If there is a singular self-identifying fact about myself, it’s that I love food. And in the last five years or so, about Chris and I, that we love food. A nice Pinot noir and a simple charcuterie set the stage for a great date night. For a fancy night out, we might go to a new restaurant, and then for our next at-home date, try to recreate the meal ourselves, or our favorite parts of it.
We love to cook. When the girls are behaving, we love to cook together. When we’re stressed, we retreat to the kitchen. There are few better ways to clear our minds than with the familiar rhythm of the old cast iron, olive oil in the pan, mince garlic, add onions.
I remember once when Aubrey was so tiny and so, so screamy, calling my little brother while frantically, calmly slicing heirloom tomatoes, arranging them on a flatbread, drizzling the oil, sprinkling the sea salt. The mindfulness of each step is calming.
We love food. Perhaps we have loved it too much.
Last summer I developed what seemed like a sudden intolerance for red meat, then all meat, then dairy products. I remember my last attempt at enjoying red meat. We were celebrating our anniversary dinner at a favorite restaurant in Nashville, and we ordered the beef tartare. So delicious, so amazing. I was sick through the rest of the next day.
That wasn’t the first time I had gotten sick after eating red meat, but it was the first time I started to connect the dots.
Through trial and error and immobilizing stomachaches, I gradually started eliminating offending foods from my diet. First red meat, then all meat, then fish, then dairy. I started taking probiotics, Betaine HCl, and digestive enzymes. These things helped but didn’t solve the problem.
Finally, after another round of tests, we learned that I have developed significant food allergies, and my levels of inflammation are off the charts. I’m allergic to all the normal foods, and most of the alternatives as well (red meat, chicken, fish, gluten… spinach, almond, coconut).
Chris, God bless him, went all in with me. We quit eating meat on a hairpin, and Chris spearheaded the effort toward a plant-based diet. He is constantly on the hunt for a new recipe, and you’d never notice the lack of meat.
Then in February Chris had a meeting with our doctor to go over some test results. It was the kind of meeting that leaves you shell-shocked, with no other choice but to do as you’re told, to find a way to change. That’s when we really got serious about our plant-based meals. It’s also where we lost our rhythm.
We cut out added oil and added sugar. Now when we meal plan, when we grocery shop, when we try to go out to eat, we have to ask ourselves a million questions. There are times it feels as if there is literally nothing we can eat.
Our food world has gotten smaller.
And then I remember this.
Beautiful strawberries. Sun-ripe tomatoes. Golden peaches.
We have mastered nothing, but we keep trying. Cooking without oil can best be described as an on-going experiment. We have one go-to cookie recipe, and none of our gluten-free biscuit recipes are worth sharing. But the best foods require no preparation. Just simple enjoyment.
And to be fair, we have more resources available to us, well-stocked grocery stores, knowledgeable friends, the entire Internet, then we could possibly ask for. We’re wading through, and I know we’ll find our footing and our rhythm again. Eventually.
I can’t say that we’ve cured our bodies, and I’ll admit that I’m anxious about what on earth we’ll eat during our upcoming trip to Italy, but I can say that we feel a million times better in our bodies and our minds than we have before, and this change is here to stay.
The minute I get the all clear to eat Parmesan cheese, I’m going for it.