For a couple of weeks, I was rotating through the pediatric genetics service and spent days solving seeming mystery puzzles of babies who are born with various congenital malformations, trying to search the literature for a genetic cause behind their peculiarities. During that time, I also sat through a number of family counseling sessions with our staff physicians and genetic counselor, where we break the news to parents that their newborn will live with a rare genetic deletion on an arm of a chromosome.
I’ve come to learn that every parent is different in their reaction to the news. Some are caught completely off guard, the world comes crashing down and they burst into tears. Some had an inkling of bad news coming their way, and are unusually calm and composed during the meeting, making us healthcare providers hesitant to over-consolate, for fears that we might aggravate them to realize a harsher truth. Yet some put on an initial pretense of logic and reason, only to break down at the end of the meeting. There was one couple whose 2 day old baby girl was diagnosed with Down syndrome after birth, and we were drawing out 46 chromosomes on a piece of scratch paper to show her the genetic anomaly. The mother was initially nodding and mumbling in agreement with the cardiology workup for heart defects and the extra help her baby needed with feeding, but when we looked into her eyes and said that Down syndrome children bring much joy to their families and other parents of Down syndrome kids wouldn’t have it any other way in retrospect, the mom had tears streaming down her face. The invisible wall was broken. Many tissue boxes were passed around and many pat on the shoulder later, our team left the room, only to wipe the tears from the corners of our own eyes surreptitiously outside. I have also come to learn that no one is immune to human grief and raw emotions, no matter how experienced you are at giving bad news.
Every child that comes to the world is a bundle of great expectations for their parents. Will he have ten toes and ten fingers? Will she smile at us? I cannot imagine how it feels to be on the other side of the conversation, being told bad news about my newborn, my child who I imagined will run like other children, who will make scribbled sketches like other children, who will act in a play at school, who will someday say happy birthday to me. But I am comforted by the fact that all of the parents we have counseled leave the hospital with a new set of great expectations, ones where their child will develop according to their unique path, where every small milestone will be celebrated triumphantly, and where the child will become a loved member of the family regardless.
And….on a happier note, I have a recipe that I am dying to share with you all. When I had a friend over the other weekend, she made us this amazing spaghetti bolognese that was stewed with love for two hours. Shall I mention that this friend started cooking for her family in high school, and her cooking experience runs longer than my years of driving? Yes, it’s a trusted recipe that I’ve copied. And it’s a recipe that every chef should keep in their back pocket, for that sudden crave for a hearty Italian meal. This meaty and savory goodness will never disappoint on the dinner table. Bon Appetit!
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup of carrots, chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, washed
- 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, washed
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1/2 tbsp nutmeg
- 1 can of tomato sauce
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
In a large pot, heat up canola oil and add mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and browned, around 5-7 minutes. Add thyme and rosemary, oregano, nutmeg. Stir around until herbs are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add ground beef, sautee the mixture until beef is no longer pink, around 5 minutes. Add red wine to deglaze the pan, make sure that nothing is sticking to the bottom. Wait until wine evaporates in about 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce and beef stock, bring the pot to the boil then simmer over medium-low heat for 2 hours.
At the end of two hours, sauce should be mostly thickened to a paste. Add heavy cream and stir into the mixture for 2 minutes and turn off the heat.
Cook spaghetti according to instructions until al dente, for about 9-11 minutes. Add pasta to sauce, tossing to coat. Serve on individual plates. Top with grated Parmesan if desire. EAT!