Saturday, February 20, 2010

How I Unlearned How To Cook

@Ruhlman posted on Twitter yesterday a request that people (I guess this means bloggers) write about why they like to cook.

I thought I would take that a step further and write about how I unlearned how to cook.

One Christmas, before our daughter was born, my mother sent me My Aunt's self-published cookbook with her families favorite recipes.  A number of them were quite good.  All of them called for either butter, cream of mushroom soup, milk, eggs, and nuts.  It was a functional cookbook, and I, for the most part, was a functional cook.

I always enjoyed cooking and one Christmas tackled roasted chestnut stuffing, and home made egg nog.  I drank the egg nog while making the stuffing, and nine months later, our first (and so far only) child was born.

The food allergies that we discovered in her first year went the usual food allergy route. As one would expect the full body eczema and anaphylactic reactions were caused by wheat, eggs, milk, rye, millet, nuts, tree nuts and soy.  Yes, I say the usual and expected, because the unusual and unexpected food allergies were yet to come when she was around three.

Faced with the challenge of over 30 food allergies when our daughter was three I was forced to unlearn everything I knew about food and cooking.

Eleven years ago, I realized I had to learn about organic farming and how it differed.  I was forced to research high fructose corn syrup (corn allergy).  It was a requirement that I know just how and why hydrogenated oils came into our food supply. What was the reason why sugar was so white while raw sugar was not?  I discovered which manufacturers added Dextrose (corn) to salt. I researched how many chemicals were being added to our tap water. I had to find out what those scientific words in the ingredients list really meant.  I learned about mercury in the fish supply.  I learned what animals were being fed antibiotics, and why buy local.  I learned about pesticide use all over the world and how they differed from country to country.  I stumbled upon the early raw vegan movement.  I called food manufacturer after food manufacturer making sure that packaged foods were going to be alright to feed to my toddler. I learned how to make sure my child was getting all her nutrients without being able to eat the normal American diet and without being able to tolerate supplements.

Which leads me back to cooking.

I had to learn how to make cookies out of four ingredients - yes, four ingredients only.  And I had to learn how to make a birthday cake using only rice flour, water, olive oil and pears.  And so it began.  My love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.  My own recipes for gluten free, egg free, milk free food  - ALL FREE - are proof.

Life is much different now - with the plethora of amazing cookbooks on the market, and the awareness of food allergies in the medical community, restaurant community and general population - our lives have changed for the better.  Although I now have reading glasses, being able to read ingredients list on a package that doesn't read like a science experiment is a godsend.  Manufacturers printing "may contain" and information on how their product is stored and whether or not they use shared equipment has increased our quality of life ten fold.

But the best result from all this unlearning how to cook?  Our daughter.  Tall, beautiful, healthy...and always hungry... ;)

1 comment: