Instead of Making

To the outside observer, I gather, it seems like I do everything for Martin. Food-wise, at least. I prepare three meals a day from scratch. I buy eggs and meat from farms. In the summer I grow vegetables and herbs. I simmer broth, I pre-sprout beans, I soak and dehydrate nuts, I bake magical allergen-free snacks to send to school.

Let me assure my readers, however, that there are foody activities that I forego. That is, as a general rule, if I can buy a food from a source I trust, I do. I could save money—the grocery bill of a biomed family is out-of-control huge—by actually making everything at home, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Examples:

  • Kombucha. I brew my own kombucha. I have a countertop canister and a strong SCOBY, and each time I harvest, I feed the baby SCOBY to my compost bin. So what’s the problem? Well, I drink a lot of kombucha, Martin drinks kombucha, I don’t harvest my brew as often as I should, and what I make never tastes as good as GT’s or Health-Ade. So I brew kombucha and I also buy kombucha. Bottles and bottles of kombucha.
  • Nut cheese. Cultured cashew cheese isn’t hard to make. Here’s a recipe. And another. And another. You know what’s even easier than making cultured cashew cheese? Buying it. Here’s a good brand. And another. And another. (Don’t confuse cultured nut cheese, which is probiotic and healthy, with simple “non-dairy cheese,” which is often starchy junk food that, in my opinion, tastes awful.)
  • Fermented vegetables. I went through a phase of fermenting my own vegetables, in jars in my basement, especially because I wanted more choices than just cabbage sauerkraut. Now there are so many organic brands with non-sauerkraut ferments. BAO makes fermented kale and dandelion greens, beets, and mixed vegetables. Hawthorne Valley Farm, a local brand, has tasty ginger carrots. WildBrine makes smoky fermented kale and red beet sauerkraut, although not all its varieties are organic (I believe they follow the “dirty dozen” list and make those organic) and the Brussels sprout kraut contains soy, making it unacceptable for Martin.
  • Snacks. Martin prefers commercial snacks. He likes to open colorful wrappers, and he likes eating “store food” like his friends and classmates do. His favorite are Lärabars. I have a tortured relationship with Martin’s Lärabars. First, they are not organic, so I fear pesticide residue. Second, their GMO status is unclear. Third, they are high in sugar, even if the particular sugar is sucrose from dates. Fourth, they contain nuts, so I am not allowed to send them to Martin’s school. Still, Martin loves them, and these days it’s not easy to find a snack he loves. (He has long-since rejected previous choices like Go Raw! seed bars, raw macadamias, and jerky.) I would prefer that Martin pick Simple Squares over Lärabars. Martin picks Lärabars.
  • Pre-sprouted nuts and legumes. These can be found in the bulk aisles of health-food stores and Whole Foods Markets, and also packaged. My favorite brand is Living Intentions, which supplies a lot of those bulk aisles; I’ve had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the company, and they seem to be producing honest goods for the right reasons. Buying pre-sprouted saves me the trouble of soaking nut and legumes in FIJI Water and then drying them in my dehydrator. I wish more varieties would become commercially available, like navy and cannellini beans, or macadamia nuts and filberts.

As I said above, our grocery bill, for a family of three, is outrageous already; pounds of organic produce for juicing, meat from free-range animals, eggs laid in a yard, sustainably caught seafood, and raw-milk cheese (for when Adrian craves a bit) do not come cheap. Adding these commercial products feels like tacking a custom stereo to the cost of a luxury care—you stop and think, “Have I just gone overboard?” On the other hand, allowing myself the convenience of some prepared foods enables me to work outside the home, some, gets me more sleep, and helps preserve my sanity for the long, long haul that is autism recovery.

I would love to find more time to harvest my kombucha brew and to culture cashew cheese. I’d have to give something up to make that happen, and the thing I would give up would probably be—blogging.

And then what would we do?

Snack Drawer

For the past six months or so, I’ve kept Lärabars and other snacks for Martin in the second drawer of our pantry. That drawer contains other foods, too: nut butters (including peanut butter), non-gluten flours, cacao nibs, hemp seeds, Adrian’s chocolate stash, stuff like that. A variety, only some of which Martin can eat.

I never thought Martin paid much attention to where I keep his snacks, until one afternoon two weeks ago. That day, Martin came home from his school, took off his shoes, opened the pantry, and started rummaging through the second drawer in search of a snack.

To me, that seemed like reasonably typical kid behavior and, for Martin, a new independence that I should foster. The second pantry drawer is somewhat too high for Martin to access comfortably (though with the way he’s growing taller, next week that might not be the case). Also, it seemed unfair that he should have to push aside stuff he cannot eat—e.g., peanut butter, or Adrian’s chocolate—to reach his own treats. Therefore, I emptied the third drawer of the pantry and redistributed those items in other drawers (a challenge in my snugly packed pantry!). Then I filled the third drawer with after-school snacks and taped labels on the front: “Martin’s snack selection” and “one snack per day!”

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The contents of the drawer reflect a preference Martin has (again, typical, I think) for store-bought, packaged goodies over what I prepare at home. I make protein bars, truffles, and macaroons similar to what’s pictured here; Martin wants the colorful, the prettily wrapped, “what you buy at the store!” (The homemade items I send to school.) Note also that not every product in the drawer is 100% GAPS-compatible. A few contain agave and, for whatever reason, have slipped through my control.

The snack drawer has been a big success. Martin loves to pore over its contents and select the perfect “snack of the day.” This weekend, when he was allowed to pick a snack to take to his activity program, he removed five different snacks, lined them up on the kitchen table, took a few minutes to decide which he wanted, then returned the other four to his drawer. When he wasn’t looking, I snuck in and rearranged the returned snacks into the appealing, every-snack-visual format. That’s me.

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I’m inspired now, to try to display Martin’s clothes in a way that makes him want to pick his own outfits. I like to dress him in the sports jersey of my choice, but I suppose I need to focus on his autonomy, too. The pumpkin glasses he’s wearing in that photo count as autonomy, I guess.