Husband's kidney failure leads to whole new way of cooking

by: COURTESY OF ISABEL TORREY - PECKING OUT NEW RECIPES - Annie serves as a therapy hen in the Torrey household, and when she isn't outside in the Hen Hilton, she helps Isabel choose new recipes to try.This will not be the "Christmas piece" you're probably expecting because another subject has taken priority at the Torrey house.

A couple of months ago, Lawrence's nephrologist told him, "You have kidney failure. You're due for dialysis, three times a week, four hours each session."

When the curious ask, "What caused his failure?" I answer, "I don't know-I think it started when Eve ate that apple." (This usually stops further questioning.)

Before this diagnosis, I'd associated the word "kidney" with "bathroom" and don't normally use the word in polite conversation. I'd never even given much thought to what kidneys do.

Other than filtering impurities from the body's blood, I wasn't aware these ailing organs have malicious food enemies: particularly potassium. And phosphorus. (In my high school chemistry class, "phosphorus" was an element that glowed in the dark.)

Watching Lawrence undergo his first dialysis session freaked me out - his blood exiting his arteries through pencil-thick, clear-plastic tubes; returning, cleansed, into his veins.

He is weighed before - and after - each session. Following dialysis, he's about two pounds lighter because of the extracted impurities!

What a marvelous machine this is!

The nephrologist's nurse handed us a diet marked with a huge X over things Lawrence shouldn't eat. These included most everything from apricots to zucchini. Between these A to Z items were cheese, chocolate, coffee, milk, nuts, peanut butter, potatoes, tomatoes, salt…

"Permissables" include a few veggies, fewer fruits, rice, rice milk…

She recommended a cookbook, "Renal Recipes," which I bought, browsed, then jotted a list of needed-grocery items - previously unknown in our house - and headed to the store.

I assumed "rice milk" was in the dairy section on aisle 32. The clerk said, "No, it's on aisle 1." I trekked the store's length. There it was - sitting on a shelf beside the Post Toasties.

Another question, "Where are egg whites?" "Aisle 33 - by the cottage cheese and egg cartons."

Several hours later - with a filled shopping cart and an empty wallet - I concluded: Finding all this foreign-to-me stuff is good exercise. But to handle this new life, I need therapy.

"Pets are good therapy," they say, but the only pet at our house is a chicken, "Annie," who's bonded with us.

She's 12 years old, no longer lays eggs (she hit hen menopause six months ago), receives retirement benefits while residing in her own backyard Hen Hilton.

Annie enjoys an occasional outing: being brought inside and lap-held. So when I faced the challenge of cooking suitable meals using foreign-to-me ingredients, it required pet therapy.

"Time for you to step in," I told Annie. I plunked hen, cookbook and me in the rocker, and after getting a good cadence going, I opened "Renal Recipes."

Entrée titles baffled me, so I told Annie, "Peck (no, not a typo - peck is correct) one for tonight's meal."

She opened a drowsy eye, obediently dropped her beak which landed on "Basil, Bagel, Bread Pudding."

"Sounds promising," I said. She returned to her Hilton while I chopped bagels, bread slices and fresh herbs, glugged egg whites from the carton, sprinkled on Mrs. Dash's seasoning (no salt, remember?), and slid the concoction into the oven.

At least the title sounded promising. But even Annie wouldn't eat the finished product.


Yet, there's good news: that original list of no-no foods was 15 years old when such information was aimed at those with complete kidney failure. Recent findings give more leeway.

Since Lawrence's kidneys still partially function, we were told, "You can tolerate a little of most no-nos - just don't go overboard."

Now I use many of my own recipes by simply substituting certain questionable ingredients with acceptable ones to make them tasty.

© Copyright 2013 by Isabel Torrey, a King City resident and columnist.

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