BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
There is irony in the fact that, as my husband was being prepped for heart surgery to replace his clogged arteries, my own thoughts turned to milkshakes.
We’d had a rough couple of days that week in late April. Returning from a trip to Indy to meet a friend at the airport, we found our house had been burglarized. Three small frantic dogs tried to tell us all about it, but they were unable to provide sufficient detail for the cops to ID a suspect. We lost a lot of precious stuff. The next morning my husband awoke to an infuriating work-related email. Within minutes of reading it he told me his chest was feeling a little tight. Deciding we weren’t exactly riding a wave of good luck, I gave him an aspirin to chew, called an ambulance, and we headed to IU Health Bloomington Hospital for what turned out to be a quadruple bypass.
For the first two days, my stomach refused to entertain the notion of food. Even when a dear friend made me the best mac ’n’ cheese ever, I could choke down only a few bites. As I was sitting in the waiting room trying not to imagine my husband’s heart literally in the hands of his surgeon, another friend texted me, “Can I bring you something to eat?” About to say what I had said repeatedly, that I just wasn’t hungry, a childhood craving stopped me. “What I’d really love is a milkshake,” I texted back.
As every kid knows, there isn’t a misfortune on the planet that isn’t made a teensy bit better by a milkshake. Within an hour, cold, creamy comfort had arrived. Rich and chocolaty, thick and icy, the shake demanded nothing of me but a hefty slurp through the straw. That milkshake, smooth and soothing like an inside-out hug, turned out to be the first of many that week. When you are in trouble, it is the mark of a very good friend indeed who will keep you steadily supplied with milkshakes without complaint or reminders that it was just this sort of consumption that was responsible for the hospital visit in the first place.
Even my husband was given milkshake privileges by his doctors to tempt his appetite back to normal. In those early post-surgery days, we sampled the work of every Bloomington milkshake maker we could find and, believe me, this town has some very fine milkshake shops (I am especially looking at you, Chocolate Moose!).
With husband safe at home, I tried making shakes myself. Although my efforts ended up on the melty side (friends who know say my Vitamix over-processes the ice cream), we made chocolate malts, strawberry shakes, orange-sherbet freezes, and a vanilla-caramel malt that was rich and foamy and just this side of heaven.
But one cannot, alas, live on milkshakes forever. Now the healing process is well underway. My husband is feeling good, cardiac rehab has begun, and I have started to think about lowering my own high cholesterol levels. The time of daily milkshakes is past, but that’s okay. Their work is done. It’s summertime and the local berries and peaches will soon be sweet and ripe. I am thinking that thick and tart yogurt smoothies are just what the doctor ordered.
To read more by Christine Barbour, visit her blog, My Plate or Yours? (July 16 note: Christine is currently blogging about her experiences while traveling in Europe.)