We set out to start blogging more authentically, and, specifically, focusing on how food and cooking became a form of bonding for us as we got to know each other as a birthmother and daughter. Most mothers and daughters don’t have to “get to know each other” as a deliberate act – it unfolds over the course of a lifetime, and much of that unfolding involves nurturing and literally nourishing one’s child. And naturally, much of that takes place in the kitchen. So for Donna and I, it was (and still is) aÂ template for the way we’ve been making up for lost time.
And really, sometimes, we’re just going to share some recipes because they’re just plain good, no backstory required.
But here’s the thing: if we’re going to be talking about authentic writing + food, there’s more to that equation than just the love and nurturing and connecting. Yes, we all absolutely do connect with one another through food, and we all have emotional connections with food because of that. And most of the time, in most ways, this is a beautiful thing. But emotional connections are imperfect, as is anything in this imperfect world, and therefore, our relationship with food itself is not always going to be healthy.
This is a part of my (Anne’s) story that I haven’t talked about much publicly, let alone in a food blog platform. What? Talking about eating disorders on a food blog? Aren’t food blogs supposed to be about the awesome FOOD, along with fabulous photography and engaging writing? Why bring up such an uncomfortable topic?
Well, I bring it up because it underscores what a revelation it was to me, truly, to be connected with someone who loves food and relates to it in much the same way I do, as it was when I met my birthmother. To have that love for food be transformed into something not shameful, greedy, indulgent in the worst kind of pejorative (because the latter was the way I felt for decades), well, it has been nothing less than life-changing.
I will give you the Cliffs Notes version, rather than the Lifetime Movie of the Week version, but in a nutshell: My early adult professional life was spent as a dancer, which in turn meant that my formative years were spent in a dance studio, which in turn meant that the odds of developing an eating disorder were relatively high. I did not beat those odds. I spent years struggling with food, primarily as a bulimic but with an aggressive bout of anorexia at the very beginning. My adolescence was consumed, in many ways, by my obsession with weight and food. It took well into my twenties for me to start to attain some equilibrium, though, to be honest, neurotic tendencies still pop up from time to time. In the intervening years, eating disorders started being discussed more openly and now aren’t nearly as stigmatized, thankfully, which has also been a help.
The strongest influence in my disorder was certainly the competitiveness of the dance world, but there were familial factors as well. I was raised by a family I love very much – and no one in my adoptive family could be considered a food lover. My mom (my wonderful adoptive mom) was interested in food only insofar as it was necessary for survival, for the most part. She wasn’t a terrible cook, it just wasn’t something she particularly cared about; it was no different than cleaning or doing the laundry. It was a chore to complete.Â And in contrast, my love of food and my naturally voracious appetite always carried with it some sense of shame, especially once my fixation on weight loss entered the picture. So, years later, to find that there was possibly something innate in all this, and to find someone who reflected my own passion – it was the kind of validation I never thought I would ever receive.
You might be wondering, at this point, “Yeah, yeah, very touching. What the heck does any of this have to do with the tasty-looking wrap in the picture?”
So it was about 1987. For months, I had been living on 600 calories a day, painstakingly recorded in a notebook down to the last packet of Equal (4 calories, by the way), along with the rigors of daily dance classes and rehearsals. I had dropped down to about 103 pounds, which, on my mesomorphic frame, was a pretty perilous place. People were starting to whisper and worry, especially my mother, who felt very concerned but had no idea where to even begin to address it.
One weekend, my mother, sister and I went skiiing – one of the perks of living in Colorado was growing up on skis, so I can ski as casually as most can jump on a bike for a ride. Anyway, after only a couple of runs, I was so cold that it was actually painful, excruciatingly so. It wasn’t any sort of unusual temperature – no one else was bothered at all. My fat stores had just dropped so low that I had next to no insulation. I felt like I was on the verge of frostbite, and was in tears by the time we got off the chairlift for the third time.
Somehow I made it to the bottom, and Mom accompanied me down to the lodge, where I would wait for her and Amy to finish out the day.Â While I got situated with some coffee (black, of course) near a fireplace, She ran down to the gift shop to see if she could find me something to read, and returned with a diet book called “Fit For Life”. Remember that food-combining fad from the 80’s? This version was by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, and I was engrossed immediately.
It may seem ironic that a diet book would rescue me from sliding into much more severe anorexia, and the science behind food combining was admittedly iffy, but the book’s overall focus on nutrition, on vegetables and on organic ingredients was exactly what I needed at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, this was far from the end of my struggle – in fact, it was really the beginning. But it got me back to a generally healthy state, crucial at the moment, and it also got me cooking for myself in earnest for the first time. No one else in the family was going to be subject to these wacky combinations, so it was up to me.
There were, of course, a number of recipes in the book, some better than others, but one was by far my favorite. The Diamonds called it a Goodwich, specifically a New York Goodwich due to their popularity at a Manhattan health expo of some kind. I made it long after I had abandoned the Fit For Life principles, and though I forgot about it for a few years, I’ve been making it again recently. It’s kind of addictive – the steamed veggies with the barbecued onions, a touch of mayo, the creamy avocado and crunchy sprouts – it all comes together so well. Satisfying food that really does your body good – what more could you want from a wrap?
I’ve tweaked it a little, as per always, and I now use gluten-free wraps like Trader Joe’s brown rice wraps or La Tortilla Factory’s Ivory Teff Wraps, but the concept is definitely pure Fit For Life. Try it and see if it just might be added to your favorite lunch items!
NEW YORK GOODWICHES
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (preferably one without corn syrup)
2 cups broccoli florets, sliced
1 cup cauliflower florets, sliced
2 large wraps or 3-4 smaller ones
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 cup lettuce, roughly chopped
1/2 cup zucchini, grated
1/2 cup carrot, grated
1 dill pickle, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sprouts (alfalfa or otherwise)
1 avocado, sliced
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent, just starting to brown. Stir in barbecue sauce and cook a few more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Steam broccoli and cauliflower for 5 minutes (I like a steamer basket in a regular pot, a friend has an electric steamer she swears by, whatever works for you), making sure not to overcook.
There’s no exact science to assembling these, dividing the filling ingredients evenly as you go but a rough order would be: Spread each wrap with a thin layer of mayo, then spread the broccoli and cauliflower over them. Then the lettuce,Â zucchini, carrots, and sprouts; and finally the dill pickle and avocado slices, topped with a few spoons of the barbecued onions. Wrap ‘er up.
These are great to eat right away or, if you wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate them, they’ll keep for a future meal and be even better.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Donna, for being a kindred spirit, and for accepting me as I am, appetite and all.
— posted by Anne
P.S. I promise, readers, it’s so not ALL going to be this heavy. We’ll talk more about our reunion, our relationship over the years, and, as stated upstream, sometimes just post some dang good recipes.