The short version of how this recipe came to be is quite simple: Merrie loves egg drop soup. She adores the stuff. At least three times a week, she begs to go to the local Chinese-Sushi-Korean dive just so that she can slurp up a bowl. This egg drop soup frightens me, however. It is yellow — bright, bright yellow. It is a shade of yellow that shouldn’t be allowed to exist. It is highlighter yellow. Neon yellow. I’m certain it’s filled with food coloring that’s going to knock five points off of her IQ each and every time she eats it.
Seriously. Their soup is so bright it’s almost…radioactive.
Which brings me to the second part of the story behind the soup. As many of you know, I’ve had a couple of bad weeks. Abdominal stuff. Pain. Bloating. Nausea. More recently, I’ve been feeling better. Not yet 100%, but so, so much better. When I was at my worst, my physician had ordered a bunch of tests (my endoscope went fine, thank you, and I have a very pretty stomach interior. I’d be happy to post the photos if anyone wants to see). One of the tests — a scan to see if I have a weak gallbladder — was scheduled for yesterday morning. I didn’t know much about the test beside the fact that I couldn’t eat beforehand.
Blair took the day off to be with me. We had an hour and a half between dropping the kids off and my appointment, so we went for a hike together. It was a beautiful, blustery spring morning, apple blossoms in bloom, gray clouds rolling overhead. Even with the test looming, we had fun. Lots of fun. After a decade of marriage, Blair still makes me laugh, and we still have plenty to talk about.
“We should do this more often,” I said. “We should do this on days when I don’t have to go take a stinkin’ test. We should do this, just the two of us, for no reason, and then go out to breakfast.”
Then, a short time later, we were sitting in a field of grass, looking at an expansive mountain view. Blair told me it was time to head over to the hospital. I sighed, picturing myself in a hospital johnny, lying on a table with a needle in my arm, some high-tech Siemens equipment taking pictures of my innards.
“Okay, but I like this part better,” I said. Then I sighed again. “I really wish we could go out to breakfast.”
Fast-forward 30 minutes. I’m seated in a hospital waiting room with Blair, marveling that there is a 2-year-old Time magazine is still on display (Al Gore: will he run for president in ’08?). A friendly radiology tech in floral scrubs, cropped hair, us into a windowless, fluorescent-lit room. At the center of this room is an imposing machine. The machine looks like it could eat me. As she sets up the equipment, she asks casually, “and you won’t be around young kids today, will you?”
And I answer, “Yes, I will. I’ve got two.”
She stops what she’s doing, looks me in the eye. “Okay, well, I’m not going to say that you can’t be around them, but you don’t want to hold them in your lap.”
I stare at her. Not hold my kids in my lap? Why would —? Huh?
“You’ll be radioactive,” she says.
I try to make sense of her words. Surely I mis-heard. “I’ll be — what?”
“Radioactive. In this test, we inject you with a radioactive fluid. It will be in your system for 12 hours, during which time you will be radioactive. Please don’t hold your children.”
Blair told me later that at this moment, he thought, “Okay, THIS is not going to go well…” And he was right. Because this, friends, is where I start to panic. I gape at the radiology tech. I am picturing the scene in the opening credits of the Simpsons, the part where Homer gets the radioactive rod of plutonium stuck in his overalls. And I imagine that rod inside of me, lighting up my insides, house, my kids. Gee, kids, doesn’t Mommy have a special glow tonight?
And then the words come. I want to say something logical like, but I’m getting better! Not worse! Shouldn’t making me radioactive be a test of last resort? But I’m feeling trapped, and I can’t stop thinking about that plutonium rod — doesn’t Mommy look luminous tonight? — and panicked tears have started welling up in my eyes. I simply whisper, hoarsely, “This feels wrong.”
The tech eyes me carefully, then goes in search of a radiologist who can counsel me through this panic attack. Suddenly, I really notice all the “Caution: Radioactive” signs that are plastered around the room. But my kids! They’re too little to carry Geiger counters! For Pete’s sake, I try to keep them away from artificial food colorings! And if I’m too radioactive for them, how should I feel about this stuff being inside of me?
The radiologist arrives. Unfortunately for him, it is one of the two radiologists that I know personally — he owns a horse farm on our road, and he trot-trots past our house several times a week. We often chat. He and his wife bought a baby gift for Charlotte when she was born. They let the kids pet his horses. He thinks of me, no doubt, as a waving, smiling neighbor, not a crazy lady who panics in a medical imaging room.
He strides into the room, prepared to patiently counsel an irrational stranger. Then he notices it’s me, his neighbor, and that I’m crying. He is so caught off guard that he literally must turn on his heels, walk out of the room, regain his composure, and come in again.
We talk. “It’s a low risk,” he says. “But it’s not no-risk. Like flying in an airplane.”
I nod and look down at the floor. Gee, kids, isn’t Mommy just da’ bomb?
He thinks a minute. “But listen, if you’re feeling better lately, not worse, there’s really no need to take it today.”
I stared helplessly at him. He is saying the right thing, but I can’t get past the trapped feeling.
Gather ’round, kids! Mommy’s going to lead us in a round of “this little light of mine, I’m gonna’ let it shine…”
“Really,” he says. “Go home. If your symptoms get worse, you can come back. If they keep getting better, then you won’t need to worry about the test.”
The floral-scrubbed radiology tech smiles gently. “It’s okay to go,” she says. She wants to scream it, no doubt: Just go, Nutso! Stop wasting my time! Go! But she is too kind to scream. She’s in a healing profession. She’s a healer. A healer who was prepared to shoot gamma rays into my body. A healer who wields a terrifying medical device. But a healer nonetheless. “You won’t be the first to have decided not to do the test.”
Then I realize: they are handing me a get-out-of-jail-free card. I take it. I go. We thank them, walk out of the room, out of the hospital. We get some breakfast. Just like I wanted.
So then later, after picking up the girls, I’m able to hold them. I’m able to make egg drop soup with them — the first meal I’ve made with them for a while. After we eat, I help brush their teeth, read to them, and lie with them in their beds. On this night, these things feel better, more meaningful, than they do most night. While I do them, I do not worry about whether I should really be at Yucca Mountain (and with that comment I must confess that some Googling revealed that any risk to the kids was probably low, no worse than flying. But still. I never liked flying.)
And the soup? Merrie loved it. Charlotte loved it. Blair thought it was like the Chinese-Sushi-Koren restaurant’s egg drop soup, but “way-better.” It didn’t look radioactive. And you know what? Neither did I.
Here’s my super-easy, super-fast recipe for yummy non-radioactive egg drop soup:
4 cups chicken broth, with half-cup reserved
2 scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated
1/8 tsp dried ginger
1/8 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp sherry
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 salt, or more to taste
Few drops of sesame oil
1.5 TBSP cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
Pour 3.5 of the cups of broth into a pan, reserving a half-cup for later. Add the white parts of scallions, the ginger, white pepper, sherry, and soy sauce. Bring to boil and let cook for 5 minutes. Add 2-3 drops sesame oil (a little goes a long way).
Mix cornstarch with remaining broth, and add to pan. Turn heat to low. Beat eggs, then add to broth while stirring rapidly in a clockwise motion. Stir for one minute, until the eggs have cooked and look like shreds.
Sprinkle with the scallion greens. Serve hot.
Note: if you’re not worried about a wee one’s palate, you can slightly increase the quantities of spice. But I preferred to ease into the spices, lest Merrie be turned off and then spend the rest of her life believing that the only good egg drop soup is neon in color.
Big thumbs up from the family on this one. As for me, I’m just glad to be back in the kitchen again.