What I Was (Not) Thinking

In the fall of 2010, my younger daughter began kindergarten on a dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, wheat-free, nut-free, vegetarian diet.

In late October, she got to add eggs back into her diet on a trial basis, and I learned how incredibly, incredibly useful eggs can be in managing a diet as challenging as hers. When we added back eggs, it made it possible for us to make these ridiculous — and I mean ridiculous — “pizzas:”

everything-free-pizza

They were made from a mix by King Arthur Flour, which had just opened an entirely gluten-free facility from which they were producing mixes like this one for pizza crust, as well as a very passable muffin mix and an outright-delicious brownie mix. As I mixed the batter for this dough with eggs, my hands shook. Would this work? Nothing had worked, not for two months. Nothing I tried to bake was any good at all; without eggs, gluten-free flours just fell apart. We’d eaten so many crappy gluten-free crackers and disgusting grainy cookies by then that I had begun to brace myself for the disappointment I’d feel when whatever I’d ground, mixed, fluffed, and all but spun-in-a-centrofuge would exit the oven in a smoldering, gloppy mess.

Then we got eggs back, and we made the pizzas. And they were pretty good.

Actually, compared to everything else we’d made, they were outrageously, spectacularly good. I layered them with homemade tomato sauce, Daiya brand vegan cheese, olives, and mushrooms. I was so grateful for the beauty of this mix that just worked that I became a King Arthur brand evangelist for life.

I saw this picture recently as I was searching through my folders of photos in preparation for this same little girl’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah, a coming-of-age ceremony in Jewish tradition. It’s become part of the standard celebration these days to include a slideshow of photos from the honoree’s life, and so I’ve been culling just the right ones. I’m leaving out every photo from a hospital bed, every picture of a medical chart or x-ray screen I took “just in case,” every picture of my girl in the button-down shirts she wore after recovery from her heart surgery and, of course, every silly, proud picture I took of a meal like this.

As I browsed the photos, however, I am shocked at all the things that we were doing at the same time as this maddening, ridiculous diet which took up so many hours a day in food preparation. That fall:

  • I helped a friend deliver her first baby, kneeling at her side all night in the hospital and cheering her on as her first daughter emerged.
  • I took my girls to a pumpkin patch and watched as they rode a camel, the tell-tale insulated sack at my side the only sign of the preparation I had to make to go anywhere with my little one on that diet.
  • I hosted a master fiddler from Missouri in my home as she taught a master class for a weekend.
  • I orchestrated a successful Halloween for a child who couldn’t eat chocolate or nuts or wheat or soy by dropping allergen-free candy bars off at a dozen homes in our neighborhood, and directing my little one to those places where I knew “safe” treats awaited her.
  • I kept my business afloat, my marriage intact, my older daughter feeling loved, and my sanity in check.

What was I thinking? How could I have done anything else, shackled to the stove and only freed to go to the grocery store, again?! The truth was that I did so much more that fall than cook, though my faulty memory holds more tightly to the failed casseroles, the strange starches in the air, the unending lentils, and, finally, this pizza, which encapsulates a moment but not the entirety of my life.

It’s a photograph of an instant: delicious and rewarding and, thankfully, fleeting.

 


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, in its new format where each week is the same but different. This week, we’re sharing a photo and the story behind it. FTSF is hosting by Kristi Campbell of Finding Ninee and Kenya G. Johnson of Sporadically Yours.

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8 thoughts on “What I Was (Not) Thinking

  1. That sweet little face surrounded by the pizza. What a picture. Thank you for sharing the background to this photo. Had you not and I’d stumbled onto it on Instagram or something I would have smiled and “liked” and moved on to the next. But. Whoa. Your plate was indeed full that fall.

  2. It’s amazing the memories that come from tough times. One time son and I were talking about when his dad was in Iraq. I remember failing moments where I’d allowed myself to have a meltdown from dropping a bag of flour on the floor (it exploded) and stuff like that. My son remembers how fun I made it filling in the gap of him missing his father. I remember it being tough but I have tons of pictures of that I took of the fun things were were doing as I recorded happy moments to send to my husband.

    Those pizza’s look delish!

  3. Thank goodness for the reminders that photos give us. That we can look back and realize we did have fun during a trying time is a gift. And wow – her dietary restrictions sound like it’d have made cooking almost impossible. I’m impressed you tried so many recipes before being allowed to use eggs again.

  4. Its amazing the things we manage to do when we need to. (Thats not quite saying what I wanted it to say*.)
    The functioning of our memory of the past is probably far more intricate an affair than we realize. So much so that I suspect that the process of recalling the past is different every time it occurs.
    I often find myself thinking, ‘Man, you had so much time for things back (pick a time in the past) then…. why can’t you be so efficient now?’
    That (reaction) is perhaps a function of the individual recollection more than anything else. Time seems to do an edit on memory; one not necessarily based entirely on the emotional charge it (may have) possessed at the time. I bet theres something about where we are (in our lives) at the time of the remembering as there is about how complete or accurate or memory actually is.

    *to borrow from the most excellent movie, ‘The Princess Bride’

  5. This is a wonderful FTSF post! I used to think it was kind of funny when my mother would worry about all that I did while trying to be a wife and a mother. I just thought it was nothing unusual, but now that those years are a long ways in the past and I see how difficult it is for me to manage even half as much, I find myself having the same thoughts. However did I do all that?

    I think I will have to try King Arthur’s brand when making something for a friend.

    How wonderful that you were able to make Halloween so special for the little girl.

  6. I’m glad you remember all the other things you were doing at the time this photo was taken – so, so much! Photos capture the instant, but they can also remind us of so much more.

  7. That pizza looks great! I remember trying the gluten free with my son, but it was years ago and there was not a lot available. I have never once gotten a pizza to look that good!!!

  8. WHy do your posts so often poke me in the eye, one must wonder?
    Oh right, because the honesty of living life, struggling and thriving all at once, even when we don’t know we’re doing it, is truth and touching and lovely.

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