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:”
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.