Lum: Traveling the recovery road

Su Lum

It’s been almost three months since I had my transtrach throat-cutting surgery, during which time I was on major meds for a staph infection and then my friend Hilary and I both caught the latest Aspen crud which is a combination of coughing and sleeping sickness, kind of like getting tuberculosis in an isolation ward full of tsetse flies.

The crud alone lasted almost three weeks — Hilary had it even worse than I did, but then I had an episode of polymyalgic rheumatica wherein all my joints went off the rails. The treatment for it is steroids, and I have been feeling Tony the Tiger grrrrreat for the first time in what seems like many moons, up and running and back full time to physical therapy.

While I was down, my trach wound busily healed itself, and the hole is now so small I need a target tattoo on my neck so I can aim better when changing the catheter. I’ve discovered that a wide, soft shoelace makes an excellent catheter-holder because I can tighten and loosen it at will. Who knew your neck gets fatter when you lie down?

For the column, I’ll use this new photo that Hilary took that shows the shoelace. It looks as if I’ve just seen the Holy Ghost.

I don’t know what I can blame it on, but I have developed an obsession for tomato aspic. Not only is tomato aspic a particularly odd fixation to come upon, but I have a strong history — as do my kids — of absolutely despising tomato aspic, which was served in fancy gelid quantities by my grandmother Monie and all of her luncheon-serving lady friends when we visited her in Alabama — a lunch out every day and aspic at every single one of them.

On a factor of yuck, aspic rated a solid 10 with me, so it’s incomprehensible (“Aspic? Su?”) that I would focus on it.

Every summer, I can tomatoes, and every winter about this time, I get a craving for a decent tomato and resort to putting dressing on one of my canned tomatoes and calling it a salad.

This year I’m making the aspic by putting 2 pints of my drained, canned tomatoes through a food mill and bringing that to a boil with a healthy dash of Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar, a scant palm of celery and onion salts and a few shakes of Trader Joe’s garlic powder.

At first I was mincing celery, onion and cucumbers, but I found I liked it better smooth, and it takes seconds to make. Your own canned tomatoes are ideal — bought ones are not as good — so the days of this craze are numbered by my cache.

I dissolve a packet of gelatin in a half cup of water for 10 or 15 minutes, add it to the boiling mixture and refrigerate it in a regular plastic container, where it just slightly jells, nothing close to as solid as Jell-O.

Although it is far from being at its prime this early, I cut bite-size chunks of watermelon, add some canned mandarin oranges (Geisha brand is by far the best), several dollops of aspic and a splash of Catalina dressing, and it is the best salad ever. My taste buds are coming back after the transtrach — yet another benefit — which may account for some of this. But I can’t stop eating that for breakfast, lunch and midnight snack.

While compulsively eating my aspic, I’ve been obsessively watching — along with the rest of the world — the Washington, D.C., bald eagle babies, ridiculously named Freedom and Liberty (gak), who are now the size and color of black roasting chickens.

I’ve shivered with them drenched in Eastern rainstorms and starved with them on the days the parents would sit boldly by without bringing in a morsel of fish (not to worry, the chat line reassures us), and I’ve panicked when the parents dove onto the nest with large branches, recklessly almost swiping the kiddies over the side.

It’s hard work raising baby eagles.

Meanwhile, on our endearingly not-as-professional cam site in Emma, the ospreys are taking their sweet time getting started. Baby ospreys should be hatching right about when the eaglets fly away, and I don’t know what I’ll do without my bird fix if the ospreys don’t reproduce. So far, not a single egg.

We are tantalized and teased. Mom will sit on the nest, and you could swear you can hear her grunting, and the next thing you know she’s off and away and the nest is just a pile of sticks. Look again, and they’ll both be on the nest, and you’re sure this is really it, but turn around, and they’re gone again.

I’ve been advised about other bird sites and looked into the ones from Cornell, but there’s only so much avian channel surfing that I can keep up with. For now I’ll stick with eagles and — I hope — the ospreys.

Su Lum is a longtime local who is not lacking for entertainment. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at


Foodstuff: What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?

It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.

See more