I love to cook, and being in the kitchen instantly makes me calmer and happier. I love that cooking is equal parts creativity and precision, and that feeding someone is a universal language of caring. (Sometimes this can be hazardous for the people around me, as I tend to express my love by the pound, usually of butter. :)
It is a blessing that I enjoy cooking so much because I am in the kitchen more often than most. In 2007, I developed severe allergies to multiple common food preservatives. After suffering life-threatening reactions on a daily basis for months, an immunologist and I finally identified the culprits, and my transition to an all-natural, sulfite-free diet began. The first thing everyone says when they find out is, “Wow, what do you eat?!” I think it’s a telling comment about the culture of today’s food production and consumption in the U.S. that people honestly see preservatives as the kind of allergy that might lead me to starvation; the same set of allergies in my grandmother’s generation would have left only alcohol and a few types of vinegar off the menu.
In today’s world, eating preservative-, dye-, and sulfite-free means 90% of typical grocery store convenience fare is off limits. Other than some hand-cut fries from a local burger joint, I haven’t eaten at a restaurant in four years. I considered myself a healthy eater before 2007, so I was shocked to discover how many foods I ate and fed my family contained copious amounts of artificial ingredients. Fortunately, I already considered the kitchen equal parts art studio and therapist’s couch, so I plunged right in to making ketchup from scratch and canning my own marinara. During times when my health was so poor that I couldn’t leave the house, cooking every day motivated me and made me feel like a human being.
As is often true in life, with time I have found a healthy middle ground. I can buy perfectly good, non-allergenic ketchup, and Newman’s Own marinara tastes just fine. I divide my grocery shopping between Publix and Whole Foods, and I know which products are safe so shopping trips no longer involve hours of tense label-reading. I still bake everything from scratch, make my own BBQ sauce, and can my own apple butter because I want to, not because I have to. The recipes I share will always be all-natural and sulfite-free because that’s how I cook, but I am happy for you to make substitutions. Cooking is freedom for me, and I certainly don’t want you to feel any other way.
Click on the gallery below to visit the Cook archives and view posts, pics, and recipes:
Spring, I’m making one of Nigella’s recipes this afternoon, but I always think of you when I do and of all the cooking knowledge I gain just being in your kitchen a short time. Thanks so much for spreading your joy for life through the everyday things we take for granted. Robert and I enjoyed so much spending the other evening with you all. Nothing can take the place of good friends and sharing good memories (not to mention sharing your excellent meals)!
It was wonderful to spend time with you too! I hope your Nigella adventure turned out deliciously. You are such a delight and welcome in my kitchen anytime. :)
Scott Southworth said:
Spring, your website is beautifully awesome!!! It makes me want to emulate your endeavors with my own slightly askew topics (fruit, code, pond, kick, rebel).
I sincerely hope I succeed in producing a bounty of interesting organic fruits that you could cook with this year: a slew of plums, goumi berries, wineberries, tayberries and boysenberries.
LOL Thanks so much! I selfishly second your hope for a fantastic harvest because I would love to cook with all that delicious fruit! I vote we start with Ginger-Plum Cake, Wineberry Linzer Torte, Boysenberry Peach Marmalade, maybe some goumi berry simple syrup to mix in drinks… Yum! I will try to wait patiently. :)
What kind of vanilla extract do you use? I recently bought organic vanilla extract but now I”m not sure if I should use it. I thought vanilla extract was a no no for us sulfite sufferers because of the alcohol in it.
. I’ve been cooking without it but it’s obvious that my cakes are missing something.
Yes, traditional vanilla extract is definitely a bad idea for those of us with sulfite allergies! I only use vanilla bean paste, which is a combination of vanilla beans and a glucose-based, alcohol-free vanilla extract. It has an amazing warm, genuine vanilla flavor and adds beautiful depth to baked goods. I use Nielsen-Massey brand, and it can be substituted teaspoon for teaspoon in recipes that call for vanilla extract. You won’t ever miss vanilla extract (or the sulfites)! :)
Take care, hope you enjoy it. If you have any other sulfite ingredient questions, please post, as I know how hard it can be to eliminate/find substitutes for all of it.