Before I had kids, I imagined my life with them only in scenes with a Barbara Walters interview softening glow. And I imagined babies — never toddlers or tweens or teens. I’m sure that I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the beauty and magic of it all consistently put a filter on my imagined reality. And I guess that’s OK, because you don’t generally do things (by choice) that you imagine will be terrible. My thoughts were generally filled with laughing babies on park swings — not spending an hour every evening attempting to get two kids to brush their teeth (Because seriously, does the schedule ever change? No. So brush your damn teeth.)
And when the babies arrived, I realized there were a whole host of little things that could go wrong. I spent my time worrying about the big stuff, but never considered that my Christmas baby would be jaundiced and require light therapy. I never thought about spending New Year’s Eve in the doctor’s office. I never thought about silly little things that would require ultrasounds and blood work and doctors saying things like “Oh, in most cases this is fine, but we need to check it out.” I never thought about mastitis. And holy shit, that day seriously ruined my plan for a Barbara Walters glow.
I especially never thought about the chance my daughter would have severe food allergies. I still remember standing at my bathroom sink when the pediatrician called to give me the results of the allergy tests we did on a whim because she had eczema (another thing you don’t imagine in your baby fantasies). She read off the list: “Severe and life-threatening reactions to all dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, and all tree nuts. With tremendously high levels for peanuts.”
I cried. And cried. And cried. And after I cried some more, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. Guilty because I ate those things while pregnant and breastfeeding. Guilty because I knew to stop eating dairy when she showed signs of eczema, but I never stopped eating nuts. Guilty because she spit up a lot and I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. Guilty because in the whole universe of things that could go wrong, this seemed minor, and yet it was crushing to me. I knew that day her life (and mine) had changed forever and that it was always going to be different for her. And harder. I remember someone very innocently saying “Oh, she’ll never get to have an ice cream cone.” Thanks for the reminder. I certainly wasn’t feeling horrible enough already.
What I didn’t know even then was what it would be like to have a child, not a baby, with food allergies. I didn’t know how much harder it would be when they are off on playdates, or field trips, or birthday parties — when they are out of your control and making their own choices. I didn’t think about teachers asking “Can she touch an acorn?” I didn’t think about her having to sit in a special chair or at a special lunch table just to avoid allergens.
I also didn’t know how thankful I could be today. I am thankful that, at almost 9 years old, she has outgrown all of her allergies except peanuts and tree nuts. I am thankful (in a strange way) that, because so many more children are afflicted, we now have an entire section of our grocery store devoted to allergy-friendly products — things like coconut milk ice cream, Sunbutter, or wheat and gluten-free bread and pasta. It would have made my life a lot easier back then, but I am not sure that I’d be sitting here typing this today if it weren’t for her allergies. They forced me to cook and to understand food at a level I never had to before.
My daughter’s allergies also made me understand the importance of food and family, and the magical moments that occur when we share both together. And I think I was so crushed when I realized she had severe food allergies because I knew inherently that there would be times when she was excluded from those celebrations — times when the friend’s birthday cupcakes wouldn’t be safe. And I think that is why I made it my business to cook a safe version of nearly everything just to keep her at the table and let her be part of every celebration (even if it meant baking cupcakes at midnight or attempting to make homemade pasta out of rice flour).
But this year when we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, my daughter will be able to have everything at the table. Even the “Pecan” Pie. The soft glow has worn off a bit, but I am so truly thankful for where we are today. May you all have a wonderful celebration of food and family on Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving.
Brown Butter Non-Pecan Pie
Make one 9 inch pie
Butter Pie Crust of your Choice (I used this one)
2 cups of sunflower and pumpkin seeds (I liked the mix of both for better texture)
6 T butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup (light or dark both work)
3 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Roll out pie crust into a circle with approximately a 12 inch diameter. Carefully transfer to a 9 inch pie dish (not deep dish). Trim off excess if necessary, leaving about one inch of overhang. Fold the overhang under and decoratively flute or crimp the edges. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the crust and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to re-firm the butter.
3. Place sunflower and pumpkin seeds in an even layer on a baking sheet. Toast in preheated oven for 5-10 minutes until golden, being careful not to let them burn. Set aside to cool.
4. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and allow to brown slightly. You want it to be golden brown and smell fragrant, but do not let it burn or you will have to start over. Remove from heat immediately after it gets to that state and whisk in brown sugar until well incorporated. Stir in corn syrup, vanilla extract, and salt.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs to break them up. Slowly whisk in brown sugar/butter mixture (just a bit at at a time, so the eggs don’t curdle). Mix well to make sure everything is incorporated.
6. Remove chilled crust from refrigerator and pour toasted (and cooled) seeds into crust. Pour pie mixture over top of the seeds. Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake the pie until the filling has set and it is a nice brown color, about 55 minutes. Let cool completely before serving. You can store this in the refrigerator for at least a day (mine’s been in there for two now and it is still great) — just bring to room temperature before serving.