My kitchen used to be a prison, and now it’s a sanctuary.
In the early years of my younger daughter’s life, she had to follow a series of complicated medically prescribed diets that left me frantic for recipes and alternative products. The kitchen was the battlefield where I wrestled gluten-free starches and egg substitutes and strange milk alternatives into breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It was where I brought many times the normal grocery budget for one year, and a head-scratching selection of 1980s diet foods for one terrible spring. That kitchen held the answer as to whether my daughter would eat well or starve. It was where I gave up me for her.
But something happened once she was well, and eating normally, and it happened to both of us.
After a while, I missed the thrill of the battlefield. I missed the puzzle of ingredients that I could assemble into a picture that made sense. I missed using my skills. I began, over the years that followed, to love my kitchen. When I cook or bake something delicious and beautiful, I feel a sense of accomplishment that is, finally, not also connected to fear of what might have happened if I failed. When I’m doing it, I am both energized and peaceful. I’m now grateful to be in my kitchen. Continue Reading…
Especially when they are exterior doors — with one side facing the world and one side inside a private space — I’m forever pulling out a camera or a phone to photograph them. They are, of course, artful ways to say “keep out.”
In biblical times, nomads were considered the most generous when, deep in the desert, they opened their tents on all sides to welcome the stranger. In fact, welcoming the stranger is one of the most valued traits in the lessons of the Old Testament. It is all the more perplexing and, in fact, heartbreaking, that the doors of the biblical land of Israel are among the most beautiful I’ve seen in the world. Continue Reading…
Clean eating. Boot camp. Paleo diet, no-processed-sugar-January, new year cleanse. Slim down, tone up, burn it off, amp it up!
To all of this, I say: you’re worse for children than pornography.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the danger of asking people — mostly women — to think so hard about their bodies. I think about it every time I see pseudo-food being peddled near in the grocery store — “low carb” bars and no-calorie salad dressings and lettuce proudly labeled “gluten free!” as if lettuce could ever contain gluten. Once, I did my best to listen respectfully while a member of my family described donuts as “absolute poison.”
Around this time of year, the everyday drone of insistence on vilifying foods and hating our bodies gets louder. Every January, the ads on the internet and TV and in magazines and the newspaper start preying on the women who have not managed to set — or follow — new year’s resolutions to love themselves harder, no matter what. I think about it all the time, and fight its imprinting on my brain with my whole heart, but this week, I got involved in a Twitter thread that reminded me — in case I wasn’t anxious enough about how this would all affect ME — that there’s a population even more vulnerable than adult women.
One evening, almost exactly four years ago, I went out to dinner alone with my nine year old daughter, Sammi. Her older sister had religious school from 6pm to 8pm, and sometimes, I couldn’t bear to drive home, cook something, try to get Sammi to eat quickly, and then scoot back out the door again. The local Thai restaurant was easier, and besides, just a month earlier, I’d been left awestruck when Sammi ate an entire plate of pad woon sen in that very booth.
Even once the cause had been discovered and her aorta gently moved to the side and sewed to her sternum, eating was still slow and frustrating for her and us. We’d sent her to feeding therapy, a white flag waved at the eight years of labored eating that had conditioned her to chew slowly, fill her belly with water, and avoid the kind of dense food that would help her grow. Over the entire summer, once-per-week therapy over her lunchtime seemed to do little to help her regain the ground she’d lost. I waited for the growth spurt that didn’t come.
Then, one November day at the thai restaurant down the street, I mentally planned for her leftovers to go in her lunch the next day (and the next, and the next), only to look across at the plate of mild glass noodles and vegetables to see it slowly emptying. By the end of the evening, I was so excited that I took a photo of her empty plate and texted to my husband, my mother-in-law, my parents, and several friends. Continue Reading…
I’ve written ad nauseum about food allergies and sensitivities on this blog. Every time I think I’ve perhaps written too much about those topics, I take a peek at my web traffic statistics and note that the most popular posts on the site, week after week, are the practical ones with guides for either the six-food elimination diet (avoiding dairy, soy, egg, nuts, wheat, and fish) or the chylothorax diet (avoiding fat). I imagine that these posts are most commonly read by people struggling to feed themselves or someone they love. In my heart, I wrote them for a past version of myself, up in the night searching the web for information that, quite simply, didn’t exist.
At the holidays — these winter ones or others throughout all four seasons — it is hardest to be someone with food restrictions. Whether it is my daughter, who had to be on those two diets (among several others!) over the first nine years of her life, or me — dairy intolerant and severely allergic to fish — our family is incredibly aware of the limitations imposed on our social life by these restrictions. In my wider family, I love people who are allergic to nuts, who are on anti-inflammatory diets for auto-immune diseases, who are recovering from eating disorders, and who are diabetic. In all likelihood, there are others in my family with dietary needs that they keep to themselves. Yet somehow, we all manage to eat together, in each other’s homes and at restaurants, without too much disruption.