Roasted Fennel with Parmesan

April 19, 2010

Here’s a recipe for roasted fennel, but that’s not what this post is about. A few weeks ago, a patient I really connected with passed away. He had multiple complications from a particularly virulent strain of AIDS. The first night I cared for him, I poked my head in his room at about 1am and saw he was wide awake, watching TV. I asked how he was doing, and that turned into a conversation that lasted about an hour and a half. He talked about how he acquired his disease, how he lives with his anger, and how he has a constant debate with himself on how to live the remainder of his life. He wonders whether to live frugally, preparing for the day when his insurance maximum stops covering his expensive HIV medication (only 5 years away), or whether to quit worrying and move to Hawaii.

After our conversation, I got an admission and everything went to pot. This person had intractable nausea and this person couldn’t breathe and this lady was just cranky and mean and yada yada yada. I was running from one room to another, and glanced at the clock at 5am, realizing I’d be there until about 9am charting.

I was frustrated at falling behind, and described my night to my good friend Dale. I asked her, in the middle of trying to prioritize which fire to extinguish first, “Having that conversation, that was important, right?” She told me, “Absolutely. Occasionally, someone reaches out a hand to you, asking you for help. And you can either run with it, or ignore it. And if you ignore it, that moment, and that opportunity is gone forever.”

We get so wrapped up in tasks, sometimes, that we fail to realize the most important thing standing in front of us. My job sometimes feels like a series of tasks–blood draws, med passes, assessments, charting… But looking at my job like that leads only to stress, never to fulfillment. A lot of people don’t cook because they don’t have the time. They don’t cook because they want to get enough done to sleep 8 hours that night, or watch TV, or clean the house. But getting bogged down in tasks and To Do Lists distracts you from what’s most important. Cooking is what I call worthwhile effort. It’s not on your daily To Do list, but it’s still important To Do. Just like the conversation I had with my patient. It is important to do the things that make us feel human, not just accomplished.

Do you know the first thought I had after I found out my patient died? “Thank God we had that conversation.”

ROASTED FENNEL WITH PARMESAN (adapted from Roasted Fennel with Parmesan by Giada DeLaurentis)

Serves 4


4 bulbs fennel, cut horizontally into 1/3 inch slices

2 tablespoons fennel fronds (the part of fennel that looks like thin grass)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshy ground black pepper

1/3 cup grated parmesan


Preheat oven to 375. Arrange fennel in a glass baking dish (13 x 9 x 2 is recommended, but I just used a few pie pans since I didn’t have that size). Arrange fennel in dish. Drizzle fennel with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then parmesan. Bake until fennel is tender and top is golden brown (about 45 minutes). Sprinkle with fronds and serve.


2 Responses to “Roasted Fennel with Parmesan”

  1. auntie xoxoxo Says:

    elizabeth, this is a beautiful story,,thank you for sharing this & for reminding me that making a one on one connection is soooo very important!!!! you are a good nurse,,you are a GOOD PERSON!!!!
    i love you xoxoxo
    your aunt xoxoxoxo

  2. Cousin A Says:

    Amen Cousin!!!
    miss you, looking forward to cathing up with you and Will in a couple of weeks.


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