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Spo-fans know Urs Truly is working on a cookbook. The tome is not exquisite nor original but pragmatic. It is to be a collection of my favorite recipes, which are presently scattered throughout a my cookbook collection. Some examples: Mother’s gingerbread is located in her church’s women’s cookbook. When Someone makes a pot pie, that recipe is in a  Betty Crocker cookbook. James Beard American cooking Cookbook has my recipe for Jam cake. You get the gist.  It would be nice to have them all in one book for easy reference.

Every year since I was a little boy Mother’s side gathers on the same summer weekend for a family reunion. Everyone brings food of course, and someone always makes a layer salad. This same dish, timeless and unaltered, has graced the buffet table for over 50 years. I want that recipe in my book, although I have never made it myself. “To the research” as my colleague says.

I soon became overwhelmed by the myriad of variations of this recipe. There are 5, 7, and even 9 layer versions. Throw in the recipes titled ‘Layered salad’ and there are enough to make one every night for years without a repeat. Oh the pain. Which one was is closest to the one in my memory? I’ve had it many times but never stopped to consider the ingredients.  Stinko.

Then I came to my senses. Nearly all my Facebook ‘friends’ are relations, so I posted the question which relation on Mother’s side makes this or who has the recipe.[1] It finally got around my mother’s cousin’s wife, Aunt Gail who is the maker of the dish. [2] She sent me the recipe, which I duplicated without editing :

Layered Salad:

1 head chopped lettuce 

3-4 stalks of celery finely chopped

2-3 carrots finely chopped

1 can drained sliced water chestnuts
1 small onion finely chopped
1 small bag frozen peas
(layer these items in pan, then spread top with mixture)
2 cups mayo
2 Tbs. sugar
(cover and let set in refrig. overnight…then add)
3-4 large tomatoes sliced thin
4-5 boiled eggs sliced thin
1 jar bacon bits
shake on Parmesan Cheese

This lovely dish captures the urtext of Midwestern cuisine. I plan to make it as soon as I am off my diet and I plan to eat it all myself. [3]

Meanwhile, other female relations on both side of my family tree sent me their versions of this mercurial entree.  Cousin/Aunt Joy sent me this one:

18556190_10206998591522938_5180152857692985592_n.jpg

What I adore most about this is the nostalgia of the typewrite on an index card, which is stained no doubt from use. I particularly find charming it the dropped letters.  The typist got to the end, made a typewriter boo-boo, and decided it was good enough and not worth typing the card over again.  The typist (probably her mother, my father’s cousin) had to compact the directions for the sake of space, hoping one would intuit the directions. I plan on making this one too; I am curious to see which better floats my boat, as it were. I suspect both will be enjoyable. [4] After all, there is nothing as comforting as food with family history as its main ingredient. It may not be haute cuisine but it made with love. [5]

Spo fans who have fabulous layer salads (7 or otherwise) are invited to share their recipe in the comment section.  I would be blithe to have them. 

 

layered salad

 

[1] A clever-dick Spo-fan from Canada, noticed for his good looks and wit, left the comment in his house 7-layer salad is called lasagna.

[2] I knew this but I had forgotten. Mother keeps in touch with all her cousins of which she has plenty. I used to know them all but now I get them confused. Just hate that.

[3] I will have to eat it all myself for Someone is highly adverse to mayonnaise and I don’t think using sour cream or yogurt will do the dish justice.

[4] I am already conjuring up my own Urspo-layer salad, using the best bits of each and with possible add-ons and higher quality ingredients – no rubbish.

[5] And maybe made with a slightly altered version that has a secret ingredient one keeps to oneself so the others can never make  it quite as good as you. 🙂

I got a request from a Spo-fan (who is well over four feet) to write about bipolar depression. Here are some basics.

Clinical depression comes in various types. “Unipolar” depression is the mood condition in which people go between states of depression and feeling OK/normal (rather than feeling happy). “Bipolar depression” as the name suggests means sometimes the moods go up and beyond ‘OK” into what is sometimes referred to as mania. In a manic mood state the person often feels euphoric with high energy; they sometimes feel they can do anything. They often do reckless activities such as driving too fast, spending money, or sexually act out – all in ways they would not do in a calmer mood. In a bipolar depression there is often irritable and labile mood swings, talking too loud a/or too fast, and little or no sleep.

The old term for bipolar depression is manic-depression. Either term is used by patients but clinicians tend to use the former.

Discriminating unipolar from bipolar depression is quite challenging, for the mood conditions fall on a spectrum rather than in clear either/or categories. I spend a lot of my job trying to figure out a patient’s depression type. Sometimes it takes years before someone is properly diagnosed with a bipolar depression, having had first a long time of being diagnosed and treated as unipolar. It makes a crucial difference to get the right diagnosis, for the treatments  are different. If I give a person with bipolar depression the wrong type of medicine, the prescription could actually make them worse or manic.

Alas, people don’t fall cleanly into clean either/or categories; bipolar depression is seldom clear cut. When I was trained only thems with ‘classic’ manic periods – followed by depressive states – were diagnosed ‘bipolar’. Now we know the majority of bipolar patients do not fit into this classic definition.

Sometimes a patient tells me once upon at time they took an antidepressant and it made them worse. This is a sign for me to sit up and consider the possibility of a bipolar type depression.

Lithium used to be the one and only Rx for bipolar depression. There are many others now, although lithium remains the ‘gold standard’. It’s a tough medication to take, and thems with ‘atypical’ or ‘mixed states’  or ‘rapid cycling’ types of bipolar depression don’t respond to lithium as well as ‘garden-variety manic depression” viz. clear and clean manic episodes.

It used to be people with bipolar depression were missed and underdosed. Now the pendulum has swung the other way and too many moody/irritable unipolar depressed folks are being diagnosed with bipolar type depression. Ironically, thems with true bipolar depression are still not being identified and treated.

There are no good physical exam findings or brain scans or blood work tests to make the diagnosis easy (at least not yet). There are some relatively good screening tests a doctor can do to help screen for such. In the end it is the history and timeline – and an expert like Urs Truly (hohoho) – to make the diagnosis. Even then I have to be mindful do I have the proper diagnosis or not.

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