Have you ever had to overhaul your recipe box? Due to some health problems, my husband has had to significantly restrict his diet, throwing my regular cooking routine for a loop. Much of my energy in the past few weeks has been devoted to getting my recipe box reestablished, so guess what you all get to hear about? *wink*
To provide some background, my experience in the kitchen did not start early. Growing up, I enjoyed baking cookies and sweet breads on occasion, but with three older sisters, there was really no pressing need to learn how to really cook. My mom and older sisters took care of the main meals, and when the older ones got married and moved on, my younger sister Angie stepped up to fill their shoes in the kitchen. Thus I remained (for the most part) a happy freeloader in the cooking department until adulthood.
As my own wedding approached, however, I figured it might at least be nice to be able to make spaghetti without setting the kitchen on fire. So I began contributing to dinner duty, and (to my brothers’ great surprise) it turned out that Angie was not the only sister capable of making something edible. Granted, I had to ask Angie numerous questions and keep my eyes glued to the recipe while cooking, but I was comforted to know that my husband probably wouldn’t starve.
One of my sisters’ small wedding gifts to me was a recipe box. Some of the ladies at my bridal shower added their favorite recipes, but mostly the box was filled with recipes that were often used in our family kitchen. These served as the backbone of my repertoire as I began the work of learning to feed my new little family. I made all the classic newlywed mistakes (such as buying far too much food) and my cooking wasn’t wonderful, but at least we didn’t go hungry.
A couple years into our marriage, however, I ran into a speed bump. My body began having trouble with gluten, and my daughters didn’t seem to do well with dairy products. I had been through a diet overhaul in my teens, but back then, the meals had mostly been handled by others. Now I had to be the one to learn to improvise. It was a bit of an overwhelming learning curve, but as time passed, I actually began to enjoy the challenge. The limitations on my ingredients helped inspire me to be more creative, and my interest in cooking began to blossom. My recipe box grew, as did my comfort level in the kitchen. It wasn’t (isn’t) always easy, but I was feeling pretty good about my routine.
Enter the husband’s digestive problems. Gluten-free didn’t fix them…dairy-free didn’t fix them. The only thing that seems to be fixing them is going to the next level. Specifically, we are using the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) as a base and modifying it as needed. We’ve eliminated grains, most legumes, some fruits, and all sugar (except honey). Aaaand the majority of my gluten-free recipes just flew out the window.
So over the past few months, I have been relearning my way around the kitchen with this new set of rules. I am learning a lot about food and health…But there are a few things relating to my life as a homeschooler that I’m realizing on the side.
First, it can be refreshing for the teacher to become a student again. We’re probably all familiar with the idea that those who teach often learn much just through the teaching. But it can also be revitalizing (for me anyway) to study and learn for my own benefit. Not only are we able to gain insight into a new subject that we can pass on, but our children will also see the example of our thirst for learning. If we are not excited about learning and growing in our own ways, why should they be?
Secondly, working on my recipe box leads me to consider my figurative “recipes” for homeschooling and parenting. As I wrote last month, there is always a need for flexibility. Sometimes, a certain “recipe” just doesn’t work for our family or for a particular child, and we have to make the necessary adjustments. Rather than stubbornly sticking to a certain “recipe” that worked for other children, I have to be willing to accommodate with curriculum or parenting methods that fit each child. It may require a lot of work and reeducation – which may not make me particularly comfortable – but it’s worth it if it helps my children get through an area in which they are struggling.
Finally, it can be hard work, but it will pay off. Honestly, the biggest drawback of this diet has not been the learning curve or the need for new, unfamiliar ingredients—it has been the sheer workload. In addition to the recipe box makeover, nearly everything must be made from scratch. And my husband is a good deal hungrier since he isn’t able to fill up on grains. Let’s just say I’m beginning to see why women a couple centuries ago rarely had jobs outside the home…Just feeding a family can be a lot of work! (Not to mention the fact that these women didn’t have all our modern conveniences. Yikes!)
But anyway, all the hard work is completely worth it when I see that my husband is getting better. Likewise, the work may be long and tiring with our children, but when we begin to see the results, it is very rewarding. It’s nice to get achievement test scores back and see that my children are indeed learning something! The process may be slow, and as with my husband’s health, it doesn’t change overnight. But if we persevere, we will eventually see the fruits of our labor.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have some more cooking to do! Until next time…
Photo Credit: All photos taken by Jessica Cole.