Stuck In The Middle With Martha!- Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwich Cookies!- 95 eggs, 75 1/4 cups of sugar, 71 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 83 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 121 recipes to go!

August 17, 2010


Martha's Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

André's Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Have you ever wished for a ridiculously big Oreo cookie? Ever wished that you could increase the mass of filling in its center three or four times over? Martha has pretty much cracked the Nabisco code to this delectable treat with her Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwich Cookies. Rich, dark chocolate cookies are baked and cooled completely, then filled with a concoction very similar to the filling I used in my previous post, Coconut Cream-Filled Macaroons. Butter, vegetable shortening, powdered sugar, and vanilla are combined to make a very thick and sweet, creamy filling which is liberally piped between two crisp chocolate cookies.

My partner took these to work in celebration of a couple of his co-workers’ birthdays. These cookies are quite imposing in size and in their decadent chocolaty goodness. Roughly the size of a half-a-dozen Oreos and weighing at least four-to-six ounces a piece, these cookies managed to disappear pretty quickly in the hands of some very happy retail associates. I imagine this recipe would be a great choice for a kids’ party or perhaps as a fun treat for college or high school students who don’t spend a lot of time worrying about their triglycerides or potential arterial blockage.

If you haven’t read the two previous posts you may want to take a moment to get caught up. This is the third and final installment in a rather unpleasant story accounting an unfortunate stay in a charity hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey.

I woke up early the next day in a semi-private and dimly-lit room. I still wore my paper gown and was covered by a thin hospital sheet. A translucent curtain separated me from the wheezing entity on the other side. I looked down at my arm and the I.V. that stretched up to a drip bag dangling above my right shoulder. On my wrist was a plastic band with my name neatly typed in a cold but efficient sans serif font. I shivered. I could see snow drifting outside my window and a draft of frozen air snaked into the room from a small crack at the base of the window. With each jet of air, the metal Venetian blinds rattled. I sat up in the bed. A nurse entered the room.

“You’re up.” – she brightly chuckled- “You were quite the noisy one, last night. Do you always talk in your sleep?”

“Not that I’m aware of.” – I replied. I lied. I’ve been known to talk, snore, and even laugh in my sleep, loudly and often.

“What’s going on? What happened last night?” – I asked.

“The doctor will be in soon. I’m afraid you can’t eat or drink anything for quite awhile. Something is blocking your plumbing and we don’t want you to risk a rupture. Has anything like this ever happened before?”

I shook my head and the nurse shrugged, “Well, we’ll figure it out. In the meantime we’ll keep you fed and hydrated through your drip.”

She then placed a squeeze button in my hand, just like the ones used by the contestants on Jeopardy.

“You are going to be in a lot of discomfort while your body tries to right itself. If you feel any sharp pain give this button a squeeze and that will administer a pain killer through your drip. Go easy on it, though. Too much of this stuff will make you nauseous and we don’t want you throwing up and twisting your insides again.”

She then handed me another squeeze button almost identical to the previous one.

“This button is for when you need to ring a nurse. Just give it a squeeze and we’ll be in as soon as we can.”

She then turned to the curtain. “You are sharing a room with Mr. Cueveras. He is quite ill and will sleep most of the time. He doesn’t speak English. If he gets too noisy, let us know.”

She then took my vitals and disappeared into the hallway. I reached over to my belongings bunched up in the chair next to my bed. I grabbed my cell phone which luckily still had  a charge. I called my roommate, Alan and left a message for him to call me back as soon as he could. Alan never woke up before nine if he could help it and as it was just before seven, I’d have to wait a few hours before I could expect to hear from him.

I reached over to the television remote and gave it a click. I looked up at the screen precariously suspended from a few chains attached to  a thin plywood base in the corner of the room. Surfing through the channels I was able to locate only two stations. One played a video broadcast from inside the hospital. It was an informational video for patients who recently had a colostomy bag installed. It was a detailed video of how they were to clean their stoma, the hole in their abdomen that connected to their bag. I quickly clicked over to the other channel. It was the same video… in Spanish. I turned off the television and sank back into the bed, pressing the button to release a smidge of  morphine. I wasn’t really in much pain, unless you count the pain of boredom. Maybe the stoma video would be more engaging if I was tripping my butt off on heavy pharmaceuticals.  I drifted off.

Dr. Mohad Mekala entered the room. He was a middle-aged Indo-American with pitch black hair and large, dark eyes set on either side of his beak-like nose. His face was covered in premature specks of dark age spots . I looked up at him and my first thought was I needed a pen to connect the dots on his face. In retrospect, I believe the dots would have produced large dollar signs across his face.

“So, you’re André. Right?”- he asked.

I nodded.

“Well, you have some sort of blockage in your intestinal tract. That’s what’s causing you so much pain. When we listen to a normal, functioning abdomen, we hear all sorts of sounds. Things moving from place to place, tube to tube. When I listen to your abdomen, I hear nothing. Nothing is moving. This can be potentially very serious. We’re going to keep you here for at least a week without food or water and see if we can get things moving again.”

“What can cause this?” I asked.

“A number of things. It could be a simple bowel obstruction. It could be a twisted bit of intestine. It could be gall stones. It could be diverticulitis. Whose to say? What do you do for a living?”

His question seemed odd and one I always hated to answer. In my experience, when someone asks that question they are sizing me up. Trying to figure out if I have a decent income, see if I have influence, defend my monetary worth as a human being.

I answered- “I’m a freelance musician.”

Dr. Mekala’s thick and dark eyebrows reached up towards his peaked hairline. “Oh My God!- he blared.

“Do you have insurance?”- he exasperatedly asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t”- I replied.

“Well, I suppose once you’ve stabilized we’ll figure out what to do next. I can’t do a colonoscopy because they’re quite expensive, and might end up being a waste of time. Do you have any family that can help pay for your stay?”

I was shocked and irritated by this line of questioning and was pretty sure this information was none of his business. I shook my head and Dr. Mekala trampled out of the room muttering to himself.

My cell phone buzzed. It was Alan. Alan and I had been friends for years. We met through an internet chat room back in Louisiana years ago when he was trying to score weed and I was trying to score friends. Alan decided to join me in Jersey City after a long and unsuccessful stint in South Beach as a hair stylist. Alan was gay. Gayer than any gay who ever lip-synched to Jennifer Holiday. So absolutely flaming he could be seen from space. Picnic baskets seemed grim in comparison to Alan. In fact, I often joked, that when Alan came out, five others had to go back in to make room.

“Girl, what’s going on?” – he asked with affected concern.

I explained what had transpired. I had sneaked out of the apartment while he was asleep and that I was currently in Christ Hospital and was going to be there for  a week or so. I asked if he could bring me a few things from home. A book or two, crosswords, and my cell phone charger. Alan huffed and let out a disinterested yawn. Alan is a friend, yes. Just not a very selfless or giving friend. Instead of making the ten minute trek out to the depressing hospital, he decided to drop off my things to my best friend and neighbor, Terry.

Terry and I had dated many years ago when I was studying theatre at the conservatory for ultra-serious actors in St. Louis. Terry was also a theatre student at one of the other local universities and we bonded over similar interests and a deep affection for Stephen Sondheim. I loved Terry’s voice. A rich and beautiful baritone. Playing piano while Terry sings is still one of my favorite things to do. Terry’s tall, lanky and blonde with a carefully sculpted goatee of golden hair and large steel-blue eyes. I will always love Terry. We were terrible boyfriends but had successfully made the transition to a deep and long-standing friendship. He came bursting into my hospital room, his face filled with concern. He had already taken it upon himself to speak with the nursing staff to find out my status and diagnosis and like a preening mother, he sat at the side of my bed, held my hand, and stroked my brow. It was the first real compassion I had felt since my arrival at the hospital and I began to tear a little.

I turned on the television so Terry could bear witness to the stoma channel which made him squeal with delight, waking Señor Cueveras from his wheezing sleep. He shouted a Spanish phrase or two followed by the sound of what I thought was splashing water. Terry peaked behind the curtain and turned green. He then shouted down the hall for a nurse. Mr. Cueveras had a diuretic episode. The room quickly filled with a foul stench as a bevy of nurses filled the other side of the room shouting at Mr. Cueveras in Spanish as he chuckled, wheezed, and sputtered in defiant amusement.

Terry kissed me on the forehead and said he’d be back to check on me throughout the week. He also told me to call him if I needed anything.

The next few days were spent reading, doing crosswords, getting my vitals checked and having various medical personnel press on my abdomen followed by painful attacks and cramps. In the middle of one sleepless night I laid in the dark listening to Mr. Cueveras’ noisy sleep pattern. He’d wheeze in and gurgle out with each breath. Wheeze in and gurgle out… wheeze in and gurgle out… wheeze in and gurgle out… then nothing. No sound. Silence. In darkness I grabbed the button and pressed rapidly- click click click click… No nurses. Click click click click. Still nothing. I flicked on the light and realized I had the wrong clicker in my hand. I had just filled myself up with pain-killer. I was completely lightheaded as I located the nurses button and began clicking furiously. A single nurse finally emerged from the hall and I pointed in the direction of my now silent roommate.

Moments later the room erupted into a full code blue situation. Numb from the painkillers I almost floated out of my skin to observe the scene. After thirty minutes of chaos the nurses and doctors left the room. I drifted off, too.

The next morning I was shocked to see the curtain still separating me from Mr. Cueveras. Terry popped in early that morning before heading to work.

“How are you today, sweetie?”- he cheerfully inquired.

“Better than him.” – I replied, indicating Mr. Cueveras’ corpse behind the curtain. It had been at least six hours since Mr. Cueveras passed on and I knew putrification would be setting in soon. No one in the hospital seemed particularly concerned that I was sharing a room with a freaking cadaver. Terry was shocked.  Terry knew my tolerance level. He knew I could deal with a selfish drag queen roommate leaving false eyelashes all over the apartment. He knew I could tolerate messes in the kitchen from my stoner friend trying to whip up homemade chili at three A.M. .  He knew I diplomatically handled the situation when I walked into a full blown coke orgy in my living room thrown by a couple of my roommate’s inconsiderate house guests. But I drew the line when it came to sharing a room with a decomposing body a few feet away from my bed. Terry angrily grabbed a staff member in the hallway. I could hear him throwing quite a fit on my behalf. Terry gets a bit lispy when he’s pissed off, a childhood impediment that rears its ugly head during times of emotional stress. Terry must’ve been in a considerably heated state because what I heard coming from the hallway sounded half-man/ half broken radiator.

The hospital staff promptly removed the body. R.I.P. Señor Cueveras.

The other side of the room remained empty for the duration of my two-week stay at Christ Hospital. After observing me for an hour after the first meal I had eaten in two weeks, mashed potatoes, gravy and Salsbury Steak- the best and most memorable meal I will ever have, I was wheeled from my room down to the street where I hopped a bus back to my little brownstone. During my time at Christ Hospital I never received any treatment. I never knew what was really the matter or what may have caused this wacky adventure. Weeks later I received a bill from Christ Hospital with a total that exceeded the cost of my entire college education by $10,000. The sum was paid in its entirety by the State of New Jersey. Thanks, Jersey. Only one outstanding balance remained, a hefty bill from Dr. Mekala, the doctor I had only seen for fifteen minutes the day after I was admitted. I begrudgingly paid the outrageous amount along with a lengthy essay I wrote about what it means to be a healer.

Less than a year later, through insurance provided by my current employer in Kansas City, I met with a gastroenterologist who conducted a long overdue colonoscopy. As I returned to consciousness, he happily told me I had a textbook colon. I, in return, told him he had nice eyes. Drugs make you say the strangest things.

To this day, the two-week hospital stay in Jersey City is a mystery. Who knows what caused me to get clogged up and need extended treatment.

What did I learn from this experience?

Well, If I ever need a colostomy I know how to keep my stoma clean. A clean stoma is a happy stoma, after all. I know that I have friends who are willing to fight for me. I know that I don’t want to leave this world like Señor Cueveras did, alone and without dignity. I know that someone or something was telling me to get out of Jersey and go to Kansas City to pursue love. Once I returned to my little brownstone, I began to formulate a plan to make a bold move. I called Dan and told him I loved him very much and we’d be together soon. I was going to start my life all over again in a new place. I felt happier than I had felt in a long, long time.

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4 Responses to “Stuck In The Middle With Martha!- Cream-Filled Chocolate Sandwich Cookies!- 95 eggs, 75 1/4 cups of sugar, 71 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 83 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 121 recipes to go!”

  1. tommy salami Says:

    Madre de dios. I’m glad you survived. What horrible treatment. I was expecting a tale of you passing an impacted stool the size and shape of a Rodin statue. By the by, you ought to put a Paypal donation button on your page. It might help cover the costs of flour and obscure baking implements, and we should all leave generous tips for the entertainment your blog gives us all every week.

    Oh, Sarah sent you a cookie tin. We both look forward to tasting some of your concoctions! And seeing you again the next time you’re in town, or if I lure her into a road trip through Missouri.

  2. Robb Says:

    I was at the Iowa State Fair this weekend and dined on Fried Oreos, so if you ever want to bring this cookie up a notch, coat it in batter, throw it in a vat of hot grease and serve with powdered sugar (and your phone pre-dialed to 911!).

    A heart attack in the making, but quite dekictavlr.


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