Saturday night a dear friend of mine had a baby shower and I, as usually, couldn’t eat a thing served. Which was just fine by me, and I brought some of my coffee cake stashed in the freezer to nom on while everyone else ate dinner.
I’ve had a few food allergies my whole life. Being somewhere and not being able to eat much from the menu was not entirely new to me when I got my diagnosis last fall of severe food & environmental allergies, or when I had to give up gluten. I have always loved Thai & Indian cuisine and eating out at those places usually meant I only had two or three dishes to choose from, which I was okay with., anything fancier I made at home with substitutions.
Perhaps it is this which has helped me handle my transition from a few food allergies to being allergic to ALL THE THINGS however, it has been easier for me then for some.
Now don’t think it’s been an easy ride. I’m still bitter about caffeine, and I was openly pissed for a week. I still long for French fries on occasion, and do wish I could have a hamburger on a bun from time to time, but I’m okay without them most of the time. In fact, I spent a couple hours at a friends’ chocolate shop yesterday afternoon and despite being nearly unable to eat anything, birthday cake included, I was happy to be there with friends.
In time, you adjust. And I recognize that I have a very adaptable personality, despite stubbornness, I have usually managed to adapt and thrive in some way. But even folks unlike me in that way, in time, usually adjust.
I write & photograph my food, specifically, and about my life generally, for a few reasons:
It’s not so bad. Lots of folks, including, I think, my doctors, wonder what the hell I eat. For some reason, life sans all this stuff must be really hard. And it can be. And goodness, in a world of ten, twenty or fifty years ago? It probably would have been. But we live in the future. And I live in Charlotte. Here I have access to good food, fresh local produce, restaurants that will cater to my allergies, and fantastic doctors. I also have access to multiple ethnic & high end healthy groceries as well as your average run of the mill grocery store.
I’m a good cook. I happen to know my way around a kitchen and a flavor palette better then many. I grew up with a father who could’ve and would’ve been a professional if he wanted to be, I was cooking for my household starting around age 10 out of self defense (my mother was not the best cook) and I was a professional tea blender for a decade. I’ve tasted, cooked, paired and blended a lot of flavors both in teas and on tasting menus. And when I was at my most ill, food was my escape. Then when I was single, working every waking hour of my tea & massage business, cooking for myself was my primary form of personal entertainment.
It helps others learn. I have always been a teacher, and I get few joys out of life like seeing someone learn a new skill and then start excelling at it. I feel immense pride when I am a part of someone’s learning process. I always wanted to be a teacher when I grew up and I have become one, just not in the classroom.
It shows others they’re not alone. Chronic illness, allergies, and other health issues makes a person feel isolated from their old selves, their loved ones, from “normal” people. I have always been sick, allergic, red headed, and geeky. I lived my whole life as ‘other’ and was blessed with a family that was supportive of that. I am comfortable saying, “This is me, there probably other people like me.” I try to offer a voice, words that can be shared for those who can’t find the words on their own.
It makes people happy. Food makes people happy, in many ways. Back when the Food Network was mostly cooking shows (remember that?) I used to just let it run in the background most of the time. It made me happy, gave me ideas, and encourage me to explore foods. I am trying to share that kind of joy with others.
At the aforementioned party on Saturday night, no less then six friends commented to me about my food pictures on Instagram and my recipe posts here (there was much effusion over the baked egg in avocado). I can not tell you how many people have asked for a specific recipe or if I was working on a cookbook.
I tell you this, not to toot my horn, but to tell you how deeply happy this makes me.
When my friend Kristen said, “Whenever I see your food pics, I click, excited to see what you’re having today!’ and my friend Tameka said, “It’s like the Food Network on your twitter feed,” I was filled with a level of deep pleasure and pride that kept me pretty afloat since then. Later in a separate line of conversation, similar words were said to me. I feel really flattered. I warned them all, I was just prepping them all to buy my cookbook, and they responded with “I’ll buy one!”
My allergies & illnesses stripped me of my old career, but have allowed me to transition towards what I hope will become a new one that will work on my bodies terms. I feel lifted, loved, and supported in that.
So, to all of you who like my pictures on Instagram, comment on twitter or Facebook, like and comment on posts, and share with me in person the joy my food brings you – thank you! You have helped me find a new path to bring people happiness, share my joy, and find purpose in my life.