Jan 28 2006

My Bland and Frozen Hell

One of the many untoward effects of my chemotherapy is that it has afflicted my tongue and delicate esophageal tissues with a highly disagreeable intolerance for anything the slightest bit piquant. At first I rebelled, but eventually, for the sake of my stomach lining, I had to cave. Wine, even really good wine, causes spasms of pain. Delicious tacos: a no-go. Ginger, salt, pepper, garlic, onions, chile: negatory.

Yup. I’m on a Bland Diet. Which poses serious problems, since I don’t know how to drink anything except really good wine, and I don’t know how to cook anything without ginger, salt, pepper, garlic, onions, or chile. And neither does any chef within a 40-mile radius of Austin.

Yesterday I was too lazy to go to the grocery store, and too bushed to go out to dinner, and the thought of another plate of buttered egg noodles made my left eye twitch. Hunger pangs eventually drove me to fish around in the Twisty freezer until I found this: Vegetarian Meatloaf Dinner. I put on a hazmat suit, lifted it out with tongs, and held it at arm’s length for inspection. It appeared guaranteed to have no flavor whatsoever. I turned on the oven.

Here’s what it looked like on the box:

Here’s what it looked like when I took it out of the box:

Here’s what it looked like 45 minutes at 400 degrees later:

I will spare you a description of the “meatloaf’s” flavor and texture, lest you weep uncontrollably for the epicurean in me dying a slow, screaming death.


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  1. Jezebella

    Oh, bless your heart! Even the vegetarian MRE’s I had to eat after the hurricane looked (and probably tasted) better than that. Of course, without electricity, I was eating by candlelight, so I didn’t have to look too closely at anything I was eating. Try putting it on a plate and turning out the lights. It might help.

  2. virgotex


    The horror…. The horror….

    if I could I’d send you a big melty slice of my butternut squash/basil lasagne (essentially it’s a gratin with lasagne noodles) but even with broadband, the mozzarella would just gum up the works.

  3. Buffalo Gal

    Oh, Twisty! In all your ordeals, I always had faith that you would prevail. The Bland Diet Vegan FrozenThingDinnerItem is beyond even your powers. Good egg noodles with butter and maybe a splurge of cream and a tiny smidge of herb or cheese might be a way to get needed calories into you.

  4. Les

    When my mom was getting her head irradiated, I remember reading something about zinc helping cure problems with taste buds or something associated with cancer treatment, but it might have been just for taste buds that zonked out after being bombarded with radiation.

    I’d go google this for you, but it would make me all maudlin, so I won’t.

  5. SF Knitter

    Aw, T.

  6. Hattie

    Here are some goood bland things: flan, banana splits, avocado, smoothies.

  7. CafeSiren

    Virgotex —

    Have you considered substituting sage for the basil? And throwing in some crushed hazelnuts? I made just such a lasagnae, with a bechamel instead of tomato sauce typical of lasagnae, as a festive holiday meal, and it was yummy. And Twisty could leave out the small amount of onion & garlic.

  8. virgotex

    CafeSiren- sounds like a very similiar recipe. Great for the holidays, no?

    This one uses a bechamel sauce too- the basil is blended into it. No tomatoes for miles around. Mine doesn’t use any garlic or onions, which makes it nice for someone with an “off” tummy , but the sage might be a little overboard in such a quiet recipe. I might try sage in a spicier version though.

  9. Jo

    Here’s a tip:

    nuke corn.

    add mayo.

    maybe a little lime juice.

    and some mild chile powder, if your mouth and such can handle it.

    Presto! Elotes!

    Meanwhile, mashed taters sans skins but with good cream and butter make good stomatitis food. So does mac-and-chee, my own recipe. If I were closer, I’d do it for you.

    Poor TF.

  10. kathy a

    well, it looks like virgotex and cafesiren have almost volunteered to fed-x you meals. or at least they could post the recipes…

    but in the meantime, stalk the freezer aisle for sales and try a variety of frozen stuff. i’m thinking that smallish pasta or rice meals [where it all gets mixed after heating] might work out better. but that’s my bias — frozen stuff in 3 glumps doesn’t heat well or look good.

  11. CafeSiren

    My recipe came off of Epicurious — just do a search for: butternut squash lasagne (yes, that’s how they spell it)

    The dish is incredibly rich, though, so I’m not sure how that would work on the Twisty innards.

  12. bitchphd


    I vote for oatmeal with banana. Cook the banana with the oatmeal. As blandish foods go, it’s not at all bad.

  13. Arwen

    Awww, Twisty. That’s just not fair.

  14. Kaka Mak

    You’re gettin’ a bit ‘shrill’ on that poor meatloaf, Twisty.

  15. sunny in texas

    i was about to suggest a good chicken fried steak with mashed red potatoes, well buttered, and a thick cream gravy ladled over all, but i completely forgot about the black pepper all over it.

    and damn, that goes for the biscuits and gravy idea too. lots of butter can make up for a lack of salt, but i don’t know what can replace fresh coarse ground black pepper…

    mind if i send you a hug instead?

  16. virgotex

    I thought about posting the recipe but i’m sort of new and it felt very very forward to post a recipe in the twisty domain. I was skeert

  17. Mandos

    Here is my recipe for Beef Stroganoff. Alas, my food photography skills are not as good as Twisty’s.


    It’ll still taste good without the garlic, onions, and chilis, I suspect (alas I also can hardly cook anything without these things). Also I don’t recommend mixing the pasta and sauce all at once at the beginning—my hosts at the potluck I went to did so, and it’s not the greatest idea. Also, unlike what people report for most stroganoff recipes, this actually tastes best on the first day.

  18. norbizness

    My most hated of loafs!

  19. Ron Sullivan

    Oh dear gods. You have my horrified sympathy. I’d rather lose a tit than my tastebuds. (Or what’s left of my cast-iron stomach.)

    This is temporary, right? When this whold nonfucking mess is over, can we pass the hat to fly Twisty out to SF and thereabouts for seriously hot food? Not Mexican, necessarily. Just, you know, foody.

  20. Amber

    Oh, Twisty I am so sorry you had to go through that tragic dinner. Somehow, I bet chemo was easier for you than eating that was.

  21. Sal

    Ugh! The indignity.
    I have a new dinner-substitute for nights like that: frozen vegetarian fake-chicken nuggets. They come in a frozen plastic sack or a tub; each nugget is about 1″x2″x1/3″. You put them on a cookie sheet in the oven for 15 minutes and they come out crispy and ready to be dunked in the sauce of your choice (maybe something creamy, for you?). They’re perfect for a no-thinking, customizable-spiciness, customizable-amount shot of protein. The texture is dry, not inappropriately gooey like a lot of microwaved frozen food. They’re not fine cuisine, but they are good utilitarian food.

  22. Lorenzo

    My God Twisty. You have my deepest sympathy as a fellow foodie!

  23. belledame222

    Ah, that is truly insult to injury. Very, very sorry.

    Is lemon problematic also? Lime? Paprika? Other, non “spicy” herbs like tarragon or rosemary? (Baked chicken with tarragon is delicious). Can you snip a little chive in lieu of the harsher yellow onions and garlic?

    I know when my mom was on chemo she developed a lasting intolerance for anything with too much vinegar, and a temporary delight in cottage cheese, along with many other dairy products. She said it felt a bit like being pregnant in that regard.

    Laurie Colwin has some good recipes/techniques that might suit your needs in her books “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking.” Also, they’re just nice to read.

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