Food and Weight: An Ongoing Journey

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Friday night a small group of us met at Moldova, 1827 Coney Island Avenue, in Brooklyn, which is one of two branches of the restaurant (the other is in Philadelphia). A look at their menu promised a lot of dishes that were essentially the same as the Middle European foods that Marc, Mark, Sue and I had had as kids, and we had recommendations from two separate people, so we were interested in seeing if they could accommodate our usual dinner group, which I think they will do quite nicely.

To quote “I like a place that has a very obvious pride for itself. Moldova is a place like this, the people here know how to run it, they look very formal yet inviting, and the food is prepared and plated beautifully. As far as I know, it represents the only restaurant serving Moldovan food in the city, and takes this responsibility very seriously.”

The lights were incandescents, the food was excellent. The service was a bit slow, but that was because they were clearly packed. However, our table of five was able to carry on conversation without yelling, even though most of the larger groups dining that night had large numbers of kids.

The restaurant gets bonus points for a number of reasons. When we arrived, our table was ready, and we were seated, even though our party was not complete. Further, an older lady was waiting for her ride, and when it arrived, three of the employees helped her to the vehicle.

Besides the lighting, one reason we tried the place was its promise of mamaliga (polenta). We got an order of mamaliga with bacon, cheese, and sour cream for the table, as well as the smoked fish platter, which had been recommended by Lisa Braun. Both were good, although the herring on the smoked fish platter was a bit drier than we expected. The butterfish and salmon were excellent.

Marc had fried fish, I tried the rabbit (it tasted like dark meat turkey), Mark had the house special (mamaliga with sour cream and bacon, Sue had the schnitzel with mashed potatoes, and Abby had the chicken. Sue and I had dessert; I opted for the walnut stuffed plums drenched in a chocolate and wine reduction, which was nice, but a bit too sweet – even for me. Sue opted for the chocolate-backed pudding, which turned out to be a fairly huge slice of cake.

If you are planning to go for dinner, especially with a group, you should call them at 718.998.2827 to make reservations.


The pot of soup coming to a boil on the stove is not particularly green, except for the soup greens and extra celery, but it is rich. This pot started with some leftover liquid from the corned beef and cabbage I had made the other day. I had decided that it would be a good base for soup, so I saved it. Today, I skimmed the excess fat off and strained out the pickling spices. I put that in my French Oven, along with a package of soup greens, a cut up butternut squash (thank you, Glasser & Sands), about a pound of cubed beef, an extra onion, and two extra celery stalks. Tossed in a bit of salt, pepper, and cumin, and a box of low sodium beef broth. Added water to cover the solids, and it is now wafting a gorgeous scent across the kitchen. This is going to be soup like my mom and grandma used to make — the pot sitting and barely simmering overnight, with broth or water added as needed. I expect it will actually be a rich stew by the end of the week.

The roomie notes I’ve been on a cooking jag. Yesterday, I made chicken salad out of the leftovers from a rotisserie chicken we had gotten. Chicken salad is easy – just chop up the leftover chicken (remove the skin), add some celery, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and enough mayonnaise or mashed avocado t hold it all together. Sue says her mom, who disliked mayo, used to do it with ketchup instead of mayo. If she had told me before I had put the mayo in, I would have put a bit aside to try it. Oh, well; next time.

I also made a loaf of whole wheat bread. I found a no-knead recipe that turns out a nice, crusty, artisanal loaf using the French Oven. When Glasser dropped off some groceries earlier, I gave him the first slice, and he thought it was pretty good.

The thing is; I like to cook. Before I got sick, I used my newfound ability to turn out tasty stuff to help support my weight loss efforts. After my surgery, however, I could barely stand. I still can’t stand for too long, due to the sciatica and spinal issues, but I’m at a point where I can sit and chop things, and get things out of the cupboards. The roomie is turning into a fairly capable sous chef – handing me the stuff I need and running back and forth between me and the stove to add things when necessary.

I’ve promised my aunt that when I visit her I will do some cooking. Neither of us is rich, and my doing the cooking will pretty much ensure I can stick to my food plan. It also means I can treat my aunt to some good homemade bread – something she says she has never had.

As for today; dinner is some lovely, garlicky chicken salad on a slice of homemade whole wheat bread, and a bowl of my soup, with a bit of parmesan grated over it (I’d’ve put a cheese rind in, ala Rachael Ray, but I don’t have one to hand.)

Johns-Pizzeria-in-New-York-NY-Times-Square_Outside-300x225 Another great place to add to our list of fluorescent-free dining place in and around New York: John’s Pizza of Times Square, 260 West 44th Street. I’ll let Abby’s LJ entry explain it:

“Table for eleven at a theatre district pizzeria:

It started to rain as I got to John’s Pizza, 260 West 44th St., just a block from Times Sq. The northernmost entrance to the A train station was just at the corner. Definitely qualifies for New York, Fluorescent Free. It used to be a church. New York murals on the walls and a lovely stained glass cupola upstairs that looks amazingly like pizza slices. Special Guest Star was Robert Osband (Ozzie) up from Florida on a special mission. Two pizzas (one meat, one veggie) were ordered and a dozen conversations barely heard; ham radio, Revolutionary War re-enactors and personal distance walking records across NYC. Having dinner on Thursday night again harkens back to the old days of NYUSFS.”

johnspizzeria2 Back to me: We were at the double table under the stairs. The food is excellent. I had some of the soup (lentil with bacon), the spinach salad, a slice of the meat pizza, and a delicious dessert called a coppa mascarpone. Sue the Librarian had the spaghetti Bolognese and said it was delicious. Cindy devoured her chicken marsala. Desserts were tasted by several people – in addition to mine, Sue had the chocolate souffle with gelato, Nina had the pyramid (chocolate mousse), Fred C had the cheesecake. Nancy had the tiramisu. Sue had regular coffee, Nancy and I went for cappuccino (it was delicious). The lighting was acceptable to our resident photomyoclonic disorder sufferer. Even better, they were able to easily accommodate eleven people without a reservation (you need to make a reservation for 15 or more people). The pizza was reasonably priced: the meat pizza came to $3.57/slice and the veggie pizza was $3.25/slice. The wait staff was very helpful, bringing extra plates, bowls and spoons so that the salads, soups, and dessert could be shared. The one downside is that they only do pies – no slices – so go with a few friends or be prepared to take home a lot of pizza.

I don’t often admit to having weaknesses. It’s partly a “badass” thing; partly just stubborn. However, this week has been really rough.

I’m feeling stuck in so many places and ways that it’s not funny.

First, the PT is at a point where the upper body stuff is working just fine. However, the lower body stuff, which is not cardiac related, really, is not doing so well. I’ve gained a bit of weight — up to 286.4 lbs. as of this morning — and I feel it. Whenever I can’t do something at PT, the therapist just nudges me about my weight. Yeah, I have to lose the weight again; I know that. But that’s a long-term project, and it will take the time it takes. Constantly pressing me about it is not gonna help. It seems that everyone who knows me knows that except the PT, though.

The recent spate of deaths hasn’t helped. Robin Williams suicide was devastating to me for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being his age, and that he’d been battling depression. And even though Joan Rivers was 81, her death really threw me for a loop, as it has many people, partly because she was so full of life and energy. The death of an online friend in her 30’s from surgery very similar to mine has not helped, either. Nor did the death of fan/writer/filker Roger Clendenning, at age 44, also from complications of heart surgery. I know death is inevitable, but it’s been hitting far too close to home in far too many instances.

My sister and my aunt are still at war with each other, although I have mostly managed to stay out of that. But they are each saying the same things about the other one, and it’s kind of weird to listen to. My aunt is feeling not so great – she has nerve issues similar to my sciatica. Because she’s 91, her doctors are not rushing to operate, and she is very unhappy that her mobility is even more restricted than it used to be, not to mention being in pain. My sister is also having physical issues,

And the final straw on the last month or so has been watching my oldest friend (not Naomi – this is the surviving friendship that went back all the way to my sophomore year of high school) go through getting a breast cancer diagnosis and not being able to be there for her because of a misunderstanding on her part because of something she thinks I did. See, after my surgery, I had told my ex that she was the first person to call, because she was so important to me. He did so, and when she went on for a bit about how she had helped me by doing research before the surgery, my ex listened quietly. She decided that this meant I had been badmouthing her — something even my sister acknowledges I would never do, especially not to this friend — and refuses to even listen to me. I left her a Facebook message, and now the ball is in her court, but the sad truth is that if she knows that little about me after 47 years, the only thing I can do is let her go and wish her the best. However, it hurts like hell.

This doesn’t mean there are not good things in my life. I have other friends, many of whom I can lean on for just about anything. I am getting my health back, although the process i a heck of a lot slower than I want it to be. My roommate continues to be willing to put up with me. I’m about to turn 62, something that – until my surgery in March – was looking less and less likely.

Please don’t take this entry wrong. I am not looking for sympathy. I’m merely recording what is going on with me, which I did promise I would do about the recovery process. To omit the not pretty part would do the journey less than justice. Really, the journey so far has been largely a good one, although way too slow for my taste. I just don’t want to whitewash over the not so good parts, lest I forget that there are times when it *is* a struggle.



It’s really been a good while since I posted, but life has been, well,  life.

On 21 May, I started cardiac rehab at Lutheran Medical Center. At first,they had me going twice a week, but  — two weeks ago — that got changed to three time a week. This is a good thing; it means they think I can do more now.

Today, however, I have done something that I have not been able to do since the surgery. I got up and got myself the two and two-thirds blocks to the express bus, and took admit into Manhattan. I am, in fact, at the Starbucksat 49th Street and Madison Avenue, waiting for my friend Nancy to let me know she is almost here. (Nancy is doing me the great kindness of taking me to the  cousins’ get-together this afternoon, since my sister isn’t going.) I’m trying one of their new iced tea concoctions – Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade. It’s pretty good, too.

I’m pretty happy about getting here. Granted the walk to the bus that normally takes five minutes took me twenty this morning, because I had to stop and rest about once per block, but still…a month ago, I couldn’t have gotten that far at all, let alone carrying my bag and the motorcycle helmet Nancy loaned me.

Speaking of “carrying”: I still have to consider every ounce I bring when I leave the house. The good news, however, is that – with a lot of help from the ex – I have also been able to do some light grocery shopping, and some other local errands. He was even kind enough to invite me to a barbecue last weekend.

In not so great news, the roomie had to head to California yesterday. Her best friend has decided to stop going to dialysis, and to stop using the oxygen prescribed for her.  The mutual friend who has been acting as caretaker since April had to go back home to handle some stuff within his own family, so the roomie is out there, and will remain there until either the mutual friend can make it back or her friend passes. Needless to say, the roomie is really rattled by this.

I am now at a point where I am looking at trying to blog on a more regular basis. I am not sure yet just what that will look like, but I am looking forward to finding out.

Anyway, I just wanted to do a short update here to celebrate having gotten to Manhattan under my own steam for the first time since the surgery.


It is with great sorrow that I take a break from my usual topics to report the death of one of the greatest men I have ever met, Richard P. Havens, better known to the world as Richie Havens.  He passed away today at age 72, from a heart attack.

I met him a number of times over the years, always brilliant and always optimistic. He was man things – folksinger, interpreter of others’ songs, artist, writer, educator…far too many lifetimes for a kid from the not-so-good part of Brooklyn.

My favorite song of his is “Follow,” although he totally floored me at one Nassau Community College Folk Festival concert by singing Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away” totally a cappella. It  floored me so much, in fact, that Glasser and Nina Bogin, who were at the concert with me were worried because I totally couldn’t speak for a bit after that.  I was just totally blown away by his interpretation.

I’ve been a fan of his for years, and I have no problem admitting that.  I remember seeing him in the folk clubs in the Village, when I was just starting to hang out there.  His presence on stage was always riveting.

At some point, at a different NCCFF, Marc asked him about his omission of the song “Handsome Johnny,” and he admitted that he was getting tired of having to add new verses.

Marc and I last saw him a couple of years ago, at a concert he did at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  He looked much as he always did – a tall man with somewhat regal bearing, however his voice seemed a bit off, and he was having trouble remembering lyrics. At that point, we agreed that we would not go to any more of his concerts, because we both loved him enough that neither of us wanted to see him deteriorate further.  Shortly after that, I heard that he was going to stop performing, because he was not able to recover fully from some kidney surgery.

When the news came on, at 5 pm, it was the first story they mentioned. I screamed loudly enough that the roomie came running.  I’m still crying as I type this.

Havens was the first performer at Woodstock, a tireless worker to educate children, a fighter for fair trade, and a wonderful self-taught artist and guitar player with a very distinctive style of fingering.

For years, his voice meant hope for me – a battered kid from Queens – and I will deeply miss that voice; almost as much as I miss my mother’s voice.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Havens.  You will be missed.

Haven’t eaten much today – haven’t done much, either.

Yesterday’s housefilk was really good, and I really needed to have friends around, so I was glad to do it.

Today, I had mostly veggies, because that was pretty much what my gut felt like handling. I also had some juice, since I seem to want primarily cold drinks at the moment. To minimize the points used, I tend to cut my juice with diet ginger ale — one of the very few times I use soda.

Other than that, not much has been doing. I’m resting a lot these days, but I suspect that’s still recovery from being in the hospital for three days.

Anyway, I think I’m gonna go and head back to bed – been sitting up for a couple of hours now, and being kind to myself is the rule of the day now.

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