Saturday, September 5, 2009


At first we glowed with satisfaction when we saw an impressive write-up about our favorite hideaway Italian restaurant in a trendy Parisian magazine. Reading it, we could almost taste the sun-ripened tomatoes and smell the fresh basil. The appreciative review confirmed that yes, we did have good addresses and, yes, we were among those-who-know.

Then it dawned on us that the favorable publicity might attract more customers than our cozy restaurant could handle.  Look what happened to Peter Mayle, that English writer who gave away all of his best addresses in the books he wrote about French Provence, only to see his favorite haunts be invaded by swarms of English tourists picking lavender and looking for goat cheese. He finally had to pack his bags and leave the south of France.

Nobody in his right mind wants to see his favorite eating spot become so popular that he has trouble getting a table. Eating out was one of our greatest shared pleasures, and with our health problems an Italian Mediterranean menu was just what the doctor ordered--for both of us. My husband and I both had cancer.

My husband's cancer had been diagnosed back in the United States on a visit home. His American doctors gave him a prognosis of no better than six months without effective treatment. Once back in France, his French doctors almost made it a point of national pride to keep him alive, which they did for a long time.

Midway through his seven-year remission, my cancer was diagnosed. It was an easy case with early detection,  rapid treatment and a good prognosis. Our doctors were not the most expensive, nor did they work in the swankiest clinics, but we felt they were the best we could have found. With medical visits multiplied by two, we saw so much of our shared physicians that we began to feel, well, clubbish about them.

Then one day when we heard a rumor that a highly-publicized celebrity had consulted our doctors, we suddenly felt like we did when we saw that restaurant review. Although if we glowed this time, it would have been more likely from radiation than from satisfaction.

Would this mean that our already-overworked doctors had been "discovered" and would become overnight sensations? Would they be in so much demand that we would have trouble getting comfortable seats in the waiting room, let alone appointments for our turns to climb up onto the examining table?

"Well, there goes the waiting room," I lamented.

The more we thought about it, the more we fretted. But by the grace of another affliction from which we both suffered--we were terminal wags--our qualms were soothed by a dose of humor. Maybe we'd do our elbow-rubbing and knee-knocking at one and the same place.

So the next time you have to sit in the hallway outside a full waiting room, you can tell this joke: "Why is a good doctor like a good restaurant? ... It's hard to get a table!"

This article originally appeared in Coping with Cancer Magazine, Nov-Dec 2004. 

Antipasto at home 
This quick and easy antipasto inspired from our Italian hideaway looks gourmet, but without the fuss. A colorful showy one-dish supper, you can prepare it ahead of time and keep it chilled in the fridge.
Light and delicious, you can play with the proportions depending on your appetite and diet.

All you need are:

Several slices of thinly sliced mortadella
3 or 4 sliced tomatoes
Buffalo mozzarella cheese, sliced in wedges
Fine green beans, fresh or frozen, cooked tender-crisp and cooled
One lemon, cut in half
Virgin olive oil
Fresh basil
Herbal salt
Italian breadsticks (or equivalent)

Prepare each plate individually by alternating the cheese and tomato slices, arranged next to the green beans and mortadella--either rolled or loosely folded over itself. Add a lemon half to give tang and color. Just before serving, drizzle with a fine stream of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with snipped basil. May be seasoned with herbal salt and accompanied by Italian breadsticks.




  1. I had a similar experience with my acupuncturist. She was straight from China and hardly spoke English, but she got my chi moving. Then people found out about her and sure enough appointments got harder and harder to get.

  2. I bet you were on pins and needles! PBL