Food forms such a powerful part of our memories and collective consciousness. It’s a wonderful part of our psychosocial experience that can allow us to come together as part of a community (whether that’s immediate family, friends, or our neighbourhood).
A food allergy in the family can suddenly turn food into something revolves around daily fear, anxiety, and sadness. For my daughter and I, her food allergies have certainly turned our world upside down (and resulted in me spending many, many hours in the kitchen) and that’s without the added stress of additional family members to worry about. It was really interesting for me reading Susan Weissman’s memoir, Feeding Eden, about the added stress of trying to find a safe and healthy balance (emotionally and psychologically, as well as physically) for the rest of the family when there’s only one child with allergies.
I could definitely empathise with her determination to find an allergy-friendly baking recipe that could bring joy to both her kids and allow her to create something that would add to happy memories of family trips to the park, or to birthday parties, or stay-at-home movie nights. I suspect the chocolate cake recipe that she perfected was similar to this Depression-era Chocolate Cake.
Even if you don’t have allergies in your family, food can be a wonderful way of connecting with your kids (especially if you’re juggling work & home). It teaches them planning, co-ordination, problem solving, a useful skill, and helps them to feel involved in what’s going on the table. It’s also a great way for them to feel like they’re getting your undivided attention and to form happy, positive, memories that will last well into adulthood.
Even if you don’t have kids, food is also a wonderful thing to share with your partner or friends. Experimenting in the kitchen together, trying out cooking classes, or trying different restaurants is a wonderful activity and source o conversation. It’s amazing how many of our memories can be triggered by a simple scent or a familiar taste; cooking offers something that appeals to our memories because it’s so multi-faceted – smell, taste, feel, even the sound of pots bubbling on the stove.
For me, I’m hoping that capturing our various recipes and experiments in the kitchen online will have a number of benefits. Selfishly, it’s a great way for me to build up a searchable, indexed collection of allergy-friendly recipes that I can draw on. I hope that my daughter grows out of her food allergies but whether she does, or whether they carry on, this provides a source of recipes when she’s all grown up (far in the distant future) that will be both practical and nostalgic (nuturing her heart as well as her body). I also hope that the recipes will be useful to others – both those facing allergies and those simply looking for practical recipes to use in the kitchen.
Love & aroha,
Mom, toddler, and cats.