I read boxes, I read labels, and I dissect recipes, to make them Ava friendly.  Then I worry about whether it’s going to taste good.  My relationship with food and cooking dramatically changed after I discovered Ava’s life threatening food allergies.  Cooking went from this potential place of expressive creativity to very analytical and scientific as I struggled to understand every component of each ingredient.  No dairy, no egg, no nuts.  Fear joined us like an unwanted guest at mealtime; cooking became an even greater nuisance. This isn’t how it has always been.
With all the exposure to cooking, it’s a wonder how I’ve escaped an innate love for it.  My mom and Va (grandma in Portuguese) are amazing in the kitchen; they are on the center stage of every big holiday meal production.  They are why I love to eat.  I have many memories of overconsumption, especially during the holidays.  Tradition is to cook and cook for days in preparation of a feast large enough to feed a small village. Our holidays include the faces of friends or new acquaintances– this is what I love about my family–if you need a place to celebrate, you are welcome at our table and there will always be more than enough.
I’ll take dessert over dinner any day of the week, eating is still one of my favorite things to do.  I’ve learned to cook vegan, without nuts, and enjoy the precision of vegan baking over cooking.  Cookies, cupcakes, muffins, and bread—the vegan recipes are delicious and nearly indistinguishable from the real deal—(and saving me from robbing my kids of memories around baking together).  For now, Isa Chandra Moskowitz inspires me; she’s an amazing vegan cook.
I like to keep it safe and predictable so the grocery store isn’t very exciting for me, however, Eugene is the perfect place to live for enjoying the flavors of fresh, local, organic produce and I am grateful for all that is available to us.
I will buy more vegan cookbooks and experiment with new recipes in search of inspiration.   As I continue to cook more out of obligation than personal enjoyment, I’m not the only one in our house hoping this is just a phase.

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