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Continued: Rosenblum: A chef cooks up meal to remember for man battling cancer

  • Article by: GAIL ROSENBLUM , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 29, 2014 - 5:55 PM

In the sum­mer of 2011, he sensed “dis­com­fort” in his bel­ly. The can­cer was back. The cou­ple down­sized to a con­do in Minnetonka a year ago.

Lim­it­ed to juic­es and soups, and weak­en­ing af­ter his sixth round of chemo­thera­py, Dave de­cid­ed to stop treat­ment in Oc­to­ber. “That’s it,” he told Jan. “I’m quit­ting the chemo. We’re very blessed. Let it take its course. I’ll live as long as I can.”

Doc­tors gave him three months. He’s gone six. “Still going,” he says.

“This guy has passed all of our boun­dar­ies,” Jan said. Still, she add­ed, “we know we are liv­ing day to day. We’re doing ev­er­y­thing we can do to make him feel good. We try to live.”

Dave gets up and dress­es hand­some­ly every morn­ing, some­times head­ing to the Brae­mar Golf Course to hit balls. He and Jan still go to Orchestra Hall and the Guth­rie.

In­stead of pre­par­ing din­ners for friends, they gath­er for cof­fee in the late morn­ing, or for a glass of wine in the af­ter­noon. But even “wine doesn’t taste like wine” any­more, Dave said. “Your taste gets so weird when you get this.”

Jan jokes that, for a guy whose op­tions are so lim­it­ed, “he sure is fuss­y.”

De­spite that, he want­ed one spe­cial night, a night to gift his wife with an em­er­ald ring to thank her for 55 years of mar­riage.

A few days be­fore their anni­ver­sa­ry, Dave called Mc­Cor­mick and Schmick’s and spoke to man­ag­er Mike Herstine. “I have this sit­u­a­tion,” he said. “I can only take li­quids.”

Herstine didn’t hes­i­tate. “I’ll talk to the chef,” he said. “I was hap­py that I hap­pened to an­swer the phone. Fifty-five years to­gether is pret­ty spe­cial.”

Twen­ty min­utes later, chef Neu called, which de­light­ed Dave. “I’ve nev­er had a res­tau­rant call me!”

“I have a fan­tas­tic blender,” Neu said. “I can blend any­thing. I can blend a steak for you.”

“Oh, clam chow­der will do,” Dave said.

Their son, Paul, sent flow­ers to the table. They or­dered champagne. As Jan en­joyed her filet, a rare treat for her, Dave fin­ished his clam chow­der and looked up to see a ser­ver carry­ing over a tray with “three little dish­es” for him. Cold, puréed beet sal­ad, wall­eye soufflé and beef soufflé.

As they dined, Herstine and Chef Paul came out to meet them. “They’re a love­ly cou­ple,” Herstine said. “They were so ap­pre­cia­tive and down to earth.”

Tir­ing and pre­par­ing to leave, Dave looked up to see one more sur­prise. Des­sert was com­ing. Apple pie — puréed. “You’ve got to pack it up for me,” he said, de­light­ed. “He ate it for two days,” Jan said.

Many days later, they still mar­vel at strang­ers who, for one night, helped Dave re­claim one of life’s sim­plest pleas­ures. “The fact that the peo­ple cared that much,” Dave said, “made it so ex­tra spe­cial.”

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