Dust mites. (So the house in France wasn’t possessed, after all.)

As I was making the bed yesterday morning, I thought of an article I’d read last week about how beds contain dust mites that eat dead human skin cells. Before you go imagining harmless balls of fluff that collect on the floor under your bed, like I mistakenly did at first, let me clarify that dust mites are alive, outfitted with multiple legs and a mouth that looks like a vagina, and not to be confused with dust bunnies. The article is called “Scientists Tell You Why Making Your Bed Is Disgusting – And Bad for Your Health,” and it was helpfully posted to my Facebook feed by one of my many helpful friends. I wish I could remember who it was. If it was you, thank you.

I read the article and it stuck with me because it’s all about how making your bed enables these vile little beasts to do their dirty work. The article reveals, as indicated in its title, that making your bed may not be the healthiest thing to do.

In her article, Ms. Harper reports that “each bed contains more than a million Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus – the scientific name for dust mites.”

Somehow this surprised me, but I guess everything alive has to have a scientific name.

“…feeding off of your dead skin cells and pooping (yes, pooping) out an allergen that can trigger asthma-like symptoms.”

 

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, aka dust mite.

Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, aka dust mite.

 

Apparently, dust mites can’t do their things in an unmade bed because an unmade bed is exposed to daylight and circulating air, which are lethal for dust mites.

Dust mites are basically microscopic vampires who can only thrive in the dark. Exposure to daylight kills them. A bed that’s made is their coffin. At night, they feed on your biological matter.

(Okay, they’re not pure vampires, since vampires feed on living blood while dust mites prefer dead skin cells. They’re more of a hiding, creeping vampire-vulture hybrid.)

These findings aren’t new. Ms. Harper explains that the research she references was published in 2006. Then she recounts other research findings that suggest a correlation between making the bed and better mental health, including benefits such as lower stress and higher productivity. She points out that we have to decide which is more important to us: the mental well-being that comes with making the bed, or the knowledge that by not making the bed, we’re destroying the carnivorous creatures who feed on our dead, discarded skin cells at night.

So yesterday morning I was making the bed while re-thinking what I was doing, hesitating for the first time. After some serious consideration, I decided that for me, the benefits of making the bed outweigh the benefits of not making the bed.

See, I was hardwired to make my bed every day before I joined the Army. When you join the Army, if you’re not already hardwired to make your bed every day, you come out programmed to do so, and I’m talking bounce-a-quarter-off-the bed kind of programming. For me, the consequences of not making the bed would be more disquieting than the consequences of turning the bed into a hovel for skin-devouring dust mites, but it’s not a sense of threat that propels me to continue making the bed. It’s more of a reflex, more like how it feels wrong to put on your right sock first if you’ve always put your left one on first. It’s a deeply ingrained habit. To stop making the bed would mean putting forth effort to break the habit, and it would challenge my mental health to see the bed all messy and unmade every day. (Not to mention that our unmade bed would end up covered in cat fur.)

It wouldn’t be worth it, especially since we live in the hot, dry desert, where our dust mite problem is minimal compared to other places we’ve lived. As stated in this other article I found, “…if the humidity is under forty percent dust mites don’t live well so that is why parts of the southwest don’t suffer from this problem.”

I now know that the raging skin problems I’d endured while living in France were probably due to dust mites. That second article also states: “Some people will have an allergic rash reaction of eczema. This is similar to the situation with food allergies: Some people get respiratory types of reactions and others will deal with the problem via their skin by having a rash response.”

Mystery solved.

In France, I suffered constantly with horrible, rash-like outbreaks all over my body, front and back, from my feet to my legs to my torso to my arms. Callaghan never had anything. It was an infuriating mystery, and we couldn’t solve it. While the problem persisted on the French Riviera (when we were there, it was more often overcast and rainy than bright and sunny, and being on the coast, it was never dry), it was much worse when we were up in la Région Rhône-Alpes.

We figured I was having a reaction to some kind of insect. I’m severely allergic to insect bites; they wreak 10+ times the havoc on my skin than on Callaghan’s, so it would make sense that if we had dust mites in our always-made bed in the perpetually dark, damp wilderness of our little mountain abode, I would have this reaction, and Callaghan would not. I’d often wake up with one or several itchy bumps that would erupt into a horrible rash that would burn and itch uncontrollably. If I’d scratch the slightest little bit – even lightly – bruises would form.

All of it vanished once we moved back to the States and the sunny, arid Southwest.

I was going to supply a photo here (one of many) of the strange bumps, scabs and bruises that I constantly had all over my body, but I decided to spare your eyeballs because “what has been seen cannot be unseen,” as we all know. (You’re welcome.)

The Pizookie and the French

Down the street from our house here in downtown Tempe, there’s a pizza joint called Oregano’s. It’s been a local favorite for the last two decades. It was newly opened when I first started going there in 1994; now, 20 years later, there are 14 Oregano’s locations throughout Arizona. They’re famous for their pizzas, but their entire menu is made of yummy awesomeness… I love their salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes. And their dessert? There’s only one dessert on the menu at Oregano’s, and that, my friends, is the Original Pizza Cookie, or, as everyone calls it, the “Pizookie.” The Pizookie is available in three flavors – chocolate-chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, and peanut butter chocolate. I’m sure that all the flavors are great, but I’ve always only ordered the chocolate-chip.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-OreganosTempepizookie

 

The Pizookie, for the uninitiated unfortunates among you, is cookie dough slightly baked in a 6-inch, deep-dish pizza pan, topped with three scoops of vanilla bean ice cream and sprinkled with chocolate chips. The resulting concoction defies description. There are no words.

Many others have tried to re-create the Pizookie, but as far as I know, no one has succeeded at elevating the simple combination of cookie dough and ice cream to the sublime height of perfection that Oregano’s consistently achieves. It must have to do with the pan they use, the type and temperature of the oven, the amount of time they leave it in, the particular recipe for the cookie dough, etc. It is a feat of culinary genius.The cookie comes out of the oven perfectly half-cooked, with the underneath firm (scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan is a part of the delightful experience), the top just barely set, and the inside soft and hot… and then, fresh from the oven, it’s topped with ice cream. It is voluptuous. By the time it gets to your table, it’s a pan full of hot and cold melty, gooey, chocolately ohmygodthisprobablyhasathousandcaloriesbutwhocaresIcanworkouttomorrow goodness.

It’s meant to serve 2-4, haha!

 

We went to Oregano's last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano's. PIZOOKIE.

We went to Oregano’s last night just so I could take this picture. OH THE SACRIFICE! OH THE THINGS I DO FOR THIS BLOG!! Meet the Original! Pizza Cookie at Oregano’s. PIZOOKIE.

 

Just to give you an idea – I’m vegan 95% of the time. Since we’ve been back in Arizona, I mainly reserve the 5% for Oregano’s Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza and their chocolate-chip Pizookie.

Now all of this, of course, leads up to the little story I have to tell you today.

When I lived in France, one of the most baffling reactions I got from the French was their dubiousness and often mocking hilarity when they’d ask me what things I missed in the States, and I’d answer, “The food.” I honestly did not understand their mirth. In my experience, the diversity and excellence of food here is unparalleled. America is, pretty much by definition, a merging of cultures; we have all the food here. For instance, I couldn’t find decent Thai food where we were in France… between the Rhône-Alpes (Valence, Grenoble) and the Alpes-Maritimes (the French Riviera), all we encountered were approximations of the Thai food that we know here in the States. And Mexican food? Forget it! Those are just two examples… all the cuisines in the States are rave-worthy. I could not find Ethiopian food in France. The plethora of excellent Indian restaurants we have here? Nowhere to be found over there. Also, from our national classics to our regional specialties, American food itself is great, not to mention “New American Cuisine” and fusion styles. I just love food, and there were so many foods I missed while I lived overseas. I found it nearly impossible to be vegan in France… the variety of vegan-friendly foods over there was dismal, at least where we were (we hung out in Paris on several occasions, but we didn’t live there).

Anyway, my answer to What do you miss about the United States? drew laughter laced with disbelief. There were degrees of the same reaction. Some people just laughed. Others laughed and made mocking, disparaging remarks. And yet others simply made disparaging remarks about American food, or my food (when I’d show up with something of my own that I’d brought, or that my parents had sent) for no reason at all. The French that I encountered just could not conceive of anyone liking the food in the States, much less missing it. (Not ALL French reacted this way, mind you! Of course there were those who were super polite and nice and had manners. I’m not talking about my friends, for instance.)

Callaghan was just as perplexed and taken aback by this reaction as I was, and he was embarrassed by the attitude of the French. Not only had he formerly lived in the States for ten years, so he knew the truth about the food here, but he also couldn’t believe the rudeness of the responses when the subject of food in America would come up. He speculated that people probably assumed “food in the States” meant McDonald’s and hot dogs, and pretty much nothing else.

Thus, we were both fully expecting Callaghan’s Dad and his Dad’s girlfriend Nicole to turn up their noses at the food in any given restaurant we’d visit while they were here staying with us over New Year’s. To make a long story short, they loved all the food they ate everywhere we went. It was kind of funny how we could tell that they were enjoying the food, but for the most part, they kept their reactions, you know, low-key. But Oregano’s was their favorite. They loved the jazzy atmosphere, and they loved the food, and they could not hide their reactions there.

When we got there the first time, Nicole said that she wasn’t really hungry. She ordered soup. But when she sampled my Fancy Dancy Mushroom pizza, she couldn’t conceal her pleasure, and neither could Callaghan’s Dad when he tried it. They both reached in for more.

Then the Pizookie arrived. We’d ordered two, so they could share one and we could share one.

It was rapture at first bite.

Suddenly, Nicole, who “wasn’t hungry,” was shoveling in mouthfuls of the hot and cold melty gooey Pizookie goodness. Callaghan’s Dad was doing the same. Several times, they both tried to stop eating it, but they could only leave their spoons down for a few minutes before they picked them up again. They were hard-pressed to hide their ecstasy. I’m telling you… I had never seen either of them eat anything with such gusto, in France or anywhere!

The next day, Callaghan called me while I was at work.

“We’re at Trader Joe’s buying chocolate chip cookie dough,” he told me. “They want to make a Pizookie.”

My first thought was, I could make better chocolate chip cookie dough. I don’t think anyone would argue that homemade is better than store-bought. My second thought was, they’re going to be disappointed, because there is no possible way any Pizookie we’d make at home could even come close to the heroin-laced Pizookie that emerges from the pizza ovens of Oregano’s. I cringed at the idea of them even trying, but I was amused nonetheless.

That night, the “pizookies” resulting from Trader Joe’s cookie dough and our conventional oven were a huge disappointment, as I knew they would be.

The next night, after dinner, Nicole said that she wanted to go back to Oregano’s. She wanted a Pizookie. I couldn’t believe it. She ate some American food she liked so much that she literally couldn’t get enough.

I was scrambling to work on my December Favorites blog post, so I declined, but I ended up tagging along when Callaghan implored me to go and we compromised with me bringing my computer and them accepting that I was going to be anti-social.

There we were, at the end of December during an unusual cold spell, after dark, sitting outside on the patio at Oregano’s, cozying up to the outdoor heaters. I wrote for this blog while everyone dug into their Pizookies. It was kind of surreal, but not surprising. The Pizookie is a thing you have to experience to understand… and if you think you know what it is because you had it somewhere other than Oregano’s, then you really don’t know what it is, because only Oregano’s does it like that.

So, Arizona people, if you’re hosting visitors from France, take them to Oregano’s – the great food, atmosphere and top-notch service speak for themselves, but moreover, there’s nothing more American than a chocolate-chip cookie… and baked in a pizza pan and topped with ice cream at Oregano’s turns it into an experience they’ll never forget!

Happy Friday, All!

(NOTE: this post was not sponsored by Oregano’s.)