Sunday, January 29, 2012

Botulism Belly Blues at 3 a.m.

Botulism Belly Blues at 3 a.m.

I hate it when I wake up with botulism at 3 a.m. Not that it happens often; it doesn’t. In fact, only once . . . so far, but when you have botulism at 3 in the morning, who’s counting?
I woke at 3 with a stomachache and was certain I had botulism. Saturday evening, I made artichoke-spinach dip and ate about half a casserole dish of it. It was delicious, but not worth botulism, I realized at 3 a.m.
I didn’t have botulism, but I was afraid I did. Earlier in the evening before I opened the can of artichoke hearts, I noted a tiny bit of rust around the ring you pull back to open the can. At $3, I didn’t relish the idea of tossing these, so I inspected the can. I didn’t see any swelling or dents, so I figured it was okay to eat them. My daughter said to check the artichokes and if they smelled okay, then they were safe. “You can’t smell botulism,” I said. Nonetheless, I opened the can, checked for any rust inside the can, noted the clean, shiny surface, smelled the artichokes, and decided they were just fine. I made the dip, ate half of it, and took my sleepy satiated self to bed.
Everything was fine until 3 a.m. when I woke with pressure in my belly. “Oh, God! I have botulism! I just know it. What was I thinking? Is my life worth a $3 can of artichokes? Now I’m just going to die of botulism!”
Sane self said, “Now, just wait a minute. You probably have a stomachache because you ate too much dip. Calm down and read to distract yourself.”
I reached for my glasses in the dark, turned on the light, and tried to focus on my book. The words were blurry, so again, I was convinced that I had botulism! “I do have botulism! And now I’m going blind!” idiot self wailed.
Sane self said, “No you don’t. It’s 3 a.m. and you’re not even awake. Small wonder you can’t read!”
Idiot self calmed down for a minute and I thought about the spinach artichoke heart dip, which felt like a pound of bricks in my gut. Half a pound of mozzarella, a cup and a half of spinach, Parmesan and Romano, mayo, and 8 ounces of cream cheese, all mixed into a fabulous whirl of fat, which I baked and then scooped up by the tablespoonful onto crackers and ate until I almost gagged I was so full.
Sane self then recalled the last time I ate a baked dip that had cream cheese as an ingredient. I got sick in the middle of the day that time and nothing canned was involved, but something about the baked cream cheese had the same effect—pain in the gut.
“Well, I didn’t have botulism then, so I probably don’t now,” sane self said. Idiot self got quieter and quieter and realized it was probably okay to go back to sleep, which I did. I woke up without botulism and no desire to eat even a drop of the leftover dip.
In retrospect, even though I’m laughing about sane self and idiot self battling it out in my bed at 3 a.m., if I ever see rust on any can ever again, I’ll just toss it. It’s not worth botulism at such an early hour.

Jokes aside, dented, swollen cans, or cans with rust can be dangerous. It isn’t worth taking a chance—even for $3 worth of artichoke hearts.

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