Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CHALLENGE (08/17/17)
- TITLE: She Was Warned
By Judy Sauer
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It all began, out of nowhere, when the family ate at a well-known Italian restaurant. Her face twisted, and her lips wiggled, as she sampled the menu with her eyes: she tasted every item in her salivary glands. When she noticed sautéed chicken with capers mingled with lemon juice and butter, her eyes leaped with joy, so she ordered it. Her palate savored each morsel, and she ate unrushed as each hint of flavor exploded in her mouth. That night, her chicken entrée was loaded with capers. Tonight’s were not quite eyeball-sized, but compared to what chefs often served, they were humongous.
She hesitated for a moment. The capers dominated her plate. She pushed aside her reservations then took her first bite. Hmmm…that is delicious. Her thoughts took a breather, then carried on, Except the capers taste off.
She wavered once more. Should I get the server’s attention? This meal does not taste right. She wanted no fuss—it was Christmas Eve—so she placated and ignored her intuition. As she ate, she pretended to enjoy every mouthful.
After dinner, as they parted ways, Janet was unaware of the changes about to be unleashed—all because she refused to honor her inner alerts. It was often in hindsight when she realized how instincts tried to warn her; she flirted in total disregard after forewarned to not eat the food.
At four o’clock in the morning, she hurried out of bed and ran to the bathroom in their hotel room. Her body heaved in unrelented wave after wave as her dinner reversed. It was so violent that twice she heard, and felt, a loud “pop!” in her abdomen. The capers! I should have trusted to my instincts. Now I have food poisoning!
She returned to bed. A few hours later, she and her husband got readied and headed to their daughter’s house for their granddaughter’s first Christmas. She felt awful and looked pale, so she returned to the hotel, and slept the day away.
After the three-hour drive home, she made an appointment with the doctor.
At her doctor’s, her distended stomach resembled photos of starved children in third-world countries. She was tested with an egg sandwich infused with a nuclear dye to chart the motility of her stomach. The doctor needed to know how fast Janet’s stomach emptied its contents.
The doctor called; she had Gastroparesis—stomach paralysis—her stomach’s motility was severely delayed. The cause was unknown, yet she believed it was the capers. The doctor explained that Gastroparesis had no cure; but needed micro-management by the day, hour, minute, and bite.
An appointment with a nutritionist reduced the breadth of what she could eat. Fresh vegetables no longer lived on her plate. Crisp fruit never passed her lips again. Even when she reintroduced a food as a test, her stomach distended fast—she epitomized the beached whale image—and she writhed. During those times, she remembered how awful it felt when she caved to a forbidden food. So she learned to not yearn for outlawed foods: she called them “the unfriendlies.”
If she did the crime, she paid the time—as angered bouts of distressed life controlled her every food decision. It was the little things that caused the most pain; skin on so many things, like peas, tomatoes, beans, apples, nectarines; if it was naturally coated, it was unfriendly. She learned, the hard and dreadful way, of which foods her stomach digested with ease, and which caused misery.
When she ate at restaurants her eyes scoured the menus. I can’t eat that, or that, or that one either. Is there anything on this menu that won’t make my stomach furious?
She never knows which minefield will be triggered because of an entrée or side dish. Her food choices are limited, without mercy, and life has not been the same since her diagnosis. She has to be creative in what she orders, like a salad—without any lettuce or tomatoes.
Capers are pickled flower buds from the caper bush. The smallest is named non-pareil (up to 7 mm) [about half the size of a #2 pencil eraser tip edge], and the largest named grusas (14+ mm) [about 3/4 the size of a dime].
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