Less than two weeks ago I was boasting that Sushi our cat was in rude health, yet last week she suffered a six-day near death experience, which left us stressed-out and frantic with worry. Forgive my indulgence, but this is a cautionary tale that applies to anyone who solely relies on medical opinion and interventions as a strategy for health and healing. It seems to me that physicians should not get paid on the number of sick patients they treat but rather on the number of people (or animals) on their books that actually enjoy good health.
When a vet tells you to seriously consider euthanising your 17-year old cat because “You have a very, very poorly animal” that’s "too sick to go home", what would you do? It is at a times like these it pays to be contrarian. I’d only taken Sushi to the Minster Vets because three days earlier she’d suddenly stopped eating and was straining to use her litter tray. I’d even phoned them beforehand to explain my cat seemed to be constipated and to ask if they would give her an enema. As far as I was concerned, this was the only medical intervention required.
According to the vet, I was wrong. After a brief physical examination, we were told that Sushi wasn’t seriously backed-up, but rather her intestine and colon were very thickened and inflamed and there was a distinct possibility that a cancerous tumour was the cause of the blockage. It still looked and smelt like ‘poo’ to me, but the vet made no attempt to clean-up Sushi’s backside and rejected giving her an enema because it would further dehydrate a cat suffering from kidney disease. Pardon? How do we know that she is? Furthermore, an X-ray might not show up a tumour so they’d need to perform an endoscopy, which had to be done under general anaesthetic. However, this might endanger Sushi's life because thirty per cent of cats her age do have kidney disease and undergoing a general anaesthetic can cause complete organ failure. Brilliant! If we didn’t want Sushi to suffer needlessly, euthanasia was, on the face of it, our best option. Naturally, I asked for a blood test to be done straight away to establish whether Sushi had kidney disease or not but was told: “Mum and dad can’t stay” for this procedure and we would have to leave Sushi with them.
In tears, I told the vet I couldn’t make a decision whilst in a state of shock and that if we were to agree to her killing our cat, we would need time to say our goodbyes. Not satisfied with this, the vet volunteered to leave the room for a few minutes, presumably so we could come to a more ‘reasoned’ decision in private. She needn’t have bothered, my mind was made up…if Sushi was going to die, it would be at home in my arms. Right on cue, the most horrendous howling of some poor creature that had been previously dispatched by it’s owner into the Minster’s veterinary care emanated from behind scenes to let me know with absolute certainty I needed to get us the hell out of there.
The next 24 hours were an emotional roller coaster, not least because I knew we’d have to clean Sushi up and administer the enema ourselves. Nevertheless, I did have one ace up my sleeve. I’d just agreed to a new 10-year Lease on our old office premises and its change of use to a small veterinary practice. I managed to track down the vet that is going to be running the practice when it opens in a couple of months time and she was able to reassure me that the symptoms and events as I described them over the phone didn’t sound like Sushi was anything like at death’s door as far as she was concerned. She arranged to do a home visit the next day.
Meanwhile, it took three of us to sort out Sushi’s nether regions. “Don’t try this yourself at home” applies to giving your feisty cat an enema and then some! It’s a highly intimidating, emotionally charged procedure for both you and your cat! Three enemas later (organic coconut oil melted to blood temperature) Sushi had started to show more interest in grooming herself and the fragrance of coconut oil rather than poo pervaded the air as she was able to walk with her tail held high (a sign of confidence and contentment), rather than down at floor level, as if in an attempt to cover up her indignity.
When the vet arrived the next day, Sushi had not eaten for four days nor had she had any success in the litter tray, but at least she was clean and ready for inspection. This is when drugs come into their own. Two injections later - one as an appetite stimulant and the other to get things moving along - Sushi started to come back to life. Life lesson: Never get stuck in your opinions.
In desperation the day before, I had decided to contact Lily’s Kitchen to enquire about their organic cat food because it seemed it would be easier to persuade Sushi to eat something soft and pâté-like in texture than it would raw meat. I also bought her some probiotics to support healthy gut bacteria and intended to add a pinch of organic pysillium husk to her meals for extra fibre. At the time, I didn’t even know if Sushi would ever eat again. Lily’s Kitchen, sensing my distress, had sent complimentary samples of their cat food to me first class. Anyway, within three quarters of an hour of the vet leaving, Sushi was tucking into Lily’s Organic Chicken Dinner with relish.
The next day Sushi passed something resembling a small, hard rock - the obvious cause of her discomfort - and within the hour everything was functioning normally again. Never have you seen more rejoicing over poo! Sushi now appears to enjoy Lily’s Kitchen dinners more than my lovingly prepared, fresh, organic meat - even with probiotic powder and pysilium husk added. Who am I to argue? Today, she is lively, chirrupy and content. Her coat is like silk and her breath as ‘fresh as a daisy’. Thank God, when it comes to taking responsibility for my family’s health, I fear the medics conditioning and stupidity more than I fear their disapproval! Some people might call it perverse, but my innate refusal to kowtow to a seemingly higher authority has again and again proven to be a lifesaver. Above all, I am so very grateful to Charlotte, Sushi’s new personal ‘physician’, who will hopefully help navigate us through any future cat crisis and who I think should be nominated for a ‘Vet With Heart’ award. Her professionalism together with her extremely gentle ‘first do no harm’ owner-empowering attitude to veterinary care, is a rare and precious find for any animal lover. When the Animal Doctor officially opens for business, Primal Plate will be celebrating the fact by baking this gorgeous girl a cake to show our appreciation. Local pet owners might want to take note.
Meanwhile, with Easter Sunday just around the corner, I am thinking about what we’re going to eat for our lunch. Today’s recipes for Cheddar, Herb & Mushroom Roulade with Red Wine Sauce are both taken from Rose Elliot’s book The Classic Vegetarian - although you’ll have to keep flicking between pages 34-37, 94 and 121 for instructions to cook. To help, I’ve brought both recipes together in one place for easy reference.
This is what I call ‘dinner party’ food. Just right for when you want something extra special for family and friends. To make things easy on yourself, cook the roulade in advance, then wrap it in tin foil and warm through in a hot oven for 15 minutes just before you want to serve it. Purple sprouting broccoli is my vegetable of choice. It’s a springtime seasonal star that’s just perfect with Cheddar, Herb & Mushroom Roulade with Red Wine Sauce because its dark green purplish hue sits so beautifully on the plate alongside the deep ruby red colour of the wine sauce. A truly elegant and impressive dish that’s every bit as tasty as a traditional Easter Sunday lunch but without a little lamb having to lose its legs.
After the events of the past week do I need reminding that animals have a right to life and love as much as humans? No I do not! With this delicious festive meal, I wish everyone a happy, peaceful, vegetarian Easter.
Cheddar, Herb & Mushroom Roulade With Red Wine Sauce (Serves 4)
Ingredients - for the roulade
Butter and very finely grated dry vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese for coating the base of the tin
60g organic full-fat soft ‘cream’ cheese
150ml organic single cream
4 large organic eggs, separated
200g organic Cheddar cheese, grated
3 tbsp of organic fresh herbs such as thyme, oregano and parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese to garnish, optional
Ingredients - for the mushroom filling
600g mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced (I used a variety of organic & exotic mushrooms e.g. Chestnut, Shitake, Crimini, Enoki, Oyster and Beech)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients - for the red wine sauce
2 organic shallots, finely chopped
2 tsps fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
300ml red wine
45ml (3 tbsp) port, or other fortified wine
½ tsp vegetable bouillon powder
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Instructions - to make the roulade
Pre heat the oven to 200℃ / 400 ℉ / Gas mark 6
Line a 22 x 12cm Swiss roll tin with nonstick paper. Grease the paper lightly with butter and sprinkle with the very finely grated Parmesan-style cheese.
Put the cream cheese into a large bowl, add the cream and mix until smooth. Beat in the eggs yolks one by one. Finally, stir in the grated cheese and the herbs and season to taste.
In a separate grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff - but not so dry that you can slice them.
Gently fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture using a large metal spoon or a rubber spatula.
Pour the cheese and egg white mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing it to the edges. Tip: If you bang the tin down firmly onto a hard, flat surface this will help the mixture settle down evenly into the tin.
Bake until risen and just firm in the centre: 12 - 15 minutes.
Place a piece of nonstick paper large enough for the roulade onto a work surface close to the oven. Sprinkle it with vegetarian Parmesan-style cheese.
Take the roulade to of the oven and turn it out, face side down onto the paper with a short side facing you. Peel the nonstick paper that was used to line the tin from the top of the roulade.
Allow the roulade to become cool to the touch before covering with the mushroom filling and rolling up.
Instructions - to make the mushroom filling
Melt the butter in a large deep sauté or frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has evaporated: 12 - 15 minutes. Season to taste.
Instructions - to assemble the roulade
Cover the roulade base with the mushrooms and roll up as follows:
Spread the mushrooms over the base, leaving a border of about 1cm (½ inch) all round to make the roulade easier to roll.
Starting from a short side, firmly roll up the roulade - use the paper to help lift the base ‘up-and-over’ as you roll it.
Place the roulade with the seam underneath so it cannot unravel. Trim the ends if desired (I don’t bother) and sprinkle the top with more grated Parmesan-style cheese.
The roulade may be served at once or reheated later (to reheat, see instructions below).
Instructions - to reheat the roulade
Wrap in nonstick tin foil and place in a preheated oven (160℃ / 325℉ / gas mark 3) for 15 minutes.
Serve hot with red wine sauce.
Instructions - to make the red wine sauce
Melt half the butter in a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat and put the rest of the butter in the refrigerator.
Add the shallots and thyme to the pan, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the wine, port wine and bouillon powder and season well. Bring to the boil. Cook until reduced by half.
Meanwhile, cut the rest of the chilled butter into small pieces.
Strain the reduced sauce through a fine metal sieve into a small clean saucepan. Cover and set aside.
Just before serving, bring the sauce back to boiling point, then take the pan off the heat and whisk in the cold butter, a little at a time, to make the sauce glossy.
Serve immediately with the Cheddar, Herb & Mushroom Roulade.
Carbohydrate 13g Protein 25g - per serving of roulade with red wine sauce