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Fear of Red Tomatoes

(Birth in Siberia at 40)

By Simon the Metal Racer

The Tomato

Along with corn and potatoes, the Western Hemisphere gave the world the tomato. The Aztecs cultivated and enjoyed tomatoes for at least a millennium before European explorers came. The conquistadors returned to Europe with tomato seeds. The red globes quickly become an important part of the cuisine of Spain, Portugal, and Italy. When other European peoples began to use the tomato, they gave it nicknames curiously fitting to their own culture. The French called the tomato a "love apple." The Germans noted the apple-like shape and color and called it "the apple of paradise." Only the British refused to eat this new vegetable. They believed it to be poisonous. A possible reason for the error may be that the tomato vine resembles and is botanically related to the deadly nightshade. Whatever the reason, the English colonists who came to America carried with them the firm belief that tomatoes were toxic. What an ironic twist of fate that although the tomato crossed the Atlantic the first time as a terrific new food, it crossed the Atlantic the second time as a poison not to be eaten! The American fear of the tomato persisted into the 19th century. In 1781, Thomas Jefferson grew tomatoes in the gardens of Monticello, but not as a food. The plants were merely for decoration! Although Creoles were known to use tomatoes in cooking their spicy gumbos and jambalayas, it wasn't until 1820 that the tomato was proven safe to the satisfaction of the public. On September 26, courageous Colonel Robert G. Johnson stood on the courthouse steps in Salem, New Jersey, and to the horror of onlookers, ate not just one, but a basketful of tomatoes. When he appeared the next morning, not dead and not even sick, the tomato was finally accepted as a wholesome food.
Source: Vegetable Desserts, Beyond Carrot Cake & Pumpkin Pie, 1998 by Elisabeth Schafer and Jeannette L. Miller, RD.

A fresh, four ounce red Roma tomato, contains 273 milligrams of Potassium. Half a cup of tomato paste, such as the one used to make ketchup, contains 1227 milligrams of Potassium. Potassium is poison for End Stage Kidney Disease patients. As the kidney failure progresses, potassium accumulates in the body and causes damage to the heart, breathing difficulties, swelling and eventually, if no kidney replacement therapy is commenced, death.
Source: The American PKD Society Healthy Eats cook book, 2009


Dedicated with love and humility to the righteous memory of Sima and Abe. There isnt a day that I do not think of the two of you, and hope that I am the kind of man that makes you proud.

Also, to my little brother Sergey Kuchenkov. You were too good for this world, so you had to go Now I will live for the two of us. I love you and I will miss you for as long as I live.

I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the lord Psalm 118:17

Midlife crisis can be tackled in many different ways. Some people when they turn forty go to a Porsche dealership and buy a really nice Panamera Turbo for $200,000. Others indulge in wine and women and spend that much during one lost weekend in Vegas. Others, like yours truly, withdraw the amount in cash from their local bank in 500 notes and try to figure out how to stash all that moolah in their underwear while crossing the Turkish border, without becoming the hero of a Midnight Express remake. When that plan fails, they convert the red Euros to green Dollars, and go to Siberia to be born again at -50 degrees Celsius. There they meet their long lost little brother in a stinking ICU unit in a broken down hospital in a bankrupt refinery town that only refines hockey players and kidneys nowadays, and finally find their new midlife peace The light from the overhead fluorescents started slowly seeping through his half open eyelids. People were talking around him, but he wasnt really listening. He was awake now. It was over and he was alive. There was no pain. There was only a very strange feeling of calm. A quiet, white calm This was not at all like he imagined it would be when he wakes up. No pain, no nausea and no more fear. No fear at all, but a wave of euphoria was flooding his body. An exciting new world of light and sounds was waiting for him to open his eyes, which he promptly did. He was born, and he was free. It was his birthday and he felt good about it! The old monitors were beeping. On the bed next to him a skinny boy with a beautiful face and very sad eyes was getting undressed. An older woman, presumably his mother, was folding his clothes, crossing him and her and mumbling prayers. A doctor that was bending over the boy and checking his arms and chest, was saying that he needs to be ready very soon, because it was almost his turn now. He smiled to them and mumbled something that they probably did not hear. The boys face was so beautiful he could have sworn he was an angel. If the scene was not so vivid, he would have thought that he died and this was

heaven. But it couldnt have possibly been heaven. It was way too damn hot and stuffy in the room. ICU or not ICU, this was Russia after all. His gaze drifted back to his own bed and the people around him. His new friend Boris was standing there shaking his head and smiling. So was a matronly looking woman in a nurses uniform. He noticed that she had a big hole in her chest. Her uniform was crisp white, like nurses uniforms from old fifties Hollywood movies. The scene was so completely surreal that he began to wonder if he was really awake, or if the anesthesia was causing him hallucinations. Then he realized that the hole was probably from an old heart surgery. It was certainly big enough to stick a few cigarettes into it. Wow, they must have used at least a 2 inch chisel when they made it! he thought. The nurse put a few bags with clear liquids on the IV pole and plugged the flexi tubes into the main line valves, protruding from his chest. After a few seconds he felt a buzz and some light headedness. Sleep Sema, my sweet boy! she said, and smiled. How the heck did you know my name? he whispered. I know everything about you my dear, your friend Boris here has been telling me all I need to know. You are mine now, you hear? I am going to take good care of you! she said, but he was already drifting back to sleep, and did not have a chance to say anything. His last thought, right before the big wave of sleep hit, was that he wished that his son and daughter would be there when he woke up next time. He would slowly drift into consciousness, look into their worried faces, smile and whisper you idiot! to his son, and wink at his daughter. Surely they would expect nothing else from their father, who always pulled their leg this way or that. And in any case, the whole thing with the trip to Russia was just a business trip, like any odd dozen other ones. Wasnt it? They were used to him disappearing for a month to Korea, or 3 weeks to India. This was nothing new. Whatever was going on with his tummy was just a little hiccup and he would be back at home in no time. Someone had to take them to soccer and dance class after all. Who in the world had the time for getting a new kidney?

After a long while he awoke again. There was a rhythmic sound of a pump and a new steady beeping coming from somebody elses monitors. He opened his eyes and saw the surgery team wheel in the boy. He was so peaceful, sleeping with a big happy smile on his face. Surely this boy had to be an angel, he thought His nurse came again to adjust something and he looked in the boys direction and mumbled a silent question. She shook her head and said very solemnly Look at him Sema, this is your new brother. His name is Sergey. He is 21 years old and he has the other kidney. You are kidney brothers forever now. You have to look after him from now on. You live in the USA and you are a man of the world. He is so young and he hasnt seen anything in his life yet. He is an actor and one day he will be in a movie. He just got married and his wife Natasha will come soon. Get some sleep; you should have enough strength to talk to him when he wakes up later. And you better be nice to him! You were both born today. So happy birthday dear Sema! And dont forget to congratulate your little brother Seryozhenka when he comes around.

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