I’m Rachel, but my husband Joey calls me Scratch. He dropped the habit of calling me by my real name after we had known each other for about a day. Playful nicknames, as it turns out, are a thing with him. Scratch was borne out of my actual given name (Rachel . . . Rach . . . Scratchel . . . Scratch–ah, the evolution), but once he hit upon Scratch, he stuck with it. I scoffed at first, a little miffed he didn’t choose something a bit more romantic to call me, but these days Scratch is broken in and comfortable, and I happily claim it as my own.
We love Jesus, try to serve Him well and are raising our kids to do the same. We have three of them, and we lovingly call them the Goobies. (See? Nicknames.) Their real names are Adeline (Addie), Amelia (Mia) and Emery. Taking care of them is my full time job, and I spend a lot of my day trying to figure out how to feed them well–which is a pretty tall order these days because as it turns out, we are a food allergy family. Addie used to be allergic to strawberries (but isn’t anymore! Hallelujah!), Mia is allergic to peanuts, cashews, pistachios and shrimp (but has outgrown her allergy to peas and pine nuts! Woo hoo!) and Emery is allergic to dairy/casein, sunflower seeds, and Tuscan melon (but outgrew his allergy to eggs), and we are praying that is all.
To make things more complicated, gluten and I don’t get along (and it took two long years to figure out I have Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity–or undiagnosed Celiac Disease, which is what my GI doctor suspects, along with ulcerative colitis, which is currently under control. Feeding my family well got very tricky for awhile, and I scrambled to figure out how to negotiate all of our food restrictions. I felt lost and alone, and I mourned the loss of my dream of making the kitchen the most magical room in the house. I had to scrap everything I thought I knew about cooking and start from scratch, learning different techniques, experimenting with unfamiliar ingredients, and trying new recipes as I went. Over time, little by little, that dream began to come back as I started to make things Joey and the Goobies actually liked. Eventually, finally, the kitchen came alive to me again.
When I was growing up, the kitchen was my favorite room in the house. I bet it was your favorite too, right? It’s where everything happened: singing and celebration; fighting and crying; working and playing–it was all there right along with (and perhaps because of) the food. The kitchen was alive to me, and I would wander there whenever I was lonely or bored. It is where I first felt creative, the place where failure didn’t scare me or keep me from trying again. My favorite part of the day was just simply being in the kitchen with my mom and dad, perched on a stool watching them throw together a meal at the end of a long day–often simple, always good. They taught me how to transform ingredients into something much more than just dinner. They fed my heart just as much as they fed my mouth, and what I remember most about life in our kitchen isn’t so much the food itself, but about what happened in the lives of people that met there after a long day spent apart. I want the same for my own kids, and the last thing I want is for them to feel their allergies are a burden or inconvenience to me.
On the surface, Rachel Maier Writes is a letter to Joey about the ups and downs I experience in our kitchen as I navigate the unfamiliar terrain of life as a food allergy family. But deeper than that, my hope is it lives out Philippians 4:15:
“Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night.”
I write to celebrate the way faith, family and food mingle to minister to our souls. I write because as a food allergy family, we choose joy and you can too. I write because God is always talking to me through food, and we all need to be fed a little hope, don’t we? I write because in our home, the kitchen is much, much more than just the place where I cook dinner.
Since you are here (and I’m so glad that you are), I imagine the same could be said of your kitchen.