They say it because it’s true: You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. In my case, it was my appetite — and a kidney stone. Some of you might remember reading about my woe in the travel section a while back (then a mere mystery ailment, it struck while on vacation). Many of you even messaged me to ask how I was doing, offer diagnoses, or commiserate. I appreciate it all. Well, the results are in, and I harbored a 5-millimeter rock that took more than five weeks to evacuate, ultimately via a medical procedure that I won’t go into here in the food section. Suffice to say, I will never look at a straw the same way again.
I am now on my way to recovery, and I’m eager to begin eating the foods that simply didn’t appeal while I was either in pain or convalescing. So this particular column really could be called What She’s Soon Having.
There are foods I crave now, the foods that I missed ever so much. They are not highfalutin. No, they are not fancy. But they’re my staples — friends I missed in dreary days. I would recommend them to all of you at any time, but especially now. (Unless you’re a stone-former! Check with your doctor first about safe diets. I learned that the hard way.)
A grilled cheese and tomato sandwich from Dairy Joy (331 North Ave., Weston, 781-894-2600): The roadside shack’s summer season will soon draw to an end, but I need a flat, buttery white-bread sandwich before that happens — happy yellow American cheese dripping out the sides, thin tomato adding just a tiny bit of heft, and super-thin onion rings to go along with it and a paper thimble of ketchup for dunking. A sublime five-bite meal.
A big, floppy slice of pizza from Florina Pizzeria & Paninoteca (16 Derne St., Boston, 617-936-4494, www.florinapizza.com): I’ve told anyone who’d listen that this — this! — is the best pizza in the city: paper thin, oily, sweet, pulpy, blisteringly crunchy at the edges and cooked on a stone deck. The location is a bit odd (a massive construction zone near the State House) and the environs are wee. But the pizza is the size of a kite, foldable, and so satisfying, that it’s worth traveling out of your way for — and the ideal way to return to a world of flavorful food.
Piquillos rellenos from Gustazo Cuban Café (2067 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 855-487-8296, www.gustazo-cubancafe.com): This energetic, jammed Cuban restaurant in the old Elephant Walk space (there’s a smaller Waltham branch) feels like a never-ending party — the perfect reintroduction to humanity after time spent bingeing on Netflix. The service is familiar, the conversation level is buzzy but not overpowering, and the piquillos rellenos are soft clouds of culinary euphoria — wild cod and rich bechamel, almost like ice cream, stuffed into tender red peppers in a brown-butter carrot sauce that tastes like a combination of spicy gravy and real maple syrup. Bliss.
Crepes from MA France (46 Massachusetts Ave., Lexington, 781-862-1047, www.mafrancegourmet.com): This little café has cases of pastries and unusual French groceries, but there’s also a small counter where happy women in berets flip thin, poetically rubbery crepes. I get mine stuffed with salmon, tangy brie, and mushrooms. It’s a sweet, savory triangle of melted, warm comfort.
Sichuan wontons with chili sauce from Sichuan Gourmet (91 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, 781-221-7288, laosichuan.com, and other locations): These fat little missiles, doughy but not leaden, come splashed in a sweetish soy sauce, twirled with chile oil, garlic, and a five-spice blend that tingles but doesn’t attack. They’re juicy, spicy, and sweet — the happiest, zingiest shock to a system that has subsisted mainly on smoothies. Maybe not as healthy, but so much more delicious.