Do any of you listen to podcasts? I didn’t until recently and wow, I had no idea what I was missing.
My current obsession is Radiolab, from WNYC. If you enjoy learning, just for the sheer joy of learning, check them out.
Recently I listened to their episode on the gut. They interviewed Jon Reiner, a James Beard award-winning food writer who wrote The Man Who Couldn’t Eat. In the interview, he recounted the time he was being fed intravenously.
As I was listening, as he described the time he plunged his hands into a chocolate cake because if he couldn’t eat it, he was darn well going to find a way to experience it, I thought, “Holy crap! THIS IS ME!”
Let’s back up a little.
Three years ago I was recovering from my fourth surgery for the same issue. I have this weird little problem with benign tumors growing on nerves and not staying true to the dictionary definition of “benign” (i.e. friendly).
Anyway, long story slightly shorter, it turned out I have a rather unusual lymphatic system. There’s a little duct called the chyle duct that for me was located in the same part of my body where the tumor was, where neither the tumor nor the duct were supposed to be, and as a result, the poor little chyle duct was damaged during surgery.
I think we should pause here a moment and all give praise to the mighty chyle duct. For they are wonderful little things, you know, and when they are damaged, bad things happen.
Bad things, like, unpleasant leaks that puzzle doctors, cause more tests, more hospital stays, and horrible digestive problems, until the poor person with said leak is sent home with drains hanging out of her, an intravenous line attached to her for meds and supplements, and orders to eat a very strict, non-fat liquid diet. She can’t have any fat whatsoever, not even a trace of it, so that little chyle duct will have a chance to “dry up” from lack of use and be fixed by the body.
That was me three years ago, almost to the day.
There isn’t much food that doesn’t have fat in it. Nearly all have at least a trace — skim milk was out, as were many fruits and vegetables. We scoured the internet looking for foods we could shove in the blender. Mangoes have a trace of fat in them, did you know that?
Every couple of hours my drains would be emptied, the contents measured, and a description written down as to color and opaqueness of the fluid. If it was cloudy, it meant I’d eaten something with fat in it, which meant one less item I could now eat.
Tomatoes have a trace of fat in them, did you know that?
Days went by. Weeks went by. Typically a lean person, I was now getting rail-thin. My energy level bottomed out. There were days when the best I could hope for was to move from my bed to the sofa, then back again. Normally an avid reader, I couldn’t concentrate on words so that was out; audio books were only good if I knew the story extremely well, so mostly I just listened to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Those damn hobbits talk about food a lot.
Husband and kids tried to help by only eating foods I didn’t like, but in the end, even that didn’t work because EVERYTHING sounded good.
I started looking up recipes, reading online restaurant menus, anything at all that talked about food. I knew it wasn’t smart — why torment myself with what I couldn’t have?
But you see, it was all I had. If I couldn’t eat food, at least I could look at it. Food images were like porn for me — especially images of fried eggs.
I think it was the fourth week when the hallucinations started — or maybe they were just extremely vivid daydreams?
The first time it happened, I was staring at a picture of sunny-side up eggs, could almost feel the warm goodness in my mouth, when suddenly … I realized I could smell the eggs!
I walked into the kitchen in a daze, actually checked the stove … no eggs were being cooked. Nothing at all was being cooked as I was completely alone in the house, but I swore I could hear the eggs sizzling! I definitely could smell them!
And then I started to cry.
I crumpled up on my kitchen floor and bawled. I wept like a little baby for the eggs I couldn’t have. I was smelling them, in some weird sense I could taste them in my mouth, but I couldn’t eat them.
True fact: I hated eggs.
Never could stand them. They were only good for baking cakes or cookies. The sight of a cooked egg on a plate, especially one with a runny yolk, disgusted me.
What the hell was happening to me?
Was I going mad? Is this what it felt like to be insane? Would anyone tell me if I were?
It would be another week before things started turning around for me — I’ll have to tell you about that next Wednesday, as this is getting waaaay too long. But what I wanted to leave with you today is this thought: Food is a Wonderful, Glorious Thing.
Did you get that? Here, let me repeat it:
Food is a Wonderful, Glorious Thing.
I know this time of year most people are making resolutions, and most of those resolutions involve weight loss. I know for many people, food is seen as a temptation, something they battle with every day.
But three years ago, I came to the realization that food is a marvelous gift — a lovely blessing that we should honor and yes, definitely respect, but above all else, something for which we should always be grateful.
And you know what else I realized? I like eggs!
I now eat them nearly every morning, sunny-side up of course, and I dunk my toast or English muffin in the yolk and happily slurp up every lovely mouthful.
For truly, there are no bad foods people, only bad ways to prepare them. And here’s a great way to prepare sunny-side up eggs, courtesy of a half-crazed blogger (that’s me).
Sunny-Side Up Eggs
The first thing you need to remember when cooking eggs is to forget everything you previously thought about cooking eggs. You do not need to cook them quickly on high heat and race to get them on the plate. You are not a short order cook. No one is screaming at you. Take your time. Respect the egg.
What you need:
- 1 or 2 or 3 eggs — depending on your hunger level
- Choice of fat — many people use butter, I used to until I tried avocado oil (yum!), olive oil also works well
- Non-stick pan, rubber spatula and tablespoon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Buttered toast or English muffins to dunk in yolks
Measure about 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil in the non-stick pan and place over medium heat – no higher. Once the pan heats up, add your eggs. (If you’re nervous about breaking your yolks, it might help to crack the eggs in a ramekin before adding them to the pan.)
The eggs should start to set; if they’re cooking quickly, turn down the heat a little. As they’re cooking, tilt the pan slightly, spoon up a little oil with the tablespoon, and drizzle over the uncooked whites around the yolks.
Continue spooning the oil over the whites until they are fully set. Season eggs with salt and pepper and slip them onto your plate with the spatula.
Dunk your toast in the yolks to your heart’s content and celebrate life, kid. It’s crazy good. ♥
15 thoughts on “Food, Glorious Food, and the Time I Couldn’t Eat”
Sunny side up…that’s my second favorite way of having eggs…first is omelet. Onions. Oh, heavenly onions!
Mmm, onions on an omelet… it’s good I’m able to enjoy that now! 🙂
Christi, add some grated cottage cheese to it to enhance the drool-quotient.
Interesting! I would have thought that odd before, but someone once served me scrambled eggs with cottage cheese and wow, it was good!
It is good. Gotta ask wifey to make me a cheese omelet for breakfast.
I am so going to try the ramekin. I break yolks all the time. It seems like the distance from the cracked egg to the skillet is so big. I knew you when you were going through all that, but you were home and now I know more. No wonder you don’t sweat the small stuff. You have been through the big stuff!
Thanks, Spencer. It does give you a sense of perspective.
Holy crap, Batman! I had no idea you went through something like that. It sounds awful and I can’t imagine what you went through. I’m so glad you are better now and looking forward to reading next week. I may have to look this up online as I love to torture myself with reading about scary symptoms…
I’m awfully glad I didn’t look it up as I was going through it, or it would have scared the bejeebers out of me. Fortunately I had very skilled doctors, but it was still pretty much hell. I’m feeling sooooo much better now! 😊
I’m so glad to hear it. You’re continuing the story on Wednesday?
Yes. Next week you hear how Husband impresses the doctor and I finally get to eat!
While I do love a fried-egg sandwich (mayo, sea salt and ground pepper on wheat bread, some crumbled bacon if I’m feeling really decadent), I have to agree with Anand that an omelet is closest to my heart. The sheer number of things that you can throw in the mix and whisk about makes it a truly satisfying relationship. (Suggestion: Gouda cheese, chopped Canadian bacon, bell pepper, onion, dash of Garlic Pepper Tabasco sauce, and a small dollop of sour cream plunked on the omelet while it’s still steamy. Not for all tastes, just sayin…)
Garlic Pepper Tabasco sauce? You just made me swoon!
Yes, this is a real thing. It’s slightly tamer than the “original” Tabasco sauce, so you can splash it about without worrying TOO much about sending your dinner guests to the ER, but moderation is still key. It’s delicious on scrambled eggs (we make breakfast burritos constantly) and it’s also a nice compliment with chicken, especially in a dish where the chicken is shredded, there’s some kind of mystical combo going on there that delights me. It can be a bit hard to find, so you might have to order online, but I treasure this little jewel immensely…
[…] In case you missed Part 1 of this story, start here. […]