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Sorry folks, but I have been knocked down, dragged across a cobblestone street and run over by an ox and its cart due to my own desire for a Reuben Sandwich. From my own kitchen. Made with my own two hands and unfortunately, a bottle of Thousand Island Dressing that I forgot to refrigerate promptly after using the night before.

The ensuing food poisoning has left me weak and still sick, although ten pounds lighter (which I know will be regained once I can retain some of what I am eating and drinking). There is no fever and everyday there is some improvement so there is no reason for medical assistance (although it was touch and go for a while last week), but I have been unable to focus on any mystery outside of why I did it, much less write coherently.  

I hope to be back to normal next Monday, but I can't promise anything. The older we get, the slower recovery becomes.

It never would have happened had Ed still been alive. He was 22 years older than I was, and I was always aware of his age and his medical conditions (on Coumadin for an aortic valve replacement, and prostate cancer). Having four cats in the house meant that every time I started dinner, I would begin by washing down the counters and stovetop with a cleaner that would also disinfect. It wasn't that hard because I don't keep food prep items like cutting boards on the counter or hanging knives on the walls. Then I would wash my hands. I would take out the veggies, and wash my hands. Then the meat. And wash my hands.

Someone once remarked that I washed my hands a lot when I cooked. It reflected the concern I had that I could make Ed sick through a preventable food borne illness. (Not in my kitchen.) Eventually it just became habit.

He would give me that look when I would throw out food that I deemed to be too old and so unsafe. As if I were stealing money out of his pocket to buy bling. Which was silly because if I wanted bling he would go out and buy it for me.

I would never allow food to sit out for over two hours. There was more than one occasion when we would get involved in something and realize that the wonderful stew, that took all day to prepare, was now hopelessly spoiled because it had been three hours since we had eaten and it had not been bagged up and chilled.

We finally had it out when I explained that at his age he was at risk of serious complications from an ailment that he could have brushed off earlier in life. Coumadin would complicate everything, due to its interactions with other drugs and the need to avoid foods rich in vitamin K. There was just no reason to take the risk in order to save a few bucks.

Of course, there is no way you can provide 100% protection, unless you never eat outside your home and grow all of your own food. But the few episodes of FP that we experienced over the years were always mild and could usually be traced to restaurant food.

When I lost him two years ago, it never occurred to me that some of the same concerns I had about his ability to fight off infection as he aged would someday apply to me. That someday I too, might become an older American. Although with the flood of Medicare eligibility junk mail screaming the importance of being opened right now that has filled my mailbox, I should have known.

But when I walked into the kitchen last Sunday night and saw the bottle of dressing sitting on the counter, I wasn't thinking of the fact that 65 is mere weeks away. Instead I picked up the bottle and stuck it back in the fridge, assuring myself that it was so preservative-filled that it would be unlikely to hurt me. Right.

Not only can food poisoning be found in bottled and jarred food, it can hurt a lot. The older you become, the more it will hurt (I was right about that). And the slower will be your recovery.

So, keep all perishable foods below 40º or above 140º and refrigerate leftovers as quickly as possible. When in doubt, throw it out.

(BTW, it is easy-peasy to mix mayonnaise with sweet relish and a little ketchup to make your own 1000 Island Dressing in a pinch. And I knew this last Monday when I made that fateful sandwich. This week the menu is either poached chicken breast with white rice or a ham, egg and cheese scramble.)

So I poisoned myself because I forgot that medically, I am now a senior, bordering on elderly and that my body just cannot do what it could ten or twenty years ago.

That mystery is solved, but the bigger one remains: no matter how often I buy a six pack of ginger ale, or how rarely I drink it, inevitably, when I really need it, there is not a can to be found. Why is that?

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