Wednesday, November 4, 2015

How Food Allergies Taught Me to Cook

When we first got married I wasn't much of a cook. Actually, I couldn't cook at all. I could pour a great bowl of cereal and turn on the oven for a frozen pizza. However, I didn't do much actual cooking.

During our first year of marriage I started attempting to cook a few things. I collected recipes and read through some cookbooks and began to experiment. I usually spent much of my cooking time on the phone with my grandma to ask her questions like, "What does it mean to cream butter and sugar together? What does it mean to fold the ingredients together? How do I broil this? What does 'al dente' mean?"

As you can see, I had a lot of questions. I even watched YouTube videos about how to chop and prepare certain foods. Over time I did learn to cook a few meals and I could successfully put homemade dinners on the table.

Then we had our little allergy baby. Now I had to cook without eggs, gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, coconut, avocado, banana, melons, pineapple, and any type of seed. Basically, I had to start over from the beginning with an entirely new set of cookbooks. But this time I had no one to ask for help.

Going out to eat was never an option for our family anymore. This meant that I had to shop for some crazy-strange ingredients like xanthan gum and stay in the kitchen until I made something a little bit edible.

The first year of learning to cook for Bee I had many more failures than successes. I spent lots of time crying in the kitchen over ruined meals. I slowly found a few recipes that were not only edible but actually fairly tasty. Once we had a few favorites, I made those same meals over and over again until we were all so tired of them that I was forced to try something new. Then the cycle began again with lots of failures before eventual success.

I loathed cooking and dreamed of going out to a restaurant to eat. I hated the pile of dishes in the sink every single night. Grocery shopping was a tearful adventure to find something, anything, safe for Bee to eat.

After several years we have built our own recipe book that is filled with some family favorites that are safe for everyone to eat. Cooking is no longer a nightmare and I've started to enjoy the challenge of making delicious and healthy food for our family.

Food allergies taught me how to cook. Before our diagnosis, I could cook a few simple meals but now I can step far outside of that box and make meals from scratch. I have confidence in the kitchen. And best of all, our family eats healthy, fresh, unprocessed foods. We don't have the option to use nearly any processed food as they all contain at least one of Bee's allergens. So we spend most of our time in the produce section finding fruits and veggies to combine with a protein in order to make a complete meal.

Food allergies have been a little bit of a blessing in disguise for our family. They've brought us together in the kitchen in order to overcome the challenge of finding food that we can all enjoy. Now my husband helps me cook dinner on most nights and even my older children step into the kitchen and assist with cooking. We try new foods and eat only fresh foods.

I can bake bread, make rolls, whip homemade icing, whisk a roux, pan sear meats, and saute veggies. I've learned some basic cooking skills thanks to our food allergy diagnosis. Now my family eats homemade meals every night and we bond together while creating and trying new recipes.

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