Category Archives: recipes

Death by Pine Nuts

ttar_pinenuts_03_h_launch “Do you ever have a day,” I asked Matt casually during dinner, “when everything you eat or drink leaves a horrible, bitter taste in your mouth?  That doesn’t go away?”

He stared at me in disbelief.

I started to dismiss my own claim as silly until I took a small bite of plain bread and a sip of wine and grimaced.  “Like, really, really, disgustingly bitter?”   He shook his head no.  I began to panic.

Assuming I was probably dying, I Googled “everything tastes bitter” just to find out what my exact cause of death would be.  Because it might be nice to know so that I could warn Matt about it.  You know, “Well, first there’s the bitter taste, honey, and then my nose will turn inside out, and only then will my heart fly out my right ear – so now you know, and Dr. Google says there should be time to get out of the way before that heart thing happens – just watch the nose.”

Imagine my surprise when one of the top hits was this blog post by a Scottish botanist who experienced the  very same thing – and his research into the problem implicated those most innocent-looking of legumes: pine nuts.  Yes, that’s right.  Pine nuts.   Further, he linked to this paragraph of a Wikipedia entry that mentions the “risks” involved in ingesting pine nuts, which “can cause serious taste disturbances” (but do not pose a serious health hazard, thank goodness).  Now, I don’t believe everything I read, and I know that neither a blog post nor a Wikipedia entry are considered solid primary sources.  However.  If you read that blog post, note how many comments there are as of today: 256, people.  256.  Since last October.  And that’s before I’ve taken the time to leave my own response.  Having read through the first two pages of comments, I see that many people have experienced all the same symptoms as mine, so I have no doubt whatsoever that this is the problem.

This would be a good time to mention that I had quite a few pine nuts on Saturday night.  I made capellini with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, and pine nuts.  I had forgotten the little nuts existed until this weekend; I don’t think I’d had any in 2 years.  I just might’ve dipped my hand into the container once or twice while I was cooking (because OH YUM!) and also sprinkled them liberally on my pasta dish.  I’ve been known to snack on almonds while cooking and I suppose I just substituted the pine nuts because they were there. Turns out that backfired.

So, according to what I’ve read tonight, my symptoms of this bizarre reaction are typical, having emerged 1-3 days after eating the pine nuts.  I have a constant bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.  At first I thought a cavity had cracked, until I remembered that I have no more silver fillings.  All food or drink tastes absolutely disgusting, except water.  It has gotten increasingly worse through the day, as others reported.  I tried one commenter’s suggestion and drank tonic water with lime before eating tonight and it did seem to help as I ate it, but the taste came right back afterwards.  At least I got to enjoy the food for a few minutes, though.

The best part?  This will last 7-20 days.  You heard me.

But at least I’m not dying.

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Mmm…Soup…

I’m tired. It was a whirlwind week last week, followed by a day in the clinic on Saturday, a late night last night, an early wake-up today, and a long day of work. Oh, and meeting an old college friend downtown for drinks after dinner. Not to mention that Baxter’s birthday is in two days – which means there’s a party this weekend – and we’re hosting Thanksgiving next week.

Too much of a good thing.

On Sunday we had no plans for the afternoon, a rare treat indeed, and I intended to cook. I was able to make Jennifer’s lentil soup and Kristen’s pear bread again, but this time for my own family. I wanted to put the lentil soup aside for another night (or ten!), so I also made a really yummy tortellini soup that I’m told originally came from the Chicago Tribune’s Food Section – it’s delicious, easy, and was loved by 100% of adults and 50% of children in our home.

Quick Tortellini Soup

1 tbl. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 – 14 oz. cans low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth
1 – 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 package (9 oz) refrigerated tortellini (any variety – and also, we used dried tortellini and it was delicious)
1 cup chopped fresh spinach or 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach
2 tbl balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper (or the old stuff in the pepper shaker!!)
grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes and their liquid; heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tortellini; cook until tortellini are heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and vinegar; cook until spinach wilts and is heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Add pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls; top with cheese.

Prep time: 20 minutes/Cooking time: 25 minutes

*****

It was wonderful to spend some time in the kitchen, listening to mellow music, and being alone with my thoughts for a while that afternoon. I got the boys set up at the table making cards while I cooked, and Matt did some chores that needed doing around the house. It was definitely a Norman-Rockwell-Eat-Your-Heart-Out kind of an afternoon, one in which all parties feel content and at home. Matt got our gas fireplace working, and after dinner we played a game together in front of the fire even though the air was unseasonably warm.

At one point in the evening, reveling in the delicious home-cooked smells from the kitchen and general familial relaxation, Matt asked with a twinkle in his eye, “Wouldn’t you like to stay home for a while?” And for about 10 minutes, I allowed myself that fantasy – of not working, dropping everything, having the luxury of being able to cook sometimes, lots more time with the kids, and not constantly feeling like I’m running in so many different directions. Because although staying home with the boys would be plenty of work – I’ve done it for long stretches in the past – I would have far less on my plate, more time to do things for our family, and would be much more focused with my energy, for sure. It sounded appealing for a little while, just like dropping everything and home-schooling the boys sounds good every once in a while. But Matt said it before I did: I wouldn’t be me, and I wouldn’t be happy, if I weren’t working.

It’s a relief to think about it on occasion and find that I continue to come back and choose what I am already doing, even if it’s a harder road for me – and my family – to take and I’m so very fatigued.

And even when the kitchen smells that good.