As so many of you out there, I am in the middle of starting to map things out for the upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The food table is what we will gather around with our loved ones. We will do this at our parish, our homes, with our friends and family. The true reason is of course for thanksgiving and to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Food is a large way we celebrate these things. I love food. I love the smells, the colors, textures, the way it tastes and the people I will share it with. I will be embarking on the spirit store soon to purchase large quantities of rum for my rum cakes that we give to neighbors and friends and to take to various gatherings. My boys are already talking about making gingerbread cookies again this year. I am not a huge baker but the savory foods is where my tongue does its own little dance. The meats, sides...my moms dressing deserves its own category named heaven on earth. I can hardly wait to taste my Aunt Louise's potato soup come Christmas Eve. Oh and my Uncle Gilbert's fudge , you will find my boys including my husband in line for that. If you watch, you will see their eyes roll every so slightly as they bite into the goodness of the itty bitty squares.
Preparing for these upcoming feasts are easy for most of us. What is this sense of dread I feel you ask? My dread comes from trying to make the upcoming season of food just as exciting for my daughter. My little girl can't eat her Great Aunt's Soup nor can she have her Grannies dressing, it's a big fat no to the fudge also, along with all the other foods that fill up my memory. I have done quite well if I do say so myself in making our weekday mealtime a place that takes care of us all equally. But the upcoming season gives me a big fat headache. We work and intentionally push a positive attitude about food allergies and our life the entire year. But during this season, you can hear me shout form the mountain tops, "FOOD ALLERGIES SUCK". My cousin whose own grandson is on a restricted diet as well, is quick to reassure me that Lily Rose and her Cameron probably don't miss the foods like we do for them because they have never had them. She is right about that. My sadness comes more from what will be lacking years from now. My Granny has been gone almost 20 years and I can still taste the goodness of her caramel dumplings and her fried poke greens, oh her ribs and potatoes and the list goes on and on. So my sadness comes from Lily Rose not having the memories of the food traditions the rest of us have. My Uncle Tex passed away this past summer and since my boys were able to speak, they have associated butterscotch candy with Uncle Tex. We were in a gas station the other day and passed some by the register and one of my boys reminded me that Uncle Tex always gave them a piece when we went to see him. If you named each person in my family, I could most likely tell you a food I associate with that person. Now maybe that is a sign my family has a small addiction with food or maybe it is just me. But the memories are there just the same. I hate American cheese but if I ate a piece, I would first fold it in little squares because that is how my mom would fix it for me along side a few saltines. My kids will ask about Christmas when I was little. They like to hear about the traditions of the past and I always mention breakfast on Christmas morning. We use to get a country ham during the season and on Christmas morning, my Dad would pick every last scrap of ham off of the carcass and mix it with eggs and we would have the best scrambles eggs ever. Really it was more of ham with some eggs mixed in. But they were soooo good. If I close my eyes, I am in the avocado green kitchen of my childhood and can see clear as a bell the grease on his fingers as he gets every last piece of ham.
So, what do I need to do for Lily Rose. Food will always be a large part of seasons of our life. I have to work hard to find fun and good things to make every year for her. I need to find what will be her Christmas eggs, her special candy and so on. And I need to intentionally look at the things that we do that she can recall and smile about with future generations. This is not a bad thing, just not what I planned on. So this year, we will make her cookies that no one else wants to eat but we will make ornaments that she can share with others instead of cookies. I will take extra time to look at pictures of loved ones gone with her and the boys and tell the stories of who they were so they don't get lost. We will concentrate on making her Thanksgiving meal to take with us that has all of her favorite veggies and fix some that she can share, but we will also concentrate on soaking in the stories that are happening in that moment.
As the new year rings in, food allergies will still suck. But she will have wonderful memories of the season past to call on for years to come.