what to eat when you have a tooth extracted

According to all 5 dentists I have seen since my teens, I have interesting teeth. Actually, to quote one, “amazingly interesting.” Dentists have actually called their colleagues (or assistants/hygenists) into the room to take a look at my mouth—just to show said colleagues how “interesting” my teeth are. You can’t tell from just looking at me; to the casual observer, including myself, I have fairly normal, straightish teeth.

But apparently the top right side of my mouth is a madhouse. One tooth, the second-from-the-end, has an extra cusp on the side, known as “the cusp of carabelli.” If you look this up online, it sounds as if it’s not that unusual—but I’ve had 3 dentists tell me they’ve only read about it—in dental school. “Interesting,” but no problem. However, there is another feature to my mouth that makes dentists say “hmmm” and frown: the tooth that is the furthest back in my mouth is pivoted 90 degrees. It grew in that way, and until this past year never caused any problems—and because x-rays are two-dimensional, no one took special notice of it until it started to bother me.
Long story short, the tooth had to come out. But because it is such an “unusual” tooth (another word my dentists have used), it wasn’t a simple matter of yanking. No, it was a surgical extraction. The procedure is about the same as having a wisdom tooth out, only in a different part of the mouth, and, if you’ve ever had a surgical extraction, you know it is NOT VERY PLEASANT. It is awful.

The worst part is that I couldn’t chew on that side for a week, and even then only really soft foods. I was despondent when I heard this, not just because I had a gaping hole in my mouth, but because I don’t like soft foods. I only eat soup occasionally, I don’t like drinking my calories (ie, smoothies, etc), and I LOVE CHEWING. I knew the foods I made in the next couple of weeks would have to be delicious, to distract me from the pain and sorrow of not being able to chew.

I didn’t feel like eating for a while after the procedure, and when I did opening my mouth at all was pretty rough, so I mostly took small sips of wildwood’s drinkable yogurt and made a few varieties of green smoothies. As I could fit a spoon into my mouth, I started eating soy yogurt and ice cream. But I became bored with sweet things and wanted substantial meals, so I went on a crazy soup kick.
First, a Carrot, Ginger, and Beet Soup that is apparently in Didi Emmons’s Vegetarian Planet, but I found on this site. I normally only use beets for Borscht when it comes to soup, but the thought of pureeing borscht seemed wrong. I’ll definitely make this recipe again; the ginger was a nice addition to the beet and carrot flavor.

Peaches are in season (and delicious!!!), so Peach Gazpacho from Martha Stewart’s website came next. I changed this recipe by adding a slice of bread and more water to get it the almost creamy consistency of gazpacho. Being allergic to nightshades, I’ve never actually had gazpacho, but The Boyfriend loves it, and reported that this tomato-free version is just as good as normal tomato gazpacho. In fact, he ordered tomato-y gazpacho at a restaurant a couple weeks later, and though to me they smelled the same, he said my peach one tasted better. Even though the peaches I used were ripe, the gazpacho wasn’t very sweet, which was nice—I didn’t feel like I was having dessert for dinner. However, the leftovers the next day definitely seemed sweeter. I REALLY recommend this one.

I also REALLY recommend these two soups from the gluttonous vegan.
Finding the recipe for this Spiced Parsnip and Coconut Milk Soup was easily the best part of the tooth extraction ordeal. It is delicious and filling AND by this day I had discovered that I could eat bread if I soaked it in the soup for a long time first, which was really exciting.

Being the intrepid entertainer that I am, I had a small dinner party 4-5 days after the extraction and served the gluttonous vegan’s Smoky Sweet Potato Soup. Since paprika is a pepper (nightshade), I replaced the smoked paprika with about a teaspoon of liquid smoke. I sautéed some zucchini with onions and lemon juice until it was really soft and roasted chickpeas for the side/garnish. I tried one before we ate—I could actually bite down on it! It had been 5 days since I had chewed anything, and I was so happy I almost cried.

I ate things other than soups, too! I made pesto and mixed it into mashed sweet potatoes, and served it for brunch with basic scrambled tofu.
The Boyfriend got some nice crusty bread with this brunch, but I had to do without. (So I gave myself extra avocado.)

I was still eating yogurt for my snacks, but it was getting boring, so I figured out other ways to use it, including in this Arugula Dip. It’s based on a spinach dip and is mostly arugula, silken tofu, and plain soy yogurt with some garlic, salt and pepper. Embarrassingly, I still couldn’t really eat chips at that point, so I just sorta ate the dip off of the chip. The Boyfriend got to eat the chips, though.

I also made Blueberry Crisp, here topped with ice cream that for some reason hated the flash on my camera:
Finally, though I didn’t make the following recipe after my tooth was extracted, I wish I had. All of the information the dentist gives you afterwards, and all of the websites you read, advises to eat soft things like “ice cream, pudding, and jello.” This reminded me of a recipe I made just a week or two before:
Strawberry Jelloish Dessert
Serves 4-5. It’s not very sweet, but I prefer it that way; taste before you add the agar and add more agave/sugar if you want it sweeter.

1 1/2 cups strawberries, chopped into pieces no bigger than 1/2 an inch.
4 C water
1/4 C agave (or sugar) (more to taste)
1 Tbsp agar powder

Combine the strawberries, water, and sweetener in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally. After about 10 or 15 minutes, when the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat. Stir in the agar powder, and stir constantly until the powder is completely dissolved (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat, pour into either a large, flat bowl, an 8x8 baking dish, or, for swank-looking desserts like I made, into glasses. Chill in the fridge at least 1-2 hours.

Serve by itself, or garnished with fruit, ice cream, cashew crème (as below; soaked cashews and dates blended with vanilla and soymilk until whipped-cream-y), or some form of vegan whipped cream.

Anyway, I’m long back to chewing solid foods, thank goodness—but in case YOU need to go on a mush diet for a while, you’ll know what to do!


"Adopt a Shelter Pet" stamps

I love the Post Office. I'm just going to say that right up front. I know people who complain about the United States Postal Service, but I adore them. I write a lot of letters, enjoy sending packages, and really really love getting mail--and the USPS has never let me down. Well, no, once I think a letter I sent didn't get to its destination, but I've written hundreds of letters in my life, so a < 1% fail rate is okay by me. While the lines always move slowly at Post Offices, it's worth it to me to be able to send mail wherever I want. It's actually amazing to me: if I want to send a letter to someone in California, from Boston, it often only takes 3-4 days. They allow you to rent out PO Boxes cheaply. When you move, they'll forward your mail for free for a year! The post office is so cool!

My love for the USPS knows no bounds anyway, but ESPECIALLY this past spring, when they released their "Adopt a Shelter Pet" stamps. Every year, the USPS does a "social awareness" stamp line, be it for cancer, literacy, or children's health awareness--and this year, they are drawing attention to the need to adopt animals from shelters. (You can read the USPS press release about the line here, where the Postmaster General mentions how the awareness campaign aims to "encourage pet adoption and promote humane and responsible pet care.")
I've been using them since they first came out this spring, and I'm way more excited about them than the fruit or vegetable lines they had a couple years ago (and that's saying a lot, since I was really excited about those). (Guys, I can't help it: I really like stamps and mail.)

Not only do I love them just because they're stamps, but also because the stripy orange cat on the bottom right looks like Fritz, one of the three (former shelter) cats with whom the boyfriend and I live:
If you are interested in increasing awareness of shelter animals and supporting the post office (I love both of these things!), you can buy these stamps at your local post office or online. Do it sooner rather than later, because with unstable economies, you never know when stamp prices may change!


One Hundred Years of Solitude: milk candy

I love food and I love to read. As a result, the first week of each month, I'll combine these two interests in a post about food from literature. I'll mostly be sticking with books from classic literature, so you're likely to know the storylines anyway, but just in case you don't: warning: there may be spoilers ahead.


I have taken two comprehensive literary exams this year: the Literature GRE, and the literary history comp exam for my MA program. One thing that becomes engrained into your mind as you study for the world literature portions of these kinds of tests: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works embody the genre of Magical Realism. In Magical Realism, the setting is the real world, our world, and feelings, actions, and situations are all ones that could happen in real life, but inevitably certain supernatural things happen--often unexplained. I like Realism as a genre, and as a result find Magical Realism to be a tricky line to walk: authors have to be very careful not allow readers to feel tricked ("oh, I didn't know this was a magic world, I thought I was reading historical fiction!"), nor to dwell on the magic parts too much (who wants to read pages and pages of characters acting surprised and trying to puzzle out miracles?). For me, Marquez's genius lies in his ability to make strange and unbelievable events occur in his novels with such a subtle touch that I, as a reader, don't even question whether it could happen in real life--I don't have time to wonder, because the story (like life) goes on. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, ghosts wander in and out of alchemy labs, rain occurs for four years straight, characters live to be 140 years old or more, and the vast majority of the characters just accept these things as true and move on with their day to day activities.

(Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Though I like Marquez's model of Magical Realism, I didn't actually like this book. I read Love in the Time of Cholera a couple years ago for my book club, and thought it was decent, but have been told many times that Marquez's real masterpiece was One Hundred Years of Solitude, so I bought it at a second-hand bookshop. The book follows several generations of the Buendia family as they found, settle, populate, control, lose control of, love, and hate the town of Macondo. The book spans around 200 years (despite the title), and jumps from family member to family member, none of whom is a main character and all have similar or the same names. The book explores repetition between generations, how we pass down good and bad behaviors, how and whom we love and hate and worship and fight. But that's where my problem with the book comes in: there isn't a plot. The writing is cyclical (we often hear about events several times before and after they happen in the book) and the lives of the characters are cyclical, and the whole thing never goes anywhere until the family dies off and the book ends. The book is about generations and what kinds of things we pass down from generations to generations, and I can get into that idea; Zola and Balzac, two of my favorite French authors, both explore similar themes in their works, but their novels and stories actually tell a story. One Hundred Years of Solitude starts to tell dozens of stories, one for each member of the family and some for the townspeople around them, but it never finishes the stories it starts.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book, however, and the main focus of this entry, is the strong role women had in shaping the development of the Buendia family. The matriarch, Ursula, is one of the longest-lived characters in the novel, living almost to 140 years old (the other oldest character in the novel, Pilar Ternera, is also a matriarch of the family, though an illegitimate one). Ursula offers strength, support, and common sense throughout the affairs (business and love), wars, births and deaths that occur constantly throughout the text. She is practical and industrious, and even when she goes blind in her old age, she hides it from her family and runs the household as if she were still in her thirties. And, the reason I am writing about this book at all: she makes candy. Milk candy, to be specific, and shapes it into little animals and makes a living off of mass producing and selling milk candy from her kitchen. I am always interested in food in a novel, not just because I love food, but because it usually represents sustenance: who's giving it, who eats it, and what form it takes is fascinating to me. Here, Ursula, the matriarch, makes milk candy to support her family and offspring, as mothers do (with milk!), but also to keep herself constantly busy--the same way she does by raising her constantly-extending family.

With Ursula making little milk animals every few chapters, I began to wonder: What are these candies? What are they made of, other than milk? ARE THEY DELICIOUS? So I started to do some research into Colombian candy. Though it appears the vast majority of Colombian sweets are dairy based, the dairy desserts are usually caramels or sauces--nothing you could mold into animals that would hold their shape. However, Marquez doesn't set his novels specifically in Colombia, his homeland, so I expanded my research to include other Latin American countries. Dulce de leche, caramels, and milk fudge abounds in Latin American countries, but a specific Milk Candy was hard to come by, until I discovered Canillitas de Leche, a traditional Guatemalan candy made from sugar, milk, and cinnamon.
Canillitas de Leche literally translates to "Little Milk Legs," so called because of their shape. You can use your hands to shape them into these little oblong pillars, so, I figured, maybe someone as industrious as Ursula Buendia could shape them into animals! So I found a recipe online, veganized it, and took it upon myself to make what I think of as Ursula's Milk Candy.

Vegan Milk Candy (Canillitas de Leche)
Depending on the size, this will make 12-15 2-inch canillitas. You will need a candy thermometer.

1/2 C soymilk powder (I used Better than Milk)
1 1/2 C water
2 C sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp margarine (optional)

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together the soymilk powder, sugar, and water until thoroughly incorporated (ie, no lumps). Turn on high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir constantly until the mixture reaches 240 degrees. This is going to take about 40 minutes, so have a book you can hold with one hand while you stir with the other. Don't let the temperature go over 240, because the mixture will get too hard too quickly when it cools: it's better to err on the side of a couple degrees cooler.

Remove from the heat, take out the cinnamon stick, and pour into a glass baking dish or large bowl, so as much of the surface touches the air as possible. Stir in the margarine, if using. Let the mixture cool until you can handle it. This, too, will take a while. Depending on the room temperature, give it at least half an hour before you go near it--it's very hot! Once you can handle it, roll small handfulls of the dough into little oblong pillars. The original recipe said you can dust your hands with flour to keep it from sticking, though I think having slightly wet hands would also help. Allow them to cool fully before eating and/or storing the ones you don't eat in an airtight container.
The end result has a texture like maple sugar candy, and I know this is going to sound weird, but it tastes a lot like maple sugar candy, too, only without the maple part. I'm not a big candy eater, but they are delicious! The cinnamon flavor is so subtle that you can't quite tell it's cinnamon, but it adds a nice level of complexity. Just a reminder: it's important not to let the recipe go over 240 degrees, because then the mixture will get too hard to work with as it cools. I know because I made this mistake, and only got to make about a third of the canillitas before the remaining dough in the bowl hardened and had to be scraped out. It was still totally edible, but not pretty: