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|One of the joys of dinner is a simple salad with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.|
Today -- a month after I left Englewood Hospital and Medical Center -- I saw the cardiac surgeon who sawed open my breastbone and replaced one of my heart valves.
My next stop was Jerry's Gourmet and More, a couple of miles away, to pick up a prepared fish dinner and a bottle of red wine from Italy to toast my good health.
At Jerry's, I passed up the salami samples, but tried several pieces of cheese.
In the back of the store, where I sipped two wine samples, I ran into a couple I had seen in the hospital's cardiac-surgery department, and recommended an inexpensive balsamic vinegar to them.
Before I saw Dr. Adam G. Arnofsky, who listened to my heart and commented favorably on the healing of my 9-inch scar, I got a brief physical from another staff member.
Frances Vela-Cantos, a nurse practitioner, reaffirmed my cardiac arteries were in good condition and required no bypasses during the Sept. 16 operation to repair my heart murmur.
I told her I stopped eating meat in February 2010 and ate a lot of seafood, salads, whole grains and vegetables -- such as a recent dinner of whole-wheat spaghetti and sardines in red sauce with an organic spring mix salad and wine.
She cautioned me about high-cholesterol shellfish, but said I could have meat or poultry once a month.
At Jerry's, I sampled a few cheeses, then went over to the refrigerated case for one of the store's Meals To Go -- 12 ounces of beautifully balanced, restaurant-quality food for only $6.99.
According to the label, my dinner has tilapia al pesto, shells al pomodoro, brussels sprouts, escarole salad and a stuffed mushroom. My mouth is watering.
My other purchases were:
Two 16.9-ounce bottles of Ponti-brand Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, made without artificial color, for $1.99 each. This was the brand I was served everywhere I went in northern Italy last year.
Lavazza-brand Crema e Aroma coffee beans from Italy for my espresso machine were $19.99 for 2.2 pounds. And my bottle of Montepulciano D'Abruzzo wine cost under $6.
Since I left the hospital on Sept. 20, I've been chafing under the guidelines for my recovery, feeling one set of rules shouldn't be applied equally to an active senior like me and other, more sedentary surgery patients in their 70s and 80s.
For example, I was told not to drive for a month, but found that impractical and lasted less than two weeks in the back seat of my wife's car, with a folded pillow under my seat belt to protect my healing femur.
Today, Vela-Cantos said I shouldn't lift more than 5 pounds with one arm for another few weeks. That would rule out any food shopping, especially at Costco Wholesale.
I've cut down but haven't completely eliminated food shopping, and always try to use two arms to lift items into and out of my basket.
In a few hours, I'll plate my tilapia dinner and heat it in the microwave, uncork the wine and prepare a simply green salad with extra-virgin olive oil and Primo balsamic vinegar.
Every bite, every sip will remind this survivor of how important good food and drink is to health and to life.
Jerry's Gourmet and More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood; 201-871-7108.