Ten years ago I was home from college, rifling through the refrigerator looking for sustenance. Hidden in the back corner I found a jar of Jet Puffed MarshMallow Whip. The expiration date was 1988.
My mother has never liked food. Cookies in our house were generally of the sugar-free, salt-free, cholesterol-free, sodium-free, fat-free, taste-free variety. AuntJ has oft visited the annals of San Fernando Valley familial homestead only to announce, “Ok. Let’s go get some actual food.”
Prior to our current visit, GrammaJ asked what the muppets ate. “People food,” offered Jon. This needed additional clarification.
In hindsight, I can’t blame my mother’s disdain – I don’t think I’d like food very much either if it made me consistently sick. (Except for chocolate. I can’t explain her dislike of chocolate. That is clearly a genetic defect.)
The culprit? Gluten. A protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grains. And apparently the mortal enemy of my mother’s intestines.
My father is Italian. My father is the cook in the family. But for 1 in 133 Americans, celiac disease means no more traditional bread or pasta. No stuffing on the stuff-yourself-silly holidays.
The good news is that we are presently living in an era where it is quite trendy to go gluten-free. So when a friend shared a recipe for gluten-free cornbread stuffing, I took it upon myself to make it for dinner during our current visit.
My mother immediately thanked me for such an idea by insisting we didn’t need to go to the lengths of using gluten-free cornbread. “I just won’t eat any,” she proffered.
After a lengthy explanation of how this was TOTALLY MISSING THE POINT, I set off on a two hour journey to procure the necessary ingredients. (Other than returning home to very hungry muppets, this was okay because I was letting my parent’s craptastic interwebs connection think about itself.)
I went to Pavillions (SoCal Safeway) where my mother had shared they carried gluten-free fare. And they totally do! I’m relatively certain they carry every gluten-free product ever produced Except. For. Cornbread. So we journeyed on to find the nearest Whole Foods, which as it turns out – not all that near.
Jon, who has never been a fan of Southern California, made use of our significant time in side street traffic to note, “SoCal sucks! You know the only good thing about SoCal?”
(Um…me? I’m an original SoCal Valley Girl – like omigawd totally.)
“Fake boobs,” he declared.
(For the record, mine are real. And they’re spectacular.)
But I knew that my faithful followers believed in me! The stuffing was to all be worth it!
- “So long as you don’t burn it (I know odds not good with you 🙂 ),” reassured a tweeter.”
- “When Tricia cooks, I just stay out of the way,” complimented Jon.
- “Non impostare la cucina in fiamme,” requested my father (Don’t set the kitchen on fire).
With only a few substitutions (helpful contributions from GrammaJ like “Well, that looks like a quarter-cup so that’s a quarter cup,”) and my father sobbing into the shallots (I know how to delegate these things), we were well underway.
The initial recipe suggested Italian sausage and foregoing pecans. However, sausage falls on my mom’s list of “yucky” foods. And pecans are naturally nutritiously gluten-free, and incredibly delicious, so that was just silly. We used chicken instead. (Pretend it was cooked in a turkey.) Martha Stewart also suggested homemade chicken broth. Yeah. That wasn’t happening.
My mom looked up, from the first cleared plate I’ve seen in years, “It tastes like Thanksgiving.”