When Shaun and I were newly engaged, we were visiting his Aunt and Uncle’s house. His Uncle was a high school counselor, and so, as we sat around chatting, he took the liberty to ask me whether I had any plans to attend college once I had finished high school. Without hesitation, I said, “Nope.”
“Not even a little bit interested, huh?”
I smiled and he smiled and said, “Okay, then.”
A little expansion on the “nope” would’ve probably been appropriate and kind, but I was so firm in my decision that I didn’t feel there was much else to say. No sense talking about something I was stubborn about (hear ye, hear ye, Facebookers).
I suppose it’s strange to people when a seventeen year old knows what she wants and, even if it’s counter-cultural, goes for it. For as long as I can remember, I simply wanted to be a wife and mom. I think that desire cropped up when I was as young as three. Then it grew stronger at age five, and it never quit gaining strength.
I had no desire to be a working mom, which is a repetitive phrase, by the way. A mom, if she’s doing it right, is always working. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, whis is a ridiculous phrase, by the way. What mom stays at home all day, every day? I mean, if she stays home, who is doing the grocery shopping, taking the kids to appointments and school, if they’re in school, and to soccer practice and choir practice and piano lessons? Moms work. And moms sometimes stay home.
Anyway. I knew my calling in life at a young age, and I’ve lived it out without any regrets. I think I’d do it all over again if I had the choice. The weird part comes in when my calling somehow morphed into making sometimes enormous amounts of food, other times just regular amounts of food, while not being able myself to partake of that food.
In September of 2001, I became very ill, lost fifty pounds in four months, and necessarily convalesced for ten months. The children were 11, 10, and 6 – or close to it. Long story short, my stomach didn’t work anymore (gastroparesis) and my small intestine was very sick with celiac disease. Put those two together, and a girl finds it near impossible to eat, especially when no diagnosis comes and she seems a mystery to doctors who, unlike me, said yes to college and spent years and enormous amounts of money in order to study. Ha.
Fast forward to a bit later, and although I was still sick and couldn’t eat much, I gained enough strength to (at least some of the time) accomplish the bare necessities of raising kids – like cooking.
Fast forward to 2018, and I’m still cooking – and not eating. I never consider or dwell on the fact that this is unusual, until I post a picture of food on Facebook, or we eat with someone outside the family.
“You cook when you cannot eat it?!”
Well, yes, I say to myself. But I do eat the food I can eat, so it’s not like I’m sitting in the corner eating my fingernails to stay alive whilst providing feasts for my people.
I am never in want for the entire three foods I can have. We stock up on chicken, milk, and carrots. Oh, and the honey I use to sweeten the homemade, lactose free yogurt I can eat. Other necessary nutrients get fed to me through an IV, and still other nutrients never make it into my body, because without a well-functioning stomach, and without a safe and effective way to put them through and IV, well … one just does without.
Truth is, my food is the most expensive of anyone’s, because nutritional IV’s are not dispersed in a twenty-five cent candy machine. Far, far from it. But God provides, and yes, here I am most days preparing food for others when I cannot partake. It is simply a job qualification that did not disappear because I developed health issues. People still need to eat, and most days, I can handle throwing something together, even if it’s just Hamburger Helper (it makes a great meal, ya’ know). The real sacrifice is likely lived out by those who have to eat the food I make. I mean, I can’t even taste test, people. So if I put too much mayo in the tuna? Oh well! Gotta eat it anyway. If I dumped far too much cumin in the chili? Dig in, honey, and here’s a tall glass of milk to help you cope with your burning tongue.
Stay at home moms are always made out to be a little peculiar. What do you dooooo all day? But from the comments I often receive, I gather that a stay at home mom who is too sick to eat much variety, and yet continues cooking for her husband, sick mom, and sometimes children and grandchildren is even more peculiar.
My sister-in-law was going through a pretty nasty divorce some years back, and during one of her visits, she realized I was still cooking for everyone and she said “Well that’s mighty nice of you, Brenda.” And I said, “Well … I don’t really have a choice.” To which she replied slowly, “Yes …… yes, you do.”
That was the first time it struck me that there was any other option. I could choose to be as nasty as her husband was being to her and her large brood, and refuse to care for my family. I could. I did and do have a choice. At the same time, I didn’t and don’t have a choice. Cooking is my job. It’s wrapped up in my calling to be a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. It’s wrapped up in my calling to care for my mom, who finds it more and more difficult to prepare food. It may be weird. I probably am peculiar. But I have noticed my peculiarity is often the very thing that stumps people, in a good way. For there’s something about a suffering woman who cannot eat serving those who can eat that stirs hearts. Why that stirring occurs, or what results from the stirring is a mystery to me. But my hope is that the way in which I live out my peculiar calling “proclaims the praises of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (I Pet. 2:9)
With that said, I’ll close with the recipe for the first quiche I ever made. My man cub says it’s delish, but he’s young and not too picky, so take that with a grain of salt. Joanna Gaines and her new cookbook Magnolia Table get all the credit for the recipe, because if you want to talk about awesome and nice and yet a little peculiar to the world, she’s the epitome of all three!
Mushroom, Spinach, and Swiss Cheese Quiche
2 tablespoons salted butter
½ cup finely diced white onion
12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced (about 4 cups)
2 cups baby spinach (about 2 ounces)
6 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Swiss cheese, grated (about 3 cups)
1 unbaked, 9-inch pie crus
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute until they have given up their liquid and it has mostly evaporated, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the spinach and saute until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in the spinach/mushroom mixture and the Swiss cheese. Pour the mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
Bake until the quiche is lightly golden and set in the center when the pan is gently pushed, about 45 minutes. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover it with foil to prevent it from burning.
Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Cut into 6 or 8 slices and serve warm or at room temperature.
The quiche is best served the day it is made. Tightly wrap leftovers with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.