It seems that sudden changes bring on a whole lot of noticing. Maybe it’s the data-nerd I was brought up to be by my father, or just that I notice food-related things, but changing how I operate food-wise has made me think a lot about how I would be operating if nothing had changed.
This past week contained my birthday, and so there was more socializing. It is a well-established social phenomenon that human gatherings center around food more often than not. On this elimination diet there is nothing that prevents me from eating when I gather with friends and family. However, I am often not eating the same dishes as everyone else, and it feels different.
There is something about having the same foods that you have chosen to nourish your own body be the same foods that are nourishing those you love. If we want to get symbolic: it is as if the building blocks that I am consuming to become a part of me are the same building blocks that are becoming a part of you, and so by sharing the same food we are building a (hopefully) delicious bridge between us. We are becoming closer together not only in this experience we share, but in the very material we are made of. If this is too hippie (or creepy?) of a concept for you, let’s just back up and imagine the difference between a lunch table where each individual brings their own brown bag filled with food that only he or she will experience, and a lunch with dishes of food being passed around and shared, where nourishment comes from a common source. The intimacy of sharing not just the space you are eating in, but also the food you are eating, cannot be denied.
I am grateful for this time I have apart from the communal eating experience, to appreciate the role it plays in the non-elimination life I normally lead. It has also added another dimension to the culinary challenge — can I make things that my friends and family, who can generally enjoy any taste they please, would be happy to share with me? Not pity share, but share because it’s just as good as the cheese they could be eating.
For my family birthday celebration, I made a roasted cauliflower dish with a pumpkin sauce my housemate, Meredith, made up during our first week as a ‘cheesy’-sauce-substitute for (quinoa) noodles. It is velvety and savory, and while no one would mistake it for cheese, it fills the creamy comfort shoes quite well. I roasted cauliflower, then topped it with the sauce (made of sautéed onions, thyme, salt, pepper, pumpkin puree, and olive oil), chopped parsley for brightness, and toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch.
And then, the ultimate challenge – a birthday cake with no chocolate (or gluten or eggs or refined sugar…).
I decided to base it on a sticky toffee pudding, since it already features dates, which are allowed in the elimination diet. I found a recipe that was already gluten, dairy and egg-free, and altered it so that the only sweeteners were the dates and some honey (instead of maple syrup), substituted almond milk for the coconut milk, and un-dairy-freed it a little by using ghee instead of ‘buttery spread’ (ghee is okay on the ED because the milk solids have been removed). Mer used her gluten-free baking expertise to replace the tapioca flour/potato starch combo with a tapioca flour/arrowroot powder combo, and lo and behold it was good.
It may not be quite in line with the ‘honey (in moderation)’ specifications we should be aiming for, but if there’s any time to not really break the rules but kind of nudge at them a little, it’s your birthday. At the end of the day, I had a cake I could share. AND I didn’t even notice I wasn’t eating chocolate =)