A single onion, its papery crisp coating still intact, sits on a small cutting board, signalling intent. Beside it, a sharp-edged knife, and an unopened can of salmon.
It is the salmon can that has turned this scenario from an action shot to a still-life.
I had planned to have it for dinner last night – a plan that started early in the day, when energy and clarity of thought of was still available. I even thawed a gluten-free English muffin with the intention of spreading the salmon salad on the freshly toasted halves. It felt like such a simple, yet healthy, option.
But then I went to the hospital, visited my now-on-the-mend husband, had my driver stop for a Starbuck’s on the way home, and ended up curled in a fetal position on the bed, feeling like I’d been thrust into a sudden-onset flu.
They must have put milk in my tea, was the only explanation I could come up with. A couple of hours of close contact with the toilet, and I faced the ever-present dilemma of what to eat. Could my stomach still handle the salmon? I set it on the countertop while contemplating, selecting a small-sized onion and, well you know the rest of this picture. I considered the salmon over the next couple of hours, even picking the can up in my hands and trying desperately to will myself to continue.
In the end, I boiled an egg and ate that with muffin.
I’ll have it for lunch instead, I decided this morning, realizing that dinnertime is too late in the day for such momentous adventures.
It takes three attempts.
At 11:30 am, feeling somewhat energized (always a relative term with ME/CFS), I look at the onion, and the can, think about the effort it will take to open the can and then sort through the bones and skin – which I detest – and decide to rest instead.
12:12 am. It’s not going to make itself, I realize, and I do need to eat, so I add a small glass bowl and the can opener to the setup, but still cannot see my way through to completing the action. I lie down again. I could just nuke a cup of chicken broth.
1:38 pm. This is ridiculous! The salmon is not going to make itself! By now I can taste the salty fishiness of the desired repast, know it will be a gift of nutrients to my body, have convinced myself of the need. I start with the onion, cut through the outer shell, discarding the unusable bits and finely chop half, placing it in the bowl. That’s enough, screams my body, but I push on, opening the salmon, draining the water, and with a fork, begin to pick through the contents. I just need to get enough meat to make this meal, I tell myself, discarding probably more than I should have. Mashing the salmon and onion together, I add a dash of salt and pepper and a squeeze of mayonnaise (something I know I will regret later). Done!
I sit to eat this masterpiece, afraid that I will not be able to manage it in bed, where I usually dine.
I spread the salad on thin rice cakes, savour the deliciousness with each bite, can no longer determine how hungry I am, or if I’ve eaten enough, settle on saving half of the mixture for tomorrow, and return to bed.
“What did you eat today?” a well-meaning friend asks later.
“That sounds good – an easy meal.”
“Yes,” I respond, stifling my impulse to laugh at the irony of it all.
Who would believe that just contemplating a can of salmon could be such a battle?