best remedies?