Radioactive Egg

Hamin Copyright © ShulieMadnick (recipe coming soon)

I wrote this personal essay about food and health last winter and revisited it several times for tweaks and edits. For the sake of the photoshoot, I managed what I could scramble.

Radioactive Egg

So the other day I ate a radioactive egg for breakfast. More accurately, a hard-boiled egg with that distinctly overcooked, grayish discolored spherical outline in between the hardened yolk and the egg white. The egg was injected with a radioactive matter so it would glow like fireflies in my esophagus and internal organs. Like flashlights in pursuit of a culprit in the loopy tunnels of my digestive tract.

As much as I wanted to imagine this overcooked, radioactive egg as an egg in its shell slowly cooked with meat and potatoes, a traditional, comforting Jewish dish for the Sabbath, I couldn’t ward off my disgust. I had the radioactive egg on buttered toast. The nurse insisted that I bring it from home. Not just plain ole’ toasted bread, but a buttered toast, when I booked the appointment over the phone. Does buttered toast pair well with radioactive material the voices in my head asked?!

The radiology technician pointed to the plastic fork and knife on the paper plate where the deceivingly inconspicuous egg was laid and warned me not to touch it with my bare hands. Slicing the toxic, slippery egg suddenly became more of an unanticipated struggle. If my fingertips shouldn’t touch the egg, how about my lips and tongue?! The pesky voices in my head jabbed at my brain again.
They gave me the option of washing the buttered toast and poisonous egg down with either an apple, orange or cranberry juice. I went for the cranberry. It’s the first American food I loved when I landed three decades ago in the US from Israel amid a blustering winter in New England. I was parched from fasting before the radioactive study, but the cranberry juice came in the tiniest possible silver tin can.

For the last ten years, I have been struggling with a condition. It came and went like a flock of migrating birds, during the winters, with some sabbaticals. This past winter, I was extremely ill for three long months and couldn’t even eat a handful of cooked rice. Besides, I caught the flu. Heavily medicated, we still went on our pre-planned trip to Rome. I could only nibble a little on cacio e pepe and pizza rosa and felt mostly ill throughout our visit to the ancient ruins of the Colosseum and the galleries of the Vatican.
This time around, I was alarmed enough to take precautionary measures and get a check-up as soon as we landed back. My maternal grandmother, who immigrated to Israel from India, died of stage 3 or 4 stomach cancer. She was gone within months after she was first diagnosed. She claimed, with a burst of genuine buxom laughter, that she ate too much, and that’s why it, cancer, happened to her.
I was x-rayed in fifteen-minute, then thirty-minute intervals for four hours—front for one minute then back for a minute at each rotation. The images instantly appeared on the monitor in front of me with the iridescent flecks saturating the crevices of my internal organs shimmering like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
As we wrapped up, the technician showed me the images, and then the monitor suddenly short-circuited and went blank. She was afraid she had lost all the data collected for the last four hours. She jiggled some wires. Turned on and off the monitor while muttering back, yes, as I asked her curiously if this blackout happened before. She impatiently dismissed me before I found out whether or not the data was recovered. Either way, I was not going back for seconds. I was not going back for another radioactive, overcooked egg on buttered toast and cranberry juice for breakfast. Though I am no clairvoyant.

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