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Friday, January 13, 2012

Should I name this FULL OF PHO IN FLORIDA OR...

What the pho in Florida?

Wow. What a day. I started out at the Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) meeting in Orlando. There was a great moment during the closing ceremonies for the plenary sessions. Since 2005, the presidential gavel exchange includes a reading about a soldier in Iraq who was shot near Mosul, had serious injuries to all for limbs and was taken care of in his forward unit, the Mosul MASH hospital, the CSTAT transport plane, the interim hospital in Germany, and Bethseda Medical Center and the leaders of all his teams were members of EAST. The tourniquet that was used on this soldier from the forward battle station has been added to the gavel box and every year, someone gets up, usually Don Jenkins, one of our former organization presidents and also a military MD, and reads this several paragraph statement about the tourniquet and the care the soldier who was a marine private first class and 22 years old at the time. This year, the guy who got up was a bit younger and did not appear to be reading this litany of EAST members names who took care of this marine private with any confidence or eloquence. He stumbled over some of the names.I thought maybe Don Jenkins had asked his son or a resident to read the text, because he could not be at the meeting. But when the guy got the end, he said, I was the marine on whom this tourniquet was used. He started to thank the organization for saving his life and even though you could tell he was crying, he blustered through. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. When the guy finished, he got the longest and loudest standing ovation I have ever seen at EAST. And the most deserved, I might add. Really heartwarming.
Then I left the meeting and went hiking at Little Big Econ State Park. This is definitely one of the craziest names for anything I have ever seen, but definitely for a park. Why not Big Little Econ. I always think of Little Bighorn which didn't end so well for some folks. And this ALMOST didn't end too great for me...but thankfully...

The attraction here was that this is a part of the Florida Trail Network which runs the entire length of Florida and I have always wanted to walk on it and see what it is like.

This trail was along on of those interesting deep South waterways which is very slow flowing and has a lot of detritus. The water usually has the color of very dilute coffee and the banks tend to be sandy. Sometimes you see alligators...but not today. You could however see the beautiful reflections of clouds in the water.

It has been a cool, but not chilly day with lots of sunshine. I guess the lots of sun should have been my first hint? Oh well. I was walking along and saw a hawk overhead, but not much else. I saw palmettos everywhere, lots of pines and air plants and hanging Spanish moss.

SO I am thinking to myself, well Paul and I saw lots of beautiful bird life out hiking on our honeymoon, but today, I am seeing plant life. This is a flora trip, not a fauna trip....and that's when I heard the rattle. And then the hiss. And I don't even think it registered at the time exactly what was happening. I just looked down and had a subconscious pattern recognition and jumped backwards and ran for my life. I was so off balance that I literally fell onto my face about 10 yards from this fellow.

I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure this is an Eastern diamondback. They are apparently not very rare in the wooded areas of Orlando. This photo was taken AFTER the fact, is the actual snake in question (SIQ) and is ZOOMED. Believe me, I respect him too much to get very close. Based on visits on my grandfather's farm, I might expect a timber rattler, but I am pretty sure I see the diamonds and they are much prettier than his fangs. Close call! He scared the crap out of me. I am so grateful to have a scraped up face and not a snakebite at my calf. I guess if he was a mean guy, he would have chased me, but instead he was just grouchy. I dusted myself off and talked to him some. I asked him to leave so I could finish my loop hike (I was almost at the halfway point.), but he wasn't having it. So I walked back on the same ground. Anyway, I am grateful to be writing this blog instead of hanging out in an ER or a funeral home.

So I thought...hmmmmm. I should treat myself to a nice dinner, since theoretically any dinner might be your last. While shopping for local beers to take home to Paul, I saw a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Hoa. You could probably make a whole comedy routine out of that one, but I just decided to make a meal.

I needed a beer just to have something to calm down to while I read this menu. I have short stories with fewer words! So I had the Vietnamese export 33. It was very light in taste, is a lager and was a great complement to my eventual food order.

The first time I ever ate in a Vietnamese restaurant was 1986. There used to be a Vietnamese add on section at the back of Chinese place on Carrollton and Canal in New Orleans. I walked in and I felt like I had stepped into a bar in Ho Chi Minh City. The crowd was sparse but it was about 2pm-not your average lunching time. The place smelled like cooked seafood and cigarettes. All the customers were men and every last one of them had a lit cigarette in their mouth. If I had not been with a fellow resident from Charity Hospital, John Breaux, I would have turned around and walked out. We found a small table and eventually an unhurried waiter came over and sat a menu in front of us. I cannot remember anything about the menu except that it was in Vietnamese and had some photos on it. No one tried to speak English to us. We just pointed at the pictures and after a while, the waiter brought us the food. It was great. Light and tasty, but I had no idea what I was eating. John asked if they had dessert and the guy returned with what looked like eyeballs with tendrils in a glass of milky liquid. To this day, I have no idea what it was nor did I eat any of it.
Today, the menu was much more helpful. It had beginner pho, normal pho and "adventurous pho" which had lot of tripe and fatty flank (whatever that is ...maybe Fannie Flagg's obese cousin?) I chose the shrimp and pork meatball soup with noodles. I am not sure how they get so much flavor into the broth, but it is probably either fatty flank or some form of animal unmentionables.

I love the bean sprouts, basil leaves and lime they put on a separate plate for you to add as you desire. I put ALL of it on my soup. Yum. I also added this hot sauce which I have seen in many Asian restaurants:
Frankly, I like anything that says HUY FONG on the bottle. Sounds exotic. Sriracha is made from sun ripen chilies which are ground into a smooth paste along with garlic and packaged in a convenient squeeze bottle. This reminds me of one of my favorite Sri Lankan food, sambal, which tastes similar but is hotter, has some lime juice and ground fresh coconut and is a thicker consistency. But they both taste great.

Pho Hoa had a great soup, very light but also filling. I have two thumbs and they are both going up for this nondescript small family run restaurant. If you are in Orlando and off the Disney property, check em out!
Urbanspoon calls this restaurant a "sleeper" and I totally agree.

And what did my sweet husband have for dinner? Well I called Mr Parris and guess what he said?

Remember,there are only three choices:
(1) Mexican food (probably Chipotle)
(2) pasta cooked at home
(3) Hard Knox Pizza

If you answered 3, you are right!
Gotta love it!


  1. See? This is why nature should be controlled and subdued - Not admired and protected. Thank goodness you avoided disaster with the snake. You deserved a great beer after that.

    Inspiring story from your conference too. Wow.

  2. Yeah. If there is anyone living the "blessed" life, you are reading her blog Rusty.
    That snake scared B.Jesus out of me. My grandparents had rattlers, mostly timber rattlers on their farn, and fortunately I had heard it enough times to recognize it.
    In more narrowly averted disaster, that ship that tanked in Italy is THE SAME ONE Paul and I were on last month. Someone needs to write a short story about me...every time I leave somewhere, something really awful happens.
    thanks for reading this!