I have a toothache. Toothache+Food Obsessed Individual= Extreme Measures. For the last three weeks, the upper right quadrant of my mouth protested almost daily that something was amiss while I attempted to sneak through my (eating) schedule without provoking it. The problem started while I was in Napa attending a yoga/food/wine retreat on Memorial Day weekend. (I just lost all sympathy, right?) The first morning I felt the ping of pain, I was certain it was due to the heavy emphasis on the “wine” part of the conference. Of course, I’d never *heard* of wine causing a toothache before, but weird stuff happens to me all the time, and it just seemed like the most logical explanation. (Plus, self-diagnosis is so much more fun than actual medical professionals.) This reverberating pain kind of echoed through my gum and vibrated off my teeth as I transitioned from plank to chaturanga to up dog in our AM classes. Once the vineyard tours part of our day began, however, the toothache became just a fellow traveling companion. A buzz in my mouth to echo the one in my head.
Like a runner addicted to exercise, I refused to let the throbbing end my weekend of gluttony. I limped along using only the good half of my mouth. I carefully chewed all my food on the left side until it became habit. I segregated bones and crunchy vegetables on my plate and even passed on a dessert with a caramelized outer shell. Luckily, many of our meals were composed of soft, fatty things like cheese and, well…more cheese, so I didn’t have to work too hard to be safe.
Then, I returned to DC. My first weekend back, I bought my usual 8 oz bag of kettle corn from the Farmer’s Market (which lasts approximately 8 hours before it is devoured in its entirety). Nobody comes between me and my Saturday kettle corn. (Except when the kettle corn guy’s truck breaks down, and I slump into the fetal position and rock back and forth, sobbing and muttering about a week with no kettle corn being like a week with no sunshine and all my co-workers roll their eyes and step around me. Insensitive harpies!) That night as I settled happily in front of my DVR for a catch-up of “The Next Food Network Star” and my (half-gone) kettle corn bag, I let a kernel slip to the right side of my mouth. Just as Bobby Flay started to mock the tongue-tied caterer from Brooklyn, my pain level shot from a 3 to a 20. Denial was no longer my friend. No way was I giving up my Farmer’s Market kettle corn.
Something had to be done.
As someone obsessed with food, not being able to eat is catastrophic. Numerous times in my life, I have gone to great lengths to still be able to consume delicious food when lesser eaters would have given up. When I had my wisdom teeth pulled, I concocted all sorts of elaborate meals that could be consumed with a straw. A tub of Breyer’s wasn’t going to cut it. Homemade vanilla bean ice cream with liquidized blueberries, gazpacho with sour cream and a cheesy, blended risotto with an asparagus coulis all made my recovery menu. Coming down with a stomach virus is equally traumatizing. Where an average eater might think, “Man, I can’t believe how sick I’ve been.” I think, “That was $30 dollars of king salmon I just flushed away, dang it!” or “Am I really going to have to miss that 6-course wine dinner in Georgetown??” Having my body place limits on food choice does not sit well with me. I want to be able to devour *everything* at the Farmer’s Market.
So, the toothache was a problem. And as the child of a man who has had upwards of 5 root canals, I’ve learned waiting it out doesn’t always pay when it comes to Mr. Dentist. I was worried about doing permanent harm to my molars (and mastication). Thus, today was my appointment. After X-rays, discussions and a series of oral gymnastics, the dentist proclaimed my tooth to be fine. “I think it’s your sinuses,” he posited. “They’re sunken way too low in your gums. You should probably get a CAT scan and see an ENT specialist. Definitely start taking some sinus medication for the pain. Maybe even consider surgery for a sinus lift” (yes, this is a real thing, not just an excuse for a movie star to have her face rearranged).
I glazed over all of this and asked him one question:
“So…it’s fine to eat whatever I want without worrying about damaging my teeth?”
“Of course,” he replied as he began to write out a referral with names and numbers.
Too late! I was out the door and on my way. The siren song of kettle corn and crunchy food was already calling home.
Summer squash is here in the Mid-Atlantic! These little gems are crunchy on the outside and soft in the center- a yin-yang of food. I’m happy to consume both aspects without repercussion. A celebration of spring! And unharmed teeth.
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 3-4 medium sized)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place grated zucchini in a bowl with salt and allow to sit for 5-15 minutes. Transfer to a fine sieve. Using your hand, press zucchini against sides and bottom of the sieve to press out water.
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix eggs, flour, cheese and salt in a dry bowl with zucchini.
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped (about 4 onions)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
Mix parsley, green onions and dill into zucchini mixture. Add more flour if mixture seems very wet and will not stay together.
1 cup olive oil
Heat olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat. Form zucchini batter into small fritters (a very full tablespoon). Drop gently into pan (about 4-5 at a time) and fry for about 5 minutes on one side until golden and crisp. Flip gently with a spatula or fork and finish on the other side. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Can be rewarmed in a 350 degree oven.
Serve with Greek plain yogurt and chopped mint, if desired.