Baking a Batch of Memories
This week marks 17 years since my mother died after a brief battle with breast cancer. On the anniversary of her death, I like to do something that Mom and I enjoyed doing together--baking. This activity brings back happy memories of my mom and reminds me of the value she instilled in me to always focus on the positive. Baking was one of the many ways she showed her love for me. The time we spent together, mixing up various recipes, left me with special memories and insights to pass on to my own children.
The baking tradition has become even sweeter because one or both of my children now help me in the kitchen. This week, my 4-year-old daughter, Pamela, and I mix up a batch of allergy-friendly blondies. All the while, I think of how blessed I am to have had my mother’s wonderful influence in my life.
Mom taught me through her own example to always look for the positive. Sure, things will sometimes make me mad, frustrated and sad. But it doesn't help to dwell on these negative feelings. Rather, find a way to move forward, turn a situation around, use a not-so-great experience to help someone else, and focus on the happy ingredients in life. This is the mantra I’ve held onto since my son Joseph’s diagnosis with life-threatening food allergies nine years ago.
Sometimes it’s challenging to navigate a life with allergies to wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, along with having asthma. And these challenges often make me wish I had a mother to lean on for support. But as the mom Joseph depends on, I have always made sure we focus on what he can have and find creative ways to give him plenty of safe, yummy options.
On days like today, however, there are moments when a positive outlook simply can’t withstand the grief I still feel, missing my mom and wishing that my two children could have known her. I know that they would have had so much fun spending time with her and benefitting from her nurturing spirit. It’s hard to put a positive spin on that void, but I’m glad that I have so many happy stories about her. I’m thankful that Joseph and Pamela, who is named after my mom, know her through my memories and photographs.
The blondies that Pamela and I make today are from the original Toll House Blonde Brownies recipe my mom and I used so many years ago. Of course, I substitute most of the ingredients to make it allergy-friendly--a gluten-free flour blend; an egg replacer; Earth Balance dairy-free, soy-free natural buttery spread; Enjoy Life chocolate mega-chunks.
When these blondies come out of the oven, the delicious result evokes happy memories from my childhood and creates new memories with my own children. It’s a special way to honor my mom, while helping me make my least favorite day of the year more tolerable and more meaningful.
Living Without contributor Wendy Mondello blogs about food allergies at http://tasteofallergyfreeliving.blogspot.com.