Something Louder

I’ve had an intensely difficult month.

To protect the privacy of my family, I have to be vague, for which I hope you will forgive me. I’ve always been very open about the heartache of my daughter Sammi’s first eight years: the confusion and the instinct I had to push through it, the fear I had about her breathing and eating, the confidence I somehow found inside me to urge all of us forward to a real resolution to her challenges. As much as was age-appropriate, I have always asked Sammi what she felt comfortable sharing through this blog and through other writing. She wants the world to gain something from her journey, as do I.

But this last month, the heartache and the excruciating journey have belonged to my parents, and it has been dramatic, painful, and frightening on a physical level for them and on an emotional and spiritual level for all of us. It kept me away from home for most of the month, away from my husband and daughters and a million miles outside my comfort zone. It did not and cannot end well, but that is all I can say about it without betraying their privacy. Continue Reading…

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Back to Blueberries

I’m thinking a lot about blueberries these days.

I’m thinking about the ways that they have served as an emblem of my path to loving food — deeply, fully, and with gratitude — over the course of my daughter Sammi’s life. From the postpartum afternoon when my mother-in-law first came to my house with a bag of farmers market berries and showed me how they were more than the sour little fruits that ruined my muffins to the morning nine months later when I nibbled a blueberry in half and placed it tentatively in front of my 9 month old daughter, blueberries were a beacon I didn’t even recognized until I’d followed them out of the darkness and into the brightest, warmest sunshine.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes, right? Someone introduces us to something we never really considered before, and like in the corniest of cartoons, a door opens or a path becomes illuminated or a mysterious staircase appears and here we are, in a whole universe of things that were outside our peripheral vision the whole time. From blueberries, I was led to cooking greens. From cooking greens, I discovered the wide ranges of the brassica family from cabbage to broccoli (ok, I knew about broccoli before, but not how to really make it shine) to brussels sprouts. From brassicas, I moved on to the family of hard winter squashes, finding my way through all of them to learn that I loved kabocha but not delicata. Over the years I would come to embrace varieties of garlic and basil, oregano and heirloom tomato, purslane and foraged sage. From the dull vegetarian of frozen faux meats and pasta to the lover of frittata, stir-fry, and dozens of soups, I transformed myself as an eater and a cook.

All because of blueberries.

All because of Sammi, who took that first half-blueberry and pinched it between her fingers, watching the juice run over her thumb. Sammi, who stuffed it into her baby lips and smiled. Sammi, who would eat nothing else with enthusiasm for many years but would always, always eat blueberries. Sammi, whose blueberry addiction drove us to the farmers market week after week, unwittingly drew me forward into the world of food that comes right up out of the ground and into our lives without packaging or fanfare: audacious raspberries, plump and velvety peaches, dark plums with their tart skins and sweet juicy insides, blood-red cherries with pits I delight in spitting off my front porch. How did I live without them before? How grateful I am that I have them now!

Over the years of the strange medically-restricted diets Sammi had to follow, the blueberries led us safely past danger, along with all the other gifts they’d brought. Learning to cook with fruits and vegetables was only a matter of not interfering, it turns out, with what they naturally have to offer: texture, color, sweetness, acidity, musk, and flavor. By the time it was all over, I’d discovered that the same was true for children; my job was to try to guide along the aspects of their selves that came most naturally: light, darkness, sweetness, acidity, and flavor. Is it any wonder that I’m awed by both plants and children?

Imagine my delight when the publishers of my forthcoming book, Kitchen Medicine, sent me a series of options for the cover. First on their list was the one I chose. It could not be any other way.

 

If you want to stay updated on all things Kitchen Medicine, please sign up for my newsletter. Each time I share one, I’ll include a recipe. This month, in honor of this lovely new cover, I’ll share the blueberry muffin recipe I mention in the introduction to my book. It’s precious to me, and the best way to honor that is to share it. Stay tuned in the next week for that if you subscribe!

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Eating for Joy

It’s been a long time since I posted.

Partially this is because I was writing elsewhere; the manuscript for the book I announced in my last post in (*gulp*) January was due at the beginning of June, and aside from the four chapters I wrote for the proposal, I was writing everything from scratch. Though I’d written a full manuscript already, chronicling my experience as my daughter Sammi’s advocate on our strange and perplexing medical odyssey, the COVID-19 pandemic squelched the publishing industry’s appetite for books about illness. Along with the proposal for a book on medical mystery went the entire 75,000+ word manuscript. In its place came a far more optimistic retelling, a story about my ambivalence for food that turned into a deep joy I found in cooking, feeding, and my own appetite. The story arc is the same, but — like in the parable of the blind men and the elephant — I’ve learned to tell it from a different perspective.

Writing the story from the trunk-end of the elephant, as it were, has helped me turn this even more into my own story and less of my daughter’s. Of course, she’s the key to revelation, but now that I have looked back with this lens — that food always held everything I valued, from nourishment to love to awe to compassion to delight — I can’t help seeing every meal I cook as an extension of that journey, the next chapter in the story. Continue Reading…

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However

I’ve barely written anything in the last week.

That’s not like me, and also, what IS like me anymore?

I’ve tried very, very hard to keep this whole thing afloat: my family, and my passion projects, and my work, and my faith in democracy and science and kindness and humans, but…

But. However.

My eleventh grade English teacher told me sentences cannot ever begin with the word “however,” so I put them in the middle of sentences, or maybe a third of the way into sentences, like this: There is not, however, a guarantee that working hard for years and years on a project will guarantee the outcome I want. And also, this: I believe in myself and my strength; however, lots of powerful and gifted people never get what they want most. Continue Reading…

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The Name for Crumbs

mandelbrot

Many years ago, on a family vacation, we were playing a charades-like game. Our girls were young — maybe 11 and 8, or maybe younger — and I was paired with my younger daughter, Sammi. She is the “sunshine” for whom this blog is named, and at that age was a funny, silly little girl who laughed and made us laugh all the time. The word I was trying to act out was “crumbs.”

First, I mimed eating a big cookie. “EATING!” she shouted. “COOKIES! SANDWICH! MUFFIN!”

I shook my head and held one finger up with my eyebrows raised, willing her to wait. Then I pretended to notice something on my shirt. I looked down, pinched an imaginary speck of food off my shirt and put it in my other hand, pointing to it.

“CHOCOLATE CHIP?” Sammi yelled, bouncing up and down.

I shook my head again, taking another imaginary bite out of my imaginary cookie, then pretended to drop some of it on the table in front of me. I mimed wiping my fingers on my shirt to brush off all the particles of cookie, then pointed at the table.

Sammi paused, her eyes squinting as she thought about it. “FOOD LINT?” she suggested. Continue Reading…

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