Wednesday, August 31, 2016

on hosting us for food

Elder, Younger and I are difficult when it comes to food. Most of you know at least a little bit about our challenges, you know enough to ask for a reminder when you invite us to an activity that includes food. I always struggle with how much detail to give.

I'm going to post this chart so I can send the link the next time someone asks.

Actual clinical allergies
Things that are unexpectedly okay
Things that are not preferred
tree nuts – walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, almond, beech nuts, chestnut, hickory nut – in all forms – raw, fresh, roasted, oil, butter, meal

peanut  - in all forms – raw, fresh, roasted, oil, butter, meal

**these nut allergies include products “that have been processed in a facility that also processes tree nuts” or “may contain traces of peanuts or tree nuts”

sunflower seeds and oil

stone fruits – apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, necarine – only when fresh
pine nuts
sesame seeds

stone fruits when frozen or cooked to softness
seafood, both fish and shellfish

an abundance of cow dairy I'll abstain from ice cream or pizza for example.  I’ll be okay if you cook  with cream, milk, or butter, but please don’t make milk or cheese the star of every dish on the table.

seafood, both fish and shellfish
capsaicin – all hot peppers in all forms, including chili powder and paprika
mint (all of them)
bell peppers, black pepper

It's a daunting chart, I know. Having read it, you might be reconsidering your invitation to host one or all of us. Please know that we recognize how difficult we are. We always carry a snack with us and are prepared to eat that if we need to. We are also always happy to bring a safe-for-us dish to complement the meal you're planning for everyone. 

Our two biggest requests are these:
1. Be careful of cross-contamination in your kitchen. Don't, for example, slice vegetables for a salad Kate will eat on the same cutting board you just used to chop the nuts for everyone else's dessert. 

2. If you're not sure something is okay for one of us, just let us know. We're happy to read the label or the recipe ourselves and make the decision. 

Some helpful tips for hosting us or other guests with food restrictions, especially for large parties with lots of guests who probably have lots of different dietary things going on: 
1. Plan simple dishes. 
2. Think about what can be left on the side. Can you put a dish of slivered almonds next to the salad bowl instead of mixing them in? Can you put the shredded cheese next to the chili? 
3. Don't use the same ingredients in every dish - not everything milk-based or with garlic or with chili powder. 
4. Save the packaging from any items or ingredients. If you're not used to looking for allergens, you'd be surprised where they show up. As you cook, pile the packaging in a corner so that your guests can read it for themselves. They may choose not to, but giving them the option is a powerful act of hospitality that shows understanding. 

Readers, please feel free to suggest further tips in the comments. I'll be happy to add them to the body of the post.

Friday, August 26, 2016

finding the joy

I've been having a bit of a freakout this summer.

On paper, my career is moving in a good direction: I submitted an article to an academic journal and am now revising in response to reviewer comments. That same journal asked me to review someone else's submission. I accepted a postdoctoral teaching fellowship at a denominational liberal arts college. All positive signs of my professional development.

Although I've been celebrating my new full-time teaching fellowship with cheers and champagne and flaily muppet arms, I couldn't find the joy. I felt relief as this job lifts the burden of worry about finances, I felt gratitude for the recognition of my skills, but not joy for the work itself.

And then I felt guilty for not feeling joy. I love teaching. This job should have put me over the moon. Where was the joy?!?!?!?

Then, I had a disturbing epiphany. The last time I started to feel like a professional who was being taken seriously, the last time I had made my career a priority, tragedy exploded my life. The last time I allowed myself to believe these things were real and that I deserved them, I had to give them up. The circumstances--signing contracts, planning research, settling in to my own space--feel familiar.  I'm having trouble trusting this reality again. My lack of joy is like a Pavlovian conditioned response: professional security will be followed by darkness and turmoil, so prepare thyself.

Since I've been able to see the dynamics at play, they've had less power. My full-on freakout has subsided to the normal stage fright I have at the beginning of every semester.

And today, there was even some joy. At this university, the faculty dress for convocation. Since I didn't march in my doctoral commencement, today was the first day I got to wear a hood and tam.

It felt pretty amazing.