|My sous chef, sorting strawberries.|
Within a few months, though, my gluten allergy reared its ugly head. We spent months not knowing why my health was declining, and finally got an answer 8 months and countless doctors' visits after my initial symptoms. With my diagnosis - Celiac disease - came a mix of relief and anxiety. We were grateful to know how I could get better. But what was I supposed to cook without half the ingredients I knew and loved?
I picked up a gluten free baking mix at Whole Foods and made my first scone. What came out of the oven tasted dense and sprouty, and I cried. It wasn't the taste that brought the tears. I was convinced I'd never eat a baked good that tasted good for the rest of my life. I grieved the loss of my favorite ingredients and the comfort they brought. I had just gotten the hang of cooking for my new husband, and now, I had to start all over. I had to relearn how to cook.
Then came our move to Nashville which commenced an intensely busy season. We lived a 20 minute drive from our favorite grocery store, which meant I really had to plan or we'd end up eating out. I was juggling a part-time job teaching painting classes, then working from home on Brighter Day, and going to nursing school. Planning, prepping, cooking, cleaning - it all felt like such a burden. I didn't want to spend hours in the kitchen cooking because I felt like whatever I made usually didn't taste good anyway.
So when Shawn would ask about dinner, I would get defensive, as if he was insinuating it was my wifely duty to take care of all the cooking on top of everything else I was juggling. (A man's gotta eat, though, right?) We ended up at Chipotle more times than I can count. We would eat there 3 to 4 times a week for months. Seriously. I blamed it on busyness, which was partly true. But mostly I was just so frustrated by my limitations.
That catches us up to today: here in Raleigh in our first home with our first child. With one of us in full-time ministry and one working from home, we have a budget that demands we eat in more than we eat out. We also have a one year old who does not behave kindly in restaurants.
And finally, five years after my gluten allergy diagnosis, I'm beginning to feel really comfortable in the kitchen again. These days, I actually want to be there. I've begun to plan meals out two weeks in advance, which takes less than an hour and spares me so much time agonizing when meal time rolls around. It's a different season for us. Less fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants in many ways. But I'm learning to love it.
Whereas cooking just last year felt like such a chore, today it's feeling much more like a privilege. Just this weekend, we had blackened chicken tacos for lunch, rosemary tomato soup with homemade parmesan croutons and a salad with lemon vinaigrette for dinner, and apple crisp for dessert. I make most of Liam's baby food and I love seeing if he'll enjoy what I've steamed and mashed and created for him. And today when I cook, it's rare that I think, "Is this gluten-free?" It's become so natural to cook gluten-free that it's not an issue anymore. Instead, I chop onions and glide across the hardwood floor and stir soup and feed little bits to the tiny boy hanging onto my leg. And at mealtime, I watch as my boys' bodies are filled and nourished, and their souls can breathe. It's something no restaurant - however delicious - can do for my family. And in that way, it feels like such a gift.
PS - I just went looking for our old apartment on Craigslist... sure enough, this post came up and the first four pictures are pictures of our apartment when we first moved in! Gotta love our blow up mattress, Shawn's guitar case, and the cross wall in the living room. Makes me nostalgic. (And whew... prices have gone way up!)