I am extremely fond of garlic and particularly enjoy greens sautéed with garlic and bouillon. Three or four times a week, I sauté a whole bunch of collard greens or dinosaur kale, using perhaps four cloves of garlic. This is a lot of garlic to mince, so I acquired a small electric grinder for processing the whole week’s supply of garlic all at once. It’s perfectly fine in a plastic container in the fridge; some like to add olive oil.
Then I read that it’s really best to eat garlic raw, and, for maximum health benefits, within 10 minutes of mincing or pressing it. A few months ago, I had a cold or some other symptom that the Internet suggested chewing and swallowing a raw clove of garlic for. I decided to give it a try and chewed up a whole clove of garlic, and, with my body screaming, “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!”, I swallowed it, to immediate and major ill effect.
That I will never do again, but after reading about the 10-minute thing, I decided to try mincing a clove of garlic and putting it on top of olive oil toast. This was not bad tasting and was tolerable to the stomach, but it also gave me a headache and a very dry mouth. I tried it again a couple of days later and the exact same thing happened. It actually seemed that this one clove of garlic had dried out my entire system, including my brain. I always drink a lot of water, but had to greatly step up my intake to try to ease my dry mouth.
So, raw garlic seems to be out, and it’s probably logistically impossible to eat garlic within 10 minutes of its being minced or pressed, since it takes me longer than that to prepare my scrumptious sautéed greens, but I figured it would be good if I minced garlic just before starting to cook my greens rather than to use garlic from the refrigerator that might have been minced several days prior, though I’m sure that’s still better than eating a doughnut.
Accordingly, I acquired a small version of an OXO chopper that I have found very satisfactory for nuts, and also a Garlic Twist, a really pleasing, very low-tech item made out of translucent plastic that you bang on your garlic clove to loosen the skin and then use to mince the garlic. This thing is brilliant and it works very well, but even freshly minced garlic was now seeming too strong.
Meanwhile, a fatigue had been creeping up on me, and for about a week, I had pain in my stomach after eating. Once that abated, I noticed a lot of bloating after eating and my appetite fell off markedly. Somewhere along in there, I had the two garlic-related episodes of dry mouth and headaches, and then I got even more tired, such that I could hardly get up a flight of stairs. I announced to F. that I was starting to look forward to getting a cancer diagnosis so I could lie in a hospital bed with a nice nurse to take care of me.
Then, on a Sunday afternoon when I’d drunk glass after glass of water still trying to get rid of my dry mouth, I noticed that my pee was pumpkin colored.
I looked online a bit and concluded that somehow I might have done something to my kidneys. I called my doctor’s office and got the number of the 24-hour nurse, who advised having it checked out that same day, either at urgent care or the emergency room. I went in a cab to the emergency room at Davies, which is a nice, calm place with no wait.
I felt unbelievably lousy and lying in a hospital bed with a nurse fussing over me was just as great as I’d pictured. The doctor came in and I told him my various symptoms. I could tell he thought I was a hypochondriac, which I am. He said the only thing he could really observe was perhaps a touch of malaise. They took a urine sample and pronounced it normal. I found out later that, despite the odd color, it was actually even better than normal, very dilute.
Then they drew some blood, and the doctor came in again, seeming much more engaged, and said there was nothing wrong with my kidneys, but there was something wrong with my liver. He asked if it hurt here or there in my abdomen, and if I’d noticed that the whites of my eyes were yellow. This I had not noticed, and in fact, the whites of my eyes and my skin were not yellow. The bilirubin in my blood was elevated enough to cause the weird pee color, but not enough to cause jaundice. The doctor sent me to have a CT scan with dye to see if there was a mass in my pancreas.
In the past couple of years, the father of a friend of mine died of pancreatic cancer, which has a poor prognosis. I lay on my comfy hospital bed reflecting that someone was going to come into the room and say either that I had a mass in my pancreas or that I didn’t. If the former, I was probably going to die, so I thought about what I needed to do before dying: make a will, so my sisters don’t pay a fortune in estate taxes. Find a top-notch home for Hammett. I’d want to spend my final weeks or months with my parents, lying in a La-Z-Boy in their media room. And that’s about it. I concluded I was ready to die, if necessary. Actually, I felt even a touch of relief at how simple life had (potentially) become.
Nonetheless, I was not displeased when the doctor came back and said I did not have a mass in either my liver or my pancreas and therefore I either had hepatitis or a gallstone. I took a cab home and called my father to report on the evening’s events. I was at the hospital from about 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. My father is up off and on around the clock and was awake when I called, though when I asked, “Are you awake?”, he answered, “Now I am,” because that’s the only correct answer to that question after a certain hour.